[Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Thu Sep 22, 2011 7:46 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...



A good portion of the people gathered muttered or gave sharp exclamations. It was readily apparent that Baron Halaran had many supporters in the crowd. The three girls glanced worriedly at each other, and then cast their gaze out among the crowd. Gilliam watched carefully, noting where it was the girls looked. He tugged at Varis’ cloak, made a few hand signs, and they began pushing their way through the press of onlookers.

Aurora reached up and drew back her hood. “I claim the accused as my sister, and hereby lay claim to my right to appeal her case.”

The hush swept through the crowd, quickly followed by murmurs of speculation. A ghost of a frown passed over the Black Eagle’s brow, which he masked in a look of concern.

“A ‘family resemblance’ can easily be fabricated, either by magic or stage paint and putty,” the baron sneered. “I would have your names, and your country of origin.”

As if from nowhere, a small, stoop-shouldered man in a deep brown robe appeared by the baron’s side, a large tome clutched in one hand. He thumbed through it, propping it open in one hand, an ink well precariously balanced on two outstretched fingers. He dipped a quill, and held it poised over the page, his bushy brown eyebrows raised in anticipation.

“I am—“ Aurora began, and then stopped. She cleared her throat. “I am—“ Again, her next words were cut off. She took several deep breaths, and then tried again.

“I am named Aurora by men, as my sister has been named Silva by the dwarves.”

The quill bobbed as the little man scratched away in the book. He glanced up at the girl, and then at the baron.

“Your country of birth?” the scribe asked.

After a pause, Aurora said “Blackmoor. Though, I suppose, technically it would have still been ‘Thonia.’”

The scribe hiccuped a laugh, nearly sloshing ink over the page. He chuckled one more time before his voice trailed off. I thought his scrawny neck would snap, so quickly did he raise his nose from the book.

“I do not know how you have circumvented the truespeaking,” the baron said, his voice icy, “no doubt more foul magic like that of your… ‘sister.’” Von Hendricks gave a flick of his fingers. “Guards, take these waifs into custody, and have them brought to my pavilion. Find the others, as well.”

“I wish to have a Lawspeaker present!” Aurora shouted, as the guards closed around her. “I demand a Lawspeaker, in the name of your Grand Duke!”


The guards paused, glancing again at their baron, and he motioned furiously for them to continue.

One of them reached into a heavy leather satchel, producing a thickly-braided rope. As he flung it, though, I saw it fan into a closely-spaced net. The other guards ducked away as it settled heavily over the girls. At first, they struggled, staggering under the weight, and then under the added weight of the sickeningly sweet, pungent zzonga fumes.

“Little girl,” the baron said, staring down his nose at the weakening shrike. “Do you just expect me to wag my fingers and produce a druid? I tell you what, I’ll have my scribe produce one from his hat, along with some bunnies, one for each of your friends. Your stalling tactics are merely burning sunlight. The witch will burn with the sundown, and if you do not answer my questions, you will join her.”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby Chimpman » Thu Sep 22, 2011 11:15 pm

Yay! Good thing Thorn can step up to the plate!
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Fri Sep 23, 2011 6:52 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


There was a great press of bodies as the guards worked to disperse the crowd. Ana and I gave up trying to force our way through, and rather just let the people flow around us. It took nearly twenty minutes for the square to clear enough for us to make our way further towards the village of tents that had sprung up on the unpaved hillock curving around the plaza.

“Thorn, where has Silva gone?”

I glanced over towards the wooden frame from which Silva’s iron cage had been suspended. Several long links of dangled from the great arm, but the cage itself was gone.

“You there, move along!” A pair of black-cloaked guardsmen approached, hands on their swords.

“Are you deaf as well as—“ The other guard nearly swallowed his tongue as I threw back my cloak.

“You will take me to your baron,” I said to the men. I was unfamiliar with the thread of power that thrummed through my voice. Ana also took a half step away, her fingers shying away from my arm.

The guards did not even speak, eyes wide, fumbling between a bow and a salute, then strode past us with gestures to follow.

“Thorn? What has happened here?”

“Aurora has invoked the rite of the Lawspeaker,” I told Ana. “It hails back to the earliest days of the Traldar. With so many clans spread over so much land, chiefs would often make their own laws, and those were as varied as the men who made them. While the druidic orders were originally founded to keep lore, as the most learned and traveled, so did the druids come to mediate disputes between clans, tribes, city-states.”

“But… your voice. Those men…”

“It is temporary,” I said, smiling despite myself. “It is tied to the land, and the people. While I carry the mantle as Lawspeaker, I have a certain amount of privilege. I can compel men to speak the truth in my presence. It is more a suggestion than a compulsion. It does not rob men of their free will, and those who wish to keep their secrets will still be able to do so.”

“And those who wish to lie will likewise do so,” Ana said.

I nodded. “The power is not absolute, nor is my ability to tell truth from falsehood.”

Ana smiled. “I begin to see my part in this.”

“I will listen to the evidence the Black Eagle used to reach his decision, I will hear arguments against it from the accused, weigh it against the laws of the land, and then reach a final decision. I will be honest, though, Silva’s case does not look promising. Strange as it may seem, the Black Eagle could very well be in the right.”

“The man makes my skin itch,” Ana said, shivering. “‘The most powerful tool of evil is a honeyed tongue wrapped around a hollow truth.’”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Sat Oct 01, 2011 11:28 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...



Ana and I paused within arm’s length of the Black Eagle’s pavilion.

“—assured me this would go smoothly,” I heard von Hendricks say. He spoke with the cold edge of patience worn thin as onion paper.

“Only your Thyatian roads are so straight and level. This road of you have chosen, it is coarse. It is rough. One does not send an army for upkeep of a hidden way, no? We expect stones in the path, my dear baron.” This was a woman’s voice, deep and rich and smooth, carrying the strange inflection of vowels common to Sindhi speakers of Thyatian.

“You said the brats would seal her doom. They were doing remarkably, until that… sister appeared and overturned the turnip cart!”

“The cards spoke of one fair of hair with a gift of silver seeing your plans to fruition,” the woman’s voice purred. “They could refer to these thralls of the witch. I still think they point to the witch herself. You gain much standing with your cousin by playing his game. A measure more of patience.”

“If that cur and his men hadn’t bungled the operation in Halaran’s holdings I would already be seated at Stefan’s right hand. Now I must put on this… show that gets more costly by the day. I could have hired two armies for half the cost of this mess.”

The woman laughed. “Try marching the army of hobgoblins that coin would have bought this close to the capital. Merrymaking and a festival do more to win the people to your side than threats and a sword.”

“The smiling makes my teeth ache.”

A chorus of chains approaching ended the conversation. Three guards prodded the line of girls towards Ana and I. Manacles of iron bound each girl’s wrists, one joined to another by an arm’s length of chain. They blinked sleepily, bemused smiles on their lips as if they were still savoring a dream that hadn’t fled with waking.

Aurora stood at the rear of the line, her hands bunched into white-knuckled fists, her eyes feverish and unfocused. The golden shards within the clear crystals adorning her wrists sparked and flickered unevenly.

Ana made to reach towards the girls, but I tugged at her sleeve, shaking my head ever so slightly.

“They are safe. To harm them would jeopardize his entire proceedings.”



We stepped into the Black Eagle’s pavilion, following Aurora. The girls were shepherded over to a long bench to the left of the entry flaps of the tent, while Ana and I stepped to the right.

The baron’s tent was very large, nearly the size of the great hall of Tarnskeep, with other rooms partitioned off to either side. The roof peaked in two places, those posts taller than an ogre. Several layers of thick scarlet carpeting had been laid over the winter-barren grasses, and the Black Eagle seemed to’ve brought his furnishings from Halag with him. The benches, the tables, chairs were all cut of thick, blocky wood, already dark beneath an even darker stain, all hard angles and straight lines, accented by dark twists and bands of cast iron.

Ludwig von Hendricks reclined in a large, high-backed chair that seemed more at home in a throne room. This was the only piece of furniture with any adornment, the broad back of the chair above the baron’s head decorated with an onyx eagle rampant within a silver shield the size of a serving platter. Points of orange and red light glinted upon the mirrorlike polish of the crest, reflecting the smoldering coals of several of a number of dark iron braziers set about the circumference of the room.

The baron kept the tent positively stifling.

Sitting at the baron’s side on a low three-legged stool was an older woman, with the darker complexion common to the wandering Darine. A good helping of gray shot through her thick wavy black hair. Her face was wrinkled with age, and yet none of them seemed to be in line with any sort of expression of mirth, or joy.

While the baron wore all black edged with silver, and his tent bore dark furnishings and the deep wine red carpet, it seemed the woman was making up for all the other missing colors at once: the toes of red leather boots peeked from beneath the hem of a long green dress, which itself was heavily embroidered in rich blue thread. The pattern swirled up the leftmost seam of the dress, disappearing into a wide sash dyed a brilliant yellow. She wore a yellow-fringed woolen vest paneled in orange over a scarlet blouse nearly the same shade as the baron’s carpeting. Wound about the woman’s neck and shoulders was a shawl of cream colored silk.

Unlike all the other Darine I had seen today, she still wore a cacophony of gold bracelets, bangles, and charms about her wrists. Glints of gold peeked from the folds beneath her scarf, and several golden hoops hung from each earlobe.

Our eyes locked, and I felt the slightest of tremors of power brushing against the back of my neck, tickling up and down my spine.

I nodded to her, briefly. She did not return the gesture. I turned my attention to the baron, noted that for all the boredom he’d worked to show in his features, his dark eyes were sharp, alert.

“Your Lordship, I am Marcu Markovic, called Thorn, journeyman chronicler of the Third Circle in the northern Radlebb. I present myself to you as Lawspeaker.”

The Black Eagle nodded, sipping a rich red wine from a crystal goblet he kept on a low granite-topped table by his throne. His eyes swiveled over the rim of the glass, regarding Ana.

“And this one?”

“I bring Ana, a priestess of the Silver Flame, from the Citadel in Sundsvall, as my Truthfinder.”

The baron took another sip from the goblet, too late to hide the beginnings of a sneer. He didn’t bother to keep it from his voice, either. “Another foreigner, and a woman. No, barely more than a girl. Surely you could do better than that. I’m sure there are a number of brown frocks out there among the rabble.” He sighed, then drained his goblet. “Well, one cultist is as good as another, I suppose. Very well. Let us get on with this, shall we?”

“If I may, my Lord?” Ana asked, patting at the pouch at her waist.

The baron wagged a finger, and one of the guards stepped forward. He grunted in disdain when all she produced was a white wax candle and a smaller white leather pouch.

“There is plenty of light in here,” von Hendricks said. Even so, he gestured for the guard to bring forth a taper from one of the braziers.

Ana held the candle above it, then settled the candle in the puddle of its own wax upon a low table. The guard touched the taper to the wick, and a clear, golden flame rose forth. The girl opened the small white pouch, sprinkling a circle of silvery sand in a circle around the candle. She whispered a word, and the flame stopped its dancing and fluttering, standing straight and tall. She flicked another pinch of the silver dust at the flame, and it flared, growing higher, the light changing from golden to bright, molten silver.

The baron watched this, black-gloved fingers drumming on the arm of his chair.

“I am Ana, servant of the Flame, come from the land of Alphatia,” the girl said, speaking directly to the candle. The flame did not waver even though she stood directly next to it, still close enough that her breath could have put it out.

“I am Empress Eriadna, of the—“ The flame guttered, fluttering as if struck by a stronger disturbance than just the girl’s breath.

“Well, isn’t that something?” von Hendricks asked, his tone bemused.

“Silverburn,” the woman next to the baron said. “I have seen it used many times, for good and ill.” At this, she narrowed her eyes slightly as she regarded Ana. “Still, it is as reliable a scale to weigh truth as a Darokinian lending house would weigh out gold.”

“Very well.”

“Then you accept the means my Truthfinder uses?” I asked the baron.

“Yes!”

I nodded. “Then where would your Lordship like to begin?”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Sat Oct 08, 2011 1:17 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“You will tell me your name,” the baron said, leaning forward in his chair.

“I have the right… to see my sister,” Aurora said, through clenched teeth. “I wish to see her.”

“Not until you provide me with proof of your identity. Give me your names. Yours and that of your… sister.”

“I cannot do that,” the shrike mumbled.

The silver candle flame did not waver.

“You ask her, then, druid.” The baron waved a hand at me. “Perhaps your voice will persuade her.”

“You and the girl with the eyes of silver are sisters?” I asked her.

Aurora nodded. “We are.”

“She does not speak falsely, my Lord,” Ana said.

“That was not what I—“ The words came out nearly a snarl.

“Your Lordship, the Law is satisfied. You must allow them to speak.” Much as I hate to admit it, it felt good, turning the Law back on the Black Eagle. Two could play this game.

He sat back on his dark throne, tapping a finger on the broad arm. After several moments of sulking contemplation, he wagged a finger at one of the guards, who turned and raised the entrance flap of the tent, barking orders.

After another wait punctuated by the irritated (and irritating) tapping of the baron’s fingers on the arm of his throne, six more guards stepped into the pavillion.

Silva barely managed to stand upright between them. A long post was held by two of the guards, crooked in the siren’s arms and fed behind her back. Her wrists were manacled before her, the thick iron links drawn taught by the tension in her arms.

The collar about her neck had been changed, still just as thick as the one she’d worn in the cage, but two more guards bore thinner shafts of dark wood, the tips joined to either side of the collar. A twist of one or the other of those poles would snap her neck in an instant.

The remaining guards bore short-shafted spears with broad barbed tips of dull metal. Iron, not steel.

Aurora rose to her feet, her clouded eyes sharpening. Her fists tightened once more, the flickering golden glimmers from the stones at her wrists steadying.

The guards standing by the girls snapped their polearms across each other. Silva’s guards forced the siren to her knees, wrenching the collar downwards, forcing her eyes towards the carpets.

“How. Dare. You!” Aurora hissed each word, her eyes beginning to smolder with a deeper golden light than that which shone from her bracers.

“Nieah.”

The word came out a gasp, barely more than a breath. Aurora turned back towards her sister.

“Let me see her,” the shrike said.

“She is there for you to see,” the baron said.

“She is wounded.”

“She is a witch and must be prevented from using her powers!”

“She is my sister and she is hurt and I will comfort her!”

The shrike’s voice rolled forth with a nearly physical presence. It pressed against me, and I saw Ana, too, blink at the sudden wave of power.

The baron sat forward, waving his hand before him, as if to brush away a gnat.

“If you speak again in such a manner, I shall take your tongue,” he said, his voice cold and level.

“You may approach the prisoner,” I said. “You may speak with her, but may not aid her in any way.”

“She is hurt!”

“The Law states that prisoners are to be kept in a manner in accordance to their crime,” I said, running through the Grand Duke’s Articles in my mind. “She has used magic, and therefore is kept in such a manner as to dissuade her using it. The Grand Duke has not made considerations for one of sidhe blood.”

“I do not need to touch her, though it would make things simpler,” Aurora said, giving the baron a dark look. “But I must be closer.”

“You will not aid in her escape?” I asked

“I will not.”

Again, the silver flame did not waver.

“Oh, very well,” the baron said, waving a hand. “But I will have you in just such a collar if you try any of your tricks.”

“I would speak with my sister in private.”

The baron sat up straight, scowling. “Be glad I have let you—“

“Your Lordship, they are entitled to private conference.”

“You mean to evict me from my own tents? To leave these two witches unguarded? What kind of a fool do you take me for, Lawspeaker?”

“Only one who keeps to the laws of the land, your Lordship,” I said. It was an effort to keep the smile from my lips. “I shall be present, and will intervene if necessary, and will call your guards at the first opportunity.”

The baron’s scowl deepened, but he sat back on his throne. “Very well. I think it is nearly time for lunch. You have one hour.”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Sat Oct 08, 2011 8:50 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


It would have been the simplest of things, to call the heat from the braziers’ coals or the cold from the bones of the hilltop into the brittle iron of the manacles. The cracks and weaknesses in the metal were many.

Aurora’s invoking of the rites of the Lawspeaker were as much for her own protection as my own. While my concern for the two sisters was still there, it was distant, diffuse, as the lights from the lanterns on the fishing boats on the fog-shrouded Lake Windrush.

The shrike made a slow circle around the siren, golden light from the stones on her wrists still bright, her eyes sharp.

“I should call the guards,” I told her.

“I have used no magic. They have no right to shroud my mind as they have my sister. I pose no danger here.”

The silver-blued shadows danced along the walls of the tent.

Aurora stopped. “Just… how much does that flame know?”

“As much as you and I and Silva,” I told her. “You’d best make use of the time the baron has given.” I bit down on the ‘until sundown.’ Distant though my concerns were for the two, particularly for Silva, they were still there, and even fogs have swirls and eddies of clarity. Going over what I knew of the events, I could see no loopholes, no gaps in the Grand Duke’s laws, save his appearance and pardon. Such an event was as likely as it was precedented.

Aurora knelt by her sister’s side, her hands hovering so very near the other girl’s cheek. She moved to stroke her hair, drawing back as the dangling iron links swung too close. The shrike made a small, frustrated sound, finally reaching for Silva’s hand, clasping slack fingers in her own.

“Thorn, she is so cold! What has he done to you, my little sister?”

“Agrajhmiti ya catur nimesa,” Silva murmured, the words heavily slurred.

“This is not right. She is speaking the Northern dialect of Thonian. We are not supposed to do that when dispatched to another continent. We adopt the speech of the first sentient we encounter.”

“She speaks as she has since I met her,” I told the girl.

Aurora carefully brought her fingers to the girl’s chin, raising her head so they could look eye to eye.

Their expressions, both of them, were symphonies of emotion: relief, fear, elation, anger, joy… all of these and more etched themselves one after another. Were it not for Silva’s grayish pallor and sunken eyes, it would have been as if each stared into a looking glass, one beneath the moon, the other the sun.

My mother tended to many of the births, in and around Stallanford, and more than a few of those were twins. Good friends of my elder brothers were one such pair, and they seemed to share a strange bond, exchanging more than just glances with their glances. I remember rushing home from play as pirates along the river, the elder of the boys dropping his stick of a sword, calling to us that his brother was in trouble. Indeed, we found him curled beneath a fallen tree branch, where he had tried to climb even though he was supposed to be abed with a fever and chills. My mother told me that this was not uncommon in twins. How much could these two share in a glance? With a touch?

After a long silent moment, Aurora sat back, her breath hitching in her throat. She wiped at her eyes, not seeming to notice the angry red welts left on her cheeks by the touch of the manacles or chains. These did not last overly long, as the white stones upon her circlet glimmered to life.

“It is true, Thorn. As it said in the druidess’ account. She does not challenge her fate. She embraces it.”

“But if you and she are alike, then she will come back, will she not?”

Aurora shook her head. “She is somehow… broken, Thorn. She is not linked to the others. I must be very close to feel her, yet I know where each of my other sisters are at all times.”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Fri Nov 04, 2011 9:32 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...



They spent the remainder of the hour seated, knees touching, hands joined. Aurora’s grip was tight, nearly white-knuckled, while Silva’s hands sat slack in those of her sister.

The Black Eagle returned, stepping from another room partitioned off from the pavilion, the older Darine woman on his arm. He made sure she was settled on the small stool by his great black throne before he sat. He wagged a finger at one of the guards, and the three girls from around the Barony were led back into the tent, seated as before on the long wooden bench.

“So, you have spoken with your sister,” von Hendricks said.

“I have, your Lordship,” Aurora said, turning to face the baron, rising with a slight curtsey. “I humbly withdraw my request for appeal, and submit my sister to the punishment your Lordship has deemed necessary for her crimes.”

My breath caught. Ana let out a gasp, and the three girls cried out in protest. Jasna actually made it to her feet before a guard could push her back down to the bench with a snarl.


“Very well,” the baron drawled, waving his hand. “The accused will be returned to confinement. The rest of you may return to your families. And you,” the baron pointed to Aurora, “will remain close by under the eyes of my guard. I will have no interference from you.”

Aurora nodded. “I will not interfere with your justice.”

Well, at least I can be satisfied with the knowledge that she did not blatantly lie to the Black Eagle.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Sun Nov 06, 2011 1:55 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


We stepped from the baron’s pavilion into early afternoon sunlight.

No sooner had we cleared the edge of the muddy hilltop then did a flurry of cloak-and-dresses streak away from the crowds, nearly bowling me over.

“Master Thorn, you must come quickly! They—“ The girl’s voice came in sharp gasps, whether it was from the running or the strength of emotion behind her words was hard to say. Her eyes were red and swollen, and tears cascaded down her cheeks. It took a moment for me to recognize Katarin — the girl training to become Eltan’s Spring’s Wisdom after her mother.

“The guards— they are going to take the swordsmen— They sent me to get you and Mistress Ana. You must come quickly!”

“Where? Which way?”

“The market plaza,” the girl said, tugging me along after her.

We ran. Or tried to. Mostly I had to force the crowds apart. The press of people grew thicker, and their mood more agitated the closer we got to the lower market plaza, and Katarin led me straight towards the thickest knot of people, where the voices were loudest.

“Here, now, come away from there, you! Just give it back, now!”

More than one guard was shouting more or less the same instructions from many sides of an open space around two overturned tables. Four men in black cloaks over eagle-engraved breastplates stood with swords drawn, the tips pointing towards Gilliam and Varis. The warriors’ scabbards were empty, their swords lying behind the Black Eagle’s guardsmen.

At the edge of the open space, several flashes of blonde hair and silver caught my eye. A guard closed on one of Silva’s army, and she spun, something glittering arcing away from her hands, to be caught by another girl in the clear. After a moment’s watching, it became clear that several games of “keep the treasure” were being played.

One of the guards anticipated a throw, and leapt, batting one of the treasures from its flight. There was a ring of metal on stone, a flash of silver against the pale afternoon sunlight, and the guard bent, reaching for the trinket.

The haft of Ana’s scythe came down hard against the back of the guard’s hand.

“Why you—“ he started.

“Do not touch it!” Ana said to him, and his other hand froze in place, where it had been making a grab for the bauble.

Katarin scurried away from my side, darting out to snatch up the pin in a handkerchief. I saw a dull glimmer of red against the white cloth and looked looked over the edge of the crowd.

“Forget the girls,” Varis was telling the guards watching him. “You need to get after the others who’ve made off with that jewelry.”

“Wouldn’t have had that problem if you hadn’t upended those tables, now, would we?” the guard asked with a sneer.

Katarin danced away from the crouching guard as he tried to grab for her, and she emptied her handkerchief into a leather sack that sat by one of the table’s legs.

“We’re not taking them,” she told another of the guards. “We’re trying to return them!”

“See here, miss, taking what doesn’t belong to you —“

“It’s not theft when you’re returning it,” she said. “I know the Grand Duke’s law, and we are to be afforded immunity in cases such as these.”
Katarin’s mother was teaching her well.

“See here, we will see to that,” the guard sputtered.

“You have no gloves,” Ana said, making her way up to the guard. “You will not touch a single one of these, and will instruct your men to do the same, unless their hands are gloved.”

The guard’s back straightened. “I will not be ordered about by a couple of— of girls.”

But Ana was not listening to him. She turned, and was glaring over the table at the merchant, a small man with rather large hands and a shaggy mop of dark hair.

“Where did you get those?” she asked, rapping the butt of her staff against the stones by the sack of jewelry.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Sun Nov 06, 2011 5:25 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...



The man brought those big hands up to cover his face. “Please, mistress, I don’t mean no harm. Just trying to make an honest living.”

“Where?” she asked again, her voice only slightly warmer than the air on which it carried.

“You have to understand, there’s good profit in these trinkets. For you… only ten kopecs!”

“I am not interested in buying. I need to know where you got these.”

The man frowned at her, over his fingers. “Oh, now. What’s to say you won’t go to my source, set up your own stall, and—“

Ana brought the staff down again, this tim between the man’s feet. The man nearly leapt up and over the table. Several of the guards winced.

“I am no merchant,” Ana told the man, as she leaned over him. Her amulet of faith dangled just above the man’s eyebrows. “Do you see this? Do you know what it is?”

The merchant frowned again. “Well, it doesn’t look like anything I sell. If you’re not satisfied with it, I’ve got one here, that—“

“I am not interested in buying,” Ana repeated.

“She may not be, but I am.”

I turned, to see Aurora squeezing past the last of the spectators.

The merchant nearly knocked Ana over as he scrambled over the table, towards the girl.

“Mistress, my apologies for the… disarray.“ He glanced over his shoulder at Gilliam and Varis, giving the two of them the darkest of looks. “If you give me a moment to lay them all out again, I am sure you will find one that pleases you.”

“There is no need for that,” she said. She did not even look at the man, but was instead scanning the clear area around the tables. Another of Silva’s army scooped up a glittering bauble in a handkerchief.

“A moment, mistress, is all I need to—“

“I will buy the entire lot.”

The merchant’s babbling stopped, mid-stream. His eyes actually bulged. “M’lady?”

“All of them. Take a count of what is here, as well as those you have already sold, as well as those gone missing.” Her fingers slipped into the pouch at her waist, and she produced several thick golden coins.

“Best not to show too much of that, your ladyship,” huffed a black-cloaked guard as he muscled through the crowd. “Between the gutter rats following from Specularum and the infestation of Darine, you’ll be lucky to keep that gown on your back, you go calling attention to yourself like that.”

I am always amazed how polite men — especially merchants — get in the company of even a single golden coin. Would they have addressed Aurora as a queen or empress, had they seen the fortune in gemstones she used to repair her sword while we traveled through the Lost Valley.

The merchant practically drooled. Aurora snapped her fingers, and he blinked, his gaze finally moving to her eyes. He gave a shudder, stepping back.

“Your inventory,” she said. “Quickly!”

She may as well have cracked a whip, the way the man jumped at the word. He dug through the tangle of dark tablecloth, finally producing a long wooden tablet. The man looked it over, chewing at his thumbnail. He set the tablet down, and fished out a metal strongbox. He gave it a shake.

“Two score, less ten sold,” he said.

Aurora waved a hand towards the two swordsmen. “You two, right this table.”

Varis glowered at the girl, and glanced down at the two swords still leveled at him.

“Release those men. They have done no harm here,” she said to the guards. The reddish stones on her wrists glimmered for just a moment, and the guard’s own scowls at being ordered about suddenly faded. While they didn’t sheathe their swords, they stared at them as if wondering how they’d gotten into their hands. They glanced over at the merchant.

Aurora didn’t need to use any magic on the merchant, simply rubbed two of the thick Blackmoorian coins together. “No,” he said, his voice somewhat distant. “No harm done at all.”

The two warriors went first for their swords.

“Those can wait. This cannot,” Aurora told them.

“I’ve seen you throw a goblin across a room,” Gilliam said. “Remind me why you’re having us do this?” He and Varis heaved the thick-cut table back upright.

Aurora smiled sweetly at him.

“Right,” he said. “Golden rule.”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Mon Nov 07, 2011 7:18 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


Ana upended the sack, and carefully picked apart the tangle of jewelry and trinkets with one of her long silver picks.

“Ninteen,” she said.

Katarin dropped another one onto the tangle.

Aurora drummed her fingers on the tabletop. “Twenty to account for,” she whispered to herself.

Silva’s army lined up across the table from the shrike. I counted seven heads of blonde hair.

Aurora frowned at them. “What?”

“Our sister wished us to be here to aid her,” Katarin said. “You are her sister, and so ours as well. We will aid you to the best of our abilities.”

She regarded the girls for a long moment, her golden eyes darting to each of them. She seemed to reach some sort of decision, closing her eyes and shaking her head. “I thank you for your offer, but your abilities will not be enough,” she told them.

Several feet stamped, and seven voices tumbled one over the other.

“But we want to help!”

“We belong to the Order of Petra! It’s our duty to help!”

“Her obligation is ours, since she can’t do anything to help!”

Ana turned to me, an eyebrow raised. “Save Threshold, capture a wanted fugitive, and now this?”

“Don’t forget we also helped you escape the —“ Brynne dug an elbow into the side of the girl beside her, cutting her off.

“Ixnay,” Brynne said, jutting her chin towards the guards. The other girl blushed.

Aurora frowned, cocking her head to one side. “What is an ixnay?”

The girls burst into giggles, and the shrike seemed about to fume, but turned her gaze instead to the bloodstone jewelry. She shook her head.

“Twenty pieces.” She glanced up at Ana. “How many could you track?”

“One, perhaps two, if they were powerful enough. But with this many people, this much ground to cover…” She shook her head as well.

Two of the girls, the youngest two, were jumping up and down. “We can cover a lot of ground! We’re small, we can squeeze through the crowds. And we know what to look for!”

“And what is it you might be looking for, my Karos?

Demarra’s voice was a warm breath in my ear, followed by a playful nip. Only the fact that she’d locked her hand about my wrist kept my feet on the ground as I gave a start.

“Halav’s balls, woman,” I gasped, rounding on her. “I have been through the Hells this past two weeks. Do not sneak up on me like that, unless you want a face full of flames.”

She quirked a smile at me. I turned again as Gilliam and Varis both cleared their throats.

“The lady has been behind you nearly since you got here,” Varis said.

“We were wondering when you would notice her,” Gilliam said. He looked over to Varis. “You owe me three silvers.”

The girls giggled. All of them.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Tue Nov 08, 2011 7:41 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“Trinkets such as these?” Demarra asked. She did not reach for any of the pieces on the table. “They are very well made. I might wish to buy one myself.”

The merchant leaned slightly away from the woman. She was clad in a worn, patched tunic over a skirt of several layers of some wispy, gauzy fabric. It was hard to tell if the fabric was worn out, or if it was supposed to have the slits and slashes that flowed one way against the other, lining up at times to reveal a shapely expanse of—

“Save your coin for a better pair of boots,” the merchant snarled. “These aren’t for sale to the likes of you.”

“Should we point out to him that Aurora isn’t even wearing boots?” Gilliam whispered to Varis.

Guards as well as a few of the bystanders snickered at that.

“Well, your Ladyship.” Demarra flowed into a deep curtsey, and held the position, her hair brushing the flagstones. “I would do you the service of finding these trinkets which you seek.”

“Find their way right into her—“

“Your business is finished here,” Aurora said. A subtle weight hung on her voice, one I was familiar with from my few times at court. “Take up your strongbox and scurry off. And should you see this merchant friend of yours who was so eager to be rid of these, you will tell him I am most interested in his inventory.”

The merchant bowed, scrabbling for the money box resting at his feet. “Yes, of course, your Ladyship. How shall I instruct him to find your Ladyship?”

Aurora narrowed her eyes, her pale lips drawing back. For a fraction of a heartbeat, I was struck with the powerful notion of a she-wolf, on the trail of newly scented prey. I half expected the girl to tip her head back and howl.

Instead, she simply said “I shall find him.”

The merchant paled, turned, and fled.

The shrike bent low, taking the Darine woman’s hands in her own, bringing the woman upright. “We would be honored if you would so us this service.”

“In Zirchev’s name, then, my Lady,” she said.

“Just let it not turn out like last time,” Aurora said.

Demarra winked. “We shall see.”

Then she, too, was gone, laughing as the crowd partied hurriedly for her, spectators’ hands clutching at pockets and purses.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Wed Nov 09, 2011 7:53 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“There were seven of us, we could help more than one of her,” Petra pouted.

“Six,” Varis said.

Katarin looked down the line of girls. “Jasna.” She spoke the name nearly as a curse.

“She slipped off after our merchant friend,” Gilliam said. “Would you like me to…?”

Gilliam looked at the two guards standing watch over him. They glanced over at their sergeant. He grunted.

“No trouble from either of you,” the soldier said.

Gilliam bowed, scooping up the twin longknives. He sheathed them with a flourish, and the crowd parted for him nearly as enthusiastically as it had for the Darine.

Aurora reached for one of the overturned benches, and Varis and I moved to it before she could settle her grip on it. We righted it, and then dragged another over to the other side of the table.

“There are demonstones loose out there, and you are going to simply sit here?” Ana asked. “We should be—“

“Waiting,” Aurora interrupted. “The Dara and her kin will bring the missing… items… back.” The shrike glanced meaningfully towards the guards, and the crowd they were dispersing. “There is no need to cause undue panic.”

“But they—“

“Are the folk best suited for this sort of task,” Varis said. Ana took a seat next to the warrior, and I sat next to her. Aurora sat to my right. The six girls took seats opposite us.

“You have pretty hair,” Petra said to Ana. “Mine is pain and boring and blonde.”

“She is from Alphatia,” Katarin said.

“I didn’t think the highborn cared enough about the world to take the vows of the order of the Flame,” Evelina said.

Ana blushed, shaking her head. “Highborn? I certainly am not.”

“But all the pureblooded Alphatians have hair of midnight and skin and eyes of ice. Aren’t all of them of the ruling class?”

“I suppose I could rule if I so wished,” Ana said. “But I have no lands, and certainly no subjects. I have no money, so I could not even buy a title, as seems to be common here on the continent.” She shrugged, but smiled. “My options appear to be somewhat limited.”

“You miss nothing,” Aurora said. “Rulership is a burden I would not wish upon my worst enemy.”

“How do we know we can trust these Darine?” Ana asked. “The people, the merchants, they all treat them as if they are all thieves or worse.”

“My da says they steal children away in the night,” Petra said. “He thought it was the Darine took me, until Ma pointed out that it wasn’t anywhere near their season to come through.”

“They are a wandering folk,” Katarin said. “Mother says it is because they lack a land of their own that people distrust them. The roads are their home, and it is said that they cannot camp twice in the same spot during their lifetime.”

“Why do they wander?” Ana asked.

“The Immortals put a curse on them when they abandoned their nation,” said Brynne.

Ana looked over to me. “Thorn, is this true?”

“We know they left these lands during the early years of the Beastman invasions. They wandered the far Sindhi deserts for the next four hundred years, and then returned. As far as Immortal curses go….” I shrugged. “We know they revere Zirchev, though the relationship appears to be somewhat… unorthodox. It is not something that Demarra and I have ever discussed.” I could feel heat creeping into my face. Discussion was usually the last thing on Demarra’s mind.

“They do not wander,” Aurora said, when the silence stretched overly long. “To wander would imply that they have no destination in mind. And you could call their condition a curse, I suppose. It is a curse they willingly accepted.

“They knew of the invasion, they had seen it in Zirchev’s Stones.”

“Stone,” Katarin said. “There is only one. The Eye of Traldar.”

Aurora sat back, regarding the girl with a look a teacher might give an impertinent student.

“Describe this stone for me,” Aurora said.

“Everybody knows what the Eye of Traldar looks like. It is yellow-orange, like the eye of a dragon, set in a frame of gold.”

“It is red, shot through with gold, though when it glows, it would appear orange,” Aurora said. She pushed her arm forward on the table, and the stone above her right wrist took light. With the golden threads fully alight, the stone did indeed appear orange.

“There are many such stones, though they were rare in Traldar’s age, nearly nonexistent today.”

Half a dozen pairs of eyes widened.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Wed Nov 09, 2011 8:56 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“You mean to tell us that the artifact of legend is one of your dragonstones?” Varis asked.

“You can see the future in it?” Petra leaned nearly halfway across the table.

The red dragonstone flickered and went dark. “It is not quite so simple,” Aurora said. “If the stars align just so, or if a lengthy ritual is enacted… then the veil parting present and future lifts for a very short time.”

“Could you—“

“No.”

“Not even just a—“

“No,” the shrike said.

Petra sad down with a huff, crossing her arms. “You just don’t want to show us.”

Aurora smiled. “It is no small task. Tell me, do any of you have a diamond of perfect clarity?”

“Of course not,” Brynne said. “Where would we—“

“They need to be of perfect clarity, each cut to a very specific angle.”

“‘They?’” Petra asked.

“We would need at least three, though the image sharpens and the depth of temporal focus increases with each priming.”

Aurora began ticking items off on her fingers. “The ingredients for the mixture applied to the eyes would need to be located, if they even still grow these days. Those viewing would need to fast…”

Petra waved her hands at the shrike. “Never mind. It’s too much trouble!”

Aurora quirked a smile. “Your namesake said much the same thing.”

“You knew Queen Petra?”

“My memories are… entwined… with one who did.”

“What was she like?”

“Is Halav as handsome as the tapestries and stories make him out to be?”

Aurora leaned low over the table. “I must swear you to secrecy if I speak of any of this,” she whispered. “Have I your solemn oaths that you will not speak of this to anybody but those of us at this table?”

“What about Jasna?”

“Well, she should not have run off, now, should she?” Ana asked.

“Swear upon your medallions if you agree,” Aurora said.

Each of the girls did so.

“Halav was a very fine looking man, perhaps even more so than the stories do him credit. And very charismatic. Petra was… very strong-willed. She was kind, and generous, and very loyal to those she called friend, and to those she served as Queen. But she was also very possessive and intensely jealous.

“They spent the night before Halav’s battle with the beastman king apart. She came to Halav’s tent the next morning and had to fish him out from under the princesses of several other city-states and tribes.

“Let us just say that had the beastman king not done the Traldar king in, Petra surely would have.”

Varis gave a snort of a laugh. “The tales say that she and Zirchev brought him back to life.”

Aurora nodded, smiling. “She hadn’t finished berating him.”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby Chimpman » Thu Nov 10, 2011 12:48 am

I've fallen very much behind in my reading. This however, did catch my attention:
RobJN wrote:Aurora shook her head. “She is somehow… broken, Thorn. She is not linked to the others. I must be very close to feel her, yet I know where each of my other sisters are at all times.”

That seems to indicate that Aurora has more sisters in addition to Silva, and that she can currently sense them! That might just be a turn of words - perhaps referring to some time in the past (implying that her sisters still exist, but only in the past), or it might mean others are active and alive today.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Thu Nov 10, 2011 11:04 am

Chimpman wrote:I've fallen very much behind in my reading. This however, did catch my attention:
RobJN wrote:Aurora shook her head. “She is somehow… broken, Thorn. She is not linked to the others. I must be very close to feel her, yet I know where each of my other sisters are at all times.”

That seems to indicate that Aurora has more sisters in addition to Silva, and that she can currently sense them! That might just be a turn of words - perhaps referring to some time in the past (implying that her sisters still exist, but only in the past), or it might mean others are active and alive today.

Many, many more. Remember the chamber deep below the Valley:

Thorn wrote:Something could be seen, barely beneath the surface. I strained my eyes, but could only make out an oblong, smooth and shining tube of some sort, with a darker shape within.

There were hundreds of them. Thousands, lined one next to the other, rank after rank, arranged around a central island that rose out of the center of the greenish lake. As the fog rolled away from the island, ...Tiny figures moved about on the island, armored though not nearly as bulky as the Enforcer. There were five of them... two hauling one of the tubes from the depths of the lake.


The tube (indeed, each of the tubes submerged in the lake of greenish goo) contains a biomagical construct known as a Greater Simulacra; the result of Blackmoor University's cloning, warforged, and dragonstone research crafted in the likeness of Andahar's heiresses. Once awakened, the simulacra is animated by a portion of either Rowena or Leansethar's essence. Through this connection, they are able to share the memories of the original twin, plus the collected memories of all the simulacra who have served before. It also allows for a vague sense of where other active 'sister' units are at any given time. Shrikes and sirens can sense each other as well but only within a range of roughly six to eight miles.

Most colonies had a Collection Tower and Well of Souls, as well as a small cache of simulacra to either augment or replace the existing company assigned to the colony's defense.

It is rumored that a number of caverns beneath Skothar, well away from Blackmoor proper, house suspension capsules by the hundreds or thousands. Each copy of Andahar's heir sleeps, waiting to take the place of a fallen sister. "For so long as the blood of Andahar flows" the wording of the spell went that activated the Engine that severed the demonic plane from the Mystaran prime. Rowena and Leansethar Andahar's sacrifice satisfies the spell regardless of how one interprets the verb 'flow.'
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Thu Nov 10, 2011 5:55 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


The laughter around the table was interrupted by the approach of a dusky-skinned man with dark hair. He was dressed in well-worn traveling clothes of garish-but-faded colors. He strode up to Aurora, and went to one knee, bowing his head.

“By Zirchev’s will, have I brought to you that which you seek. Let this service be a grain of sand towards our patron’s forgiveness.”

Aurora took the plain white handkerchief the man held out to her. “You did not touch it?”

“No, Vin Zletja Solijma.”*

“And you give this to me freely?”

“It holds no place in my heart, and is my gift to you.”

“Then let our scales be balanced and the edge of Dealth and Phelia and Odir’s wrath be dulled.”

The man pressed Aurora’s knuckles to his forehead before he rose, backing away. He waited for the shrike to turn her gaze away before he departed.

Aurora unwrapped the handkerchief, and added two pins to the collection on the tabletop. Bloodstones, each perhaps the size of a pea, were worked into the star-flower design of silver.

Over the course of the afternoon, men and women of Demarra’s clan approached, and the exchange would be repeated. The Darine recovered seventeen pieces.

As the sky began to bleed towards pink and orange, Demarra sought us out. There was a swirl of skirts as she settled on one knee before Aurora.

“We have a problem,” she said. Unlike the other Darine, she met Aurora’s golden eyes. “It would be best if you saw for yourself.”

Ana gathered up the tainted jewelry and we left the market square, following Demarra steadily west and slightly north. Every now and then she would pause, running her fingers over the same spot on the underside of her wrist through the sleeve in her tunic. As we passed through shadows, I could have sworn I saw glimmers of bluish light through thin points in the fabric.

Petra was not so discreet as to simply look and wonder. “What’s that?” she asked, pointing.

Demarra slid her sleeve up, revealing what I’d thought for ages to simply be a tattoo emblazoned across the bottom of her wrist. The edges of it smoldered with a reddish light, the main lines burning a brilliant, silvery blue. It looked to be a collection of strokes and loops, not a rune or glyph or sigil, but something more… wild, primitive.

“It is the Seeker’s mark,” she said. “All of my clan bear it.”

“The artist who painted it there is a master,” Varis said.

“Paint?” Demarra’s brows rose. She shook her head. “No, no, it is no vulgar skin-painting. It is as much of us as is our hair or teeth or nails. We are born with it, all of my line.”

“It’s magic,” Petra said. It wasn’t exactly a question, but Demarra nodded just the same.

“Zirchev guides me to that which I seek through this mark. For others, he aids their travels. Others have a mastery over beasts or the weather. The different clans have different talents. Some bear more intricate markings than others. My cousin Svenka bears a similar mark all along her lower arm, and can pick a path through the most difficult terrain, whereas all I can do is find a specific thing or know which direction it is I face even in total darkness.”

“If I had that mark, I’d never lose my slippers,” Petra breathed.

We came up to another tight knot of people. One man pushed past us at our approach, his eyes wide.

The crowd gasped as one, and above them rose a familiar voice:

“I said let her go!” Gilliam shouted.

“Not until she gives me back my property.”

My heart seemed like it wanted to crawl up my throat. It was Silva’s voice, but rimed with a roughness like broken ice.

“Silva?” More than one of the girls whispered the name, and they glanced at each other. As one, they wriggled their way through the crowd. We plunged through after them.
--------------
* Thorn's notes indicate this translates (roughly) to "She of the Golden Promise" in the obscure dialect of Demarra's particular clan. Whether this is a name or simply a title they bestow upon Aurora is unknown.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby Chimpman » Thu Nov 10, 2011 7:42 pm

:D Ok, I'm all caught up now.
RobJN wrote:Many, many more. Remember the chamber deep below the Valley:

Thorn wrote:Something could be seen, barely beneath the surface. I strained my eyes, but could only make out an oblong, smooth and shining tube of some sort, with a darker shape within.

There were hundreds of them. Thousands, lined one next to the other, rank after rank, arranged around a central island that rose out of the center of the greenish lake. As the fog rolled away from the island, ...Tiny figures moved about on the island, armored though not nearly as bulky as the Enforcer. There were five of them... two hauling one of the tubes from the depths of the lake.

Ahhh... Ok, I was wondering if that's what was meant. I'm still not clear on how many of them can be active at a time. It seems like (going back to references about the Shrikes and Sirens) that many could be operational at once.

RobJN wrote:The tube (indeed, each of the tubes submerged in the lake of greenish goo) contains a biomagical construct known as a Greater Simulacra; the result of Blackmoor University's cloning, warforged, and dragonstone research crafted in the likeness of Andahar's heiresses. Once awakened, the simulacra is animated by a portion of either Rowena or Leansethar's essence. Through this connection, they are able to share the memories of the original twin, plus the collected memories of all the simulacra who have served before. It also allows for a vague sense of where other active 'sister' units are at any given time. Shrikes and sirens can sense each other as well but only within a range of roughly six to eight miles.

All the Shrikes would be related to one of the twins then (housing part of her essence/spirit), and all of the Sirens to the other. I really like this idea - again it has a very Eberron feel to it, paralleling the mechanics of the Kalashtar to some degree, but quite different in other ways. It also reminds me a lot of the humaniform cylons in the new Battlestar Galictica - but I think I've made that reference before.

As an aside [and perhaps a bit off topic here] Geoff made a comment in the Shimmering Lands thread that got me thinking... what if this "technology" wasn't restricted only to Andahar's heirs? Of course others wouldn't have been able to accomplish the same ends on as grand a scale as Andahar did, but perhaps some other remnants of Ancient Blackmoor live on - passing their essence from one body to the next. It could be a fun way to bring back some of the Ancient Blackmoorian villains to modern day Mystara.

RobJN wrote:Most colonies had a Collection Tower and Well of Souls, as well as a small cache of simulacra to either augment or replace the existing company assigned to the colony's defense.

It is rumored that a number of caverns beneath Skothar, well away from Blackmoor proper, house suspension capsules by the hundreds or thousands. Each copy of Andahar's heir sleeps, waiting to take the place of a fallen sister. "For so long as the blood of Andahar flows" the wording of the spell went that activated the Engine that severed the demonic plane from the Mystaran prime. Rowena and Leansethar Andahar's sacrifice satisfies the spell regardless of how one interprets the verb 'flow.'

This brings up something else I've been thinking about for a while as well. When you first started telling Thorn's tales I thought that one or both of the "sisters" had actually traveled to modern day Mystara from the past... but now I'm getting the sense that that isn't entirely accurate. Both Aurora and Silva would have been "born" from one of these Collection Towers much more recently. If there had been a long period of inactivity, it would seem to them that they had "traveled from the past" since they would have no shared memories of the times in between their last incarnation and their current one.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Thu Nov 10, 2011 8:26 pm

Chimpman wrote::D Ok, I'm all caught up now.
RobJN wrote:Many, many more. Remember the chamber deep below the Valley:

Thorn wrote:Something could be seen, barely beneath the surface. I strained my eyes, but could only make out an oblong, smooth and shining tube of some sort, with a darker shape within.

There were hundreds of them. Thousands, lined one next to the other, rank after rank, arranged around a central island that rose out of the center of the greenish lake. As the fog rolled away from the island, ...Tiny figures moved about on the island, armored though not nearly as bulky as the Enforcer. There were five of them... two hauling one of the tubes from the depths of the lake.

Ahhh... Ok, I was wondering if that's what was meant. I'm still not clear on how many of them can be active at a time. It seems like (going back to references about the Shrikes and Sirens) that many could be operational at once.

This could be a factor related to proximity to a Collection Tower or Andahar's Engine, as well as the availability of dragonstones for Greater Simulacra fabrication and armament. During the Afridhi and Beastman wars, Shrikes, Sirens and Reapers were fielded in the thousands.

Chimpman wrote:All the Shrikes would be related to one of the twins then (housing part of her essence/spirit), and all of the Sirens to the other. I really like this idea - again it has a very Eberron feel to it, paralleling the mechanics of the Kalashtar to some degree, but quite different in other ways. It also reminds me a lot of the humaniform cylons in the new Battlestar Galictica - but I think I've made that reference before.

Sirens (and their subset of Reapers) are descended from Rowena, and the Shrikes are copies of Leansethar. Both are notably shorter than Six ;)

Chimpman wrote:As an aside [and perhaps a bit off topic here] Geoff made a comment in the Shimmering Lands thread that got me thinking... what if this "technology" wasn't restricted only to Andahar's heirs? Of course others wouldn't have been able to accomplish the same ends on as grand a scale as Andahar did, but perhaps some other remnants of Ancient Blackmoor live on - passing their essence from one body to the next. It could be a fun way to bring back some of the Ancient Blackmoorian villains to modern day Mystara.

Take the idea and run with it! Shades of this technology were hinted at in my Warforged of Blackmoor blog posts some time ago. There's no reason the souls could not simply be 'transplanted' into another warforged shell when the old one wears out.

Chimpman wrote:This brings up something else I've been thinking about for a while as well. When you first started telling Thorn's tales I thought that one or both of the "sisters" had actually traveled to modern day Mystara from the past... but now I'm getting the sense that that isn't entirely accurate. Both Aurora and Silva would have been "born" from one of these Collection Towers much more recently. If there had been a long period of inactivity, it would seem to them that they had "traveled from the past" since they would have no shared memories of the times in between their last incarnation and their current one.

Yes, this is the gist of how the shared memory-network manifests. Aurora's reborn counterpart was able to pretty much pick up where her predecessor left off because of the proximity to the Collection Tower and her activation into the network. There was very little lag, and the memories of Aurora-who-came-before were still very close to the surface.

Silva, with no connection to the Engine's memory matrix, only has access to Rowena's initial memories. For all intents and purposes, she is "from the past."

There is at least one Siren in Alfheim, turned to stone much as was Aurora in order to avoid complete destruction by Illodius' demon horde. Were she to reawaken, her memory gap would be a mere 500 or so years, as opposed to Aurora's of several thousand.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Fri Nov 11, 2011 6:05 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...



“The runt has taken something that belongs to me. Thievery must be punished, mustn’t it? I think taking the finger she would put that ring on will suffice.”

Silva held Jasna, one of the girl’s arm twisted about behind her back, the other arm held outstretched, pale fingers curled around the girl’s wrist. Corners of white linen peeked from a balled-up fist.

Except that Silva was wearing a woolen gown the shade of drying blood. What at first appeared to be black trim at the base of the sleeves was not fabric, but blackened, barbed metal. Rather than the high collars we were used to seeing on her and Aurora, this gown was cut low — not immodestly so. A silver pendant hung about the girl’s neck, the bloodstone nearly matching the dye of her dress.

Jasna winced. The would-be Silva must have given her arm a tug.

“Give it back and this will stop,” she hissed in the girl’s ear.

Her eyes were the same moonglow silver, but they seemed to carry the faintest of reddish sheens, as Matera does riding through eclipse-shadows.

“Let her go!”

“Why are you hurting our sister?”

“You aren’t supposed to touch them! You told us not to!”

“Girls…” I tried to catch their attention, but a dozen eyes were on the pair struggling in the clear spot of stone.

Gilliam stood a short distance away, one sword half-drawn, his other hand outstretched, warning the girls back.

“That is not your sister,” he called back to them, his own eyes not leaving the figure in red.

“Of course she is!” Petra shouted back.

“No… “ Katarin said. She touched the side of her head. “She is not speaking to us here.”

Jasna’s hand twisted, and then she stiffened, giving another sharp cry.

“Do not think to pass the trinket to one of your friends, unless you wish them to take your place.”

“Those are not Silva’s eyes,” Brynne said. “Hers are not so hard. So cruel.”

“Be careful, sister,” Aurora said, as she stepped away from the crowd. “You’re beginning to present.”

The thinnest of lines of red shone from the lower eyelids of the girl opposite Aurora. She gave a snarl, then took a deep breath, her back straightening somewhat. The glimmer of redness faded. Her expression flowed into something calm, composed. She smiled, and I gave a shiver. Had she not held a girl before her with a grip that could break one or both arms with the simplest of motions, I would have been fooled by the sincerity.

The grip encircling Jasna’s wrist tightened, and there came a hard, distinct ‘crack.’ Jasna — to her credit — did not cry out, but her eyes widened, the muscles along her jaw bulging as she bit back the scream. Her fingers spasmed, and the white bundle fell from her grip.

Silva’s twin gave the girl a shove, sending her sprawling so she would have to catch herself on the broken wrist. She fell with a scream, and Ana rushed to her side, along with two of the other girls.

The girl was quicker than Gilliam, dropping to her haunches and fishing something delicate and silver from the handkerchief. She held it between her thumb and forefinger, turning it this way and that, and I saw it was a silver ring set with three round-cut bloodstones. She slid it onto her right-hand ring finger. The left already bore a similar ring.

Gilliam turned his dive for the ring into a roll, the longknife coming clear of the scabbard, whistling as he brought it down in a backhanded strike.

The girl caught it with her forearm, the blade sliding cleanly through, as we’d seen Silva do with the guard in the Black Woods.

But the blood that dripped from the tip of the blade as it emerged from the girl’s arm was black, not red. The paving stones hissed and smoked where the droplets fell. The gown’s sleeve smoldered as it soaked up the dark blood.

She smiled, the expression harsh and feral. The teeth she exposed looked much sharper that those I remember being in Silva’s mouth. She gave a low chuckle, the same jagged ice-like brittleness to her voice.

“My thanks for the gift, son of the mountains and sand.” She leaned down and pressed her lips to his.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby Chimpman » Sat Nov 12, 2011 1:46 am

Oh no... that's not good.
How did Silva get the rings though, especially if she was under the Black Eagle's watch... unless he was the one who gave them to her...
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Sat Nov 12, 2011 9:32 am

Chimpman wrote:Oh no... that's not good.
How did Silva get the rings though, especially if she was under the Black Eagle's watch... unless he was the one who gave them to her...


Remember the elusive girl from the Lightning Road chamber?
Thorn wrote:The clear gems on Aurora’s wrists sparkled with fragments of golden light, only to wink out as the other girl again sang out the discordant, grating note.

This other girl’s wrists gleamed with a reddish light. Not the clear red-gold of a dragonstone, but the dull, clouded red of bloodstone. One sprouted from the back of each of her wrists, the rootlike spread of the burrowing stone traced and accented by twines and swirls of blackened, barbed metal in a perversion of the delicate grace of the bracers we’d seen on Silva and Aurora...

“No… Whichever demon she brought with her, it has found a much more suitable host.” Aurora was looking up, at the barely-visible catwalks that criss-crossed the ceiling.

“Little thing is fast!” Gilliam called, jogging up to us, leaning on his knees. “She ran into a cloud of steam..."
:twisted:
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:22 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


Gilliam tried to scramble backwards, the heels of his boots scraping for purchase, but the girl had entwined her left hand in his hair, her knuckles white. She brought her right arm around, dragging the blood-slicked longknife up the side of his neck, over his cheek. Her eyes gleamed silver and hungry through the spray of blood, and then she let him fall away.

In the split second my attention wavered from the girl to Gilliam, shadows thickened, gathered around her, and she was gone…


“Gilliam!” Ana made to dash from the side of the whimpering Jasna.

Aurora stopped her with an upraised hand. “No, stay with the youngling.”

The warrior was curled on his side, redness welling and seeping from between his fingers as he tried to staunch the flow from his throat and cheek at the same time. It was difficult to tell if the bubbling of his breathing came from the wound in his neck or from the blood that oozed into his mouth.

“Fire, Thorn,” Aurora said, kneeling at my side by Gilliam. “Quickly!”

I glanced around. There was very little to work with. The stones were cold, the air not much warmer. Gilliam’s lifeblood steamed in the air.

“Can’t you…?”

“Mine is not natural flame, it will do him no good. Quickly, Thorn!”

An icy shiver jumped across my spine and brilliant orange light burst off to my left. Macha’s approached, bearing a crude torch fashioned from a stall awning support and part of the fabric of its overhang. Distantly, I was aware of a merchant shouting curses.

The chaos of voices faded in my hearing as I reached out to the flame with one hand, drawing its heat forth and pushing it through to my right hand. I pressed the cold away, reaching deeper into the flame, felt the heat intensify in the palm of my hand.

In the corner of my vision, I saw Aurora turning the ceremonial knife over and over in the flame, the blade gleaming a dull red.

“Hotter, Thorn!”

“There is not much to work with here,” I said through gritted teeth. Already, the balance was precariously close to tipping further than I could right.

I was vaguely aware of Aurora shouting for Varis, telling him to hold Gilliam down. At the edge of my hearing, I could hear the girls’ wailing, asking why Silva had done such a thing.

I reached out for their anguish, and found the spark I was looking for. More than one of them was angry: Jasna’s burned brightest: blue-white. I blended that with the guttering torch, and felt my palm tingle as the flame in it rose higher.

All my attention was focused on keeping the balance the hair’s breadth from tipping, keeping the torch from going out while pulling as much heat from it as I could. Gilliam thrashed and let out at least one cry as Aurora worked. The gleam of the gem on the knife’s blade was a starlike twinkle in my narrowed vision, the clear gems’ golden glow mingling with the light of the steadily sinking sun.

The setting sun.

“She’s stalling us, keeping us away from the pyre.”

I don’t know how loudly I said it, or if the words even passed my lips. My concentration wavered, the balance tipped, and searing agony coursed over my hand, cold rushing up through the soles of my boots. Fire and ice clashed somewhere about the point of my shoulder as the spell crumbled.


* * * * *
“Are you sure you are all right?” Ana asked.

I nodded. “I am fine. Singed, but unharmed.” I glanced back over my shoulder, where Gilliam leaned heavily on Varis’ shoulder. “He’s the one you should be worried about.”

”I don’t remember the hill being this steep,” Gilliam wheezed. He was still very pale, his steps uncertain. Despite the cold, sweat trickled from his brow.

Aurora had done a masterful job with her healing, leaving only the finest of white lines running from his chin up to his cheekbone. The two white dragonstones had blazed like miniature suns for nearly half an hour, and her shuffling gait and slumped shoulders showed the strain the magic had put system.

We made quite the sight, as we climbed the hill: The right arm of my tunic was scorched, burt through at the wrist, the leather vambrace charred and cracked. My breeches were soaked at the knees with blood. The hem of Ana’s gown was likewise stained.

Blood spattered Varis’ greaves, and Gilliam’s cloak and the left side of his breastplate were coated in the stuff. The girls trailed behind them, walking in pairs. The blonde weaver was deep in a quiet discussion with cobbler’s daughter — Irina, I think her name was. The dark-haired weaver’s head was bent towards Brynne, who was punctuating her whispered story with quick motions of her hands or fingers. Jasna, with her arm in a sling, and Aurora looking as though she’d waded knee-deep through blood brought up the rear.

For once, we did not have to force our way through the crowds.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby Chimpman » Sat Nov 12, 2011 5:37 pm

RobJN wrote:
Chimpman wrote:Oh no... that's not good.
How did Silva get the rings though, especially if she was under the Black Eagle's watch... unless he was the one who gave them to her...


Remember the elusive girl from the Lightning Road chamber?
Thorn wrote:[i]The clear gems on Aurora’s wrists sparkled with fragments of golden light, only to wink out as the other girl again sang out the discordant, grating note.

No... I didn't until now. :twisted: Well played sir.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Sat Nov 12, 2011 11:18 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

“Are you sure about this?” I asked Aurora, as we pushed closer to the edge of the crowd. A heavy rope barrier had been set up, with von Hendricks’ guards stationed every four or five feet. They had to break from their position to press a spectator back or chase a child who’d slipped away from a parent and then under the barrier.

“She bested the Egg of Coot twice. She fended off the Skandaharans on the Downs and beat the Afridhi back from the very gates of Blackmoor, at the same time. She has sent the Iron Duke away with his tail between his legs on numerous occasions. If my sister has allowed herself to be captured, she has some strategy in mind.”

“And she did not tell you her plan?”

Aurora smiled a warm smile. “Now what would the fun be in that?” Her expression fell, her eyes clouding. “She does not know of the… Other one, though. She’ll be a spanner in the cogs, as the gnomes would say.”

We looked up at the quick flash of silver. Another girl was in position, further around the great circle of people.

“I think Gilliam would have used another phrase for that.”

“A real pain in the… neck?” she suggested with a grin.

Gilliam coughed, trying to cover a chuckle. “I just have one question,” he said, looking down at Aurora, his face suddenly a picture of stern inquisitiveness. “Where did she learn to kiss like that?”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Sun Nov 13, 2011 7:55 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...



The crowd didn’t exactly go silent as the steady low drum beat began, but it did subside from a dull roar to an eerie susurration.

The Black Eagle’s personal guard appeared, six of them leading Silva. It was the same arrangement they’d used to bring her to the baron’s pavilion: two supporting the long pole behind her back, two more holding the staves attached to the collar about her neck, two at the rear bearing iron-tipped, barbed spears. Chains clanked and scraped at the stones as she shuffled forward in the zzonga-induced haze.

She put up a token resistance as the guards reworked her chains to lash her to the tall post amidst the firewood and tinder. They were hesitant to grasp her arms, even though the bracers and dragonstones were covered in a heavy wrapping of some sort.

The Black Eagle strode from his pavilion, his cloak rippling. Whether the thread-of-silver gleamed with the sunset or the flickering of the torch he held in one hand was difficult to tell.

“My people,” he said. He could have had druid’s training, so well did he pitch and project his voice. “For, though I know many of you are not of my own Halag, still you are my cousin’s people, and therefore my own.” He bowed, a hand over his heart. The crowd gave a surge of a cheer.

“In the name of my cousin, our Grand Duke, this witch has been tried and found guilty of the highest of crimes. It comes to me, now, with a heavy heart, to deliver the sentence that comes with such a terrible act.”

He turned, the cloak fanning out behind him with appropriate dramatic effect. The brown-robed scribe scuttled up to the pyre, book open, quill poised.

“Have you any last words?” Ludwig von Hendricks asked of Silva.

She said nothing, instead leaning her head back, staring up at the darkening sky.

Someone in the crowd shouted “Let her burn!”

Standing before us, Evelina drew a deep breath, gripped her medallion.

Another and another voice took up the cry, repeating it, over and over until it became a chant. The baron raised the torch high overhead, lowering it just as the last of the sun dipped beneath the horizon.

“May the Immortals show you mercy,” the baron murmured, as the wood took to light.
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