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The Last Disciple of Light- A 2012 NanoWrimo
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Kalanna Rai

Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Thu Nov 01, 2012 10:19 pm    Post subject: The Last Disciple of Light- A 2012 NanoWrimo  

I know most of us are busy with our own projects this year however, has anyone ever read a Nano blurb and really wanted to read the rest of the story? I know I have. So this year to both keep me on track and see if I'm doing the right job I will be posting my nano progress here. Chapter by chapter.

Oh PS, this story is a little different for me. It's actually based of a currently ongoing Pathfinder RPG game I'm participating in. As I cannot actually foresee what each weeks game will bring, don't blame me if it ends suddenly. After all, I might die.


The Last Disciple of Light

Prologue: Fields of Fire

It had been a dry summer for the village of Estwhile. No rain had fallen in two months and despite the work of the villagers and clerics alike, it was beginning to take a toll on the crops. Nightly prayers had been sent to the sun goddess who, until this, had been almost the patron of the village. They asked her for forgiveness for whatever offense they'd done, to be pardoned for their wrongs. They prayed for rain, for salvation. A hard winter was the last thing anyone wanted. They were a remote village, perched on the edge of the Elven Wildwood. Save for the wandering merchants that came through occasionally, braving the harsh and dangerous roads, there would be nobody checking on them. The village could easily succumb to famine and no one be the wiser until every last soul was gone.

A community of farmers and craftsmen mostly, Estwhile was normally sleepy and quiet save for festival days. A devout community, they worshiped the sun goddess and the god of farmers in all things, trusting their care and mercy to preserve them. So it was an unfathomable mystery why both would suddenly turn their backs upon the town. Rumors flew, petty offenses exaggerated until they were world shaking sins, there was even a wild whisper claiming that someone in town was one of them. A user of the arcane arts. Some people shivered at this, making the sign of the goddess as a ward against evil. Some people only rolled their eyes and continued with their work.

Anna Gulliamiae and her daughter Elliannia were two of those people. Anna was a seamstress of great renown. Her wares were prized by the travelling merchants, commanding good prices in far off towns. Indeed there was one merchant she had a deal with, making goods all year long and setting them away for him. Each year when he arrived he gave her a goodly portion of the profits he'd made from the previous years sales. Usually these profits took the form of something other than gold. In a tiny community like Estwhile, hard currency was of less value than a good milk cow or a nice laying hen. So Anna chose fabrics and dyes and threads from places so far away their names conjured fantasies in the minds of the listener.

Elliannia was her mother's helper in all things. Slight, shy, and beautiful the girl was something of a village scandal. Ellianna was half-elven after all, her father an elf of the Wildwood. Kelrinval Gulliamiae had walked out of the Wildwood nearly twenty summers ago and begun his courtship of Anna Rourk a year later. The marriage had been proper and happy, the elven man warm and kind to all in the community. Still, the human population of Estwhile had found him strange. Twelve summers ago they'd been blessed with the arrival of Ellie and for a time the family had been happy.

Then, one day shortly after her fifth birthday, Kelrinval had left. Kissing his wife and daughter on the cheek, he'd explained quietly that when he'd left the Wildwood he'd never intended to fall in love. Never intended to start a family. Now, as the years wore on, he couldn't stand to see the bloom of youth fading from his wife's cheeks. Leaving was the only solution. He vowed to visit once a year, on Ellie's birthday, and to send support for his family throughout the year. This created even more gossip, more scandal, which Ellie was far too young to understand at the time. She only understood that Daddy was going away. Which made the taunts and teasing of the other village children difficult to bare.

By the time she'd reached her twelfth year though, that was far behind. She'd taken up being a seamstress, like her mother, learning from the best. While the good she crafted were not sellable, they made good gifts and everyday things. The trade came naturally to her, with her nimble fingers and keen eyes, and she improved every day. Her sunny nature and willingness to help had gained her favor with the villagers. She was trusted, a favored playmate of the same children that had taunted her. Even if her looks were a little strange, folks in Estwhile had ceased to differentiate the delicate blonde with her pointed ears from their own dark-headed offspring.

At first when the rains had gone and the weather had grown warm it was all fun and good. The children played more, the work went faster, spirits were much improved after the cold damp spring. It was almost like a blessing. Then it had gone on and on, getting hotter and hotter, becoming less and less a joy and more a hardship. The clerics used their magics to help keep the village in water but they couldn't bring food out of thin air as more powerful members of their order in far off, more important places could.

People grew surly, old grudges became new arguments as tempers grew short. Ellie began staying home more and more as people began to remember that she wasn't like them. She was different, and secretly her mother feared that soon some of the more suspicious villagers would begin to mutter that Ellie was the cause of all this. That it was her elf blood that was bringing this down on their head. Ellie didn't mind too much, it gave her more time to practice her needle work and learn her letters, both elven and not.

She was excited, her birthday was coming. The fact it was a festival day meant less to her than the fact her father would be visiting. He always brought the most wonderful stories and thoughtful gifts. She was old enough now to realize why he'd left and last year she'd told him he didn't have to visit if he didn't want to. He was still watching her mother age this way. Every year seeing her one year older. That didn't mean Ellie hadn't been secretly glad when he'd refused, telling her he'd be back the next year.

The light suddenly faded, causing her brow to wrinkle as she looked up from the shirt she was mending, glancing out the nearby window. Clouds, dark and ominous, were sailing across the sky with good speed. The wind had changed, picking up speed, starting to whistle under the eves and through the tree branches. Her mother came to stand next to her, resting a hand on her shoulder as she stared out at the same view. In the streets the dogs began barking wildly, cows lowing and sheep and goats bleating. The animals sensed the oncoming storm and feared it.

"Ellie sweetheart, help me put things away will you?" Her mother's voice was soft and easy. If Anna Gulliamiae was worried she wasn't projecting her fear. Which put Ellie at ease, the girl scampering over the house to put up the sewing table and get down the heavy bars for the windows. Not the door bar, that one was too heavy for her all by herself, she'd help her mother with it later. She went outside, helping her mother pull in the many loads of washing that had been strung on the lines near their house. The shirts and sheets and pants whipped and dance as the ever increasing wind tore at them. It was while they were out there, bringing in the wash, that one of their neighbors approached them.

Mrs. Halliset was grey from the stress of her five children, her hands calloused and cracked from years of hard work. A big woman with a carrying voice, she could sometimes be quite frightening in Ellie's opinion. But right now it was she who looked frightened, glancing first at Ellie and then towards Ellie's mother. "Anna I need to borrow Ellie for a moment. Jim and the boys are helping bring in the cows but the sheep need to be herded into the pen. Could Ellie help my girls do that? It shouldn't take the three of them long."

The Hallisets had the best flock of sheep in Estwhile, the best flock for fifty miles some said. The wool was soft and warm, making wonderful winter clothing and blankets. Ellie and her mother relied on that wool for much of the goods that they gave the traders. There was no question Ellie would help. She didn't even wait for a response, going and fetching a crook from the Halliset sheep pen and venturing out into the pastures.

It had turned dark as midnight, the sky above thick with iron black clouds. The skyline was lit by lightning flashes, the thunder that rumbled growing louder and louder over the roar of the wind. Almost strong enough to knock Ellie off her feet, she struggled to keep her blonde hair out of her eyes as she sought out the sheep. Most of them were not difficult to catch and turn toward home, most of them easily herded into the safety of their pen. One, however, stubbornly refused. That was the one Ellie chased out into the dry grass, trying desperately to turn the stubborn ewe toward it's home.

A brilliant white flash lit her vision as a bolt of lightning arced out of the clouds and struck the ground in a nearby field. Dazzled, deafened by the following boom of thunder, she wasn't aware of the danger she was in immanently. By the time her vision cleared and she could hear again, the nearby field was an inferno and the wall of fire swept toward her like the very gate of the Hells. Dropping the crook, the sheep forgotten, she turned and ran with all the speed she could muster.

She could see the little river that ran the edge of the field, the one that fed the mill pond and Old Lady Abernathy's duck pond. If she could make that little river she'd be safe. She could just splash across it and then up the muddy bank and into the village. However, the fire ran far faster than Ellie.

She could see several villagers gathered, pointing toward the fire. A few no doubt pointing at her. Some were gesturing, as if encouraging her to run faster. Some had their hands cupped to their mouths, trying in vain to yell into the wind. Not a sound reached Ellie save the roar of the fire behind her. She tripped, stumbling, not falling but coming close. That was all it took for the fire to catch her...and surge past.

For a few moments she was engulfed by it, surrounded in what she could only describe as a mild warmth, then it was gone. Her clothes fell away in blackened rags but Ellie herself was untouched. Her long blond hair her only modesty as she quietly moved toward the village, she could see them staring at her. Then her mother was there, weeping and kissing her, wrapping her in a cloak and carrying her inside.

The storm raged for five days, a tempest of wind and rain. When it was finally over and the village of Estwhile could poke their heads out of their homes again, the found their fields lush and the water running harmlessly off into a brook. The blessings of the sun goddess and the farmer god apparently with them again. However, it was not without cost. Ten sheep, three cows, two pigs, and eight people all were sacrificed to the storm's maw. The eastern pastures were fire blackened, unable to be used and forced to lay fallow.

Looking at the blackened ash, finding the charred remains of both animals and men alike, those that had seen Elliannia Gulliamiae walk unscathed through the flames would never forget it. Her mother called it a miracle, taking her to the small shrine to the sun goddess and thanking her was offerings. The priests agreed. There was nothing the least bit sorcerous about it, the goddess had chosen to spare an innocent. It should have been a sign of hope that she was with them through the storm.

Still, the event stuck in the minds of the Estwhile villagers. It stuck in the mind of Ellie's father when he arrived the day after the storm, apologizing for being late for Ellie's birthday. It stuck in Ellie's mind, that sense of something grater than herself, that mild warmth that had protected her from the rage of the flames. That one incident would shape her destiny in ways nobody could ever have predicted.
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Kalanna Rai

Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Mon Nov 05, 2012 12:18 am    Post subject:  

Chapter One: Leavetaking

The temple of the Sun Goddess in Septim was always a bustling place. Acolytes in white, priests in red and gold, all moving to and fro as they went about their duties. In the Halls of Healing the messenger found her tending a youth that had burned his hand in the blacksmith's forge. Her golden hair was pulled back in a neat tail, her white robes broken by a red sash about her waist from which hung a beautifully made but serviceable scabbard. The hilt of the weapon within was as much a work of art as anything, clearly a depiction of the sun goddess' own weapon. She did not turn from her work as the messenger approached, fingers stroking the burned skin and leaving healthy skin in their wake. She rubbed an ointment on it and scolded the youth before turning to the messenger with a friendly smile. "Apologies for keeping you waiting, how can I help you acolyte?"

"The High Priest wishes to see you in his chambers at once. This way please."

That was a surprising and unusual request and Ellie moved quickly to comply as she wondered what she'd done that would have warranted this. She'd done little to distinguish herself since arriving in Septim six months ago. She worked in the Halls fetching creams and oils more than she did any real healing. Ellie had been away from the true path of the Goddess for too long. Even had she been faithful her call to serve had not been in the healing arts. She had known ever since that day in the fields years ago that her call was to fire, to the sun itself. But she tried very hard to be there for those that needed it. For the hurt and the ill, the weak and elderly. She cared. More so now than ever.

She was left in the chairs outside the High Priest's chambers to wait and wait she did, watching the shadows slowly crawl across the marble. Fingers danced along the hilt of her scimitar, not because she felt the need to defend herself but because she needed to reassure herself it was still there. Every day when she woke, Ellie fully expected the blade to be gone. Every dawn it was still with her much to her own wonder.

At last she was seen, drawn into the inner rooms of the most powerful representative of their divine goddess in the most powerful nation in the world. This was the man who made or broke an acolyte or any temple devotee. Had she somehow drawn his ire? Inclining her head to him she waited politely while he finished with the papers before him before finally rising and handing her one.

"Ajax from the College of Mages has a task that will require a group of individuals. We have been asked to provide a member to this expedition and I have chosen you. You are skilled with the blade and have some talent in the healing arts. You're knowledgeable about living in the wilds and I believe you can keep your head in a difficult situation. You are also the least established member of the Church here in Septim. We would send another but that is taking them away from their usual duties. I can do that if you'd prefer but I would be quite pleased if you'd accept this undertaking in the name of the Church."

At first Ellie had been slightly wary. In her experience when someone heaped praise upon you before sending you to do a task it was to keep you so flattered that you just agreed out of sheer ego. However, he had her agreement when he asked her to do it for the Church. Her faith was her everything. Some people would call her an idiot for committing so deeply. Others would simply call her shallow, or bland. They were just names. Ellie knew her goddess was out there and Ellie was determined not to let the Goddess down. "Of course." She took the paper from him, eyes scanning it. "Allow me to gather my things and I will head to the tower."

She accepted the blessing he gave her with his dismissal before heading back to her rooms. She'd learned how to pack in the years since leaving her village. A sturdy backpack, a waterskin, some food for the journey, a long coil of rope with a stout grapple at the end. Her sewing kit and a bolt of light fabric. Many other sundry items all went neatly into, or on, the pack. From her wardrobe she selected durable but light clothing. The letter had mentioned something about the south and thus it was unlikely there would be any need for furs. Her cloak was a strange thing she'd bought from a southern merchant, both hood, mask, and cape in one.

Hefting the pack, making sure it fit right, she headed through the streets toward the Tower of Magi where the letter had asked everyone to meet. Showing it at the door, she was ushered into an opulent room teeming with magical auras. She didn't need to look to know they were there, she could feel it in the air. She was not alone in the room, there were others clustered around the provided refreshments. A human and half-orc were talking together in low tones. By the state of their equipment she guessed them to be representatives of the local Fighter's/Adventurer's Guild.

Nobody was really sure if it was a Fighter's Guild or an Adventurer's Guild, it had been called both and denied as being either. Some people said it was nothing more than a large drinking hall for Mercenaries. However, having interacted with a few of them on occasion, Ellie believed that there were rules for the members and that they were usually followed. She had no quarrel with them and saw them as being useful. She certainly saw fewer injuries from their ranks than she did from the untrained sell-swords out there.

A gnome wandered about with a cake in his hand, touching most things but not quite everything. He had a wild look in his eye, speculative, as if his mind was working far faster than anyone else might guess. A large wrench was strapped across his back in the same manner a man might wear a sword. By this Ellie guessed he came from the Corps of Engineers, a group of Septim's finest tinkerers and builders. It was a bit relieving to her to know that they had a bit of creativity and technical know-how coming along. Ellie was no good at certain things, like maths.

She took a cake for herself and found a seat on one of the plush chairs that were scattered about the round room's circumference. Her eyes wandered lazily to the objects that hung on the wall and decorated the surfaces of the few tables. There were two suits of armor that stood, watching them. Likely the room's magical guardians, waiting for any of them to step out of line. But other than the gnome touching almost everything, not one of the four of them made any motions as to disturb the room.

She was reaching for her second cake when a cleverly disguised, or perhaps magically hidden, door in the back of the room opened and admitted two men. One was young and the single tallest human being Ellie had ever seen. His eyes were brilliant blue, his hair a gleaming golden hue, and his head nearly scraped the ceiling. The other was the highly recognizable figurehead of the powerful Magi in Septim, Ajax the Archemage.

He stared at each of them in turn before grinning a smile of gleaming white teeth. "Ah gentlemen, and lady, welcome welcome. I'm glad to see that your organizations have so promptly answered their summons and sent their payments. Now lets get started, we have a lot of work to do. Or well you do. How much do you know about the jungle?" He didn't exactly wait for any replies instead rushing on with his next statement. "Next to nothing, good! I've arranged for transport to the nearest civilized town on the edge of the jungle. From there you'll need to procure a map and find your own way. Your destination is the city of Koh. I'm sure it will be no trouble at all. Ah, my apprentice Joshua here will be travelling with you."

With a grand gesture he indicated that they should move from the parlor in which they sat and into the room beyond. This round room, made wholly of rough stone, had only one feature to it. In the center sat a portal that glowed with a soft light. "Beyond that gateway lies your destination. The market town of Zarok! You can find almost anything there. I see some of you have brought supplies, good good. You can flesh out the remainder of your necessities in the bazaar there. Now you'd best get moving. The sooner you get to Koh, the sooner you can return no?"

The way he looked at them coupled with the fact the door swung shut behind them rather swiftly gave Ellie a sinking feeling. Even had she felt like turning back there didn't seem to be a chance now. The apprentice, Joshua the Tall, seemed mildly put out by his Master's words. Perhaps he'd expected something different. Either way he shrugged, stepping through the portal. Ellie glanced at the others, noting their expressions, then back to Ajax. Taking a breath and sending a prayer to the goddess, she stepped through.
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Kalanna Rai

Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Mon Nov 05, 2012 10:22 pm    Post subject:  

Chapter Two: The Bazaar

Heat. It beat down upon her like a hammer upon an anvil. Nearly staggering under the sudden force of it she dipped into her reserves of power to call upon the goddess for the ability to endure. Instantly the air around her became comfortable as the spell settled into place and she breathed a sigh of relief. Although it was slightly wasteful to use the casting and she felt guilty for not being able to aid her companions, she had only a few castings and saving the others for healing was critical in her mind, there was no other option. She simply had never been exposed to this kind of environment and was not yet able to function properly in it.

She gazed around with wide green eyes, taking in all of the sights to see. A few people had stopped to stare at them when they had arrived from thin air in the middle of the street. Indeed a driver was shouting at them in some jangling southern tongue. His cart was unable to proceed forward as long as they stood in his way. Joshua ushered them out of the path and over to where many people seemed to be milling about the stalls, glancing at each of them in turn as he fiddled with the ornate ring on his right ring finger.

"Alright. Well, he said we'll need to acquire a map and the rest of our supplies although it seems like most of you have come prepared already. As Ajax said I'm Joshua, his apprentice, but unfortunately he didn't introduce any of you. May I have the pleasure of your names?" Blue eyes swept over each of them, a mild smile on his face as he waited.

"I'm Ellianna, but you can just call me Ellie." She returned the smile in a friendly fashion, shifting the pack that settled on her shoulders and resisting the urge to gaze about the market again. Everywhere she looked there was something new and foreign and while this place seemed shabby in comparison to the Great Market in Septim it still seemed alive with activity. There were barkers calling in a dozen languages, only a few of which she recognized.

It was due to her distraction that she only caught part of the gnome's name, the curious moniker of Samoflange. She smiled at this, thinking it oddly fitting for a tinkerer. It sounded very mechanical and she had not the least idea if it actually was or not. The human revealed himself to be Mir while the half-orc was named Garrum. Neither was new to adventuring or fighting but both seemed just as curious about the market as Ellie herself.

"Well then, Ajax didn't give us any funds to purchase the remaining necessities did he Joshua?" Samoflange's voice was slightly pinched and a little high, the usual for a gnome, but not annoying. His eyes narrowed and he watched Joshua for a moment before snorting. "Typical wizard. Expects us to do things for him on our own dime. Alright then, anyone have any idea where we might find a map to this 'Koh' place? Because as far as I can remember 'Koh' is a mythical magical city."

Ellie hadn't known that. When it came to history Ellie had been a mostly poor student. She had poured herself into other areas of study, such as the practices of other religions and the various types of undead horrors that crawled out of the darkness begging for the purging touch of the light. She knew of the planes and the creatures that dwelt there. But by far the most dangerous knowledge that Ellie held was her scraps of forbidden arcane knowledge. Gleaned in places other than Septim. Dark places she'd rather never revisit.

"I'm sure someone around here will have some information. Why don't you three go looking and I'll browse the market here for a few more necessities." She smiled brightly at them, casting about for a landmark that would make meeting up with them easier. Across the street was a large building with a brilliantly painted sign swaying in the wind. "Here. We'll meet back up under that sign in an hour or so alright?"

It was agreeable to the others and though she was slightly afraid of being alone in a strange city Ellie knew that her goddess would protect her. She smiled in the direction of the hot sun shining overhead and set off into the market for a few necessities. There was a salve she'd heard of that she wanted, a salve that when rubbed behind the ears and across the back of the neck helped cool the body without the aid of magic. Her companions would be in need of that once they reached the jungle proper. Some more light cloth with which to make nets that would keep attacking bugs at bay. Bugs carried disease.

She struck up friendly conversations with the local merchants, doing her best to come by information about Koh and perhaps a map of the jungle. They would just shake their heads at her, telling her she was chasing a legend or admit that they'd never heard of it. One thing they all kept saying was that there was no such thing as a map of the jungle. She was beginning to get disheartened when a rough voice spoke to her from the shadows. "I can draw ye a map! I've seen horrors and wonders and I know them all!"

The voice belonged to a filthy beggar wrapped in tattered and dirty rags. He sat in the shade provided by a rough looking building and smiled at her to reveal a mouth full of broken teeth. With begrimed fingers topped in thick chipped and yellowing nails he encouraged her to draw closer. She did so a bit warily having dealt with over-zealous beggars in the past. He smiled up at her from under his tangled mop of matted hair. "I need paper and ink and a bit of coin in my bowl and I can show you where you need to go."

She retreated into the market, acquiring the essentials for writing, including a thick sheet of vellum that would hold the ink and be less likely to crumble once they were actually in the jungle proper. Handing them to the beggar she smiled as she placed a few coins of several denominations in his bowl. Some copper, some silver, and a bit of gold. After all, he was the only person she'd seen so far that had even mentioned a map. Besides, giving to beggars was something she did anyway. Usually not gold, she'd get mobbed for doing that, no matter how much she wanted to. But if she was 'paying' him for services then he'd 'earned' it.

He stuck his coated tongue out between filthy lips, satisfied at her offering apparently. He mumbled to himself as he drew with a surprisingly steady hand on the parchment. Sometimes he'd start to write something and then attempt to smudge it out. "Best you not go there at all, I'll write nothing to tempt you. Only death. Danger and death." That was all he'd say about those dark smudged areas. Sometimes he'd start writing something and then remember something else, scrawling it in. After some time passed he finally just shook his head, scattering a handful of sand from the ground across it and handing it back to her. "There. That's all. Take it and go!"

He then gathered his bowl and the writing essentials and stood, fleeing down an alleyway. Ellie called her thanks after him, staring confused for a moment before returning to the group and offering them the map. They had found one of their own it seemed, drawn by a drunken man that had been full of tales. With a sigh Ellie tucked hers into her pack and instead brought out the purchases she'd made in the market. Rations and salves, a few odds and ends that she hadn't thought to bring with her.

With the sun still high in the sky the decision was made to set off now. To get as much travelling done as they could while they had light and then camp. There were things that lurked in the dark of the jungle that made night travel impossible. Besides, it would be slow going as it was, they'd need to see their footing without having to hold torches or rely on starlight.

Shouldering her pack again, Ellie felt a small shiver of fear as she passed out of the gates. Glancing back at the city and then ahead at the road, she could only wonder what for. She got the sense that with this step she'd set in motion a chain of disastrous events.

If only she'd known how right she was.
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Kalanna Rai

Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Mon Nov 05, 2012 11:08 pm    Post subject:  

Chapter Three: Encounters

Gnomes do not move at the speed of men or elves. They move slightly slower. Having never traveled any length of time with a gnome before Ellie had never paid much attention to this fact. Neither, apparently, had anyone else in the party. They let Samoflange set the pace which, for him, was his best possible speed while for them was a lazy walk. The road led out of the city and into a rolling grassland almost. To their left spread the sea in all its immense glory. They could hear the break of waves upon the shore and the churning of the surf, the cry of sea birds as they soared high overhead.

At first their inclination was to walk upon the shore and to enjoy the clean air and the open vista for as long as they could. However, Garrum suggested against it at once. "This is the perfect kind of shoreline for Fortress Crabs. Big as horses, big as houses, big as a fortress. We don't want to be dealing with those every few yards now do we?"

His point was proven when the road swung close to shore at one point. As they trod upon the hard packed surface and kicked up their mild cloud of dust, the nearby sand exploded with force and fury, pincers the size of dogs snapping in the air near them. Ellie jumped back, her scimitar free of it's sheath before she was consciously aware of drawing it. Garrum and Mir also had their weapons free, Samoflange retreating back as he stared at the thing.

Joshua's hands began to glow with power as he chanted something swiftly under his breath. The two fighters moved in, drawing the attention of the things, each striking a hard blow against the crab's thick shell. But in the end it was Joshua's magic that felled the beast. Eyes snapping open, he finished his chant and hurled bolts of what seemed like pure energy at it. Each glowing blue gold as they hammered against it's shell, pounding the life out of the thing.

As it dropped and lay lifeless the group remained on alert for a bit before slowly weapons were put away. Garrum walked up, kicking lightly at one of the smaller legs and raising his protruding brows at the group. "See. Fortress crab. This one's pretty small and if we can get the shell open the meat's good eating. But do you really want to try fighting one of the larger ones? Mir and I could barely get through this little one's shell and it's barely more than a baby. Josh, how many more of those fancy spells do you have?"

"It's Joshua and I've got a few more, a couple more powerful than that. But I see your meaning, we'll do best to avoid the shoreline. Especially when we camp. It'll be getting dark soon so lets get away from this place and find a good stopping point. We can build a fire and cook this meat, avoid eating our rations until we have to."

That was a sound idea and after a little work they were able to get the crab open and get several pounds of the tender flesh. That was a marvel to Ellie. Where she had come from 'crab' was a mythical creature almost. It was certainly a delicacy in most of the places she'd been. Yet here she was with pounds of it wrapped in a clean, wet cloth to keep it preserved until dinner time. She'd never even eaten the stuff, only seen it sold for prices that would feed a small village. It was a once in a lifetime thing for her.

It was some hours yet before they found a place that everyone agreed was a good camping spot. The savanna dipped here and formed a little hollow that was protected from the wind just in case. Garrum said that he could smell a storm on the wind and after his impressive display of survival knowledge with the crabs nobody was really willing to doubt him. Ellie set about making herself a safe place to sleep for the night. She knew a great deal about camping in grassy areas and just enough about the jungle to set herself up a comfortable spot for her bedroll, draping a mosquito net she made herself over the top.

A fire was struck and a watch was decided. After cooking her crab meat and finding it a succulent treat, growing very full from the portion she'd brought, she bid everyone good night and crawled into her sleeping enclosure. She had dawn watch, requested, the perfect time to say her prayers and renew her magic. Curling up in her soft bag, the magic she'd cast working well through the night, she drifted off comfortably...and woke to the sound of fighting.

She wasn't sure how many hours had past but she woke to the howls of her companions and the snarls of things in the night. There stood Mir, injured and bleeding from a wound that was little more than a black sucking patch in the night, it's severity unknowable in the poor light. Joshua's hands were wreathed in a brilliant fire and off in the night something was screaming in pain as it burned. Garrum stood with his sword in hand, blood dripping from it, a savagely pleased look on his face. From his tent, Samoflange could be heard still snoring away. Like Ellie he was obviously used to sleeping in loud places.

Walking over, she put her hands against Mir's wound, closing her eyes and muttering a prayer to the goddess. She was rewarded instantly by that rush of pure and warm power, light emanating from where her hands lay and closing the wound as if it had never been. She smiled at the fighter. "Are you alright? What were those things?"

Joshua had walked off into the night, Garrum close beside him, and now they returned dragging a charred body. "Chupacabra. Normally they feed off of livestock but obviously when they caught scent of us camping the figured they'd try for a change in blood." The sorcerer looked mildly disgusted, nudging the corpse. "Garrum, are they edible?"

"I wouldn't." That was all that needed said. If the half-orc didn't find something appetizing it would likely kill the average person. The chupacabra was drug back out into the grasses and buried before everyone returned to their tents for the remainder of the night.

Dawn watch was uneventful. Ellie sat, poking the fire to make sure it didn't go out and keeping the embers hot so that the others could cook their breakfasts when they woke. Over the horizon came a beautiful sunrise. The stars winked out one by one as the velvet darkness of night gave way to an encroching turquoise edge. Then came the sherbet colors of pink and red and orange, the golden rays of the light itself. She finished her dawn prayers, feeling the magic swell within her again, the reaffirmation of her connection to the Sun Goddess and all her might. Carefully she woke the others, waiting until they were up and moving before making the last of her crab meat as breakfast. She'd taken down her sleeping area in the night and was ready to go whenever they were.

Garrum eyed the skyline, brows lowering as he fixed himself his own breakfast. "Storm will be here by tonight. We'd best find some place with real shelter to camp or we're going to be in real trouble."

"It looks like we'll make the jungle by midday, maybe we'll find somewhere there to camp." Mir seemed cheerful about their prospects, speaking between the bites of food he wolfed down. "We could maybe lash some branches and such together for protection."

"Depends on how quickly we get under the canopy and how much time we have to prepare. Joshua, does the map say anything about towns or villages around here? That would actually be our best bet. Judging by those clouds the storm is going to be a big one."

Joshua unfurled their map and studied it for a time before shrugging. "No. Nearest place is called Blood Cove, not exactly friendly sounding, and it's at least two more days from where we are. We're going to have to hope for a good spot in the trees. Lets get moving."

They had just finished breaking camp when a group of riders came at a good clip down the road. They paused for a few moments to ask directions, looking over the group, before moving on their way. The scent of evil that rolled off them turned Ellie's stomach when she looked. It had grown to be a habit from her more suspicious days, one that had saved her life in the past. Checking with a fraction of power to see what aura a person cast. Her group was made of good, or mostly good, people. But those riders were evil. Those riders had looked at them awful funny. And those riders were now ahead of them.

It was going to be a long day.
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Kalanna Rai

Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Mon Nov 05, 2012 11:53 pm    Post subject:  

Chapter Four: Storm and Slavers

They marched along at a good clip, punishing for poor Samoflange, but it was either that or risk being caught without shelter when the storm broke. She lagged back a couple of times, checking on him, encouraging him. She kept a wary eye out for those riders but they seemed to be long gone. The two men and the woman must have gotten what they needed from the party and had more pressing concerns. Still, Ellie remembered that appraising gleam in their eyes and mistrusted it. Like they'd been goods or livestock.

The edge of the forest began in small shoots, shrubs, and tiny trees into which the grasses crept. It progressed rapidly into thick trunks heavy with vines and broad leaves that blocked most of the light which was rapidly fading anyway as the clouds moved ever closer and grew ever darker. Mir, however, made the discovery of a ruined road amid the roots and vines. Slightly less difficult to navigate than the forest floor itself. Once it had been paved by many years had passed since it had ever seen upkeep. Most of the cobbles were buried, scattered, or broken. Those that remained were almost more a hindrance than they were anything else. They were turned up just at the right angle to catch the toe of a boot, loose enough to send a foot firmly planted sliding. Still better than hacking their way through vines and undergrowth, which seemed remarkably clear from here.

It soon became apparent that others had traveled this way. Likely those riders from earlier but perhaps others as well. There were places where many tracks had been tramped into the soft ground and flattened it. Other places showed where vines, leaves, and branches had been hacked away to provide ease of passage. Their pace improved remarkably in these areas even as their uneasiness about following in the path of others grew.

Rounding a curve they found themselves abruptly confronted with a ruined village as the road spilled out of the trees and through the gates of a crumbling stone wall. The jungle was beginning to creep in but the wall was providing an admirable barrier to it, covered in vines and growth but preventing most of the trees. Saplings grew near it where the wind had obviously carried seeds and fruits had fallen from overhanging branches, shrubbery clustered at its base. A ruined harbor, long since filled in somehow, was surrounded by crumbling buildings.

"Alright! This I can work with!" Samoflange proclaimed in a loud voice, darting forward. "Help me investigate the structures and we'll find one I can shore up. We'll ride out the storm in comfort folks!"

It was the best news they'd heard all day and they quickly fanned out, each searching in their own way. As she knew nothing about buildings, Ellie searched instead for other things of interest, hoping that she stumbled across a structure during the search. Her senses found out as she called on her power, searching for resonances, for magical things that might remain here. Such a chance was slim, after all magic was exceedingly rare outside the city of Septim. Hated and destroyed whenever opportunity could be given.

Thus she was much surprised when she did indeed find such a resonance. In a crumbling building near the ruined harbor, buried under shards of pottery and fragments of rotting wood. Digging down a little bit into what must have been the old floor, she found a compartment amid the stones of the wall. There she managed to remove a remarkably preserved package wrapped in old waxed paper to preserve whatever was within. The paper crumbled away to reveal a cloak and a bracelet of beads, both glowing with power. The cloak was arcane in nature, that was swiftly apparent but the beads were divine in nature, a priests item. Prayer beads.

Giving thanks to her goddess she wound the beads around her wrist, feeling no effect from them. She'd figure it out later. The cloak she was far more wary about, tucking it in her pack and returning to her companions. They had had more luck than she, finding a building in the corner of the walls, sheltered by other buildings, and structurally sound Samoflange said. They gathered wood from the surrounding forest, mud from the ground, packing and patching as they could until they'd made themselves a nice large area to comfortably settle in.

They'd just put on a kettle and a pot of tea, heated by some clever machine Samoflange had hastily built to keep them all warm, when a knock sounded at the rough door they'd put up. The sound of the wind outside was prominant now, the rain drumming on the roof easily discerned. Warily they opened the door, revealing the three riders from earlier on the road and three other figures. From the manacles around the wrists of those unfortunate souls it was clear they were slaves and that the riders were now revealed as slavers.

They requested to be allowed shelter from the storm and as much as the group didn't want to acquiesce, they couldn't turn them down. Although Ellie would rather have allowed the slaves inside than the slavers but they barely had room for all of them. The horses were tied down securely in the lee of the building and everyone inside snuggled close. Two of the slaves looked totally cowed, humans that had been so shattered and demoralized they were of little use anymore. The third, a half orc, still had fire in his eyes though two of the slavers kept close watch on him.

The third continued to eye Ellie and Joshua in a manner that made Ellie uneasy. Instead of concentrating on the woman, she concentrated on the cloak. Careful examination provided her with some interesting information. First it was a cloak of Blur, a rainbow shimmer of energy wafting off of it when she moved it and making it hard to figure out exactly where the fabric was. Second the symbol stitched on the back was a noble house that had, some years back, been in conflict with Septim. They'd been powerful and loud, merchants and shippers by trade, wealthy. Overnight their fortunes had declined and their voice had grown dimmer, less obstinate, and Septim had had it's way in the end.

She picked the design out, having no wish to cause conflict when she returned home. Instead she re-purposed the thread, along with a little out of her sewing kit, and by the time the storm had passed she'd stitched the emblem of the sun goddess on the cloak elegantly. Fastening it around her shoulders, she was pleased by the weight and feel, knowing the value it would bring her should anyone tempt to strike her. With slavers around that seemed an all too likely occurrence in the future.

They slowly made their way out of the hut, surveying the damage the storm had done. Several buildings had crumbled, others listed dangerously. The horses were alright, soaked and in need of a rub before they could go anywhere, but no worse for having passed through the storm. The group left the slavers and their wares tending the animals and moved through the town. Idly they debated what to do, should they try to free the slaves, down the slavers? Unknowing of local custom though, slavery might be a legal trade in these parts as horrible as it was, they decided to take no action lest they find themselves in legal trouble. The decision sat ill with Ellie but there was nothing she could do alone.

They searched the ruins again, seeking to find anything of interest. Their efforts were not in vain. Passing a large central building they sensed a great source of magic below them, buried in the building's foundation. Not just magic but evil as well. "Well well...we should see what's down there. It's powerful and strong, who knows what it might be." Joshua's eyes gleamed with the discovery and he licked his lips in anticipation.

"Can't you feel the evil? Whatever is down there needs to remain buried. Magical or not, it's doing no harm where it is. How do we know it wasn't buried there for a reason." Ellie folded her arms across her chest, shaking her head. "It's a foolish idea. Leave it be."

"So you won't help us?" Joshua's enthusiasm seemed to have infected the two fighters, Mir especially. "I want to see it. What if there's a reward for it back in Septim. They used to trade with this place you know, I've seen signs of it. Septim currency and maker-marks."

"Maybe the evil is just guarding the magic? Some creature under the earth guarding it's fabulous treasure." Garrum grinned. "We'll need help digging though, Samoflange? What about you?"

The gnome stared at the three eager delvers, then at Ellie. "You know, I'll tell you how to excavate, maybe even help you build something to do it, but I'm with her. Sounds dangerous and we don't even know how far down it is."

"About sixty feet." Joshua's reply was even more enthusiastic. "But only three of us digging, that's not going to cut it."

"We can always buy one of the slaves. We can free them after the work is done, wouldn't that work? The slavers will think we're just idiots." Mir shrugged, thumbs hooked in his belt. "I've got a little gold we can use."

Ellie liked the idea of buying and then freeing a slave but she wasn't sure she wanted to have anything more to do with the slavers themselves. "You can try, I'm not going anywhere near those people. The way they look at me gives me the willies."

After a little more hasty planning it was decided. They would buy the half-orc, he looked strongest after all, and then they would begin to dig. With Samoflange's engineering know how and the magic and muscle of the others they'd reach the whatever it was soon enough. Ellie still thought it was a bad idea though, ice running down her spine as she stared at the patch of earth below which the evil lay. No good would come of this. None.
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Joined: 02 Nov 2004
Posts: 469
Location: San Diego, CA

Posted: Tue Nov 06, 2012 5:34 pm    Post subject:  

will get to this soon kai, sorry I missed your nano this year.
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Kalanna Rai

Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Tue Nov 06, 2012 11:41 pm    Post subject:  

Take your time my friend. There's no rush or hurry. This will be ongoing for as long as the game is. Likely well beyond the scope of Nanowrimo. Also, I'd like to apologize for the brevity and lack of details in the first few chapters. These games took place many many months ago and my notes for them were...less than detailed. I didn't expect the game to continue as it has or for our characters to make it into the interesting tale it has become.
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Kalanna Rai

Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 1:15 am    Post subject:  

Chapter Five: The Chest

They'd been digging all day. With muscle and improvised tools, with spell power to help with the lack of manpower. Samoflange's technical knowledge had helped them know where to put the braces and had helped them make a pulley system that raised buckets of earth out of the pit when the spellpower ran out. Ellie had sat by, refusing to help the excavation, knowing in her bones that no good could come out of exhuming a buried evil. Or digging towards the lair of an earth-dwelling evil. Whichever the case might be. She did, however, provide water and food when asked and help heal the worst of the hurts that were incurred.

The slavers had left some time back, accepting the coins for their half-orc with too large smiles, their eyes still sliding over the party. Ellie fully expected them to return once the party ceased their excavations. Return when they were all too weak and weary to fight and make them part of the merchandise. But they didn't. At least not as the sun began to go down. "Alright gentlemen, lets set this aside for now. We can resume digging in the morning."

"Agreed. I'll go put some tea on back in the hut." Samoflange smiled, stretching and moving away from his station at the pulley to wander back through the ruins towards the ramshackle repaired hut where they'd weathered the storm. His oddly built stove kept the place warm at night and cooked a good meal to boot.

The others, however, showed no sign of slowing down. Especially Joshua, who'd only recently woken from a rest with his arcane powers fully recharged. As he excavated another large section of earth he just looked at her. "No, we're close. So very close. If we keep going we'll be down there by morning. You can go if you want. I'm staying." Garrum and Mir agreed, as did the slave, who wasn't about to disagree with his 'masters' anyway. He just mutely kept digging on.

Shaking her head, Ellie returned to the hut and sat down, warming herself by the fire. She had a horrible feeling about it. She just couldn't put her finger on why. The village just gave her the willies, more now than the previous night. The previous night she'd had the more pressing concern of the storm and the slavers on her mind. Tonight it was only the village. The presence of evil under the ground and the unnatural chill in the air. To distract herself she struck up a conversation with Samoflange about the nature of engineering, listening to him chatter on about concepts she barely understood. Ellie wasn't stupid, she was just less technically minded than the gnome.

They'd carried on in this fashion for perhaps an hour, maybe more, when the first cry echoed out over the still village. The sun was well down by now, the moon high in the sky, and the cry of their companions was loud in the muggy air. Both of them stood bolt upright, knocking over the tea in the process. Both bolted out the door. Ellie's long legs lengthened in a pursuing stride she'd learned in the Keep, the Rundown stride that kept her going long after her quarry had fatigued itself. Samoflange came behind her, panting as he tried and failed to keep up on his short legs.

It was no use though. By the time they'd sprinted through the village, a ten minute run, the battle was mostly over. Mir lay still and unmoving on the earth, his weapon laying inches from his lifeless fingers. Nearby Joshua stood, pale as a sheet, his arcane magics expended on the dig and unable to defend his companion in his time of need. Garrum gripped his weapon tighter but looked battered, his gaze trained on something hovering in the air. A thickness, not solid, barely visible.

Ellie recognized the creature at once, a Wraith, incorporeal undead that created spawn of themselves from their felled victims. Flinging out a hand, she called upon her goddess to bless the corpse of her fallen companion, preventing him from becoming like the blighted specter. Then she drew her scimitar, taking a stand against the creature. Light limned the blade, a golden fire dancing upon it. The next moment she could, she struck.

The blow was not mighty, no doubt her companions had already made at least some accounting on the wraith in the time it had taken her to get there. However, when it came to the undead her weapon was far superior than the simple steel blades Garrum and the late Mir had wielded, it's divine power more suitable than the arcane magic Joshua possessed. With a heavy swing she smote the thing down, fractures of light tearing it into shreds of nothingness. It screamed, a horrific sound, and vanished.

It was unlikely she'd killed it. Far more likely, she'd only sent it fleeing into the dark to lick it's wounds. It was not without a mind or self preservation. It might hate the living but it no longer was facing easy prey. Ellie's blade shed soft light around them, giving them some protection as she stared at her companions and the slaved half-orc. "This is why it was a bad idea. Why we should have left it buried. Why you should have not continued this fool's errand in the dark. Now he is dead...what will you do now?"

Joshua sighed, staring at the corpse of Mir, then glanced back to the pit. "We will honor his memory by finishing the dig. There's nothing else that can be done." And with that he picked up a shovel and joined the two half orcs back in the excavated hole.

Sighing Ellie arranged Mir's body. With the help of Samoflange she laid it out on a clever cart-like contraption the gnome had been busy building in the idle moments of the day. Perching over the body, muttering funerary rites, she kept a close eye on her companions. Never had she been so glad to greet the Dawn, her grip on the hilt of her weapon relaxing.

It was two hours past breakfast, four hours past dawn, when they finally reached bottom. When finally the source of magic and evil was revealed. With much grunting, groaning, heaving, and straining, it was raised. Inch by inch, foot by foot, until finally it crested the edge of the excavation and lay on the ground. A black chest. Not black as as ink. As an unlit cavern under the earth. A tarry expanse of unknown metal that seemed to drink in the light like an empty void and give nothing back.

The overwhelming evil of it made Ellie retch even as her companions beckoned her closer. They were talking to it, speaking to it, and as they did so words were rising on it. Words in the dark language. Hellish or perhaps of the Abyss, Ellie couldn't remember. They were so closely related, the tongues of fiends and devils, that she confused one for another. It hammered at her psyche to read even an sentence and she pulled her eyes away. She knew this chest. Knew exactly what it was.

"You fools. You've damned us utterly now." In this chest, ages ago, the Gods' had sealed something so foul that the deed had weakened them to the point of near mortality. Gods of Evil, Gods of Good, Gods of the Grey Morality. Even a fraction of the Destroyer's own power was caught up in the wards that held it shut. And here it was, begging those speaking to it to open it.

"Well, should we open it?" Joshua's head was cocked to the side, blue eyes narrowed as he studied it.

"No. No we absolutely should not! We should do something with it...take it to the nearest Church and let them seal it. It can't be left in the open and it cannot be opened at any cost. We need to get in contact with either someone in Septim or the nearest strong Church with an Order that could stand guard over this."

Samoflange snorted. "Why don't we just throw it in the ocean and be done with it? That solves everyone's problem."

Ellie glared at the gnome. "That won't work. There are any number of things in the sea that could find and open that chest. Or worse the sea will simply spit it up on the shore somewhere for some innocent to find. Or what about someone looking for sunken treasure finding it? No, we can't just trust it blindly to the sea. That would be about as smart as leaving it in a forest clearing and expecting nobody to go there."

Behind them the great building who's foundation had served as the chest's tomb collapsed with a rumble and spray of dust. Apparently the excavation had taken a toll on the ruined structure that it could not bare. "Well...there goes my solution." Garrum sounded dejected, as if putting it back would have been the simplest and safest thing.

Samoflange stood. "Well, the thing is too heavy to pack...Garrum and you...orc-person...orc-person?" As the group glanced over a chill silence fell over them as they realized that tragically the slave had still been in the pit when the building had collapsed. Another life claimed excavating the evil thing. "Well then Garrum push the cart back to our shelter. I'll hook the stove up to it and we'll have a self driving cart. That should carry the chest and the body of our unfortunate friend along any mostly flat jungle trekking though I'm afraid."

"So we've got to go back to the city!? Fine. Fine. Lets do so. I can probably get in contact with Ajax from there at least." Joshua sounded rather peeved that not only were they going to have to escort the chest he'd been so keen to dig up back to the city they'd come from but that they were going to have to abandon the whole original point of their expedition. Journeying to the city of Koh.

Ellie sighed, saying a quiet prayer over the collapsed pit. Exhumed only an hour and already evil was following them. She'd known no good would come of this.
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Kalanna Rai

Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 1:46 am    Post subject:  

Chapter Six: Unleashed

The trip back was uneventful mostly. After a day Ellie's spell wore off and Mir's spirit rose as a wraith. It rose instantly, into the embrace of the sun, and was destroyed in that purifying light. Ellie could only hope the fallen fighter had gone on to a better place. With his spirit free they were able to bury him, each paying respects to a man most of them barely knew. Garrum was the most effected, he'd know Mir longer than them. They'd been fighters together, coming up through the ranks in the Guild, and now he was carrying on alone.

"I knew that this day might come but honestly I didn't expect it. I thought we'd be together a good while more. I'll miss him. He was a good shield brother, a good man to watch your back, and a good man to get a drink with. He deserved a better death."

Ellie wisely did not say he wouldn't have had to die at all. She'd made her point abundantly clear many times over by now. She only hoped that she could keep the rest of them whole and hale. Would the expedition even continue now that they were one short or would Ajax bring them a replacement when he came to inspect the chest. Joshua was confident that he could contact his master and Ellie wasn't about to question the sorcerer.

There were no more chupacabras on the plains, no more fortress crabs waiting to ambush them where the road came close to the shore. In fact they made it to the sight of the walls of that unknown city, none of them had ever figured out the name of the place, around noon the second day. They called to the guards and were rather surprised when not only did the gate shut tight but after a few moments they were confronted with spear wielding Templars. Ellie knew why. They seemed to have recognized the chest.

She raised her hands, doing as she was told, which was nothing. She was grateful they were taking the thing. However, others of her party were not so inclined. Samoflange tried to escape on that wonderful self-moving cart of his. Eventually, given the slow speed at which it moved, the Templars simply blocked his path and prevented the forward motion of the contraption. Joshua vanished around the same time Priestesses came forward and carried away the chest. Garrum was the only other one who simply stood there with Ellie, looking as curious as she did.

It wasn't very much long afterward that something happened. The first thing was Ajax's arrival with a bang of light and a puff of smoke. The second thing was the fact that he fetched Joshua from where he was hiding and that Joshua was much changed. Wings of white flowed from the shoulders of the other, his skin and hair radiant with a light that was almost...holy. The third thing was the chest, landing on the ground before them.

"This is a curious thing that you've brought before me. And quite some trouble you've caused me my apprentice. Do you have any idea what you've done? Things back home are...slightly critical. We've had a little problem and now that I'm here I can hardly help with that. Let me see, you want me to open it, don't you?"

"No. Absolutely not. I want it transported to Septim or somewhere else and handed into the safe keeping of the nearest Church, or Churches. Whoever can protect it best and leave it sealed." Ellie didn't care if this was the Archmage of Septim. That chest couldn't be open.

"I agree. It's bad. We can all feel it. We've lost people getting it this far. Don't open it." Garrum folded his arms over his chest, staring at the Archmage.

"Perhaps not open it here?" Samoflange gestured to the nearby city. "Those folks didn't exactly give us a warm welcome. I don't care what you do with the thing but I'd rather not die."

"Yes master. I'd like to see what's in it. I don't want it just absently sealed away if there's something useful inside that was locked up because of superstition." Joshua stared at the box with an almost cheshire grin on his face. "Superstitious people here excluded of course."

Ellie was livid. "I am not being superstitious! My faith is not just some insipid belief that you can dismiss-"

"Enough. Here." With a snap of his fingers Ajax took them away from the place before the gates of the unnamed city where they'd been standing, to a small sandy island in the middle of an ocean. It could have been almost anywhere. Staring at the chest for a moment in concentration, he reached out a hand and uttered a single word. There was a crack and a snap, and the binds on the chest were suddenly freed.

"No! You will not do th-" Garrum's words were cut off mid sentence. His sword was halfway from his sheath, his foot halfway forward in a step that would have engaged the mage in combat. Instead, Ajax had looked at him, waving his hand, and Garrum had simply ceased living. The big half-orc collapsed dead in a crumpled heap. Without a second glance Ajax reached over the body and opened the chest, Ellie still standing there in shock at the callous way the fighter had been cut down.

From the chest stepped a man. A man neither good nor evil. He blinked in the light, his clothing smartly tailored and fitted to his lanky form. He seemed mild and unassuming as he gazed from one person to the next. "Thank you. I've been stuck in there for ages. It's so very nice to be free. Thank you my friends and I apologize. That box is decidedly evil but it was the only way I could communicate. It makes it so hard for people to understand me. I'll be going now, thank you ever so much again." And just like that the unassuming man was gone.

With little ceremony Ajax dumped the body of Garrum back into the chest, making a gesture and sending the evil black box spinning away. It grew smaller and smaller in the air before vanishing with a pop of smoke, transported Gods knew where. The Archmage smiled at the three of them. "So, ready to return and continue on your expedition?"

"Not to rain on your parade but we're a few short now. We lost one fighter to a wraith while digging that box up and now we've gone and lost the other to your magics. We're slightly defenseless and just look at our cleric, I think she's lost her mind." Samoflange had his arms folded across his chest, displaying that classic gnome stubbornness. "I think we might as well just go home now. Try again some other time."

Ellie hadn't lost her mind but she was numb in shock. Garrum. Dead. Just like that. His body locked in that evil box and sent some place far away. No funeral rites. No blessings. Could his spirit even travel on having been slain like that? Her mind was caught in an endless circle, chasing itself. But she did pick up on the conversation enough to nod. Going home was best now. Back to Septim.

"No I don't think that's possible. You see the debt still remains...oh, they didn't tell you? Yes, you were all given up in exchange for the city forgiving the tax debts owed by your respective organizations. And besides, something's...wrong in the city right now. The defenses are up. Once I send you in, you won't be getting out. Hell if I'd been in the city I'm not sure I'd be able to get out right now. However, if you insist, I'll send you back."

"Master of course. Perhaps we can get the 'debts' forgiven by seeing what's wrong in Septim, maybe fixing the problem? Wouldn't that be an acceptable substitute?" Joshua earned a glare from his master that turned into an appraising stare. It was clear Ajax was't happy with his apprentice for some reason, but the logic of his statement was sound.

"Alright, I'll send you there. I'll even send you a little help. I know of a paladin nearby that should be able to aid you folks. I'll bring him along shortly. Now, if you'll all ready yourselves for the journey."

It happened before Ellie could protest. She certainly didn't want to do any more work for this Archmage and what was that about being sold by the church for tax debts?! But Ajax lifted his hands and chanted a few words and swept her, and the others, away from the little island and back toward the city from whence they'd come.
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Kalanna Rai

Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:29 am    Post subject:  

Chapter Seven:A City Under Siege

Septim, the Great City, the heart of civilization in an uncivilized world, was silent. There were no craftsmen plying their trades, no bustle of goods being bought and sold and wares being displayed in the Market. There were no Guards lounging at their posts or milling about in the crowds. No crowds period. No sound. From baby's cry to dog's bark to the sound of shod hooves on stone...nothing stirred.

The three of them looked around, bewildered. They'd been gone less than a handful of days and was as if they'd been gone for months. Joshua swore. "Damn Ajax. I hate it when he does this. He must have delayed the teleport spell's taken us months, not moments."

Ellie wasn't so sure. The Archmage had seemed to be concentrating very hard when he'd sent them, looking like he was undertaking something difficult. As she gazed upwards she could see a rainbow shimmer in the sky, a dome of some kind that seemed to encase the city. "Joshua, what's that? And where is everyone?" In her few months in Septim she'd never seen it.

"City defenses. A force-field that won't let anything in...or out. We really are stuck until we can get that lowered. Most likely the city has been evacuated because of...well whatever threat Ajax was telling us about. Maybe there will be some clues around here."

"Well I certainly hope so."

The voice was unfamiliar causing Ellie, Joshua, and Samoflange all to look over at the fourth person that seemed to have joined them. He was a halfling, of a size with the gnome though less strange of feature. He wore decorative armor, scribed with the religious symbols of the God of the Hunt, the Farming God Ellie had known from childhood.

He smiled at their scrutiny, shifting the bow on his shoulder as he gave a small flourishing bow. "Van Halftingle, Paladin of the Huntsman himself. More or less at your service it seems."

"I am Joshua, apprentice to Ajax of Septim. These are my companions, Samoflange of the Engineering Guild and Ellie, acolyte of the Sun Goddess. We're rather grateful of your assistance."

Van laughed at that. "One minute I'm preparing to take a short trip, the next here I am. That's the way things go...although I'd love any information on our current situation. I'm used to strange things happening at the drop of a hat...but not this strange."

Ellie opened her mouth to reply but a sudden noise in the silence stopped her. A lone figure was shambling down the street, it's gate unnatural but it's form wholly human. It lumbered awkwardly along, as if unsure of the proper use of it's limbs. It's clothing was torn and marred with filth and gore, old blood and clotted bits smearing it's arms and matting it's hair. "Zombie!" Samoflange's yell was accompanied by his action to duck behind Joshua, the sorcerer raising his hands in preparation to cast.

Ellie drew her scimitar, reaching out with the power of her goddess and getting a nasty surprise. "No, it's not a's not undead. still alive." It was true, despite being filthy the figure wasn't rotting and didn't seem deceased in any way. Were it not for the fact it possessed every other characteristic of being a 'zombie' there was nothing to suggest it was even unhealthy.

Joshua snorted. "I don't care if it's not undead. That is clearly a zombie. Van, help me put the thing out of it's misery." A gesture accompanied a few arcane words, a bolt of energy hurling off toward the shambling form.

"To keep us safe, certainly." With that the halfling unslung his bow, knocking an arrow and following up Joshua's attack with one of his own. The figure crumpled with a gurgled cry, clothing smoldering slightly from where the arcane attack had hit it.

Ellie sheathed her weapon, approaching the downed corpse carefully. Sure enough it was warm to the touch, blood leaking onto the cobbled street from it's arrow wound. The smell of burned flesh lingered around it. "This person is diseased...that's what happened here. In the time it took Ajax to send us back a plague has swept the city. These people are very much alive...just sick. We can't kill them, we have to cure them."

Samoflange looked like he was going to say something but a sound stopped him short. At first soft, but growing in power, the sound of shuffling feet. A crowd was headed their way, only a few streets distant from the way the noise was growing. Ellie quickly stepped back from the body, withdrawing to where he companions stood.

"It's the blood. They can smell it and they're coming to eat...shit, where do we go? Where do we hide?" Samoflange, glanced from side to side, his words a rushed whisper. "Quick, into that house, the door looks sturdy. Joshua, Van, watch our backs while I get it open."

Ellie sent up a quiet prayer, noticing a strangeness in the power of the Goddess. An uncomfortable distance. As if the Sun Goddess were distracted by something or very far away. She shot a glance up at the barrier, wondering if it was that thing keeping her out, or at least blocking Ellie's perception of her.

Around the corner came six more of the people and, despite her protests, Van and Joshua made short work of four. She had to physically interpose herself between her companions and the last two. Walking up to the shambling people, she swatted away their clumsy attempts to bite and scratch at her. "Look, they're harmless. They can't really do anything to you as long as you're paying attention. They're like...poorly trained puppies. Nipping but not really harmful."

Samoflange looked up as the door clicked open, shaking his head. "Woman, you are insane. Do you know what you're saying. They're zombies. Living, dead, or just diseased...zombies. Those two 'poorly trained puppies' will rip your skin off and eat it like jerky the moment they get a chance. C'mon now, the door's open and- you are not bringing them in here!"

Ellie just stared at Samoflange, shaking her head as she ushered the two 'tame' zombies past. "If we're going to fix whatever's happened here I need to know more about it. I need to observe the infected. These two are mostly harmless, I think I've proved it. So you're either going to help me look them over and help me figure this out or you're just going to hope that help arrives soon and you don't get eaten before then."

"Point taken, lead on m'lady."

The door was shut, relocked, and barred. Not a moment too soon either. Before ten minutes had passed a whole horde had gathered outside the house, feasting on the remains of the six fallen 'zombies'. Everyone inside shuddered, Ellie sending up prayers to her goddess before showing the two tame zombies into the back yard. Night was falling, a dusk making the magic dome even more visible.

Ellie decided that come morning she'd look over the two infected people and see what she could learn.
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Kalanna Rai

Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:56 pm    Post subject:  

Chapter Eight: In The Mourning

Ellie woke in a borrowed bed, years of training raising her the moment of the dawn. She said her prayers, dressing herself and shouldering her pack again. Downstairs, Van and Samoflange were sitting around the table enjoying the morning meal. Samoflange had started construction on a new machine and worked on it most of the night. "This will cut us through the crowd no problem. We'll be safe when we travel the city like this!"

"Morning you two, where's Joshua?" She rubbed her eyes, taking a biscuit and settling herself down. She wanted to get started on examining the two victims that they'd penned up in the back yard as soon as possible. But after breakfast.

"He was on watch. Should be outside making sure the horde didn't make their way through the wall thanks to your two shambling companions." Samoflange snorted, tweaking a line on his hastily scrawled design, muttering to himself.

"And neither of you told him you had breakfast ready? I'll go take something to him." Bundling up some food, she made her way into the back yard...and made a gruesome discovery. At some point in the night Joshua must have fallen asleep. With no deterrence being offered, the two victims they'd put in the yard had begun the process of consuming him. They both looked up as Ellie stepped out into the grass, bits of what had once been Ajax's apprentice stuck to their face.

She dropped the food bundle, driving the two away from their meal with surprising ease. There wasn't enough left behind of Joshua the Tall to fill a small travelling bag. Quietly she shuffled back into the house, asking if either Van or Samoflange had a shovel. She didn't stick around to listen to Samoflange chide her about how Joshua would be alive if she'd just killed the two infected.

They didn't bother her while she dug the grave and buried the sorcerer, or while she preformed funerary rites for him. They were uninterested in even trying to eat her, perhaps because they'd had such a meal. She abandoned them there. Studying the progress of whatever had zombified them wasn't worth putting her companions at risk. Instead she trekked back in, sitting down at the table. "We'll have to move soon, Josuha's blood will draw a crowd in no time."

"That's fine, my machine is almost ready to go. Then we won't have to worry a bit about those zombies. What we will have to worry about is a destination. You say this is a disease...yet the Churches seem to have been either overwhelmed or are ineffective. So I doubt that we'll find help in the Temple Quarter. An Ajax the Archmage sure didn't seem keen on coming to help so it's likely the Tower of Magi is all sealed up too and we won't be getting any assistance there. That leaves the Alchemy Labs...either of you have any idea where they are?"

Van shook his head. "Not a native of Septim. My town is a few miles away from here. First time sightseer I'm afraid."

"And I've only been here a few months. I know the Temple Quarter well, but not really much of the rest of the city. I've been busy with my duties." Ellie felt so useless. First her attempts to examine the disease in action had gotten Joshua killed, now she couldn't even figure out where to go for help. Some rescuer she was.

Samoflange seemed carefree though. "No worries. We'll explore everywhere. All I have to do is finish stoking the boiler and adding the blades and the cart will be ready to go. Give me ten minutes." It took him twenty.

By the time they left the house the streets were growing crowded with zombies. Mostly behind them, clawing at the garden wall, seeking the blood scented soil there. They managed to get some blocks away before they encountered their first problem. It came in the form of four hulking figures...ogres. They seemed intelligent as if they hadn't fallen victim to the disease, but the sight of survivors sparked their greed. They attacked, hoping to make short work of the group of three.

Without Samoflange's death cart they likely would have. Van's bow could strike from a good distance, the whirling blades of the death cart keeping the ogre's at bay. Ellie had her scimitar free but it was her spells that were of assistance, piling damage on to ever arrow that flew from the paladin's bow. With two of their number down, the ogre's turned to flee. Thinking that they, obviously still sane in a city gone mad might have something to do with the disease, Ellie persued.

She followed them until one ogre cut down the other to slow her and took flight, revealing himself as a mage of some sort. Ellie alone could not take on an ogre mage. Instead she healed the wounded leg of his downed comrade, letting the ogre go in peace. Having been betrayed by his friend, or commander, and left for dead Ellie didn't think he'd be troubling her group anytime soon. Still, she was alone in the infected city without any way to protect herself from the zombies if she should run into them.

Carefully she put on her cleats and climbing gloves freeing her rope. The rooftops were far safer than the streets below. As long as she was swift and sure footed, she had a ready path to travel the city with. The zombies didn't show the mental skills to climb and Ellie didn't think they could pile on top of each other quick enough if one did spot her. No her only danger was falling.

From her new vantage she sought out her friends. She knew the direction she'd come from but as she listened for the sounds of that death cart of Samoflange's...that was not the direction she heard the sounds of battle from. Turning to investigate, she came across an alleyway where a dwarf was battling back a crowd of the infected. With shield and sword he made good accounting for himself, roaring in the Dwarven language...a language Ellie had studied but did not yet know.

Behind him was the strangest thing Ellie had seen. A kobald, ruby in hue, with a shortbow. He would spring from the shadows and belch a cone of fire, wings flairing, then take a few shots with his bow. The devistation was complete. So many people were dying because these two didn't know any better. Yelling in draconic for them to stop, Ellie dropped down her rope to allow them to scale the wall. Once both were up, she swiftly pulled the rope up.

"Hey thanks a lot! But why did you want us to stop killing them. It was easy. And fun. Killing zombies is easy fun!" The kobald seemed cheerful about the whole thing and it reflected in his speech. The Dwarf only seemed confused.

"Because they're not zombies. Or well they're not undead. They're sick and my companions and I are seeking a cure. Here, come with me, the more people we have with us the better chances we'll all make it through this alive. All of us." She glanced back over the wall at the zombies who were consuming their fallen companions.

The kobald readily followed, the Dwarf as well once he realized he was getting left behind. The language barrier was surmounted partially with the use of gestures...but it was still slow going. Finding Samoflange was easy now that there was only one source of battle sound...and gnomish laughter.

He sat, machine chopping away, a grisly wake of destruction. Van was perched up next to him, bow at the ready to ward off the occasional climber. Whistling loudly to get their attention and tying off the rope, Ellie motioned for them to climb up.

Samoflange did so easily. Van...not so much. The paladin tried and failed many times before simply tying the rope around his waist and allowing himself to be hoisted up. For a moment they stood there, the gnome and the halfling eyeing the dwarf and the kobald suspiciously.

"Ah yes, introductions. I'm Ellie, cleric of the Sun Goddess. This is Van Halftingle, paladin of the Huntsman and that is Samoflange of the Engineer's Guild. Who might you two be?"

"Oh me? Wow, nobody ever asks me for my name. I'm Nirn! And that's Dwarf." The kobald seemed proud of himself, stating the race of the stout looking warrior as if it were his actual name.

Samoflange stared at them both a moment before rattling off a statement in Dwarven. This elicited an exuberant and lengthy response from the Dwarf which plainly bored Samoflange to death. "Ironroot...just call him that. Can we go now?"

"Well these are the aqueducts that run along the wall tops...if we follow them we'll eventually hit the Military Quarter. I remember hearing something about the Alchemy labs being near that."

"Alright then, let's get a move on while the Huntsman is still sending fortune our way."

Slowly the group arranged themselves on the stones, lining up to go single file. Van in the front, Ironroot in the rear. Saying a quiet prayer to her goddess, Ellie hoped that things were finally looking up.
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Kalanna Rai

Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:01 am    Post subject:  

Chapter Nine: The Military Quarter

The slick, damp stones under their feet gave them poor purchase on the sides of the aqueduct. The channel of water that ran through the center was little better, soaking through their boots and pushing at their balance with its current. They slogged along, tired, weary after the days exertions and the loss of companions, hungry. There hadn't been time to stop for a meal yet, no time for a fire or a moment of rest. At least Ellie and her remaining two companions had been able to spend the previous night in that well built house, eating a good meal out of the pantry. Who knew when the last good sleep and meal had come for the dwarf and the kobald.

To either side of them rose the rooftops of the city of Septim. Some leaned together like broken old women huddling for warmth, others stood tall and proud like a young man who still believed he could take on the world. They could see the diseased 'zombies' shambling around in the alleyways. Occasionally they'd spot a survivor, or signs of a survivor. Even rarer they'd see a group of the infected feeding on...something. Each time her eyes met with that sight Ellie prayed that it wasn't some unfortunate soul. But she wasn't entirely sure her prayers were being heard.

There was a distance between her and her goddess. A sense that the sun goddess was distracted, her attention elsewhere. It was a strange and sudden occurrence, not something Ellie had ever been prepared for or heard spoken of within the church. She could only hope it had something to do with the situation. Was the goddess working on other prayers, curing some of those plagued by the mystery disease? Was there an even more terrible catastrophe somewhere else in the world? Ellie wasn't sure she wanted to see something more terrible than this plague and how it was destroying the greatest city in the world so utterly.

Finally an edifice of stone loomed above them, preventing their passage any further. The water in the aqueduct bubbled happily through the mouth of a stone lion, an old grate of sturdy iron bars blocking any debris, or creatures, from passing the way of the water. "End of the line." Van observed calmly, glancing over to where a set of steps descended from the top of the aqueduct and down to the street level. "Which district is this one Samoflange?"

The gnome sighed, gesturing to the fortified buildings and the exacting layout. "It's obvious isn't it? This is the military district. Just look, those are the barracks for the enlisted. Those are the guard towers. Those are the officers quarters. That green over there must be the parade ground. See all the monuments and statues to fallen heroes? Geeze, you don't have to be from here to guess where we are."

Ellie sighed at the gnome's caustic attitude, biting back her own urge to say something sharp. They were all tired. They were all hungry. They were all weary. No doubt tempers would be growing shorter and shorter. "Alright. Samoflange how close is this to the alchemy lab? Do we have to cross the district? Is it somewhere in the district?"

The gnome shrugged, grumbling. "All I know is that it's somewhere 'near' the military district alright? That could mean we're standing a few feet from it. Could mean that we just walked in the opposite direction of it. Hopefully we'll find more information down there."

Ellie sighed, her attitude echoed by the groans of Nirn the kobald and Van. Turning, shouldering her pack and strapping her climbing gear back on, she forced a merry laugh. "Look on the bright side, at least none of the infected show signs of retaining their former intelligence. Can you imagine if the military commanders down there remembered things and ordered around organized commands still?"

The moment she'd said it she wished she could take it back. What if they really could? What if they were simply less degenerated than the people in the city beyond? She shivered, hoping and praying she hadn't just jinxed them all.
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Kalanna Rai

Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:35 am    Post subject:  

Chapter Ten: Eureka

She moved across the rooftops, silent and stealthy, a ghost in the fading light of the day. Her grapple gloves left scored lines on the rooftop tiles, her climbing boots puncturing holes and sometimes tearing free loose pieces. She lived in fear that one of them would drop down, shatter on the cobbles, and draw attention to her. Or worse that she would fall and shatter on the cobbles, becoming an easy meal for the infected. She didn't see any of them from her vantage and that was...puzzling. Where were they? Had they all bundled together and hidden somewhere. Were they pinned up, quarantined in the early stages of the outbreak and never released? What a horror that would be, to open the wrong door and be buried as they flooded out.

Up ahead of her she could see a park with tall trees. The shadows lengthened amid their trunks and branches as the sun continued to dip lower, tangling amid their still green leaves. Anything could be hiding in those shadows, anything. Against one, too far away for her eyes to read, was a sign with neat lettering. No doubt telling people the name and importance of this park as with so many other memorials. A nearby branch was just within reach for her to vault to and with a running start she was able to make it. Slapping her palms down on it, the small hooks in her grapple gloves biting in as she wrapped her fingers around it. Otherwise she might well have fallen.

Swinging nimbly up into the trees as her elven ancestors must have done she crouched there for a bit, glancing around. From her vantage she was still unable to read the sign and, now that the sun was really sinking, she was committed to investigating as much of the park as she could. Her eyes could see far in dim light, but they didn't see in darkness. She needed to find a safe place to curl up for the night. Perhaps a little further in, where the branches of the trees came together more? It certainly was easier to move through the canopy than the rooftops. All the branches fought for space, criss-crossing each other in various places. It wasn't hard to walk them like a tangled rope bridge.

Something caught her eye, a clearing, and she moved toward it. There, in the center, was a strange building sunk into the ground. In the last rays of the dying sun her eyes could just pick out the lettering on a sign etched into the topmost layer of rock that formed the roof. Septim Alchemyst Academy The Lab! She'd found it! This was great news, wonderful news. She'd have to return to the others as soon as possible, perhaps even travelling when the moon rose.

The sound of massive wings flapping overhead put that plan into the ground. Gazing up she could see them in the sky, huge shapes, giant birds of prey. It didn't take a druid to realize that was unnatural. The giant eagles of Septim city wouldn't fly by night, no giant eagle would. And yet those birds circling above her, giant shrieking shadows, were most assuredly the giant eagles owned by the royal family and the palace guard.

She flattened herself against the tree trunk, using her hammock and rope to make herself a shelter for the night. She had no wish to be picked off like a mouse by those great creatures. Were they infected? Made zombies in the way of the people? She hadn't seen any animals that had succumbed to the plague, then again the shambling citizens might just have eaten them. But it would make sense as to why the eagles had suddenly changed their species habits. It was likely they had some way to see her in the darkness. Thus, closing her eyes, Ellie hoped that her companions were safe wherever they were.

They were, of course. They'd found the mess hall and, after a brief inspection, had entered into its confines. A little searching and they'd found themselves the stores. Cheese, semi-stale hard tack biscuts, and salted meat by the barrel full, crate, and wheel. Piled to the ceiling. After eating a wonderful meal, they'd fortified the door to this little supply room and bedded down inside. It was fortunate they had.

In the middle of the night, while Van sat eating cheese on a lonely watch, the sounds of shambling could be heard. Peering through a small crack between the door and the floor, he was able to make out the figures of six men in armor. They didn't move like normal men. They moved like infected. They fanned out, sniffing the air, knowing that fresh meat had been there...but unable to find it. After an hour or so of shambling they withdrew, leaving wreckage in their wake where they'd smashed things, expecting their prey to be hiding behind it.

Either way, both halves of the group spent the night wishing, waiting, and praying for dawn.
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Kalanna Rai

Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 11:11 pm    Post subject:  

Chapter Eleven: Happenings

He'd been hiding out here for weeks, since the quarantine had gone widespread and the dome over the city had risen. He'd avoided the infected citizens, unable to escape and speak with his master, unable to even reach the city walls once things had gotten really bad. He'd taken to roaming cautiously during the day, making small marks on the grimy walls with a bit of chalk, notes to himself about the greater dangers here in the district. The poor hobgoblin had seen true horrors, true terrors. He'd seen infected legions cutting down the healthy, then consuming them.

There were still streets where the cobblestones were crusted with old blood, gore caught between the paving stones. Sometimes, at night, the farther-gone infected could be heard scrabbling at the stones in an attempt to dig up the rotting flesh gobbits. He'd varying degrees of the disease. Some infected were mindless, others retained fragments of their former knowledge. Not one of them maintained their humanity though. They would kill anything that wasn't one of them, bring it down and rip it to shreds, consuming the still quivering meat on the spot.

He'd seen it. There had been other survivors in the military quarter but these days he didn't see any of them. Most of them had been discovered during the nightly sweeps some of the infected conducted, dragged screaming into the street for hellish feasts. His location was secure though. Originally the quarters for some officer, he'd barricaded it well and now entered and exited through a hole in the ceiling that led to the upper floor and a broken window that he could shimmy through. Once outside it was an easy drop to a nearby rooftop and some stairs downward.

Today he was low on supplies and, as such, he wormed his way out. There was the mess hall some ways across the district. He'd been over there a few times but the readily available food stores were long gone. There had to be others, likely behind the big iron door in back, but he hadn't been able to open it yet. He wasn't about to pry it open, too much noise, but he'd fashioned some picks and today would be the day.

As he exited his building, glancing up, he noted that the eagles were circling above the park again. Had they caught some poor soul? All at once three long hunting horn notes blaired in the air, catching him totally by surprise and causing the eagles to swoop down and attack the treetops. And no doubt the infected legions had heard it too. It would take some time, but eventually they would sweep from their lairs and come seeking the source of the sound. But...that could be a living person in trouble...No, he needed supplies. He'd investigate later. If he didn't get food today he'd start risking starvation and the hobgoblin was determined to survive.

Emerging from the food store room and into the bright light of day, Van Halftingle and the rest of the motley assortment of companions he was travelling with stretched. The paladin was slightly worried. Last night the cleric, Ellie, had gone scouting and never returned. Today he, and hopefully the others, would start searching for her. With any luck she'd simply gotten caught by the sunset and had decided to find a safe place to spend the night. She was a nice girl and he seemed a little worried for her. Aside from that she had healing magic and right now, that was fairly vital to them.

He'd just turned to suggest to the others that they go looking for the missing Ellie when three loud hornblasts echoed in the air. Like some great hunting horn far off. He knew of some spells that did that...or it could be a real hunting horn. Which meant survivors didn't it? The others had come pouring out of the building at the sound, forgetting examining the marks the infected had left the night before.

"We'd better go check that out." Van shifted his weight, picking up his bow and quiver.

"Are you kidding? That person is nuts for drawing attention to themselves. Or it could be a trap. Leave them to themselves. We've got an alchemy lab to find." Samoflange seemed unconcerned, tucking food supplies away in his pack neatly.

"No no, we've gotta look. What if it's the pretty lady with the pointed ears. Stupid half-elf. Probably in trouble." The kobald grinned over at the halfling. "Nirn is ready to go...and Ironroot too. We'll both go!"

With a sigh Samoflange stood. "Fine, I'll go, but I'm running at the first sign of this looking like it's going to kill us all. You understand that?"

Ellie hugged the tree, watching as the talons raked at it, the huge birds circling again. They hadn't figured out where she was yet, having spotted her when they'd returned early this morning, but it was only a matter of time. She'd sounded the horn call out of desperation. She couldn't escape from the massive birds, they'd pick her up the instant she ran, and no doubt now the infected were on their way here, drawn by the sound.

But hopefully so were her companions. Hopefully they'd find the lab. Even if the birds did carry her away, she'd brought them on the right path. And that was all she'd intended to do.
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