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Unread 18th of July, 2003, 09:10
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·····Subchapter 5a - The Bloodwraith

[[Starting with a minor OOC note.

Things in-game are hitting a point where it's appropriate to segue into another plotline, taking loose ends from earlier stories. Thus, this thread starts with a change of venue, though it won't have the plane-hopping yuan-ti that once plagued this story. Read way back in the OOC thread if you have no idea what I just brought up.

On that note, here we go.]]
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Unread 18th of July, 2003, 09:48
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The City of Tarin

The sun rises over the city of Tarin, first touching on the green-and-blue flag flying on the castle's highest spire, then working its way down to battlements, rooftops, and ledges. Well before the shadows have retreated into the alleys, the city wakes up to another late autumn day. Dockworkers haul crates and pallets of grains, cloth, metal, and other goods onto ships, while merchants harrange them, eager to be on their way before the first freeze. Street-vendors frantically hawk their wares to all passersby, hoping to eke out a few more coins before the city finally shuts down for the winter.

In a run-down tavern near the docks, a dwarf listlessly tacks a notice to a signboard, hardly bothering to tap the nail hard enough to drive it into the wood. As he brings the hammer back with dramatic -- yet deliberate -- slowness, it is taken from his hand. Turning around, he glares at his companion, an elf garbed in flowing, emerald robes. Beard bristling, he growls, "Gimme that back."

"Certainly, Kilak," the elf sneers, "as soon as I'm done with it." Leaning over the dwarf, he taps the nail home with one deft strike. As he returns the hammer, he says, "We're probably not going to get a job before the cold sets in, but the Persistent Blade has never been known for just laying around. This is the last time we're putting out a request for local work -- if we don't get a response in a week, we're taking the next ship south, to Ardon. At least you'll be warm there."

The dwarf harrumphs at the notion that he dislikes being cold. "I'll have you know--"

"That you lived on a mountaintop? Oh, right: you lived IN a mountaintop. Not the same." The elf puts a piece of parchment in the dwarf's hand. "Tell you what. Tack that on the door of the Trumpet, and I'll buy you an ale."

Somewhat mollified, the dwarf follows his companion.

* * *

Dark crimson robes conceal his features as the priest makes his way through the crowded marketplace. Moving so that he avoids brushing against the throngs, he walks with a steady, even pace. Just before rounding a corner, he pauses, noticing a piece of parchment tacked onto a nearby wall. Leaning closer, he examines it.

After a brief moment, he turns into the alley, walking just a little faster. Looks like another adventuring group is abandoning the field for warmer climes, he thinks. Good. One less hindrance to worry about, once the first snow hits.

Stopping midway down the alley, he pulls a brick out of the wall and sticks his hand into the gap. He pulls a metal cable concealed behind the brick, and replaces it just as the wall nearby slides back and away, revealing a passage leading down into darkness. He slips in just as it begins sliding shut.

After several steps down through darkness, he comes around a corner to a torchlit hallway. He follows it to the end, where it opens into a large chamber, supported by columns. At its far end, a large, muscular human sits on the floor, tracing his fingers through a dark puddle of liquid.

Ignoring the body hanging on a scaffold in front of them, he speaks to the one sitting on the floor. "It's almost time for the Gathering to begin. Prepare yourself."

Pushing himself up from the floor, the man pushes a lock of black hair away from his face. It falls back forward, failing to improve the tangled, scraggly mess atop his head. His square jaw would be impressive if it didn't have several months of growth on it, or if he'd taken the time to trim it. His bloodshot grey eyes look at the body twitching on the scaffold, but don't seem to register it; they look more like the eyes of someone who doesn't want to see.

For a moment, he just stands there. Losing his patience, the priest barks a command in an infernal tongue, and the tall man jerks, as if stung by a whip.

He raises a hand toward the hanging body, almost reluctantly. As he does, his body starts to glisten darkly in the torchlight, as if his sweat were changing -- and then it begins to drift away from him, swirling around him with increasing speed. Briefly, he is completely obscured by the spinning cloud of droplets, then seems to have been completely absorbed by them, becoming nothing more than a dark maelstrom.

The swirling mass hesitates again, until the priest barks another command in that alien tongue, then it leaps forward, completely surrounding the body. It lets out a long, anguished scream -- a cry that speaks not only of the body's death, but that of the soul as well. Abruptly, the cry is cut off, and the spinning mist suddenly resolves itself into a humanoid figure. Stray droplets continue to circle it, forming themselves into razor-sharp shards.

As the priest approaches, the bloodwraith seems to withdraw, pulling itself back into the form of a muscular human again -- though his eyes are more alive, and he seems to have been cleaned up considerably.

With a smile in his voice, the priest speaks. "Well done, Calabron. You may yet outdo your brother."
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Unread 15th of August, 2003, 06:33
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Several days had passed since the dwarf Kilak got his entire group into trouble at the Trumpet for starting a drunken brawl. The damages were been paid in full, however -- mostly out of Kilak's pocket -- and the Persistent Blade had regained their status as the 'residents' of the popular inn. Some might say they're actually the 'squatters' there, but no one's willing to say that in their presence, at least.

As the bustle of feeding the occupants for the evening dies down, the entire adventuring company gathers around the central table -- a large, round table, apparently carved from a single oak tree -- to discuss their prospects.

Their leader, a handsome dark-haired man in his late thirties, starts off with a simple question. "Any leads today?"

The elven wizard, Laeris, is the first to respond. "Nothing. There doesn't seem to be anything requiring heroics around here anymore."

One of the party's two half-elves, the archer Maldrinon, chimes in next. "Have any of you seen any of our notices? They seem to have vanished right after we put them up. Kori, something's wrong here, and I don't like it."

Korianous, the leader, shakes his head. "You're just being touchy, Mal. I know you put a lot of work into those notices, but they haven't gotten us any further than our own leg-work." With a sigh, he adds, "I don't think we're going to get anything here. Let's book passage on the next ship south in the morning, get out of here while we're still in coin."

As has happened every night in the Trumpet, a heated argument quickly flares up between the members of the adventuring company. It's always ended with someone making a crude joke of some sort and degenerating into friendly name-calling, so none of the regular patrons pay much attention to them. They've been doing this for nearly a week, after all.

* * *

Dothavaar Salvatori liked his work. He found a grisly satisfaction in the end results -- after all, he had developed the ritual and the devices that created bloodwraiths -- and he also found an almost meditative calm when preparing the tools of his trade.

To most of the people of Tarin and vicinity, he was just an artificer, a creator of minor magical trinkets and the occasional item of worth. To the members of the Concordance, however, he was only a few steps down from the top of the hierarchy, one of the most powerful blood magi anyone had known.

Death had a way of doing that.

His workshop had been blasted to flinders by an adventuring wizard trying to destroy wererats; the wizard had resorted to using a fireball spell to annihilate a group of them that were in the adjacent building. The wizard had misplaced the spell, however, and his shop had been caught in the blast. Had Dothavaar been expecting such, he wouldn't have been standing in that corner.

He didn't stay dead for long; one of the group's members was a cleric with powerful enough ties to her patron to bring his soul back from the depths, repair the damage to his body, and rejoin the two. She did so, left him a tidy sum to repair his shop, and left without ever telling him her name.

He didn't care. Something about the process of being hauled back into the world of the living woke up powers he'd never known. Powers that had been in his blood all his life, looking for just the right spark to set them aflame.

His efforts to understand his newfound abilities led him to the Concordance, a group of priests and wizards with sinister goals (most of which they quite simply refused to discuss, other than to imply that they were not 'in synch' with the city's). Upon learning of his ability to control his own blood and infuse it with arcane power, he quickly gained prestige within the secret cabal. His discovery of the process that created bloodwraiths -- half-undead fiends that could consciously control their vital essence -- gave him a level of control within the Concordance that rivaled its leaders'.

If only he could control the creations.

Oh, his first one was easy enough; once he'd undergone the transformation, the warrior Pavel Laspeera had taken to the role with vigor. He even made it clear that he did so in a misguided attempt to outdo his brother. It only made sense to bring the two together; especially among the bloodwraiths, ties of blood are difficult to break.

The other, a paladin of Heironeous named Calabron, proved to be a much more difficult case. Whenever he could, he shed his facade, trying to bring his appearance back to normal. Getting him to perform at nearly any task took words of command, and it was requiring more powerful compulsions as time went by. Although it was impossible to reverse the transformation, the former paladin seemed determined to try, or to deal with it and be... normal. The thought angered Dothavaar to no end.

Now, the Concordance needed to get the humanoids of the northern mountains mobilized for their attack on the city. Over a dozen magi had already left for the trip, but the last group -- including Dothavaar's own superior -- were insisting on taking bloodwraiths along. All four of them.

It took him nearly a week, but he'd finally managed to find a way around Calabron's block. Resenting his own actions, he'd presented the artifact -- a crystal pendant, with a drop of the paladin's blood suspended in the center -- to the High Mage. "This will allow you to completely dominate the complainer," he'd explained. "But it will only work ONCE, and only for a week. And if it ever breaks, the spell will backlash, and he will turn on you. ALL of you."

That last part was completely avoidable, but Dothavaar was incensed about having to give his creations to an effort he wasn't even being allowed to join in.
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