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  #1  
Unread 16th of June, 2008, 12:39
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Dread Lord on High [Epic GM]

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Exposition

"Hwæt, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Tiir Mouliir and the gleaming cities, and in the years of the rise of the sons of Tebekai, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars - Norrengault, Cylenis, Sesh'nehiel, Dacia with its fire-haired women, Tzre Xian with its towers of spider-haunted mystery, Baendur with its chivalry, Skaefad that bordered on the pastoral lands of Gaudra, Daen with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hadenmark whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom was Anri, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither come our heroes, legends in hand, destined to tread the jeweled thrones of Ærdûn beneath their sandaled feet..."

Last edited by -J-; 16th of June, 2008 at 12:46. Reason: Meant as a tribute to Robert E. Howard
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Unread 25th of June, 2008, 14:15
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Tashiba
Ghoul

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Piletre Olesdattar

Piletre stood where she had so many times before. She couldn’t count the number of times she had made the journey to stand on this particular broken section of wall in the middle of the ruins of this islands only community. It had been a while though. It had been almost three years since she last saw the “resting” place of her family. This was the first time she’d been able to make herself come, after raiding the Manfeg clan who had done this to her family.

Any one who had watched her visits in the past would not see any difference between then and now. Her almost blazing white hair and fiercely bright indigo eyes still could do nothing to hide the sadness in her countenance or in her heart. She still fingered the pendant that was wrapped twice around her wrist with a silver chain - the only thing she still possessed from her life here. The difference was not in the feelings of the girl who stared at the burned out husks of houses, the places where she could still see the dead that she had taken such pains to burn. She could still see, though they no longer lay there, the broken and gutted bodies of men, women, and children. She had not taken any of the things that had not been looted by the Blood Tide clan. Not because they were not worthwhile, but because she felt no connection to them. She had spent over twenty years picking through the ruins of this community trying to find some clue, some connection to her past, but nothing she came across could connect her to her lost family. She could not remember their laughter. She had no idea what they might have been like happy, content, busy, sad, annoyed, angry, resigned or triumphant. She could only remember their screams, and that still made her sad and angry.

The difference was in her reasoning. Two years ago she had caused the same thing to happen to the Blood Tide clan. And she was no longer certain they were the ones who had committed this “first” crime against nature. There was no new evidence that suggested otherwise. Nothing that had happened at that slaughter had given her any reason to believe that they had the wrong people, there had even been some evidence there that had made it seem as if they were right. It was just that what had a been an almost absolute certainty was starting to feel more like a niblet of doubt. She had expected to feel righteous when it was done. She had expected to come back here and declare loudly to the ghosts of her people that they could rest in peace now. Their wrong had been righted. Instead the screams of the Manfeg had joined and clashed with those of her kin so that she could barely sleep for the racket in her head.

None of the other Derbolg seemed to have this same problem. They had avenged their dead. Their job was done. But they hadn’t felt the changes wrought to the land as the blood of yet another of its people had been spilled until there was none left. Piletre had killed and maimed and hacked as many as she could even though she could feel the land cry out in rage and horror. She had not once slowed in her single minded lust for revenge even when she started to notice that her victims seemed to fall in the exact same crumpled and powerless positions that her people had. She did not feel remorse. Nor understanding. Nor forgiveness. Though she was no longer sure that the Manfeg she had sacrificed were the ones who had decimated her people, she knew that they had mangled and slaughtered other communities - had listened as they bragged of their crimes around a campfire. Piletre had then listened again as her people had bragged of those same acts. What made one a hero and one a monster? She could not take what she had done back, nor did she find that she actually wanted to.

She did realize that she had fed the monster. She might not be able to let go of her hate, but she would not give in to it again. This was why she was here. Her father had passed, and now it was time for her to figure out how to live. Just as she would say goodbye to her Derbolg family at voyage end, she needed to say goodbye to her first family tonight. The tears that had always before only threatened, now flowed freely down her cheeks.

“I did what I could to right this, but I fear I have only made it worse,” she confessed. “I have to go now, for I can find no answers among the dead. Oddly enough you will not speak to me,” she continued with a self-mocking smile. “I go now to see if I can find them among the living. I won’t be back. I will never forget you. I just wish I could actually remember you.”
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Last edited by Tashiba; 16th of August, 2008 at 08:20.
  #3  
Unread 28th of June, 2008, 06:55
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Bodak

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They trailed Ghostface from the rocky clearing. At least then he had scented them. He had never smelled elf. One was light and vibrant like wet willow earth in spring sunlight. The other musky, subtle as the red mushroom picked before dawn afer no moon for slow spirit sight. They had not shot him. A good sign he hoped though he kept loping a strong all day pace over the wet blanket of leaves barely defrosted by pale Kilrun light.

Ghostface spots steam rise over a ridge. He pauses a rugged oak between him and the silent mirriandor. The wispy clouds stream by against the pale sky caught up in the high cold wind of the shorter days. In the stillness under his deep breath a low gurgle confirms running water. He sets off the bare ridge oak his shield.

"Albino Orc in Autumn lopes
'cross Blue Line in innocence.
Silver'd death pierces. Tongue, cry last hopes!
Pale corpse no more. White ghost flee hence."

Ilian practices his kill verse under his breath wisps of steam into the slow morning air. They'd trailed this strange orc a mile before he'd scented them. The wide circle was clever the beast must have felt their eyes. Gallego signals. The beast has changed course making for Bright Sulphur Spring probably to mask its scent as if hunted by other beasts. Ilian signals to Feliendor. They should have the white beast boxed in the canyon shortly. What would possess such a creature to wander here? Perhaps it was ill?

They lost the trail biefly at a sapling stand of blue pine growing astonishingly close to the heavy warm water that trickled toward the heart of the forest. Gallego went to climb the far ridge to see if the orc had eluded the canyon. Feliendor enters the canyon. Ilian retraces. The beasts can be canny.

A gray-tipped crow shatters the silence calling to flock. Ilian makes for the canyon and glimpses Gallego on the other side. They made a good hunting party.

Feliendor has his open right hand raised. Hold fire. Gallego and Ilian approach slowly bows nocked covering Feliendor as he crouches examining something. Close in a pile of heavy furs on top the huge bear claw club the beast had run with effortlessly and twenty or more leather pouches. Feliendor sniffs broad purple leaves. Caerin still fresh and quite large must be from Southern Cyleni. Perfect for poulticing arrow wounds.

Gallego snorts, "So where is he? He surrenders leaving us bribes in Cadjren's tongue. Do the rude beasts know her way?"

Briskly Feliendor nods toward the foggy pool; his hand still upraised.

The pale beast rises from the pool his immense shoulders wide and massive his back straight upright the way beasts never walk. Unbowed except his eyes and the tilt of the head to make no offense. His pale white skin blurs against the mist. His slick sulphurous yellow hair pools over immense pectorals, bulging biceps, veined forearms and knobby broad fingered open hands. The naked orc rises from the water slowly repeating open palms open palms as the water sloughs from his full height and sturdy width.

The two Mirriandor cover him. The third whom he hadn't scented rises with caerin in hand and signals approach slowly.

The pale orc moves very slowly now flipping one hand over the other extending the matched fingers. Leaf brothers. Leaf brothers.

Gallego frowns at Illian. Illian shakes his head and lowers his aim but keeps the arrow nocked.

The orc is a spirit talker seeking a grove sacred to his totem. His name is Ghostface. Gallego laughs, "That fits." The beast flashes his eyes but lowers them again. If he had understood Mirriandor, the jest would not have passed so well.

Feliendor asks what Ghostface wants.

The signs are quick. Safe passage Leaf Brother.

The elf leader shakes his head emphatically.

Ilian and Gallego tense if the beast rages.

"Lower your aim. He's peacable," Feliendor says without taking his eyes from Ghostface. He picks up the remarkably heavy club and gestures to the leathers and pouches. Cover yourself he signs.

Ghostface slowly approaches the pile of fur and skin. Smoothly with no sudden movements he dons his rabbitskin breechclout and buckskin leggings. He looks questioningly at Feliendor his open hands pointed toward the numerous leathern pouches held together by a long snakeskin. Feliendor nods and Ghostface signs open hands to the face then out - thank you. The snakeskin wraps around his waist twice and over his right shoulder before clasping above the horn-handled dagger hilt. The fistful of teeth and claws dangling from leather chords slips quickly around his neck. The black bear fur-lined leather cape flourishes as he fastens it.

The clothes have been fit. Sewn craftily. It - He's not wrapping himself in recent kill. Ilian muses.

Feliendor signs manacled hands. You are our prisoner.

The broad-shouldered orc nods unbent.

The slight elf approaches the pale orc without fear. He pulls out a cord tucked in his cloud gray woven belt. Against the tower of leather and furs, Ilian thinks Feliendor's winter sky blue blouse and linen pants appear decadent. He's matched his outfit to the weather. Whereas this spirit walker has put his totems on him. Surely that is more true than the tasteful ephemera.

Ilian puzzles to himself. Why am I impressed by this beast? There's something about him. His carriage. His equanimity.

Gallego asks Feliendor, "Why did you leave it loose?"

Feliendor smiles, "We'll have more honor this way."

They kept a brisk pace but the orc hadn't stumbled except when he first saw a mature blue pine. He had muttered what sounded like a prayer and his feet had stuttered.

Ilian studies the orc's reaction. He doesn't see all of the guardposts, but knew immediately when they approached the desmenses proper. His nostrils flared just before the invisible line in the pines that would mean death for unescorted intruders. His black eyes were alert, soft even when he looked upon the blue pines.

Other elven warriors begin to surround their party. Their nods and smiles show acknowledgement of honor gained, and the more they regard the beast's size and demeanor. Ghostface thinks Ilian almost protectively.

The elders' herald parts the growing crowd effortlessly.

"Whoa, what have we here, Feliendor? Have you three actually captured such a beast alive so easily? There's not a mark upon any of you or it."

"Good Aster, no, it was not we three alone, but the mere thought of all of Feodh which cowed this beast. He willingly surrendered in our presence out of fear of the potential wrath of Feodh."

Aster's smirk broadens into a generous smile. "Well spoken for a young warrior. Secure him to a strong post. The elders will determine his fate by first moonlight."

The braided fiber rope was strong and thin holding Ghostface's hands tightly though Ilian noted his tests were designed to escape notice more than use his full strength. His smile when he saw Ilian watching him was gruesome. The tusks supplemented with his other broad strong teeth definitely gave him a bestial predatory look. He stopped when he saw Ilian's reaction.

The clan had gathered silently in the dappled darkness. Even the typically rambuctious children made no noise. None but the warriors had seen a living beast and they regarded him with quiet excitement.

Aster appears aglow with white fairy fire. The hush turned to reverential silence as the three elders' seemingly weightless forms floated from the pines in a silvery-blue aura.

Ghostface stands tall and regards the elders solemnly.

"Unbind him. We do not fear the beast. Rend our flesh and we shall flower anew."

Ilian complies.

Ghostface unclasps his cloak that they might better see his signs. He signals gratitude to Ilian, Feliendor and Gallego. He signals gratitude to the elders. He signals gratitude to the blue pines. His huge arms gleam in the moonlight, and his broad hands explain quickly. Elders. I Leaf Child. Spirit Talker. Safe Passage. Find Valley of the Golden Bear. Spirit Quest. Ghostface Destiny.

One elder raises his hand to signal enough to Ghostface. Another turns to Feliendor, and asks in a voice even the children attend to, "He gifted caerin to you?"

Feliendor unwraps the leafs and with bended knee presents it to the elder.

"Freshly preserved," says one.

"Expertly gathered," says another.

The third nods and signs to Ghostface, "No safe passage. Prisoner to Mirriandor. Serve well. Freedom."

The clan murmurs.

"Cadjren is merciful. Her bounty sustains us. We prove our strength thus," they speak in unison and rise out of sight into the branches.

Six months Ghostface serves the clan. Six months he does servants' work. Six months no complaint. The Feodh lead him from their village to the sea. They bargain his service for passage with the Pheoni.

In a tusky Mirriandor, Ghostface thanks Ilian. "You took me in. None knew what to do with me and I serve you well. Thank you Leaf Brother."

"Go with Cadjren, Leaf Brother," Ilian smiles sadly and continues, "May your totem guide you safe as he did among us, Ghostface,"

The orc shaman embraces the elf lifting him from the earth all but bruising his ribs. Then soundlessly the pale orc picks up the largest bale the elves had brought, nods to the sailors and carries it up the broad plank.
  #4  
Unread 30th of June, 2008, 17:04
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Cadrius
Refusing to Sow [Epic GM]

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The arrow had taken him in the back of the shoulder, its black iron head burrowing into meat and nestling against bone. Later, the wound would burn and cause his eyes to well with tears, but there had been no time for it then. The pain had been blotted out by the screams of Bradden who had fallen beside him, pierced through the chest and leg and side. Rowan fled into the darkness. He stumbled and tripped and cursed but was driven ever-onward by the cries of anger from his pursuers.

Each night their captors would drag one from the makeshift wooden cage. Held down, the chief would draw a long curved knife and begin to cut them, taking ears, fingers, and toes. Each trophy was set aside on a platter to be strung onto the grim necklaces worn by the warriors. Their only compassion was that they slit the sacrifice’s throat before taking his manhood. The rest of their bodies were butchered without ceremony. The skin was taken and heaped in a pile for what purposes only the gods could know. Meanwhile, the womenfolk wielded heavy cleavers with brutal efficiency. The remnants of the men were thrown into the stewpots and supped upon daily. Perhaps it was a cruel jape or perhaps they didn’t understand why it is none of the remaining captives would accept the bowls of stew set before them.

It had been during their fourth night that Rowan and Bradden had seized a chance opportunity for escape. The wooden cage door had been carelessly left ajar. Trembling with fear and hope, he had kept an iron grip on Bradden’s arm, restraining him until the moment was ripe. It happened to be when the sacrifice, a burly man by the name of Myles, began to scream and thrash, loosing one of his arms from its fetters. He crashed it into the chief’s face, crushing his nose and sending crimson spattering across his hides. Myles roared to his feet, mighty thewed, and seized one tribesman by the throat crushing the life out of him with barbaric strength.

Such was Myles’ ferocity that the tribesmen were momentarily taken aback. They stumbled backward and grasped for their wicked blades and spears. Myles wasted no time, and seized the cruel knife and leaped among them, a blood-mad panther swiping with its claws.

It was then that Bradden and Rowan fled, bursting out of the unsecured prison. Nearby, Myles opened the thick belly of a man with a savage cut. Blood and entrails spilled upon the ground, steaming in the chill autumn night. The screams of their fellow snapped the tribesmen back into action and then fell upon Myles, cutting him down with short, vicious chops.

A hue and cry went up from the camp as Rowan and Bradden faded into the dark. Branches scratched and lashed and stung Rowan’s flesh as he ran. The Black River Tribe were paramount hunters and their aim with a bow was deadly even in the black. Arrows sliced through flesh as easily as through shadow and leaf. Bradden fell in a screaming heap, strong hands gone weak grasped at the feathers and oak. Rowan had not slowed his stride and left the man to die alone.



It had been his fault. All of their blood was on his hands. It was Rowan’s coin that had bought these sellswords when none of the local guides would agree to serve, and how he had acquired those golden harps was another matter altogether. Even along the bay of Cylenis the villagers knew of the dark waters of the River of the Daen. It was common knowledge that the Black River Tribe held strange beliefs about that stretch of land. They considered it sacrosanct and would kill any outsiders that set foot upon it. To tread upon that ground was to blaspheme.

But not all men feared the savages and not all believed in the stories of the sinister things that lurked within the thick shadows along those banks. Rowan had secured six mercenaries while in Millagh. To his relief, they cared nothing for the reasons for his expedition, only requesting information on the risk and the pay. Counting the passage and provisions, Rowan had only been able to hire six blades. Two weeks he spent picking them out, his wary mind searching for any hint that one might betray him. He stopped his cynical musings after a time. They were sellswords. By nature their loyalty was up for grabs. It mattered not. The treasure that Rowan sought would not appeal to them. He had only hoped the reputation of the Black River Tribe had been inflated by peasant superstition.

The merchant captain was quite agreeable to bringing Rowan and his men upon the squat cog. Given the small crew, a few extra hands, and swords, were welcome aboard. Nevertheless, Rowan dropped the last of his harps into the captain’s broad weathered hand.

The crewmen of the Wave Dancer were a decent sort, shouting good natured curses and singing lustily as they bent their backs to the work of readying the ship to sail. Cargo was hauled aboard, a mishmash of wool, wine, and falding. They made to sail with the dawn.



The storm caught them two days from the port of Molymote. It was a sudden and brutal squall, howling with all the fury of hell. Before they were sent below decks, the wind and water had lashed at Rowan’s skin, promising a terrible death at sea. It screamed to him, a thousand lost voices of the sailors that drowned before him and lurked beneath the waves, waiting to claim another in the ranks of the watery damned.

The captain screamed curses and orders into the wind with equal measure. His men obeyed with a fervor borne by the trust in a man who had seen them through to safe harbor every time before. In the small hold below, Rowan and the mercenaries clung to the beams or anything else that was attached to the ship. Rowan retched, spilling the contents of the morning’s fish stew onto his bunk and then watched as the ship rolled before the storm’s wrath and the bedding flew across and landed wetly on the starboard wall.

A mighty crack split the noise of the storm in twain. It boomed like thunder and shook the vessel to her core. A moment later, a mighty crash was heard up on the deck.

Oh gods, Rowan thought. The sail. He prayed to Narjul, the mistress of the storm and the sea’s fury, that she might spare him.

Against his better judgment, Rowan fled on weak legs to the stairs and cast open the hatch. Crashed upon the deck like a fallen tree was the single broad mast. The Wave Dancer was broken and beneath her fallen limb was her captain. His legs were crushed and bleeding and he was buffeted by the storm from all angles, but he still screamed orders at his shocked men and they bent to the task all the harder.

It didn’t make a difference. A few moments later, the Wave Dancer shattered upon the jagged rocks that lurked to the north of Molymote. Men leapt into the roiling water, taking their chances with the sea’s capricious whims. The ship sank. Rowan disappeared beneath the waves.



He awoke on the beach, half-dead with the living part of him wishing it could join the other in sweet release. Lungs burned with each shaky breath and the sand was cool against his face. His skin was cracked and raw from the salt and the sun and he winced when he touched it. The sound of waves crashing and coming to rest on the beach soothed him, an aural balm for his battered body.

Raising his head was a momentous effort, one he hoped bards would sing of through the ages. Rowan and the Mighty Neck. Blood pounded in his ears and his eyes blurred for a moment before focusing again. His eyes stopped, looking at the footprints left in the sand leading away from his body. The way the sand dented inward, marked by the passing of men, held his attention for a moment before his eyes moved onward. A hundred paces distant, dunes marked the slow change from sand to soil and beyond them the tops of trees were visible. Standing on one of those dunes were the mercenaries from the ship. They were arguing, making heated gestures at each other. Likely they were arguing over what to do next. Rowan was grateful that they had at least dragged him to safety.

After a time, Rowan found the strength to push himself to his feet and stumble to the sellswords. After a few quiet words they turned out to be quite malleable. Only little of the wreckage from the Wave Dancer had washed up along the shore. Nothing in the way of supplies had turned up along the beach, just the occasional shattered sections of the hull and the odd corpse.

They hiked inland, searching for fresh water and food. Perhaps it was from prior campaigns or contracts, or perhaps it was simply the will to survive, but the mercenaries proved able foragers. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to live. Yet while they clung to life, they were stranded and far from civilization, weaponless and without shelter. None were certain where along the coast they had washed up only that no smoke rose into the sky save that from their own fires and that no ships passed within sight of shore.

They made their way south, hiking along an inland river. It was in the thick of one night that the Black River Tribe took them. They came out of the dark with spears and nets. The sellswords struggled but were quickly subdued. Rowan’s last sight was the blunt side of a spear crashing into his temple. Stars of pain exploded across his eyes and he knew no more.

A week later he had escaped, carrying an arrow in his shoulder as he fled into the night. Back to the river he went, falling into its chill and swift water. It bore him downstream rapidly, battering him against the rocks that lay in the path. One knocked the wind from his lungs. Another smashed into his head and once again, Rowan slipped beneath the surface.


He awoke on his back, his torso resting on damp earth and his legs dangling in the calm provided by the eddy. It hurt to breathe. He brushed one hand gingerly against his ribs and winced at the touch. The other hand touched the large goose egg knotted against his skull. It was a miracle he was alive. Even wracked with pain, his mind turned the thought over in his head, inspecting its facets. It was the third such time in a fortnight that he had eluded death’s grasp.

His father, Callum, had never been favored by fortune. His son had been even worse off. Where the other boys of the village grew to be strong apprentices and men, Rowan had remained slim of stature. His hands were long and thin and seemed fragile like a bird. Indeed, with his hawk’s nose he seemed altogether avian. No smith or carpenter or mason would want an apprentice like that. So Rowan’s father had been forced to keep the boy, hoping he might prove able. Callum would be disappointed by his son’s inability to excel at anything. He was neither strong nor quick nor good with numbers.

Luck had turned her back on Rowan since birth. It was strange to think that she had suddenly cast an eye toward him.

His fate quickly reversed when the wound became infected and festered. A few days later, weeping pus oozed out of his shoulder and down his flesh. Delirium set in. He staggered through the woods, mumbling to himself, leaning against like a drunkard leans against buildings. A dim thought lurked within the sane parts of his mind. He was going to die. There was no help to be found, only death. Be it at the hands of the Black River tribe or the evil that boiled within his skin, he would pass without carrying on his family name—without being anything other than a faint whisper in the world.

Then stumbling out of the fen and into a slight clearing, he saw the ground begin to rise. It sloped gently toward hills that were dotted with the occasional tree and slab of rock. A cave lurked a few hundred paces away. Its mouth was dark and appeared entirely too much like a gaping maw in the earth, a black pit from which there would be no escape. It looked like a good place to die. He might not have a grave, but the least he could do was try and give himself a tomb to lay his body down so that his spirit might find peace.

Each step set his shoulder ablaze with pain, but it was far preferable than the thought of his tortured soul wandering these lonely woods as a shade. Slowly, he ate the distance between him and the cave and when he passed into the darkness, it was like coming home.

Inside it was warm, not cool, and dry, not wet. Idly, he wondered if some creature made its home here, perhaps a bear. It mattered little. This would be his final resting place. None would know of his fate save that he left to make his name in the world. He hoped his family would think he had found a girl and settled down in a far off port to make his fortune and raise boys of his own. But in his heart of hearts, he knew they would think he had met his end as all fools do.

He stumbled further into the cave, not waiting for his eyes to adjust. He wanted to get far enough in so that the scavengers would not smell the cloying stench of his corpse. The blood rushed and pounded through his veins. In the black, phantom shapes squirmed and crawled across his eyes. After a time, he judged himself to be deep enough and moved to sat down.

It was then that he saw the light.

Ahead of him, quite distant, he spotted the faint red-orange glow of firelight. It was faint; it was salvation. He realized staggering toward the growing luminance that he had been traveling downward for some time. The glow grew larger and the air warmer. He began to sweat, but could not tell if it was from the growing heat or the fever that gripped his body.

Caution and curiosity gripped him. He had come in here to die, not to explore the depths of the earth. Yet what harm would come of this? His strength was flagging. Soon he would lay his head down and slip away. The dark called his name, but it would be good to die in the light.

He stuck his head around the corner, his eyes widening at what they saw. The tunnel opened up into a small cavern that was filled with a lake of fire. The stone path wound inward into the lake, rising up into the air a short distance. Stalactites obscured the topmost portion of it. Fear should have gripped him, but there was a confidence borne of the knowledge that he would soon die. Rowan nodded. That would be the place to die. Perhaps in a decade or two some other soul would venture down here and wonder at the skeleton that laid high above the burning lake.

Each step grew harder. The heat sapped at him, taxing his strength. Sweat dampened his brow and ran into his eyes, stinging them with salt. His breath became ragged and labored. He staggered and stumbled, slowly making his ascent. But what he found at the top was something entirely unexpected.

A woman sat at the edge of the precipice, her legs dangling over the edge. She had long red hair that ran down her back, but not the rich auburn that some girls in his village bore. Instead, it was the bright color of burnished copper. Her skin was pale like the white limestone that dotted the cliffs of home. It took him a few moments before he realized she wore nothing at all.

“An odd place for a man such as you,” she said. Her voice was soft, but carried despite
the distance and the bubbling of the lake below.

“Yes.” His mouth was dry; he swayed on his feet.

She remained facing away from him. Her head was tilted downward, staring into the fire. “And one near death, no less. Would you die here? In my home?”

“Yes.”

She laughed, bemused, and swung her long legs back onto the stone. She rose to her feet and faced him. Yet it was not the curve of her hip or breast that caught his eyes and held them fixed. It was her eyes. They were the same bright copper color as her hair and they shone in the red-orange light.

“And by chance, what if you live? What will you do?”

Rowan’s brow furrowed, not comprehending. He fought to remain upright. The woman peered at him, eyes burrowing into his skin.

“Fire. You are always afraid of being burned by it,” she said, laying a hand on his arm. It was hot to the touch. The heat spread up into his shoulder, a blazing pain that caused him to gasp. “But fire does other things. It cleanses. It consumes.”

She stepped away from him, backing slowly until her heels touched the edge and then inched out into the space beyond. “What would you give if I offered you a second chance? How do you pay a debt of life?”

“I want more than life,” he said.

“You are not content to simply live again? You want more? Ambitious.” She remained poised on the edge. “Tell me, what would you do for power?”

“Anything.”

She smiled. “Then come to me.”

Rowan took one step after another until he was standing in front of her. She reached out, placing her hands on his upper arms and pulled him into an embrace. Their lips met and then they were falling backward, plummeting toward the burning lake. They crashed into the surface and sank beneath it. The heat was unbearable.

The fire consumed him.
  #5  
Unread 29th of July, 2008, 07:17
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Paco
Spawn of Kyuss

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The small bonfires that brought warmth and light to the great hall had been reduced to all but glowing embers, and the chill of the coming winter began to creep through the walls. It had been a good funeral, and a great feast was offered up in memory of the legendary Hrothulf. Most were now either passed out or had gone home to warm beds and warm wives or lovers. Only a few remained—Hrothulf’s most loyal thanes who refused to retire before the son of their great chief.

Hengest, oldest and best among the chief’s thanes, approached the brooding son and set his hand upon the young man’s broad shoulder. It was a good hand, thought Gorm. There was a thickness—a weight that was comforting in the way that he knew that Hengest’s strength was his strength. Gorm had known the old thane all his life and thought of him as family. He looked up, and Hengest smiled empathetically behind his thick red beard.

“My lord,” Hengest spoke in a low, reverent tone. “The hour grows late. The men would see you take your rightful seat before they retire.”

Five long steps ran the length of the hall, creating a sort of raised stage. At the center of that stage sat two immense oak chairs, intricately carved to look like growing trees, although Gorm had seen the great chairs his entire life and had never seen them grow an inch. One chair was his father’s. Never knowing his mother, the other chair had remained empty for as far back as Gorm could remember.

Gorm stood up slowly, and the thanes grew silent as he ascended the great wooden steps. As he reached the platform, he turned to face the half dozen men who eagerly awaited the young chief’s address.

Gorm, son of Hrothulf spoke:

"Tonight we lay my father to eternal rest, carried not from us by the tip of spear nor swing of a sword—for he was such a man that none could pierce his mail. Instead he fell to the passage of time, as do those who are the best of us all.

“My father and his brothers set out in this world to forge their names and their wealth in glorious combat. And now all are dead.

“All are dead, and I stand before you in the great mead hall built by my father, the last and most excellent among his brothers who would now have me carry on in his name with you, the best of all men.

“But I cannot.

“I am not worthy of his name, and these treasures are not mine. They are yours, paid for with blood and toil. I, as of yet, remain untested.”

Gorm turned next to Hengest, best of his father’s men.

“Hengest, you are my father’s best man. To you, I leave everything. Continue to gather in this hall and, like my father before us, at the dole-out of gifts honor these men and bestow with an even hand to them the wrought-gold rings and jeweled collars of tribute to match the love that you have for them.”

“But my lord,” Hengest stood, words almost failing him “what of you?”

“I will return, but not before I am worthy to sit at the best seat of the hall and dole out gifts collected by my own hand to my own thanes, tested in glorious battle.

“I must take my leave now, but I bid you stay in this excellent hall and listen to the scop for a while longer as he recites the catalog of your great deeds. I must test myself before I can consider myself worthy to stand among you.

“I must go now and make my own song.”
  #6  
Unread 1st of January, 2009, 04:11
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Thorik Halldrson

The world was red ruin - rage and fire and blood, a storm hurled in from sea. Above the roar of the flames and the incessant pounding of the breakers below were the sounds of men - strident battle cries and horrible death screams, shot through with the wailing of the wounded and hoarse shouts of the desperate. In the main chapel, templars held burnished weapons at the ready, facing the staunch oaken doors which even now reeled with axe blows from without. Beyond them, the priests scurried feverishly, collecting religious treasures and artifacts in hopes of preserving them. The door shuddered and then splintered inward; dwarven raiders surged through, eyes full of the wild battle light behind their iron helms. Thorik was first inside, plaited coppery hair flying, a gleaming crescent axe in either hand. He ducked the longspear that darted out to skewer him, felt it bump and scrape along the fine chainmail upon his back. He drove a solid dwarven shoulder into the gut of the man wielding it, stout legs driving furiously, and summarily bowled over the taller individual. He crunched a hob-nailed boot into the man's face without even slowing, feeling blood spurt up as he passed.

In the blink of an eye, the robed Acolyte before him was down in a spray of blood. Thorik's red-amber eyes glowed like the pits of hell as he leapt atop the marble altar, an iron figure fraught with menace and purpose. The wall beyond the flagged dais held a doorway on either side, each with a staircase descending down into the bowels of the church. A mail clad templar heard his booming war cry and paused on the threshold, turning to behold his red-bearded doom. Thorik hurled an axe - which glanced ringingly off the stone jamb - then sprinted two strides and leaped long, crashing into the larger man well above his center of gravity. The two toppled down the worn stone steps together, but only one rose to his feet at the bottom. A stout oaken door was swinging shut before him, but he rammed into the narrowing crack, partially forcing his way inside, to a stiff breeze and the smell of salt air.

The room itself was carved from the living stone of the mountain, with an opening on one end that overlooked a sheer drop the the heaving sea below. Before Thorik could orient himself he was struck a tremendous blow to the side of the head, sending bolts of white lightning across his vision. With a heave he slipped into the room, a flap of skin from his torn cheek sending a sheet of blood over his beard. Even as he entered the man leaped upon him, attempting to pin the dwarf's weapon arm. His enemy had the look of a warrior but the ornate robes proclaimed him a high priest, though he was not yet past his strength in terms of years. Thorik dropped the axe, cumbersome in a grapple, and seized the man's throat with powerful hands. A second blow from the scepter sent him reeling once more, a sound like booming thunder in his ears. The priest shoved him back and called out in a guttural tongue unknown to the raider, his dark eyes lighting with hate and power.

In the slick stone and flickering light of the chamber, Thorik could feel something ancient and awful stir. Now, too, he noted the carved channels and raised altar, the hideous carvings and ceremonial implements. This was an inner sanctum to their dark God, a place of sacrifice and corrupt rituals. The priest held up hands stained with Thorik's own blood and then pointed to the marauding intruder, still uttering his awful incantation. Black rage descended on the dwarf then and he drove forward with a primal scream of fury. They crashed together and toppled even as the priest uttered the final syllable of his prayer; Thorik's iron fingers found their target and squeezed with terrible strength, twisting sharply, banging the priest's head against the flags hard enough to rock the stone. At that instant, lighting exploded into the chamber, sending him flying - blind and deaf from the might of the blast, knocking his senses from him.

Consciousness came a few minutes later when his shipmates burst into the room. The priest was dead his dark eyes open and seeming to stare at Thorik; outside the rain fell in dark torrents from the seething clouds above. They heaved him to his feet, with rowdy buffets and harsh laughter. It was a raid to make legends - slaughter and blood and treasure. He should have been rejoicing as they left the room, but he could not shake the dead priest's gaze from his mind.
 

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