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[QUEST] Two Birds Within the Cage

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  • [QUEST] Two Birds Within the Cage

    Skyfell Keep rests in the embrace of the Crestwall mountains, and its ruling influence extends along the foothills for hundreds of miles in either direction; the borders pushing out from the craggy bedrock to cast its net over the mostly barren landscapes surrounding them. Its people are strong and tenacious; farmers, tanners and wayfinders, with their country wide but infertile. Not even the rock of the mountains gives up much in the way of usable ore, the only resource they hold in abundance is the rough and shaggy grasslands constantly grazed by their herds of goats and sheep - milk, leather, wool and meat their main exports.

    The Crestwall mountains provide a tall barrier to the cold northern winds travelling down from the Pole of Air and insulates the grasslands from the snow and frosts that are otherwise common beyond their protective lee, only a crust of icy mush forming underfoot during the coldest months of each year. For all its bleak and understated significance to neighbouring kingdoms and the Scarlet Empire itself, Skyfell holds one key that grants it protective allegiance to the Empire - Skyfell's lands act as a natural passageway through Crestwall. The mountains myriad of caverns and paths towards the Northern reaches was established as a provincial gateway to the Empire's northern redoubts.

    Given the state of affairs, the first troop to raise arms in defense of their fellow farmers many centuries ago have been raised to the status of nobility and essentially granted autonomy from the Satrap, who had proven too occupied by the activities of the barbarians and Anathema scratching at their doorstep to keep a close reign on the militant family. As long as their taxes are paid from tolls collected, they are largely left alone and for the low cost of guarding the Empire's infrastructure, Skyfell militia are sometimes trained by passing officers in the ways of the Upright Soldier; tasked to maintain the paved roads and protect them from ranging marauders trying to flank the redoubt by circling the Crestwall.

    The spirit of the people, however, is one of close kinship and camaraderie. The leading family are more of a peacekeeping force and center for disputes than a ruling class; their children raised to value the lives of their people before their own ambition. Not that they had far to go if they tried. It is a simple life for most involved, and one acceptable and preferable to the chaos told of the scavenger lands, eastern barbarians and constant wars of the north eastern kingdoms.

    In the Realm Year 776, two heirs were to undergo their final trials of adulthood, accepting the burden of leadership for the eldest and stewardship for the youngest. The two youths, just shy of fifteen years from their first namedays, planned to make their final day of freedom memorable. And indeed, it would be.

    Kess, the youngest of the twins by a half-candle was the more serious of the pair, adhering to his assigned duties and lessons more avidly than his elder sibling who enjoyed spending their time dragging Kess into one mess or another, yet always back out again. Perrin was the eldest and she would have been called the First of Swords were Skyfell to have adhered to such titles or the idea of a single monarch. As it was, Perrin was educated and expected to take over the general affairs of state and justice, where her younger sibling was to steward the more local affairs of the keep and its immediate surrounds.

    Both siblings were trained in the use of sword, spear and shield adjacent to their political and economic studies and both had earned the right to carry their favored weapon at their waist since they were nine years old. However, Perrin had always been the stronger warrior, while Kess was clearly the political genius. Each loved to challenge the other at every turn, playfully pushing the other in their fields of weakness to provide a stronger impetus to excel, and provide bragging rights to the sibling who bested the other. It all worked exceptionally well, even supported by their mother and father- and the rest of the members of the council- as both bloomed into powerful protectors for their people.

    And so it comes as a surprise to Perrin that Kess approaches before she has a chance to reveal her grand plan, ambitiously titled ‘Two Birds, One Hundred Steps, No Stones’.


    It is a whole candle before sunset when you were planning to stop by Kess’ study to start the goading, but it appears that this time Kess has set aside his studies and gotten the drop on you. He is wearing his travel cloak and boots, his sword belted to his right side as usual, and wears that serene straight brow you’ve come to assume meant incredulous agitation. Kess was always better at keeping his feelings to himself.

    “Perrin, I am proposing we skip your usual antics tonight and opt for a more educational spree.” He tosses your travelling pack into your arms as if you’d already agreed. “We march for the copper tunnel. I’ve packed some extra torches in case we aren’t back before sundown.”
    • Sure, why not? You have time to spare before sundown then you can get back to the Hundred Steps.
    • In a strange twist of fate, you have actually studied the economics of tonight’s spree and planned the perfect crawl through the nearby mead halls. No way are you letting the last six night’s careful planning fall to pieces now!
    • No way! The caves surrounding the keep are off limits and father would be furious. Pranks and carousing are one thing, but this would be outright disobedience!
    • Any opportunity to piss off Father; you heard there are wild animals taking up in the caves recently- a good chance to test out your new blade techniques.
    • Something Else?
    Last edited by Elkovash; 03-12-2017, 10:04 AM.

    My Homebrew: Architect of the Regal Puppet Style (WIP) || Monkey Style || Radiant Halo of Incandescent Might || Pale Driver, Ruination of the Edifice of Tyranny || Sublime Percussion, Just a Whole lot of Fun || Idris, The Graceful Heart of Purpose

  • #2
    Other- Educational Spree???? PFFFT time to cause some shenanigans. Go along with it until the opportunity arises to enact 'the plan'. The copper tunnel might lead past a mead hall, right?


    • #3
      Illegal spelunking might actually be more fun than getting drunk. Sure!

      Also, I highly recommend this app for editing purposes: . You have a lot of run-on sentences in your post.

      On the frontier of the Wild South, there's only one woman with the grit to take on its most dangerous outlaws and bring them Back Alive, or Maybe Dead.

      Avatar by K.S. Brenowitz


      • #4
        It falls to me to be the Wise Old Bull.

        Pub Crawl? Brilliant plan.
        Illegal Spelunking? Sounds amazing!

        Pub Crawl and THEN Illegal Spelunking?
        Now THAT'S the kind of shennanigans we'll be telling our grandchildren about with pride! If we survive!

        So I'm making God-Kicking Boot, an Exalted webcomic, now. Updates on Sundays. Full-color, mediocre but slowly improving art. It's a thing.

        The absence of a monument can, in its own way, be something of a monument also.
        -Roger Zelazny


        • #5
          Going with Kess would be the best choice to keep him out of trouble, but you were going to need a little help getting through the early hours of the night first.

          “I get it Kess and I'd be happy to go along. There is the small matter of some prior arrangements I made, though. Sara wouldn’t be too happy if I skipped out without warning her we’d be late back. Got a vile temper, that one."

          Kess smolders a little but groans and grudgingly accepts the minor detour.

          Flinging the pack over your shoulder and walking down the halls, you dutifully listen to Kess’ description and instructions about the trip into the caves. He had found some old lore that pointed to something worthwhile in the caverns. Everyone knew that the caves had been used for centuries and even longer than that but they had not been fully explored or recorded. The Realm soldiers who used them to travel north had never seemed interested in them and moving about through the caverns anywhere other than the sure and true path was an invitation to disaster. Only the main roads were maintained and the offshoots could collapse at the slightest provocation.

          There were stories of something more in there. It wasn't unexpected. A dark and mysterious place that no one could safely go? A place unanimously declared unsafe and restricted by the council? Of course rumors and stories would arise, but Kess felt sure about it so you assume that he had something to substantiate his curiosity.

          The march down to the mead hall takes mere minutes, just enough time for Kess to unload everything he thought might be possible about their exploration. From the sound of his voice, he was not only sure but very excited too, so it comes as a let down when you lead him in through the arches and lean across the bar.

          Sara was about as big as women got around here, stout and hearty. She would box you around the ears if you gave her any trouble and you are sure you've seen her toss out two drunken louts with a just one hand each. Her manner was rough but she cared about her patrons like most folk here would.

          You thump once on the bar and call out for a mug eliciting another groan from Kess.


          “Look, tonight was meant to be about fun. This is fun!”

          “I don't want to be stumbling around in the dark with you falling over yourself.” He hisses back.

          “Then it's a good thing you packed extra torches,” you chide back, snatching up the two tankards and holding one to your brother. “One drink. To get the blood pumping.”

          He stares back at you with that steely glare.

          “I'll grab something to go. Come on, this is honey mead from that place just over the moors-”


          “Whitehold! Finest mead outside of the Isle. Special occasion.”

          “Just one.”


          “... okay.”

          There he was. Your little Kestrel, trying his hardest to seem as tough as his big sister. Trying. The thing about Kess was that once you got him started down one path, he had a hard time changing course. One tankard became two and two became five. By the time the drink had hardened his resolve enough to force you outside into the cold, two hours had already passed and the sun was below the western cliffs. Fumbling at your pack he yanks out two torches and plunges them into the brazier a few feet from the doorways; snatching up one for himself and then turning away to march off into the night.
          • All that messing about with your pack has left its contents scattered on the path. Some rope, spare torches, pitons, and rations. Better get it all together before following after him.
          • He's had way too much to be tromping off like that. Better go now and pull him out of whatever ditch he stumbles into.
          • Woah, you're not as sure on your feet than usual. There is a patrol nearby, better get some help first before going after him.
          • Onward! Grab that torch and march off after him!
          • Something Else?
          Last edited by Elkovash; 03-13-2017, 03:14 PM. Reason: Note to self: do not trust the Preview post option...

          My Homebrew: Architect of the Regal Puppet Style (WIP) || Monkey Style || Radiant Halo of Incandescent Might || Pale Driver, Ruination of the Edifice of Tyranny || Sublime Percussion, Just a Whole lot of Fun || Idris, The Graceful Heart of Purpose


          • #6
            Onward! What's the worst that can happen???? (hahahahah)


            • #7
              Onward. (I have regrets....)

              On the frontier of the Wild South, there's only one woman with the grit to take on its most dangerous outlaws and bring them Back Alive, or Maybe Dead.

              Avatar by K.S. Brenowitz


              • #8
                ((Apologies for the late post, I meant to have this up yesterday but the kidlets needed more attention than I had to devote to writing it out. - also the drunk text is an experiment, not something I've done before. tried not to overdo it.))

                Pushing through the haze of mead, you grab hold of the last torch and pluck it free of the brazier. With determination steeling your steps, it is easy to tromp through the crusty grasses after Kess. Your brother managing to remain a few dozen feet ahead for the whole trip.

                The march takes you out the eastern quarter and through the residences of the keep. Not many others are out during the darkening hour, most either in their homes ready for sleep or attending one of the mead halls. The chill in the air makes your breath hang heavy and misty before your face, but the light of Kess’ torch punches onwards through the night and lights your way as much as his.

                Exiting the keeps eastern gate brings you out into the grasslands. The land surrounding the keep has been built up under the command of the Dynasts so the first few minutes is spent on steady, paved ground; however, Kess soon veers off to the north and cuts off the road, clambering up the rock with one hand holding out his torch. This is where you gain ground on him, effortlessly skipping up the sundered slate to come to rest beside him. The exertion lurches your stomach and a daze takes you as the contents of your gut slosh from side to side and your head seems to mirror the motion, sending you toppling sideways for a few staggered steps. Kess grabs you by the hand and steadies you. You both lean on each other a few moments, getting your swimming perceptions to settle before moving on.

                The cave he is leading you towards is another half-candle away. It occurs to you that had you come here first you definitely would have been gone longer than the hour promised. The cave’s entrance is half-concealed in the rock face and provides an alternative entrance into the caverns than the road paved by the imperials. Its surface is carpeted with moss the air coming from within is damp and earthy. A trickle of water can be heard slapping against a rocky pathway somewhere deeper within as it echoes throughout the twisting pathways.

                “Ish an
                ol’ mine escape shhh… ting.” Kess explains, “Back when they thaw they could get iron from the Creshwall. Iss been closed. Years. But I've ben comin’ out. To open.”

                “No one

                “No!” He declares, a little too satisfied with himself. You had no idea he'd been out here doing this and that fact seemed to fuel his exuberance in the matter.


                Defin’ly not.” He slurs, almost breaking out in laughter.

                “Sounds fun.”

                “I ‘
                avn’t been inshide yet.” He pushes his torch forwards to light the interior, then gestures you over. “Tha’sh what you're for.”

                Sounss less fun.”

                “Oh come on. Big, brave… big… can handle herself.”

                Losing a battle against the
                eyeroll, your head is sent spinning again for a moment.

                “Ya’ shaw. Le's do this an’ get. Don't wanna break nothin’.”

                Pressing onward, you keep one hand against the cave wall to steady yourself. The damp in the cave is pervasive and the walls and ground are slick with it. The outer fringes are frosted slightly but you are numb to the cold by now.

                Deeper inside, the cave splits off in different directions and Kess is absolutely certain which way to go. It is by the third (or was it fourth?) split in the passageway that you start to get the nagging feeling that he shouldn't have been quite so certain.

                “You know
                w’ish way yer goin’?” The words slip out before you can stop them, irritation starting to boil under the surface.

                “Yeah.” Comes his simple reply, gesturing over to the left-hand passage. “Jus’ get the gear out of your pack and we can climb down.”

                “Kess…” you start, not quite sure how to tell him.

                “We jus’ need the rope and a

                “You pulled all the shit outta my pack back there!” The lift in volume sends your voice bouncing about the walls and repeating a dozen times back as the echoes travel out from the small chamber.

                “Sshhhhhhhhhhh…” he fumbles with his torch and almost smacks you in the face with it, instead deciding to use his other hand to press up against your mouth. It wasn't clean, he'd been using the wall as a prop just like you. “Shhhhhhhh…”

                You mumble a protest around his hand but only succeed in working more of the slimy dirt into your mouth forcing you to pull away wipe at it with your sleeve, spitting out whatever else you can manage.

                Toooo much noise.” Kess continues, “rocks falling. Bad.”

                Now that the two of you aren't tromping around, breathing heavy and nattering at each other, the sounds of the cave rush in all at once. To the left, where Kess was wanting to go, you can hear a rush of water passing through the cavern. To the right, an ominous, lethargic sigh of air you can feel gently wafting past your face in long bursts. Behind, well that was the path you had come and it was quiet back that way in comparison, though you swear you can hear the trickle of slower water like you remember from just before entering the cave.

                Kess seems to have lost most of his gusto and the effects of the drink are sinking deeper into his bones. The haze is still strong in you, but you can push through. You're sure of it.
                • Kess was leading and he said left. You've come this far and he's bound to have more equipment in his pack too. Better make the most of it.
                • Air means escape, right? You're sure you'd read that somewhere or Kess had probably told you or… Something. No need to worry, it's surely a way out.
                • Screw this for a joke. You’re tired, a little hungry, going back the way you came shouldn't be hard and you might even make it to Sara’s before she threw everyone out.
                • You've read books. Your dad said there were animals in the caves. Best be prepared and ready your weapon (what was it again?).
                • Something Else?

                My Homebrew: Architect of the Regal Puppet Style (WIP) || Monkey Style || Radiant Halo of Incandescent Might || Pale Driver, Ruination of the Edifice of Tyranny || Sublime Percussion, Just a Whole lot of Fun || Idris, The Graceful Heart of Purpose


                • #9
                  Better follow Kess, make sure he doesn't die.

                  (Never go spelunking alone, kids. The buddy system saves lives!)

                  On the frontier of the Wild South, there's only one woman with the grit to take on its most dangerous outlaws and bring them Back Alive, or Maybe Dead.

                  Avatar by K.S. Brenowitz


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by semicasual View Post
                    Better follow Kess, make sure he doesn't die.

                    (Never go spelunking alone, kids. The buddy system saves lives!)

                    Agreed. When they all goes to hell in a handbasket we know who to blame!


                    • #11
                      ((Apologies again everyone, family business has sapped my spare time and energy. I'll be getting something up tomorrow hopefully.))

                      My Homebrew: Architect of the Regal Puppet Style (WIP) || Monkey Style || Radiant Halo of Incandescent Might || Pale Driver, Ruination of the Edifice of Tyranny || Sublime Percussion, Just a Whole lot of Fun || Idris, The Graceful Heart of Purpose


                      • #12
                        You make a few gestures at Kess to get him to hurry along where he was leading to. He beams. Whether because you were still committed or because you took the advice to make less noise, you aren't sure - but it makes you smile back at him too. Soon the two of you are caught up in a fit of stifled laughter as you clumsily pick through his travel pack and better equip yourselves for the climb ahead.

                        The passage he leads you down ends abruptly. It looked like the cave had fallen in, a large pile of rocks of debris blocking the way; however, light wafts down from above like a curtain, specks of dust highlighted in the gloom like fragments of magic floating through the air. Kess points upwards and explains that the chamber he was seeking was not part of the mine. It had been revealed to the quartermaster at the time as they attempted to collapse different parts of the tunnels to seal them off. Both to stop vagrants and enemies using them as a hideout from which to strike-

                        “And shtop young’uns like uss.” You finish his sentence for him.

                        “Yeah!” He seemed even more excited now, the closer you got to this mysterious ruin the more energy seemed to course through him.

                        You slump back onto a rock near the collapse and watch as Kess carefully picks his way up the stones, finding a solid piece of rock and hammering a piton into it. From your vantage you can see a few have already been prepared. It looked like he had been here already and was just finishing off what he had already started. Aww, but he wanted you here with him when he made his final discovery. That was cute.

                        “Come on, Perrin.”

                        Yup that was your cue. Pushing yourself to standing the haze of drunkenness slumps forwards and threatens to take you with it, but a flex of will and a determined scream of effort and you plant your foot down hard, using the momentum to carry you forwards with grounded feet. Every hand against the cool rock that doesn't slip away is a momentous victory, every piton that takes the weight of your foot then body that doesn't crack stone or yank itself free a jubilant celebration.

                        The climb itself isn't very long upwards, but picking your way through the path Kess had laid out spirals around the hole left by the collapse and as the strong sense of music bursts from your mind with a swelling crescendo your body hits the hard stone surface of the chamber above. It is not as cold up here as it had been in the passages below and the sudden embracing warmth threatens to send your lulling mind into slumber. You don't have time, though. Kess grabs hold of your hand and yank you up to standing.

                        “Great Dragons, Perrin do you have any idea what this is?”

                        You have a hard time squinting through the haze to see much more than the large, round room you had climbed into. The source of light had not been the sky but instead a large dome at the center of the chamber above you, illuminating everything with a soft, blue wash. The walls around you covered in carvings within carvings; the whole space could have been one image composed of a few smaller images composed of smaller images still and so on down to something the size of your palm. It would have been difficult to make heads or tails of it even when fully cognizant so you don't bother trying to take it all in, instead just letting out a polite whistle of wonder so Kess could keep on explaining everything and work through his excitement.

                        At some point you realize that your mind had wandered and dozed off. Kess hadn't seemed to realize though, through the haze you were vaguely aware of his constant chatter. It begins to dawn on you that the mead was exacting a heavy toll on you but Kess seemed to have just pushed through the worst of it. You gaze at him in wonder as he inspects yet another crevice of the large chamber. Skipping from piece to piece in an almost frantic pace before finding something to focus on and smolder over for a long minute before moving on to the next.

                        Somehow he looked like he was standing on the wall looking down at the ground, but that didn't make any sense… Wiping at the dry, sticky feeling on your cheek you find your hand coming away with drool. You must have nodded off. No idea how long it had been but long enough for the headache to start settling in.

                        “Okay Kess…” you manage to croak out, “I think it's time we went back.” He doesn't seem to acknowledge you, still rubbing his hands over the latest carving to capture his attention. “Kess…” you try again, finally picking yourself up off the ground where you had slumped over. “Kess we have to go…”

                        The torches discarded on the ground had long since burned out. Your body feels leaden. Your -bones crack at each movement and your muscles scream at you at each stretch.

                        “Kess.” You manage to sound a bit more insistent. He finally stops what he was doing and turns back to look at you.

                        “Oh, Perrin, you're awake. Sorry I got a little caught up in my studies, I figured I'd just let you sleep it all off.”

                        Somewhere inside you feel a seething annoyance and it pushes your body forwards, each trembling step finding a hint more purpose than the last. Your lift your hand to point at him defiantly but the motion draws your attention up even further. Somehow, through the shadows and darkness a massive shape had come to loom over Kess. The sinuous body of a serpent but swathed in long emerald feathers and the flat, beaked face of an owl. Several pairs of clawed talons line its belly and a pair of wings sprouts out from its sides, unfolding like one would spread the sides of their jacket before disrobing.

                        • Kess hasn't seen it. Scream out a warning and make for the hole in the floor to escape.
                        • You still have your weapon by your side (what was it again?). Maybe you can fend it off and buy Kess time to prepare. You can take it down together.
                        • This thing is clearly no animal. You've heard stories of spirits and demons taking all manner of horrid and strange form. Maybe it can be reasoned with?
                        • Something else?

                        My Homebrew: Architect of the Regal Puppet Style (WIP) || Monkey Style || Radiant Halo of Incandescent Might || Pale Driver, Ruination of the Edifice of Tyranny || Sublime Percussion, Just a Whole lot of Fun || Idris, The Graceful Heart of Purpose


                        • #13
                          Attack it!

                          (We're drunk, reckless, and our brother is in danger! Ooh-rah!)

                          On the frontier of the Wild South, there's only one woman with the grit to take on its most dangerous outlaws and bring them Back Alive, or Maybe Dead.

                          Avatar by K.S. Brenowitz


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by semicasual View Post
                            Attack it!

                            (We're drunk, reckless, and our brother is in danger! Ooh-rah!)

                            Seconded! Though I feel like I'm being so much more reckless than I ever would with my own character.