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From Out of a Dream [Quest]

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  • Originally posted by WarDragon View Post
    Thorough search, thorough search!





    I write things.

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    • Camp inside, make a thorough search. There might be something useful or valuable inside, and since you're already here...
      That it is an obvious place to stop for shelter, it is a good place for a(nother) ambuscade.


      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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      • You dismount and hurry into the shelter of the tunnel, pulling your horse along with you. The wind picks up outside just as you come inside. You take off your mare's saddle and pat her down, to the accompaniment of whistling wind and rustling grasses. You make a token attempt to lead her further inside, but she resists your pull. Finally you decide to just leave her where she is while you go deeper in.
        The tunnel leads into a small chamber that is mostly rubble. At one time there might have been carvings on the walls and statues in the corners, but it looks like someone took some effort to deface everything. What remains is broken bits of stone crunching under your boots.

        A few slabs of stone lean against the wall on the far side of the room. On closer inspection, these slabs are blocking a doorway. You take hold of one slab and brace yourself against the wall to push. The slab lands on the floor with a thunderous crash, leaving behind a space small for you to worm your way through. As soon as you stick your your head into the gap, a foul-smelling wind blows through from the other side. It seems that there are stairs beyond, leading further down.

        You go deeper. At the bottom of the stairs is a wide hallway with several branches. The walls in this area are more intact, and covered with odd geometric shapes. When you touch them, you feel a buzzing sensation in your fingers. The outline of the shape briefly flickers, leaving bright afterimages against your eyes, but unlike the lights outside these. The floor has a thick layer of dust on it. A feet steps in, you hear a dry cracking sound, and look down to find that your foot has broken some ancient bones. The tiny noise seems to echo forever in the dark, empty halls.

        Something flickers on the edge of your vision. You look up to see a bulky armored figure charging at you, waving a a pair of hand axes. Instinct takes hold - you step back and draw Cleaver, shifting instantly into a defensive stance. The figure rushes straight at you without slowing, unguarded. You raise Cleaver slightly and chop down, figuring to stave in their helmet. The blade passes through the armored head without meeting any resistance. In the next instant, the warrior is right in front of your face. The instant after that, you feel a terrible chill run down your spine and the warrior is gone.

        You look around, only then realizing that you cannot hear any footsteps. The warrior is now behind you, running away, only to come to a sudden stop in front of another figure you did not see before. This one would seem to be a man, judging by the beard poking out from under the leathery mask he wears. He hops from one foot to the other in a snug vest and short pants, passing a knife from hand to hand. The axe-wielder swipes him with both weapons. The knife-bearer dances to one side, as quick as a blink, and lunges at the armored figure. The knife pushes up and underneath the bulky helmet. Then both figures vanish without a sound or trace.

        There is another chill. The darkness and silence feel... heavy somehow.
        • Press on. They're not ghosts, just echoes. They can't hurt you. They didn't even notice you. No reason to turn back now.
        • Head back up and camp. You've got a bad feeling about this. Also, you just realized you're hungry.
        • Leave the ruin and camp outside. Old magic and dead things. You don't want to be anywhere near them.
        • Something else?


        (As a sidenote, Kat Brenowitz produced another fine piece! I think it's one of her best. Our hero, traveling through a crowd. This will be the header-piece for the chapter.)




        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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        • Press on! What kind of Chosen of the Sun would we be if we let a little light show - or indeed, actual ghosts - scare us off?

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          • Do we know of a way to put the dead to rest?


            I write things.

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            • Originally posted by wonderandawe View Post
              Do we know of a way to put the dead to rest?
              Sort of. Little-known fact about ghosts - they have hearts, and if you can see them you can hit them. Tapping your Blessing lets you see - and swing - that special way. That's how you can kill things that are already dead, but you don't know what happens to creatures that die when they're off the Wheel. You try not to think about it.

              These aren't ghosts though - these are echoes. They tend to show up in places where there's been a lot of killing and the sun never shines. The last time you remember some was at... Paradise Valley. There was that mass grave in some cave under the town. That was a grim job - bad enough that you remember it well even though you weren't sober for a minute of it.


              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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              • If they aren't really the dead, let's press on.


                I write things.

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                • Head back up and camp. The tower of thousand horse chief, or whatever, was a pain, and then you were getting paid.

                  Unless you think this is a shortcut to the Dead Gods, who cares?


                  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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                  • You shake off the chill and press on.

                    Room by room, you search the tomb - and a tomb it is now, if that is not what it always was. Every room is full of human bones - some lying on broken stone beds, some scattered on the floor. One room just has an enormous heap of them piled in a corner, like someone made a halfhearted attempt to tidy up. The air is still and oddly dry.

                    Every so often you see more echoes - warriors fighting each other, or chasing unarmed people and cutting them down. The room with the bone pile periodically flickers with the sight of at least a dozen men and women who simultaneously drink from cups and then begin to convulse. They do not react to your presence, if they are aware of you at all.

                    Many of these echoes are dressed in finery or carry what look like fine weapons, but you find nothing valuable anywhere you look.1 Even the walls and ceiling look like they have been stripped bare of whatever decorations were embedded in them. Gouges are chiseled into the stone everywhere.

                    You are about ready to quit when you enter one last chamber. There is a wide, deep crevice in middle of the floor here - almost like someone tried to split the room in half with a hammer. Even with your eyes, the bottom is difficult to see. The rest of the chamber is mostly featureless. Traces of whatever furnishings or creatures once occupied this place are dust, now. You make a quick sweep to confirm what you already suspect - there is nothing here, just like there was nothing in every other part of this ruin.

                    You start to head out of the room, muttering curses. Then another phantasm catches your eye - two echoes, fighting. One is the bearded, masked character you saw before. The other is a woman with short hair, robed, limping, carrying a pair of short swords. She rushes at the bearded man, who meets her charge with a thrust. The woman is run through but keeps pushing, piercing into the man's chest with both of her own swords. He falls and she falls with him, both tumbling into the crevice.

                    Curious, you look into the crevice again, assessing its depth and its sides. You swing your legs over the edge and slide-fall down about twenty or thirty feet before you come to a stop. The walls of the crevice are getting too close together for you to go and further, and you have braced yourself between them to avoid becoming stuck. From this angle, you can make out a few things that were not visible from the top - more bones, and something else.

                    Carefully, you edge along and turn yourself over so you can reach a hand down and rummage through the remains. You find a few bits of something metallic, too old and rusted to identify... and a sword, made of something smooth and hard that is not iron or steel. After feeling around a little more you find another. Satisfied, you stick both swords into your belt, turn yourself upright again, and begin climbing out. With a little scrabbling and a few good jumps, you pull yourself out of the crevice.

                    Once free, you pull the swords out and start examining them more carefully. They are definitely short swords, and time has not dulled their edges. It is no metal you know. If anything, they feel more like polished stone. But they are lighter than you would expect for a weapon made of solid rock or crystal. You put them away, resolving to go over them again when you have some light to judge them by2, and begin walking back to the entrance

                    You are halfway there when you start to hear the mare baying. You walk a little faster.

                    1
                    Not surprising - ruins close to roads are almost always picked clean. Sometimes they're torn to pieces by builders stealing materials.


                    2
                    Sight without light takes some getting used to - you can see moving things perfectly and make out textures fairly well, but color you can only guess at.





                    The fading noise of clattering hooves tells you what to expect well before you arrive at the entry hall. Your saddle and supplies are on the floor where you left them, but the horse is gone. Something must have startled her. You let out a half-sigh, half-growl and rummage through your bags for food. Armed with a bit of dried meat and your usual armament, you head outside.

                    It has gotten very dark out. The strong winds from earlier have completely stopped. You trudge through the dull grass among the fallen stones, listening, watching, and occasionally chewing.

                    About fifty steps away from the tomb, you realize that where you are now barely resembles what you remember of the country you came from. The trees are all dead, the hills are flatter, and the glowing road you came through on is gone. Also, you hear the gentle lapping of water, and when you come to the crest of a hill you see its source. Instead of the plateau cliffside you would have expected to see, there is a long slope leading down to the edge of a vast, dark lake. The water is as dark as the night, and you cannot see the far side. Looking up, you realize that the sky is not overcast, but there is neither moon nor stars.

                    You cram the rest of the jerky in your mouth and consider your next action.
                    • Find your horse. That comes first. You can't have your ride wandering around in a strange country alone.
                    • Go back into the tomb and wait for dawn. Something is clearly wrong. You should camp now and investigate properly in daylight.
                    • Explore further. Where is this? Some kind of island?
                    • Something else?




                    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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                    • (Reminder to self: Thou shall not Metagame.)

                      Let's find the horse.


                      I write things.

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                      • Do we need swords when we have Righty and Lefty? Oh, well, can always sell the lesser pair.

                        For now, look for the horse CAREFULLY. It would do to get lost and be stuck in this strange land.


                        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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                        • Originally posted by L'het'esh View Post
                          For now, look for the horse CAREFULLY. It would do to get lost and be stuck in this strange land.
                          Yes. Make absolutely sure we can find our way back here.

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                          • Finally caught up! No meta gaming means get the horse.

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                            • Whatever might have happened and wherever you might be, one thing is sure - you need that horse.

                              You backtrack to the tomb entrance and start from there, scanning the ground for tracks and disturbed grasses. The trail, only minutes old, is easy enough to find. It appears your mare bolted from the tomb and then turned around, heading inland. You follow her tracks over the hills and down into some kind of bog. Still water, black mud, and a pervasive smell of rot fill a wide, valley-like area.

                              You spot your horse almost immediately - she has found her way to a small mound a little ways in from the edge of the bog. She barely fits onto that lump of dirt and grass, and yet she seems intent on drawing herself as far inside it as possible. She looks nervous and will not stop looking into the bog even when you whistle for her. Periodically she will shuffle around to face in another direction, but she does not move from that spot.

                              You make your way along the shore to the point closest to the mare's tiny island. Cleaver slides out of its sheath and into the dark muck as you test its depth. It seems shallow, at least. You carefully step into the mud and begin walking to your horse, checking the way with Cleaver at every step. The mud soon gets up to your knees, then up to your waist.

                              Bubbles rise in the mud next to you, just a few long strides away from your horse. You reach out a hand and start speaking softly, trying to calm the mare down, but she seems to be getting more and more agitated.

                              Suddenly, something bursts out of the murk right beside you. The horse bolts, diving into the mud and swim-running towards the near shore. Two great appendages wrap around you and pull you down, dragging you under.

                              You have enough presence of mind not to inhale while you pull and pound on whatever has grabbed you. It feels like stiff branches or roots are squeezing you, crushing you. You feel something sharp poke through your brigandine, scratching at your skin, giving you a terrible burning sensation in your side.

                              You manage to get one arm free, draw in your legs, and pull your holdout knife free from your boot. You jam the blade into one of the 'arms' around you and they withdraw. A rumbling, bubbling sound shakes up the mud.

                              You pull yourself forward and jump, flying free from the bog and landing neatly on the tiny island. Then you whirl around, Cleaver at the ready.

                              There is nothing. The bog is as still and quiet as it was when you first arrived - or near enough, as far as you can tell with mud in your ears. You pull your muddy braids away from your face and look down into the muck for signs of movement. Several slow seconds tick past. Then a few small bubbles appear in the mud. An instant later, some great bipedal mud-covered creature rises up, swinging two long, ropey, thorn-covered arms.

                              This time, you are ready. Cleaver chops down into the creature as it rises and cuts deep into something solid. It feels like you are cutting into a tree. The creature shrinks back, making some kind of burbling vocalization. You pull your sword free before the mud-monster can take it with them, raise it, and make another chop. Then another, and then a fourth. You ungracefully hack into the beast as it collapses in front of you, spilling thick and foul-smelling fluids onto the muddy surface of the bog.

                              You raise your sword one more time and pause, waiting to see if the beast moves any more. It does not.

                              Suddenly very tired, you wade back to the shore and retrieve your horse. She is still nervous, but you are able to lead her back up the hill and into the tomb. There you manage to settle her down, scrape some of the mud off yourself, and fall into an uneasy, feverish sleep.


                              You sleep through the rest of the night and the dawn. When you awake, your entire left side is in pain. In the light of mid-morning, you strip down to check yourself and find three black-and-purple buboes between your ribs and your hips. Touching one of them amplifies the pain and sends shivers all through you. There must have been some venom in the swamp-monster's thorns.

                              You gingerly slide your clothing and armor back on and take a moment to inspect your new swords. They are both made of brightly-colored jade - one blue, and one red. The red one has been delicately carved and polished to show shapes of dancing flames, and blue with flowing waves. You pass them from hand to hand and make some experimental swings - their balance is excellent. You dub them "Fire and Water" and resolve to keep them for yourself.

                              Outside, the land is back to normal - the road and the living hills you remember have replaced the dark world from last night. You breakfast, do your morning business, and make ready to leave. But the more you move, the more nauseous and dizzy you feel. When you finally get back into the saddle, the world seems to spin and you need you lean into your horse until the feeling stops.

                              You are not well. You are never sick, but you remember what sickness is like. What should you do?...
                              • Stop and rest. You aren't fit to travel. Maybe if you spend a few days lying down whatever is affecting you will pass.
                              • Keep going. You can't spare the time, and you have enough strength to stay on a horse. Besides, if you need a healer, you won't find one here.
                              • Something else?
                              Last edited by semicasual; 04-13-2016, 06:32 PM.


                              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

                              Comment


                              • Keep going. We haven't been sick in a long time, but anything nasty enough to affect us this way might require aid beyond just rest. Let's try to find a town or village with a healer.


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