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TNES VI - The Mythopoeia

Discussion in 'Never Ending Stories' started by Thlayli, Aug 31, 2018.

  1. thomas.berubeg

    thomas.berubeg Wandering the World

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2006
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    8,973
    Location:
    Ft. Lauderdale
    The Smith's Interlude:


    The man was nondescript, or as nondescript as a man of his musculature could be. He walked down the ramp of the ship, an anvil strapped to his back, a bag with all of his belongings hanging from a stick over his shoulder. He had a beard, thick, black, and long shaggy hair.


    His eyes were dull, though they darted back and forth. He whistled, a soft melody that slipped from the minds of those that heard it almost as soon as it slipped into their ears.


    He wasn’t noticed then, and wasn’t noticed later, when he bartered some space in Master Uli’s forge. Master Uli paid him no mind: it was not uncommon for a wandering Journeyman to take up residence for a time, and learn from the local master.


    Even when the forge-fires danced to life, and the song of hammer to steel began, Master Uli remained focused on his own projects. Iphu was building new walls, after all, and the hinges of the gates would not forge themselves.


    That night, the strange smith placed before Master Uli a dozen perfect, identical nails, each a forearm length. The perfect nails to hold the hinges Master Uli had poured into the molds, the hinges that would tie the great carved doors to the wooden walls. They were great leaves, the hinges, as the doors would be carved with intricate knotwork of vines. Master Uli saw with pleasure that the nail heads would flatten, when hammered, into the shape of small silver flowers.


    In the evening, the smith sat in the tavern, a wooden trencher of the thick fish stew favored by the people of Iphu, and the rest of the island besides, and a slab of brown bread. The beer at his side remained untouched. He watched people come down the stairs into the tavern, watched the room slowly fill up, a soft melody on his lips. This place was different than most, he knew, instinctively, though how he did not know.


    Its people were different.


    The air was somber, heavier than any inn he had been in before, though, still, no one paid attention to him, a simple traveller. As he ate, he hummed a tuneless little ditty, a swirl of music that lost itself in the smoky air.


    That night, he dreamed. He dreamed of many things. Of a knife so sharp the world itself was cut with every swing, and a bit of the world leaked out through the cuts, of chains of shimmering amethyst wrapping a giant in a loving embrace, of plowshares that tilled the soil, leaving golden grain in its wake. Of a clasp, for a singing cloak.


    He dreamed of a city, shining, full of greenery and shady trees, of a river of water pouring from a lake into the sky.


    The dreams faded in the morning, as they are wont to do.


    He set up his forge, again.


    This day, Master Uli watches the stranger. And with every ringing strike of the hammer, every carefully tempered piece of steel, the certainty grows. This is no mere journeyman, no mere learner. This is a master in his own right.


    For a time, Master Uli forgets his own work, ruins a piece of fine copper as it grows cold across his anvil. His apprentices watch, too, as a finely worked door knocker takes shape. None of them have seen fine metalworking so combined with forgework. Gold heated to just below melting, and drawn through a drilled piece of metal, fine wires, and wrapped and melted onto a cast-iron fish, forming delicate scales. Ceramic powder lightly glued on, melted to create an iridescent enamel of a thousand colors. And, then, at the end of the day, the smith presents it to Master Uli, and says the first words anyone has heard from him.


    “For use of your forge.” The words are whispered, a voice hoarse with disuse, though still mellifluous. Master Uli nods, and accepts the fish. (So light.) He gives the smith in return a flagon of water. Lake water, as that is the only water in the village. The Smith drinks of it, and his eyes light up.


    That night, the Smith dreams again, crisper, brighter, clearer than he had ever, even... before that first knife.


    For three months, the Smith works in Iphu. He does not speak much, but he teaches Master Uli much, and Master Uli teaches him much, as well. Much of the village finds itself recipient of gifts of finely worked metal: new wrought candlesticks in the Inn, which cast shimmering lights over all the walls, banishing the shadows to dusty corners. A great bowl for the council, and an accompanying ladle. A statue of an old man he does not recognize, but who the awakened clearly do. But all this time, it seems he is waiting for something that is coming.


    Master Uli and the other awakened meet many times, and many times they discuss the smith. They know he is there to help them, they know it. Thier words fill the shaded amphitheater on the banks of the lake of stars, rustling in amongst the leaves, until they could not be told apart from the great white blossoms of the shaded magnolias.


    That is not the only thing they discuss. They know of the cold clawing in the north. They speak of Kurei, once one of their number, now remembered both in their dreams and in the statue the strange smith made.


    They know of the raging fire in the south, a hunger that grows ever closer.


    They see the spinning wheel of leaves that, for now, keeps the flame at bay.


    They feel the Dreamer, the twin souls, travelling. He draws closer, but his time is not yet.


    And, one night, in their shared dream, they see a Stag. It wears a cloak, and it is silent. It watches them, and they watch it. For a week, they do so, it’s form growing larger, until it’s antlers prick the heavens, and, after an eternity, it shakes its head, dislodging countless stars.


    As one, the awakened wake to the sound of distant song, a distant rush of song. From open windows, from ajar doors, they see the falling heavens, endless streaks of light rushing across the skies.


    The smith is outside, eyes turned up, blazing with light, and they remember that he was in their dream, too. He attended their council, though he did not speak.


    And, high above, a single voice of the chorus grows in intensity, in volume. It is in harmony with the rest of the voices, but quickly gains dominance, and, in a moment, one of the streaks of the falling stars rushes low above Iphu, striking the ground not too far into the wild woods.


    The rain of stars continues, tapering off only slowly, the chorus of song ending one voice after another, until again, the Heavens hang motionless and silent high above.


    The smith leaves that morning, and is gone for a week. When he returns he he is cradling gently in his hands, as an infant, the metal of a fallen star. It is light, that metal, soft, in a way few metals are, but Master Uli sees how it can be tempered, worked, into something as strong as, no, stronger, than steel, and with a beauty unrivaled.


    Wordlessly, Master Uli and The Smith work side by side. It is a small thing they are working: a clasp. It is beautiful in it’s simplicity, but, as they work, as they quench it’s heat in the water of the lake of stars over and over, Master Uli realizes that he is working the steam as much, if not more, than the metal.


    And, as he works, he feels the presence of all his kin lending their strength to his. He feels the distant pain of old Kurei, and takes strength from his determination. He feels the strength of young Jush, who is working in the fields, and the quiet focus of Master Abu drinking his tea and reading. He feels the brisk wind on Elou’s face as she pulls in a netful of fish, and the warming sun on Baris’s back as he cuts some grain. He feels all of his kin, and knows them all, and he gives them his strength and they theirs.


    And with a start, he realizes he feels someone new, someone different, and in a that instant, the dreamers all know the name that belongs to their unknowing benefactor.


    Alai.


    He is close, oh so close, and that closeness is enough for them all. With a last ring of the hammer, the clasp is done, and the steam clears, drifting to joining with the clouds in the sky, a gentle river drifting towards the north.


    The Smith nods at Master Uli, carefully wraps up the clasp, packs up his anvil, walks out the city gates and disappears from Iphu. All is quiet, and life slowly returns to normal.


    That evening, a group of people walk through the gates of the city.


    A young woman with red hair and an unstrung bow on her back. A cloaked woman, face obscured by an antlered mask, a shaggy looking youth with small curling horns.


    And Him. Alai, the man who has lived in their dreams for nearly thirty years.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2018
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  2. TheMeanestGuest

    TheMeanestGuest Warlord

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2008
    Messages:
    204
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    In Moon Country

    Hyric stepped from his cloud amidst the birches, green leaves painted black by night’s darkness. Orthier, again, but no dyryg there to slay. There had been many torments, well-deserved all, but it was the last he found unbearable.

    So nearly atoned, Hyric. Go now to the west country, to Orthier. Gird it with my power, that none should trespass in my domain. You are severed from my voice until this is done.

    An exile, and a homecoming. Chual was not so far, and some nights he gazed upon the village from his cloud, a strange longing buried somewhere deep inside him. But the man who felt those things was dead, and all longing falls away before Shadur. He would endure any burden to hear again his master’s voice. He would raise up a place of strength that his father should be proud. Many cavernous halls he dug, arranging them just so. Shadur’s voice would echo loud throughout the Kurlands, never again to be torn from him by silence.

    With but one arm the work was slow, so he cupped his hand and sent a whisper through the wood. The zemmi came to him alone or in pairs, a small but steady flow, and Hyric set them to. They piled earth in mounds and berms, saplings placed with care atop. At Amno he’d walked among the growing bones, felt the forces there at work. Such mastery he could never hope to match, but he’d puzzled out enough. He crouched beside each growing tree and asked it for its help. In return he promised power and a life unbound by time. At night they grew with fearsome speed, nourished on moon’s light. The eager birches of Orthier dug deep their roots and soared up to the sky; they bound their trunks as mighty walls, their canopies entwined. The months passed by, and up and up grew that dreadful house of earth and wood. Like this he toiled for a year. His father was silent.

    On waxing nights he felt his loneliness the keenest, so he sat the glades of the priest-folk, and they joined him in the circle. “Lord!” they would cry, their troubles unending: “Lord, the bellies of our people groan in this lean season, how are we to sate them?”

    “It is a simple thing,” he said, and he taught them the right words to speak to berry bush and tuber root, to trick them that they would drink their fill of moonlight. He showed them the luring signs, game drawn for the kill. He ground bone’s meal up with shouted threats to feed their fruiting caps. Soon they had a bounty, and Hyric bade them give their thanks to the moonfather. They tied a hundred goats in sacrifice, blood spilt on blackened stone.

    “Lord!” they begged, casting their faces on the ground: “Lord, a sickness takes our children. How are we to save them?”

    “With dreams that praise the holy monolith,” he replied, and he taught them technique to master nightmare, that they could walk serenely in the minds of fevered sleepers, setting things aright. Soon their children were hale, and they held a midnight feast to fete the obelisk.

    “Lord?” they asked, hesitating, their eyes cast downward in respect: “Lord, you have granted us many gifts, and the strong house you’ve made guards us safe against beast and foe alike. How can we repay your kindness?”

    Hyric paused long in thought then, considering. “Ask my father to forgive me, that I might at last go home,” he said. The priests nodded sagely, departing one by one.

    Spoiler :
    the fortress Amno - 2 Magic Points, 2 Civilization Points [Shadur] - Its voice is heard throughout the North, in field and grove and dell, in deepest weald and on river's winding course. In lonely places the wood itself begins to hearken, boughs silent with rapt attention. In the elder vale of Amno where the tall pines grow the whispers of the wind are heard with terrible clarity, a clamouring sussurus of needles arising in reply. Nourished by the power of SHADUR the trees move to please it. Branches close up like walls and the canopy entwines itself above, casting the forest floor in welcome dark. It grows, a great and twisted mound pulsing with unnatural vigor. Uncounted halls and nooks within, rooten vaults hid underground. Armouries aswarm, strong roots cracking quarries of flint for the knapping, zem makers crooning encouragement as stout clubs and shafts for spears and arrows grow in clutches on the budding walls. Fetid pits of rot burst with crops of mushrooms while blind squirrels teem in their lightless pens. Fed fat by Amno's tortured bounty the zemmi breed and gather, scurrying all throughout. Naiounes scheme and stalk the place, plans to be unfurled. Space itself warps amidst the woods, such that all paths lead to Amno's gates; a seal upon the plain of terror.

    the castle Orthier - 1 Magic Point, 1 Civilization Point [Hyric] - Amno's steadfast lieutenant in the west, nestled in the heart of moon country to guard that lonely flank. Hyric is lord here, speaking the pronouncements of Shadur.

    the bounteous moon country - 2 Civilization Points [Hyric, Kurom] - In Orthier's shadow the Kurom prosper. The moon priests have learned many secret things, and they have made themselves a ruling council; the whispers of the wind and the strange wisdoms of Lord Hyric interpreted together into law. Winding tracks give way to tramped earthen roads as the villages of the Kurlands molt into burgeoning towns. Old trees are felled as the night gardens grow. Praise Shadur for its mercy.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
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  3. Jehoshua

    Jehoshua Catholic

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2009
    Messages:
    7,127
    What Maketh a King?

    -

    Aeladan jumped from rock to rock over the lazy brook, the languid waters of the stream overshadowed by the green leaves and illuminated by streaks of light from the midday sun. This was the Great Forest of Anephru, sanctuary of the shepherd and his companions, birthplace of the Aenerath and holy to Elaadi. Here was to be found sweetness in life's sorrows, and the murmuring song of the sleeping god in root and stem and bough, and so as his hooves danced between the rocks and logs and leaves he sang a song, or perhaps a prayer.

    Sing wandering bird, let not the Whispering Night pluck thy wings.

    Sing grass and flowers, let not the Fiery Deep slay the Shepherd.

    Sing trees and whisper, let not the sun shine its light on them

    Look up ye to the starry heaven and sing

    Look down ye unto the swirling waters and sing

    Look in unto the Holy Garden and sing

    to the turning of the age.

    Two exiles found rest for a time in these woods, but there would only be one homecoming. Iphu was not far and some nights Aeladan gazed north from the forest to the distant cleft in the mountain where lay the lake of stars and the home of the dreamers. Soon, Aeladan thought, the passing guest would make his way to whence he came and to the beginning of the fulfillment of his part in the eternal story. But it was written in the book of heavens that is was not there where he would find its end. He laughed when he remembered when the guest tried to make oblation to him as to a spirit (Aeladan took the offering regardless) and prayed that this beloved guest would not be taken by the dread whisper of the night, his light snuffed out. For many sorrows would face Alai before the time came where his purpose would be fulfilled.

    So too did Aeladan ponder that his foster-father and his friend and brother Halogund too would play their parts in another saga, within the grand ballad of the age. To them though there would be no homecoming, only ash and broken glass and perhaps renewal and a new beginning. It is the nature of the wheel that what lives shall die, before it can live again. He would mourn their departure and fear for them, for they are hunted by a great and fiery foe and sought by a patient and sleepless enemy, but such sorrows are part of the course of life, and what is life but the sum of many sorrows? Such things however fall away in the eternal now before the necessity of His story. He too was given a gift he could not repay, life, and so he is resolved that he must live it to the full. He clenched his fist and renewed his determination that he would fulfill his part in the tale whatever that may be and that the first of the Aerenath he would teach his brothers and sisters the stories and the songs revealed to him by Haadulf the teacher, and by the murmuring voices of the spirits and the father of spirits. For rhe ballad would be long and the awakening was always near at hand just beyond reach yet at the same time now, and he would do his best to ensure that the plain of ash and broken glass that always pierced into his sight like a fiery sword would not find its way to this place, his home and to his brothers. Besides, what use is life if it is devoid of purpose?

    Aeladan ran along a fallen log bedecked with moss. To one Aerenoth alone the work would be slow and wearisome, and so with twitching ears and a glinting eye he raised a single deep note, to be passed through the trees of the forest and whispered by the nameless spirits he called out. And as he danced and ran through the grove they came, and joined him dancing from shadow to shadow and tree to tree until all the Aenarath born of the god and of the beloved sacrifice came to him, even those who watched with baleful eyes the dread enemy. They ran through the dappled shade and fields of flowers laughing and singing until at last they came as one to the greatest tree, and to the broken tomb that lay at the foot thereof. There did Aeladan alight with nimble grace upon a branch and sit, his hooves swinging in the air too and fro as his brethren came and sat in a circle on the ground and looked upward, emerald eyes glistening in rapt attention.

    And he sang

    He sung of the Aemakim, chiefs of the kinsfolk, friends of spirits and shepherds of trees, and rocks and streams. As the dreamer is in his story and the Prophet is in his so they shall be to those tribes of the Aerenath given to them and to the children that shall come from their seed. For they are teachers and guides and protectors of the forest so saith Aeladan

    He sung of the tribes and moieties, in the image of the scattered and oppressed people of Gahad, or the Mohabef, Manahize and Rotofar. In the forest shall their memory and their inheritance be sung in the song of life and danced to the whispers of the trees that in being sung they one day might rise again.

    He sung of the arrow and the hunter, in the image of the teachers Mastin and Gologind flitting to and fro on the green way between the real and unreal, between the shadows and the light. Hunting that which is unclean like Jemmi and the silent huntress, and obtaining from the forest what is necessary for the people body and soul.

    He sung too of the whole, of song yes and also of the harmony of the parts, of man and woman, of mother and children, of fathers and sons, of the court of summer in which all move to the music of seasons to die in winter and be reborn in spring to live through and in the eternal cycle and the intertwined stories that make up life. So too did he sing of the brotherhood of the Aemakim and the Aerenath, of the deep magics of the forest and the secrets of the grove which god and god-chosen man had revealed to him that his brothers might know themselves, and thus find an answer to the greatest of questions. Why hath I been made?

    At last he fell silent

    The leaves rustled in the wind.

    The stars shone overhead

    The sun shone not its face into the holy garden

    And Ghalaefar of the Aerenath asked

    "And what is your part in the story Aeladan?"

    To which Barandulf of the long horns and child-like face, lover and listener of stories jumped to his feet.

    "A king! A bold man who laughs loud and ventures far, hearty and hale, whose blood and spirit is as noble as a big horned stag!"

    To which Aahur, tall and strong nodding his head [for truly Aeladan's horns were the noblest of the Aerenath] replied, raising aloft his staff bedecked with a pinecone and ribbon from far off Sommos as he exclaimed.

    "And wise and strong too, for like father guided the Gahadi, and Alai SHALL guide the dreamers, so must we have a guide lest we fall astray on the green road only to be taken like summer grass in the flame"

    And he shuddered for of the living Aerenath it was Aahur who saw clearest the bonfire of Gahad and felt the burning heat of FIRE itself upon his brow and deep within his bones.

    Aeladan pondered these and said

    "Let it be as it will be, for I am not what you would make of me but nothing more than myself. If that is a king then so be it"

    And as night fell the Aerenath sung haunting songs and danced the dance of seasons around the greatest tree, as the beloved guest and their dear father dreamt strange dreams of trees and stags and shoots, and as seeds sprouted under the ash and in the fields and in the meadows to the melody of a thousand spirits.

    And a new day rose.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2018
  4. spryllino

    spryllino Deity

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2010
    Messages:
    3,150
    Location:
    England
    Ooh an actual NES! I have not seen one of those in a long time. I haven't quite got time to read it right at the moment, but I hope no-one will object if I just make an encouraging 'lurking' post. :)
     
  5. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2005
    Messages:
    10,539
    Location:
    In the desert
    Thank you, spry! It's really great to see you again. I hope you will consider playing at some point.

    I will note of course that Iggy's NES was/is actual, good and around fairly recently as well.
     
  6. Shadowbound

    Shadowbound Scourge of God

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2007
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    3,963
    Most of us have migrated to IOT so we can have fresh infusions of talent into our games, so I'm running one there.
     
  7. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2005
    Messages:
    10,539
    Location:
    In the desert
    Oh, it's you! I was beginning to think you were dead. I heard your last adventure was rather...harrowing. Heh. So, what have you brought me?

    Myrtgs: Slow, giant, peaceful bottom-dwellers that live upon the rocky sea-beds of the North, and occasionally the northern East. The complete shape of a myrtg is not known, but they are mostly composed of their massive limbs, partly covered in sea moss with whom they live in a symbiotic relationship. Myrtgs are too large to have proper brains, but gradually wander towards proper temperatures and signs of food, which they dredge from the silt of the sea-bed with what can be assumed to be giant toothless mouths. They often feast on whale-corpses, but in thin times their moss-colonies provide them sustenance, especially during the long cold winter. In return, they lift the sea-moss to the surface to warm and photosynthesize in the sun, and this is how most mortals observe them, as their massive limbs break the surface like temporary reefs. Myrtgs are believed to be immortal and never stop growing, but when one gets too big for the available resources in the region, a few of its limbs break off and migrate into a new area.

    ---

    As requested, I will update the front page with an up to date bestiary, for the esoteriphiles among you. Player creations like aaruanef and such will be added in eventually as well.

    Thomas, I just now got a chance to properly read your most recent story. EXCELLENT work, and really nice collab with ork.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2018
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  8. TheMeanestGuest

    TheMeanestGuest Warlord

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2008
    Messages:
    204
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Hyric and the Wolf

    He stalked it from the air, that loathsome wolfish beast; a high and wispy cloud hidden out of sight. It had preyed upon ten flocks of goats, three herdsmen too besides. It had stalked the streets of Grumni town and howled at the doors, killed two priests at forest’s altar on full moon’s holy night, bodies left to rot. Ten zemmi hunters, fierce and quick, ate upon the trail.

    Tall and strong, stature grown beyond its kind. Lithe and fast, hardly touching the ground as it ran between the trees. It drove the deer before it towards the sticking bog, chasing jaws aslather. Above, a pale fine spear - cruelly tipped - held loosely in the palm, rending knife of runed stone worn sheathed upon his hip; Hyric sat, waited, watched, the moment nearly there. It burst from trees, snarling, snapping morsels up. It stumbled for a second, paws askid in boggy muck - this the wolf’s misfortune, one second all it took. Hyric loosed his spear - thundercrack - sharp whistle as it struck. Leg pierced through the wolf tumbled down, howled loud, splashing in the reeds.

    The wraith alighted, tranquil, all going to a hush. Hyric took his blade in lonesome hand, the tall reeds standing still. A growl right behind him, hot breath in his ear: “I am Buul, a fearsome wolf. I will kill you now,” then sharp teeth snapping shut. But Hyric stood six paces back, and laid three cuts across Buul’s hide. Twisting with a snarl, lashing with its claws. Hyric rolled lazily aside and wrenched the spear from out Buul’s leg. The wolf heaved and growled, blood dripping down, unsteady on its feet. “Belly up, but grown so bold. I will eat you, not-a-man! I care not for rocks in fields. This is the forest of the wolf!”

    “No. It is the other way. Beasts fall before the throne,” the wraith replied, spear held firmly in his grip. A charging wolf with raging eyes, throat skewered by flinten tip.

    Beneath the moon Hyric hung Buul’s head at Orthier’s sturdy trunks, grey fur all matted up with rusting brown. In the morning the priests came to look on it, to stare at sightless eyes. They praised Hyric as their lord, singing deep a hymn, and they presented him a rich tribute: black goatscloth, wasp’s eggs, ambered jewels. With a nod he accepted, and he gave them the blessing of a night of beautiful nightmares. The sun hung high in the sky when the people came to Orthier and looked upon Buul’s head, marvelling at its size. They danced and sang and laid flowers in spirals on the ground, and they praised Hyric as their saviour. He watched from the battlements, and raising his arm he gave them the blessing of a fruitful hunger beneath the coming moon. As the sun was setting something else came to Orthier. Hyric felt a stare upon him, hatred hid beneath the eaves. He asked the trees for what they saw, but none of them replied.

    It stepped out, a great and sudden shifting, as if a hill strode from the wood. A coat of purest white, black claws long as a man. He was scoured by ancient yellow eyes, and they held him fast where he stood above the gate. For a moment he felt a horrible fear, cast back to memory of the silent god. No. He would not fail again. In his mind’s eye he held the image of SHADUR, and the power of that gaze sloughed off him like water, his limbs freed. It howled once, low and mournful, and the castle Orthier shook, its branches all asway. His zemmi cowered, but Hyric steeled them with his nerve and called them armed up to the walls. The Wolf came forward slowly, the ground quaking with each deliberate step, pits gouged out from the earth.

    “CHILD-KILLERS, SUFFER NOW. THIS FOREST IS MINE TO DO WITH AS I WISH. I TOLERATE THE VAGABOND NO LONGER,” the Wolf roared, another step taken with a crash. Hyric knew then that all his zemmi together could do not a thing to stop it, that the Wolf would tear the castle down to its foundations. No dread visage that day to borrow from his father - not without its voice. He would be torn apart. He would fail his father twice.

    He’d made something though.

    It was just a small thing, really.

    He’d pieced it together on darkest night, no moon to bless the sky. In his solitude he oft held to the bones of Orthier, made sure and steady by their strength. There were a few scraps of power that he’d gathered: the leaking essence of a torn-up naami charm, the dyryg’s dying breath, a witch’s lusty dream. They would be his thread. He’d worn it just the once, right there after it was made. For some reason he’d felt ashamed, so he’d hidden it away.

    He took it out then, finding it there buried in his soul. A crown of yellow leaves rimed in crisp hoarfroast, a mask of white birch paper, eyes adrip with dark tree’s blood. The mask of Orthier.

    Hyric stepped from the wall, landing below afore the Wolf. It paused to look him up and down with its baleful stare. “Neither will this stop me,” it said, quietly, and it struck at Hyric with its paw. He held out his arm to block the blow, the strength of foolish young trees drunk on moonlight. An echoing boom as they met, and Hyric thrown back, barely keeping to his feet. He called great and grasping roots up from the earth, and the Wolf gave a piercing yelp as it was grabbed about the legs and neck and pulled down to the ground. He cut it with the northern wind, rents across its sides. It snarled, struggling to rise, pushing with all its ancient strength. The great roots that bound the Wolf groaned and popped, tearing from the ground. A thunderous crack, and one is torn. It’s jaws snap viciously, it strains forwards. Hyric calls on all the castle’s power in his struggle to restrain the heaving titan.

    It isn’t enough.

    The roots crumble away, sapped. Hyric stumbles. The Wolf strikes, and it has him on his back. His zemmi moan miserably atop the wall. A desperate roll away from rending teeth, more roots called to batter at the Wolf; the walls of Orthier bleed with the strain. An opening, and the Wolf pins him beneath its crushing paw. His mask falls away, used up. The Wolf presses down, a rumbling laugh in its chest. It will break him. “Father, please,” he whispers, blood leaking from his mouth.

    A mask of Death is on his face, that grizzly skeletal grin. A black arm of carven faces is there upon his left.

    End it, then.

    And SHADUR was there. Hyric tore the Wolf’s paw in twain, stepping up and through the gore as the beast howled its despair. He struck it on the leg with his carven arm, and that great bone was shattered as a twig.

    “NO! This is not to be! This is not what I was promised!” it cried.

    “Meaningless,” Hyric replied, standing on its snout. He struck the Wolf through it’s eye, and it toppled to the ground, stone dead. The mask of Death left him then as his carven arm turned to unblemished flesh. The zemmi shouted with delight, and Hyric too fell upon the ground, exhaustion taking him.

    To Amno, Hyric. All is now in motion. There is so much to be done.

    Spoiler :
    the arm of the monolith - 2 Magic Points [Hyric, Shadur] - to be remade he had to be broken. Destroy them, Hyric.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2018
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  9. Azale

    Azale Deity

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2002
    Messages:
    18,723
    Location:
    Texas
  10. thomas.berubeg

    thomas.berubeg Wandering the World

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Messages:
    8,973
    Location:
    Ft. Lauderdale
    The sun had just kissed the horizon, a great red blob spreading across the ocean, by the time all the bodies had been gathered. Carefully, as respectfully as they could, Alai and Jemmi had worked to build a great pyre in the village square.


    It hadn’t been as hard as they had expected. The air was dry, and most of the dead had dried out, leaving most of the bodies little more than desiccated skin and brittle bones. It took very little tinder for the pyre to catch, and soon the dead were little more than than sparks rising up to reach the stars.


    The Udyn they brought to the shore, laid them out with the sea from which they were born.


    Alai and Jemmi spoke the words that would guide the dead through the thirteen vales safely and then to Judgement.


    Finally, their work accomplished, they sat and leaned against each other, looking out into the ocean. After a moment, Jemmi pulled some dried meat and hard bread and handed it over.


    “Where next?” She asked.


    “Nowhere, tonight. We’ll take a night here, look around tomorrow, see if we can find something. Torka mentioned a priest, but none of the bodies had a priest’s robe.”


    Jemmi nodded. “We’ll look around tomorrow, see if we can find anything that may point off to where he’s gone.”


    Alai looked around “Which of these houses look least weathered?”


    “The inn?”


    Alai shuddered “I don’t think so...”


    Jemmi nodded “Fair.”


    Alai stood, and Jemmi raised a hand to him. He pulled her up, standing, and together they walked back towards the middle of the village, and towards a nicer looking house, perhaps that of a merchant or statesman.


    Night had fallen, but the raging pyre in the village square shone a flickering light over the fronts of all the buildings. Something glimmered in the light, a damp spot on the ground.


    Alai raised his hand, gesturing Jemmi over. Carefully, he pointed to the damp spot, and to a few more in a staggered line.


    “Footprints” Jemmi breathed. “Who’s?”


    “A god’s” Alai whispered. “Young, I think. Feels unsure of itself.” He raised his voice, “Come out! We won’t hurt you!”


    Quiet.


    Alai shrugged, looking around. He placed some of the cured meat and bread on the ground, and gestured Jemmi away. Together they walked towards the house, carefully not looking around. Behind them they heard a quick scrabbling sound, back and forth, once. When they reached the door of the house, Alai glanced back, once.


    The cured meat was gone. In its place a small puddle reflected the flame.


    They slept well that night, the weight of the day gone in a matter of moments.


    They dreamt.


    They dreamt of a raging fire to the south, all consuming, hungry, blind. The flames licked at chains of Amethyst, questing, seeking, waiting for a moment of weakness.


    They dreamt of a pillar of frozen black flame in the north, a pillar with a thousand screaming faces, and each of them was theirs.


    A cold wind drove a horde of locusts from the west, devouring the forest, and in the east, the sea poured out of the world through the open door of a barrow.


    The call came from the north, and the pillar was gone. In its place stood Alai. He glared at the dreamers with two eyes, black as the pillar had been, and beckoned to them. He was hollow. A shell, a mask.


    A forest grew, a spinning circle of trees.


    In the south, children with two bodies but one face glared at each other with hatred... or love.


    They shared this dream, as they had nearly every night for a year, but something was different. Around them a moat burned, protective, vigilant.


    They dreamt of other things, too, but none so portentous.


    When they woke, the dreams were gone.



    The sun shone through the window, a hot bright contrast to the fog of the previous week. The air was heavy and humid, and both Jemmi and Alai woke faces covered in sweat. As they stood, their feet splashed simultaneously in a puddle that had formed around their bed at night. Jemmi rushed to their pack, and laughed.


    “Meat’s all gone.”


    Alai smiled “It’s hungry.” His eyes scanned the room carefully. There was no movement.


    “What’s our next step?” Jemmi asked.


    “We’ll go to the temple, see if this “priest” left any hint of his next goal.” Alai rolled his shoulders, and peered out into the square. The bodies had burned to ash at some point in the night, freeing the souls from their earthly burden.


    Alai and Jammi walked from the village to the low domed building sitting on a hill high above the village. The path was a beaten spiral up the hill. Dead stumps crudely hacked apart showed that, until relatively recently, it had been a cool, shaded trek. Now, the sun beat mercilessly, and Jemmi and Alai were drenched in sweat by the time they reached the temple. Only as they reached the top did the sky grow dark, clouds pregnant and ponderous with rain. The lack of sun did nothing to lessen the heat.


    The temple itself was white marble, and from it’s dark door poured a stench of death that grew more intense as they approached it. Jammi dry heaved as they reached it, while Alai ran a finger along the doorway. At some point, it seemed, someone had crudely hacked off whatever decorations had once outlined the door.


    The clouds hung low and black, now, and the air was heavy, impossibly heavy, with anticipation.


    Jammi light a torch, and, breathing shallowly, the pair walked into the temple. The temple was built in a circle, one large room of concentric benches plunging steeply towards an altar at the center of the room. For a moment, a beam of light flashed from a hole in the ceiling directly above the altar.


    Thunder.


    The center of the room as a hecatomb. Dismembered skeletons lay haphazardly in the center of the room, skulls arranged in a pyramid on the altar. Slowly, carefully, Alai and Jemmi made their way towards the center altar.


    Something crunched under Alai’s feet, and he winced. He stumbled to a stop, and cautiously lifted his foot. A large beetle, bigger than beetles were ever supposed to be, was stuck to the underside of his boot, twitching sickeningly. The movement was reflected on the ground, he saw. It was covered with the insects, a shimmering and lustrous carpet of chitin.


    With a jolt, he saw what they swarmed over. A skull here, a tibia there. It was a field of bones, and the insects were feeding on death. With a sick lurch to his stomach, Alai saw a clean white ribcage appear as the insects that had coated it finished their meal and hunted for more decay to consume. The pale white ribs grasped upwards, a broken supplication to an uncaring heaven.


    Jemmi leaned in towards the bones. “Teeth marks.”


    “The insects?” Alai whispered. Jemmi just shook her head.


    Alai winced, and together, they moved towards the altar.


    As they reached it, lightning flashed again. Jemmi gasped, grabbing at Alai’s arm. He spun. Silhouetted in the open doorway, far above, stood a child.


    “Hello!?” Alai called up.


    The child vanished.


    Alai and Jemmi stared up at the open door for a long while, before turning back to each other.


    “Keep an eye open, I’m going to look closer here.” Jemmi said. Alai nodded. Lightning flashed as Jemmi kneeled down, careful, before the altar. Grimmacing, she pulled her knife from it’s sheath, and scrapped at it. Dried brown flakes fell to the ground, and underneath white flashed.


    “Marble. It’s brown with blood.”


    As she spoke, lightning flashed again, and the child stood before them. It looked to be ten, with eyes of moonlight, and clothes and hair damp, as if it had just been pulled from the sea. It stood motionless, looking at them.


    “Hello.” Alai looked at the child, kneeling down before it, to look it at eye level. ‘You are a god.”


    The child nodded, and though he did not speak, they both knew. He had watched over this village for as long as the village had existed. They had placed offerings of fresh bread and fruit on the altar for him, and in return he had given the village happiness, wealth, beautiful strong children. And then something had changed, and he had changed, and he did not know how. They had thrown his statues in the ocean, and had stopped giving him bread and fruit. Instead, this place, his home, had been made into something alien.


    Clearly in their mind’s eye, Jemmi and Alai saw a man’s face. Handsome, with a trimmed beard and silk robes. He wore a beatific smile, even as his eyes were sharp and blood poured from his mouth.


    “Where did he go?” Alai asked, but they knew the child did not know.


    And then, lightning flashed again. A shadow moved in the darkness, and then another, and another, and another. A figure drifted forward. A man, dressed in carnish clothes. And then another, in tattered robes, and a woman, in the yellow dress of a priest of the south, and an udyn fisher, and soon nearly a hundred figures stood, each different as a snowflake, but each united by the expression of sorrow upon their sightless eyes.


    As one, they pointed to the south-east, and though there was no sound but the thunder outside, Alai and Jemmi heard them cry, a whisper in their souls.


    “Avenge us. End him.”


    The rain started to fall just as Jemmi and Alai left the temple, thick, heavy drops that burst upon hitting the ground.


    There was no question of taking shelter in the temple.



    Spoiler :

    I fully admit to not proofreading this one. It was hard to get out, so I just want it here so I can move on. I may revise tomorrow.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2018
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  11. Angst

    Angst Rambling and inconsistent

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2007
    Messages:
    13,037
    Location:
    A Silver Mt. Zion
    I was drafted here by thomas.berubeg, so for now I'll at least lurk. :) Sub post.
     
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  12. Seon

    Seon Not An Evil Liar

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Messages:
    7,681
    Location:
    Not Lying through my teeth
    The Hairless Laureate's trials are not over when he emerges from the flames. "Do you know," he says to his concubine--an acolyte of blades who claims to answer to the Eternal Liege. "The Mantra of Hierarchy? The Blade Priests do educate their spies, do they not?"

    The acolyte takes a nervous step forward. "Of course I do," he says. "The sword kills, but it is the arm that moves the sword. Is the arm to blame for murder, then? No. The mind moves the arm. Is the mind to blame? No. The mind has sworn an oath, and only does its duty. So it is that the one who bears the crown is blameless."

    The laureate waves him off. "Good enough," he says.

    "Does the Mantra calm you?" the concubine asks. "Knowing what must be done?"

    "What anxiety must I be calmed from?" The Laureate asks, impressed by the boy's feigned naivete.

    "To divide yourself from all attachments of humanity before you became as iron," the boy says. "To execute your lover."

    "Yes, it would be a magnificent event, would it not?" the Laureate says. "To be reforged anew into the Lord's instrument, stripped of all things that have defined me previously aside from the crown of laurels."

    The boy's eyes widen, pretending curiosity. Pretending as if this is not a test--to probe for weakness.

    "A magnificent event," the boy agrees. "But my lord, it is said that one cannot bind a nation without binding yourself. She has stayed by your side for years. Knowing that you will now betray them must hur-"

    The Laureate picks him up by his throat and smashes him against the parapet. "What do you mean to suggest, little spy?" he hisses. "That I love my comrades? That I wept when I had to offer them to His angels? That I weep still, after I have been reforged, that I have to slay my formerly beloved, and look to old philosophies for comfort?"

    "No, no," the acolyte chokes, letting his arms dangle helplessly, although he must have been trained for combat. "You are loyal. You were loyal all along."

    "I am blameless," Laureate says. "I am an instrument of the crown. I feel no remorse."

    ................................................................................................................................................

    "My lord, the prisoner is ready," the concubine says. The Laureate gestures with a blade, signalling his impatience. "Clear the room, I wish to speak with her alone."

    The soldiers file out first. The concubine follows soon afterwards. An old, decrepit warrior priest is the last to leave. He speaks with a voice that is not his own: "You will not do it in private,” he warns. “There will be no tender words, no secret mercies; you will not give her the privilege of death by your own hand. You will order her execution, your men will drown her in the surf, and her body will go to the Throne—so that we may know she died in pain, and not by some arrangement. Do you understand?”

    "She is proclaimed to die," Laureate replies. "Why would I grant her mercy?"

    ..................................................................................................................................................

    "Are you here to kill me?" Maris, sworn sword of the Laureate says. It strikes the Laureate that this may be her last hope yet.

    "No," the Laureate says. "You will be drowned in high tide, so that the Gods may say that the moon and stars have judged you."

    "I see," Maris says, nodding as if this is right and proper. "Will my death in such a fashion bring my sworn Lord, Laureate Arrupos, an advantage?"

    The Laureate pours wine onto a red clay cup with steady hands. He wants to beg her to give him anything other than this loyal calm. "It shall," he says. "My last trial to prove my devotion to the Bladed Crown."

    "Let me propose a toast then," Maris says, no sarcasm in her eyes. "To your undying loyalty."

    "I just wanted to explain why you must die," the Laureate says. "I thought you deserved to know."

    "I deserve nothing, my lord," Maris replies, shrugging precisely. The liquid in her glass barely moves. "I swore to die for you. So it will be."

    I see your strategy, the Laureate thinks. I see the order of battle. You go to your death with exquisite loyalty. I measure my treason against your faith and it eats me up, now and for the rest of my life. It is the most hurt you can manage.

    It may work.

    "Enamon, The King who wears the bladed crown is blind and deaf," the Laureate says. "He does not rule through the swinging of his blade, merely a sword clutched at the ready high above, ready to bring down."

    "At his feet," Maris continues. "Are his servants' last attachments to humanity, I am aware."

    There is silence. "You should strike me down now," Maris says. "Defy the Bladed Crown. Secure your own power."

    “Have you heard nothing?” the Laureate snaps. “Did their man confuse you? I am to prove my loyalty by killing you, Maris. It would be no defiance.”

    “You will fail,” Maris says. “They know it. They hope for you to fail.”

    "I need only give an order. I am a warlord. I know how to give hard orders."

    “You need to watch it happen, unflinching, unmoved. And you cannot.” Maris looks into the empty distance, watching her own death. “You will see the tide rising and you will beg for them to spare me. They will agree. They will grant you your ascension, and they will keep me as a pet, knowing you will do anything to keep me from harm. I will be their hold on you. The King who wears the Bladed Crown will hold his executioner's blade over my head for all eternity, knowing that you will never defy him. Knowing that you will never be able to abandon your last grip on humanity.”

    The Laureate wants to protest but it chills like truth. It has been in his dreams these past months, as he wondered what his final test would be: spare her, spare her; I will do anything to spare her.

    The Laureate sips at his wine, pretending calm, gripping at the edge of cold truth. He had come down here to talk with Maris, because he had hoped there would be hate. Shouting. Vows of revenge. Something to make him angry enough to drown out tomorrow.

    If I beg, she could be spared, he thinks. I will still have the Laurel crown, and those who dwell in the Boundary will sit easier, knowing that I could be kept tame. She will forgive me in time, and...

    Maris begins to laugh. "May you ascend through the flames," she shouts, as if rallying an invisible shield wall. "Justice at the edge of the blade!"

    It goes on and on, and Laureate finds it a bit too much to take, so he turns away. Ascension through flames. Justice at the edge. He thinks he understands Maris' games.

    .....................................................................................................

    Tide comes in just below dawn. The Laureate shackles Maris himself. When it is done, he commands his warriors to take the prisoner down to the stone bluffs below the castle, where the waves are the harshest.

    Maris walks the whole way. The warriors fasten her to the stone, threading her shackles through rusted brackets.

    The decrepit warrior priest is there again. "If the wind picks up, the waves may dash her against the rocks,” he says. “It would be a terrible death.”

    The Laureate stands without coat or cloak, unburdened by the cold. His flesh burns with internal fires. "So it would, but she is strong. If she holds on, she will last long enough to drown."

    The warrior priest takes him by his shoulder. "Perhaps there is another way," he says. "Perhaps his Eternal Liege will accept her as hostage."

    "Do not test me," the Laureate sneers. "I have had enough of the Lord's little tests."

    The water rises. Maris, wet to the waist, seems to drowse, her chains slack. “Hypothermia,” the warrior priest whispers. “The water is cold, my lord. If we were to raise her now, perhaps we could save—”

    “I do not want her saved,” Laureate says.

    “Did you not love her?” the warrior-priest hisses in his ear. “She told me about the night after your victories in the name of Sommos. About all the months after that. You could have that again—”

    “Strike her! Wake her up, so she can suffer!” the Laureate commands to the warriors below.

    One of them smashes Maris in the shoulder with the butt of his polearm. She cries out, arching, her eyes wild. Her chains slip between pale, trembling fingers.

    “‘You are a worth a legion to me, Maris,’” the warrior priest intones. “Do you remember that? She told me you said that.”

    “I said many things.” Laureate points to the marines. “Keep her awake!”

    The water rises. A low wind whips up froth. Maris shouts hoarsely into the spray, her chains wrapped taut, biceps straining.

    The Laureate glances at the man. “When this little chore is through, I have business for the Bladed Crown. The surrounding tribes and peoples are fearful lots, terrified of our most recent shows of force. It is time to win their loyalties. I expect the Boundary to give me blessing for this task. We will take mercy on their little cults and ways of life, as long as they serve underneath Our bladed laws.”

    “Causes you are familiar with, Lord Laureate.” The warrior-priest draws his cloak about him. “We may listen. We may not.”

    "Of course you will listen, I know what He wants," the Laureate dismisses him with a wave of his hand. Unflinching. Unmoved. He wished Maris could see him now. He gave them no yoke over himself.

    The warrior priest shouts over the lapping winds: "Why are you doing this? She may still yet live!"

    You could still bind me with her, the Laureate thinks. If I just begged. If I just admitted what she was to me—I would be reduced.

    "Do you know the Mantra of Hierarchy?" the Laureate asks.

    A rising breaker crashes against the rocks. Maris cries out into the dawn, trembling with effort. The tide rolls in.
     
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  13. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2005
    Messages:
    10,539
    Location:
    In the desert
    Hello, dear ones. I haven't forgotten you, no more than a predator fish that lies very still and silent for days at a time, covered in silt and drifting detritus, forgets that there are others above.

    I've simply been deep in Africa for a while without internet. But I have now submerged enough to see the dappled light of an un-understood sun sparkling on the surface of my world. You're all doing well. We have another week to write stories. So let's make the best of our short lives, and perhaps archaeologists will write fondly of us. Each breath is a gift, and also a clock.

    You wouldn't want me to wind it tighter next time, would you? Then complete your appointed tasks, and you will have your promised reward.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
  14. jackelgull

    jackelgull An aberration of nature

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2013
    Messages:
    3,226
    Location:
    Within the realm of impossibility
    Eztli the Blade


    When the armor created from the gifts the great sea dragon Colcoletzl was finished there was great debate among the Xtri elders about who should have it.


    “It should go to the wisest among us, for he will use it with care”

    “It should go to the most honorable among us, to preserve the pride of our people”

    “It should go to the most courageous among us, for he will not hesitate in the face of danger”


    The eldest spoke


    “Courage, Honor and Wisdom exist at the permission of the Sword, and so this gift of ours too must go to the Sword.”


    In another part of the Xtri, Eztli is practicing the blade.


    Cut high moves into cut low moves into a clockwise strike moves into a -


    The arrival of visitors interrupts the deadly sword dance.


    It is eldest of the Xtri elders with his twelve peerless bodyguards.


    “It is said you have mastered the Quetzalcoatl sword dance and that your blade moves through stone like air” the elder says. It is not a question. .


    Eztli takes the stance that begins the sword dance. To state one’s skill in the art of the sword dance was the height of arrogance and foolishness. Some things can only be understood when experienced, like death.


    The twelve warriors rush towards him.


    The sword moves gracefully, like a harmless brush stroke across a canvas of flesh and it seems to exist in between moments. It is a river. It does not matter if the strokes are known to the enemy, just as it doesn’t matter if a man knows the currents of a river. The river will still drown him.


    Cut high moves into cut low moves into clockwise strike moves into diagonal slash moves into cut low moves into cut high moves into


    And suddenly all of the twelve are cut into pieces.


    The elder says, “You are the Blade to wield the sea dragon’s gifts. I cannot force you to accept them, but if you do not, they will belong to the unworthy upon whom they will be wasted.”


    And so Eztli accepts the armor of his gods and becomes the pride of the Xtri people
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
  15. Shadowbound

    Shadowbound Scourge of God

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2007
    Messages:
    3,963
    DRAMATIS PERSONAE

    JORD ap EVEN - A raider, thief, and smuggler, leading a band of the same

    ALDWYN OSMONDSON - A Gahadi

    ENTER ALDWYN

    ALDWYN - Ho, friend, and show yourself. The night is dark,
    and those who linger now in strange places
    surely have similarly dark intents.

    ENTER JORD

    JORD - Indeed and so I do, I do, stranger.
    I am full of terrors that I may yet
    encounter some rogue about at this hour.

    ALDWYN - And so you have, as one rogue to another,
    for we have given each other safe words
    so we know we are engaged together
    in the same clandestine business tonight.

    JORD - Do you have what I and my lord desire?

    ALDWYN - I do, if you have what my lord detests.
    In these lands from whence grew Late Great Gahad
    the invader hath banned blades and weapons
    of all kinds among us, to prohibit
    rebellion against their unjust rule.

    JORD - I have these things, and in great quality,
    for it is my trade and my blood to know
    the tools of war with proven distinction.

    These blades were bought in Sommos, a haughty land
    who believe themselves destined for empire
    with such conviction that they submitted
    to those who conquered you only at sword-point.

    ALDWYN - What fools they are, to toss away freedom
    in hopes of some greater supremacy.
    Can I trust the weapons of this people?
    Or will they slip from my hand, in hopes that
    they will be used then by mine murderer?

    JORD - Fools and more, but the blades are not of them.
    They are fashioned in the southern manner:
    An inward curve excellent for slashing
    limbs against unarmored opponents.

    ALDWYN - Ah! So strange, but so useful to us now.
    For if our enemy discovers them
    in our possession they will think themselves
    responsible then for their strange origin.

    They will doubt themselves, or doubt their lackeys,
    and though their magic can uncover lies
    it cannot remove all suspicion.
    We will sow discord among our strong foe
    and thus he will weaken himself for us.

    JORD - And what shall I receive in return for this?

    ALDWYN - Herbs, medicines, the products of our
    art taught by our dear departed prophet.
    Though he is gone he is not forgotten,
    and when he returns he will then drive out
    the southern conqueror and then restore
    The Garden of Gahad to its glory.

    JORD - And until that day we will do our trade,
    and that has made me a very rich man.
    For among the Carns blades are plentiful
    but the means of giving life are rarer.

    Follow me now to my ship, painted black
    to hide from watching eyes that guard your shore.
    There we shall exchange cargoes and depart
    to do our business separate once more.

    You, to distribute death among the invader,
    I, to distribute life to my kin.

    ALDWYN - I do wonder, what quirk of fate did this.
    That I, a peaceful man, desire weapons,
    while you, a raider and a savage, now
    desire alms and treatment for diseases.

    EXEUNT ALL
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
  16. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2005
    Messages:
    10,539
    Location:
    In the desert
    There has been a plea bargain, and as a result I am compelled by higher powers to reduce your sentence.

    I am extending the deadline one week, to October the 19th. This will give the stragglers currently struggling with academic pursuits: terrance, ork, Iggy, inthesomeday, some extra time to extend their storylines. I would rather have stories maintained than left to rot. And it will give others time to collaborate a bit more.

    While you can blame the stragglers, this is my decision. I am going into the country this coming weekend, as well. Alright, that is all.
     
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  17. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2005
    Messages:
    10,539
    Location:
    In the desert
    The stooped figure in its crimson cowl walked into the dusty store. The stones of the wall were interspersed with generous mud, ancient timbers (from where? imported wood?) bracing the ceiling of daub. There was a skylight above, a curved indentation in the ceiling with light-colored linen blocking the openings on either side, to admit light and prevent the entrance of insects. Especially so near to the Dakh, jeweled dragonflies were a serious nuisance. Slap them and you'll cut your hand, and even a leather shoe will take a few slaps to crunch them to death. In the meantime they'll buzz and slice your face with meaningless territorialism, even if this is your place. But I digress.

    The sole point of natural light was necessary, because even generic bind-signs glow with some remnant heat, and this place is crammed to the heap with papyrus and dry bones of all types. Stacked scrolls on shelves, leaning placards or simple carvings into the side of the plank braced against the wall, frequently misfiled, indicating in spindly hand what sort of subject or anatomical curiosity is contained therein. An entire wall was dedicated to skulls, another to writings on the nature of death and ghosts, these two subjects being very dearly intertwined. At least seven sages over the past four centuries have attempted to systematize ghosts, and the worst part is that they're all right and wrong to varying degrees, which makes the required reading list for any aspiring geistologist a heady task. But the collected writings of said sages were interspersed with the very subject matter itself, or potentially, anyways...a skeletal foot, phalanges bound with chiseled loops of catgut serving as a paperweight, a jar of what appears to be dried blood and some desiccated something-or-other sealed tightly with black lacquer functioning as a bookend. The textbook and the lab materials sold together, a package deal, as it were.

    So the greatest risk here is fire, as such, no bind-signs. And torches are utterly out of the question. What about windows? Not only is that a cost to shelf space, this place was crammed between countless other shops in the winding souk of Rhut, a souk so winding that it's said it prefers to contain the entire lives of those born within its walls. This is a troubling concept to understand, but let me try to explain it. Do you know how a loving mother can often turn to a minor degree of obsession over her children? Even if she wants them to choose their own paths, she would prefer if they did not stray far from her sight, so she could offer her strongly worded opinions on their future, no matter their age. So, the souk may or may not be sentient, in its way. Travelers can come and go as they must, but those born within the souk (or very young children that are accidentally adopted into it) find it very difficult to leave without magical intervention.

    This isn't a bad thing, really, if you have a high tolerance for claustrophobia, but it means people live their lives in a stomach-twistingly indefatigable re-assortment of walls, tunnels, corridors, and so on. The very idea of a stone city, it is said, may be one of the Mountain's long-lost children, or perhaps a cousin. But like the Mountain, or perhaps some other aspect of her, it is greedy. But the point is, there's not a lot of available real-estate, a back alley ushering one into a tavern and a ladder ushering one into a rooftop and a trapdoor ushering one into a slum house and so on, endlessly. As such, the only available source of natural light comes from far above, between the roof slats and the temple domes and the dormitory-towers of the elder priests and their acolytes.

    So...where were we. Right. The stooped figure in its crimson cowl walked into the dusty store. The cowl was fringed, inches above the mud-brick floor, with an inch or two of black, and the face behind entirely obscured in shadow. It moves deliberately, seeming almost to glide as it considers the wares. A long, wrinkled hand, grey and palsied, emerges from the rightmost black-fringed, blood-colored sleeve, to caress the side of an ancient bone, turn the page of a portentous tome. Finally, eventually, it makes its selection. The bloody jar, and two companion volumes, their bindings themselves ancient yellowed bone, perhaps from a sternum, the titles chipped into the surface rather than drawn, with the knowledge that their names must outlast ink itself. Curiously bound in zebra-skin from the utmost South, black and white a odd but perhaps appropriate choice.

    The cowled figure finally glides to the front desk, and a rattling exhalation almost of the grave is emitted from the darkness as it places the tomes and the jar upon the counter without a sound.

    "These," it whispers to the shopkeeper.

    The shopkeeper is a local. A young man, perhaps twenty-three, with a mop of sandy brown hair, brown eyes, a wide nose, rather stocky, not very tall, working on a skewer of dried meat. And he seems to notice the menacing customer. "Oh, hi," he says, stifling a yawn with his sleeve as he gets up off the stool from where he was gradually trying to soften the meat with a series of sucking and gnawing motions. He sucks on his teeth, probing the inter-tooth space with his tongue as he crouches and tilts to look at the titles of the books. "Zazzad's Expostulation of Unquiet Spirits, One and Two, okay...oh, and the eye of a ruby crocodile, pickled in..."

    "In the blood of the hunter who failed to slay it," rattles the customer, prophetically.

    "Yeah, uh...hm." He looks towards the unreasonably cluttered corner where the jar came from. "I dunno where the uh, placard for that got off to. Sorry. Repeat customer?"

    The voice from the shadow under the cowl fails to answer. "Okay then, just a sec." The shopkeeper spends a minute rustling below the counter, flipping some abacus beads, and digging a price list out of a drawer. He mutters to himself, counting on his fingers.

    "So, that all comes to two hundred twenty five."

    "What."

    "Oh, um, yeah, two two five silver talents. Or, if you're from the north, that'd be...sixteen thousand greater amethysts, in rubies it's...eighty...er, one hundred eighty..."

    "Fifty silver pieces. And your life."

    "Uhhhhhh..." says the shopkeeper. "No, no, are you...TWO, TWO, FIVE," he says loudly and slowly, holding up the number on his fingers each time. "Do you need a speaking trumpet? We have one for our older, uh, older customers..."

    The light from the skylight seems to dim, passing the yellowed bones and yellowed texts into a deepening gloom. As this happens the crimson robe with its black fringe glows with an unseen source of power, ancient stitched sigils floating in grey upon the dark band. From the darkness, the voice emits,

    "Fifty. Unless....you are for sale." and the shopkeeper's skin crawls with the chill of air that emits from the grave itself.

    "Hmmmm," says the shopkeeper. "So, uh, the boss was thinking about moving to Arisaras if we have anymore, uh, problems."

    The crimson cowl stands in the gloom, empty as a bedsheet hanging from a window.

    "And we serve a lot of customers. So uh, the community in Rhut, you know, the...practitioners? They'd um, they'd want to know who drove out their only supplier."

    Continued silence, as the shopkeeper keeps sucking his teeth.

    "So, yeah. Two hundred twenty five silver talents. Or..." he trails off.

    The crimson cowl's hidden left hand emerges from the robe. Unlike the palsied right, this one is scoured clean of flesh, a skeletal hand glowing a faint grey. And in its grasp, it holds a gold-dipped skull with ruby eyes. It drops the skull onto the counter with a clunk.

    "For...your trouble," it rattles, from the darkness, digging out the coins from its pockets with its living hand, awkwardly dumping them onto the counter in batches.

    "Oh, wow...this is great!" says the shopkeeper, looking at it. "We'll, uh, we'll put it where the jar was, probably."

    The shopkeeper sweeps all the change into his apron, counting it. "Two ten...two fifteen...okay, this is good! Uh, mister..."

    He looks up, and the crimson cowl, along with its purchase, is nowhere to be seen, the light in the shop having returned to its normal level of dim.

    "Huh," says the shopkeeper. "Didn't even say goodbye..."
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2018
  18. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2005
    Messages:
    10,539
    Location:
    In the desert
    Dear friends. You know who you are. I will not allow the glaciers to cover our valley in eternal shadow, but you provide the sunlight. I merely provide the earth.

    We have great things planned, but I need you to accomplish them.
     
    thomas.berubeg and Terrance888 like this.
  19. Danwar

    Danwar Warlord

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2017
    Messages:
    191
    Gender:
    Male
    After a large amount of filibustering and conflict in the Council, the Trifecta finally managed to temporarily break the deadlock long enough to pass a bill modifying the budget to accommodate Enamon's demands, despite immense resistance from other factions in the Council. How this will effects things only time can tell. (2 reserved points go into the Temple-Wall)

    (OOC: I meant to do something longer for this but I never really had the time or motivation, so eh)
     
  20. Lord_Iggy

    Lord_Iggy Tsesk'ihe

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2005
    Messages:
    24,544
    Location:
    Yukon
    The years of our exile passed like water. The forest children grew swiftly to adulthood. They were closely attuned to the sacred force within that eastern wood, and no doubt understood its mysteries better than I ever could. The old party, Halid, Gologind, Mastin and myself, traveled again. The pursuing flame hunts us still, I know, and I will not let the sacrifice of my tribe be for naught. We wandered north, and west, and saw the jumbled tribes who had escaped the rapacious southerners.

    It is strange seeing these villages. They are little reflections of the garden city, a thing that grew almost outside of my knowledge, and that I knew so briefly, but came to care for so much.

    Perhaps change was inevitable. As a child, I knew that the tribes were everything. Each of us had our own lore, our ancient bloodlines, sacred places and sites. So it had been for as long as we had told tales. Their uniting began in the Garden of Gahad, and now when I see them, they are blended. What was once a world of distinct colours has become swirl and blur before me. I saw a young woman wearing a brooch of the Manahize, her clothing bore the pattern of the Hastar, and her hair and countenance in the fashion of the Gorost. I knew of that brooch from my early travels carved from the bark of an ancient and storied tree which has doubtlessly been felled by the flame. The girl did not know from whence it had come. I told her what little I knew, but I fear and know that this knowledge will be washed away in time, as our home fades away to memory. Something new is being born, and it is growing ever more foreign to me.

    My own children, and Halid's, will grow up knowing only stories of our home. Halid's kin shall learn the Mohabef way, perhaps, but there are scant few Gahadi remaining, and I left too young to learn everything. The elders revered my green dreaming, but I was never trained as a keeper of tales and secrets. These have now perished, along with my closest kin who burned in the red and black pillar that was made of the Garden.

    I don't truly feel that I belong to my people anymore. Not after what I have brought down upon them. I have been the ruin of unknown ages of my people, and even if they emerge victorious, they will be so transformed as to be unrecognizable from what they were scant decades ago. Our common tongue and our bloodlines shall remain, in freedom and slavery, but what they once meant shall fade.

    Our party made its way steadily beyond the circle cities. Halid and I were fruitful, and our family grew. To my moiety were born two boys and a girl: Aardulf and Aarogund, and Masti. By the telling of the elders, when I was young, it is they who are most likely to bear the weight of the wheel of leaves. However, given Halogund- almost a young man now- and his uncanny prediliction for language and closeness with the aaruanef, I would not doubt that the children of Halid's moiety have inherited the greenspirit as well. Four are they, the boys Halogund and Golofar, the girls Halef and Golofind. Each of these children I could sing of for weeks, such is my love for them. I understand now, perhaps, how my father once felt.

    So too are the aaruanef my children, in their own manner. Not of the flesh of the Gahadi, but of our spirit. Given the recent dire fortunes of my people, the horned children of the forest may long outlast my own physical bloodline.

    Gologind and Mastin remain our implacable companions and defenders. I have told them both several times that any fetters of service they may feel towards Halid and myself may be counted as loosed, but they remain steadfast. Their protection of the green prophet, as many have come to title me, is an unshakeable duty of their sacred fraternity. I believe they shall be with us until age weathers them to nothing, or violent misfortune wrests them away by force.

    Beyond the sacred forests of the thousand whispers, and the forests that the aaruanef tend, the trees are smaller and the plants grow with less readiness in the thinner soils. Many live in a place called Sommos. Here, I spy from a distance the locals, who live in settled manners. The flamelord reigns here too- its claws reach far, and rend deeply. These people live unmolested by the direct caustic presence of flame, and feed it tribute. If my presence was known to them, they would likely sell me, out of fear if nothing else.

    It fills me with a deep and uncharacteristic bitterness. For all my life, I have not been one to feel such things. I have been curios, fearful, I have loved and grieved, and as of late I have traveled knowing a great melancholy and sadness. Sometimes, when the dreams of the green leafy wheel are most present, I feel detached from all of this emotion.

    Yet here, I feel bitterness. Maybe even spite. I struggle to find the proper word for it. I find myself wishing that they had burned too, rather than feeding the beast of the south, stoking its wicked flame ever hotter and mightier. In dark moments, I wish to do the same to those of my kin who now live in slavery. That they should fall into a peaceful sleep, in the arms of their families, and never awaken as their bodies dispersed into dust. That their farms would fall fallow and be reclaimed by an impenetrable wood- or turned into desert altogether, starving that whole damnable realm they feed!

    These thoughts frighten me.

    I wish the spirit who spoke to me could assuage the pain. The pain that I have brought upon my people, and upon others, and the pain that haunts me. But it is alien and uncaring, knowing only its eternal cycle of regrowth and decay. The wheel has secrets myriad upon myriad, but none answer the questions that plague me. None stifle my doubts.

    Halid, thus, is the one to whom I pray, and the one with whom I confide. The children, the older ones in particular, bring me happiness and try to help, but they are still so young. They can try, but they cannot fully understand yet. I wonder now if I was just as unaware of these things, when I was a child, receiving my first dreams of the wheel. What did the elders know, feel and think that they could not share with the child that was me?

    We settled, for a short time, in the wilds, among people neither Sommish nor Carnish. The green dreams came frequently here, as they did in old times, as the green wheel awakened me to each of the new things here: hidden healing roots, a humble bush which could be inspired to produce sweet, pulpy orange berries, bark which could be harvested and regrown, beaten soft into a sturdy fabric. A wood whose smoke could induce drowsiness in the largest of beasts, and more. These people of the northwest, beyond the borders of the warring coastfolk, were good to us, and I sought to repay them in kind with what knowledge I had. The forest grew lush with the seeds and secrets I shared, but I knew I could not continue this for long, not without revealing my presence. I could not carry on while agents of the flame lived so close nearby. Thus I told them of what a bitter fate my gifts had brought to Gahad, and what tragedy had befallen them- this story, I gathered, was already well known across the world. The border-people understood my reticence to further enrich them, and thanked me for what little I had to give. It was during our time here that Halid gave birth to our ninth child, Haadalid, the second daughter to be born to my moiety, and the furthest born from our home.

    We were making preparations to leave when we were met by a traveler of lands more distant still. Koskin, she called herself, and she presented herself as an acolyte of the green. The peers who I had taught years ago in the forests of my old home, it seems, had had some of their number scattered even farther afield than my own wanderings, and had taken many students of their own. Koskin soon showed herself to have a trifecta of innate talent, a rich repository of plantlore, and tremendous enthusiasm. She proved herself to be a fiercely intelligent and dedicated pupil.

    That we had been found by someone who sought us only reinforced our need to leave. Knowing that Koskin had come from far in boreal north, we were confident that she was not a spy of the flame, and thus we deigned to permit her to travel with us. She was an effective guide, and we pressed further into the east. She taught our party much of the life in her part of the world, and her guidance proved to be thorough and almost unerringly accurate. In turn, I shared with her what more I could glean of the plants of her land, as well as tales of the much of what lived in other parts of the world. In time, I shared the full extent of the tragedy of my people, and she wept in sympathy.

    She too had secrets, which she shared eagerly. She demonstrated a technique to induce the branches and leaves of a plant to grow soft, swollen and sweet, drawing nutrition where none could otherwise be found from even the scraggiest of sources. She could manipulate plants to grow into strange shapes for varying ends and utilities, drawing a fearsome spear from a bough of pine, much to Gologind's interest. One tree, tall but scarcely broader than a child, she inspired to yawn open, warping and drawing its wood and bark around her until nothing could be seen at all.

    It was an arcane northern practice altogether foreign to me, but in a time of continuous flight from my pursuers, and constant fear for my family, I was warm to a means to hide ourselves within the material of the forest itself. To be able to, perhaps, hide a grown man within a blade of grass could protect more than myself and those closest to me- maybe it could help all of those who lived in slavery to make their escapes from their captors.

    I slept on these thoughts, and the green wheel spun for me, as it often did. Yet in this dream, I sensed something was amiss. I felt a sense of hope and purpose. A call to make my way back home, to lead my people to freedom and to end the oppression of the south.

    And I knew it was wrong. The wheel, for the first fearful time, did not spin true for me. I focused, as I had learned to do in my many years encountering the spirit, and found its presence occluded, wanting, false! I felt a rising panic as my placid dream began to be flicked at the edge by a dark fringe of nightmare. The wheel of leaves had never been one to console, or give purpose, hope and inspiration, and I knew, deep in my heart, that it never would. It couldn't.

    This thing would though. It puppeted my dreams, misleading, beguiling. I reached deeper into the reservoir of my mind, and brought forth greater clarity. The wheel was just a fractured reflection, held aloft by dripping black spiderweb cracks that could be seen from no angles. The true spirit, I perceived, lay beyond, spinning as it always did, distant and disinterested as ever.

    Koskin was there, in my dream, her hands stretching out, extended into those invisible, horrible puppet strings. I stared at her- at its- face, and perceived her truly for the first time. There was nothing there but an image of maybe, of perhaps, of what might once have been. An empty scratch of black. I saw a wight, a ghast, something cold and infertile. Wire and black hooks in spiritual flesh, twisted and leering faces voicelessly exhaling nothing.

    I could only stand in disbelief. I could perceive no reaction in its black gash of a face, but I felt at once a call. The sibilant whisper that could not be was in my head. The thing that I had believed to be a young woman named Koskin was drawing me in, black hooks on fine cold wire hauling at me, whispering, wailing, SHADUR. I screamed, at her, at it, in anger, surprise... but most of all, fear, a deep, primal terror, as I could feel something trying to draw me in, erase me, SHADUR.

    I would not go! I screamed louder. I did not know if it was at first out of fear or defiance, but I focused myself around that scream. I ripped at these hooks and seared with pain, but it only fed that sharp bright point around which I had honed my existence in that instant.

    Intellectually, I knew I felt tricked, betrayed, angry and hurt, but in that moment I was reduced to a singular sharpened mote of existence, mindlessly raging against something that would consume it. I was the mouse, full of terror and energy, fleeing the fox. The Koskin-thing betrayed no reaction as I resisted. Then, I began to push towards it, assuming a stronger position in this dreaming duel. It hesitated and began to withdraw from my mind. NO! I would not let this deceptive thing continue its evil. I reached out and seized its cold essence, and restrained it. The scream of existence continued. Somewhere was the leafy wheel, silent.

    I wrestled with this terrible thing. I cannot say how for how long. Maybe just an instant, but I was in the realm of my visions, where time was without rhyme or rule. I held it and screamed, calling out for help, for I knew I could not do more than hold it in place.

    Then, at last, came relief. I felt the creature, which had wrestled motionlessly against me, shake suddenly, and writhe. The hooks came loose from its flesh, and it unmade itself in my hands, dissolving and dissociating, falling out of the floor of my mind with a silent splatter.

    I awoke. Koskin was gone. Several arrows were in embedded in the ground, and Gologind's spear was plunged deep into the earth near my body. The children were weeping and holding close to Halid- O, how relieved I was to see her with my own eyes. And beside my two protectors stood a pair of strangers.
     

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