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  #176  
Unread 5th of December, 2003, 15:11
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She stalks through the forest of night, the shadows dark enough to seem like living things, a viscous mist of ebony. They swallow her in a midnight maw and she surrenders to the embrace. It is her retreat, a place she goes where none can follow, where she can be safe.

The chill in the air is intense, frigid in the shadows, and she can feel the blood retreating from her limbs even as she retreats from her fears. She clenches her jaw when her teeth want to chatter and she slides to a halt, listening to the sounds of the night.

Despite the unnatural dark, the noises are predicatble - friendly even - but this does nothing to calm her raw nerves. A single night ago she had seen the possibilty for things she had never allowed herself to even hope for.

What did she have to offer someone like him? Nothing. Even now, she could feel the anger that he had risked so much for something that was finished before they ever got there, something that would have finished them all had they gotten there any sooner. And yet that sense of purpose, that stubborn refusal to put himself above his sense of what was right - wasn't that what she admired? Despite the cold she unclasps her cloak, seats herself on a rock, and drapes the garment across her knees.

What good was his love if he was dead? What good was anything if she ended up dead? A dagger appears in her hand, a white spark on it's edge a reflection of the moon. Carefully, she slits the lower hem of the silken cloak, separating a long swath of the deep grey lining from the heavy, midnight blue outer shell.

The ache in her heart goes beyond the failure, beyond the disappointment. It was the pain of seeing her hopes for what they were, for knowing she would have been better off never letting herself be so naive. Still sitting, she twists her wrists and flips the cloak about her shoulders, shivering as it traps the cold air against her like a heavy cloud. She fashions the strip of grey cloth into a veil, hiding the lower half of her face.

Her grey eyes are steely again and as she stands her body follows suit. Like a spring muscled feline, she sets off into the dark. Whatever happened, Shade would take care of herself.

Last edited by Gralhruk; 5th of December, 2003 at 23:25.
  #177  
Unread 13th of December, 2003, 05:57
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Where the hell am I?

As hard as it was, Blarth had to admit it; he was lost. Somehow in his rush to get away from the giant, Blarth had lost his bearings and was now clueless as to which way to head to rejoin the others. Ironically, thinking back on his flight, it hadn't sounded like the giant was following him, so in addition to being lost, he was lost for no good reason.

Trak would have never allowed this to happen to him, Blarth muses to himself as he looks around for clues about which way to head, Of course, he wouldn't have gotten involved in the first place. Two humans would have never been worth the risk for him.

Picking a direction at random, Blarth makes a quick prayer to Geluk that its the right direction and sets out.

As he travels the signs that of the lack of water change become apparent again, indicating that he is headed in the right general direction. However, the right general direction doesn't turn out to be right enough and Blarth comes to the edge of the forest before finding the others.

In front of him lies the vast wasteland of the Desolated Zone. Some where out there was the Citadel, to which his traveling companions had been headed. With no suplies, and no way of finding his companions, Blarth would have to face this wasteland alone if he hopes to find the Citadel and rejoin them.

Resting his head against a rock, Blarth cried himself to sleep as the sun rose.
  #178  
Unread 18th of December, 2003, 03:00
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"Half an hour and neither pursuit, nor Blarth," he says, "we cannot wait much longer, but I will not be able to go far while it is still dark."

His jaw clenches, disliking the taste this decision gives him. He turns his head to look at Shade and then Tiltowait. She hadn't found anything during her scouting; the gnome had been equally without luck with his animal friends. Cadrius wants to stay, wants to wait for Blarth; a hero deserves such things. That's what Blarth is, isn't he? A hero. He risked his neck so that Cadrius and Shade might escape. A half-orc who had been abused by humans, who had believed that Cadrius was responsible for Trak's imprisonment and subsequent death, ended up willing to sacrifice himself for two people he hardly knew. It's difficult to believe, but Cadrius finds himself admiring the simple man, and he wonders from which parent the bravery stemmed from.

Likely both, he thinks.

"I say we set out, a short distance, perhaps an hour at the most and make camp. If they were going to find us, they would have done so by now. Still, I will rest easier knowing we have put some distance between us."

More importantly the chill has already settled into his bones. His face has already numbed to the cold and he takes slow, deep breaths, letting the air be drawn in and warmed by his body before exhaling. It's yet another trick they were taught, but Cadrius isn't certain if it's working, he still feels quite cold.

He levels his gaze on Shade and receives nothing beyond her typical steely gaze. What had happened to the almost vulnerable kindred soul he had discovered in the woods just the other night? Gone, replaced with the survivor, the cold, calculating persona that's kept her alive. The fallen paladin understands, but wishes there was more time to be away from the ever-present danger that plagues them.

You don't deserve rest, a part of him, a very dark part, taunts, should've died back there in that god forsaken town. And you certainly don't deserve love, no matter how twisted it might be.

He mentally silences the voice, unwilling to deal with guilt, frustration, or pain. Instead he concentrates on staying warm, pacing back and forth, and taking deep, steady breaths.
  #179  
Unread 18th of December, 2003, 05:03
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Shade watches Cadrius pace the length of their small grove, her eyes still as a predator's above her new grey veil. His suggestion is a sound one and yet she finds herself ready to disagree with him. It was an argument that she wanted, not sound council. The impulse passes and she nods at his enquiring look.

"Let's do that."

Her glance takes in the gnome, uncertain as to what part he was willing to play. His small face wrinkles into a familiar smile, the little man seemingly oblivious to the tension between Shade and Cadrius. The twinkle in his eye gives Shade some doubt - maybe he's just ignoring it. The gnome speaks up in answer to her unasked question.

"I won't be coming along - I have some things to see to now that the hornet's nest has been stirred up. My ears are open, though, and if I receive word of your friend I'll point him in the right direction."

Shade looks back to Cadrius, pulling her cloak close. It seemed she was always cold these days, fingers numb, teeth on the verge of chattering. Strange she didn't mind being cold, although she had always hated it in the past. Behind her the gnome clears his throat and she shifts without turning. His voice drifts across the two of them.

"You might see me again if you pass through on your way back. I have a sense of these things."

Shade turns around to respond, but aside from Cadrius, the clearing is empty. Tiltowait is nowhere to be seen. She adjusts the straps of her pack and loosens one blade in it's scabbard before folding her arms and shrugging.

"Looks like it's just me and you, then."

Without waiting for an answer, she sets off in the direction she judges the Citadel to be. Her pace, as usual, is difficult and she puts her anger into every step. Twice the time Cadrius has proposed passes before she starts looking for a suitable resting place, yet the former paladin says nothing, doggedly following her silhouette. A short while later and, with her chin, she gestures at a huge pine tree on a small rise.

"That looks like home for tonight."

On the lee side of the tree she mounds a thick layer of pine needles before proceeding to screen the windward side with the needle clad branches from some other neighboring firs. She doesn't bother explaining to Cadrius and he doesn't ask, simply helping her at each task in turn. The result is a small shelter on dry ground and screened from the wind - not the warmest place in the world, but they certainly won't freeze to death.
  #180  
Unread 3rd of January, 2004, 03:00
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Weariness, pain, loss; they're all too familiar to Cadrius, and yet because of this, he's able to press on though his muscles have carried a dull ache for the past hour. He almost welcomes it, the fatigue, as it will guarantee that he won't see the crumpled form of a slain man in his dreams. Oblivion will claim his consciousness, and Cadrius is more than willing to surrender to it. So both his mind and body are grateful when Shade at last decides upon an area for rest.

It's a tree, a pine to boot, and Cadrius is reminded of spending a night underneath the great limbs of another such tree. Only before they weren't alone, a young nobleman and a woman with a shorn head had accompanied them. As Cadrius lays his possessions upon the ground, his thoughts turn to Maeko, wondering what became of her after Karkas. He hopes she didn't meet the same fate that the other one had. Cadrius draws in a deep breath and sighs, watching it fog in the chill autumn air, and wonders why it is he's lived so long, throwing his life into the fray while those more innocent, and less deserving, end up being slain.

The shelter is made easily enough, the two of them still remaining silent. He'd ask her what's wrong, but would likely only get an unreadable glare and the reply, "nothing."

"I will take the first watch of what time is left tonight," he offers, moving to place his back against the tree, hoping to draw a little strength from it. A few minutes pass before he speaks again.

"For what it is worth, I am sorry for tonight," he says, "it was foolish to attempt such a thing. I. . .was wrong, and should not have endangered you and Blarth."
  #181  
Unread 3rd of January, 2004, 03:32
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Shade glares at him anyway, his stubborn silence more irritating than anything he might say. Or at least, that's what she thinks until he speaks. Talking about who takes first watch was hardly what was on her mind. She ignores the comment and sets about wrapping herself tightly in her cloak as he leans against the tree. Finished with her effort to ward off the night chill, she rolls on her side, back to Cadrius. Her grey eyes are wide open, though, and her mouth is set in a tight line.

"For what it is worth, I am sorry for tonight," he says, "it was foolish to attempt such a thing. I. . .was wrong, and should not have endangered you and Blarth."

Anger flares once more, but in the white light of it's blaze she can see it's source all too clearly. Cadrius isn't the reason for her rage; no, that honor belonged to her alone. His selflessness only proved how selfish she was; how utterly unfit to even travel in his company. The realization buries her anger with a single, frigid breath; the white light flickers once and then dies, leaving her in darkness.

A time passes in silence and she hears him shift only once. Her voice comes out slowly, very small.

"You do what you think is right. I am not so strong."

More silence.

"The only wrong is for you to doubt your actions because of me."
  #182  
Unread 7th of January, 2004, 06:15
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Grrrr....

The sun is already high in the sky when a growling noise awakens Blarth. Springing to his feet, Blarth reaches for his club and begins to search for the possible threat.

Grrrr....

There it is again. It sounded close, easily within striking distance, yet there is nothing there. No sign of any threat.

Grrrr....

Looking down at his stomoach, Blarth realizes what was making the noise and relaxes, embaresed at his own jumpiness.

"Well, looks like I better find something to eat," Blarth comments to no one in particular.

Setting out into the wasteland, Blarth looks for signs of water as his father had taught him.

"The one thing every living thing needs is water. Not only for drinking, but also for food. Where there is water there are plants, and where there are plants there is game. Always look for water first. Find it and the wilderness becomes a home. Fail and die."
  #183  
Unread 8th of January, 2004, 06:22
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"You do what you think is right. I am not so strong."

He almost laughs at the words, and would were the tone not so serious. The thought of Shade admitting a weakness of any sort of weakness is incomprehendable. So off-guard is he, that he merely leans against the tree, his mouth frozen in before it could reply. Time passes, the wind moves through the trees, shaking the few stubborn leaves from their perches to join their comrades below. Cadrius wonders when he was thrown from his branch.

"The only wrong is for you to doubt your actions because of me."

He lets the words wash over him. This isn't the Shade he was expecting. After perilous attempt to rescue a doomed man, he expected the survivor aspect of her to leap out and rend him with a few sharp words. Instead he sees something softer, a rare quality displayed and he isn't certain how to react to it, lest he push her back into her defensive nature.

"No," he replies at last, his voice soft, unwilling to shatter the quiet enveloping them, "it was wrong of me to doubt you. You knew what was set before us and counseled against it. I did not pay heed, I was too caught up in. . ." In what, exactly? In saving the man? In ridding this little section of the realm of the evil that dwels there? Or does part of him want to find a meaningful death, battling a giant and its dark master to save an innocent from sacrifice. The last one feels more true than he'd like to admit.

"Sometimes I only see the destination and not the path. I think. . .I believe, you are here to make certain I know where I walk. I would do well to listen to my guide."
  #184  
Unread 8th of January, 2004, 23:49
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Shade listens in silence but as he finishes she rolls over and sits up, arms clasped around her knees. Her eyes slide over the silhouette of his form against the tree before turning to stare at the ground in front of her. A cloud slides over the moon, pushing the silver light from the scene like leaves before a gust of wind.

I am no fit guide for you.

That opinion stays in her head, though. Maybe she is afraid that giving it voice will make it real, or maybe her fear is that he might convince her otherwise. Sometimes it was better not to risk things if you feared the consequences.

"What is it we are doing? For a long time, my only goal was to escape the life I saw laid out for me. I did that, and found my new life just as uncertain as the old.

"I decided to leave it all behind, to live self sufficient and safe. It doesn't work like that, though. At least not for me."
  #185  
Unread 22nd of January, 2004, 03:18
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"What is it we are doing? For a long time, my only goal was to escape the life I saw laid out for me. I did that, and found my new life just as uncertain as the old.

"I decided to leave it all behind, to live self sufficient and safe. It doesn't work like that, though. At least not for me."


He's not certain how to answer, and frowns at the question. Yet his inability to conjure up an answer doesn't make the question any less valid. Where were they going? The tower, certainly, but beyond that Cadrius isn't sure. Do they wander until they find another border town, one where he might not kill three men in a twisted attempt to avenge his blind companion's honor? He's not sure he could escape again, or would want to.

Cadrius finds himself balanced on a precipice and the slightest gust of wind or careless step will send him tumbling into an abyss. He doesn't like where he is, but the thought of falling seems worse. The thought surprises him. A few days ago he would have been hard pressed to resist the urge to tumble into the darkness.

"I. . .think I am in the same carriage as you," he says, "my life now is nothing like the past, and yet I would not name one better than the other. I think the more important question is this: what are we fleeing from? Going too close to the kingdoms and duchies means I risk being found by some of the Hunters. Regardless of how corrupt Kulper might have been, word will have been spread into the bureaucracy and they will move agents to the Karkas area."

He pauses, thinking about the situation he currently lives in. While he has yet to run afoul of any of the clergy's Inquisitors or their Hunter assistants, he will eventually, unless he lives his life on the move.

"My hope had been that after these years they would have forgotten. I am not their largest concern by any means. . .but the church looks to be relentless in pursuit of the former members. So my life is one of nights spent in the woods, in the cold, and always looking over my shoulder. I am tired of this, but what other choice do I have? What other path might I take?" He asks, the frustration clear in his voice, and clenches his gauntleted hands, metal and leather softly scuffing together.

He's quiet for a moment, exhaling a deep breath and letting the frustration roll out of him. Resisting the urge to wish he had been killed in Karkas, Cadrius looks over at Shade with a rueful smile.

"And yet, I am comforted by my companions in this leg of my journey. It is much better than walking alone." Looking around at the nearby trees he adds, "I fear I would have become lost by now."

Falling silent once more, he turns his eyes to the stars. The elevation and crisp autumn air make for a spectacular viewing. He thinks he can make out some of the constallations he learned as a boy; the dragon, the griffin, and the unicorn all twinkle above.

"It is late and we have much ground to cover on the morrow," he says, "please take some rest. Nothing will come near without my notice."
  #186  
Unread 22nd of January, 2004, 04:41
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"Two of a kind, are we? Maybe you're right. Maybe things will make more sense in the morning."

She lays down, on her back this time, staring at the stars above. The chill air made them so clean and clear; it dawns on her suddenly that the nights were most beautiful when it was cold. Maybe things would make more sense in the morning, but she didn't think so.

He is a hunted man.

She had never really looked at it that way, neither realizing the insult he'd caused or guessing the depths of his pursuers passion. Now, after the scene in Karkas, they would search harder than ever. He was ill-equipped to avoid them on his own. Like as not, he'd stand and fight when they found him, too stubborn to run, ready to just make an end of it. After all, isn't that what he had tried to do with Kulper?

He was too good for that. She knew it, and she hoped that before too long he'd know it as well. Her eyelids close, the seven pinpoints of the Dragon still burned in her mind's eye.

"Wake me in a few hours, so you can sleep too."
  #187  
Unread 22nd of January, 2004, 05:31
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Fail and Die!

The words of his father echoed through Blarth's head. They were comming true. It was now night fall and he had still not found any water. Certianly there had been signs of it. Dried stream beds that would have been overflowing after a sudden shower. But it had not rained in quite some time and all the streams beds ran back towards the forest. Following them to where they joined a more permanent waterway would have meant traveling away from his intended goal, a proposition Blarth was not willing to accept.

Of course Blarth had no real idea where his intended goal was. Only that it lie somewhere in the center of this wasteland. 'The Citadel' Shade had called it. While he had never heard of a place with such a name, translated to his native orcish that word meant 'stone/mountian fortress'. Such places were usually visible for miles around. Built on high cliffs with narrow approaches. Blarth hoped that was the case here. But then, he had nothing else to go on. And so, during the day, he had tried to move uphill as he searched for water, forgetting one of the basic lessons of outdoor survival.

But now it was nightfall, and without food or water, Blarth had little choice but to stop and rest; he was physically drained from the effort of traveling in the thin air without nourishment.

"I wish my lerares was hear," Blarth mutters to himself as he sits down on a stone. "He had a trick for going days without food or water."

Mopping a bit as the sky grows darker, Blarth rouses himself just before moonrise to find a proper shelter for the night.
  #188  
Unread 23rd of January, 2004, 06:40
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She is woken by the stirring of birds as they seek to warm their wings in the light of the sun, her grey eyes opening to the bright red orb still half-hidden by the mountains. She rolls over to see Cadrius staring at the dawn, his blue eyes settling on her own as he notes her movement.

"I told you to wake me. You haven't slept."

The last part isn't a question. Normally she'd be angry that he felt her too fragile to pull her own weight, but for some reason today she is thankful for the gesture. Her sleep had been uninterrupted by dreams last night; a pleasant change, since her dreams had been rather disturbing of late. She smiles at him quickly and then sets about making a fire and making them a hot meal - something they hadn't had in a while. She isn't the best cook, but the food is far better than trail rations.

They set out in short order, taking only a short time to break camp and disguise signs of their passage. Instead of the course they'd followed last night, Shade turns them south, parallel to the broken land they had been headed towards. She moves considerably slower than the rough pace of the previous evening, but they move continuously. Shortly after their midday break and some salted meat, she halts, pointing at a half-round depression in the ground.

"There. Humanoid, solitary, feet bigger than a human, probably weighing around the same as you. Less than a day old. I've had plenty of opportunity to study Blarth's tracks since we left Karkas, and I'll wager those are his."
  #189  
Unread 24th of January, 2004, 02:57
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Cadrius nods wearily, attempting to mask his fatigue but grateful for the rest nonetheless. Finding a nearby fallen tree, he sits down to eat. The warm breakfast had done wonders to return his waning strength, but he finds it leaving him again, dissipating as surely as morning mist beneath the warm, autumn sun. Still, he'll keep up the pace if needs be. The more distance they cover, the better he'll feel.

"Blarth?" he asks, his voice curious. It hasn't occurred to him that Shade would study the tracks of her own companions. It makes sense and is useful given the circumstances, but he never imagined it would be necessary to track their friends. Turns out he was wrong.

"Is he lost?"

Cadrius looks at the somewhat faint tracks. Judging by their direction Blarth had been forced to run to the opposite side of the giant, fleeing into the side of the woods where there was no one waiting to help him. It hadn't yet entered his mind that Blarth may not have escaped. Seeing the footprints drive home the fact that it was quite possible the giant could have caught and killed the simple half-orc. With the hard journey and subsequent conversation, Cadruis hasn't had the opportunity to wonder if Blarth was caught. He's surprised by his subconscious optimism.

The brief respite over, he pushes himself to his feet and trudges onward, following Shade.
  #190  
Unread 24th of January, 2004, 03:22
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"Is he lost?"

Shade glances over at Cadrius skeptically, her forehead creasing as she notes his obvious fatigue. She had kept the pace slow intentionally, to make it easier to look for tracks and also to make it easier on her sleepless companion.

"I'm a tracker, not a mind reader."

Her face breaks into a wan smile as she says it, though, still touched by his gesture from the previous evening.

"If I had to guess, I'd probably say no. He's moving in a fairly straight line, not deviating aimlessly the way some folk do when they are lost. Then again, maybe he just thinks he's headed in the right direction."

The keep the same slow but steady pace, breaking clear of the forest after a few hours and continuing into what was steadily becoming a wasteland. As they progress, following the trail Blarth had left, Shade becomes more agiitated. For one thing, it was getting harder to follow his trail. The land was dry and hard, with little to mark the sign of his passage. Not only that, but his course had begun to wander, and she suspected more and more strongly that he was lost. Twice she bade Cadrius to wait after she lost the trail, and she could feel daylight slipping away each time she searched to find it again. Her intent had been to rest well before sundown so Cadrius might get some sleep, but the sun has already touched the western horizon by the time she throws her pack down in frustration.

"He's lost, I'm sure of it. And with the signs so poor, we'll lose his trail completely if we try to continue. Better we rest and start early. We have to move slow, but he's moving slow also. We're gaining on him."
  #191  
Unread 25th of January, 2004, 09:02
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Morning once again finds Blarth awakening to the sounds of his growling stomach. This time, however, there is no mistaking the sound because he can feel it as well as hear it.

I have to find a source of water soon.

The aimless, though generally uphill wanderings of the day before had produced little result. In fact, it was fortunate darkness had forced Blarth to stop for the night, he realized now, because if he had continued like that the chances of him finding water, and therefore food, would have been only marginally better than if he had spent the time praying for rain. A good night's sleep, however, had allowed more of his father's survival teachings to worm there way back into his mind and this day's travel would not be quite so haphazard.

The first thing Blarth needed to do though, was get his bearings in this wasteland. The terain itself was so barren in its appearence, however, that it would not be easy. Certainly Blarth could determine which way was north at any given time, that was one of the first tricks his lerares had tought him, but what good was knowing north from south if you didn't know which way you wanted to go?

Which way to go? That was the first question Blarth had to answer. However, the rocky outcropping under which he had taken shelter the night before was not a good place to answer it. Much of the horizon was blocked by the outcropping, and what he could see of the horizon didn't tell him much. No, Blarth would need some fairly high lookout point from which to assess his situation, or at least as high a one as he could reach in a couple of hours walking. The highest vantage point in the wastes wouldn't help him if he couldn't reach it before he succombed to thirst and starvation.

Once clear of the outcropping it didn't take long to find a vantage point that would suit Blarth's needs. A mile, maybe two, to the west there was a hill that looked to rise a few hundred feet higher than the ground around it. A short half-an-hour later, Blarth was surveying the area around him.

To the southeast was the forest, Blarth had so recently exited. However, it seemed to be alot closer than yesterday's travel would have led Blarth to beleive. I must have gotten turned around at some point. Behind the trees Blarth can just make out a line of mountians through the morning haze. Must be the same mountians Krakas is in. So about two days normal travel from here.

Having established some sense of distance, Blarth turns to gaze the other way, his mouth dropping open in awe at the sight before him. Shooting out of the ground, maybe a day's travel from Blarth's vantage point, the Dragon's Teeth climb above the clouds. Nestled in the center of the Dragonfoot mountians, it was rumored that the palace of the gods was at the top of those peaks. It was also said, however, that to try and reach the peaks was down right folly. The desolated zone, the alpine wasteland in which Blarth now stood, sperated the Teeth from the more hospitable regions of the mountian range by at least two days travel on all sides. In some places it was as wide as five days travel. On top of that those few who had tried to climb the teeth claimed that the gods had conspired to remove the air from their peaks. They said that the higher you went the more difficult it became to breath and that not even magic could prevent it.

All the stories Blarth had heard as a child of the Dragon's Teeth had not prepared him for the sight of them, however. As hidden as the tops were by the clouds and as rough as the terain of the wasteland was, Blarth had not even realized he was so close to them. It was all Blarth could do to take his eyes off them after ten minutes of just staring and return to the task at hand.

To the northeast and the southwest the desolated zone stretched as far as Blarth could see. There was no sign of inhabitants, no sign of life, indeed no sign of water that Blarth could see in either direction. There was probably something out there, for indeed if the stories of the Dragon's Teeth had been true then surely the stories of the inhabitants of the desolated zone were true as well, but where ever it was, it was hidden by the vast cliffs and ravines that marked the wasteland.

So it boiled down to two choices, head back towards the forest, or head towrds the Dragon's Teeth. Either way it was at least a day's walk without food or water. In the forest, Blarth could easily find both, but he would not find The Citadel and his companions there. That was probably hidden near the Dragon's Teeth. If he found it he would have both food and water. If he didn't he'd be that much further from the forest.

Trusting his luck, Blarth climbed back down from his vantage point and headed towards the Dragon's Teeth.
  #192  
Unread 27th of January, 2004, 00:00
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He'd found a reserve of strength after their brief noontime meal and when they had started again, he was feeling better. Still, every time Shade had to stop and search for Blarth's tracks, Cadrius' body reminded him exactly how fatigued it was. He keept moving by means of willpower and momentum. He was grateful that it was Shade, and not him, that had to search for the trail.

"I'm a tracker, not a mind reader."

He smiled at this, faintly but smiled nonetheless, but it quickly faded. A memory was conjured, one of a mysterious man and his sisters and the dark realm that they lived next to. The nightmare filled forest still haunted Cadrius. He shook his head to clear it and was quite happy to start moving again once Shade indicated she found the half-orc's tracks.




"He's lost, I'm sure of it. And with the signs so poor, we'll lose his trail completely if we try to continue. Better we rest and start early. We have to move slow, but he's moving slow also. We're gaining on him."

"Rest, a good plan," he says, keeping his words brief. Sighing he watches Shade disappear to gather some kindling while he begins the process of unbuckling and removing his armor. Well-oiled leather creaks ever so slightly as buckles are unfastened and plates of metal laid gently on the ground. He smiles. It feels good to be out of that armor and let his body breathe.

The hard, rocky terrain never looked so comforting. Still, he keeps himself from it a while longer and attempts some sort of lean-to. He's still working at it by the time Shade returns and with her help, it's assembled quickly. Attempting to continue his help, Cadrius scrapes away at the ground, digging a pit for the fire. It's a slow, almost painful process to watch, but he manages.

"What would you do of watches tonight?" He asks, the task complete. A piece of bread and cheese is pulled from his backpack and he eats slowly, as if the action alone would keep him awake.
  #193  
Unread 28th of January, 2004, 04:10
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"We are far enough into this wasteland that I doubt we need fear pursuit from the forest."

She trails off, searching through her pack briefly until she locates her own trail rations. Little enough remained, and she didn't relish the prospect of hunting for Blarth and food at the same time. With any luck they'd catch the half-orc tomorrow.

"Still, there's something fit enough to survive in any environment."

She pauses, eying the red-purple horizon as the sun departs for it's own slumber. Cadrius needed to sleep, but knowing him he'd be too stubborn to let her take the entire watch. She glances over at him; his jaw muscles bulge and relax as he chews mechanically, his eyes are clear but staring. He was exhausted; perhaps he wouldn't care to argue about it.

"You sleep after we eat, I'll take the first watch."
  #194  
Unread 28th of January, 2004, 04:37
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Groan.

"Is he coming to?"
"Let me check, Cadogan? Can you hear me?"

Urg.

***

"How is he doing?"
"Things could be worse, he has a fever - one unlike anything i've seen."
"Has he shown any signs of improving?"
"Yes, he seems to slip in and out of semi-con-"

***

"Cadogaaan? Cadogaaan? Its me, Lyria."

***

"Thluclides! I didn't expect you!"
"Its alright Marq, one of the students blew up my office, so I had some free time."
"Evocation?"
"Yes."
"So he passed his test then?"
"No."
"I don't understand.."
"He was trying to cast an illusion spell."
"Oh."

***

The, pain. Burning. Inside- pain. Uaagh! Burning!

***

"He seems to have had an episode, we found him clutching his head and calling out someones name."
"Anyone we know?"
"No one at the academy, maybe one of his companions from-"

***

"Cadogan? Can you hear me? ::sigh:: Its not the same without you. Sure I grow stroger - I can cast invisibility now! Thats.. kindof how I get in here. I get so worried, so I come and talk to you, No one understands me-"
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  #195  
Unread 30th of January, 2004, 12:50
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He nods and their meal passes in silence. He's fatigued but not drowsy and it isn't until an hour after they first sat down that he settles into his bedroll.

"Please wake me when your watch is over," he says, eyes beginning to droop. The last sight he has is of Shade, half-melded into the shadows, dark eyes moving away from him and toward to the woods.

Cadrius falls into a deep, exhausted slumber. If he dreams, they do not rise into memory as he's gently awoken by Shade hours later. It's still night but he feels as if he slept for a day. Judging by the weariness in Shade's eyes, she let him sleep longer than their normal watch would've allowed.

"Take some rest," he says, stretching his arms over his head, "you have already been up too long."

Invigorated by his sleep Cadrius pulls a rag from his bag and begins the ritual of polishing his armor, piece by piece. By the time the sun rises, it shines dully, once more ready to be covered in the dirt of their road.

"Good morning," he says, quietly as Shade's form stirs. It fascinates him. She goes from being asleep to being awake, skipping the transitional phase of half-consciousness. She still looks tired, though, and had he thought it a wise idea, he would have allowed her a couple more hours of rest. Yet knowing her determination, it would have done more harm than good.

"We have a friend to find," he says, fixing them a cold meal of bread, cheese, and dried fruit.

Not an hour later, their camp is clear and they set off again, in search of a lost half-orc.
  #196  
Unread 3rd of February, 2004, 06:50
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Were it not for the gnawing hunger in his stomach and the dryness of his mouth, it would be possible to call Blarth's morning a productive one. He was making good time and each time he had paused to recheck his direction, he had only had to make a minor adjustment. If his estimate of the distance was right, he should reach the base of the Dragon's Teeth by night fall.

***

Unfortunately, fate and the denzies of the Desolated Zone had other plans. A small gang of grimlocks were conducting a surface raid, gathering meat and hopefully, a few prisoners for later consumption. Anxious for a fight, their confidence was high after a sucessfull raid on a small group of travellers a few days ago. They had suffered only minor injuries, but had feasted well that night, and their sacks were still full of the remains of their kill. Near midday, they stoped for lunch and were just preparing to get under way when a small rock slide in the distance caught their attention. Silently the grimlocks grabbed their battleaxes and moved towards the sound. The smell was unmistakably one of a humanoid, and a solitary one at that. As they moved closer they could here him scrabling to his feet. Apparently he had slipped on a loose stone, causing the small rock slide that had alerted them to his presence. Grinning with anticipation the grimlocks spread out, preparing to spring a trap on their unsuspectin prey.

***

"By all the elves in Fellwood," Blarth curses as he feels himself begin to fall. The ridge he had been walking along gave out under his weight and he part fell, part slipped a good twenty or so feet. Disoriented by the fall, Blarth climbs to his feet to find himself in a narrow ravine.

"Now which way," he mutters to himself before checking his internal compass, "Ah! There." Having determined the correct direction, Blarth begins to make his way through the ravine, looking for a way out so he can continue on his way.

With his eyes on the side of the ravine, Blarth doesn't notice the grimlocks until it is too late. The four of them rise up from their hiding places and quickly charge in to surround Blarth. The first three crash into him, landing heavy blows but the fourth stumbles slightly and his blow goes well wide.

Shocked at the ferocity of the attack, Blarth flinches at the blows and the first attacker manages to land another blow in that moment of hesitation. The second and third attacker trie to take advantage of Blarth's flinching too, but Blarth's invisible armor slows their blows and only the second manages to land a glancing blow to the shoulder.

Now recovered from his initial suprise, Blarth flies into a rage and grabs his greatclub from his belt. Swinging wildly, he pounds the grimlock who had attacked him first and steps away from the others at his back. The rage empowered blow is too much for the grimlock and he falls to the ground, bleeding profusly from his arm, a bone exposed where it broke through the surface. Trying to protect his injured comrade, the fourth grimlock steps over him, swinging at Blarth with his battleaxe. The uneven ground and his injured comrade disrupt his swing however, and the axe bounces harmlessly off of air.

Growling in anger, the other two grimlocks try to manouver to surround Blarth again. However, neither is able to land a blow against the alert half-orc. Their movements also leave one of them exposed, and Blarth quickly takes advantage by swinging hard and then steping over his fallen body to get away from the other two.

The two remaining grimlocks are begining to look nervous, what they had though would be easy prey had just downed two of their number in as many swings. It was still two against one, however, and Blarth was bleeding profusly from the injuries they had already inflicted. It would not take much to bring this half-orc down.

Pressing the attack, the two grimlock step forward and swing their axes hard. Fate, it seemed, had a diffrent idea however, as both swings went wide. Taking advantage of their wide swings, Blarth knocks another of the grimlocks off his feet with his greatclub. Still suffering injuries from their previous raid, the massive blow is too much for the grimlock, who drops dead on the spot, his chest caved in.

With all of his companions gone, the last grimlock is no longer inclinded to press his luck, even against a battered foe. Scampering back, the grimlock tries to retreat. Blarth however, in his rage induced state, is not inclined to let the creature go and chases it down, killing the last grimlock in one more mighty blow.

His adreniline still pumping, Blarth looks around frantically for more foes, shouting in anger to call them out, but if any had been hidden in the rocks, the sight of the battle that had just occured keeps them hidden, and Blarth is left alone on the battle field.

***

Drained by the fight, Blarth only cursorly examines the four grimlock corpses. Save for the battle axes they each still clutch in a death grip, Blarth finds neither water nor food. Knowing that they must have had some supplies somewhere, Blarth begins to make a slow circle of the battlefield, trying to find the supplies they must have left behind to engage in the fight. An hour's seraching, however, yields nothing, and Blarth makes ready to continue on his way.

Last edited by Black Plauge; 4th of February, 2004 at 02:36.
  #197  
Unread 4th of February, 2004, 05:12
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She catches a glimpse of something in Cadrius' eyes as she wakes, as if he is contemplating her, and her grey orbs go guarded. She can feel the weight of his silver amulet, worn at her neck beneath her shirt, beneath her cloak - hidden away, like a memory of springtime for one on the verge of winter. Inside it held a lock of golden hair, as light as her own was dark, a bright light held against the blackness of her soul. It was his memory. And it was something she could never be.

Being the man that he is, he doesn't register anything untoward in her face and good naturedly prepares them a cold breakfast. She chews in silence, standing halfway through to circle outward, locating the trail from last night. The strain of the past few days is like an itch she can't scratch, fatigue a heavy blanket draped over her shoulders, but her determination is strong and she sets out with fire in her eyes and purpose in her step.

Nearly eight dogged hours later and they are still at it. Cadrius waits for Shade's return, the latter having trotted off grimly to once again find the lost trail. Her mood has soured during the day, and more than once she curses the doggedness of men, the constitution of orcs, and the stupidity of their joint offspring. The trail has been growing colder by the hour, no doubt as much a part of her frustration as the difficult terrain and their limited intake of water. The look on her face when she appears from around a scrubby hillock is dangerous, and Cadrius immediately senses that something is wrong.

"He was attacked - some sort of cavern dwellers, by the look of them. It looks like Blarth killed the lot of them and then wandered about for a while, wounded, before moving on. Judging by the blood trail he's leaving, it looks like he's hurt pretty badly."
  #198  
Unread 4th of February, 2004, 05:49
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His jaw clenches whenever something upsets him, and this time is no exception. His face is a grim, iron mask covering the apprehension that pools beneath. Cavern dwellers, perhaps goblins, but at least Blarth won. Still, if the half-orc was mortally wounded then they might already be too late. He gives an inward shake of his head, it's no use to continue on that path. Still, the feeling of a failed duty looms over the fallen paladin and he has trouble shaking it.

"How old is the trail? And how long since the battle? If he is that badly hurt we will not have much time," he says, looking around at the already darkening sky. Each fleeting moment feels like grains of sand slipping through his hand, only Blarth's life is the one in the balance.

"If there is blood, it will be easy to follow, correct?" He asks, seeing Shade give him a quick nod in resposne. "Then let us press on. If he is...dying, I will not have him do it alone."

He's fiercely determined, and can only ruefully smile at Shade's dauntless stamina. She's kept up with Cadrius stride for stride and will go as long as he's able to walk.

She would walk right into the Abyss if you lead her there, he thinks, his thoughts darkening, how do you know you are not already there?

Through the fading light, two murky souls set off in search of their companion.
  #199  
Unread 4th of February, 2004, 06:22
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Water!

It was the foremost thing on Blarth's mind. The Desolated Zone was not a hot place, but the high alpine air combined with the dryness were taking their toll, especially given the injuries he had sustained in the short battle earlier. He could stop to tend his battle injures, but Blarth wasn't sure he could force himself to go on if he stopped. Finally, a mere two hours after he had gotten underway again, Blarth collapsed in the shadow of a large boulder. He could go no further, and passed out.

Which was probalby the most fortunate thing he could have done, given the circumstances. For in that shadow, his body took back control from his concious mind and began using the abilities that he had held back for so long. Pathways of energy open within his mind, healing his injuries and restoring the necessary balance of fluids and nutrients. The mental energy could not cure everything though, and Blarth remainded spralled on the ground, his body healing what the mind could not.
  #200  
Unread 5th of February, 2004, 01:44
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"The battle looks to have been fought shortly after high sun - perhaps four hours ago, perhaps as many as six. Blarth looks to have been in the area for some time after that - an hour, no longer."

Her keen eyes note the direction the grimlocks came from and - despite her curiousity about them - she ignores the trail. Blarth is too close for them to go running off to investigate something else. Besides, if there were more and the hapless half-orc ran into them . . .

She doesn't finish the thought. It's been a difficult day and she's tired, muscles aching from a day spent on hard march, senses dulled from sun and dust, mind weary from intense concentration. A clear trail and the renewed hope of finally catching their quarry, along with the look on Cadrius' face - the stubborn determination in the bulge of his jaw muscles - goads her into the same mindset. The fire that had been banked kindles once more in her belly. They would catch him tonight, if it meant she walked until her legs gave out and then crawled.

"He will be moving slowly now, injured as he is, and with a clear trail to follow we can hope to catch him well before midnight."

She didn't know if that last part was true or not, but hearing it out loud made it seem true, and that was enough to get her moving. Luck is finally with them - the sky is clear and the moon is bright; she has an easy time following his trail, though she hides her growing concern at the amount of blood Blarth must have lost. Her vision becomes almost tunnel like, unnaturally acute, and as she moves she begins to get a sense of her quarry.

The large, deep wound on her left shoulder makes the arm nearly useless. Blood still flows from it, hours after the battle. Hanging at her side, the blood flows down to her fingertips, dripping onto her leg, spraying droplets on the ground. Low on her right leg is a wound smaller but still deep, and though that one has stopped openly bleeding the pain it generates grows with each step, causing an increasing limp and an rising tendency to veer eastward. The sun is behind her now, casting long shadows and making her eyesight uncertain, causing her to stumble more frequently though she maintains still maintains her direction.

How he is still moving is beyond her, and she finally sees his path to falter as she knew it would - wandering steps that are indicative of imminent collapse. He is close, she can feel it, and she can almost see his wounded form as he leans on the large boulder up ahead. She increases her pace and nearly trips over his bulky form, sprawled as it is on the far side of that sizable rock.
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