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From Out of a Dream [Quest]

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  • “[Make Of Iron welcome, and make ready for a feast,]” you answer to First. “[We have much to celebrate.]” You know the words are true as you speak them – by any account, the past few weeks have been very successful – but you are still uneasy. The feeling is similar to the twinge you get when you know you are being watched. Part of you expects to be attacked, but you cannot see any immediate danger. You spend the time before the feast brooding in your hut.

    All the reserves are pulled out for the feast. Meat, produce, bread, and liquor flow in abundance. The Sunblessed, mothers, and guests congregate in the middle of the village around several large fires. They eat, drink, talk, and dance while the sun sets. Twilight and firelight color everything red-orange, Of Iron is sat a little apart from the others, given space to watch the revelry.

    You join the party late and sit down next to Of Iron. The old chief is scanning the area as you approach, but when you come near he stands up to greet you. “[Youngest Joy… I am honored by your presence,]” he says with feeling.

    “[It is our honor to welcome you,]” you recite back. “[Do you want for anything?]”

    “[No, no… thank you…]” he trails off and starts looking around again. “[…this is… a remarkable community you have made. I have never seen the like before.]”

    “[It is the home I wished to have,]” you reply1. Of Iron nods like he understands, but you wonder if he really knows what you meant. If your dreams were a seed, then this place is what sprouted from them. By your will and from your power, you have started to make an idea into a reality.

    The two of you sit down, take some food, and watch the party together for a while. Of Iron stays silent, probably waiting to speak first. You also stay silent, because you do not have anything to say. Of Iron cracks first.

    “[I heard a rumor that an old friend of mine passed through here…]” he begins, and then pauses to study your face.

    “[Grim Hammer? He has been about,]” you grumble. “[The fool tests my patience, skulking around the mothers’ house when I am not here. If he is any friend of yours, you should counsel him to stay away.]” You tear off some meat with your teeth and chew it aggressively.

    Of Iron looks surprised. “[I have not seen Grim Hammer in weeks. He left the camp not long after… well, after you brought our clan folk here. I was speaking of Silver Sky.]”

    “Hmm.” You finish chewing and swallow. “[The old shaman looked after one of my sons for a while, but he left yesterday. I do not know where he went or when he will be back.]”

    “Ah,” responds Of Iron, crestfallen. He looks away from you to accept a jug and some bowls from one of your children. “[That does sound like him. Silver Sky always kept his own counsel.]”

    You take a bowl yourself and pour yourself some kumis from the jug. A sip, and then a long drink, puts a smile on your face. “[Well, forget him. This night is for us!]” You stand up and shout the last part, raising a hand (and a jug) for silence. After a few moments, the noise of the celebration dies down as everyone turns to look at you.

    “[Children, guests… this night is for us!]” you repeat. There is a brief cheer before you speak again. “[We have fulfilled our pact and proves ourselves in the hunt. We have come through another year rich, successful, and strong. Most importantly, we have made friends.]”

    You wave and gesture at Of Iron, urging him to join you. After a slight pause, the Wanderers’ chief stands up beside you and raises his bowl. “[May we grow ever more prosperous together,]” he intones. “[To good health!]” Everyone drinks, and the evening goes on.

    1
    Well, almost. It’s missing some things you haven’t made yet and some things you can never get back. But for now, it’s everything you want.


    When the fires have died down and you have had your fill, you slowly make your way back to your hut. Of Iron left sometime before, saying he was tired.2 The other Sunblessed have dispersed, ready to sleep off the festivities. A half-moon and a clear night means there is more than enough light for you to see.

    You pass the mothers’ house and turn, then chuckle to yourself when you realize you are going the wrong way. You start to turn again, but pause when you notice a couple of silhouettes moving ahead of you. You squint to see better, and your vision sharpens.

    It is a man – Dark Earth, you can tell by the shoulders3 – and a woman you do not recognize immediately. She is close to him in height and breadth. She does not have the braids common to the Sunblessed. Of Iron only brought a few men with him. Finally the pieces come together in your head and you realize she must be one of the mothers. What is her name...?

    They are walking very close together, heading away from the village towards the woods. Dark Earth reaches towards her, and she dances away. She is holding a jug over her head and giggling. He comes closer, makes to reach up for the jug, then suddenly throws his hand in another direction and starts tickling under her breasts. She squeals and drops her arms, then giggles again and pulls him to her. They wrap around each other and start to kiss.

    • Interrupt them.
    • Leave them alone.
    • Something else?
    2
    Pfft. Lightweight.

    3
    Your sixty-fifth. Seemed to take pride in showing that he could lift and carry more than others.
    Last edited by semicasual; 01-22-2016, 11:04 AM.


    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.

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    • Interrupt them. We don't want any of the Sunblessed to be confronted by an angry husbands.

      (My first thought was "Leave them alone", but we have been drinking and might act rash. )



      I write things.

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      • Probably best to leave them alone, if we're thinking clearly. What happens with the Sunblessed, stays with the Sunblessed. It's nice that our children are happy, and we do want closer ties with the Wanderers...

        Of course, if we're tipsy enough to be impaired, then come up and congratulate them!

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        • Leave them alone. This was inevitable, and the Sunblessed learn from the Wanderers. All kinds of things.


          Like my Avatar? Courtesy of Jen! : Anybody want their characters to be experimented on ? post 98
          An Exalt is never unarmed.

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          • (I'm waiting for another vote or two before I write the next bit. But first, a warning - I'm starting a new job next week. I don't think it'll affect my schedule - 1 post a week should still be manageable. But if it seems like I'm slipping, you now know why.)


            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

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            • (Congrats on the new job! )


              I write things.

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              • Kill Grim Hammer. That's how this will end anyway.

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                • You close your eyes and turn away, ignoring the sounds. There is really nothing to be concerned about, if this was your concern at all. Both seem willing. What harm could it do? More mingling is probably for the good of the clan… both of them. That is what you tell yourself to quell the pangs of jealousy and frustration that prod at you1. It takes some concentration to overcome your mixed feelings and find your way back to the hut. When you finally arrive you walk inside, shut the door, and collapse into a dreamless sleep.
                  1
                  Probably no Sunblessed or Wanderer would dare say no to you if you asked. That doesn’t make them more desirable.




                  Time passes, seasons turn. The groundwork you laid in the previous months starts to bear fruit. Wanderers visit more frequently. The women in the mothers’ house further integrate into your clan, and the bonds between your clans strengthen with little effort on your part. Most of the work is done by your own children and, more importantly, your children’s children, who give everyone something in common to care for.

                  These are the thoughts you think while you stab Cleaver into the dirt, then jerk it free and leap back.

                  It is a cool morning, and you do not expect an eventful day. You are at your training grounds, drilling, working up a sweat. With all the rocks ground down to pebbles, you have fallen back on your old routine of chopping and swinging at nothing.

                  You make a sideways slash, then abruptly pull back into a block against an imaginary foe. Then you slash and block again. And again.

                  It is a decent workout – maybe not one that will make you any stronger, but it keeps you fit. More importantly, the ritual keeps you relaxed when there is nothing else to do. Flowing into the motions, thinking of nothing around you except the ground beneath your feet, is almost like meditating.

                  You spin Cleaver around you with strong, steady swings. One circuit, two, three…

                  “[Father!]”

                  You spin around a fourth time and stop your sword just shy of chopping off First’s nose. She does not even flinch, as if she knew you would not hit her. You lower Cleaver and let out an exasperated sigh.
                  “[First, I remember telling you not to bother me at practice if it was not an emergency,]” you growl, upset at having your concentration broken. “[Is it?]”

                  “[It is an emergency!]” cries First, her answer interrupting your question. “[A giant serpent has come out of the third well! Come quickly!]”

                  There is a brief pause. Then, before you really know what you are doing, you are sprinting back to the village with sword in hand.

                  As it turns out, the “serpent” is actually some kind of eel – dark purple, with bright aquamarine fins. About twenty feet of its body curves up and out of the well, nearly as wide as the well itself2. Water drips off its body, splashing the dirt as the eel turns this way and that, as if looking for something with its lidless black eyes. Every few seconds, it makes some kind of gurgling hiss. You are able to take in this much before you start pushing into the crowd.

                  The Sunblessed have surrounded the well. The mothers stay in the back, full of dread and awe. The Sunblessed press in closer. Those closest to the eel have armed themselves with spears formed a defensive circle around the beast a little way out of its reach. Steel Warrior is in the front – he steps forward with his spear raised, but the eel stretches toward him and snaps its enormous jaws. Steel Warrior steps back. You are able to take in that much before you shove your way into the middle.

                  Then, surprisingly, the eel speaks. Its voice is deep and phlegmy. “SHO WA NO, NERGÜI!” calls the creature as it looks around again, twisting sinuously. “JU GO SEE NO KA GORA SÜGAKA, KONO WA SEE LO.” Then it makes that gurgling noise again and waggles its fins.

                  As it turns, it briefly bares its back to you. The Sunblessed have noticed your arrival and are looking to you for a signal.
                  • Have everyone charge. It’s big, but as long as it’s in the well it can’t avoid any attack. Twenty or so spears to the…neck?... should put paid to this beast.
                  • Attack alone. Those teeth could bite a man in half. Better not risk it – you’ll take it on yourself.
                  • Try to talk to it. It can talk, apparently, if not in a language you understand. Might as well see what it wants.
                  • Tell everyone to keep away from it. It’s not going anywhere, for now… maybe you should just leave it alone. There are other wells.
                  • Something else?
                  2
                  You dug the well deep, but not that deep. How any eel, let alone one that big, could get in there is beyond you.



                  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

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                  • Try to talk to it.

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                    • We may need to find a shaman...try to talk to it and keep everyone away, if we aren't able to communicate with it we should send someone to ask the wanderers to send a shaman (we could really use Silver Sky right now)

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                      • Try to talk to it. It can talk, apparently, if not in a language you understand. Might as well see what it wants.

                        It asked (in Godtalk?) for Nergui; sounds like a job for Super, er, No-Man!


                        Like my Avatar? Courtesy of Jen! : Anybody want their characters to be experimented on ? post 98
                        An Exalt is never unarmed.

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                        • (Next time we see Silver Sky, we need to see if he can stick around long enough to learn the God's Tongue)

                          Tell everyone to keep away from it. Once everyone is safely away, try to talk to it.


                          I write things.

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                          • Try to talk to it. It asked for us by name (well, by a name we used to use anyway) and if it wanted to cause harm it would have done so already. Also, that gesture it made could have been one of submission. It is a spirit of some kind, and we should find out why it is here.


                            Share your wonders in The Artifact and Evocation Workshop

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                            • Tell everyone to keep their distance, then try to talk. If it doesn't speak anything comprehensible, send somebody to the Wanderers on a swift horse and ask for Silver Sky.

                              Not that killing anything and everything that threatens the Sunblessed is out of the question, but it probably is a spirit (how could a mere beast get in the well?). If it is one, and Silver Sky says the spirits are already upset about us or something, maybe we don't want to antagonize as long as it doesn't attack.


                              I am extremely literal-minded and always write very literally. If I don't say something explicitly, please never assume I implied it. The only exception is if I try to joke.
                              Exalted name-generators, Infernal and 1E-2.5E homebrew from many authors

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                              • "[Everyone, keep back!]" you bark, gently pushing the nearest people behind you. You repeat these words several times until the throng starts to get the message and clears more space for you. They do not go far - most only go back about twenty steps, still peering over each other's shoulders. Steel Warrior will not go more than ten steps away, even when you try to stare him down. The eel watches the scene in silence.

                                You take a few steps forward, resting Cleaver on your shoulder. "[What do you want, beast?]"

                                If the eel takes offense at your tone, you cannot tell. "ESU WO LA NERGÜI?"

                                "[I was called No Name]."

                                The eel leans down toward you, bending and stretching until its enormous head is on level with yours. It is close enough that you can smell brackish water and algae. The creature seems to be studying you. With no facial ques that you recognize, you can only fall back on your usual strategy of silently glaring at the eel and watching what it does.

                                Finally, the eel pulls away from you, drawing itself up. Then it bends its head down, as if in a bow. "SONNO NERGüI, HAI JO SOBA LI SO NARO HOM NA," it intones, almost sonorously. "SÜGAKA YEN JA LO, HAN JOSO YA BIN FA WA HA YIN RESA TO." Then it makes a thick, wet, choking sort of noise, and its upper neck starts heaving. It lowers its head all the way to the ground, opens its mouth and you hear something softly fall onto the dirt. When the eel raises its head again you see that it has apparently vomited up a pearl the size of your fist. It gurgles briefly, and then resumes talking like nothing unusual happened. "WI FA HANO SUYA SÜGAKA, ANWI FA HANO SUYA ONKO SA TO."

                                With that, the eel straightens its body, stretching towards the sky, and then sinks down into the well. After its head passes the lip of the well, there a noise like a waterfall rolling off a ledge. Then there is nothing to hear except the whispers and mutterings from the Sunblessed.

                                Keeping a tight grip on your sword, you walk up to the well and look over the lip. Below, you can only see darkness. Even when you squint and concentrate, you cannot detect anything moving down there. With a grumble, you turn your attention to the pearl. It is a very nice pearl, despite the stink of salt and fish on it, reflecting a rainbow where the sun hits it.

                                "[Father, what was that?]" asks Steel Warrior, stepping to your side. His tone is faintly accusatory.

                                "[I know not,]" you answer, honestly. "[It would seem to be a spirit, come to deliver a gift, but I know not from whom, or why.]"

                                Steel Warrior purses his lips. "[...Is it safe to draw from the well?]"

                                You do not really know the answer to that either, but you decide to go with your instincts. "[Yes, you may draw from this well. If the water smells or tastes strange, let me know at once.]"

                                With the excitement apparently over, everyone goes back to their work.

                                The peace does not last. Later that same day, Fire Heart comes to you and tells you that he found the remains of a ruined caravan while he was out riding - broken carts, dead people and animals. The caravan had probably been attacked that morning, if the state of the bodies was anything to go by.

                                You go back out with Fire Heart to have a look yourself. A feeling of dread grows within you for every minute you spend riding south. Your fears prove to be more than justified.

                                A gentle grassy slope eases down onto a muddy battlefield. Tracks of carts, horses, and people on foot terminate in a bloody ruin. This was definitely from a fight - the blood on the ground, the broken spear sticking up from a man's back, and the wide scattering of corpses and wreckage suggest an ambush that these travelers were not prepared for. Most surprisingly, the corpse of a giant hairy beast lies on its side, having crushed a cart beneath its body as it fell. Hapless people and smaller pack animals have been stomped flat all around it.

                                "[What an enormous creature!]" exclaims Fire Heart, apparently unaffected by the carnage. "[How many fighters do you think it took to bring it down?]"

                                "[It is called a yeddim, and perhaps only one,]" you answer, looking over the scene. The surprising lack of wounds on the great beast reminds you of something. "[There is a poison you can make from razor-root that can drive a yeddim mad. The creature will rage out of control until its heart gives out. I have seen it before.]"1

                                "[I see... Hmm. So, then, a small group could surprise the yeddim, and then kill anyone who survived the yeddim's frenzy...]"

                                "[Yes, son. I believe that is what happened...]" you trail off as you look around some more. There are, perhaps, forty-something dead bodies around - too large a group for most bandits, unless they did take advantage of the mad yeddim trick. And there are not enough carts, broken or intact, for so many people. Tracks leading away from the fight prove what you suspect - whoever attacked this caravan stole whatever was left when the killing stopped.

                                An overturned wooden carriage lies at the edge of the field. You passed it once already while you were scanning the area, but on the second pass you hear something knocking against the inside. Fire Heart hears it too, and when you look to him to give a command you find he is already dismounting from his horse. He approaches the carriage and climbs onto the "top" while you ride a little closer, carefully drawing Cleaver.

                                Fire Heart hunches over the carriage door, then seizes the handle with both hands and pulls up. At first, the door opens easily, but then there is a cry of alarm from inside the carriage. A fat hand reaches up to grab the door from the other side and pull it shut again. Fire Heart, not to be outdone, hauls back on the door and leans back, letting his weight do the pulling.

                                "Leave us alone, you bastards!" screams a shrill voice, presumable the owner of the hand. "You've taken everything! Leave us be! Yah!" The hand lets go of the door, and Fire Heart only just manages not to fall over as he pries the door completely open. You stand up in your saddle to look into the carriage.

                                Two fat people huddle together inside the carriage - Kun and Ling, their fine clothes stained with sweat and, going by the smell, urine. They look back at you, eyes wide. "Come to finish us, have you? Damn you and all your kin!" spits Ling, standing up. Kun, saying nothing, unsuccessfully tries to pull her back down.

                                "I didn't come here for you," you reply, trying to keep your voice level. "Who attacked you?"

                                Ling splutters indignantly, but Kun speaks up over her. "Masked men on horseback, with bows. Weren't they yours?"

                                "No. How many?"

                                "You should know!" snaps Ling. "These are your lands! You mean to tell me that they weren't your people?"

                                You squeeze Cleaver's hilt, then let out a breath and slide the sword back into its sheath, "I said no. Again, how many were there?"

                                Ling fumes silently. Kun speaks up again. "I don't know. The yeddim tossed the carriage over, and after that I couldn't see anything. We just... hid." His words are thick with regret.

                                "Hmm." You gesture for Fire Heart to get off the carriage and start to ride away as he is climbing down.

                                You do not get far before Ling calls after you. "WAIT!" The large woman awkwardly hauls herself out of the carriage while you hold up. "You can't leave us like this! I demand restitution!" She is all the way out and halfway down the side of the vehicle when she freezes, seeming to notice the battle-scarred scene around her for the first time.

                                You snort and turn about, walking your mount up to where Ling stands. You glare down at her while she stares past you, her mind elsewhere. "You demand what!?"

                                Ling shakes her head, recovering herself, and looks back up at you. "Restitution! Our business is ruined! Our caravan destroyed! Our people..." she chokes, unable to finish.

                                "[Father, what is she saying?]" asks Fire Heart, who by now has remounted and rejoined you.

                                You set your jaw, thinking.
                                • "[She says nothing of importance. Let us go.]" You're not paying any restitution. Just leave them here and focus on punishing whoever attacked your trading partners on your turf.
                                • "[We owe her something.]" You can really lose face from something like this. If the traders don't trust you to look out for them, they'll never come back.
                                • "...[Kill them both.]" It would cost you less to get rid of the survivors. Word of this cannot reach back south.
                                • Something else?
                                1
                                ...but not for years and years.



                                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

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