Tales of the Companions Story Hour

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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Tue May 24, 2011 1:11 am

Bactra woke up on the beach with Thessa standing over him. She looked worried. He didn't know why until he tried to move.

"Don't even think about it." She was dabbing something on his shoulder. "You're lucky you didn't cook yourself. What were you thinking casting that spell near so much water?"

"It seemed like a good idea at the time." Bactra’s sight was less blurry, and he could see Dabuk and Mesik standing over him. "Hi cousin, what happened to the other lacedons?"

"Jeddar and I destroyed them with some help from our expert healer here. You should have seen it. We had to back off from the fight after Salisan got hurt. No, don't worry. He's fine. They paralyzed him, and he fell over in the water causing them to wash towards the shore. Dvalin and Rikin were there to protect Thessa but she hardly needed it. She cast some sort of spell that turned them to dust. Pretty impressive really."

"Actually, I was channeling Baervan's essence through me. Not casting a spell. I believe the term humans use is turning."

"Whatever," Mesik was looking at Thessa like a lovesick puppy. "It was really amazing!"

"I'm sorry I missed it." Bactra would have to break it to Mesik that Thessa was interested in someone else. It was something that slipped back into his mind during the ritual.

The gnome priestess was blushing from all the attention, however. "I-it's really not that big a deal. Most clerics can turn the undead."

"She's being modest again, is she." Dvalin appeared right above Bactra looking down at his burns and scars. The elven wizard was to tired to move let alone be startled by the dwarf’s sudden appearance. "Don't you believe a word of it, lad. She saved your life and probably Salisan's as well."

I looked at Thessa who was now bright crimson. She was trying not to look at Dvalin.

"So what now? Are we going to explore the ship?"

"Sorry cousin, we already did that. There wasn't anything in the hold or in any of the cabins." Dabuk looked disappointed.

Bactra couldn't help but be disappointed as well. "Nothing?"

"Nothing," Dvalin sighed shaking his head. "Not even a copper to be found."

"Salisan's tearing the ship apart as we speak." Dabuk motioned towards the water. Indeed Salisan was stripping away old rotting boards from the ship. It looked like the skeleton of some huge dead sea-beast.

Then something caught Bactra’s eye as it shimmered in the light of the setting sun. "Okay, what is that then?"

"What is what?" Dvalin peered out towards the water. "I don't see anything."

"Up there," Bactra pointed to the object, which was embedded into the top of the mast near the crow's nest. "It looks like something made of metal is sticking out of the mast."

"I'll be Larea's lapdog, he's right!" Mesik pointed to it as well.

"It looks like some sort of spear." Dabuk stepped toward the shore just as Salisan stripped away the last of the hull's boards.

"Oh, oh." Jeddar had been standing next to Dvalin all this time but I hadn't noticed him. "Salisan said he was going to collapse the ship once he stripped it."

"Salisan!" Mesik ran towards the water yelling out to the reef giant. "Don't collapse it yet."

"WHAT?" The reef giant's voice boomed across the water.

"Don't collapse it yet!" They all yelled it in unison.

"YES, I'm going to collapse it right now."

"No!" Everyone screamed.

Salisan scratched his head confused. He came closer to shore where the water barely reached his knees.

"All right," He didn't look happy. "What by Aegir's Beard are you all screaming about?"

"Look there!" Dabuk pointed at the spear.

"Oh-"

"Can you get me up there?" Dabuk asked.

"Not a problem, friend Dabuk."

Salisan carried Dabuk over the water towards the ship. He steadied himself so that Dabuk could climb onto the upper deck, which still had most of its floorboards. Soon Dabuk was pulling himself up the mast towards the spear. He reached it with some difficulty and began trying to pull it out of the wood. It didn't look like it wanted to budge.

"It doesn't like him." Mesik was grinning like a cat.

"Give him a minute." Jeddar shaded his eyes from the setting sun trying to see if Dabuk was making any progress. "It's obviously been stuck there a very long time."

"Indeed." Dvalin stood next to his friend trying to see the half-elven ranger as well. The wind was picking up, which didn't seem to be helping the situation any. The air was becoming chilled and several storm clouds could be seen on the horizon. "He better hurry up. It's going to get nasty out here in a minute."

"Oh damn," Bactra could have smacked himself for not thinking of it earlier. "What if that thing is stuck there for some reason? Tell him to stop!"

"What," Mesik put his hand on my forehead. "Are you sure you’re right? It could be magical."

"Exactly," Bactra had seen storms appear out of nowhere before. It didn't happen like this one was. The thunderclouds were already on them but there hadn't been any thunderclaps or lightning in the distance. There also wasn't any rain. "Tell him to stop. This storm isn't natural."

"To late," Rikin pointed as Dabuk pulled the spear from the mast nearly falling.

The ground began to shake violently and the water churned crashing against the shore. Red-tinged lightning streaked through the sky from thunderhead to thunderhead. The clouds seemed to glow with internal fire.

"Okay, I'm beginning to believe you." Dvalin stared at the sky in horror. "What have we done?"

Dabuk and Salisan were still out in the water. Salisan was trying to keep the ship upright while Dabuk fought his way down the mast. A lightning bolt streaked down from the sky shattering the mast sending Dabuk into the water below.

"DABUK!" Salisan searched for the half-elf in the churning water for what felt like hours. Then he submerged himself completely for several minutes coming back up with Dabuk in his arms.

The spear was still in the ranger’s hand.

Salisan waded back toward the shore just as another magical lightning strike turned the shipwreck into ashes. Then the ground exploded around them. A huge crater showed the remains of a large meteorite five feet to the left of the group. Bactra looked up to see that the sky was filled with them.

“Oh crap,” Mesik cursed their luck.

The next meteorite landed right in front of him knocking him backward through the air. They all started scrambling out of the way as dozens more impacted the earth and the water off shore. The sound was deafening.

Magical lightning continued to strike where Salisan had been standing only a moment before. Bactra motioned for Dabuk to throw the spear away, but his cousin couldn't hear him.

Mesik pulled himself off the ground; he staggered towards the water, confused. Jeddar sprinted towards him and pulled the halfling out of the way just before another meteorite would have crushed him.

Then they heard the voice.

"I am the servant of the God of Slaughter. Hear my curse upon thee. You have defiled my resting place and a holy relic of Erythnul. You shall pay for you're misdeeds. Erythnul shall smite thee."

Bactra had never been more afraid in his life.

They ran for their lives. They ran for hours through the darkness as the sun set. They didn't stop running until the storms dissipated and all was quiet. All collapsed in exhaustion when the waters of the Karmine Sea had finally calmed to a shear glass.
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Tue May 24, 2011 1:17 am

Interlude #2

The Tiger Guild in Fruen:
Garth Tigerstorm walked through the halls of the Tiger Guild towards his father's chambers. Carl had sent for him but the envoy hadn't said why. All he knew was that his father considered it imperative.

"It had better be." Garth wasn't one of his father's mercenaries or spies. In fact, he went to great lengths to distance himself from his father's guild. Not that he didn't care about the old man.

Tallos walked along side the large man known as the Justiciar. Garth didn't like him. But then again no one really liked Tallos. But Garth really didn't like him. He was everything that was wrong with his father's guild.

Garth had known this man since when he was child. Carl and Tallos had done everything together in their youth. When his father had married and moved to Fruen, Tallos had agreed to come with the family. Garth hadn't liked him then either.

The two men rounded the corner where a guild guardsman stood on duty. He had known they were coming and stepped aside. It was a good thing too. Garth wouldn't stand for ceremony when it came to his father.

He unlatched the double door pushing both open in towards his father's spartan quarters. At least that was something they agreed on. Gaudy furnishings made Tigerstorm men sick to their stomach.

"All right father," Garth glared at his father. "What was so important that you had to send a envoy all the way to Ciros during a war?"

Then he noticed his father wasn't alone. A beautiful young woman with flowing golden hair sat across from Carl. Her eyes stared at him intently. She was dress all in black and looked like a student of the Forbidden Arts.

Then he looked more closely. It couldn't be.

"D-Dawn?" His heart sank. It couldn't be. Dawn Almondsky was dead. She had been lost during the Second Ogre War.

"No," The young woman tossed her hair. "I am her daughter, Crystal. And you are Garth Tigerstorm. My father."

Garth was speechless. His mind searched for the truth. It had been over forty years ago since he lost Dawn — the first great love of his life. Could she still be alive? Garth had always hoped. His heart quickened at the thought of seeing her again.

"Tell me," Garth sat down next to her. "Is she still alive?"

Crystal pulled back from the man. She had hoped he'd care about her and that he'd really loved her mother. She could see that he'd loved her deeply.

"N-no," Crystal folded her arms over her lap. "She died during my birth. I never knew her."

Garth felt his heart sink back into despair. No. She had lived but not long enough for him to find her again. He had lost her a second time.

"How old are you?" His tone was steady. Level.

"Thirty-one," Crystal didn't like his tone. "Why do you ask?"

She held her breath.

"It has been over forty years since I last saw your mother; there isn't anyway I can be your father. I am sorry."

"No!" Crystal screamed in rage. "I don't believe you! You're lying!"

"I am the Justiciar." Garth stood staring coldly at the young woman. He was larger than life to most people but she glared right back at him. "I do not lie."

Crystal threw herself at him ready to pummel him. How dare he lie to her? She knew in her heart who she was. She was a Tigerstorm. It screamed inside her.

Garth caught her wrists in his hands. His stare didn't waver. Didn't allow for any appeal. Crystal began sobbing. She was heart-broken. The one person she'd hoped would love her unconditionally had rejected her. Garth let her go and she ran from the room in tears.

"You could have been a little more diplomatic, son." Carl sighed.

"That's not who I am, father. I am the Justiciar. I am not diplomatic, unless war is involved or treaties are to be signed."

"Are you sure she isn't your daughter. After all, she has your temperament?" Carl questioned.

"Positive."

"A pity." Carl stood up from his wooden chair waving Tallos out of the room. The seneschal had watched the entire debacle unfold. He went to find Crystal. "I was really beginning to like that girl."

"She's a necromancer, father. She's evil."

"Bah! What is evil? One's profession doesn't make one evil. One's actions do."

"You would know better than anyone, father." Garth turned and calmly walked out of the room without waiting for his father to respond.

Carl sighed. It was always the same between them.
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Tue May 24, 2011 1:21 am

Back to the North

Somewhere on the eastern coast of Harqual. Dawn:
Bactra awoke from unconsciousness with a splitting headache. It felt like he had had everything to drink in the cellar of the Middle Well Inn in a single night. He wasn't enjoying the sunrise at all, and he covered his eyes.

"Ow," Mesik laid several feet away from him. "What hit me?"

He sat up and there in front of the hairfoot was the spear sticking in the ground, point first.

"Oh ya," Mesik rubbed his head. "Now I remember. For a second I thought I was dead."

"No," Dabuk was sitting cross-legged staring intently at the spear. "You haven't gone to meet Lord Hades yet." Obviously Dabuk had been awake for some time now. Bactra wondered if he had even tried to wake them. He probably had enjoyed the silence.

"I realized that when I discovered I hurt all over." Mesik tried to sit up without success.

Bactra sat up, which made his head spin. Everyone was there. And everyone else was still exhausted from the night before. Somewhere he could hear Dvalin snoring.

"Damn," Bactra squinted at his cousin through the light of dawn. "Can you go roll him over."

"I have a better idea." Dabuk grinned.

Dabuk reached behind his back picking up the cooking pot Mesik always carried strapped to his backpack. Then he picked up the large cooking spoon the elven wizard hadn't noticed laying next to him.

"You wouldn't dare!" Mesik tried to get to his feet but slumped over laughing. "Okay, but let me cover my ears first."

Bactra covered his ears, burying his head in his cloak, just as Dabuk started banging the spoon on the metal pot over and over again. The noise could have woken the dead.

Everyone was soon awake.

"You bastard," Dvalin was trying to crawl across the sand. "I'm going to kill you!"

Dabuk kept banging the pot, laughing.

Everyone was pissed off to say the least. Rikin and Jeddar tackled Dabuk who continued laughing his head off. Dvalin had to pull them off his friend so they didn't kill him. Then he proceeded to whack Dabuk on the head with the spoon several times.

"Is he always like this?" Thessa looked ragged.

"Yes." Bactra slumped back down onto the ground closing his eyes.

* * *
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Tue May 24, 2011 1:31 am

Several hours passed. Everyone lied there uwilling to look at it. It was on all their minds but no one was willing to start the conversation.

"So what do we do with it?" Jeddar was an unlikely choice to speak first.

"Throw in the sea. Good riddance I say." Dvalin was using the pot as a pillow.

"I don't think that's a good idea. Who knows what evil enchantments it has on it. It could turn the waters foul. Better to just bury it in the desert somewhere and hope no one finds it."

"Sure, that's a much better idea. Until some jealous desert elf uncovers it and uses it to overthrow the Lord Protector." Mesik had his back to the spear sitting near the shore. He was throwing pebbles into the sea.

"We could take to the Lord Protector. He'd know what to do with it." Bactra just didn't want it to be buried somewhere. It was a relic, even if it was unholy.

"That would take way too much time." Dabuk stood up walking over to where the spear was stuck in the sand. "We have to take it with us."

Rikin was on his feet quicker than my weary eyes could follow. He blocked Dabuk's advance towards the weapon. "You are crazy! No one will touch that thing! It is a unholy relic of-"

"Don't say his name!" Mesik was shaking in fear. "The last thing we need is to draw his attention to us again."

"Aye, brother. Be careful. Don't forget the curse the dead man's spirit mentioned." Dvalin spoke without moving.

"How could I forget."

None of them wanted to even think his name.

"So what do we do?" Jeddar was still lying down his eyes closed. "Salisan, Thessa, what do you two think?"

"It's obviously evil. It might even be able to possess someone. We should destroy it."

“Destroy it?” Dabuk seemed unsure but nodded his head.

Bactra wouldn't let them do that. There was so little magic of this power left in the land. Who knows what destroying it could do to upset the Balance?

"I think that is best, friend." Salisan saw the look on my face. "But I don't think everyone agrees. Bactra?"

"I won't help destroy a relic, regardless of whether is it evil or not. The Balance would suffer and so would the world." Bactra replied.

"The Balance!" Rikin was red with rage. "You're worried about the bloody Balance! This thing goes against everything life stands for! It will be destroyed. I swear it!"

Rikin unstrapped his axe holding it towards Bactra. Dabuk stepped to protect his cousin. He grinned at the angry dwarf, disturbingly.

"Stop it!" Dvalin had been watching from where he was sitting. The instant Rikin had unstrapped his axe Dvalin had gotten to his feet. He strode between the two warriors staring first at Dabuk who nodded and Rikin who remained defiant. "My friends will not threaten each other. Hold your rage Rikin and put down your axe."

"No!" Rikin looked like he felt trapped.

"You test my patience, brother." Dvalin stood as to challenge his adopted brother. "Remember who is the elder in our clan!"

Things were getting out of hand. Someone had to do something. Bactra moved with lightning speed. He picked the spear out of the sand with one hand leveling it to throw it into the sea. Better it be lost than destroyed.

"Bactra, don't!" Dabuk tried to stop him but he was too late. The elven wizard threw the spear as hard as he could.

"There. Now that's the end of it!" Bactra yelled.

Mesik stood up near the shore watching the spear arch high through the air. Then the strangest thing happened. The spear transformed into a bolt of red-tinged lightning streaking through the air with a loud thunderclap. It arched hitting the water. Then Bactra felt something in his hand.

He raised his hand with the spear in it. He quickly dropped it. Fear soaked through him.

"Oh man," Mesik turned looking at Bactra. "Now that thing is powerful. The water is actually on fire."

They all looked towards the sea where flames did indeed dance upon the water. Bactra felt a cold shiver run through him. It was fear, no doubt, as well as exhilaration.

"Okay," Dabuk pushed his cousin aside kicking the spear away from where they stood. "Don't do that again!"

Bactra barely felt his cousin push him aside. Everything was foggy. All the elven wizard wanted to do was hold it again. Fear. Exhilaration. Power. He had to have it!

“Bactra! Snap out of it!” Dabuk started shaking the elf. “No one else touch it!”

“Yes, no one else.” Bactra spoke the words without realizing the meaning.

Dabuk backhanded Bactra across the face. The haziness cleared. Then the elven wizard realized what had happened.

"Rillifane, protect me." Bactra whispered.

"Aye," Dvalin was staring at the spear with fear. "May he protect us all."

"I hate to say it cousin, but we need to destroy it. No one should have that much power."

“I-I understand.” Bactra looked at the spear. “N-no, we can't.”

“Bactra.” Dabuk was ready to hit his cousin again.

“No, you don't understand. It's a relic, an artifact. Nothing we can do will destroy it. Not even Salisan could damage it. Only the Elders in the Knotwood might know how to do it.”

“We can't take it with us. You felt what it did to you. No one can touch it.”

“No, that's not how the spear’s magic works. Well, not unless it is intelligent, but I don’t think it is. Unless someone actually uses it all they'll feel is some discomfort. And if we can wrap it in something thick then no one has to really touch it. Definitely, you don't want to throw it.”

"I don't know." Thessa put her hand out towards the unholy relic. "I can feel it's evil from here."

"Of course," Bactra’s head slowly cleared. "You would be hurt if you touched it. It would probably burn your skin right off. Rikin, Dvalin, and Salisan as well."

"And what about the rest of you?" Rikin was eying Bactra with suspicion. "Surely, it would hurt you just as much."

"Actually," Dabuk grinned. "Bactra's right. It wouldn't hurt him, Mesik, or me. Just some slight discomfort."

"Don't look at me." Mesik waved his hands in front of him. "I'm not carrying it."

"I know," Dabuk looked at the spear. "And I definitely can't be trusted to carry it. I'm the most likely to succumb to its evil nature."

"Really?" Rikin's tone was filled with ice.

Dabuk turned, glaring at the dwarf. "Yes."

"So that means Bactra has to carry it." Thessa looked concerned for my welfare.

"Yes." Dabuk looked back towards the spear then towards his cousin. He looked worried. They all looked worried.

"Hey, don't worry. As long as it is wrapped tight, and I don't touch it I won't be tempted. Trust me."

No one said a word.

* * *
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Tue May 24, 2011 1:36 am

The spear laid tightly wrapped in Dabuk's wool blanket in front of Bactra. Several cloth strips had been used to secure the spear inside the blanket. Dabuk had torn them off of the bottom of his cloak, which he would now need to replace. Not that he had really cared. His cloak was old and he needed a new one anyway.

No one could have figured out what was wrapped inside the blanket from a casual inspection. Dabuk was tying an extra leather strap, he always carried, to the ends of the bundle. He lifted the strap testing the knots to make sure it would hold. It seemed to be fine.

Bactra had his cloak off so he could slip it over his back, which he did after Dabuk handed it to him. Then the elven wizard re-clasped the cloak around his neck shifting it over so that it wouldn't get caught on the bundled spear. He felt the bundle against his back but nothing else. No magical charm pushed against his mind. It would be fine for now.

"Okay," Bactra noticed that everyone was waiting for him to either say something or jump out of his skin. "It's a little uncomfortable against my back but other than that I don't feel anything."

"I don't know." Rikin had calmed down. "It's quite the risk you're taking. Are you sure you're fine with this?"

"I'll live." Bactra smiled trying to assure the dwarf he was fine. "Besides, we don't have any other choice. I will take it to the Knotwood and present it to the Elders so they can determine the best way to destroy it."

Of course that was a lie.

Bactra still wouldn't let the spear be destroyed, but they didn't need to know that. Magic had become more rare in the last few decades. Besides, there were those that would consider destroying a relic of any kind a crime against magic. The arcanists of Mathghamhna, in the city of Fruen, would have him found and executed if they learned he had allowed the spear to be destroyed. Angering the Arcane Order was not something Bactra would ever do.

"Fine then, but I'll be watching you." Rikin was serious. Of that Bactra had no doubt. He'd have to be careful around him from now on.

No one else said a thing as they all gathered their gear together. Both Rikin and Dvalin insisted on putting on their armor again. It wasn't as hot but it would still be uncomfortable. Bactra didn’t understand dwarves sometimes.

Dabuk's armor had dried out. It wasn't as sturdy as before — the salt water ruined the leather. He could only salvage the section for his torso. He'd have to replace it as well as his cloak.

Soon everyone was ready to go and Dabuk lead the way. Bactra couldn't wait to get back to the Knotwood and tell his sister, Teal, of his adventures in the south.

* * *
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Sat May 28, 2011 5:12 am

From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus

Northeast of the Thunder Mountains:
Several quiet, uneventful days of travel had been a blessing by Baervan. I said a prayer of thanks to Rillifane as well. We reached the gap between the Sunus and Thunder mountain ranges and stopped for the night just on the edge of the lands known as the Barony of Wolffire.

The barony was new to the Eastern Shores. Existing only since the end of the Second Ogre War. The Baron was a barbarian who original came from somewhere north of the Greystone Mountains. He had built this his new barony out of the wild lands south of Stonn and the Barony of Wolffire had soon joined the Eastern Council. And while the capital city was nearby, most of the barony's people lived on Farion Island, a large island that stretched from near the Jagged Peninsula to the Sunus Mountains.

This is what I knew to be true through my studies.

The truth was that description of Farion Island didn't do it justice, for I learned from Salisan that the island stretched even further to the south and to the east. He knew this from his dealings with the few northern traders who dared the Karmine Sea and the pirates there.

He also told me about another island, as large as Farion, that was to the southeast. He was told by a sea captain that the island was called Thyer and was said to be either haunted or dominated by all sort of strange fey creatures.

He had never heard of the Kingdom of Navirosov on the Island of Calla far to the north, however. Even farther north then the city of Fruen. He also didn't know much about Thallin, which wasn't a surprise. Thallin traders rarely went further south than the port city of Avere on the southern coast of the Jagged Peninsula. One year, a few brave traders had sailed as far south as Wolffire's capital city, Falcûne, but never attempted it again fearing the treacherous waters south of the peninsula.

Then, the sun had begun to rise in the west. It peeked over the hills separating the two mountain ranges. We had be trading tales all night…


"Ah," Salisan rose to his feet stretching in the morning light. "Night has come and gone and now so must I."

They knew it had to happen eventually. Salisan was a child of the sea and couldn't travel with them through the gap back into Minar. He would have caused fear amongst the humans who would see his size as a threat and believe him evil. It was a shame and everyone was sad to see him leave.

"It won't be the same without you, Sal." Mesik had become quite fond of the large giant.

"I shall miss you too, my tiny friend. But let us not be sad. After all, you know where to find me if you need my help or just want to visit."

"Right," Dabuk went through it in his mind again. "Ten miles south of where we found you fishing is a large vertical stone. Several miles out to sea is a sandbar surrounded by a vast array of coral reefs. There, under the waters of the Karmine Sea we can find your home beneath the coral."

"You have an amazing gift of recollection, my friend." Salisan pulled his trident out of the earth. It was his only real possession beyond what he was wearing and his large dagger.

"What can I say. I've got a good memory."

"Aye," Dvalin was sitting in the grass cleaning the dust and sand out of his armor. "Sometimes, it is to good."

Everyone laughed. It helped break the tension of Salisan leaving.

Salisan took out his dagger tossing it point down into the earth near the burning embers of the previous night's fire.

"I leave behind a gift for my friend, Mesik."

Mesik pulled the large dagger out of the ground. It was longer than his arm. "I can't take this. You said your father gave it to you."

"Yes," Salisan put up his hand refusing to take the dagger back. "And I expect you to take good care of it until our paths cross again. It is tradition."

"Wow, thanks." Mesik held up the blade with both hands. He looked like a little barbarian warrior as he tested the weight of the blade.

"Look out world. Here comes Mesik the mighty." Jeddar's joke put them all into hysterics. Even Mesik couldn't help himself.

"Ya," Mesik was leaning on the blade trying not to fall over laughing. "Let me at those ogres."

That seemed to snap Dabuk back into the reality of the situation in the north. He wanted to get to the Knotwood as quickly as possible before they continued on to the Kingdom of the Silver Leaves and then on to Dvalin's home in the Greystone Mountains.

"Well, time to pack up and get moving guys. All this sentimental stuff is giving me a headache." Dabuk grinned.

"Aye," Dvalin had just finished cleaning the last section of his armor. He began strapping it on with Rikin's help. Rikin's armor never seemed to need cleaning.

Bactra gathered his pouches and strung the bundled spear onto his back while dusting the dirt off his breeches. He had laid his staff against an old birch tree while they had talked during the night. He clasped on his cloak and picked up the staff just as Salisan waved goodbye for the last time disappearing towards the sea. They watched him go, finished their preparations, and then headed towards the hills of the gap.

* * *
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Sat May 28, 2011 5:58 am

Fast Forward…
At this point I do/did not have any more detailed notes regarding the events that lead to the characters from the gap to the north. Here's what I can remember...

During this time, the characters meet Hougwarth Medinton — a vonakyndra sellsword from the northern reaches of the Great Forest. The characters investigate the death of the High Thane and meet his daughter, Sannl Blackforge, for the first time after she has just been named High Thane. They aren't able to determine what has caused the ogres to start attacking but there are rumors of a young female necromancer, named Crystal, leading them.

Then, at some point, the characters end up outside of the city of Fruen preparing to help defend it against the approaching ogre horde. The characters are helping Dabuk's father, Garth Tigerstorm, and the militia. Garth tells them that this Crystal woman came to him claiming that he was her father. Garth tells them that he came to the conclusion that there wasn't any way for Crystal to be his daughter; she was to young.

Crystal had been angry but more than that she had been heartbroken. The woman was sure that she was a Tigerstorm. If they would not admit she was one of them, she would take Fruen and the Tiger Guild by force. She would claim her birthright even if she had to kill them all to do it. She fell in league with the growing hordes of ogres and also recruited evil soldiers to lay siege to Fruen. She rode near the front as the hordes moved towards the city. The armies of Thallin moved to meet them, with several prominent adventurers leading the charge, including Garth and characters.

Dabuk and Crystal met on the battlefield and something spoke to the young half-elven ranger. Somehow he felt he knew this person; he felt a kinship with her. She too felt something and the two just stood there looking at each other. When Garth came across the two of them staring at each other, he knew they were indeed brother and sister.

"I don't know how, but you are my daughter. Together, we will find the truth. I swear it by the love of a father who did not know."

Crystal's eyes swelled up with tears. No one had ever cared about her before. No one had truly ever loved her. But Garth did — she could see it in his eyes. What was she doing? This was her family she was a Tigerstorm! Her eyes went wide and she turned on her former allies. She rocked the hordes of darkness with lightning bolts and clouds of magical death. She rode into the fray with wild abandon hacking at ogres and dark soldiers with her stiletto dagger in one hand and casting deadly necromantic magic with the other.

"Boy, does she ever have you temper." Garth could only nod his head at his son's words.


* * *

After this event, the details are sketchy before the characters leave on their next adventure. Here is a brief description of some of the important NPCs that the characters interacted with during this time period. Note that not all of them traveled with the characters but are included for completeness. (Note: These descriptions are a bit out of date but still tell what needs to be know at this point in the story.)

Brekk Thunderstone (male hill dwarf, Dvalin's father) — Brekk is the commander of all dwarven troops between the Stone Fists — the two tallest mountains in Greystone Mountains. This puts the dwarven city of Milo directly under his sole command. A hero of the Second Ogre War, Brekk takes his duties very seriously. He was with his liege and long time friend, Ulfgar Blackforge, when the High Thane was killed. He had to watch helplessly on the opposite side of Roulin Gorge as the ogres hacked the High Thane to pieces. As a result, he has devoted his life to protecting the current High Thane, Sannl Blackforge. He is worried about her inexperience and that she may be easily influenced by factions within the kingdom that would love to see the Greystones split apart into small, autonomous city-states.

Carl Tigerstorm (male human, Dabuk's grandfather) — One of the most powerful men in the Eastern Shores, Carl is a well-known soldier in the Kingdom of Thallin and beyond. A veteran of the Second Ogre War, Carl is considered a hero by the masses of Thallin. Dabuk is the apple-of-his-eye, and he would love to see the boy take over the Tiger Guild someday as he had hoped his son would have done. So far, Dabuk seems content to make his own way in the world and has shown only mild interest in being more involved in the guild. His newly discovered granddaughter, Crystal, seems more likely to take the reigns of the guild after he retires. Carl's relationship with his own son remains strained as the two have never seen eye-to-eye regarding the law and what is considered acceptable political activities.

Crystal Tigerstorm (female human, Dabuk's older half-sister) — Crystal Tigerstorm is the granddaughter of Carl Tigerstorm and one of the newest and most loyal members of the Tiger Guild of Fruen. Her youth was full of strife and darkness. Her father, Garth, knew nothing about her birth as her mother, a woman Crystal doesn't remember, died in childbirth. Thus, Crystal was raised in an orphanage in Massalia — an old Sword Imperium city — totally oblivious to her birthright. Sold into the service of a local necromancer when she was eight, Crystal languished as common house servant for years under her master's harsh whip. Only when she started to show aptitude as a wizard did the old man stop beating her and made her his apprentice. She eventually outwitted the old fool and killed him. She then set about finding her roots and tracked down Carl Tigerstorm in Fruen. The first initial meeting with her father didn't go well. He did admit to being in love with Crystal's mother, but their relationship had been more than forty years prior and Crystal wasn't old enough to be his daughter. What happened after that is well documented as Crystal fell in with evil forces bent on the destruction of Fruen but changed sides in the middle of the battle when Garth came to the realization he had been mistaken. This event left her relationship with her father slightly strained, but she soon came to be a loyal member of the Tigerstorm Family. Some would say she is more loyal to Carl than Garth. She also respects her new half-brother but wishes he would restrain himself from running off here and there to fight every new foe on the horizon.

Garth Tigerstorm (male human, Dabuk's father) — Garth Tigerstorm is an anomaly in his family. For the most part, members of the Tigerstorm Family have leaned towards neutrality and chaos. Garth, on the other hand, is the most lawful member in the family. This difference in philosophy has always meant there has been a rift between Garth and his father. This difference has also affected his relationship with his son, Dabuk. Garth took to the life of a ranger to protect the farmers and woodsmen of the Eastern Shores. And while he always did this without breaking the law, he has made quite a few enemies in Minar, Stonn, and even Thallin. For while he champions the weak and the poor, he doesn't care much for the upper class or their machinations. He is the least 'diplomatic' in his family and tends to ruffle the feathers of nobles and kings wherever his travels take him. Like his son, Garth isn't a homebody and rarely visits his father or daughter in Fruen. He considers his quest to bring justice to the lawless his most important goal in life. This is not to say that Garth doesn't love his family; it's just that he has trouble being around to express it.

Hougwarth Medinton (male vonakyndra) — Hougwarth is a vonakyndra — a wood giant. His race has been thought of as a legend by humanity for the last three hundred years. Even the elven races were unsure if the wood giants had become extinct on Harqual, until roughly a hundred years ago. Hougwarth's tribe comes from a remote part of the Great Forest in the northern reaches near the Greystone Mountains. In fact, his tribe is best described as mountain-dwelling forest giants. Hougwarth knew at a very young age that he didn't fit in with his people. The vonakyndra had gone to great lengths to hide their existence from the other races of Harqual. When Hougwarth made his intention to leave known to the elders of the tribe, they tried to imprison him in a deep cave. He escaped this underground exile through the bad luck that he seems to inflict on others from time to time. This unlucky streak rarely works to his advantage, however.

Minonus Redwater (male forest elf, Bactra's father) — Minonus Redwater is one of the heroes that stood against the hordes during the Second Ogre War. He was a tailor before the war and went back to the trade after it was over. Of all the heroes of the war, Minonus was the most reluctant to receive praise for his valor. He refused to give in to glory and the people of the Eastern Shores respected him for it. His son, Bactra, knows little of his father's role in the war but knows that his father is famous in the human lands. Minonus still remains close to Carl and Garth Tigerstorm. (Garth visits his wife's druidic grove near Woodknot more often than his father's guild in Fruen.) Minonus worries that his son is spending too much time in the human lands and is losing touch with his roots. He had hoped the boy would become a tailor but soon realized that Bactra had a natural talent for magic and that nothing would stop him from exploring the arcane. He knows that Bactra is fairly safe traveling with Dabuk and his other friends but worries about him just the same.

Sannl Blackforge (female high dwarf, High Thane of the Greystones) — Sannl is still a young dwarf and inexperienced in the ways of being the High Thane. She loved her father very much and has been withdrawn since his death. Many of her detractors (and a few jealous 'advisers') would love to see the young monarch dethroned and the Kingdom of the Greystones broken apart. She has come to trust only Brekk Thunderstone — the High Defender of the Stone Fists — and doesn't make a major decision without his guidance. This has kept the kingdom stable for the most part, but her moods are becoming more dark and forlorn. She feels that the weight of the mountains have been placed solely on her shoulders.

Teal Redwind (female forest elf, Bactra's little sister) — Teal is a precocious child who believes she should be treated as an adult by her family. A slip of a girl of only 97 years; she's still an adolescent by elven standards. Teal is her father's precious, little bird, and he dotes on her constantly. While Bactra was forced to struggle for his right to learn the arcane arts, Teal was given the chance to learn anything she wanted. This has lead to her learning a great deal about art, music, poetry, and dance. But her true gift is her ability to beguile young elven men with her charm and astounding beauty. She has broken the hearts of dozens of male suitors and has remained aloof about choosing a life mate. Her mother is getting tired of her daughter's attitude and wishes she would take things more seriously. One should never make light of the elven marriage bond as it is a sacred commitment that should last a lifetime and beyond. In truth, Teal is smitten with her half-human cousin, Dabuk, and wishes they weren't related so she could tell him how much she cares for him. She knows such a union is unthinkable but can't think straight when he is around. She would be heartbroken to learn that Dabuk is aware of her feelings and that he would never consider such a thing. Teal is like a little sister to him and thinking about her any other way makes him nauseous.
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Sat May 28, 2011 6:02 am

Mesik's Soliloquy

City of Raln, Duchy of Minar, Under Realm Temple, 2am:
Mesik knelt before the temple's alter with his arms folded across his chest. The temple was like a crypt. Nothing stirred except the ghosts of his past.

Beyond the alter was the statue of his God, Hades, Lord of the Dead. Someone who didn't know his story would find the halfling rogue strangely out of place.

"Great Lord," Mesik has his head bowed his eyes on the floor. "I continue to do what you have asked of me. I stay with him everywhere he goes. I look out for him when I can and provide counsel when he listens. But still I do not understand why?

I know I shouldn't question your wisdom and will. B-but I just don't see how he will save the pantheon? He is chaotic, reckless.

Yet he has become more than my mission, Great Lord. He has become my friend. I cannot help but worry about him constantly. His will is not his own. He is obsessed with death.

Is that why you wish me to protect him, Great Lord? To save him from the death of his own soul? It is confusing. He would make a great priest in your name.

Yet?

Of course, he knows you are my God. My Savior through life and death. That I would never hide from him. The others can't know. Too many questions would come of it.

They would want to know how I, one of Yondalla's children, came to serve the Lord of the Dead. What would I tell them? My Lord, what could I tell them? You saved me from myself. From the Dark Reborn. The assassin's of Vespin's Lost.

No. Too many questions. Too much doubt in their souls. Wondering if I am doomed to evil... again."

The little rogue sits then in the candlelit twilight of Under Realm Temple. Trying to find assurance for his mind in order to protect his tainted soul.
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Sat May 28, 2011 6:06 am

Salisan's Soliloquy

The Karmine Sea:
At the same time that Mesik knelt in Under Realm Temple in Raln, Salisan Marg stood on a sandbar near his underwater reef-home staring at the stars. He always found the stars above the water relaxing. But not this night.

"Father," Salisan looked over the water towards the coast. "I have been caught by the shore dwellers. They fascinate me. How such bounded-in people can be so boundless is beyond me. Yes, I've met their kind before on numerous occasions but none so willing to accept me for who I am.

Yes, the dwarf was unsure of my intentions, but I was expecting that of all of them. And once he knew of my love for the Old Man in the Sea and the other North Gods, he was assured. Yes, the dwarf was fascinating.

But the halfling was more so.

Mesik fought bravely against severe odds, father. I couldn't help but be awed by the willpower and strength shown by one so small as he. It made me feel small next to him. Yes, that's silly, I know but-"

Salisan turned to watch a school of dolphins swim past the sandbar. The danced and played as they went. Soon they were cresting in and out of the water towards the distance.

Salisan dove into the water coming up next to the submerged reef. He laid on his back in the water stroking with his arms through the dark waters of the sea.

"I hope you agree with my choice to honor him with our tradition, father. He is an honorable little fellow and will make good use of the family's Sheao. Yes, I believe he will.

It seems father that I am more like you than I thought I was. You were always off adventuring. Meeting the land-dwellers and exploring the sea. I had thought I was content to live in my home and maybe someday take a mate to continue our line.

I know it is what mother would want. How is mother, dear father?" The large reef giant closed his eyes for moment listening to the water. He smiled as the water passed over his large frame listening to the echoes of his family's past.

"That is good to hear, father. Yes, I do consider all of them my friends even the dark-hearted one. It isn't his fault. Thessa explained it to me. She is quite the charmer that little one.

But as I was saying before, father. I thought myself content to live a quiet life devoted to Lord Aegir. But now. Now, I feel the call of the water to explore and to see the world. To explore it with my new friends. To be one of them against the evils of the world.

Maybe I will seek them out next year after the kelp has been harvested.

Yes, father. I am like you were during your mortal life. I yearn for adventure. I will never be content again."

Salisan kicked his legs diving deep into the water towards his watery home.
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Sat May 28, 2011 6:08 am

Bactra's Soliloquy

The Great Forest, Woodknot, Redriver Clan Treehome, Early Evening:
Bactra Redwind held the spear in his hand. He could feel the magic of the relic. Feel its aura of power. He would allow no one to destroy it, evil or not.

"They won't understand why. No matter. It is the will of the Balance that this isn't destroyed." Bactra held the spear in both hands high above his head.

"Great Boccob," Bactra had made his pledge to the Miser of Magic. "You aren't my god but you understand the Balance. The need to keep the magic in the world.

Besides, the All-Mother wills it. This I know. I can feel her presence with me now. Even the Patron of Magic, Lady Immotion, can not object the will of Mirella.

I will hide the spear here away from prying eyes. None must wield it, of course. Its magic would taint the soul of even the purest warrior of my race."

Bactra walked the shaped wood floor of his clan room to a secret alcove carved naturally out of the wood. He took the spear wrapping it carefully in a soft, fleece blanket. He laid it carefully in the alcove. None would disturb his possessions while he was gone. This was his clan room. None may enter without his leave.

"Yes," Bactra pulled a tapestry of leaves across the alcove, hiding its contents. "That will do. Not even Dabuk would understand what I have done. He would accept it, but he wouldn't understand it.

I don't want him to worry about me too." Bactra walked out onto the magically shaped branches serving as his balcony. He stood there looking through the trees of Woodknot towards the druid grove known as Eiithinia's Rest.

"His mind is already burdened with the suffering of an entire continent and his own soul. He is there right now, in his mother's grove. Talking to her.

He'll stay there all night. Praying. Grieving."
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Sat May 28, 2011 6:12 am

Dabuk's Soliloquy

The Great Forest, Woodknot, Eiithinia's Rest:
At the same time that Bactra stood on his balcony, Dabuk was kneeling amongst the fallen leaves and soft earth of his mother's sacred grove. His legs and knees were numb but he hardly noticed. Only here was he ever near peace. Only here could he still be close to her.

A magically shaped oak in the form of Rillifane stood to his left with an equal of Corelleon to his right. They towered over the grove as sentinels guarding his mother's soul and the forest she loved. A small birch, magically shaped in the form of his mother, stood in the center of the grove. The Elders had dedicated it as well as the entire grove to his mother after her death. They had renamed the grove Eiithinia's Rest.

"Mother," Dabuk spoke for the first time in five hours of praying. "Can you hear the trees today? They miss you."

The half-elven ranger was shaking; his breath formed mist in the cold night air. But still he refused to move.

"Two more of the beasts are gone, mother. In time, they will all be gone. I swear it. I will make them pay for the pain and the death they cause.

This new war is a gift from Rillifane. I can feel it. Soon the hordes will know my name. Fear it. They won't have anywhere to hide from my rage, my vengeance.

Father thinks I am obsessed. If I am, I learned it from him. He hates orcs like I hate ogres. He never shows them mercy and I understand. And yet, he associates with one of the beast men! This Kellin One-Eye! An ogre, mother! One of his best friends in the world is an ogre!

He betrays us. I wish I knew why. Has the beast man enchanted his mind somehow mother? It doesn't make sense."

Dabuk raises his head staring at the Life Tree of his mother. He wished his life had been but a dream and that he would wake to find her standing over him. Smiling at him in that way that told him everything would be okay.

"Their deaths are not enough! I will not rest until they all gone and the evil one that spawned them with them! I will not yield. Someday, I will stand in heavens and destroy Vaprak himself! I swear it! Do you hear me Vaprak! I will come for you someday! I Swear It!"

Dabuk was shaking uncontrollably. He fought to stay on his knees but could not. The grieving boy turned man lay down fetal, shaking. The trees wept for him.

"The trees miss you, mother." Dabuk whispered in the darkness. "I miss you."
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Sat May 28, 2011 6:17 am

Jeddar's Soliloquy

The Great Forest, Silverleaf, Tethrin’s Circle:
Jeddar Silversun stood in the center of the glade dedicated to the Master of Blades blindfolded with his scimitars at his side. His breath was steady and calm.

Then he began. Thunder over the White Mountain. Bard's Song in the Night. Saving the Soul with Steel.

"Why do I bother trying to please her?" His words flowed as smoothly as his swords through the air. "Tell me that, Lord Tethrin."

Splitting the Water with Grace. Hawk Snatches Mouse from the Air. Living Metal Extends as Death.

"Father tells me to give her time. He forgets I am not like him. I am only half-blooded. I can't wait two centuries for her to come around. Not that it would matter. I could wait six elven lifetimes and she would still hate me.

It's so frustrating. To have done nothing wrong except exist."

Jeddar increased his pace twirling his blades faster through the late afternoon's crisp, cold air. Cougar Finds the Jugular. The Elk Gores the Sternum. Blade Shaves Foe's Shield. Wolf Tears Rabbit's Throat.

"Why should I pay for the crimes of my father! I didn't even know him! I'd have killed him myself for what he did to my mother!"

Jeddar's rage slipped from his soul into his hands. He leapt through the air screaming in defiance of his life. Twin Lightning Thunders through the Air. Soaring Eagle Catches the Clouds. Raging Storm through the Night. Hades' Scythe cuts down the Dead. Black Tiger Claw cuts Deep.

"No!" Jeddar checked his anger drawing himself up calming his breathing. He let his swords hang at his side standing completely still. "I am the adopted son of Menkhar Silversun, the High One of the Silver Leaves, the Oak of the Forest. I will behave according to my station. I am above such feelings."

"Anithiil will have to-," Jeddar checked his tone. "The Forest Mother will accept me someday. She cannot hate forever."

Then he ended what he began with one more flourish. Unicorn runs through the Woods. Silver Waves lap the Lakeshore. Swan bows to the Wind.

Jeddar stood there body rigid for a moment his arms stretched out from his sides to form a T with his body, his wrists bent down to form an arc with his scimitars. He remained calm.

"I am a Blade of the Tiger. Steel is my peace. Courage is my heart. I will not falter against those that would destroy my home, my family."

Jeddar sheathed his blades. He removed the blindfold; his eyes adjusted immediately to the low light of Tethrin's Circle and the forest beyond. The sun was setting behind the Silver Palace of the Sun. His home.

For a moment he thought he could see her standing on the Royal Balcony watching him. He blinked. There wasn't anyone there.

"Someday," Jeddar sighed. "It will be to hard to come home again."

He gathered his belongings at the edge of the glade leaving Tethrin's Circle — maybe for the last time. As he left, he did not see the lithe figure step back out onto the Royal Balcony.
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Sat May 28, 2011 6:22 am

Thessa's Soliloquy

The Great Forest, Silverleaf, That same day:
Thessa was enjoying herself so much that she couldn't stop giggling. Dozens of small forest animals sat all around her chirping and chattering. A roan stag stood no less then ten feet away grazing in front where she was laying on the grass. She was using her elbows to prop herself up slightly kicking her feet in amusement.

Her Speak with Animals spell was allowing her to get to know the denizens of the forest around Silverleaf. Several rabbits started trying to talk to her all at once.

"No. Uh-huh. Hmm, interesting. What was that you said? Wait... wait... not all at once." Thessa scrunched up her face trying not to burst out into complete hysterics.

"Okay, that's better. Oh, you want to hear more about my home. But I've told you everything there is to know."

The rabbits bounded up and down in front of her excitedly twitching their noses.

"Oh all right. I'll tell you again. My home is many, many, many trees south of here. Further, even, than the homes of the savage tall ones."

All of the animals gathered closer towards her including a squirrel that parked itself on the middle of her back. Even the great stag lifted its head to hear.

"All right," Thessa squirmed a little as the squirrel made itself comfortable. "You can sit there but please don't chew on my hair, okay?"

The squirrel chattered curling up into a ball to listen.

"Uh-huh, thank you. Now, where was I? Oh yes, my home is half way up the side a huge rock like those." Thessa pointed with her left hand to the Greystone Mountains in the distance.

"All around this great rock are other great rocks and trees as far as the flowing waters that encircle and pass through the ground. There, in the trees are little animals, a lot like you, as well as magical, colored birds and other things.

Hmm, what's that? What other things? Well, like slithering and crawling things. Not things you mamma would want me to tell you about." Thessa looked over at the rabbits' mother. She was friendly but tense. With so many little ones in her care, Thessa understood.

"Anyway, also in the great trees around my home are the Living Ones. The great tree people of my home. And the greatest of them is the Lord of the Forest. He is its protector and king. And a great friend of my people.

Hmm, what's that? Yes, he is very nice and loves all the creatures of the forest. Yes, even the slithering and crawling things. Well, most of them.

Hmm, what's that? Oh, the great rocks. Yes, that's my home but so is the forest. Well, really they’re the same thing. For you see little ones, the trees extend high onto the great rocks where my kind live. Almost to the top of the great rocks.

There, my kind, live under the ground. Yes, like where you and your mamma live but much bigger. But we also live above ground like this fine looking fellow."

Thessa pointed to the stag.

"And we also live in the trees like the tall ones you know. Hmm, what's that? Do I live in a tree? No little one, I live in the ground like you, but I do have friends who live in the trees."

Thessa flips her golden hair staring towards the Greystone Mountains. Out of the corner of her eye she notices several silver elves walking by speaking with Dabuk and Dvalin. The dwarf's jovial voice carries over the forest like thunder startling the stag. The beast bolts away into the underbrush.

Thessa giggles as several other small animals dart into the safety of the trees. The little gnome priestess can't take her eyes off her friend. Then the squirrel on her back chatters in her ear turning her face red.

"N-no," Thessa sighs forlornly. "He isn't my mate. Just my friend. He already has a mate. Well, sort of."

The squirrel chatters again, confused. Either he does or he doesn't.

"N-no," Thessa searched her mind for the right way to explain it to the animal. "It's not like with the other tall ones. H-he is promised to another tall one. Hmm, what's that mean? He has a mate who isn't his mate yet. Understand?"

The squirrel nuzzled her neck chattering. It still didn't understand.

"Yes, it is confusing. And it makes me sad."

The animals gathered closer around the little gnome trying to comfort her lost heart.
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Sat May 28, 2011 6:25 am

Dvalin's Soliloquy

Greystone Mountains, Dwarven City of Milo, Thunderstone Hall:
Dvalin stood in the main chamber of his clan hall. It was good to be home but strangely disconcerting as well. Dvalin walked down the center of the hall staring at the granite statues of his forefathers lining both walls of the hall. They were all there. Hurekk, the first of his line. Filiala, the hero of the First Ogre War. Rethgur, his grandfather.

Dvalin stopped in front of his grandfather's statue studying the craftsmanship that went into the living portrait of the greatest hero of his clan. It was an honor to be his grandson. Dvalin noticed the spot meant for his father out of the corner of his eye. The statue would be carved and placed in the hall after his father died. Dvalin hoped that day would never come but knew better.

Soon he would have to lead not only his clan but also sit at the side of the new High Thane as Warrior Consort.

"Grandfather," Dvalin often came to the hall to speak to the statues. Non-dwarves didn't understand the bond to the past. Well, maybe the elves understood.

"It will never be the same again will it?"

Dvalin shook his head in frustration. He knew that time would catch up with him eventually. He had responsibilities now. Responsibilities that he didn't want. His grandfather wouldn't have understood.

"You, Rethgur Thunderstone, never failed your duties once in your life, not even when it cost you that life. Father is the same way, grandfather. You would be so proud of him.

But what of me, you say?" The statue didn't speak but Dvalin knew that would have been his grandfather's question. "What honor shall I bring to the clan?"

Dvalin closed his eyes not believing what he was about to say.

"None, grandfather. None whatsoever. In fact, the clan might fall into dishonor for what I'm am just thinking of doing. I am to marry Sannl Blackforge. High Thane of the Greystones."

Dvalin deepened his voice intimating how his grandfather had spoken. "What's this you say, my boy? You are to be Warrior Consort? But that is the greatest honor there is!"

Dvalin sighed shaking his head. "Aye, it is that grandfather. But I dishonor us by not wanting to be Warrior Consort."

Dvalin looked at the statue square in the eyes looking for some sort of sign from his grandfather's spirit. Nothing. Of course not. Rethgur Thunderstone's spirit was in Mount Clangeddin. Honored amongst the dead of the Father of Battle.

"I do not love her, grandfather. I don't know if I ever did. Oh, we were inseparable as children but that was different. We were friends. Life was simple then. We knew nothing of real responsibility.

And now I feel like I'm trapped. There is a whole world out there for me to discover. Jeddar and the others are determined to explore it all. I want nothing more than to go with them.

Jeddar," Dvalin walked away from his grandfather's statue. "I wish you were here, my friend. I could really use your council right about now. But even you have your duties. You must stand against the hordes threatening your home. And it seems so must I."

Dvalin walked from the echoing cavern that is Thunderstone Hall. "For now."
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Sat May 28, 2011 6:28 am

Rikin's Soliloquy

Greystone Mountains, Dwarven City of Milo, Hall of the Ironguard:
Rikin's armor gleamed where the torchlight found it. He stood before the statue of Moradin in the hall of his order — the Ironguard. The gore mole’s head etched into the breastplate of the dwarf's armor seemed almost alive in the light. The symbol of the Ironguard of the Greystones.

Rikin stood at attention before the statue of his God. To him it was the same as being before Moradin in the afterlife. The All-Father's visage wherever it was etched, carved or built, was sacred to the Ironguard as it is to all the faithful of Moradin.

"Honor demands that I keep him on the path laid out for him at his birth." Rikin's voice echoed through his full great helm and the hall around him. "He must marry the High Thane. To consider anything else would bring shame to his forefathers as well as our noble father."

Rikin's axe rested on the Alter of the Dwarffather. Placed there to honor the Dwarven Gods with its history and magic. It had been his clan father's weapon during the Second Ogre War. The dwarf had died wielding it. Protecting the clans of Kingdom of the Greystones. Its history and magic were now his to wield. It was his honor in life and would be in death.

"Yet," Rikin's voice echoed through the hall once more. “He risks everything by flirting with Thessa the way he does. Yes, I care for her too. She is my friend now. She healed me. Saved my life. I owe her my axe and my will.

But not at the expense of the honor of my clans. I am the last of the Stonefossils. Adopted son of the Thunderstone clan and my second father, Brekk. I would never do anything to dishonor them, and I used to think Dvalin believed that too.

But now…" Rikin sighed at the thought of what he might be forced to do if Dvalin's will faltered. "He will marry Sannl. There isn't any other choice. Honor demands it.

He will do his duty, Dwarffather. Even if I have to force him." Rikin laid his hand over the double-bladed head of his axe lying on the Alter of the All-Father. "I swear it!"
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Tue May 31, 2011 3:35 am

Interlude #3

Location Unknown:
The hallway was dead quiet as the tall elven woman walked towards the large ornate double doors at the far end. She walked with an air of nobility and confidence, yet she would appear frightening to those that saw her. She wore the trappings of a powerful arcanist with several adornments that confirmed her specialty in the Forbidden Arts. A large humanoid skull covered in feathers was her helmet and her arms and chest were covered in shaped bone — her armor. Its power was based more on fear and magic than on physical protection. Her robes were made of fine silk — dyed pitch black and covered with magical sigils. Her legs and hips swayed in the loose material silently while her booted feet rang out on the flagstone floor.

One who did not know her would have thought her physically appealing.

The elven necromancer pushed open the heavy double doors without waiting or ceremony. She knew that he wouldn’t object as they had known each other for as long as the man had been alive. She knelt before her friend and master, however, as some things were expected.

“Father, you summoned for me and here I am.” She spoke.

“How go the preparations in the west?” A man shrouded in darkness spoke from behind an ornate desk made of wood and bone. His voice was full of gravel.

“Everything is going as planned. Out forces will be ready to lay siege to Onaway at the designated time.” The woman remained on her knees until he motioned for her to rise. “How goes the war in the east, Father?”

“As to be expected,” The man known on as The Father stepped out from the darkness offering the elven woman a spot next to him on a low divan and a cup of fine feral wine. “The fools continue to believe that they can win this conflict, but we have guile and ruthlessness on our side.”

“What of the betrayal near the city of Fruen?” The necromancer took the drink and sat next to The Father. “The girl must be punished for her treachery.”

“Agreed.” The Father reclined into the cushions of the divan; he drank deeply from his own cup. “But death would be too easy and I don’t think she would be tractable as an undead slave. Better to strike out at those she believes love her.”

“Hmm, perhaps the emotional trauma could bring her back into the fold although she would still have to pay a heavy penance for her actions.” The necromancer removed her helmet, unbound her long hair, and began loosening her armor.

“Possibly,” The Father looked her up and down. “This new body of yours is quite appealing. Much like your original form, all those years ago, when we first met.”

“You noticed,” her smile was almost predatory in the darkness. “It has been forever since we last re-consummated our agreement. I figured that you would be more willing if my form was familiar.”

The elven woman removed the last vestiges of her unholy armor and unclasped her robe. It slid to the ground revealing her borrowed body. Firelight gleamed off her pale skin as she drank down her cup.

“Indeed.” The Father set aside his own cup and grabbed her arm. “Come to me, my pet.”

She did so while a pair of infernal eyes watched them closely; it guarded its compacted master for any sign of betrayal from the elven necromancer known as the Foulsoul.
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Tue May 31, 2011 3:52 am

Interlude #4

The Tiger Guild of Fruen:
Carl sat quietly reading the latest dispatches from the war. Things looked much better than a month ago. The ogres weren’t in full retreat, however, and he had cautioned the King not to reduce the number of patrols.

His judgment had proved sound as several large stands of ogre and orc soldiers had been flushed out of hiding in the hills and forests near the town of Hadyr as well as just north of the Spirit Rift. Almost a dozen ogres had risked retreating into the rift and hadn’t been seen since.

“Stupid,” Carl mumbled. “Nothing living survives there for long. This ogre horde thinks it’s indestructible, Tallos. Now, what do you want?”

“Guildmaster, your granddaughter wishes to see you,” Tallos had been standing at attention for over 10 minutes waiting for Carl to acknowledge his presence. “And yes sir, the ogres seem to be driven by something other than just bloodlust.”

“Well, they will fail more miserably than during the Second Ogre War. And what does she want?”

“People are calling this the beginning of a Third Ogre War, guildmaster.” Tallos paused to make sure his friend heard the next part correctly. “Crystal wants to join the guild.”

“Well,” Carl paused. “I hadn’t expected that.”

“Yes sir.” Tallos hoped the answer would be ‘no’. The guildmaster’s granddaughter still made him nervous.

“Well, if she wants to apply then so be it. I can’t just say ‘no’ and have that be the end of it. She’s to strong-willed for that. However, I doubt very much that the guild members would accept her and there is the Arcane Order to consider as well.”

“Yes, I’d heard that Japheth Arcane has offered her a place at Mathghamhna.”

“Hmm, it seems that my granddaughter will be as much trouble as part of my family as not being a part of it. Of course, any family needs a good shake up now and then.” Carl returned his thoughts to the reports in front of him. “However, other business first.”

“Yes sir.” Tallos continued to stand at attention. “Reports have come in that they are just about to leave the Knotwood, sir.”

“Good,” Carl replied. “Although, I wish the king had let me choose someone else to lead the mission. I just don’t know if I can trust my son to be open-minded about what will need to be done to make sure this alliance is signed.”

“Your grandson will know what to look for and counsel his father accordingly.” Tallos reminded him.

“If the boy doesn’t become distracted.” Carl loved his grandson but sometimes he wished the boy paid more attention to his guild responsibilities. “At least Mesik is with them. He’ll learn everything we ‘really’ need to know.”

“Yes sir.” Tallos was unsure how Carl would react to the next part. “The report also says that Bactra, the gnome Thessa Simmial, and the vonakyndra are going with them.”

“Oh great,” Carl slammed his fist down on the table. “What is Garth thinking allowing that giant to go with them. I suspected Bactra would go, and I’m glad Thessa will be on the trip to lend a healing hand but Hougwarth Medinton!”

“Yes sir, it’s unfortunate, but perhaps the wood giant won’t cause as much trouble — this time. Plus, it is an extra sword for any fight.”

“Unless he drops it,” Carl was livid. He had instructed his son to keep a low profile on this journey. There wasn’t any chance of that now. “Oh well, nothing we can do about it until they get back. I will not waste any more guild resources on this mission.”

“You don’t think anything will come of it, guildmaster?” Tallos had wondered if Carl had agreed with the king’s decision.

“I would never say that and you shouldn’t either. The king is not to be questioned, regardless of how ‘we’ might feel.”

“Yes sir.”

“Will you please sit down and relax, Tallos. You’re making me uncomfortable.”

“All right.” Tallos laughed. He sat down in one of the chairs in front of the desk. “So, what about Crystal?”

“You don’t think I should let her try, do you?” Carl smiled as he tidied up the desk and hid all the official documents.

“I never said that.”

“But you’ve been thinking it since mentioning the subject. Is she outside?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, I guess we better get this over with then.”

“Yes sir.” Tallos tapped a sigil on his guild ring and the double doors opened.

Crystal Tigerstorm stood patiently facing the open doorway. Gone were most of her necromantic trappings and instead she wore silver jewelry presented to her by her mother’s mother who she had tracked down in the Kingdom of Navirosov. Her flowing silk garments were blue-black trimmed with silver as well as embroidered with magical sigils in silver thread. Her undergarment covered her feminine features while her outer garment was sheer down to her ankles, which left her arms bare. She held her Starburst Staff in both hands while her long blond hair flowed over her shoulders and down her back — a single, heavy braid hanging down the side of her face down to her wide, ornate belt. Her lips, eyelids, and fingernails were etched in runic silver coloring. She was such a radiant beauty that a person might overlook her sturdy, military-style black boots. She stepped forward.

“The guildmaster will see you now,” Tallos didn’t need to turn around to know she was still standing there. Her scent informed him of her presence. He reddened slightly and was thankful that Carl was too much of a friend to stare at anyone other than his granddaughter. “I will be in the antechamber, guildmaster.”

Tallos quickly left the room trying not to stare at Crystal as he walked by. He closed the doors behind him and sighed in relief to be out of the woman’s presence.

“Sit down child.” Carl understood why his son had fallen in love with Dawn Almondsky, if his granddaughter was a true reflection of her mother’s beauty. “I understand you wish to enter the Tiger Guild as a more formal member.”

“Yes guildmaster,” Crystal sat in the chair next to where Tallos had been sitting. “And I don’t expect any favoritism in such an initiation.”

“And you receive no such favoritism, I assure you. Dabuk could swear to my inflexibility, but somehow I assume you already know that.”

“Yes, I asked him what I would have to endure. He said it was a long and tough apprenticeship, but he didn’t go into any specifics.” Crystal laid the Starburst Staff across her knees; she held on to it like it was an extension of her body.

“You’d have to dress differently as well as give up your staff for the duration of your training. Carl had noticed how she had become attached to the powerful, magical staff, and he was sure she wouldn’t part with it — under any circumstances.

“Is that really necessary, or are you simply being overprotective?” Crystal wouldn’t give up her staff. She’d find a way to become invaluable to the Tiger Guild another way, if her grandfather wouldn’t relent.

“Yes it is, and yes I am.” Carl didn’t like being questioned. “Is that a problem for you?”

“Yes it is, you know it is.” Crystal held her temper. “I’m not a child, grandfather. I can handle the staff and if giving it up is the only way to become an apprentice in your guild then I withdraw my request. I will, instead, accept Japheth Arcane’s offer to join the Arcane Order.”

“That is for the best, Crystal.” Carl hoped he hadn’t hurt his granddaughter’s feelings as he knew first hand how sensitive she was. “I hope you won’t judge me to harshly? I have to do what is best for the guild, my dear. Many of my followers would balk at having a powerful arcanist become an official member of the guild, not to mention that Japheth would consider it an insult.”

“I understand.” Crystal sighed. “I only wish there was a way I could do both.”

“Hmm, let me talk to that old arcanist. Perhaps you can be my liaison to the Order. No promises as I’ll need Heward Tallinson’s approval as well. He is the Order’s Regent of External Affairs.”

“Really? You have that much pull with the Arcane Order?” Crystal had considered her grandfather little more than the King’s servant but now considered that all of Fruen might listen to his counsel.

“Some.” Carl smiled.

“You are lot more important than you let on, aren’t you?” Crystal laughed.

“That is something for another time.” Carl motioned for her to take her leave. “Now, I have a lot of work to do, my child. I’ll see you tonight for supper. Make sure you dress more, subdued, as we will have several guests including someone I want you to meet.”

Crystal was curious as to who her grandfather meant but knew the meeting was over and that he wouldn’t answer any more questions until later that night. She left her grandfather to work; she closed the doors behind her.

“Tallos,” she nodded to her grandfather’s bodyguard as she went past him in the darkened corridor. “I guess we won’t be getting to know each other as well as I’d originally thought. Oh well, too bad.”

Tallos didn’t move until she was out of sight. He let out a sigh of relief and spoke a prayer of thanks to his god, “Thank you Master of Thieves, my luck could have been much worse tonight.”
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Tue May 31, 2011 3:58 am

Interlude #5

Tigerstorm House:
Carl paced back and forth in the larger room known as the Storm Hall. He wondered what he would tell her. He was an old man set in his ways and wasn’t sure if she would accept the truth. He cared more than he was willing to admit to anyone — even his own family. The old soldier in him told him that he had better things to do than entertain such a guest.

“Grandfather,” Carl had failed to notice his granddaughter entering the dining hall of Tigerstorm House. “What is the matter? I’ve never seen you like this. It’s just dinner with an old friend, right?”

“I wish it was that simple.” Carl stopped in mid stride. He looked at his granddaughter with pride. She was the best of both her parents — strong-willed like her father and passionate like her mother. “How are you finding your room here? Do you have everything you need?”

“Yes, grandfather.” Crystal had been curious after Carl had announced that they would have guests for the evening. Tigerstorm House was not a place where dinner parties happened, ever. Even though she’d only become part of this family recently, she already understood her grandfather’s moods and habits. He was not a socialite.

“Good, good,” Carl hoped that one of the 'other' guests would arrive first so that he didn’t have to go through the awkwardness he was about to endue, alone.

“Master,” Pademont entered the hall with his usual civility. “You’re first guests have arrived, Sir Walas and his daughter, Willamette.”

“Thank you Pademont. Please escort them to the Stand Chamber. We will be there shortly. And make sure the cook and his assistant go through this room again. I want to make sure everything is perfect.”

“Yes sir, I will see to it.” Pademont turned to Crystal. “Do you have any instructions regarding the décor, mistress?”

“No,” Crystal found it discomforting to be called by such a title. “I really do wish you would just call me Crystal, Pademont.”

“Unfortunately mistress, that would not be proper. You are the woman of Tigerstorm House. However, I could refer to you by a different honorific, if you would prefer?”

“Um, let me think on that.” Crystal was not use to be anyone’s mistress.

“Very well, mistress.” Pademont bowed regally to them both before departing.

“You will never convince him to be more informal with you, my dear. It is his way. He was born a Highborn’s slave and not even after I purchased, freed, and hired him has he changed. At most, he might simply refer to you as 'my lady'.”

“Ugh, I’m not a Highborn, and I’m definitely not a lady.” Crystal wished she was wearing something more revealing as it was the style of dress she was most comfortable in. Yet, she knew it made the more reserved members of Thallin’s society cringe. The neck high dress she now wore hung down to near her ankles. It was a muted blue color, puffed up over her shoulders down to where it snapped tightly around her wrists.

“I take it that you couldn’t find anything that suited your tastes.” Carl noticed her fidgeting and soon forgot his nerves.

“No offense, grandfather, but everything that has been put in my wardrobe is terrible. I feel like I’m going to suffocate under all this heavy cotton.” Crystal tried not to squirm but failed miserably.

“Well, perhaps you will meet someone tonight who can guide you through the horror that is Thallin society.” Carl hoped she would like Gwen.

“You better not mean some dandy from a respected noble house.” Crystal had made it clear to her grandfather that she preferred her studies in wizardry to the idea of finding a suitable husband. “This had better not be some horrible matchmaking party, or I will leave you to suffer alone.”

“I assure you that is not what I mean.” Carl smiled.

“I don’t trust you,” Crystal’s stare was like that of an annoyed alley cat.

“It’s good to have another Tigerstorm around to spar with,” Carl laughed.

Crystal laughed in spite of her discomfort. She knew that Carl had something planned for the evening but hadn’t been able to pry anything out of the servants. Her chambermaids normally would have told her everything, but they had simply said that Carl had sworn every member of the staff to secrecy and that jobs would be lost if his granddaughter learned the truth. It didn’t help that Tigerstorm House was magically protected from scrying and its residents from enchantment.

Of course, Crystal would never have gone that far.

“Well, we shouldn’t keep our guests waiting.” Carl sighed in his own discomfort and his nerves were frayed by the time he and Crystal walked into the Stand Chamber. Carl looked around noting that several others had arrived. There was no sigh of Gwen, however.

“Late as usual,” Carl hoped his 'old friend' would leave her damn cat at home.
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Tue May 31, 2011 4:04 am

Prelude to: The Alliance (Part I)

From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus

The Great Forest, West of Woodknot:
It is now early fall and the janbrook trees are just starting to turn. Yet, none of us can enjoy it with the scent of war in the air. Day after day, the ogres come closer to conquering the Eastern Shores and the Kingdom of the Silver Leaves. The situation is becoming more desperate as the weeks pass. Both Jeddar and Dvalin stayed behind in their respective homelands to help defend Silverleaf and Milo. There hasn't been any news from them, not an encouraging sign. Dabuk says a prayer to Rillifane each day for them.

We have been in the Knotwood for only a few days and tensions are rising amongst my people. Patrols are sent out every hour and fortifications are being built. The Therani clan elders have declared martial law and all available resources are being confiscated. It was this that has left me cold to my own people.

I was shocked and humiliated when the clan elders’ elite guards surrounded me and ordered me to relinquish the relic. I couldn't believe it. There wasn't anyway for them to have known about it — even Dabuk hadn’t known I still possessed it. Someone in my clan has betrayed me; I'm certain. But who?

To make matters worse, they have also declared Eiithinia’s Rest off limits to all but them and druids dedicated to the elven gods. Dabuk was irate and heartbroken. He refused to believe that the clan elders had the right to deny him from entering his own mother's grove. My father and Dabuk's half-brother, Joshian Ironchild, had to restrain him from charging the sentries guarding the grove.

We left my home of Woodknot that same day. Dabuk swore to return and force the clan leaders to rescind their declaration. Regardless, we have a mission to complete for Carl Tigerstorm. He has sent us to make contact with a distant western city-state.

While some contact has remained between the west and the east, there hasn't been any formal contact since the end of the Second Ogre War some forty years ago. There have been rumors of some sort of new government controlling the city-state but no one knows for sure if it is benign or not.

Carl wants us to make contact with this new government and determine whether or not they pose a threat to the Eastern Shores. If this government turns out to be good to its people, the city-state could prove to be a valuable ally.

Fortunately, we won't have to go it alone. Mesik, Thessa, and Hougwarth have all agreed to come with us. Also, Dabuk's father, Garth, will be going to act as emissary and to judge whether or not the people are good and decent.

Regardless, the trip will not be easy. The lands around this city-state are said to be extremely dangerous and filled with evil humanoids and vile bandits.

There is a slight chill in the air this morning. The fall wind is growing bitter. It isn't going to be easy to stop the advancing ogre hordes if it snows early this year...
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Tue May 31, 2011 4:10 am

The Alliance (Part I)

Near the western edge of the Great Forest:
"Will you please put that book away, Bactra. Pay attention for once."

Bactra sighed and put away his journal. Dabuk was sulking next to him on his roan. "All right, but stop being such a baby about it."

The young ranger was staring intently into the forest for any signs of trouble. His father rode in the front of the column of horses leading the way. He had insisted that Dabuk take up the rear. Dabuk wished Garth would put more faith in him.

"Father is being arrogant. I'd be better able to lead from the front. Not stuck back here."

"With me, you mean."

"Oh come on. You know I didn't mean it like that. I just meant I'm more in my element in the lead."

"Yes, but you're not leading this expedition. Garth is."

"Will you two be quiet back there. Even a goblin patrol could hear us coming with all the noise you are making. Now be silent!"

When Dabuk's father used that tone, you didn't contradict him. The man always had his way. Dabuk sighed. He pulled his horse back behind Bactra's gray mare. She wasn't as large as Dabuk or Garth's heavy warhorses, but she was just the right size for Bactra. She was quick on her hooves, which would allow him to escape a bad situation likely to arise.

Thessa rode in front of him on a small but sturdy war pony that she had bought from an elven trader in Woodknot. Mesik rode alongside her on his own pony. They seemed to be having a conversation with their hands — something Bactra had never seen before. He didn't understand any of it.

In front of the two friends walked the wood giant Hougwarth. The large giant man was too big to ride a horse but kept up easily — his long gait more than a match for the horses. Garth had worried that the horses would panic being so close to Hougwarth. He almost didn't let the vonakyndra come with them. Only when his own warhorse, Hindle, took a shine to the giant man did Garth relent.

The two young men watched Dabuk's father in the lead. He was a good a tracker as his son but not better. After his wife died, he changed. He spent less time visiting Woodknot and, in fact, barely went near the Great Forest of Harqual at all. Dabuk chalked it up to too many memories.

The man known as the Justiciar scanned the trees carefully as they neared the edge of the Great Forest. Not even he had ever been this far west more than a handful of times in his life. It was here that elves controlled very little and men, hardly nothing at all. This was monster country or worse.

Garth reigned in his horse suddenly. He put his hand up as a signal for the others to stop. Everyone was deathly quiet waiting for the man to either proceed or have them dismount. Dabuk strained his eyes and his ears listening for any clue as to what had set his father off.

Garth sniffed the air a scowl on his lips. "Orcs."

His great blood red roan threw its head back in disgust steam billowing from its nostrils.

* * *
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Re: [Kulan] Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Sun Jul 31, 2011 4:33 am

The western edge of the Great Forest:
Garth spurred on his horse and unsheathed his sword. Bactra and Dabuk knew that he wouldn't be reasonable about orcs. In fact, Garth Tigerstorm hated orcs almost as much as Dabuk hated ogres. They are more alike than either could ever admit.

Dabuk was the first to follow his father's charge even though there wasn't any sign of orcs. But, regardless of their differences, Dabuk knew his father better than anyone. If Garth said there were orcs nearby, there were. The half-elven ranger rode past his friends and his steed was soon on the heels of his father's great roan.

If Dabuk had looked back he would have been surprised by his cousin's bravado as the elven wizard spurred on his smaller mount. Bactra's own horse wasn't as strong but was quicker when pushed. Soon he had caught up to Dabuk but remained behind the two rangers letting them lead, as they should.

Hougwarth was soon running beside Bactra's horse with Mesik and Thessa in the rear. Their small ponies were sturdy enough but not as quick as the giant's long stride.

Dabuk could smell them now. The orcs. And something else. It seemed familiar but also different. Garth spurred his massive horse into a breakneck gallop, easily dodging the low branches of a oak tree that hung over the trail.

Dabuk would have missed it if his father hadn't been riding ahead of him. The leaves of the branches grazed his cheeks and scalp pulling at his hair. The ranger peered back just in time to see Bactra duck under the branches, which weren't as obstructive to him on his smaller horse. Hougwarth didn't see the branches in time and sprinted right into them.

Dabuk looked forward just in time to duck another low-hanging branch right at the edge of the forest. He reigned in his horse not believing what he saw in front of him. Ten orcs surrounded a large ogre just past the edge of the tree line.

The ogre was unlike any other of its kind he'd ever seen before. Yes, it was ugly, but it wore fine clothes and carried a massive steel longsword. The beast was almost jovial, which burned in Dabuk's mind. His look of amazement turned to hatred and he knew who the beast was.

Bactra reigned in is horse next to his cousin's. The two of them stared in disbelief as Dabuk's father went to the aid of this ogre. It was both awe-inspiring and gut-wrenching at the same time.

"Is that who I think it is?" Bactra noticed his cousin's scowl and stayed beside him.

"Yes." Dabuk's voice was cold and unfeeling but Bactra knew he was torn up inside about this.

Dabuk watched as his father charge the orcs closest to him. They didn't have time to turn around before he had cut them down. The ogre took advantage of the distraction to behead two orcs with one swipe of his longsword. Hougwarth charged past Dabuk and Bactra completely unaware of their disdain for the situation. He charged the orcs swinging his own great sword. He sliced one orc to ribbons then lost his footing and fell on top of another.

"Maybe Hougwarth will accidentally kill him." Bactra shook his head in disbelief of the wood giant’s clumsy maneuver. The orc beneath him wouldn't be getting up again.

"Hougwarth's not that unlucky." A twisted smile crept across Dabuk's face.

Mesik and Thessa's war ponies clopped up behind the cousins. Mesik moved his pony next to Dabuk's frothing steed. The ranger's horse was trained not to like goblins or ogres. Thessa brought her pony next to Bactra's horse.

"Is that–"

"Yes, Mesik," Dabuk hated having to repeat himself, especially when he was trying to control himself. "That's Kellin One-Eye. My father's best friend."

Dabuk spat on the ground after speaking the words just as Garth killed the last orc and the ogre helped Hougwarth up from the ground.

"Oh damn," Mesik looked at Dabuk and then the famous ogre hero of Harqual. "This is not going to go well."

* * *
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Re: Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:44 am

From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus

Kellin One-Eye:
We had been riding for hours when Garth had noticed the signs of the orcs. He and Dabuk had raced ahead to deal with them, while the rest of us tried to keep up.

I wish I had decided to stay at home. The orcs had surrounded an ogre. Not just any ogre. The ogre of Harqual. Kellin One-Eye. Famed hero of the Second Ogre War and Garth Tigerstorm's best friend. This would be a problem.

Of course, Garth had immediately charged in to help his friend and even Hougwarth lent a hand, if you want to call it that. But Dabuk had refused and the look in his eye told me I'd better not help the ogre either. By the time Mesik and Thessa had caught up to us he was boiling over...


Bactra looked up from his writing watching as Garth and Bactra argued in the distance. They were really going at it. The elven wizard looked at the large ogre out of the corner of his eye. Hougwarth was keeping him company asking the big warrior about his life. Bactra was glad someone else was distracting the brute.

Bactra began writing again.

Garth, Kellin and Hougwarth dispatched the orcs and then Garth said something that has caused our current situation. He had insisted that Kellin come with us, as he knew this part of the continent better then we did. That brought a comment from Dabuk that turned his father's face red as his great roan.

They've been arguing ever since.

From what I've overheard, Kellin was tracking some of his own kind. These other ogres were causing grief up and down the tree line of the Great Forest. Kellin, being the good-natured soul that he says he is, volunteered to hunt down these marauding brutes and lay them low, so-to-speak.

Dabuk had accused Kellin of being the marauder and his father had boxed his ears for insulting his friend. Garth kept spouting things like ‘Kellin isn't like other ogres’ and ‘he’s a good person if you’d just give him a chance’ and ‘put down that sword or I'll make you really learn how to use it, boy’. And so on, and so on, and so on…


"Oh by Hade's Underrealm," Mesik had been sitting next to Bactra as he wrote. "I've had enough of this!"

The little halfling was irate stomping over to where father and son were arguing. He put himself between them and proceeded to smack Dabuk in the family jewels. "Enough boy! Enough! We might be friends but I'm your elder in the guild and I say enough is enough. You've spoken your mind but this is your grandfather's expedition and he put your father in charge. If he says the ogre comes with us then the ogre comes with us. You don't have to like it but you are going to accept it. Understood?"

Bactra had followed Mesik over towards his half-cousin until the point when the halfling bagged him. He had thought Dabuk would retaliate for sure but he didn't. His training told him not to question an elder member of the Tiger Guild.

"Understood." Dabuk growled under his breath while trying to sit up.

"Well, I'm glad that's settled."

"Shut up, Bactra." Mesik was beyond his boiling point. "You're just making a bad situation worse. Now, everyone go cool off for a bit. Then we'll mount up and take care of the ogre marauders.

Garth held his tongue as the irate halfling stomped off into the forest to find his happy place. Dabuk rolled on the ground cursing under his breath. Bactra looked at his journal then thought it better to put the book away and tend to his horse. Thessa said nothing while Hougwarth and Kellin One-Eye looked on.

The day was not going well.

* * *
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Re: Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:48 am

The Wild Plains, a ruined town:
Garth Tigerstorm looked through the tall grass of the Wild Plains upon the scene in front of him with disgust. A small town lied in ruins without any signs of survivors. He had seen is dozens of times in Thallin, Minar, and even Stonn. He looked at the footprints in the mud in front of him. The print were huge and bestial, yet were definitely from something that stood upright. Kellin had been right, ogres were on the rampage in the Wild Plains.

Garth looked his son out of the corner of his eye. Dabuk had stayed as far away from Kellin as he could. Not that his father blamed his son’s anger. Ogres were foul things that didn’t deserve pity. They had killed his wife, killed his stepsister. Those beasts had even taken his brother’s life. Garth remained crouched turning his head back while balancing on his left hand, to look at his friend Kellin One-Eye. Garth signaled Kellin with his right and the large ogre moved towards Garth’s right, away from Dabuk. He knew Kellin would be able to stop anything from flanking the rest of them.

Garth heard Dabuk growl beside him. He wished he could tell his son about Kellin’s past. He wished he could tell his son the truth. Kellin wasn’t like other ogres, he had never lived amongst them or gained any of their violent evil tendencies. He knew Kellin was good, knew it for a fact. It couldn’t be any other way. They had known each other since they were barely old enough to swing a sword. Kellin had stood with him on the Field of Alat during the final battle of the Second Ogre War. He’d fought better then a dozen Thallin knights. He’d proven himself a hero.

Of course, Dabuk didn’t care about any of that. He didn’t know Kellin. He had begged his old friend to let him tell his son the truth. Kellin had refused saying it would only make matters worse. ‘The boy is not ready to know the truth’ he had said. ‘I don’t know if he’ll ever be ready. Let it be Garth, let it be.’

Garth turned to his son trying desperately to hide the pain from Dabuk. He motioned for Dabuk to take the left flank away from the big ogre. Dabuk didn’t like taking orders from anyone, especially Garth. But the Justiciar was relieved when Dabuk took his position without any gesture or look of annoyance. He understood what needed to be done in the moment.

Mesik had made sure of that.

It had been a somber journey from the spot where they had first encountered Kellin to the ruined town. Dabuk had rode out in front doing the tracking. Garth had thought it better to let the boy take the lead, while he and Kellin stayed in the back of the group to watch the rear.

Mesik had stayed beside Dabuk keeping him from saying something to ignite another argument and hold his temper. Bactra and Thessa had been next with the wood giant next. It amazed Garth how his son could accept Hougwarth, a giant and kin to ogres and, yet, not accept Kellin. Of course, wood giants were very distant kin to ogres. Garth was still having trouble accepting that the vonakyndra still existed on Harqual. Even the elves of the Knotwood had thought they were either extinct or a myth.

Mesik tapped Garth’s knee bringing him back into the present. Dabuk and Kellin were almost to the edge of the village. Garth nodded to Mesik and he, the halfling and Hougwarth stood up and walked towards the ruined town cautiously looking for any signs of an ambush. The buildings were still smoking and the smell of burnt wood and flesh made Garth nauseous. Of course, he was used to it so he continued on into the remains of the town without pause. Mesik and Hougwarth weren’t as use to such things covering their mouths to keep from retching.

Garth looked back to make sure Thessa and Bactra had stayed where he had insisted they remain. Garth didn’t care for magic much but knew it was better to have them stay hidden in the tall grass of the plain than wandering around the ruins unprotected. They would remain relatively safe, as long as they didn’t draw attention to themselves. Garth saw Thessa standing next to Bactra who was simply sitting in the dirt writing in his journal. Garth was glad that at least Thessa was paying attention to what was going on, watching the young wizard’s back.

Mesik pulled on Garth’s breeches while holding his nose. He pointed towards a building that looked relatively unscathed. Garth was immediately alert again. It wasn’t like ogres to leave a building standing.

“Stay here,” Garth whispered to the small halfling. “Dabuk and I will check it out.”

Garth signaled his son towards the one remaining structure in the town. It looked like a hall of some kind. Garth walked towards the hall drawing his blade. He put out his hand towards Kellin who was motioning to Garth that he’d back him up if he needed it. Garth didn’t want Kellin next to Dabuk if a fight broke out.

Dabuk was already on one side of the hall’s main entryway. Garth walked right up to the door. He looked at his son and counted to three without making a sound. The two rangers kicked in the double doors with a war cry.

Then it hit them. The smell of charred, dead flesh wafted through the doors burning their eyes and throat. Both men fell back from the stench unable to go into the hall. Garth rubbed the tears from his eyes so that he could see. He held his sword up in case anything tried to rush him from inside the hall.

He needn’t have worried.

“By the North Gods,” Garth stared in horror at the grisly scene inside the hall.

The others gathered round the open hall doors staring in shock. Dozens of burnt corpses hung from the rafters of the hall, while other mutilated corpses were arranged throughout the hall positioned to appear dancing singing and sitting at wooded tables, as if during a feast.

“That is sick,” Mesik turned away. “Ogres did this?”

Bactra and Thessa approached the hall and the gnome priestess screamed when she saw inside the building.

“No,” Garth looked at the macabre scene disgusted. “Ogres don’t do this sort of thing. There too savage.”

“Father,” Dabuk pointed his sword back towards the way they came. “The tracks are ogre tracks. Even old One-Eye over there says it was ogres.”

“Dabuk…”

“Well, how else do explain this?”

“I agree that ogres were involved somehow, but I’m telling you ogres didn’t do this.”

“How?”

“Look at the back of the hall, on the wall.”

Dabuk stepped forward next to his father looking at the strange script written in blood on the wall.

“By Rillifane,” Dabuk even looked shocked. “That’s… just… wrong.”

“Oh man,” Mesik couldn’t keep himself from being sick, throwing up next to Hougwarth’s feet.

The blood script writing formed the shape of Vaprak’s dark symbol beside another symbol that Garth had not seen since the end of the Second Ogre War.

“What is that?” Hougwarth ducked down in order to see the whole grisly image.

“It is the symbol of the Foulsoul. An evil witch that my father killed during the war. Either someone has adopted it as there own or the Foulsoul has returned from the dead.”

“I don’t like the sound of either of those options.” Kellin stood back the group watching the surrounding countryside with concern.

No one, not even Dabuk, could argue with the ogre man’s words.

* * *
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Re: Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:53 am

The Wild Plains, banks of the Silver River:
It had been two nights and a day since they buried the burned and desecrated bodies of the town, which Dabuk named Burnholm since none could find any clues to what the town had been called. Both Dabuk and Garth had taken the lead, while Kellin took up the rear. They all were becoming obsessed with finding the vermin responsible for destroying Burnholm.

Bactra rode beside Hougwarth with Thessa and Mesik behind them. No one had spoken a word since they left the ruined town. Dabuk tracked the large bestial giants without difficulty. The ogres weren’t even trying to hide their tracks. However, there had been no sign of anyone else traveling with them. No horse tracks or footfalls in the earth, the ogres were alone.

Dabuk knelt near the banks of a river, which Kellin called the Silver River. Bactra and Dabuk knew of the Silver River but were surprised that it stretched so far south. The Silver River sprung forth from Lake Silverleaf through the great city of the Kingdom of the Silver Leaves, which was named Silverleaf as well. Only the silver elves of that Kingdom would know if the lake was named after the city, or vice versa.

Of course, none of that mattered to the half-elven ranger, as he studied the ogres’ tracks near the bank. He scowled looking across the deep water of the river towards the other bank.

“They crossed here,” Dabuk searched the horizon beyond the rivers banks. “I’m sure of it.”

“I believe you’re right, my son.” Garth was examining several other tracks made by the brutes only a few feet away. “Do you think they might have spotted us following them?”

Dabuk shook his head, not taking his eyes off the other side of the riverbank. “Not a chance. They’re clueless.”

“All right then,” Garth gathered in Hindle’s reins mounting the great red roan with one swift, smooth motion. “We cross here.”

Bactra didn’t like the idea. “Uh, uncle, don’t you think it would be wise to find someplace less deep to cross?”

“We haven’t any time for that, Bactra. Do not worry. Your horse will be able to manage the swim, just let her guide you.”

“I-If you say so,” Bactra looked at the deep flowing water with dread.

“Do not worry, friend.” Hougwarth lifted Thessa onto her pony. “Both Kellin and I should be able to manage the waters just fine. If you get into trouble just yell out.”

“Thanks Hougwarth,” Bactra sighed, relieved that someone would be looking out for him.

“Just don’t trip, Hugh.” Mesik elbowed the large giant man in the knee. “I wouldn’t want you to fall on me in the water.”

“Fear not, little man. I am as fine a swimmer as I am a swordsman.”

“Great,” Dabuk shook his head then mounted his horse.

Hougwarth didn’t realize that he was a klutz. The vonakyndra warrior thought a lot of his skill with a sword. His friends knew better. They had met the large giant man on their journey to the Kingdom of the Silver Leaves after returning to the north. He had appeared on the trail and introduced himself with a graceful bow and flourish of his great sword. It was impressive, until Hougwarth had proceeded to drop his sword in the dirt while attempting a final flourish to sheath his sword. Of course, he was clueless insisting that he had meant to do it.

The group began to cross the flowing water of the Silver River. It wasn’t as deep as Bactra had feared and his nimble mare easily kept her head and him afloat. Thessa and Mesik were not as lucky. Thessa’s pony bucked her off sending her into the water. Mesik found himself underwater hanging from his ponies left stirrup.

“Thessa!” Bactra tried to reach out and grab the gnome priestess’ hand.

The water carried her under flowing past Dabuk who’d stayed near his cousin just in case. Neither of them could reach her. Kellin dove into the water after Thessa with Hougwarth right behind him.

Mesik struggled to free himself from the stirrup without luck. The halfling man knew he’d drown without help. Then he remembered Salisan’s gift. The rogue pulled out the giant knife, which Salisan had called his Sheao, and cut at the stirrup entangling his foot. The blade cut through the leather with ease and Mesik rose out of the water gasping just as Garth came to his rescue.

Garth pulled Mesik out of the water onto Hindle scanning the water for any signs of Thessa or the two giants. Bactra had made it to the other side of the river with Dabuk next him. Kellin rose out of the water but didn’t have Thessa with him.

“I can’t find her!”

“Where’s Hougwarth?” Garth brought his roan up on to the bank next to his son’s. Kellin waded down river looking for any signs of the missing gnome and giant.

None had seen the vonakyndra dive in after Thessa. Moments felt like hours as they scanned the river.

Then the vonakyndra burst out of the water, holding Thessa up with both hands, near the bank downstream. He waded in keeping the gnome priestess close to him. Kellin helped Hougwarth up the bank, while the others looked on.

“Is she all right?” Mesik stood next to Garth’s steed shaking the water from his hair.

“She swallowed a lot of water. If it got into her lungs.”

They stood over Thessa while Dabuk and Bactra attended to her.

“She’s cold and turning blue. She definitely has water in her lungs.” Dabuk shook his head looking at the others.

“Roll her over and hit her on the back!” Kellin’s idea sounded ludicrous to Dabuk.

“I will do no such thing, you ugly brute!”

“Shut up and get the hell out of the way, son!”

Garth knew what Kellin had in mind. He rolled Thessa over slapping her hard on the back. She chugged up some water but still wasn’t breathing.

“Damn it!” Garth was about to slap her harder when Kellin stopped him.

“That won’t do any good now. Turn her back over. Push down on her chest where the lungs are, not too hard. Mesik, blow in her mouth.”

“W-what?” Mesik turned red.

“Don’t be stupid, Mesik! She needs air! And hold her nose while you blow.”

Mesik did as Kellin said while Garth pumped Thessa’s chest. Two minutes past then five then, as they were about to lose hope, Thessa coughed up gouts of water. Garth rolled her back over which seemed to help.

They all looked at Kellin, amazed.

“How’d you know how to do that?” Dabuk looked at the ogre suspiciously.

Kellin looked the ranger dead in the eye. “Druids are good teachers.”

Thessa tried to speak.

“Hush little one, don’t talk.” Kellin knelt beside the gnome priestess holding her head gently in his huge right hand. “You just rest easy for a moment. Garth, get me a blanket. We have to keep her warm.”

“Coming right up.”

Garth dug out his winter blanket, which had been sealed in his saddlebags. The blanket was still dry.

“You saved my life?” Thessa looked up at Kellin.

“No little one,” we all saved you. “But you should be thanking Hougwarth most of all. He is indeed a fine swimmer.”

“Thank you Hugh,” Thessa smiled at the vonakyndra.

“It was my duty and my honor, little miss. But you should be thanking Mesik and Garth. They performed Kellin’s life saving magic ritual. It was quite amazing.”

“What they did wasn’t magic, Hougwarth. Just skill and nature working together.”

“Regardless,” Thessa looked first at Garth then at Mesik. “Thank you both.”

“It was my pleasure!” Mesik was grinning from ear to ear.

Everyone laughed gathering around Thessa near the bank of the Silver River.
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Re: Tales of the Companions Story Hour

Post by Knightfall » Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:59 am

Interlude #6

Kingdom of the Silver Leaves, the City of Treestead:
High into the hills surrounding the Greystone Mountains stood the edge of the Great Forest. There, as well, was the invisible border between the Kingdom of the Greystones and the Kingdom of the Silver Leaves. It is there where the City of Stonedale guards the west, while the City of Treestead guards the east, not from the dwarves of the Greystones but from the other denizens of the mountain range.

Ogres, trolls, gnolls, and much worse. And they have become restless.

The sky flashed white lightning through dark thunderheads. The sound of rolling thunder washed down from the peaks of the Greystones to interrupt the cascade of rain pouring from the sky. The foliage and denizens of the mountain range and rising forest were soaked with moisture from countless rainstorms. The ground was tangled mud, which clung to the boots and clothing of the silver elves assigned to protect the lowlands from the ogre hordes still ravaging the countryside.

The weather and conditions matched Jeddar’s mood. He’d insisted to be part of the brigade assigned to protect Treestead, not realizing what the conditions would be like until he got there. It was a horrible place to fight a war against larger opponents.

“This mess is magical, I tell you. It just does not pour rain here like this for this long.” Anuvaiir watched the latest set of rolling thunderheads with irate concern. “Those damn ogres are the cause of these storms.”

“It’s possible,” Jeddar wasn’t one to contradict his superior. “However, it would take more than a simple ogre shaman to create this kind of weather.”

“Bah, ogres are too stupid to conjure up storms.” Jeldrean was one of the silver wilds that lived more like the forest elves of the south.

“Don’t be so quick to dismiss all ogres as being stupid, Jeldrean. Don’t forget the reports that the ogres might have an ogre scion leading them. After all, we have already battled several ogre brutes, which are just beneath a scion in power.”

Jeddar didn’t doubt his commander’s words but prayed he was wrong. Ogre scions, once again, appearing out of the dark places of the continent. Such a thought was troubling to say the least. Jeddar pulled his spare blanket out to cover himself, trying in vain to stay dry. He scanned the forest canopy in search of signs of more ogres, but he could see nothing through the heavy rain.

The three of them were huddled together in an old treestead set high in one of the tallest red firs in the region surrounding the City of Treestead, which was more like a forest elf community than a silver elf city. In truth, Treestead was home to not only elves, but dwarves, halflings, and a few trusted human rangers and barbarians. Dozens of similar treesteads were scattered throughout the forest in this region.

It had been the makeshift, hanging fortifications that had inspired the name of the small elven-dominated city that had sprung to life in the region after the end of the Second Ogre War. The city had been the brainchild of an old elven warrior who had fought ogres in the region during the war. The treesteads were built strategically in different locales at different heights, but were perfectly meshed into the natural order of region.

Those without the proper knowledge to find the treesteads rarely discovered them, and they had worked quite well for what they had been designed for, for decades. Now, however, the treesteads were being systematically destroyed by the ogre hordes, which had perplexed the local commanders until the first ogre brute had been spotted.

“Wherever the brutes had appeared in the past, the ogre scions were always the cause.” Jeddar spoke the words that all of Harqual feared. “And the First and Second Ogre Wars had begun soon afterwards.”

“A Third Ogre War seems to be on the horizon, my friends.” Anuvaiir stood up scanning the canopy in the distance. “And it seems like we’ll get to fight tonight to hopefully turn the tide in our favor.”

The elven commander pointed towards the towering mountains. Trees in the region swayed and buckled as the latest horde of ogres poured out of the mountain range towards Treestead. An elven horn sounded in the distance followed by another and another. Jeddar answered their calls with his own military horn, as well as pitching the music higher towards the city proper.

“So many,” Jeldrean’s voice spoke of his concern. “Will this never end, by Corellon?”

“Prepare yourselves for battle, my friends.” Anuvaiir grabbed a nearby rope and swung down through the canopy to lead the forces of Treestead against the attacking horde.

Jeddar and Jeldrean prepared their bows and cache of arrows for the long night ahead. Jeddar checked to make sure his twin scimitars were close at hand and silently prayed to Tethrin for strength. He thought of Dabuk, wishing that his dark friend was with him now, to help steel his resolve against a foe that Jeddar feared more than he’d ever admit. He thought of Dvalin, Mesik, and Bactra, friends for life. He thought of Rikin, Salisan, Thessa, and even the vonakyndra, Hougwarth, who he’d already come to know as friend. All of these names and many more from childhood rushed through his mind as he strung his bow and took aim in the darkness.

I pray I see you again, my friends, the thought was his last before his mind became embroiled in the madness of battle and the twang of hundreds of bows firing. The ogres came and the citizens of Treestead hung on for dear life.
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