[Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

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

Postby RobJN » Fri Jun 29, 2012 10:56 pm

:twisted:
Chimpman wrote:Oh man... it just keeps getting better. I have all kinds of questions now:

1) What is "bound/held" inside the black dragonstones that the hin had with him?

2) What are the dwarves doing with such items?

3) How many such dragonstones are there (I can only imagine how long the dwarves have been hoarding them for.

4) How the heck did this hin manage to escape his captors... especially with the treasure that he carries!

Keep it coming, Rob. I'm hooked once more!

1. What else is bound inside black dragonstones?
2. You can bet it's probably Not Good.
3. Well, Pyrklist has two....
4. He did as the Voice bid him.
:twisted:
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:44 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“Voices?” Ana asked. “From within the black stone?” Her hand strayed to the amulet at her throat, her thumb rubbing along the engraving of the symbol of the Flame.

Pyrklist shook his head, gemlike eyes widening. “Oh, no, mistress. This one is called, to wrap such stones in shadows and silence before lifting from their cradle in the mountain. It is forbidden to touch the stones with bare flesh.“

Aurora looked down at the kneeling halfling, chewing at her lower lip, her golden eyes distant. Pyrklist glanced from one twin to the other, first at their feet. Had the fire not suddenly dimmed, the flames stuttering, I would not have heard his sharp intake of breath. His eyes slowly moved up, drifting left and right. He studied the gauntlets, and again, his breath caught.

“Is… is this one’s payment not enough?” he asked. “They are paltry, compared to those you already wear,” he said, “but Pyrklist can promise you more.”

“How many more?” Aurora asked. “A dozen?”

The halfling nodded, eagerly. “Yes, yes there would be at least that many beneath the cave in. And more, in the kuldshurgon.”

“More… than a dozen?” Aurora asked, her voice suddenly gone tight.

“Oh, yes, mistress. Pyrlkist hears the Tarsfotar Collectors speak of them.”

“There are dwarves collecting them?” Aurora’s hands clenched into fists. The two red dragonstones glimmered, the firelight reflected on the facets of the gems adorning her gauntlets giving way to a shimmer and rippling of golden light within.

Silva placed her fingertips on the golden metal tracery of the shrike’s lower arm. “Anujah,” she warned.

“No, no, mistress! Pyrklist misspeaks. No dwarf is allowed to keep such treasures. They belong to the Karrnath. And his Realm.” The halfling drew a shuddering breath. “This one will lose his hands, if the Reclaimants should find him with such treasures.”

Silva plucked the cloth from the halfling’s hands, emptying the contents into her belt pouch. She folded the ragged square twice, and handed it back to Pyrklist.

“You will help, then?”

“Of course we will.”

I had to blink, and rub my eyes to make sure the lack of sleep hadn’t muddled my senses. It was Aurora who spoke.

Pyrklist bowed. From his kneeling position, he pressed his forehead to the ground at Aurora’s feet. “Many thanks, mistress. This one— Pyrklist— will ensure you are rewarded well beyond those meager kurgonklist. He—“ The halfling’s voice trailed off.

“Feet, unclad that walk the stone and water beneath the iron skies,” he murmured, the cadence suggesting something oft-repeated, but just now making sense.

Aurora took a step backward. “Enough,” she said. “We will leave at first light.”

But Pyrklist was already asleep.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Thu Jul 05, 2012 1:02 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


Again, it seemed I’d just closed my eyes, when the sound of a hard sizzle on iron and the smell of bacon drew me up from a brief moment of slumber.

I sat up, stomach growling even as I wiped the sleep from my eyes. The halfling puttered around the fire, prodding at the hissing iron skillet, stirring at something in another pot.

“I don’t believe it,” Gilliam said, from his place behind me. He sniffed again. “You can keep the Darra,” he told me, “that little one’s kaffa smells like the work of the Immortals.”

“A new day,” Pyrklist said, bowing as Gilliam approached the fireside. “May we meet the challenges Kagyar has forged for us with honors.”

“Let that first challenge be getting to the bottom of a cup of that kaffa,” the warrior said.

Pyrklist grinned, as he poured a cup of the strong dark brew. “The Tarsfotar would frown at your lack of propriety. That which makes them frown makes Pyrklist smile.”

Varis and I took cups. I winced, on sipping, as did the other warrior.

“Halav’s balls!” he swore. “It’s a wonder this didn’t eat straight through the pot.”

Still, beneath the harsh bite of the blend, the halfling had added cinnamon and nutmeg.

Of Ana and the other men, it was difficult to say who was more relieved. It had been Ana’s turn to prepare breakfast this morning.

“Nice to awaken to the smell of bacon, rather than smoke, isn’t it?”

Gilliam got a punch in the arm from the cleric.

We hurried through breakfast, at Aurora’s insistence. She walked with Pyrklist, ahead of the vardo, dividing her attention between the hafling and the mountains that loomed ever closer as he led us east, along the along the southern bank o the Achelos. The hills climbed steadily, getting rockier and more barren with each mile. By the time Sollux had reached its peak, there was too little trail for Demarra to make easy progress with the vardo. Another couple hours’ travel and the trail all but vanished.

Demarra and I unharnessed the horses, and after brushing them down, she gave each a swat on the rear. They merely glanced back at her, tossed their manes, and plodded away the way we’d come.

“That’s it?” Gilliam asked. “You’re just going to turn them loose?”

“Goblins will eat good tonight,” Varis said.

The Darra laughed. “Duardo and Bella will be just fine. In a day or so, they will probably find another kampo. In the mean time, they can fend for themselves.” At Varis’ disbelieving look, she gave another laugh. “Troubles befall the goblin or orc tribe that tries to take that which belongs to the Kaledreshi.”

She stepped up into the vardo, coming back out a few minutes later. She’d changed, into a nearly knee-length tunic of browns and grays, over which she wore a dark woolen vest. She’d traded her skirt for a pair of deep gray leather leggings that thankfully were mostly hidden beneath the length of her tunic. High boots completed her new ensemble, along with a cloak of mottled grays.

Yet she still wore a clamorous mix of gold and bronze and copper bracelets and necklaces.

“Not to worry,” she said, at Gilliam’s disapproving look. She slipped her arm through mine. “You see? They make so little noise this way.”

My skin tingled, and I turned, to see Sera regarding Demarra with narrowed eyes. If the Darra noticed it, she gave no indication, but tugged me along the broken trail after Aurora and the halfling.

Pyrklist pushed us at quite a quick pace, always picking the steeper or narrower of paths when a new choice for direction came about. We rested for a late afternoon meal, reluctantly, but at Aurora’s insistence. Ana and I had taken turns, lingering at the back of the group, waiting for Silva to catch up. She did not have the breath for thanks, and her smiles were touched at the corners with weariness. More often than not when I glanced back at the princess, the white dragonstone at her throat gave off glimmers of light.

“If we move slower, or take an easier path, those are the ones the Relaimants watch,” the halfling said. “The Tarsfotar deal as little as possible with tall folk. If they should find you this close outside Kurest Hurgon… Well, they will show no mercy in keeping the mine’s secrets. And you,” he continued, gesturing towards the girls’ bracers, “well, it is forbidden for any but the Karrnath or his Reclaimants to use the stones.”

At this, Aurora bristled. “If this’ Karrnath’ thinks—”

Pyrklist fell to his knees, pressing his forehead to the ground at the shrike’s feet. “Please, mistress, you must lower your voice!”

“Vatu!” Silva hissed, her posture rod-straight, eyes shining as they darted from crag to crag around us along the wide turn in the trail where we rested.

The silence rang nearly as loud as Aurora’s voice. Then we heard it: a clatter of rocks, the scrape of leather over stone. A muted jangle of armor or buckle.

Varis’ grip tightened around his sword, but he did not draw it. Gilliam’s drawing and nocking an arrow was just a whisper of noise. Aurora made to move in front of her sister, but Silva yanked at her sister’s hand, plopping the shrike back down on the rocks beside her. Her gaze had gone even more distant, and the black stone on her wrist glimmered with sparks of purple.

Above, a hawk that had been circling suddenly dove, leveling out hundreds of feet lower, nearly over our position.

Silva held up three fingers, pointed towards the rocks above us, slightly west of north. Gilliam trained his bow in that direction, squinting. A prickling, icy surge raised the hairs along the back of my neck, and the familiar warm glow somewhere over my stomach reminded me of Sara’s presence as she began gathering her Power.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby Chimpman » Fri Jul 06, 2012 4:41 pm

I can't wait to meet some of these Kurest Hurgon dwarves. :twisted:
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Fri Jul 06, 2012 5:47 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


They came silently, rising from the edge of the rocks above, garbed in high collared vests riveted with hundreds of brass hexagonal scales, and helms of bronze and leather. Reddish eyes gleamed beneath the rim of the helms, framed by some sort of coppery tattoo, the rest of their features obscured by broad-flanged cheek-plates.

Gilliam’s arrow flew true, striking through a juncture in the brass scales, and we heard the soldier give a muffled grunt. Judging from how far the arrow penetrated, it had to have pierced a lung, yet the broad-shouldered figure kept coming.

Demarra voiced a short cry, and slender Darine throwing knives sprouted from another of the figure’s necks and shoulder, rocking it back on its heels. Luckily, this threw off its aim, and the bolt from its heavy crossbow shattered against the rocks behind us.

Sera raised her hands, fingers spread wide, and I felt the heat blossom in my gut, tingling through my own fingers. A sheet of flames arced across the precipice above.

There was no scream, no scrambling in surprise or fear. The soldiers stepped through the wash of flre, the flames licking and curling about their armor, the leather smoldering, cloth aflame.

Another of Gilliam’s arrows lodged deep in the leader’s shoulder, but it did not hesitate in lifting its dark iron sword high, bringing it down with an almost mechanical jerk.

Then Varis was there, catching the blade along his own, throwing his weight into the parry.

The other soldier lifted its crossbow, not even bothering to sight, the heavy stock shuddering as the iron-bound mechanism released.

I hurled a globe of fire at the same time, and the bolt burst aflame, disintegrating into ash before it could strike Ana.

She made the most of her twist to try to avoid the missile, adding the momentum to the underhand sweep of her scythe. It took the second crossbowman’s arm off just below the elbow, sending the heavy crossbow clattering away.

The blow struck a shower of deep green-blue sparks, and Ana stumbled back from the cinders, the blade of her scythe scorched and smoldering.

“Behind me!” Aurora shouted, pushing her sister back, raising her bejeweled dagger in a high guard as the other boltman leveled his weapon at her.

But Pyrklist proved faster, dashing forward to fling himself upon the heavy crossbow. The bolt ricocheted off the ground in front of the twins, spinning harmlessly away.

Gilliam swore, as his third arrow drove up to the fletchings beneath the leader’s helm. It did not slow, pressing its stiff-armed attack against Varis, who kept batting the heavy blade aside.

He’d worked out his opponent’s timing, though, and when the leader raised its heavy sword to strike again, Varis slid his blade to the hilt into the gap in the armer beneath the armpit.

Black blood spewed from the wound, and Varis cried out as the dying soldier’s sword came down hard across his shoulder. Luckily, the strike hit a buckle. Still, Varis staggered with the impact.

And the leader raised his sword again….
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Sat Jul 07, 2012 10:53 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“Halav’s balls, just die already!” Varis unsheathed his dagger, striking upward, the blade easily slipping behind the brass scales. There came another gush of black ichor as he wrenched the knife upward.

Gilliam gave his bow a spin, bringing the thickest part just above the grip down on the elbow joint. It gave a great ‘pop’ and the arm dropped limp, the sword clanging to the ground as the leader’s fingers twitched and jumped.

Ana blocked the clumsy swipe of her opponent, its hastily drawn sword sliding harmlessly down the length of the scythe’s haft. She brought the weapon around, the swing catching the soldier just above the vest’s collar, and another gout of sparks erupted, along with a spray of black blood as the head tumbled from its shoulders.

Aurora lunged over Pyrklist, who still clung to the other solder’s weapon, preventing him from reloading. Her knife pierced its left eye, and the veins within the dark stone on the blade burst to light.

The remaining eye opened wider, and at last we heard our opponent’s voice— a grating, howling scream that sent a cold shiver through me.

Aurora’s eyes widened in surprise, and then narrowed. I saw her lips move, voicing some command phrase I could not hear above the solder’s shriek, and a pulse of crackling purple-black energy boiled up from the blade’s stone, coursing down the blade. The soldier stiffened, Pyrklist and the crossbow hitting the ground with a solid ‘thud.’

Then its arms came up, and it closed them around the shrike, great shoulders bunching with the effort. Aurora tried to cry out, but the great hug had crushed the air out of her.

Silva leapt, the black stone alight on her wrist, her entire right hand shrouded as if with a glove of smoldering shadows. She closed her hand about the thick wrist of the soldier, gave a twist, snapping the arm as if it were a twig. The princess stumbled back, shaking her hand, now clear of the shadowy aura, which remained snaked around the now-useless arm.

Aurora reached down, closing her hand around a trailer of the smoky shadowstuff, and it straightened, hardening into a spike of ebon darkness. She brought it up, driving the shard through the helm and skull beneath it.

The shriek finally died as the last soldier collapsed, as a puppet with its strings suddenly cut. The shrike rolled free, coughing and clutching at her sides, the clear gold-veined dragonstones brilliantly alight.

Varis gave a shout, rolling away from the leader, clutching at his head.

It turned, swinging a great fist at Gilliam, but he ducked the blow, bringing his bow up in both hands straight under the big leader’s chin. We all heard the crunch of jaw and neck bones. We also heard the hard whoosh of air as another swing of the fist caught Gilliam in the stomach, doubling him over, the bow clattering to the trail.
“The helm! Aim for the helm!” Aurora wheezed.

Ana brought her scythe down in an overhead sweep, plunging the blade through the helm and into the opponent’s lopsided head.

The blade trailed streamers of a dark, oily smoke and glittering shards of blackness as she wrenched it free, the burly leader finally collapsing to its knees and then toppling sideways.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby Chimpman » Mon Jul 09, 2012 11:46 pm

Oh man... I really want to know what these things are and how they're made. Are they of dwarf stature, or more human in form? I'm not sure I could tell from the initial description. I have a feeling that some kind of unholy spirit is bound to the form, but it doesn't seem quite like the full possessions we've seen in the past. It's similar... but not quite the same.

Also, the black ichor might indicate that whatever they are, they aren't quite "alive" anymore... All in all, a fairly creepy encounter :twisted:
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Tue Jul 10, 2012 4:47 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“That,” Gilliam panted, “took entirely too long.” He reached down to help Varis up.

“No, don’t stand up until I can get a look at you,” Ana told the big warrior.

He shrugged, wincing with the gesture.

“What about me?” Gilliam asked, as the cleric of the Flame stepped past him.

“You just had the wind knocked out of you. You could stand to have a lot more of that.”

Demarra hid her smile behind the tumble of her dark, curly hair. She worked her knives back and forth, pulling them from the shoulder and neck of the soldier with some difficulty.

“These are awfully tall for dwarves,” she said.

“That is because they are not dwarves,” Aurora said. She wrenched her own knife free, and gave the helm a kick. It tumbled away to reveal a grayish, wrinkled face, with just wisps of hair and not a chin whisker to be found. The chin jutted forward, and a snout joined it, lined with the coppery tattooing I’d seen peeking from beneath the helm. The tattoo work lined its eyes, and worked up along the side of the head, ending in an elaborate circle at the back of the definitely orcish head. In the center of the circle, surrounded by the copper swirls and runics was a dark, multifaceted crystal that still pulsed, dimly, with a deep purplish light in its depths.

“What in Zirchev’s name…?” Demarra gasped.

I leaned down, peering at the tattoos. They were not lines of ink, but fine filaments of the metal. I reached forth, then jerked my hand away as a spark leapt to my finger. Behind me, Sera’s gasp echoed my own, and she sucked on her finger, blushing as I turned to look at her.

“I have heard of tribes that work bits of metal and bone into their skin, but this…” I said.

“No,” Aurora said, staring down at the withered orc. “Not in your Taker’s name, nor that of any other Immortal. That is not just ‘bits of metal,” the shrike said to me. She knelt by the orc’s head, and wedged her knife against the black stone embedded in its skull. “These are surface elements of cytronics.” She gave the knife a twist, and the stone popped free with wet sucking sound and a harsh sizzle, like a miniature lightning bolt. The orc’s body gave a shudder, arms and legs flopping, and then lay still.

“Agragjha, etah kim bodhati’teh?” Aurora asked, tossing the stone to her sister.

Silva caught the dragonstone, wiped it off, and held it up to the iron-hued sky, squinting as she peered into it. She turned it this way and that, sang a note, and the stone went dark. She flipped it back to the shrike.

“Asiddha, kintu mudrita’sti,” Silva said.

Aurora nodded, snatching the stone from the air and slipping it into her belt pouch.

Gilliam gave a shout, and we turned, to see him clutching at his hand.

“It bit me!” He kicked at the severed head only to have its jaws clamp down on the tip of his boot.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby Chimpman » Tue Jul 10, 2012 6:08 am

Oh man... I really like where this is going. Dwarves using "cytronic" orcs with demonic controllers built into them. These guys are class acts.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:54 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


Aurora sighed, and rose, the ceremonial knife at the ready. But Silva sang out the sealing note again, and the orc’s jaws dropped slack.

Gilliam drew his foot back to take another kick at the thing.

“Not until I can deactivate it!” Aurora called, hurrying over to the orc’s head. She pried off the helmet, the lines of copper hissing and sputtering. Tiny greenish-blue arcs of lightning lanced and jumped from the tattoos, only to wave and curl against the golden metal of the bracers, seemingly having no effect on the shrike. She wedged the knife against the crystal, and as soon as the black dragonstone popped free, the lightning subsided. She kicked the gem over to Silva, and the siren again sang the note to the stone. Once it went dark, she picked it up and put it in her own belt pouch.

“Is it safe now?” Gilliam asked.

Aurora stood, sweeping her arms at the grisly orc head in a grandiose manner.

The warrior made to kick it again, but a great greenish arc of lightning caught his boot in mid-swing, and he hopped about, cursing.

“It may have some residual energies in it,” the shrike said, trying not to smile too broadly.

Gilliam tried to put his weight on the foot, finally giving up and sitting down a good distance away. “You could have warned me.” He glowered up at Aurora, rubbing at his foot. “How under Ixion’s sun can you just shrug that off?”

“Better insulation,” the girl said, twisting her arms this way and that, so the bracers flashed in what little sunlight there was.

“What are those?” Ana asked, watching as the shrike began working at the biggest of the orcs. “Are they alive? Dead? Undead?”

“Neither, really, but caught someplace in between. They have hearts that still beat, but you can see this is not blood.”

“Whatever it is, it smells awful,” Varis said. He’d been sluicing the stuff off his armor. It was thick, not quite so viscous as tree sap, but more like the syrup my brothers and I liked so much on our griddle cakes growing up.

“It serves much the same purpose as blood, keeping these bodies from breaking down, ensuring the muscles do not go rigid as they might in death.”

“So they are dead,” Ana said.

Aurora shook her head, working her fingers under the helm’s brim. The orc chief’s body writhed as the lightning again coursed along the whirls and spirals of Aurora’s bracers.

“Paumzcaleya!” she spat. She shot a look over her shoulder, at Silva. “Quiet this thing!”

The siren— no, the Imperial princess— straightened her shoulders, leveling her silver eyes at the struggling shrike.

“There might be some residual energies in it,” she said, in a perfect imitation of her sister’s voice.

“This one is much stronger than the others!” Aurora spoke through gritted teeth. The golden tracery along her lower arms showed dark spots where the lightning concentrated the strongest.

“Gilliam prat’tasyah vyapadizati,” Silva said, inclining her head towards the warrior, who had his boot off.

Aurora let go of the helm with one hand, shaking it. She clenched her fist, and the red stone adorning her wrist began to smolder.

Silva sang a brief, high note, and the stone flickered dark. “Vyapadizati,” she repeated, her voice and eyes flat as she regarded her sister.

Aurora turned as best she could, one hand still locked around the helm. I realized that she could not let it go— the magic still lingering in the orc’s body bound her hand in place.

The shrike bent low, like Pyrklist had done the night before.

“I beg forgiveness for the pain my unthinking prank has caused you,” she said. One would think a team of oxen was needed, to get the words out of her mouth.

Gilliam blinked, then shrugged. “Forgiven. I suppose these poor fellows have been through enough.”

Aurora looked up, through her golden tumble of hair, eyes gleaming as she met those of her sister.

Silva walked over to the grimacing shrike. She leaned down, brushing the hair from Aurora’s face. “Kim vartase samsmaratu,” she whispered, in her sister’s ear.

She sang the sealing note, and the energy coursing from the orc leader’s tattoos diminished to a mere spark.

The shrike completed the deactivation process, and took back the stone after Silva had sung it into darkness. She jammed it into her belt pouch, turning stiffly on her heel. She gave the withered orc’s head a vicious kick as she stomped past it, the thing bouncing back and forth between the rocks ahead.

She spoke softly, nearly to herself, but with Sera’s still-unreleased Power flowing through me, I heard her snarl, under her breath.

“We are nothing alike!”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby Chimpman » Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:25 am

RobJN wrote:“We are nothing alike!”

Heh, trouble's brewing in paradise I think.

Actually this makes me wonder how different in mindset the original two twins were from each other. Would Aurora get along better with her own progenitor... or has something happened throughout the course of the millennia since they were first created to "change" the shrikes and sirens in some perceptible way from their original state?
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:41 am

Chimpman wrote:
RobJN wrote:“We are nothing alike!”

Heh, trouble's brewing in paradise I think.

Actually this makes me wonder how different in mindset the original two twins were from each other. Would Aurora get along better with her own progenitor... or has something happened throughout the course of the millennia since they were first created to "change" the shrikes and sirens in some perceptible way from their original state?

The twins' interrelations are not something that can be summed up in just a single post (and are something to be explored in a future project). Suffice it to say that Rowena has perhaps a slightly more "human" outlook, whereas Leansethar is the more chaotic and "fey-like" of the two. While they would play pranks and jokes in their youth (usually at the expense of visiting foreign dignitaries), Rowena was always the first to apologize.* Usually the last, as well, since she almost always had to make amends when her sister toed the line a bit too far.

Certainly, over the course of the centuries and millennia, some 'drift' has occurred among the dozens of Progenitor personality fragments. While linked to their Mother consciousness, the shrikes and sirens were free to make their own decisions, kept learning, and growing. While their personalities stayed close those of their progenitors, the stresses of battle after battle eventually began to take their toll. There are at least two accounts of major splits and schisms amongst the siren and shrike ranks, one of which nearly led to civil war within the divisions of the Daughters. Sadly, it led to the development of the Reaper-class, whose secondary purpose was putting down rebellious Progeny.

Having twin sisters myself, I borrowed a page from them: while Rowena and Leansethar are at once very close, they can sometimes be intensely competitive. And the closeness means they can cut each other very very close to the bone. Thorn never speculates on just what it is that Aurora meant in that last line of hers. But then, he has not translated what it was that Silva/Rowena whispered to the shrike: "Kim vartase samsmaratu” could be read as either "Remember what you are" or "Remember your place." Does she refer to Aurora's role as a lesser version of the golden-eyed Leansethar? The fact that she is the elder sister, and therefore technically the Heiress? Or does she point out the similarities between the orcish puppet-troops and the shrikes and sirens born from Blackmoor University's Project S.O.N.A.T.A.?

*It is rumored that the twins were mildly telepathic, with Rowena's powers on the empathy/mind-reading side of the coin, whereas Leansethar was pyro- and telekinetic. The timing of the manifestation of these ESPer-like abilities (or at least when they became noticed and noted by the Fetch) was after the two's rescue from the City of the Gods. Were the abilities natural to the fey? Or were they the result of something that happened to the twins while they were lost within the City?
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Thu Jul 12, 2012 11:00 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“This one thinks, perhaps, it would be best to follow the Bhuradhest. Torenwyr this far from the mine… Pyrklist finds this distressing.” He wrung his hands, squinting as he looked fretfully from one outcropping of rock to another.

Gilliam waved Ana away as he stomped his boot back into place, sucking in sharp breaths each time his heel struck the ground. “No,” he said to the cleric. “Save your magic in case we have another run-in with more of these… things.”

A small hand slipped into mine as we got back underway, then the cool metal of the bracelet worked its way over my hand to settle on my wrist. Almost immediately, the dim, distant feeling of Sera that huddled in the back of my mind leapt into sharp focus. The warmth of her Power surged through my muscles, causing my fingertips to tingle and burn, and my heartbeat sped up to match hers.

I looked down at her, and she answered my question before I even asked: “You have a better grasp of earth magics. I can use that to probe further ahead and give us time to prepare when next we meet any of those creatures.”

We walked a few more steps, and her hand tightened in mine. “Also, I have missed you,” she murmured, softly enough that had I not been privy to her Power-heightened senses, I would not have heard it.

From time to time, Silva would stop, and glance up into the sky. The hawk from earlier trailed us, I noticed, and at times it would break away from its high, lazy spirals to drift over the mountains ahead of us, always returning to station more or less above our position.

“That’s quite the trick,” Varis said to the girl, when he finally noticed the behavior.

Silva’s smile was brief. “Flight always is first in my heart.” She sighed. “The great hawks of Booh are all gone. They are of a size for Men to ride. I could bring my own eyes to the sky, but now I must use those of the hawk. And they cannot see beneath a Veiling.” Her second sigh held an edge of frustration. “Lea’s likeness is more of stubborn than she was. Her head, it is like the mountain, no? She will sulk. But there are much dangers here.”

“She is some distance ahead of us,” Demarra said. I saw the reddish-blue gleam of her gift, shining between the golden bands adorning her wrist.

“I know you mean to help,” Silva said, “but that is a knowing that I already have.”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Sat Jul 14, 2012 2:27 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“Mistress,” Pyrklist said, plucking at Silva’s sleeve. She stopped, and the halfling bobbed his head.

“Your pardon, Mistress, but… when Pyrklist did not know which way to go, he asked of the Oracle stone. The Voice has never been wrong. Perhaps…. It knows where the Bhuradest is?”

Silva cocked her head.

“The stahlklist, that was among the tarlklints. In the Mistress’ pouch.”

The siren opened her belt pouch, picking about in it until she drew out the sapphire. It was quite large, irregularly cut, nearly the size of the stones adorning her bracers.

“Yes, that is the one,” Pyrklist nodded. “This one would hold it in his hands, as such.” He cupped his hands, as if to take a drink from a stream. “A gentle breath is all it takes, and then one asks of the stone what one will, and its Voice answers with the truth.” His brow wrinkled, slightly. “A strange thing, Mistress…. This one just now realized, the Voice in the stone, and that of the Mistress… they are—“

His words were lost as the air began to thrum, pressing against me like the waves of sound from a great silver bell.

Sliva had done as the halfling bid, and held the stone in her cupped hands, and breathed upon it. The gem flared to life in her hands, shining through her fingers, and bathing her pale face in a silvery-blue light, most of it seeming to gather in her eyes, turning them a bright and vibrant blue.

Wide as her eyes were, Silva’s expression was one of agony, not wonderment. She fell to her knees, and she voiced a scream that shook the mountains around us. The stone’s light flared with the sound, the thrumming rings’s pitch a perfect fifth chord with the girl’s cry. The light grew, expanding from the stone to surround the siren, and it was as if a whirlwind was contained within the column of light— her hair and cloak and down whipped and tossed as if under a great wind, though we felt nothing beyond the cold breeze of the mountains.

Pinpoints of silvery light spun and twisted around Silva, and as her cry went on, the lights brightened, churning and gathering before her, forming a hazy outline: Streamers of silvery light representing a flow of hair, a complex spin and twisting of motes outlining a familiar pattern of the silvery bracers, another tangle of sparkles appearing to be a gown’s hem, rippling as if caught in a breeze.

The concentration of lights and flashes traced a ghostly image of Silva’s own features, staring back at her over the intense blue-white light of the stone. A wispy hand reached forth, caressed Silva’s cheek, and the girl’s scream finally abated. The chaos of wind within the light began to subside. The sparkling image gave a wistful smile, then broke up. Silva drew in a deep breath, taking most of the dancing silvery, glittering motes with it.

The gem’s light winked out, and SIlva fell forward, on elbows and knees, her forehead nearly on the stony trail as she coughed and wheezed.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Sun Jul 15, 2012 3:18 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


The siren’s coughing grew less, and she gave a shudder, straightening up. Her hands uncurled, and she spent quite some time staring at her hands, turning them to one side and then the other. The bobbing of her hair indicated she was also regarding the bracers. She finally sat back, shaking her head, hands going to her temples, the motion also pushing her hair from her face. She finally drew a clear breath, and rose to her feet. She brushed at her gown, the motion slowing. She plucked at the front of the dress, rubbing the fabric between her fingers, then running her hands up and down the sleeves.

“Silva?” Ana asked. She’d kept a distance from the girl, her slender hands clenching and unclenching. “Are you all right? Are you hurt?”

“Hurt?” The word came oddly-inflected. It took me a moment to place the accent as Old Druidic. She laughed, the chuckle edged with a chill like that in the air. “I am well and whole. I breathe. I move!” She brought her arms up, palms upward, her head tilted back, face to the cloudy skies as she turned several circles. The chuckle grew to into a laugh, not icy, but a joyous, silvery sound. Her expression was radiant, the smile bright like the sun, up above the clouds.

Her smile faded, as she lowered her gaze. She glanced to her left and right, and her whole posture flowed into a guarded defense. She reached to her waist, hand closing over empty air where she expected to find a hilt of one sort or another.

“Where are the rest?” Her voice shook, touched with the tremble of an uncertain child. “Where are my sisters?” She flexed her hands, the stones at her wrists bursting to light as she spat “Chatya! Vakshi!” A wedge of darkness materialized in her right hand, trailing streamers of a smoky black vapor. In her left, a flame-wreathed spike of something white-hot appeared, and she flipped both to a reverse-guard, her arms crossed before her, the blades of shadow and flame between us.

“What have you done with my sisters?” she shouted. Above the tongues of darkness and flame, her eyes burned a brilliant and piercing blue.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Sat Jul 21, 2012 10:13 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


Bright, and blue, full of suspicion, but no recognition.

Silva kept herself in the close guard, the blades of flame and shadow at the ready. Her gaze shifted from face to face among us, then to the crags above, back to the group.

“Silva…” Ana began.

“I do not think that is our ‘Silva’ any more,” Demarra said.

Scree sifted and clattered, behind us, to the right and left. Leather helm after leather helm came into view from the rocks above.

“Well, now she’s done it.” Varis winced as he drew his sword, rotating his injured shoulder.

“You cannot mean to fight them all,” Ana said. She checked her grip on the haft of her scythe, just the same.

“Just the ones fool enough to get within sword’s reach,” the warrior muttered.

“I’ve only got a dozen arrows left,” Gilliam said. “That might take down two or three.”

I stopped counting after the fifth trio of helms appeared.

The shiver down my spine was at odds with the sudden wash of heat at my back. A roiling sphere of flame grew between Sera’s hands, expanding with each revolution, the flames going from dull orange to a brilliant yellow-orange.

I drove my staff into the ground at my feet, willing the strength from the mountains up the shaft, pulling it through my arms. It emerged as a globe of brown-tinged Druid’s fire in my other palm.

As one, we let fly the spheres of flame, Sera’s blossoming to twice its original size, engulfing the crag to our left with a dull, roaring boom. I caught the bigger of the three armored figures cresting the ledge off to the right. It was eerie, watching him spin, aflame, but making no move to beat out the flames or cry out in any sort of pain or surprise.

Gilliam buckled the knee of another of them with a well-placed arrow, sending the brass-clad warrior tumbling down the canyon wall.

Half a dozen of them leapt, landing in sprays of gravel and dust, rising slowly from falls that would have shattered legs of any normal armored troops.

Silva was engulfed in the billow of rock dust. Varis hefted his sword, and made to charge into the cloud, but Ana and Demarra hauled him back.

From within the cloud of dust there came brilliant blue-white flashes, along with streaks of orange-yellow, and the stench of burning flesh along with the acrid reek of a too-close lightning strikes.

More of the brass-scaled solders slid from the slopes above, arms coming up to strike even before their stances had stabilized.

I threw another globe of flame, catching a soldier full in the chest. It staggered, then resumed its advance. I ducked one stiff-armed swing, and caught another on my staff. I ducked, before Sera could even start to shout the warning, tucking my face into my arm as a sheet of flames fanned out from her hands above and behind me, catching the three advancing troopers full in the face. I rolled away, propelling myself backwards with the help of my staff as two of the crudely made swords crashed to the ground, the hands and arms wielding them ablaze and trailing greasy black smoke.

Ana stumbled backwards, the haft of her scythe the only thing keeping two of the soldiers from barreling over her. Gilliam planted two arrows in one of them, the shafts less than a thumb’s breadth from the young cleric’s own throat. As that soldier slowed, Ana used the difference in momentum to spin free, bringing the blade around into the back of the other, sending it to the ground in a gout of black ichor.

Varis lurched away from a soldier’s wild swing, then delivered a vicious kick to his attacker’s knee. As it toppled sideways, he took its head of with a two-handed swing, staggering back from the shower of greenish sparks, smoke, and black blood.

From the slowly settling cloud ahead of us, Silva gave a cry of surprise.

“Get clear of that dust!” Gilliam shouted.

There came a flurry of orange and blue flashes and streaks, and Silva emerged, fending off four hulking, dead-eyed orcs in the shining brass-scaled armor. The dust was plastered to one arm, red and glistening.

She danced back, blocking two strikes from overhead with crossed knives of flame and shadow. She was not quick enough to avoid the side-armed slash from a third attacker, and a red stain began spreading from her side.

Her cry of pain echoed from the peaks above. Varis, and then Gilliam charged forth, the smaller of the warriors dropping his bow and drawing his short swords on the run.
The cry rang on, even as Varis pulled Silva behind him.

It was no cry of pain, though, but fury. One of the ledges exploded in a flash of golden-green fire. A like-colored streak slammed into the rocks above another ledge, bringing a tumble of half-molten rock down on the soldiers readying to make a slide to the trail below.

Sera and I leapt clear of the falling rocks, coughing and choking on the new billow of dust and ash.

It didn’t last long, though. Two great beats, and the rock dust tossed and spun, then was wafted away, under the current from two great and shining gold-rimmed wings.
Aurora rose up from the rockfall, great wings protruding from her back, spread to steady her atop the jumble of stone. A long, snakelike tail protruded from the ruins of her gown, lashing to the left and right, further steadying her. She brought her arm up, the stones and bracers shining with molten red and gold light. Two great spines of spun and twisted gold rose from above and below her left wrist, and she held her right fingers to her cheek, a gossamer threading finer than her hair glimmering between her fingers.

A streamer of fire snaked from the stones at her wrist, twisting tighter and tighter until it looked to be a bolt of pure, condensed flame bridging the gap between her two right fingers, and the extended index finger of her left hand. A pulse of greenish light shot down the length of the fiery bolt, and the shrike released the arrow as its tip burst into green-gold flame.

Gilliam hauled on Varis’ cloak, the two men stumbling back and away, hitting the gravel as the bolt exploded amidst the group of soldiers.

We had to turn our eyes away from the searing light, and too late, we clutched hands to ears as the explosion rocked the trail. Had Sera or I not already been leaning on each other for support, we would have been knocked flat by the blast.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Sat Jul 21, 2012 10:47 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


Aurora’s fingers flexed, drawing the bow again, her other three fingers uncurling, letting fall a smoking, cracked and blistered stone. Her wings gave a twitch, her tail flicking the opposite direction as she corrected her aim. Another gleaming lance of condensed fire coiled into being, but this one was less intense than the last one she’d loosed, thinner, finer. Her golden eyes scanned the peaks above, and then the jumble of stones and bodies along the trail.

Slowly, she relaxed her draw, the arrow of flame sputtering and dissolving into a puff of green-tinged smoke.

Her wings gave one more beat, and then she leapt lightly to the trail behind us. Her feet slid out from under her as she landed, sending her to her hands and knees.

I watched her wings shiver and heave as she drew in deep, shuddering breaths.

“No!”

Silva’s icy command froze me in my tracks.

“Do not approach her. Do not touch her.”

The siren stepped past me, hunkering down less than an arm’s length from… whatever it was that Aurora had become.

“You are hurt,” the shrike wheezed.

Silva dabbed at her arm, staring at the blood slicking her fingers, blue eyes puzzled.

“It has never been red before,” she said.

“If you do not back away, it will turn black,” Aurora said.

“But it only does that for— Oh… “

Aurora extended her arm, and Silva rose, bumping into me as she backed away.

“I do not think I will last long enough to reach the snows,” Aurora said, staring over my shoulder, at the snow-shrouded peaks higher above us.

“Snows?” Ana asked.

“Look at the ground beneath her hands,” Gilliam said, pointing with one of his swords.

The stone was blackened, cracked and smoking where she’d touched it.

There was plenty of moisture in the air, in the heavy clouds overhead. I could coax snows, or at least rain from them, but it would take hours.

Silva reached into the pouch at her waist, bringing forth a clamor of silver and gold coins, and a clatter of gems. She reached in again, poking about until she came out with one of the emeralds Pyrklist had given her. She held it up in front of her, her eyes brightening as she focused on the stone.

It began to gleam, deep within, the greenish light touched with traces of gold. Veins began to gleam in the depths of the stone.

Aurora’s eyes widened, and she unwittingly crawled a bit closer, reaching towards the stone.

“Where did you get—“

A deluge of water from overhead choked off her question.

It pretty much drove the questions from my mind as well, as the sudden rain shower hammered down on us.

It did not help, the rain being very nearly freezing.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:43 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

Gilliam sneezed, sloshing the steaming contents of the clay cup over his knee.

“Now my breeches will stink of this,” he complained.

“Drink it,” Ana said. “That goes for all of you.” She grimaced as she took a sip from her own cup.

It smelled nearly as bad as the concoction Silva had to drink before we’d set out. Fortunately, after the first few sips, my tongue tingled so much that I didn’t notice the flavor all that much if I held my nose.

Gilliam gave the cleric a dark look, and extended it past her to me. “You had a hand in this as well,” he said.

My part had been coaxing a flame from the pitiful pile of kindling and and few branches from the scrub we’d been able to scrounge from the trail as Pyrklist guided us to shelter from the steadily growing winds.

“You would prefer to sleep in wet leathers? Freeze once the night sets in?” Sera asked. “I did not have to tie off the weaves keeping the fire alight. They can easily be unknotted.”

“I don’t think he is entirely serious,” Varis said to the girl, setting a hand over hers as she raised them to manipulate her weaving.

“This brew was known in my home village,” the weaver said. “Those who refused it always developed the cough soon after. Some of them did not recover from it. Those who drank of this always recovered.” She took a deep sip from her cup, grimacing and shivering. Through the bracelet, I felt the trickle of displeasure beneath the glow of her sense of pride at being able to stomach the stuff.

“It is not so bad,” Demarra said, giving her cup a swirl. “Perhaps a bit more mint, though.”

Pyrklist alone drank without complaint, usually every time Aurora asked of him where he’d found the blue and green stones we’d thought were sapphires and emeralds.
The twins both refused the cups that Ana had offered them, but the cleric did not complain when she saw the pale glimmering of the white dragonstones at wrist and neck.


Once she had recovered from the shock of the cold downpour, Aurora had leapt for her sister— amidst a plume of foul-smelling steam— slapping the stones from Silva’s hands.

I caught Silva as she stumbled back from the blow, saw the blue light fading from her eyes as they sagged shut and she went limp.

Aurora snatched up the stones, freezing the halfling in place with a brilliant golden-eyed glare as he made to reach for the gems as well.

“Shelter,” she rasped, the word made clumsily with a forked, golden tongue and still-pointed teeth. Pyrklist gave a wide-eyed nod, hurrying us along the trail.

Whether the wings and tail had dissolved amidst the water, or gone up in the plumes of steam that poured off the shrike, by the time we’d hiked a quarter mile, Aurora was back to her normal appearance, albeit pale and bedraggled. Her cloak and gown hung in tatters, but she refused to stop, and would not let any of us near her to shelter beneath our own cloaks. The red and white stones at her wrists turned the rain around her into a red-gold nimbus, as if lit by tiny, twin sunsets.

The clouds and mountaintops towering over us hid he true, approaching sunset. It merely grew darker, and as the light faded, the cold crept closer and closer.

Before the light edged completely out of the shallow canyon through which we traveled, Pyrklist gave a crow of triumph, jumping up and down in the gloom ahead, gesturing towards a dark spot in the rocks that proved to be a cave opening rather than shadow.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby Chimpman » Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:42 am

RobJN wrote:Sliva had done as the halfling bid, and held the stone in her cupped hands, and breathed upon it. The gem flared to life in her hands, shining through her fingers, and bathing her pale face in a silvery-blue light, most of it seeming to gather in her eyes, turning them a bright and vibrant blue.

Wide as her eyes were, Silva’s expression was one of agony, not wonderment. She fell to her knees, and she voiced a scream that shook the mountains around us. The stone’s light flared with the sound, the thrumming rings’s pitch a perfect fifth chord with the girl’s cry. The light grew, expanding from the stone to surround the siren, and it was as if a whirlwind was contained within the column of light— her hair and cloak and down whipped and tossed as if under a great wind, though we felt nothing beyond the cold breeze of the mountains.

So these are the blue dragonstones in action huh? :D It seems like somehow the dwarves have captured some essence of Silva/Rowena's Progeny. Am I interpreting that correctly?

RobJN wrote:Whether the wings and tail had dissolved amidst the water, or gone up in the plumes of steam that poured off the shrike, by the time we’d hiked a quarter mile, Aurora was back to her normal appearance, albeit pale and bedraggled. Her cloak and gown hung in tatters, but she refused to stop, and would not let any of us near her to shelter beneath our own cloaks. The red and white stones at her wrists turned the rain around her into a red-gold nimbus, as if lit by tiny, twin sunsets.

:o What's going on here with Aurora's change? Is this the manifestation of the taint on magic finally taking effect? I thought that Silva was the one in danger of going through this, and not Aurora.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:51 am

Chimpman wrote:
RobJN wrote:Sliva had done as the halfling bid, and held the stone in her cupped hands, and breathed upon it. The gem flared to life in her hands, shining through her fingers, and bathing her pale face in a silvery-blue light, most of it seeming to gather in her eyes, turning them a bright and vibrant blue.

Wide as her eyes were, Silva’s expression was one of agony, not wonderment. She fell to her knees, and she voiced a scream that shook the mountains around us. The stone’s light flared with the sound, the thrumming rings’s pitch a perfect fifth chord with the girl’s cry. The light grew, expanding from the stone to surround the siren, and it was as if a whirlwind was contained within the column of light— her hair and cloak and down whipped and tossed as if under a great wind, though we felt nothing beyond the cold breeze of the mountains.

So these are the blue dragonstones in action huh? :D It seems like somehow the dwarves have captured some essence of Silva/Rowena's Progeny. Am I interpreting that correctly?

More or less, yes ;) Aurora will be explaining this in upcoming segments.

Chimpman wrote:
RobJN wrote:Whether the wings and tail had dissolved amidst the water, or gone up in the plumes of steam that poured off the shrike, by the time we’d hiked a quarter mile, Aurora was back to her normal appearance, albeit pale and bedraggled. Her cloak and gown hung in tatters, but she refused to stop, and would not let any of us near her to shelter beneath our own cloaks. The red and white stones at her wrists turned the rain around her into a red-gold nimbus, as if lit by tiny, twin sunsets.

:o What's going on here with Aurora's change? Is this the manifestation of the taint on magic finally taking effect? I thought that Silva was the one in danger of going through this, and not Aurora.

When a Progenitor is in danger, the Tenser seals automatically unlock on all functional Progeny within a five mile radius. A bit like kicking the hornet's nest. Dragon-hornets, that is:

It is not gold or silver or platinum metal that make up the bracers, but dragon's blood, the powers of which one of the Progeny can call on in times of great need... :twisted:
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Thu Aug 02, 2012 10:35 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues....


“Shhh!”

Aurora’s warning hiss quieted the already low murmur of our conversation around the sputtering fire. A gleam of red-gold light from her wrists banked the fire down to a dull red glimmer among the meager branches and brambles.

Her golden eyes narrowed, and the dark stones above the red gave off deep glimmers of purple light. Silva’s pale hand closed over her sister’s wrist.

“Nieah. Itahmi zreya.” A touch of purple swirled through Silva’s eyes. It was difficult to tell if they reflected the light from the black stone on her right gauntlet.
The somewhat brighter darkness visible through the cave’s entrance swam, and then deepened.

From beyond the Veiled opening, we finally heard what had prompted Aurora’s reaction: steady, cadenced steps; the tromp of many boots on the gravel-strewn path. The steps slowed, then stopped.

Varis and Gilliam’s hands went to their sword hilts, but Aurora gave them a stern shake of her head.

“I thought for a moment…” came one voice, the words sounding like chiseled granite — all sharp corners and hard inflections of a nearly archaic dialect of Rockhome dwarven.

“We pay you to track, not to think. Did he go this way or not?” This other voice was deeper, a rumbling bur underlying the consonants. It, too, spoke the Old Dwarvish.

“Of course they did, Dulgardar.”

“‘They.’ You are certain he brings others with him?”

“One slave, even if he is a shadow-keeper, could not have bested so many of the Torenwhyr.”

Torenwhyr missing their kurdenklist. The Karrnath will not tolerate this. You will find this thief, and his allies, or you will be joining the ranks of the Torenwhyr.”

“If they were able to best Torenwhyr, Dulgardar, are you sure you wish to find these intruders?”

We heard the sound of a mailed fist against flesh.

“You question my bravery?”

“No, Dulgardar, of course not. Its just—”

When the second voice did not interrupt, the first continued:

“What if one of those with the shadow-keeper is as the Oracle stone said?”

“I certainly hope she is with him, then,” the other voice said, and I could hear the smile in it. “I should very much like to present the Karrnath with another alabaster trophy for his garden.”
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby Chimpman » Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:09 am

:twisted: Yes! The part I've been waiting for!
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:59 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


The tromp of many boots and voices faded.

“What now?” Varis asked.

“That sounded like quite a few pairs of boots,” Gilliam said. “Twenty pair, at least.”

“Twenty-seven,” Demarra said.

“Four of them for every one of us,” Gilliam said. He chewed at his nail.

“It takes two of us just to take one of those… things down,” Ana said. “You want to take on dozens of them?”

“I didn’t say I wanted to,” the warrior said. “But they’re going to be ahead of us now. If they turn around, or if we don’t keep enough distance between us, it’s a matter of need, not want.”

“What about restraining some of them?” Varis asked.

Ana shook her head. “As powerful as they are, the spell could probably hold one of them in place. But not for very long.”

Sera nodded her head. “It would take all of my Power to pin just one of them with bonds of air.”

“So we have to rely on muscle and steel,” Varis said, wincing as he rotated his injured shoulder.

The twins had not been silent, but argued back and forth in harsh whispers. Aurora stood up, stalked away from her sister, snatching her arm away as Silva made a grab for it.

“There is a way. Two ways,” the shrike said. She glanced down at her hand, in which she turned the gold-veined green stone over and over.

“Nieah!” Silva cried. “I do not allow it.”

Aurora turned back to her sister. “You would prefer that I throw you into that pack of soulless and simply allow the seals to release again?”

“I do not allow that, either,” Silva said.

“What, then, will you allow?”

Silva stared at her sister, hands clenched. Her lower lip quivered.

Aurora stepped closer. “We need the General right now. Do not think with your soft half-human heart. Remember Trolltop?”

A smile slowly bloomed between the sisters. Then Silva again fell into a pout.

“You know I do not like to run.”

“Now you are just being lazy,” Aurora chided.

Silva gave a sigh, her shoulders slumping. “Let it be as you say, then. It is safest, for them.” She gestured towards the rest of us, but her gaze did not leave her sister.

“It is a price I must pay,” Aurora said. “As you said, I must remember what it is that I am.”
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:57 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...



“Thorn, take another step to your left,” Aurora said. She walked behind us, treading a circular path, her fingers moving as she counted paces.

I did as she instructed, moving closer to Gilliam. We stood as a group in the widest part of the mountain trail outside the cave. Aurora was arranging us in some sort of pattern, behind our one remaining mule, the bridle of which Silva held, rubbing the beast’s nose.

Demarra and Ana stood ahead of Gilliam and I, and Varis shifted in place behind us, Sera beside him, still collared to my wrist. She argued against my removing the bracelet, and I finally gave up — the heat of her mood radiating from the connection was making my entire arm itch and tingle.

The halfling sat atop the mule, his amethyst eyes set on the trail ahead of us.

“Back a step,” Aurora murmured, tugging on Varis’ cloak.

“You don’t have to pull so hard,” he said, staggering back.

“I would like to get underway before the moon sets,” she snapped. “Half a step forward, now.”

The warrior sighed, but moved before she could give him a push. Though she didn’t make a sound, I felt Sera’s mirth through the bracelet, and heard the faintest of echoes of her giggle from the corner of my mind that her presence occupied.

I turned at the sound of metal on stone, and saw the shrike dragging her dagger through the rocks, scraping out the circle she’d been pacing. It was perhaps ten paces, from one side to the other, and encircled our entire group. She’d left a wide gap in the center, into which she carefully made her way after she returned to her circle’s starting point.

She glanced over one shoulder, and then the other, nodded slightly, as if to herself, and then she fished the green dragonstone from her belt pouch. She stared at it intently, and then glanced over it, to the halfling atop the mule.

“We will discuss where you got this and the blue stone at great length when we arrive.”

Pyrklist swallowed, and looked as if he wished to climb into one of the many sacks tied across the pack mule’s harnessing. “Y-yes, mistress,” he croaked, bobbing his head.

“Be ready, Agragjha,” Aurora said, and Silva stuck her tongue out over her shoulder.

The shrike held out her arm, the stone clenched in her hand, and brought the dagger up along one of the grooves in the bracer.

“Wait,” Silva said.

Aurora glowered at her twin. “I will need the light to navigate,” she said, darting a golden-eyed glance to the quarter moon overhead.

“If we are to do this, then I will pay the price.” Silva held her hand out.

“You cannot!” Aurora hissed. “It is forbidden!”

“We can go farther, yes?”

Aurora bit her lip. But she nodded, reluctantly.

“Which of us has the stronger blood?”

Aurora’s lips pressed into a thin line.

“And which of us can afford the years?”

Aurora glared at her sister.

“Time embraces the Progeny, yes? Do you have the years to spend for this?“

“I am willing to—,” Aurora started.

Silva held her arm up in front of the shrike, catching the moonlight on her bracer. “These do not shackle me, as they do the others, Anuja. I still exist outside of Time. You do not.”

She plucked the knife from her sister’s hand, bringing the blade across her palm. She clenched her fist, and extended her index finger, pressing the smear of blood to Aurora’s lips. She then moved to each of us, tracing a rune of some sort upon our foreheads. When she’d marked the last of us, she returned to her place before Aurora, and let several drops of blood patter across the stone in the shrike’s hand.

“Now,” she said, handing the dagger back.

Aurora lifted the stone, and whispered a word: “Tvaritas”

The rune upon my brow stung, then burned, and then that burning flowed through me, into my arms and legs and feet.

“Stay apace with me or you will be left behind,” Aurora said, and then she leapt forward at a run.
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle] Masks of Dreaming Night

Postby RobJN » Sat Aug 11, 2012 7:33 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


It seemed that the world passed beneath our feet too quickly, even faster than a blink of an eye. All too soon, the troop of brass-clad soldiers came into view, around a corner that should have taken us a good twenty minutes of hiking to reach.

“Between them, but do not touch them!” Aurora shouted, and Silva and the mule dashed between the ranks, followed by Demarra and Ana.

If they even saw us, I had no way of knowing. The soldiers did not react, just kept their dead-eyed, stiff-legged march. Four strides, and we were through the ten files of soldiers. Ahead, the twins gave a short cry, and their black dragonstones burst alight. The golden haze surrounding us shimmered into a muted, watery gray, the moonlight diminishing as if it were but a mere sliver.

Two short, broad-shouldered figures flashed by, but I dared not glance backwards— to stumble here would mean capture, or worse.

Pyrklist pointed, another half-dozen strides further along, towards the righthand fork in the canyon’s trail, and we veered that direction, the muted crunching of gravel beneath our feet accented by the harsh gasping for breath.

“Here!” the halfling called out, and only then did Aurora signal us to slow our pace. We’d rounded another bend in the trail before everybody slowed and finally halted.

“Do you— suppose — you could— tell us — what that was now?” Ana panted.

I glanced up, frowning. The moon should have sunk well below the ridge of the mountains above, yet it looked as if it barely touched the peaks.

“That cannot be right,” I said.

Silva smiled at her sister. “I did say it, that it would make much longer.”

Aurora huffed, and crossed her arms.

“That was your plan? To simply run past the hunting party? To get ahead of them?” Gilliam asked.

”It was that or don their armor and follow behind,” Aurora said.

Ana wrinkled her nose.

“They might wonder about so short a trooper” Gilliam said, with a nod towards the twins and the halfling

“If we have to deal with them now,” Aurora continued, “we can face those at the head of the column, rather than rank after rank of their automata.”

“Those looked to be dwarves,” Varis said. “Don’t see too many in these parts with hair or beards that dark.”

“All of the Tarsfotar are colored as such,” Pyrklist said.

“There is something… not-right… in them,” Silva said, with the slightest of shudders. “Their thoughts did not feel the same as Kuric and Durin.”

Aurora gave a derisive sniff, but kept her silence. Instead, she turned to the halfling.

“How much further until we reach these mines of yours?”

“Not far,” Pyrklist said. “We can reach one of the tunnels before the moon crosses the peaks.”

And with that, we were off again, the halfling pointing the way from the back of the pack mule. Silva led the beast, and Aurora was no more than a pace away. Gilliam and Varis took rearguard, hands never far from the hilts of their swords, the weapons half-drawn at every stray sound in the deepening night.

Pyrklist’s guess was correct, for we still had Matera’s light to pick out the half-dead scrub partially obscuring a deeper darkness in the rocks.

“Wait,” I warned, as Aurora made to pull the brambles aside.

“Stranglethorn,” she said, drawing her hand back. She glanced up at the halfling. “And you were content to just let us press right past it?”

“This one does not—“ Pyrlkist started. “Mistresses, please. They have those Pyrklist holds closest to his heart. This one… does not wish them harmed. There are not many of us left.”

“You may as well drop the pretense,” came the deep voice of the Dulgardar. The stones around us wavered, and then the edges melted away as broad-shouldered forms stepped apart from the mountainside. Matera’s light glinted off edges of brass and steel, revealed a dark beard shot with gray, the other shorter figure sporting a beard so black as to be nearly purple in the moonlight.

“Melrask, you owe me a pouch of garnet sand,” the taller, iron-bearded figure said.

“Take it from Egred,” Pyrklist said, from the back of the mule. But the halfling was no longer there. Instead, there hunched a third broad figure, his voice a rasping tumble of sand upon shale. Gold glinted from thick fingers which still clutched the harnesses. “I bet him the same that we’d snarl these fools in the bloodbriars.” He spat. “The Oracle stone said nothing of a Druid amongst them.”
Rob
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