[Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Sat Feb 11, 2012 4:10 pm

Lake Windrush

**I**

“These pages smell like beer,” Jasna said, wrinkling her nose. Half the page was stained a yellowish-brown, the lettering smeared, barely legible. Not that she was having much luck deciphering the words anyway.

“That’s because somebody blew all the papers into the big puddle from the broken cask,” Petra said, glaring across the table. “While you were off racing, I saved as many as I could.”

Brynne and Katarin both blushed, and bent their noses to the pages in front of them.

“This ‘Perrantin’ fellow uses too many big words,” Jasna complained. “I want another page. This one is too hard to read.” She reached for the stack of papers by the younger girl’s elbow.

Petra swatted her hand away. “I’ve already gone through those and made my notes.”

“How is it that an itinerant woodcutter’s daughter can read and write better than a girl who receives daily instruction from the clergy?” Justin asked, looking up from his own sheet of beer-stained paper.

“She only attends one of every three or four lessons,” Brynne said.

“One of the men in the camp used to be a druid. He knows all sorts of letters. He’s teaching me Elvish!” Petra said.

Jasna rolled her eyes. “Yes, because there are sooo many elves up here in the mountains.”

“I still don’t quite understand what we’re looking for,” Justin said. “These pages are all out of order, written in different hands…”

Petra cleared her throat, and glanced over at Katarin.

“Next time, I’ll just let them use you for target practice, then,” the healer said. She turned to the young man. “We’re looking for whatever those men were looking for. If they were willing to kill to get their hands on this material, we need to find out what secrets it holds.”

“I keep seeing this name… ‘Zadreth.’ And ‘Lugsid,’” the young man said. “Those are not Thyatian.”

“They are Old Traldar,” Brynne said. “Lugsid, Lavv, They are towns, estates from Halav’s day. They are mentioned in the Song. Only Krakatos and Achelos have kept their old names since the Thyatians invaded. But this.. 'Zadreth.' I have never heard of it.”

“Listen to this,” Katarin said. She smoothed the scroll she’d been looking through, and read: “‘The sun glinted off the lake to the north, and there was a most interesting arrangement of peaks to the west making it look as if a snake were poking its head up. Just to the left was a natural formation that looked like rabbit's ears perked up in alarm at the snake . . .’” She looked over at Brynne. “Does that sound familiar?”

The other girl’s brow furrowed as she thought. “The Standoff Peaks?”

Katarin touched her finger to Brynne’s nose, smiling. “That’s what I thought of, too. The lake can only be Windrush. And here, there is more, on another page.” She picked up another scroll, carefully unrolling it. “‘Few know this road once continued a few leagues to the east across the river and into the mountains. If one looked sharply one can find the almost hidden road to a grouping of foundations that make a long-abandoned village. Unlike ruins on the west shore of the lake, these cluster around a central square.’”

This time, it was Petra who nodded. “Along the southern edge of the lake, there are some old, flat stones here and there. We never followed them for long, since the timber there is too young. We weren’t allowed to go far from the camps near the lake shore. It’s much too dangerous. They say the northern woods along the lake and the mountains are haunted.” She made the closed-circle sign against evil with her thumb and pinky fingers against her heart.

“That just sounds like superstitious nonsense to me,” Justin said.

“No,” Petra shook her head. ”You don’t understand. The woods there don’t… feel right. They don’t look right, or smell right. It just feels….”

“‘Not right?’” Justin finished.

“You--” Petra started, her cheeks coloring. Then she sighed. “You would understand if you’ve been there.”

“Then let us go,” the young man said. “My eyes grow weary of scouring these pages.”

Brynne stood up, smiling. “I agree. Less reading and more… doing anything else!”

Jasna knocked on the tabletop. “Now wait just a moment. I’m in charge. Since when do the Handmaidens of Petra take orders from a boy?”
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Mon Feb 13, 2012 10:19 pm

**II**
“I wish we could go with you,” Fiala said, as she handed the satchel over to Jasna. “But with the feast at sundown…” She flinched as her father called her, from within the kitchens. “Petra go with you,” she said, squeezing the girl’s hand.

“I am!” the younger girl said, from over Jasna’s shoulder.

“You know what I mean!” Fiala stuck her tongue out, and then eased the delivery door shut as her father shouted again.

“Well,” Jasna said, “That takes care of provisions.” She turned to the rest of the group. Brynne and Katarin had added the fur linings to their sturdy woolen cloaks. Brynne took the bag from Jasna, and slung it from the end of her quarterstaff.

“You’re going to hike through the woods in that?” Jasna asked, with a gesture towards the bands of color peeking from beneath Katarin’s cloak. “What’s wrong with breeches?”

“An initiate must wear the proper attire,” the novice weaver sniffed. “Everybody knows what this dress means, and I am treated accordingly.”

“It just means the bear will catch you first,” Jasna muttered. She started up the alleyway, peeking out from around the corner. “Where did Lord Stableboy say he was staying?”

“The Two Sheaves,” Petra said.

“He has a name, you know,” Katarin said.

Jasna clucked her tongue. “He hasn’t given his real one, so I’ll just keep calling him whatever I like.”

“Do you think he’s really the son of a knight?” Petra asked.

“Not from Penhaligon. He’d have seen kobolds and ogres if he was from the north. Which means he’s probably from the coast.”

“Specularum,” all the girls said at once.

Katarin sucked in a sharp breath, her eyes lighting up. “You don’t suppose he’s--”

“Please,” Jasna said. “Don’t start fawning over him. It’ll only make his head bigger.”

“But he’s--”

“Sheared,” Brynne said.

“Oh, don’t go getting jealous.” Katarin patted Brynne’s arm. “We’ll let Jasna have him.”

“As if he has anything I’d want.”

“Gold enough to pay off a peace-bond violation and a Class 4 crime,” Petra reminded her. “And that was just as a purse full of kopecs to him.”

“I meant besides that,” Jasna said.

“He’s brave,” Katarin said. “Charging those men like that in the marketplace….”

Jasna rolled her eyes. “You didn’t hear him squeal at the mention of rats.”

Petra giggled.
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Tue Feb 14, 2012 12:26 pm

**III**
“You sound like a Darine caravan,” Jasna said.

Lord Justin pulled his cloak tighter about his shoulders, muffling some of the jangling of his chainmail jack. The lantern, hanging from a strap on his backpack, still creaked and rattled as it bounced off his hip. A sword -- the handle wound ‘round and bound to the scabbard with red cloth, rattled and bounce at at his other hip.

“We’re going on an adventure. It pays to be prepared.”

“We’re going for an afternoon hike, not delving the depths of Mistamere,” Brynne said, giving the lantern a poke.

“That one -- “ he pointed at Petra, “said where we were going was dangerous.” Justin tried to straighten his back a bit more, but winced, and readjusted his pack instead.

Jasna glanced over at Katarin. “Maybe you won’t be the one to get eaten by the bear.”


The girls waited, after they’d rounded the bend onto the North Bridge Road. Lord Justin jangled and rattled as he huffed back down the North Road.

“The gate is that way,” he panted, pointing up the street.

“Yes, and the North Road gate has been locked and warded by the baron himself,” Jasna said.

“But that is the roadway that leads to the other side of the lake, is it not?”

Jasna nodded. “Yes, but it is out of bounds. Nobody has traveled it since the… accident… at Tarnskeep.”

The young man’s eyes widened. “So the stories of the White Witch’s wrath are true? That she killed an entire company of men by herself, and their ghosts haunt the shores of the lake, hungry for vengeance against her?”

Petra’s back stiffened, and she made to say something, but Jasna trod on her foot. “Now is not the time,” the older girl said.

They turned, and followed the avenue, across the bridge onto Fogor Island, keeping to the wider streets, until they drew near the Old Mill. The newly-hewn wood of the ferry wharf stood out against the age-darkened wooden quays and warehouses.

Before they could make their way to the stone steps leading down to the ferry landing, Petra gave a sharp hiss, and motioned towards the shadows opposite their position. Figures roused themselves, stepping into the gray morning light.

Three men, tall, broad of shoulder, their armor gleaming from beneath heavy blue woolen cloaks.

“Children?” one of the men asked. The one in front raised a gloved hand, silencing the knight who’d spoken, before settling the hand at the thick sword belt at his waist.

“And why are you not at the Square, playing at the entertainments the baron has brought to town for the new year?” The man stared down his nose at the group.

“We have been sent back across the river on an errand by my father,” Brynne said.

The big knight crossed his arms. “It takes five of you for such an errand?”

“Not even my drunkard of a father would send a girl alone into this part of town,” Brynne said.

“And I suppose this one is your bodyguard, then?” one of the other knights quipped, nodding towards Justin.

“He likes to think he’s a knight,” Jasna said to the man, in a loud whisper, her tone of voice indicating that it didn’t much matter if the boy heard or not. “He insisted that he be prepared for anything before we left.”

“You don’t expect us to do all the heavy lifting, do you?” Brynne asked.

The two knights behind the leader exchanged smirks.

“Just be sure you keep well away from the lake shore,” one of them said, a bit louder and slower than before.

“We know the rules,” Katarin snapped. She took Justin’s hand, patting it. “And we’ll keep him out of trouble.”

Again, the lead knight made a brief, silencing gesture towards the other knight who’d spoken. He inclined his head.

“Very well. Keep a sharp eye,” he said to Justin. “The celebrations have attracted some rather unsavory elements.”

The knights turned, settling back to their watch of the ferry.

“We were not to let anybody across,” one of the knights said in a murmur.

“They are children,” the leader rumbled. “I hardly think the Church or the Cult would stoop to using children for their ends.”

“I wouldn’t put anything past those cultists,” the third knight muttered.

The rest of their conversation was lost as the girls made their way to the riverside, Justin clanking and jangling as he followed behind.
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:21 am

**IV**
“That wasn’t very funny,” Justin said, as they hiked towards the logging settlement a bit upstream from the ferry landing opposite Fogor Island. “Did you hear how they spoke to me? Like I was a simpleton! And don’t. Say. It.”

“Say what?” Jasna asked. To her credit, she kept a straight face.

“Say that he is--” Brynne clapped a hand over Petra’s mouth. The two engaged in a staring match, only broken when Katarin waved a hand between them.

“You were going to show us the ruined roadway?” the novice weaver reminded the girl.

They hiked up the well worn footpath alongside the logging sluice. After perhaps a half mile, waist-high posts driven into the ground, with a thick, heavy rope slung between blocked the path. More posts, placed perhaps every ten or fifteen feet, stretched into the woods to the east. Across the sluiceway, a similar boundary had been erected along Fisherman’s Isle. Strips of weathered red cloth had been tied along the rope, and fluttered in the weak morning breeze off the lake.

The Fisherman’s Bridge was barely visible, another three hundred yards up the path towards the lake shore, shrouded in a thick fog.

“Windrush is a cold spring-fed lake,” Justin said. “How is it that such a fog could come about with the weather still this cold?”

“The only gold you brought was to pay the ferryman, right?” Jasna asked.

“Just the one royal, yes.”

She nodded. “Good.” Then she ducked beneath the rope barrier.

“Where are you going?”

“We need to get closer, to see if we can find this road along the shore.”

“But this cordon… Surely it’s a warning.”

“Maybe for other people,” Brynne said, as she slipped under the rope, then took it from Jasna to hold it up for the others to pass under.

“But that’s just for everybody else,” Petra said with a fierce grin.

“What was this about knowing the rules,” Justin asked, as he ducked under the rope next to Katarin.

She gave him a smile of her own. “I said we knew them. I never said we’d obey them.”

He shook his head. “You’re as bad as the tiny one.”

“I heard that!” Jasna said, from where she led them further up the path.
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:12 pm

**V**
There was a brief squawk, and thud, somewhere ahead in the mists.

“Never mind!” Petra called. “Katarin found it! The next one is over here!”

The pathway had been constructed hundreds of years ago, and it was obvious that the shoreline had been a handful of yards further out in the past. The few places the paving stones were clearly visible, they were an arm’s length under the water. Others, still along the shoreline, were barely visible corners, or just depressions along the sandy shoreline,the paving stones only visible after scooping away armfuls of pebbly sand and old silt deposits.

Only Petra seemed to find the activity any kind of fun, and only then because she poked through the pile of moved earth to pluck out an old kopec or crona, dashing down to the shore to wash it off in the waters of the lake.

Brynne finally grabbed the girl’s wrist as she was about to make another trip to the lake. “Will you stop doing that? What if one of those turns out to be gold?”
The two girls stared out into the fog, at the flickering blue lights in the depths, unsure just how far off they might be.

“Now come on, let’s see where this leads.” Brynne did not let go of Petra’s sleeve until they were well past the closest of the piles by the excavations.

The group slowed some ten minutes later, coming to the edge of the woods. A stretch of pebbly beach perhaps as wide as Lord Justin’s height was all that stood between the first rank of trees and the water’s edge.

“What… what is wrong with them?” Katarin asked.

The pines grew gnarled, knotty, some with long strips of bark hanging off in curls. Rather than gray-green or green, the needles bore a purplish coloring, those that weren’t already brown and dead.

“How far does this go?” Katarin asked.

Petra shrugged. “Maybe half the distance between here and the baron’s border. We weren’t allowed to go more than a little ways into this part of the woods.”

“I can certainly see why,” Brynne said. She reached up with her staff, poking at one of the pinecones. Part of it crumbled away at the touch, showering the group with its gritty dust.

“Well, we’ll have to go through this if we want to follow this old road,” Lord Justin said.

“Who said we were going to do that?” Jasna asked. “We came out here to look at the old stones, and see the woods. We’re done here. Now we can go back to town and celebrate the new year with our friends.”

“Where is your sense of adventure?”

“In town, waiting for me after tomorrow’s breakfast,” Jasna said.

Lord Justin made to respond, but Petra quieted him with a hiss and an upraised finger.

“Somebody’s coming,” she whispered. She glanced around. Save the woods, there was no cover.

“Into the trees!” Brynne whispered. “There’s a couple fallen trees we can hide behind in there.”

“I don’t hear anything,” Justin said. But the girls pulled and pushed him along into the woods.

Several moments later, the rhythmic jangling of armor and weapons drifted through the fog.

“Are you sure they went this way?” a man’s voice asked. The accent was distinctly Traladaran.

“What other way could they go?” came another man’s voice. “And look. See there? They’ve found the Old Road. They can’t be very far ahead of us.”

“You mean to follow, then?”

The second voice chuckled. “Follow? No, we wait. If they do not return, then we can be content that the traps or guardians have served their purpose. If they return, we either take the treasure, or their heads. Golithar pays the same, either way.”
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:49 am

**VI**
The jangle and creaking of armor and leather subsided, though it was difficult to tell in the fog if it was lost in the distance, or simply swallowed by the mists.
Jasna glanced over at Petra, who closed her eyes, cocking her head one way and the other. After a few moments, she opened her eyes, shrugging. The two girls flashed several hand signals back and forth, before they both nodded.

Petra rose, her eyes intent on the forest floor. She moved slowly, placing her feet gently, arms outstretched for balance. Jasna followed, careful to place her own feet where the other girl’s had fallen. Before she took fourth step, she pointed at the young man, and then at the spots where she’d already stepped. He nodded, rising slowly, clutching at his sword and the lantern, surprisingly little wobble in his step. When Jasna’s eyes widened slightly, he stuck his tongue out at her.

Every four or five paces, Petra would pause, listening, and then move on. It took nearly half an hour to make another half mile’s progress, but they made it with a minimal amount of noise, and did not hear any sounds of pursuit.

It was eerie, creeping through the woods -- there were no sounds of wildlife, just the rustling they made with their progress and a dry rattle of what little breeze made it through the tendrils of fog curling amongst the twisted trees. The land began to rise steadily, and the mists faded. Shortly thereafter, the trees straightened, growing healthier the more the ground climbed away from the shoreline.

Ridges of black granite rose abruptly, like some great wall. They had to follow it back in the direction of the lake to find the fissure that the Old Road cut through, a fold in the rock wide enough for a large cart or small wagon. The sounds of Justin’s mail and sword echoed loudly in confines of the narrow pass.

The roadway still gradually rose, and they emerged to find a stretch of the road unbroken, weathered but sheltered from too much erosion by the small copse of pines that it cut through. Tracks through the accumulation of needles and swathes of mud showed that they were not the first to come along the road recently.

They followed the sound of a trickling brook for half an hour before the snorting and shuffling caused the group to freeze just before the bend in the trail. The sounds came more urgently, and the irritated snorting grew to a startled whinny giving way to a chorus of jabbering, shrill voices.

Jasna moved, to dash around the bend in the wooded trail, but Petra grabbed her wrist, shaking her head.

“What do you think you’re doing? Those are goblin voices!” she whispered.
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:54 am

**VII**

She should have grabbed Justin’s arm as well.

“Come back here, Stableboy!” Jasna called after him. She wrenched free of the other girl, jogging after the young man.

“They’re only goblins,” he said, but the smile on his face dissolved as he rounded the twist in the trail.

“And goblins always travel in packs,” Jasna told him, as the dozen squat, gray-skinned figures looked up from ransacking the campsite. Yellowed eyes, narrowed in the sunlight, narrowed further at the intrusion. More eyes gleamed from the shadows under the trees.

Jasna swallowed, her mouth going drier the higher she counted, tallying opponents.

“Now would be a very good time to draw that sword,” she whispered to the young man.

“W-would it not be a better idea to flee?” he asked.

“I begin to see what you mean about his bravery,” Katarin said. The young man spared her a glance, his brow furrowing at the sing-song quality of her voice.

“How can you be so calm? There must be… dozens of them!”

“Only twenty,” Jasna said.

“Twenty-six,” Petra corrected. “You forgot to look up.”

“Twenty-nine,” Brynne added. “There won’t be any running back the way we came.”
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:47 am

**VIII**

“Did your Magia teach you how to make light, like she did in the catacombs?” Petra asked.

Katarin nodded, slowly. “Yes, but… it doesn’t exactly--”

“Make some. Now. As bright as you can.”

“But I--”

Petra wasn’t listening. She stepped forward, throwing her hands wide, speaking words that sounded more like a series of hisses and belches than language. She pointed -- dramatically -- to Katarin.

Jasna elbowed the weaver. “Ight-lay!” she whispered.

Katarin drew in a deep breath, and her fingers danced, curling and moving ever so slightly. She brought up her right hand, and a watery, rippling sphere of light wobbled a few inches above her palm. The girl’s breathing quickened, the corner of one eye twitching.

The goblins croaked in surprise, shuffling back a few steps. The few nearest the group raised an arm to shield their eyes.

Petra made another series of gulping croaks and barks. The goblins drew back another step, muttering amongst themselves and looking towards the largest among them -- a goblin only half a head shorter than Jasna.

It drew itself up to full height, squinting up at Petra. It gestured around the campsite, then pounded its chest as it burbled something to the girl.

She laughed, not taking her eyes from the goblin, pointing over her shoulder her at Justin.

The goblin peered at the group, the young man in particular for a long moment, then gave a gurgling sigh, shaking its head. It turned, barking something to the others, but from its body language, its message was obvious. Those goblins that grumbled or muttered, or loitered around were silenced or prodded into motion by a few well placed punches from the leader. The goblin pack took off at a shambling, loping run, disappearing northwards into the woods.

Katarin let out an explosive gasp, dropping her arm as the ball of light gave a final wobble and flopped over, winking out.

“Well,” Justin said, adjusting his sword belt. “I suppose none of them wanted to face my sword.”

Petra choked down laughter. “Sword?” she finally managed.

“You offered me as your champion against their leader, if I followed your exchange correctly,” he said.

“I guess ‘offered’ is the right word,” the girl mused. “As champion? No. That would have been Brynne.”
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby Chimpman » Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:51 am

RobJN wrote:“You offered me as your champion against their leader, if I followed your exchange correctly,” he said.

“I guess ‘offered’ is the right word,” the girl mused. “As champion? No. That would have been Brynne.”

:lol: :lol: :o
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:25 am

**IX**
“Stop!”

The group halted at Petra’s call. She rummaged around in a bag at her waist, pulling out one of the pages they’d pored over the day before.

“This is it,” she said, glancing up from the page, at the mountains in the distance. “See? There is the snake and the rabbit. Which means….” She turned a slow circle.

“There!” Jasna said, and took two running steps across the broken paving stone. She jumped, trying to reach the branches of a scrubby shrub that clung to an outcropping of rock. Justin went to her side, reaching up, tugging at the branch. As it creaked aside, they saw the cluster of rounded folds of rock that looked like eggs sitting in a nest.

“There!” Petra said, pointing. Brynne turned, and saw the boot print in the drying mud. What they had taken for simply more overgrowth had apparently once been some sort of decorative hedging that ran along the front of the temple described in the manuscripts.

As Brynne pushed the tangle of brambles aside with her staff, they saw the beaklike overhang of rock. Beneath it was a fissure, leading down and into the hillside.

“Well,” Justin said, “I suppose it’s a good thing I brought this lamp.”

“But Katarin can make--”

Brynne elbowed Jasna in the side. “Let the boy be of some use,” she whispered. Loudly. “After all, he came all this way.”
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:52 pm

The Temple of the Shield
**I**


“Stop pushing!”

“There’s nothing here. It’s just a slimy old hole in the rock.”

“I told you this is a waste of time. We could have been eating sweetmeat pies. But nooo, you had to--”

The girls crashed to a halt against Justin’s backpack.

“Why did you stop?” Jasna wheezed. She peeked around the young man’s cloak.

“Is it a dead end?” Brynne asked.

“No,” Justin breathed, raising his lantern higher. “Far, far from it.”

The rough walls, streaked with moisture, abruptly gave way to block-and-mortar stonework. A half-step down the worked-stone corridor was an archway, flanked by two bas-relief carvings of a young woman’s face, framed by flowing hair held back by a thin circlet.

All four girls gasped.

“It can’t be,” Brynne murmured.

“Who else could it be?” Katarin asked her.

“It’s true,” Jasna said. “She was there. She was a Handmaiden. And if there were Handmaidens...”

“There was a Queen and King,” Petra smiled. “The legends, the Song. It’s true.”

The girls crowded around Justin.

“Hold that light higher,” Brynne told him.

“My arm is only so long,” he said. “If you’d get your head out of the way, you could see--”

The corridor was suddenly filled with an odd, thrumming hum.

The carvings to either side of the archway blinked, and then began to speak with Silva's voice. Slightly out of phase with each other, the words partially echoed in the girls' minds, the meanings in Traladaran overlaying the actual alien, spoken words. Just as they had whenever Silva spoke with them.

“Seek ye learning in our hall
First avoid a harmful fall.
To enter here and learn our lore
Kneel and knock upon the door.”


The girls went to one knee.

“You see, there," Justin said smugly. "Now you can all see just -- what in Ixion’s name are you doing?”

“Kneel and knock,” Petra said. “Didn’t you hear the instructions?”

Justin crossed his arms, the lantern’s light bobbing madly as he did so. “I am a court lord. Court Lords do not bend knee on the order of a simple... commoner. And what instructions? Those faces spoke… gibberish. Not a proper language at all.”

The floor vanished beneath them before the argument could even start.
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby Chimpman » Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:44 pm

He better start listening to those girls :mrgreen:
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:50 pm

Chimpman wrote:He better start listening to those girls :mrgreen:

Maybe after the second broken leg...? ;)
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Fri Feb 24, 2012 11:56 am

**II**

“Is everybody all right? Is anyone hurt?” Katarin asked.

“Okay here,” Brynne said, using her staff to get to her feet.

“I’m fine,” Jasna said.

“Me too,” Petra said. “I landed on something sort of soft.”

“You landed on me,” Justin groaned.

Brynne and Jasna untangled the two, Justin jangling and clattering to his feet.

“It’s dark as Alphaks’ pit in here. Can’t you get your lantern lit again?”

“Don’t you smell that?” Petra asked. “We’ve got lamp oil all over us. I think he landed on it when we fell. I don't’ think open flames would be a very good idea right now.”

“Katarin?” Brynne reached out, towards where she thought the other girl stood. “Can you make that light again?”

The weaver shook her head. “No,” she said, when she realized that nobody would see the movement. “It took nearly everything I had to create it the first time ‘round.”

“What sort of magia are you, if you can’t even make a little bit of light?” Justin asked.

Brynne whirled, but Katarin squeezed the girl’s hand before she could lash out at the young man.

They grew silent at Jasna’s short gasp. A moment later, a muted red glow flickered to light against one wall of the pit. It was barely enough to illuminate the girl’s features as she held her dragonstone pendant before her.

“Of course,” Petra whispered. “They glow when we use them.” She rummaged in a pouch at her belt, sucked in a sharp breath herself, and then her pendant took light. She held out a long, thin needle towards Brynne.

The other girl took it, wiping it on her cloak before pricking one of her fingers, touching the bead of blood to the gold-clasped stone dangling from her necklace. There was nearly enough light for them to see each other clearly.

It was light enough for them to see the three piles of bones moldering along the far wall of the pit.
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:35 pm

**III**

“Don’t touch them!” Justin said.

Too late. Jasna was already squatting over the bones, picking through them. Remains of leathers and scraps of cloth crumbled away under her fingertips.

“We might find something useful on them,” she said.

“Useful?” the young lord asked. He prodded another of the skeletons with the toe of his boot. “There is nothing there but bones and rust and--”

Something gleamed reddish in the light of the dragonstones, and Jasna reached through the crumbling hole the boy’s boot had opened in the remains of the chainmail.

“Ah ha!” she said, a gleaming dagger in her hand. “You see? Something useful.”

“It’s just a knife,” Justin grumbled.

“No, if it was just a knife, it would have been rusted like all the rest of this,” Jasna said, prodding the chainmail. The metal crumbled further, revealing more of the skeleton’s ribs.

“Do you think it’s magical?” Brynne asked.

Jasna ran her thumb along the blade. “It’s still sharp, like it was honed yesterday.”

“Careful you don’t cut yourself,” Katarin said.

“Yes,” Justin said, “best give that to me, so you don’t hurt someone.”

Jasna fished the scabbard from beneath the pile of bones, slipping the knife home. She clipped it onto her belt. “I found it, I keep it. That’s the rule.” She adjusted the blade on her hip, resting her palm on the hilt. “If you want it so badly, you can try to take it.”

The young lord licked his lips, then gave a sniff. “Fine. Keep it. I’ve got a perfectly good sword, anyway.”

“Not that he knows how to use it,” Brynne muttered to Katarin.

“Do you think maybe we could try to get out of this pit, now?” Petra asked.

Brynne hefted her staff, holding it up above her head. The tip barely poked over the rim of the pit.

“Maybe… three and a half strides,” she said.

“And about five from one end to the other,” Jasna murmured. She glanced up at the top of the pit, then behind her. “Step to one side,” she said. “I’ll need room to run.”

“Run?” Justin asked. “Where do you think you’re going to--”

Brynne yanked on his backpack, pulling him against the lefthand wall of the pit as Jasna dashed towards him.

She leapt, springing off the walls, zigzagging her way up with the momentum of her short run. She caught herself on the rim, scrabbling for purchase with her feet, and hauling herself up just as it seemed her fingers were about to give way. She sprawled on her back, panting, her hair hanging over the edge.

“Okay, throw me some rope,” she called down.

All eyes turned to Justin, who shuffled his feet.

“You didn’t pack any,” Petra said.

“Who packs rope to explore a dungeon?” the young man asked. “Honestly, it’s about as useful as… spikes. Or a ten foot pole!”

“Both of which would be very helpful in getting us out of this pit!” Brynne snapped.
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Fri Feb 24, 2012 11:02 pm

**IV**
“Never mind,” Jasna called. “I can fetch the rope from that campsite. Don’t go anywhere while I’m gone!”

The others watched her leap from the far edge of the pit, to the open archway, and from within the archway to the other edge.

“‘Don’t go anywhere,’” the young man mimicked, scowling and crossing his arms. “Just where does she expect us to go?”

“Up,” Petra said, pointing. “Give me a boost.”

“Now, see here, you can’t just order me around like that,” he said.

Petra sighed. “Fine. Brynne?”

The other girl grinned, and interlaced her fingers into a stirrup.

As had Jasna, Petra backed up to the far side of the pit to give herself a running start. As her boot settled into Brynne’s hands, the other girl gave a heave. Petra gave a sharp gasp as she caught the edge of the pit with her gut, the short slide ending with a sickening jolt as she caught herself with her arms.

She sucked in a few short breaths, and made to wriggle her way out when something with sharp, bristly hairs brushed against her face, mussing through her hair.

The girl gave a shriek, and lost her purchase against the side of the pit. She scrabbled against the wall enough that she didn’t crash to the floor, but still hit hard, rolling as best she could.

Katarin caught the girl, holding her down. “Stay still. You might have broken something.”

“Something-- up-- there,” Petra wheezed. “Think it-- was-- an ant.”

“For the love of Valerias,” Justin scoffed. “An ant? And you call me a flighty-mouse!”

“I would never-- be so insulting--” Petra started, then broke into a cough.

The young man nodded. “That’s a much more civil attitude to have towards your betters,” he said.

“I was talking--” Petra gasped, “about-- the mouse.”


**V**
“Oh, good, you’re all still here.”

“It wasn’t any funnier the first time,” Justin called up to the girl.

Jasna frowned down at the young man. “Maybe you’ll all be in brighter spirits once I get you out of that hole.”

She disappeared from the edge of the pit, and then made the leap to the archway halfway along the pit’s wider edge.

“Careful of the ants,” Justin cautioned, with a smirk.

Jasna’s head appeared at the edge of the pit. The reddish light from her pendant bobbed as the stone swung on its golden chain. “Ants?”

“I almost got out,” Petra explained. “But then an ant made me fall.”

Jasna glanced to her left, briefly, then gave a snort of amusement. She vanished, to reappear a few moments later, wedging something against the corner of the floor and the archway. She dropped the length of rope, which dangled a foot or so above the bottom of the pit.

“Stableboy first,” the girl said.

“Oh no,” he said. “I must insist that the others go ahead of me. A court lord must--”

“Must do as he is told,” Jasna finished.

“But--”

“This wood is very old. It might hold long enough for one of you to get out, but not all of you.”

“She just called us fat!” Brynne muttered.

“Why does he get to go first?” Petra asked. “I’m lightest. I should go!”

“And do you think the two of us could hoist Lord Rustypants out of there?” Jasna asked her. “This is a case of brawn versus brains.”

Justin pulled at the rope, and the table leg it was tied to creaked.

“Just climb!” she called. “Quickly!”

The young man shrugged off his pack, and then began to gather the bottom of his chainmail jack. Brynne and Katarin helped him out of the bulky armor.

“How can you move in this?” the taller of the girls asked.

“Walking isn’t much of a problem. But climbing would be,” he said. He looked up. “See? I can use my brains as well as my brawn.” He frowned, when the girl above didn’t answer. “Jasna?”

They all shared a brief, panicked glance, and then he struggled up the rope as fast as his arms would carry him.


**VI**
Jasna looked up from the ruined shelving in the far corner of the room.

“You--” the young man panted. “I thought-- something--”

“Something what? Ate me?” She gestured around the small room, which appeared to be some sort of office. “Maybe some ants?” She wiggled her fingers, casting long, fluttering shadows across the walls. The gesture turned into a shoo-ing motion. “Now help the rest of them out of that hole in the floor.”

“I am a--”

Jasna stalked up to the boy, staring up at his chin. “Let’s set some things straight right now,” she said. She poked him in the chest. “You are no more a court lord right now than I am. You’ve been Sheared, so you are like me. You have no family. Father will not come riding along to pull your bacon from the cook fire. You want to be a gentleman? Then you will own up to your mistake. You will get my friends out of that pit that you dropped them into. And you will jump like a frog on a hot paving stone if any of us should say ‘hop.’ Do I make myself clear?”

She’d prodded him in the chest with each point she made, backing him up a half step at a time, and by the time Jasna finished, one of the young lord’s heels hung over the three-span drop back to the bone-filled pit.

“You can’t speak to me like that!” he finally managed to sputter.

“I just did,” Jasna said. “And if you don’t like it, then you can just jump right back down into that hole.”
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Sat Feb 25, 2012 3:37 pm

**VII**
“Yeah, Jasna can be like that, sometimes,” Petra said, as Justin hefted her from the pit. She patted his hand, then joined the other girl in the corner by the bookshelf, picking through what few papers were left in readable condition.

“You might want to wipe a little more at your cheeks,” Katarin whispered, as he hauled her over the edge. “It won’t do for Jasna to see you crying.”

“I’m not--” the young man said. He sniffed, wiping at his eyes again.

Brynne just clucked her tongue at him, shaking her head. She helped him haul up his armor and pack, which she’d secured to the line before she climbed from the pit.

No sooner had the rope been pulled up over the edge of the pit, than the strange, thrumming hum floated through the air again, and the floor winked back into being outside the small room. Brynne prodded at it with her staff, then slapped it with her hand, finally stepping out into the hallway and jumping up and down.

The thrum began again, and the two carved representations of Silva spoke their command again. Brynne immediately dropped to one knee, and raised her hand, looking rather embarrassed as she closed her fist and rapped at the empty air of the archway.

To everyone’s surprise, three ghostly knocks echoed through the small room.

Yellow-orange light flickered from the corner of the room, and Jasna gave a triumphant cry. The lantern sputtered to light, the glow streaked where the glass had cracked in the fall.

“Ah ha! It wasn’t completely broken,” she said.

Justin and Petra both shied away from the girl, their cloaks and trousers still damp with oil.

One after the other, the girls wiped the drying blood from their pendants, and the stones went dark.

The corridor split just past the office, continuing ahead, or branching off to their left.

“Rustling from both directions,” Petra whispered, with a worried frown. Her hand strayed to her hair.

“We’ll go left,” Jasna said, and started down the side corridor.

“Yeah, she can be like that,” Justin said, as passed Petra to follow the other girl.

Perhaps ten paces down the hallway, they came to another carving. As before, its stone-like eyes opened, and then its mouth began to move. The thrumming hum filled the air, barely heard above the odd, spidery tongue the bas-relief spoke. The girls each heard the meaning, echoing in their minds.

“If it is the knowledge that you yearn
Then enter here to learn.
If you journey here to teach,
Please remember not to preach.”


Justin dropped to one knee, and Petra giggled.

“On your feet,” Brynne said. “I don’t think this one is trapped.”

Jasna gave the door behind them a dark look. “It said something about learning. That’s certainly a trap.”

“Only to those who can’t sit still for a lesson or two,” Katarin said. She lifted the latch on the door, and pushed, bumping into the panels.

“It’s stuck,” she said.

Justin stepped up next to her, giving the door a push of his own.

“Swollen in the frame,” he said. “This happens at the castle all the time in damp weather. This long winter has been terrible on the guards’ shoulder spaulders.” To illustrate his point, he slammed his shoulder into the door, staggering into the room when the door popped free of the frame.

He caught himself against a rickety desk, one of several lining the length of the room.

“See? I told you,” Jasna said. “This is a classroom if I ever saw one.”

“I’m amazed you know what one looks like, as often as you skip your lessons,” Brynne said.

The smaller girl snapped her mouth shut, blushing.

“Some people just aren’t cut out for this kind of learning,” Petra said, poking through the clutter along the floor. She fished out a thin square of slate, blowing it off, and coughing at the dust that billowed into the air. “Druid Misha’s lessons aren’t so… orderly.” She wrinkled her nose, though if it was in disdain for the four rows of desks or the dust in the air was difficult to tell.

Petra set the square of slate down on one of the desks, making her way over to the door on the far wall.

“Do you hear that?” she asked. She leaned against the door, pressing her ear to the wood.

They all heard, distantly, a muffled shout, and familiar clattering of metal that could only be armor of some sort. Petra reached for the door’s latch.

“No!” Justin called. “It might not be safe.” He glanced over to Jasna. “Let me go first.”

The girl backed away from the door, two short sticks appearing as if by magic in her hands. Jasna moved in beside the door, opposite the hinges, the gleaming dagger held low against her leg.

Katarin stepped behind the young man, her fingers spread, as if she were going to play a game of ryadkyiv. She drew several deep breaths, her shoulders relaxing, and her blue eyes went distant. She nodded.

Brynne stood beside the weaver, raising her quarterstaff to waist-height, projecting it before the both of them. She nodded her own readiness to Jasna.

“Go!” Jasna hissed, and Justin threw open the door, bringing his sword up in a high guard as he charged into the room beyond.
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Sun Feb 26, 2012 12:16 am

**VIII**
Jasna and Petra dashed in after the young lord, dagger and batons at the ready. Brynne covered the doorway, staff at the ready.

Justin was halfway across the room before Jasna kicked at a pile of wood that could have once been a chair.

“There’s nobody here!”

Shhhh!

Jasna spun in a circle. “Don’t you shush me!”

Justin leapt back. Jasna hadn’t sheathed the dagger. “I didn’t say--”

Shhhhh!

The voice echoed out of nowhere, and they all glanced over one shoulder, then the other.

“Okay, that is spooky,” Petra whispered.

They tensed, waiting to be rebuked into silence again.

“This must be a library,” Katarin whispered. Her eyes had lost their haziness, and she was looking from shelf to shelf along the bookcases that lined the room’s walls.

“What was your first clue?” Brynne asked. “Maybe all these books?”

“No, don’t touch them!”

Too late, Brynne snatched her hand back from the scroll, as the bottom half of it crumbled away.

Shhhhhhhhh!

“Oh, all right already!” Jasna shouted at the empty air.

Shhhhhhhhhhh!

This time, the ghostly voice was joined by those of the other Handmaidens.

A loud ‘thud’ and clattering of armor came from beyond the door opposite the one the group charged through.

Justin hefted his sword. “Again?”

Jasna nodded, and they all took positions.

“Everybody ready?” the young man asked. “On three. One, two.. three!”

He leaned against the latch, and promptly ran headlong into the door as it refused to budge.


**IX**
“Stop squriming!” Katarin hissed.

“But it--”

Shhhhhhhh! came the ghostly admonition.

“I thig it’s brogen!” Justin whimpered.

“If you don’t sit still, I will clonk you one,” Brynne muttered, slapping her staff into the palm of one hand. “Then she’ll have to do even more healing on you.”

The weaver held the young lord’s head tighter between her hands. She pressed her thumbs to either side of his nose, and gave a sharp twitch.

He nearly kicked himself out of the rickety chair. He sucked in a shivering breath, jerking his head from the girl’s grip.

“That--” he started, and felt at his nose. He blinked. “… doesn’t hurt,” he finished. He made to stand up, but Brynne and Katarin both pushed on his shoulders.

“Not so quick,” the taller of the girls cautioned.

“I feel just--” He clutched at the edges of the chair, as if it were about to topple over. Katarin stepped back as he bent over his knees, making sick.

Shhhhhhhhhhh!
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:57 am

**X**
“That’ll be five kopecs,” Petra said.

“He didn’t fall over,” Jasna grumbled.

“But he was sick. Five kopecs.”

“I”ll buy you a meatpie at the next Festival of Lights,” Jasna whispered.

“When have you ever actually bought anything at a festival?” Petra asked, glancing up from where she knelt in front of the library’s far door.

“Any luck with that lock?” Jasna asked, avoiding the question.

The younger girl poked her tongue out as she focused again on the kinked iron rods in the keyhole. She listened as she gave first one, then the other a series of twists and wiggles, and there came a distinct ‘chak’ of the mechanism unlatching.

Jasna flipped the dagger, catching it point-downward. “Ready?” she asked the other girl.

Petra shook her head. “I think we should wait for Lord Justin. Something doesn’t feel right.”

“Don’t be such a mouse!” Jasna teased, then swallowed her chuckle. “Um, you know how I meant that…”

Petra waved a hand at her, then frowned. She wafted her hand in front of the lock again, wrinkling her nose.

“You don’t smell that?” she asked.

Jasna bent down, taking in a deep breath through her nose. “All I can smell is lamp oil.”

“Not that,” Petra said. “It’s… bad.”

She swatted Jasna’s hand when the girl reached for the latch. “Next time, I’ll bite you,” she warned.

Jasna sighed, sheathing her dagger and crossing her arms. “Fine. We’ll wait for Lord Stableboy.”


**XI**
“Try not to run into the door this time,” Jasna whispered.

“Kick rocks,” the young man said, flexing his fingers around the drip on his sword. “Everybody ready?”

“Let’s go already,” Brynne said.

“I really think we should find another way around,” Petra said.”There was that whole other corridor to explore.”

Justin raised the latch, pushed on the door, then threw his weight into it when it stuck in the doorframe.

They rushed into a large bedchamber, and nearly tripped over the bodies laying on the floor. Worse, though, was the eye-watering sickly-sweet smell of death that hung in the air.

Brynne tried to pull Katarin back into the library, but the weaver pushed around the others, kneeling to inspect the two armored men collapsed on the floor. They were dressed in the polished plate and blue-and-white colors of the Knights of the Griffon.

“They’re dead,” she whispered, sliding her fingers away from their necks. “It can’t have happened too long ago, but… they’re cold as ice.”

“Look at their armor,” the young man said, pointing to long, parallel furrows, the metal blackened and tarnished along the rents. “What could do such a thing to hardened steel?”

“Um, I think we’re about to find out,” Petra squeaked.

The curtains surrounding the large four-poster bed in the room’s far corner billowed, and an age-blackened gauntlet thrust from between the drapes.
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Mon Feb 27, 2012 11:20 pm

**XII**
The stench of death grew thicker as the thick curtains parted. A figure, robed and hooded in tatters of brown and gray cloth, stepped down from the mold-ridden mattress and bedclothes. The hood swiveled as it took in the intruders, and each of the girls shivered as the cold glare washed over them. Lord Justin’s sword rattled in his grip, though he did not lower the blade.

“More intruders?” The voice was barely more than a rattling hiss of air through a long-dead throat, but the words coalesced in the fetid air, clearly audible nonetheless. “Cunning enough to avoid the tests of the unworthy. Why do you disturb the sanctity of this place, and awaken me from my long slumber?”

“You killed them,” Katarin said, still crouched beside the bodies.

“They proved… unworthy,” the rag-clad figure rasped. “I ask again, why do you disturb the sanctity of this place?”

“W-we found papers. Pages, that described a temple that holds a relic of one of our greatest heroes,” Petra said. “Men would have killed to learn of this place, and we want to know why.”

“And who are you, who disturb my rest?”

“The Champions of Threshold,” Brynne said, finally finding her tongue.

“We are the Company of the Maidens,” Katarin said, louder than the other girl.

Jasna sighed. “If I only had a kopec for every time I’ve told you: We are the Handmaidens of Petra.”

The hooded head stirred, and the figure bent slightly. “Threshold? Another to mention that place…”

“You… might know the place as ‘Lugsid,’ across the lake,” Petra chimed in.

The ragged hood bobbed. “Yes… yes, Lugsid is known to me. It seems that many years have passed since I took to my slumber.”

“Quite a few,” Brynne said, taking shallow breaths.

The voice wheezed and rattled. It might have been a chuckle. “You are much more courteous than those others.”

“The Matron encourages us to always speak politely to our elders,” Jasna said. “And… you… definitely qualify.”
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:23 pm

**XIII**

“They were discourteous?” Katarin asked. “That is why you killed them?”

“They proved unworthy,” the hooded figure repeated.

“Unworthy? Of what?” Katarin was on her feet, hands on her hips.

“They were not worthy of approaching the sacred relic.”

“Those men were knights,” Justin said. “Sworn to the service of the Church of Karameikos.”

“Karameikos? Yes, that is the name from which they thought to draw their power. It did them little good.” The hood leaned closer to the young man, and the tip of his sword twitched, shaking harder.

“You have much the same smell about you,” the figure rasped. “Tell me, boy, do you serve this ‘Karameikos’ as well?”

The young man straightened his back, lifting his chin. “Of course I do. I am a loyal subject of the Grand Duke. And as a court lord, I attend services of the church, in order that I should set a good example for my inferiors.” He glanced towards the girls, then wrenched his eyes front as the figure’s hands began to rise.

“You do not follow the faith of the tribes of Traladara, then?”

“That pack of superstitions? Certainly not!”

The figure closed one gauntlet over the other, sliding the rusty metal-lined glove from a terribly emaciated hand. The knuckles were swollen and gnarled, the nails overly long, though ragged and blackened.

“You dare to speak of the memory of the Three in such a manner? You will be punished!” The thing lunged at the young man, hand outstretched.
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Fri Mar 02, 2012 6:44 pm

**XIV**
Brynne was faster, lashing out with her staff, bringing it down across the back of the withered hand.

“You dare to--”

Brynne rapped the figure’s hand again. “I dare,” she said. “I think we’ve seen the handiwork of your touch. You won’t be laying hands on our Stableboy.”

“You, too, now?” Justin asked, his voice cracking.

“He does not believe.” The creature’s breath rattled faster. “He is not fully a son of Traladara. His blood is tainted.”

“So you take the lives of those whose blood is not pure?” Petra asked. She stepped in front of the young man, placing herself between him and the raggedly-hooded figure, shaking Brynne’s hand from her shoulder when the other girl tried to restrain her.

“That was a classroom back there,” Petra said, pointing towards the door through which they’d come. “Were you not a teacher here?”

Breath wheezed, in what might have been a sigh. “I remember giving instruction, yes. Those memories are very dim...”

Jasna cleared her throat. “And speaking of dim, it’s not the stableboy’s fault that he is ignorant of the Song of Halav.”

“And who are you to decide if he is worthy?” Petra thrust her chin up at the shadowed figure.

“Yes, what is your measure of worthiness?” Katarin asked.

“Let the tests of the Halls of Knowledge decide,” the thing rasped. “His demise by my hands would have at least been painless. And would have spared the rest of you from sharing in his fate.” It slid the gauntlet back over its hand. “Now go, and let me return to my rest.”
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Sun Mar 11, 2012 2:35 pm

**XV**

“I could have fought him,” Justin grumbled.

“That thing was not…” Katarin started.

“Alive?” asked Brynne.

“Dead,” said Jasna.

“Natural.” Petra shuddered. “Didn’t you feel how cold it was?” she asked the young man.

“I still would have--”

“If we would have fought that… thing,” Katarin said, “we would have ended up like those knights.”

Justin stopped. “The knights!” He turned, making ready to go back through the library. “We must--”

“We must leave that thing to its rest,” Brynne said, tugging at the young lord’s shoulder.

His hand tightened on the hilt of his sword. “We should put that thing to eternal rest,” he muttered.

“He was resting just fine until we got here,” Petra said.

“Now let’s go,” Jasna said, tapping her foot.

They retraced their steps to the intersection with the main corridor. Petra swallowed, audibly, adjusting the grip on one of her oaken batons. At Jasna’s questioning glance, the other girl nodded. “They’re there, but further away.”

Justin snorted, hefting his pack and lifting the lantern. He led the way down the hallway, stopping short as the group drew near a pair of wooden doors.

One hung from a single hinge, the other laying flat inside the chamber beyond, the surface showing signs of taking several impacts. As the young man bent to inspect the doorway, the telltale hum of another speaking carving began.

He straightened, looking to the girls, then at the floor, but they just shook their heads.

“It was a greeting,” Brynne said.

Justin shook his head. “I don’t see how you can make sense of that. It’s no language I’ve ever heard, and at court--”

Jasna gave an exaggerated sigh, and rolled her eyes. Petra dug an elbow into the girl’s ribs.

“I don’t think anybody ‘at court’ would be speaking that language,” Jasna said, mimicking the young man’s enunciation of the words. “It’s been dead for thousands of years.”

Justin barked a laugh. “And you four just happen to be able to understand it? You can barely even read, for Ixion’s sake.”

Jasna’s hands closed into fists. “Some of us are a bit too busy trying to scratch out a living to be cozied up in the library…. reading!” She said the word as if it were a curse. “We don’t all have a private tutor to spoon-feed us our lessons.”

Petra half-raised a hand. “Actually, Druid Misha is sort of a--”

“You shush!” Jasna snapped.

The taller girl scowled. “Don’t you shush me! I’ll--” She stopped, her eyes darting towards the doorway.

At the edge of the lantern’s illumination, glints of light cascaded across several sets of multifaceted eyes.
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:34 pm

**XVI**
“Don’t you dare say those are ‘just ants,’” Petra whispered.

“They’re…” Justin swallowed.

“Hungry!” Brynne said, as one of them scuttled into the light. It was longer than Justin was tall, standing taller than Jasna’s waist. The mandibles looked to be able to snap the girl in half.

The brewer’s daughter lashed out with her staff, wielding it overhand like a spear. The tip thudded off the ant’s carapace, but it did not pause in its advance.

The ring of steel echoed loudly in the corridor, and the lantern’s light waved back and forth as Justin thrust the lantern at Jasna.

“Hold this!” he said, and lunged at the thing.

“What are you doing? That’s not a dueling sword!”

The blade’s broad tip slid across the ant’s head, not even scoring it.

While he didn’t wound it, the young man succeeded in drawing the thing’s attention, and it turned, antennae waving in his face, mandibles clacking.

He gave a cry, and danced back, but there wasn’t much room to retreat in the hallway.

“What’s wrong?” Jasna asked. “It’s only a little ant!” She thrust the lantern back at Justin, and dove around the thing’s head, rolling, bringing the dagger up as she rose, the blade biting deep behind the creature’s eye. Dark ichor spattered across the room.

The thing wrenched its head around, the mandibles snapping less than a hand’s breadth from the girl as she danced away.

“Now you’ve just made it mad!” Brynne said. She darted forward, jabbing at the thing with the tip of her staff.

But it would not be distracted from the smaller girl. It scuttled after her, backing Jasna further from the doorway, towards one of the corners of the chamber. And more ants were crowding forward, intent on aiding their wounded.

“Sticks aren’t working!” Petra said. She’d drummed at the thing’s back and legs with her batons, only to be forced away as the hairy appendages kicked her away.

“What else do you plan on using?” Justin spat. “Your teeth?”

Petra sucked in a deep breath, looking over at Brynne, who shook her head.

“No!” Katarin warned. “Matera has less than this night left. What if you lose control?”

Jasna lashed again with the dagger, the silvery blade’s gleam muted by the ichor as she opened gash across the front of the ant’s head.

“Her knife will work just as well on me if it comes to that,” Petra said. She began unfastening the ties along the neck of her tunic. “Now stand away.”
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Mystara Fluff]: First Quest

Postby RobJN » Sun Mar 11, 2012 5:16 pm

**XVII**
“A gentleman at least turns his back when a lady is disrobing,” Brynne said.

Justin blinked. “Is she-- But we’re-- The fight…..”

Petra yanked her cloak about herself, turning her back on the young lord.

There was a crashing of wood from the other room, and Jasna gave a sharp cry.

“If you’re going to do it, do it!” Brynne shouted. She swung her staff again, managing to capture the attention of one of the ants.

“I’ve never done it in front of anyone,” the younger girl cried. “Especially not a boy!”

“I’m closing my eyes!” the young lord said. His cheeks were even brighter. He tried to ignore the breeches the girl had kicked away.

“Get in here and put that sword to some use!” Brynne called.

Petra huddled on the floor, clutching her cloak tighter.

“You don’t have to do this,” Katarin said, kneeling next to the girl. “We’ll find--”

In the room beyond, Brynne voiced an unladylike curse, and there was the sound of more wood splintering.

Petra looked away from the other girl, towards the room. Her sobs had quieted, but her shoulders still heaved as she drew short, sharp breaths. She began to shake, and Katarin drew back, as the undulations beneath the cloak grew beyond mere shivers. She closed her eyes, tried to blot out the popping and creaking of bone and sinew. To the younger girl’s credit, she did not cry out, but gave voice to the pain through a sharp and constant whine, pushed through the clenched teeth of an elongating jawline.

In moments, the cloak collapsed, and a gray-furred rat the size of a small dog dashed from beneath the folds, charging across the fallen door, into the chamber beyond.

Katarin couldn’t help but smile at the sound of Lord Justin’s cry.
Rob
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