Of Actions and Consequences in the World of Einn Boer

Priming the pump for re-igniting an RPG after a slight hiatus.  The mortals have been stirring up trouble again.  There goes the neighborhood…

~

Drevlek Laksol’lkan could feel a shift.  The Voradakra, the Endless Army, was being thwarted in places where they should have had free reign.  Raising its hand, it plucked out its left eye and replaced it with one attuned to farseeing.  It found its sight was diminished in a way it was not except for around the Last Holding.

It sent a command and waited the necessary amount of time.  Time did not matter.

When the summoned portion of the One appeared, it carried a double handful of sand.  Drevlek placed half the sand in a crucible and it began to burn.  The smoke from the fire revealed a delicious truth.  Mortalkind were finally venturing from where they had cowered in their holes.  This sand had contained their blood.

With an effort of will, it brought one of its stored assets into being.  The creature was undead, but it was not one of the Voradakara.  It served Drevlek, but it was not part of the One.  The creature had the misguided idea that it needed to think for itself.  It was a faithful servant however, and it needed mortal vitae to survive which is why it had agreed to be suspended for a time.

“My Master.”  It hissed, bowing low, although its red eyes glimmered with hatred when it straightened. “You have summoned me?”

“The Harvest may begin once more.”  It said, gesturing with a hand.  The portion came forward and offered the remainder of the sand it had brought.  “Go forth and reap as you will.”

The asset leaned forward, tongue elongating to taste the sand.  “This is old Master, but it is fresh enough to be a possibility.”  Its eyes became vacant as it placed a clawed hand over the sand.  A single drop of liquid the color of old rusted iron lifted from it, trembling in the air.  “I can find them.  I will need certain protections and provisions.”

“You shall have them.” Drevlek answered.

“I will also need assistance.  Three of my Kind.”

“One shall suffice.  I know your ways.”

“Two.”

“Very well. Two.”

The asset smiled, revealing the elongated canine teeth.  “Excellent.” It said.

The Council of Seven Lords sat at the table, feasting and drinking.  Sher’Grath watched the others, swirling the blood in her cup.  These fools were content to pretend their latest setbacks were a fluke.  They believed this was just another trick from the admittedly resourceful mortals in Malm Hird.  She knew different; she had lost soldiers near the Geared City Megan Dugr.

“What say you Deceiver of Ages?”  The demon on her right asked, slurping down his beverage of choice which seemed to consist mainly of brains with maggots writhing through it.  “Will our next offensive be fruitful now that we know when the dead will assault them?”

“Coordinating our attacks is meaningless.”  She said, “The strength the mortals gain from wherever they gain it from and they will repel any attack we can throw at them.  As they always have.”

“No, if we can press the advantage their defenses will be overwhelmed.”  He insisted, licking his needle pointed teeth.  “The Oracle said if we were able to cooperate with the dead we’d win.”

“The Oracle.”  Sher’Gath spit to one side, hitting a servant bearing a tray and knocking it sprawling ten paces away.  “You trust that … thing?  You’re a fool Go’Reshk, it used to be mortal.  It hates us.”

“Ah but it has to answer truthfully.”  Go’Reshk said with a toothy grin.  “Which makes the readings all that much more satisfying.  Watching it squirm and try to weasel out of giving us answers.”

“And the worthless answers it gives have benefitted us when exactly?”  She said acidly, “The fucking Oracle said if we COOPERATE not if we COORDINATE you stupid shit.”

While Go’Reshk was spluttering in anger she rose, scales hissing on the marble flooring.  “Fellow Lords, I feel I must make a point.”  All idle chatter stopped, and even Go’Reshk stopped making choking sounds of indignation.

“I feel it is time for one of us to take direct action.  In light of current events, I feel stealth and subtlety are needed in this endeavor.”  She looked around the room, noting the calculating looks in their eyes. “To that end I nominate Ssariss, my second in command to venture forth and assess the danger this new group of mortals presents.”

“What possible danger could they present?”  Someone growled, “They have been hiding all this time.  Their impotent gods have clearly lost the ability to sustain them and now they come looking for a new place to call their own.”

“Where, may I ask, did they come from?”  She asked, gesturing with all six of her arms.  “They are not from the accursed Malm Hrid, and as far as we know the other cities starved ages ago.  So the question remains, what is their origin?

“I know you all trust your precious Oracle, but they are not to be trusted for anything more than to provide one disappointing meal of mortal flesh.”  She glared at them in challenge, “I don’t believe our generals on the ground understand the situation either.

“I lost an entire squad of skilled salvage crew in the Iron Ruins and there was no trace of who had killed them.  Less than a week later we see the entire City of Gears become a death trap that leads five thousand of our warriors to their deaths in battle and another three thousand when it becomes an inferno.

“You expect me to believe that the reports of a small group of elite mortal warriors is not related?  You think this should be trusted to the demented mutterings of your Oracle?”  She gave them a challenging look, coiling about her seat and waiting for a reply.

The Council stared at her in shock for a moment before erupting into a clamor of angry voices.  Each one seemed to be trying to override the others simply by volume.  This went on for a time, the very stones of the chamber beginning to shake, until another voice spoke.

It was not a loud voice but it cut through the chatter easily.  “Let my daughter go, or send her proxy.”

All fell silent and turned to the dais where, for the first time in centuries, a figure sat on the throne made of real, actual authentic mortal bones.  Graz’zt leaned his chin on his six fingered fist, “I find your lack of progress here to be unfortunate.  It is time for a change.  Go’Reshk has made her bid.  She is now responsible for it.”

“Dread Father.”  She said, slithering forward and prostrating herself, “You have my undying devotion and thanks for this chance to prove myself.”

“Spare me the theatrics Go.”  He said, reaching a hand down to stroke her hair.  “You always were so talented and capable.  Make me proud.”

She rose only after she felt his hand leave the back of her neck.  “Ssariss.  Bring your sisters to my chambers.  It is our time.  We will not fail our Lord.”

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Terevelen finds his heart’s desire

Taking a break from The Callindra Chronicles this week for a spooky story; it is approaching Halloween after all.  I played this character for a very brief time before the Dungeon Master and I had irreconcilable differences revolving around me asking questions, trying to play the character I chose with the skills his class and race gave him, and having the audacity to actually give feedback when he asked for it.  What cheek!  Anyway, the character in question ended up running from a fight and the DM’s refusal to allow me to in any reasonable way rejoin the party or return to safety I instead decided to leave the game and wrote this as my character’s exit.  I hope you enjoy.

~

The others rushed into combat, but something plucked at Terevelen’s vision.  No, not at his vision but at his intuition.  It was almost like a siren song, the seductive thread of arcane power calling to his Mage’s Sight.  The shouts and screams of the others faded from his attention as he incanted a spell.  Motes of light barely visible from where they were encapsulated inside bubbles of darkness.  This was energy he had only seen once or twice before, and it was forbidden power.

Walking almost in a trance, he followed the trail, watching as the motes became threads and the threads became tendrils and the tendrils led to something more.  The power was weak, but the allure was irresistible.  Terevelen stood before a hill with toppled stones that were once a grand archway.  The capstone sealing the entrance was long since smashed and time had worn away the runic carvings that had once covered it.

With trembling fingers, the Elf pushed the tall grass and weeds aside.  The air that breathed from the opening smelled of earth and mold, decay and faintly of death.  He was frightened and more than a little disgusted by the thought of entering a tomb, nonetheless Terevelen shivered and crawled beneath the fallen archway.

The crypt was small and anything of value had long since been pilfered by thieves or destroyed by the ravages of time.  Gold and gems had been prized from the walls and from the lid of the sarcophagus.  A stone slab had the remains of a parchment that had likely once been proudly displayed under glass but was now reduced to moldering dust.

The remains of a human corpse were scattered from looters removing what were likely richly embroidered robes, but the dark aura of forbidden power he had been sensing emanated from those bones.  It would be a laborious process, but Terevelen felt a need to re-assemble the skeleton.  Sitting down to concentrate, he began to gently shift one bone at a time, moving them back where they belonged.

He never noticed when the runes along the walls lit up.  He never noticed when the stones shifted back into place, cutting off all light.  Absorbed in his work, Terevelen forgot to eat or drink and after a time found he did not miss it.  All that mattered was this.  Humming to himself, he looked at his new body in satisfaction, briefly admiring the intricate tracework of black threads that crisscrossed his emaciated frame.

“Time.”  He whispered in his dry, broken voice.  “All I have is time now.  Time is all I need.  All the time is mine.”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 20

“We have to get out quickly.”  She said, “They can’t have missed all that noise.”

“How do you plan to get us out?”  Holt asked.

“We will have a distraction when you signal for it.  I figure you can shoot an arrow or something.  The rest of them are waiting outside.”  She grinned at him, “I’m going to take us right out the front door.”

She sat and began taking deep, calming breaths with Shadowsliver across her knees.  Holt began gathering his equipment from racks while she meditated.  The air around her stilled as she slowly breathed in through her nose and out through her mouth.  Glarian’s… no Luftin’s words echoed in her mind. ‘The First Korumn is of the Breath.’

“Are you ready?”  Holt whispered, “What are you doing?”

Callindra opened her eyes and gave him a calm look.  “Please fire an arrow out the window to the alley directly across the square.”  Whatever he saw in her eyes made him swallow hard.

“Right.  I can do that.”  He said, stringing his longbow and taking an arrow from his quiver.  “Tell me when you’re ready.”

She stood in a smooth, languid motion and gently drew the spell from Shadowsliver’s blade.  The last time she’d used this spell was just before she’d seen Jorda murdered by Morde.  Her concentration wavered, but her meditation had served her well and she managed to keep control over the Weave.

Holt moved to the window and fired his arrow at her nod.  It passed through the barred window without even the sound of feathers cleaving the air.  He turned to give her a puzzled look and blinked at her apparent absence.  A moment later, she walked close enough and he could see her again.

“They won’t see us and likely won’t hear us either.”  She said, feeling the calmness in her voice from the magics she had wrought.  “The Winds will shelter me, and you too if you stay close.”

“I thought I knew who you were.”  He said, putting another arrow to the string of his bow.  “I believe I may have been mistaken.”

“Go ahead and ask questions after we’re out of here.”  Said Callindra, “I need to focus.”

Shouts of surprise, explosions and the clash of steel on steel came from outside and Callindra led her friend slowly to the door.  He lifted the bar and followed her through the door and she nearly lost her tenuous hold on the Weave.  Instead of a distraction, her brothers had started a war.

“We’re going to have to fight our way out.”  She said to Holt, cursing in Orcish again and surveying the scene.  “There’s no way we can get through there without them running into us.  I’ll lead.  You put an arrow in the eye of anyone I can’t reach in time.”

Callindra dropped her spell and ran ahead with her sword swinging instead.  Her first blow hamstrung a startled guard and her second cut into the neck of another who was turning to face them.  She screamed in pain as the impact of her sword strikes hit her injured hand and she almost dropped Shadowsliver.  She’d forgotten all about it in the rush to escape.

What she saw in the alleyway where her brothers had been froze her heart.  A horde of Taken with glowing green eyes were being held back by a single figure.  Cronos stood resolute against hundreds, a hand and a half sword in each hand flying in a blur as he cut limbs, heads, bodies and weapons.  Cronos and Kain faced the town guard, but their attacks lacked coordination and their foes weren’t restricted by the walls of an alley.

Gritting her teeth against the pain and her exhaustion, Callindra passed her hand down Shadowsliver’s blade and unleashed a blast of wind in the first and most basic spell she knew.  It slashed through two of the guards and knocked a third to the ground.  Holt fired arrows with nearly inhuman speed and accuracy even while running alongside her.

They managed to punch through the guards to reach the others and a shout from above drew Callindra’s attention.  A rope fell and Reed shouted from the roof top.

“Get the hell out of there!  More Taken are coming from the other side, this place is doomed!”

“Holt.  Go.”  She said, clumsily hacking at a guard with Shadowsliver in her right hand.  He opened his mouth but she glared.  “Putting the archer on the high ground is common god rotting sense.  You can cover us from up there.  Move!”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 19

A year ago, these words would have sent Callindra through the door in a fury.  Her losses and experience had taught her to bank the fires of her rage however, and she waited patiently instead.  The exertion of flying to the top of this place had drained her, but she needed an edge if she was going to survive and escape with Holt.  Closing her eyes, she touched Shadowsliver’s hilt and incanted a spell.

“You touch her.  You die.”  Holt’s voice reached her ears, sounding harsh as though he’d screamed it raw.  She was shocked by the level of anger in it to the point she almost lost her grip on the spell she was casting.

“Listen to the old grandfather, still feeling protective of the whelp.”  The honey sweet voice purred.  The sound was followed by the crack of kiln dried wood hitting flesh.  Callindra lost her temper and released her spell.

Everything seemed to slow as she borrowed the speed and fury of Njordi, the Great North Wind.  The door swung open with enough force that it shattered against the wall and she was through and halfway across the room before her targets had turned their heads.  Shadowsliver reached out in a perfect lunge, punching cleanly through the skull of a thin man clad only in a leather loincloth who stood beside a brazier filled with glowing coals and a variety of metal bits.

The impact hurt.  Callindra’s left hand felt as though she had punched a stone wall and she nearly lost her grip on his leather-bound hilt.  Gritting her teeth, she managed to maintain her concentration on the spell and ripped the blade free with a twist, breaking the man’s skull in twain.  With a practiced motion, she turned and hurled her sword at the wide woman who seemed to be made all of slabs of muscle.  She turned from bringing her hand back to deliver another blow with the wooden staff in her hand surprise turning to glee on her face.

It could have been the pain of impact, the speed of her motion or her horror at seeing Holt in the cell beyond the woman, bound in shackles.  It might have just been bad luck.  Whatever the reason, she saw her blade fly past her opponent’s neck, inflicting only a shallow cut.

Cursing, she tried to pull the blade back, but he had already passed through the bars and the sudden motion caused his chain to wrap around the bars of the cage.  Although she was moving much faster than the other woman, Callindra saw her smile as she turned and began to swing her staff.

In a reckless, desperate move she saw that the huge woman was trying to strike her feet so Callindra did the only thing she could think of.   Wrapping the chain around her left hand, she leaped into the air, turning a neat flip over the striking staff and the woman’s head while letting the chain loop around her neck at the same time.  With a wrench of her hips, she twisted in the air one and a half times before the chain jerked taunt and nearly tore her arms from their sockets.

The chain cut halfway through the woman’s throat, spraying blood into the chamber as Callindra bore her to the ground, screaming in pain and rage.  The spell fled as her concentration broke, but she kept the tension on the chain for another count of ten just to make sure the bitch was dead.

With a shake, she forced herself to let go of the chain.  She realized she was still snarling an unending string of curses in a low harsh language.  More of Kain’s native tongue had rubbed off on her than she’d thought; Orc was an excellent language to swear in.

“Callindra?”  Holt’s voice shook slightly, “By all the Gods and Demons how did you…  What did you… are you all right?”

“I’m fine.”  She snapped, before looking down at herself; clad in black and splattered with blood and knew her face was still set in a grimace of pain and rage.  “I’m fine.”  She said in a calmer tone of voice, “Let’s get you out.”

Her left hand throbbed and the fingers didn’t work the way they should as she untangled Shadowsliver’s chain from the bars and fumbled a ring of keys from the dead man’s belt.  Her hand twinged when she tried to turn the key in the lock and she had to use her right hand instead.  Once inside she began unlocking Holt’s bonds.  He watched her with hooded eyes.

“What happened there?”  He asked, his voice still hoarse.  “You were different.  I almost didn’t recognize you.”

“I lost my temper.  Bad things happen when I lose my temper.”  She said, fighting to keep the dregs of her anger from building on itself.  The keys fell from the numb fingers of her left hand and she bit back an orcish oath.  If only she had a god rotting sheath for her sword instead of having to carry him.

That thought made her freeze.  She did not want to put Shadowsliver, her life, her soul her companion down.  Taking a deep breath, Callindra picked up the keys with her right hand and unlocked the rest of Holt’s shackles.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 18

As soon as she got back into the room, she shut and bolted the door.  Her brothers in arms were all waiting for her, fully dressed and girded for battle.  She wasn’t sure she wanted all of them to be involved; but she also didn’t think she could get any of them to stay behind.

“Reed snuck into the women’s bath to chide me for my slothful ways.”  She said by way of greeting.  “The rascal said he’d be waiting behind in the alley for when we finally got our wits about us.  He seemed to think the law would burn this inn to the ground if that’s what it took to put me in my place.”

“We all got not so subtle warnings about curfew and how strict the town guard is from the serving girls.” Cronos said with a bemused look on his face.  “They all seem quite taken with your brash and bold self sister.”

“I’m sure your scarred and roguish face is appealing as well brother mine.”  She said, allowing a smile to turn up one corner of her mouth.  “But now we need to move quickly so that we can get him out and safe before they even suspect he’s gone.”

They tied ropes to the bed posts and dropped them down to the side street.  No watch patrols seemed to be making rounds inside the city, but they had been tipped off about their existence and so progressed carefully.

Reed was waiting for them in the shadows of a doorway and gave them a stern look when they arrived.  “You tryin to bring the entire guard down on us?”  He said in a low voice.  “I heard catfights what made less noise.”

“Lead on.”  Callindra said in the same low tone, knowing whispers tended to carry further but only remembering because he had done it first.  “I thought you wanted us to hurry.”

He glared at her, but slipped off down the dark street, moving from shadow to shadow with barely a sound.  She had to admit that at very least Reed made far less noise than her brothers did.  The little urchin wasn’t quieter than she was though.  Not much.

After a few tense minutes, they stopped at Reed’s raised hand.  He came back to them with obvious frustration on his face. As he did, Callindra noticed a lot of light coming from an alley ahead and got a sinking feeling in her stomach.

“The building they use for a jail’s in the middle of the square ahead.” He said grimly, “They got torches lit everywhere an a couple dozen guards.  We ain’t getting in.”

“Maybe you aren’t.”  Callindra said calmly, “But I am.  Once I have him free I’ll signal for a diversion, then we can escape.”

Before they could stop her, she slid a hand down Shadowsliver’s blade and drew upon the power of the Weave.  Stepping lightly off the cobblestones she began to run into the air.  It was a difficult working and she was sweating by the time she had gained enough altitude to be out of sight of the guards down in the torchlit square.

She landed on the roof silently and released the spell.  As she had hoped, this wasn’t really a proper jail, just a house made of stone.  The windows weren’t barred, and she was easily able to wedge one of them open and slip inside.  A strange sweet smell met her as she gently slid the window closed behind her.  She didn’t know what it was, but for some reason it made her skin crawl.

After looking around briefly, she opened the door and snuck down a hallway and a set of stairs.  The sound of the guards marching outside the building was almost loud enough to drown out the conversation happening just on the other side of the door.

“Just gut him and throw him in the pit.  I don’t care what that fatass mayor says.  This one is too damn much trouble.”  A sweet and beguiling voice said.  “His friends aren’t coming for him.  We won’t trap them so easily.”

“I will crush that little wench into paste.”  A low voice rumbled.  “Putting on airs, carrying a sword.  BONDING a weapon.  She will die.”

A year ago, these words would have sent Callindra through the door in a fury.  Her losses and experience had taught her to bank the fires of her rage however, and she waited patiently instead.  The exertion of flying to the top of this place had drained her, but she needed an edge if she was going to survive and escape with Holt.  Closing her eyes, she touched Shadowsliver’s hilt and incanted a spell.