[Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Wed Aug 22, 2012 9:40 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


In less time than it took to blink, Silva and Aurora both sang a brief note, and the stones adorning their bracers flared to painful light.

Just as quickly, a crackling, rasping note sprang forth, and the girls’ dragonstones went dark. We were left blinking, disoriented amidst the ghosts of the stones’ light in the deepening night.

“Do not look to your pretty little stones to save you,” the dwarf hunched on the mule said. He muttered a word, and waved his hand. The twins’ eyes widening was the last voluntary motion they made for the rest of the night.


-------
Short, yes, I know. But it provides a breaking point for me to start day 69, which hopefully I can get to over the next couple days... Darned pesky work schedule.....
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby Chimpman » Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:25 pm

:o Wow, the last two posts were amazing! I especially love the imagery of the dwarves emerging from the mountainside :D. More illusionist magic afoot I presume.

So this means that in order to lay a trap this elaborate, the dwarves would have had to know about the party all along... and it seems that they got their information from the "Oracle Stone"... but I also wonder if a certain "bard" isn't also in cahoots with them and maybe sent a message ahead beforehand.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:35 pm

Chimpman wrote::o Wow, the last two posts were amazing! I especially love the imagery of the dwarves emerging from the mountainside :D. More illusionist magic afoot I presume.

'Stoneshroud,' the dwarven equivalent to 'Massmorph'

Chimpman wrote:So this means that in order to lay a trap this elaborate, the dwarves would have had to know about the party all along... and it seems that they got their information from the "Oracle Stone"... but I also wonder if a certain "bard" isn't also in cahoots with them and maybe sent a message ahead beforehand.

We need a "whistling innocently" emoticon....
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Tue Aug 28, 2012 5:37 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

First Quarter Moon (on or about Nuwmont 7, 998AC)
The dwarf slid from the back of the mule, landing with a heavy, metallic jangle punctuated by a snarled curse as he staggered, favoring his right leg.

A thick-fingered snap brought a staff to his grip, a brightly polished length of ebonwood, adorned with knots and strange gnarls, spots and seams leaking a subdued, smoky blue light that pulsed in a rhythm suggesting a steady breathing. The dwarf’s breath, I noticed, slowed to match the tempo set by the staff, and the lines of pain eased from his brow, the snarl in his lips relaxing.

He turned towards Sera and I, leaning on the staff, his hold on it not so much a grip as a caress.

“I can do the same for you,” he said, “unless you speak an Oath not to raise your magics against us.”

At Gilliam’s snicker, the dwarf arched a bushy eyebrow. “You may get one or two bits of magic off, before the Torenwhyr riddle one or the other of you with bolts.” He chuckled. “Which do you think it is worse for, the collared, or the other wearer?”

Ice shivered up my arm, and Sera’s hand worked its way into mine, squeezing. The warm glow of her Power fell away, replaced by a hollowness born of fear. It, more than anything, banked the beginnings of the Druidic flame I’d been holding at the ready.

“And you, sword-bearers,” the dwarf continued, regarding Varis and Gilliam. “Unless you can cut a storm of quarrels from the air, you will likely be dead before you can finish drawing your steel.”

With a glance at each other, the two men’s hands eased from the hilts of their swords, and they clasped their hands behind their heads.

“I know better than to ask an oath of you,” the dwarf said, giving Demarra a sneer. She simply smiled sweetly back at him.

“And you, mistress?” the dwarf said, his gravelly voice climbing in pitch, smoothing out. “Will this one need to bind you in silence, as it did for the Syharwehrven?
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Thu Aug 30, 2012 12:28 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

We marched, wrists clad in thick iron manacles, dozens of automaton-wielded crossbows pointed at our backs. Despite the bad leg, the hunch-backed dwarf made surprisingly good time, neither of the other two having to slow their own pace in the least.

My knowledge of dwarvish was not the best, and they spoke an archaic, dusty dialect, but from their banter back and forth, I was able to discern that the taller of the three was the governor of the mineholt Kurest Hurgon. By the way the other two dwarves spoke to him, it was plain that they were agents of some even higher agency or authority.
Three hours’ march brought us to the mineholt’s entrance, a wide, deep opening under the crags of the Black Peaks. The shadows, though, clung as we walked through them, as would a mass of cobwebbing walked through. Ana gave a choking cough, which drew a chuckle from the hunch-backed dwarf.

“Are these illusions more to your liking, mistress?” He’d dropped the high voice he’d used as Pyrklist, but the mocking tone still rang in his gravelly tenor.

We walked through a dusty, crumbling ruin. Dust rose beneath our steps, but I had to blink. We left no tracks. I looked again at the buildings. Though the slightest of breaths of air wafted into the great cavern from the ravine path, the cobwebs that hung from the ruined doorways and hollow windows did not move in the slightest. The closer I looked, the more slight inconsistencies I saw: duplicate piles of rubble, spiders that did not skitter away from our approach. Everything was still, silent. Too still.

The dwarves led us into one of the buildings, a tumbled down stone-walled warehouse of some sort. The hunch-backed dwarf leaned down, before a jumble of decaying sacks and crates, gave a grunt, and lifted a trapdoor up through the center of the illusion. He whispered a hard word, rapping his staff on the ground, and a pale white illumination sprang up from beneath the trapdoor. He motioned us with his strangely glowing staff, and the other dwarves stepped aside as we were ushered towards the wide hole in the floor.

The ghostly light sprang from a series of runes chiseled into the stone just above a wide, broad set of stone steps. Had I been able to stretch my arms out to either side, I could not have brushed the walls to either side with my fingertips. Unlike the steps in Byxata, each step was even, the stone smooth and reassuring beneath my boots. I had no feeling that I would stumble or lose my balance, even when I turned to glance over my shoulder at the muted chime of steel on stone. Even the mule was having an easy time of the stairs.

The stairwell curved, ever so slightly, and I judged that we made two full rotations before a glimmering of light from below began to outshine the glow of the runic lights to either side of the steps.

We emerged on a huge ledge above a cavern that dwarfed any of the great chambers we’d seen in the ancient ruins beneath the Lost Valley. As with those caverns, this one sported clouds, though these were darker, thicker, lit from below with a dull, orange-yellow light. Smoke and iron left a bitter tang on my tongue, and I was not the only one to break into a sudden fit of coughing. It wasn’t until we started down another broad set of stairs cut into the side of the great cavern that I began to grow uncomfortably warm, and then hot with each step. By the time we reached the bottom, I was drenched with sweat, my hair clinging to my face. The dwarves laughed, but the dark-bearded one freed each of us in turn so that we could shed our cloaks and wool-lined overtunics. These were bundled and tied over the back of the mule, and we resumed our march across a wide roadway paved into the floor of the cavern. Stalacmites and great columns of rock rose from either side, forming a gloomy, silent forest of stone through which we could see glimmers of lights from what looked like a township sprawled along the bowl of the cavern floor.

After Ana stumbled a second time, the dwarves finally slowed, lighting one of our lanterns.

“It does us no good to bring them all this way to have one of them break a leg or neck,” the dark-bearded dwarf grumbled, when the gray-bearded one complained. “We’re close enough to the walls that this light shouldn’t attract any unwanted attention.”

Even still, his dark eyes were intent on the deeper shadows between the pillars of stone, his hand not far from the haft of the axe at his belt.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby Chimpman » Thu Aug 30, 2012 4:39 pm

I really like the way this is going so far, and I can't wait to hear more about the dwarven society in Kurest Hurgon. I'm thinking that this area would be the perfect focus for a mini-Gaz or something similar.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Thu Aug 30, 2012 5:25 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues....

Demarra stumbled, bumbling into me. “Something approaches,” she whispered. “Be ready.”

The spires of stone grew closer on each side of the roadway. If they had been true trees, the branches and leaves would have twined overhead making a wooded tunnel. As it was, there was only the orange-lit gloom, just bright enough to be noticed, but not reflect any of that light below.

I glanced up again. There were points of bright orange light drifting here and there through the darkness above. There wasn’t enough breeze to carry embers from the far off mineholt.

Darkness coalesced about the many points of light, and then it dropped upon us with a clicking, hissing, chittering and flurry of hairy limbs.

Dwarven shouts were drowned under an ululating chorus of high-voices and a sharp crack-twang of loosing crossbows. The lantern was extinguished in that first few moments, and I could only hope that the rest of my companions had been knocked down by whatever it was that dropped on us from the rocky spires.

The chittering was punctuated by high-pitched barks, and the sound of heavy limbs smashing into brass-plated armor. More often than not, those sounds were accompanied by the sharp cracking of bones.

Bristly leg after bristly leg brushed by my head or dangerously close to an arm or leg. I could feel the surges of fear coursing through the bracelet — whatever these things were, they danced the same jig above Sera.

From a bit further ahead, where the dwarves had walked with the pack mule and the spellbound twins, came a piercing whistle.

The scuffling grew to a frenzy around me, and something wet and gauzy drifted past my face. I raised a hand to brush it away, and found myself dragging my chains through what felt like a blanket of the stuff. Many hands gripped my tunic and I felt myself pushed, rolled end over end through more of the fabric. It clung to my arms, shoulders, about my knees and ankles.

It was only when I felt myself hoisted by bristly arms and laid across a similarly bristly, bulbous back that I put two and two together.

I’d been wrapped up and was about to be carried away on spider-back.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby Chimpman » Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:54 pm

Cool! :cool:
Now we'll have to see if the spiders are acting alone, or if there is someone (or something) riding them...
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Thu Aug 30, 2012 9:21 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

“Stop struggling,” came a high-pitched voice from a bit ahead of me. “You’re throwing off Xychli’s balance. And it’ll only make the silks that much harder to get off once we reach camp. Just lay still like your little pet, there.”

How to describe the gait of a giant spider? It’s a bit like riding three horses, all at once. It was nearly black as a moonless night, the barest hint of light in the gloom overhead. At the pace we were going, though, I think it was best I could not see where we went, or just how close we came to some of the columns and spikes of stone. It was frightening enough just feeling them brush past.

I could not see Sera next to me, but I knew she must be there, as the bracelet and lead were tangled in the spider silk bindings. Her panic had smoothed out after the voice above us spoke, and I tried to share her calm. I felt the mental equivalent of a hand squeeze bubble through the bracelet.

“Hold on to your stomachs.”

It was the only warning we got before the spider gathered itself and leapt. It did not land running in the same direction, and there was a terrifying moment of weightlessness followed by a sickening slide off the things’s back as it ran upwards.

Several cries echoed from around us, as did more than one high-pitched laugh.

Mine and Sera’s fall was arrested with a sharp jolt and we swung, back to back, dangling from the silken cocoons.

The spider’s gait changed again, and I felt the tension change on the silken strands from which I dangled. Sera and I kept rising, at a slower, steadier pace. From the chorus of voices chanting in unison, it seemed like we weren’t the only ones being hauled upward.

Half a dozen hands gripped my shoulders, and a few more cradled my head as I felt the reassuring pressure of hardwood at my shoulders. More heaving and hoisting, and Sera and I were both hefted from over the edge, to lay for long moments, savoring the stability of sturdy wood, planks and beams, beneath us.

A pale whitish-blue light sputtered into being above us, a small lamp, I saw, one of several being held aloft at the edge of the crowd that had gathered at the platform.

“Well, now,” said the familiar voice of our captor. A sharp-chinned halfling squatted between mine and Sera’s heads, leather boots and gloves creaking. “Before I welcome you to the Loft, some rules. No running. For obvious reasons. No shouting. It hurts the spiders’ ears. They’re skittish, and tend to bite whatever frightens them. It’s a prettier death to just jump from the edge, trust me.” Small white teeth shone as the halfling smiled. “No fire outside the kitchens. Are we clear, or should we simply shove you right off the edge and save ourselves further trouble?”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Sat Sep 01, 2012 12:47 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues....



“Pysk, what have I told you about bringing home strays?” Another high-pitched voice, but this one layered and rounded with years, came from within the crowd.
I craned my neck, and saw a stooped halfling woman, with hair like flowing platinum under the strange lamplight. Though she sported wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, those eyes shone brightly, gleaming the deep blue of sapphires. They matched those of young Pysk. They were narrowed, the aged brow above them wrinkled, with annoyance, rather than age.

The elder halfling swiped at our savior (or was it captor?) with her walking stick. “Go with the others and sort through you were able to get from the governor’s patrol. And don’t forget to feed Xycli and the rest of her pack. Can’t have them getting into the stores again.

“And the rest of you,” she said, glancing back at the gathered figures. “Don’t you have chores and such that need doing?”

She lifted her cane, but the crowd dissolved before she could bring it down on the platform between her feet. One halfling remained, a small dark-haired youngster with pale gray eyes, holding a pyramid-shaped lamp.

The elder halfling crouched, a small blade in her hand, and with a few steady, firm slashes, the spiders’ silken wrappings fell away. She tottered along the platform, freeing the rest of the group.

“Forgive my nephew,” she said. “And accept my welcome to the Loft. I am Grelda, this is Lylian.” The lamp-bearer gave a small curtsey.

“I already know who you are,” she said, raising her hand as Ana made to speak. A smile very much like that of our savior quirked at one corner of her mouth. “You have no doubt had a very long night. Come, and we will talk over a late supper in the kitchens. There is stew. Some bread. It is simple fare. Lylian, be a dear and fetch your cousins to carry the Syharwehrven.”

“We’ll get them,” Gilliam said. He reached for one of the twins, but straightened when he caught Aurora’s glare.

“The chains,” I said, giving my own a rattle.

The warrior gave a start. “I’d almost forgotten about these,” he said. He gave his wrists a few turns and the shackles fell away, but not before Demarra’s had already hit the planks with a clatter. The Darra clucked her tongue at him.

“They’re dwarven make,” Gilliam said. “A bit higher quality than I’m used to working with. In the past,” he added, at Ana’s frown. He turned to Varis. “Remind me to tell you about the sultana who had a thing for—“

He had to duck as Ana threw her set of manacles at him.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Sat Sep 15, 2012 7:31 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“We think this was originally built by gnomes,” Grelda told us, as we made our way along the platform. A dizzying span over the spire-ridden darkness was bridged by a wide wooden gangplank. Ghostly bluish-white lights flickered behind distant windows, from doorways. She further explained that it was not precisely wood that we walked upon, but specially treated planks and timbers of giant mushrooms that grew wild in the further reaches of the cavern.

“Like the forests in the surface lands,” she said. “Why, the caps would surely reach to the bottoms of these platforms, some even higher.” She paused, pointing with her walking stick. “That hut there, the entire roof is a treated mushroom cap.”

“It’s like in the fairy stories,” Sera said. “There are legends in my lands of the littlest folk, who lived in homes made of mushrooms, in the dark and secret places in the woods. When something went missing, it was said to be their work.”

“And here we are, walking amidst a fairy story of our own,” Demarra said with a chuckle. She began ticking off on her fingers. “Two princesses, evil witches and warlocks. Perhaps the kiss of a prince will release our princesses from their spell sooner?”

“Don’t look at me,” Varis said. “I’m about as far from nobility as a man can get.”

“The mood and lighting is all wrong,” Gilliam said.

“Why am I not surprised that you don’t even bat an eye when it comes to kissing the helpless?” Ana said.

Gilliam shrugged. “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.”

The cleric’s blush looked somewhat purplish, in the oddly flickering ghostlight carried by the halfling girl ahead of us.
Last edited by RobJN on Tue Sep 18, 2012 2:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Tue Sep 18, 2012 2:42 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

The kitchens and main hall sat off to one side, well away from the rest of the lofted settlement. A dozen barrels lined one wall of the kitchens, each joined to another by a network of brass piping, which snaked along another wall and emptied into one of several stone basins. Several wide nozzles hung from the room’s low ceiling, directly above the stone hearths and dark metal ovens.

“That’s gnomish, all right,” Gilliam said, batting at one of the pull-chains dangling from the nozzles. A fine line of bluish light swung back and forth against the far wall.

It struck me, then, what was different about the lamp’s light. Where our shadows should have danced on the walls, they gave off the flickering blueish light… A sort of… reverse shadow. Holding my hand up to one of the sides of the lantern, I saw the fluttering, glowing imprint paint the wall behind me. The flame gave off no heat, but felt like the cool air of an autumn’s night. I gave a shiver, and felt a tremor of alarm through the bracelet.

The girl Lylian added tinder and wood the hearthfire, coaxing the coals back to life below a kettle nearly as tall as she was. I noticed that she had to add more than the usual amount of fuel, even as hungrily as the flames licked at the treated wood, and the warmth did seem to reach much further than the edges of the hearth stones.

Grelda met my eyes, and we held each other’s gaze for a long moment. There was steel, there, and I wondered, briefly, if I could summon enough druidic flame to counter the effect of the shadowlight. She masked her power quite effectively, though, and I had no wish to begin a contest I would not be able to win. I gave her the smallest of nods as I took a seat along one of the benches. She turned, and fetched several clay bowls from a high shelf.

“Thorn?” Sera asked. It felt as if she set a hand on my shoulder, though her hands were clasped in her lap.

I shook my head, and began to wonder if we wouldn’t have been better off brought before the dwarves’ Karrnath in chains.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Tue Nov 06, 2012 3:44 am

Surely, you didn't think I'd forgotten about this little story, did you?

Thorn's Chronicle continues....


Ana was able to lift the twins’ paralysis with a few murmured prayers, and they moved as close to the fire as they could get. I moved over to join them, welcoming the natural warmth of the cook fire.

A flickering reddish image of a cube floated in the air above one of the stones on Aurora’s bracer, strange runes in brilliant orange dancing on each face. She tapped at one or another, turning the cube with a swipe of a finger, frowning at some of what she was reading there.

“I have seen some of this script in the Vault of the Ancients,” I said to her.

She edged away from me. “Not too close. I am still contaminated. Look.” She pointed to one of the faces of the cube, which showed three wavy lines across the bottom.

I shook my head. “I saw the runes, I did not say I could read any of them.”

Silva leaned over my shoulder. “Betron-Z,” she said, tracing the middle line. “Higher than 10,000 parts per million.” She pointed to the top line. “Gamron particle output, 50,000 units per tic.” She frowned at her sister. “It still has too much hot.”

“And where do you propose we find a nitrate pool, sister mine? I will be fine. The stones are repairing the tissue damage.”

Silva gave the glowing cube a spin, and pointed to another pictograph of more wavy lines, these angling downward, where the others had all been climbing.

“Core thermal shielding at 29 percent.”

“I am fine!” the shrike insisted.

“You burn too brightly. Do not change again.”

“You were in danger,” Aurora hissed. “It is my sworn duty to—“

“Do not change again,” Silva repeated, her voice colder than the blackflames flickering across the room. “As your Imperial Princess, I do so order it.” Her posture relaxed. “And I ask it of you as your sister. If you burn out, what am I to do?”

“There are still plenty more of us,” Aurora said. “We are expendable. Replaceable.”

“You are not—“

“Look!” Aurora said. Her fingers fluttered, and the reddish cube folded in upon itself, revealing another set of displays, runics writing themselves across the different faces.
Silva frowned, her eyes darting back and forth as she read all six panes at once. “It is correct?”

“My core thermal dampers are damaged, not my sensory arrays,” Aurora sniffed.

The cube’s information looked like so many squiggles, lines and swirls to me, even the line that Silva pointed to on the top panel, rotating it so I could see.

“Pheton particles and Kezron fumes at a thousand times trace amounts,” she read.

I had no idea what either of those things were, and could only shrug.

“Those are both indicators that a Well of Souls is active in the vicinity,” Aurora said, slowly.

“As it was in Urzud. Again,” Silva said.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Wed Nov 07, 2012 8:01 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues....



“What happened in Urzud?” I asked. I knew the name, of course. The Cursed City. The Jewel of the Wastes. Said to be the birthplace of the orcs, the resting place of their legendary Blue Knife. Aurora snorted as I recounted to her and her sister what little I knew of the place.

“‘Blue Knife?’ Well, orcs never were much on imagination. And Urzud was the birthplace of more than just orcs. Hobgoblins, goblins, ogres, bugbears…” She ticked them off on her fingers.

“Trolls,” Silva said. The word came out rimed in ice.

I had to sit back, as her small fists clenched, the red stone on her bracer flaring a deep and ugly red.

“Nasty beasts, those,” Varis said. Apparently, the siren’s voice had carried over the conversation at the table.

“Nearly takes a miracle to kill one of them,” Gilliam said. “Found that out the hard way, when one dug its way out of a landslide. Thing ate half the horses before we put enough arrows in it to drive it off.”

“Fire,” Varis said. “That’s what we always used, when one of those things would clamber down from the Peaks. Don’t really want to be near when the thing goes up, though. Puts off a smell that’d make an orc turn tail and run. And the screams... Ixion’s toenails, you never heard such a —“

“Vatu!” Silva had leapt to her feet. “Vatu!” she said again, stamping her foot. “Stop. You will speak of it no more!” Her voice trembled, and she blinked, her eyes looking like molten silver as she tried to hold back the tears. She wiped at them, angrily, as they began to track down her cheeks, and she stormed from the room.

It seemed as though she took all the flame’s heat with her as she left.

Gilliam opened his mouth, several times before the words finally came.

“I don’t know what she’s so upset about. She should be happy there are that many fewer of those terrors in the world.”

I saw no blur of movement, did not even feel any disturbance in the air, but in the space it takes to blink — not even to draw breath— Aurora vanished and reappeared across the table from the warrior, driving the dragonstone-bejeweled knife into the table nearly to the hilt. She’d missed his arm by a hair’s breadth, the knife pinning his sleeve in place.

“I did not have to miss,” she hissed. “Keep talking, and I will do the same to your tongue.”
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby Chimpman » Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:19 pm

I'm so glad we get more story! :D And on top of that, references to both Urzud and the genesis of trolls :mrgreen: !

What was the Well of Souls again? Is that where the sirens and shrikes are reborn?
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:31 pm

Chimpman wrote:I'm so glad we get more story! :D And on top of that, references to both Urzud and the genesis of trolls :mrgreen: !

What was the Well of Souls again? Is that where the sirens and shrikes are reborn?

It's good to be back at work on this. I have missed Thorn and the gang.

Yep. From the Vault of the Ancients,Kaldmont 19, 997 (And one of the most fun battle scenes I've written -- where the two weavers get to cut loose ;) )
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Wed Nov 14, 2012 2:21 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


We spent some few uneasy hours asleep on makeshift pallets around the hearth. My own sleep was haunted by hulking trolls, lit from behind by the eerie shadowlight of the blackflame. Each occasion that I awakened, Sera, too, was awake.

“Were Saiorse here, she could weave dream wards around us,” she whispered. “I saw how she worked it, but I have not the talent for it. It takes a delicate hand. Her novice, that girl we met in Krakatos, I think she would be very good at it.”

Katarin, the girl from Eltan’s Spring. What would have happened to her, I wondered, had we not freed her and the others from beneath Mistamere? Would she have awakened to her Power in the same manner? What if she had come into her Power in anger, rather than concern? Supposing Gilliam had killed the weavers, rather than their shepherds, in the Black Tower…

Her hand worked its way into mine. “You think too much,” she said. “Calm your thoughts. Get some rest.”

“You can see my thoughts?”

She smiled. “See them? No. You think of me, that I can feel.” Here she paused.

“What is it?”

“You do not think of me like Macha did.”

“No,” I said. “No, I should hope not.”

“Why?”

“You are a person, Sera, not a possession. Not something to be kept, like a… a horse.”

“Or a sword?”

“Or a sword,” I confirmed.

She rolled over, onto her back, held a length of the silvery lead up at arm’s length. I could feel… unease. Turmoil. Her thoughts were like a dark, storm-chopped sea.

“I have lived for so long at the end of this, I do not know of any other way to live,” she murmured.

“What would you have done, had you stayed at your village?”

“All I had ever done was watch the goats,” she said.

“Was that so bad?” I asked.

She shook her head. “It passed the days, until father would have married me off to one or another of his crofter’s sons.” She gave a short laugh, a low chuckle, and the swirling, churning of her thoughts eased. “I suppose I should be grateful to Macha, for taking me away from that. I would have three or four children by now, no doubt with another on the way.”

“Is that such a bad fate?”

“Good or bad,” she sighed. “It would just be another kind of leash.”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Wed Dec 26, 2012 12:55 am

The Chronicle is four years old, this year.


Wow. This was supposed to be a little tour of Karameikos and a bit of Darokin.... :o
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby Chimpman » Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:11 pm

:D Congratulations! The Chronicle has been a wonderful source of inspiration and ideas over those four years (not to mention quite a fun read). I hope it continues!
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:58 am

Chimpman wrote::D Congratulations! The Chronicle has been a wonderful source of inspiration and ideas over those four years (not to mention quite a fun read). I hope it continues!

Oh, the Chronicle will definitely continue. Thorn & Co. still have to get to Alfheim. You know, to stop an impending demonic prison break.... :twisted:

The backup Engine has to be found. And then kick-started. Seals to re-bind. (This hero stuff... work, work work! :roll: )

That Bargle. :roll: Some people will do anything for a little bit of power....
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:54 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


First Half Moon (on or about Nuwmont 8, 998AC)
“I still don’t like it,” Varis grumbled, as we marched along behind the line of halfling scouts. The bright bluish shadows cast by their blackflame lanterns leapt and receded against the vast bulk of stalagmite and column, shapes seeming to flit and leap in the darkness between.

Even after a mile, I found myself darting glances to the left or right, my grip tightening on my ironwood staff. The buzz of Sera’s unease prickling along my arms and the nape of my neck did little to ease my own uncertainties. She held her Power close, her senses sharpened, spread out around us.

Ahead of us, Gilliam and Varis did not drop their hands from the hilts of their weapons, despite assurances that we were quite safe from the dangers of what the halflings called the “silent forest.”

“More like ‘dead’ than ‘silent,’” Gilliam muttered, flinching towards another blue-lit shadow in the distance, one of his swords already half-drawn.

“No,” I said. “This place is still very much alive. This cave still breathes. This feels nothing at all like the twice-dead heart of the Dymrak.”

“Water, Wind, Earth. They are all here, still dancing,” Sera said, her voice carrying the lilt of one distracted by the Power.

Silva and Aurora walked well ahead of us, in line with the scouts on their overly large spiders. The twins’ hoods were down, the shadowlight from the blackflame lanterns falling full upon them.

Under its light (shadow? It grew hard to tell which was which) they looked… different. Their hair picked up more silver than gold. Their skin shone, brighter even than it did under Matera’s full light. They both stood taller, their gait more of a glide than actual steps. Though there wasn’t enough air moving in the cave to cause a hair to stir, theirs seemed to waft, drifting whenever they moved their heads, leaning close to each other to speak, or to glance back at us as we followed.

Their eyes were what changed the most: Silva’s shone the deep blue-shot-with-silver as the dwarves’ so-called “Oracle Stones.” And Aurora’s… they flashed a deep and crystalline green, flecked with golden highlights.

“You think them beautiful,” Sera said, from slightly behind my right shoulder.

“I don’t know any man who would argue with that assessment,” I said. It did no good to lie to the girl.

“Or woman,” Gilliam said. He inclined his chin toward Ana, who’s eyes had locked on the two since they had scampered ahead of us.

“Beautiful?” she asked, diverting her gaze to the swordsman to give him a disgusted look. “I do not know what you see, but I only see deception further cloaked in deception.” Ana shook her head. “Beauty born of shadows melts away to what it truly is under the light.”

Gilliam rolled his eyes. “Now you sound like one of your orders’ stuffy old clergymen.”

The cleric sighed. “We must remember to be careful. Silva has no defenses against her own magic. The corruption comes much faster to those with magic in their blood. It was so much easier when it was just keeping her safe from the demons. Now we must worry about keeping her safe from herself.”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Sun Feb 03, 2013 5:43 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...



“There,” Pysk said, pointing with his riding switch to a fissure in the far wall of the cavern. It was a good half mile from our hiding place at the jumble of fallen stone columns at the edge of the Silent Forest.

Two stone walls — with a ramshackle town between them — stood between us and the lantern-lit split in the cavern’s far wall, which we were told led up into the larger caverns, three of which we would have to traverse to make it through to the far side of the mountains.

“So we just stroll up to that big iron gate and knock?” Gilliam asked. “Ask them politely if we can pass through so we can reach the far side of these mountains?”

“I seem to remember that tactic not working very well in the past,” Varis said.

“We just won’t drink anything they offer us and we should be fine,” the other warrior said with a grin.

Varis made a face, shuddering. “Beer, no. Dwarven brandy? Maybe.”

“So you’ve tried it,” Gilliam said with a knowing nod.

“On my first year in the Duke’s Mountain Guards. Had some thane’s son from Highforge in the unit. Said it was ‘the very best’ his clan had to offer.”

“I’m guessing it wasn’t?”

Varis rubbed his jaw. “Nearly chipped a tooth.”

Gilliam stifled a laugh in his glove.


“Those walls are crawling with guards,” Aurora said, peering through a small window she’d made of her thumbs and forefingers. She’d done something to the air between them, causing a wavering image to appear as if she stood no more than a dozen feet from the walls, rather than the greater part of half a mile. “There is very little cover between here and those walls. They’d see us in a matter of moments.”

“Yes” Pysk nodded, then his teeth flashed in a grin. “But they have a tendency not to look up.”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:05 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...



The trek through the Silent Forest was nerve-wracking. What followed was terrifying: lashed to the back of the great spiders, which then leapt from stalagmite to stalagmite, then leaping higher, into the jagged fanged forest of stalactites along the cavern’s roof, hundreds of feet above. Pysk hissed a chuckle at the cries from the group, trailing behind him, my companions bound in place across a spider’s back just as Sera and I were.

No longer sure which way “up” and “down” were, I shut my eyes and tried not to imagine what would happen if the great spider missed its hairy footing.

The pack split, at some predetermined point, Pysk leading the three other spiders bearing us off towards the cleft in the cavern wall, while another four angled towards the flickering reddish light opposite, which we’d been told was the entrance to the mine holding well over a dozen halfling and gnomish slaves.

Our bone-jarring ride slowed, and then stopped, the great spider chittering in response to a similar clucking from its rider.

Its abdomen heaved, and then there was a sickening lurch as all eight of its legs let go the stalactite.

There was no fall, and I think that, above all (if you will pardon the pun) is what caused my stomach to flip. I could feel the gentlest of breezes, and see a swirling in the smoky haze that hung above the dwarven minehold growing ever so slowly closer. Looking up — or, would that have been to the side? — I could see the other spiders, descending just as slowly, a stray, red-tinged silvery gleam the only sign of the silken thread playing out, the only thing keeping us from a quick death from too long a fall.


Sera’s relief at having her feet back on solid ground nearly overwhelmed me, as it bubbled up my arm through the bracelet.

We huddled in the shadows of what looked to be an abandoned smithy, close to the wall of the cavern, a stone’s throw from the wide crack in the wall. Strange, yellowish globes hung from tall posts, keeping back the gloom of the tunnel, illuminating what looked like two long rows of metal set parallel to each other, stretching away into the distance. I thought it an odd way to demarcate a road. The metal bars sat atop large wooden planks, each spaced a good three or four steps apart: hardly ideal for a raised walkway.

“Remember our deal,” Pysk said.

“A hundred count, after you begin your climb, and then we provide some distraction,” Gilliam said, not even trying to hide his grin.

“The wood of those outbuildings is very old, very dry,” Sera noted. “It will burn bright and fierce.” She scanned the other shacks clustered near the long hall. “Those others will have to go as well, if you wish for the distraction to last.”

I shivered, at her cold, calculated assessment of the destruction.

“I can keep the fires burning as long as you need them,” Aurora said, her fingers straying to the red gems in her bracers. In response to her touch, a brief pulse of orange-gold light glimmered in the depths of one of the stones.

Pysk gave a short nod, and then sketched a bow before turning and leaping atop his giant spider. A chittering cluck, and the creature began scaling the gossamer thread on which we’d descended.

Varis began a slow, steady count, and I felt Sera tamp down her emotions, slowing her breathing to match the warrior’s cadence. My fingertips itched as the weaver opened herself up to the Sphere of Energy, and saw, dimly, reddish threads of power flickering to life, swirling around her fingers to concentrate into an ever growing ball hovering between her the palms of her hands.

At count fifty, I felt the slightest twinge of unease from the girl, and she bit her lip, sharpening her concentration. I knew, somehow, that she was at her limit, but she kept drawing in threads, winding them tighter. Sweat broke out on both our brows, and while I couldn’t help but feel a flutter of panic, the emotion coursing through the connection from Sera was anything but fear. It was a hot, fierce excitement.

At count sixty-five, her breathing quickened. Her nerves felt stretched taught as a tanning hide, and I held my breath, for fear of the slightest distraction disrupting her concentration and igniting her weave before she could hurl it.

At count seventy-seven, the front of the great stone manor house along the rear of the cavern exploded with a thunderous roar, hurling chunks of burning stone into and over the manor’s short curtain wall. More flaming debris showered down from a higher arc, landing amidst the clusters of the ramshackle township outside the manor’s wall.

Kurest Hurgon began to burn without our help.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Sat May 04, 2013 3:55 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


Heat washed over us, stinging skin and causing my eyes to water. I could see a fine latticework of red threading stretching around us, mixed with lighter blues.

Sera’s Power sang, her hands and face aglow with it, as she tamed the heat in the air. Outside the barrier she’d woven, exposed wood of the shed and carts in the yard blackened and blistered, deep reddish light gleaming where the wood peeled and cracked. Had we been perhaps a few blocks closer, they would have burst aflame instantly in the searing wind cast off by the explosion.

It must have still been something akin to a lesser dragon’s breath, yet it felt like nothing more than a gusting of winds at the height of Ylari summer, thanks to Sera’s reweaving of her flaming sphere into a shield.

Another explosion shattered the far corner of the manor, sending more flaming stone and timbers raining into the township further away to our right, towards the direction of the mining compound, slave’s quarters, and the mine entrance, though that was well away from the radius of the falling debris.

The wash of heat was somewhat diminished, though still enough to send cloaks rippling.

Squinting through the tears, I could see two shadows within the flames, and then the orange-red curtain of fire parted, streaming away from a taller figure in wine-colored robes striding next to a shorter figure clutching close a deeply-hooded brown cloak.

Far from being a milling, chaotic jumble of panic, the dwarves streaming into the inner courtyard moved quickly and efficiently, the only shouting coming from one dwarf in perhaps twenty or thirty, who pointed with a red-tipped white baton. One rank of dwarves lowered panels of a dark iron-bound wood that stood half again as tall as they, forming a long barrier between the blazing manor house and the debris-strewn inner court.

Pairs of dwarves rushed forward, trailing long lengths of what looked like cloth or leather. It was only at a shouted command from the crew leaders that I saw the strips shudder, and then balloon up, snapping taut a few seconds before a long jet of water emerged from a copper or brass nozzle held tightly by the pair of dwarves.

Geyser after geyser erupted, arcing over the tall fire shields, to fall, hissing and steaming, into the blaze engulfing the manor.

A sharp jab to my ribs broke my attention away from the dwarves, and I followed Aurora’s small pointing finger to the two figures.

They had climbed into what looked like a carriage of some sort that sat upon the two strips of metal, the taller figure taking a seat on the high driver’s bench, while the other leaned over the rear of the topless coach, waving small hands over what looked like a large metal drum clasped to the hind end, between the tall rear wheels.

The thing gave a groan, and a vaporous cloud emerged from a short pipe extending from the side of the metal tank. Another coughing gurgle, and I saw the reason for the lack of horses or mules to pull the carriage.

The wheels began to turn, slowly at first, but then a bit faster as the cloud emerging from the pipe went from fitful bursts into a steady stream that dissolved away into the air.

The carriage, and the two figures on it, chuffed and creaked away along the iron-bound path, the wheels locked to either side of each rail.

Too busy fighting the raging inferno consuming the large stone house, and rapidly spreading through the wooden shelters and homes outside the manor’s walls, the dwarves did not move to stop them, if they even noticed the escape at all.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Sun May 12, 2013 7:05 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“Never mind that,” Aurora snapped, as Varis and GIlliam made to haul themselves up onto the driver’s bench along the front of the coach. “Just sit down here with the rest of them.”

Gilliam shrugged. “Not like there are any horses to hitch. And those seats look a lot softer than the driver’s board.”

Like most of the coaches I’d seen, this one consisted of two benches, these padded with leather, and mounted on some sort of springs, facing each other across footspace long enough for Varis to stretch his legs comfortably without digging his heels into Sera or Demarra’s toes. Varis and Gilliam took seats to either side of Ana and Silva, sitting opposite Sera, Demarra and I. They were not the least bit cramped for elbow room.

“Maybe we should get the baron one of these,” Gilliam said, as he noticed just how wide the seats were.

Varis wasn’t listening, instead glancing over the edge of the coach, towards the empty front of the vehicle. “Are magical steeds summoned?” he wondered aloud.

Aurora snickered. “No, the magic is much less complex than that,” she said. Rather than sit between Demarra and myself, opposite Silva, the shrike clambered up onto the rear of the carriage, where the frame draped over the large metal tank. She tore a strip from the bottom of her cloak, and wound it around the tall pipe that rose from one side of the tank, holding onto that to steady her perch.

She reached out with her other hand, and sang a note. The red stones on her gauntlets flickered and then brightened to a sharp golden light.

“Nieah,” Silva said. “Svara etah.” She sang a note a half-step lower. I saw annoyance flicker across the shrike’s brow, but she adjusted her pitch until their voices blended into a single tone.

The gold tinge in the stones’ brightened further, and an odd vibration thrummed through the carriage’s frame, against the cushioning at my back.
Demarra and Sera glanced at me, but I only shrugged.

The vibrations increased ever so slightly, until the pipe gave a cough, and then began streaming vapor, as had the coach in which the two cloaked figures had escaped.

And just like it, ours, too, began to roll of its own accord along the metal path laid down.
Rob
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