Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Back Alive or Maybe Dead [Quest]

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • "Yes, we'll make for the town," she agreed.

    "{Young one, walk with me,}" said Gaze. She walked from the front of the line to King's side, and put a hand on Ash's arm.

    Ash looked down at her with surprise. It was the first time she could remember the old woman looking... pensive. Ash grimaced, then spoke up without looking away from the mystic. "...ya'll take a short rest first. Gaze and I will be right back."

    Ash slid off of King's back and followed Gaze a short distance down the hill the way they'd come. Gaze soon stopped in place and let out a heavy sigh. "{Can you feel it, child? This land is heavy with memory.}"

    Ash glanced back up the hill. From this angle she could no longer see the deadland, but the odd patch of clouds was in clear view. "{It is easily seen, elder.}"

    Gaze turned to Ash, shaking her head. "{What you can see is only the skin. The very bones of this land are cursed. I feel...}" she paused and shut her eyes. "{...I feel a presence, old and poisonous. It is...}" her eyes opened, and she frowned. "{...It is something I do not know. Cannot know.}" She fixed Ash with a stern look. "{The others will not understand. But remember that whatever... weapon, or creature, or object of power we find below, it is a foul thing. Misfortune will follow it, and fall upon those near it.}"

    Ash kept her face neutral when she answered. "{All the more reason for us to find it, elder. Our enemy cannot have it.}"

    Gaze shook her head again. "{I pray you learn quickly, child,}" she said. "{Or you will kill us more surely than any enemy could.}"

    The mystic took in a breath and then transformed into a flock of ravens. The birds took into the sky and then flew north, towards the deadland. Ash suppressed an urge to curse and went to rejoin her posse.

    They rode down onto the plain and crossed over the farmlands to the town of Bronze Hill. Most of the fields apparently lay fallow. Workers and their animals were busy in others, but no one greeted the posse or even acknowledged their presence. Everywhere Ash looked, it seemed like people were keeping their heads down, trying to complete their daily tasks as quickly as possible.

    A crude dirt road led to a set of heavy wooden gates at the town's entrance. A disorganized mass of farmers, carts, and animal milled around the open gateway.

    Ash led the way. People and beasts shied away from King, clearing a path for the group to pass through. Just inside the gates, a loose group of guards stood watch, addressing each person coming and going from the town.

    "Hatch? Done already? Noted. Go to the quartermaster," shouted one.

    "Meng. Going out. Be back before dark," called a second.

    "No shoving! Everyone will be counted!" bawled a third.

    When Ash reached the guards' line, she found herself looking down at a woman maybe half her age, wearing a leather jerkin and carrying a long spear. "Wow," said the guardswoman, staring at King. "Is that a... excuse me. You're not from around here." Her voice switched from awestruck to businesslike in an instant, but it sounded forced. Her eyes wandered over Ash's person, lingering on the flamepieces holstered on her hips. "This town is barred by order of Shuzhu Akram. We cannot take in any travelers. Or, are you mercenaries? Legion outriders?"

    She looked past Ash and noticed Serge, right behind her. The guardswoman leaned forward a little and squinted at the badge on his chest. "...Marshals?" She sounded almost hopeful.
    • "We're just travelers, passin' through," said Ash, gently. "What's the trouble?"
    • "I'm 'Swifthand' Ash, hero for hire," said Ash with her showoff's smile. "We'd like to see your commander."
    • "We're an advance Fang from third legion," said Ash, projecting authority. "Take us to your commander."
    • "This is Marshal Tepet Serge," said Ash, waving a hand towards him. "We're his escort. Please take us to your commander."
    • Something else?
    Last edited by semicasual; 09-26-2017, 12:16 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


    • "This is Marshal Tepet Serge," said Ash, waving a hand towards him. "We're his escort. Please take us to your commander."



      I post Artifacts in this thread. How I make them is in this thread.
      I have made many tools and other things for 3rd Edition. I now host all of my creations on my Google site: The Vault of the Unsung Hero

      Comment


      • "This is Marshal Tepet Serge," said Ash, waving a hand towards him. "We're his escort. Please take us to your commander."

        Time to let Serge shine!

        Comment


        • "This is Marshal Tepet Serge," said Ash, waving a hand towards him. "We're his escort. Please take us to your commander."

          Serge froze for a few beats as all eyes went to him. Ash settled back on King and tipped down her hat brim - time for you to hold the reins for a bit, pal.


          The artist behind the quests From Out of a Dream (complete) and Back Alive, or Maybe Dead (running!). Go give a read and make your choice!

          Comment



          • "This is Marshal Tepet Serge," said Ash, waving a hand towards him. "We're his escort. Please take us to your commander."

            Serge gave a start, then puffed himself up. He let out an imperious-sounding "Harrumph!' that ill-suited his disheveled looks.

            If the guardswoman noticed or cared about the incongruity, she didn't show it. Instead she just nodded, said "Come this way," and led them away from the gates and the crowd waiting there.

            Ash had never been to a town under martial law before, but she quickly grew to understand what that was. Guards patrolled every street. People not armed or in armor hustled from place to place. They kept their heads down and their arms tightly wrapped around whatever goods they were carrying, or each other, or themselves if there was nothing else. There were signs of buildings that that been torn down and their materials used to construct the fortifications around the town. Folks who were neither soldiers nor farmers waited in a long line in front of a warehouse to receive sacks of grain or vegetables. The air felt tense, as if everyone was just waiting for disaster to strike.

            "I've never been to this part of the country before," Ash commented to Lans. "It ain't always like this, is it?"

            The old hand shook his head vigorously, but said nothing.

            First, the guardswoman led them to a large stable, made of scrap wood and canvas roofing, built on what had probably been a market square. Then, once their rides were settled, she took them to a part of town that seemed to be populated entirely by guards. Scores of men and women drilled with spears, rushed about with carpentry tools and lumber, or sat about sharpening weapons and fiddling with armor. Ash noticed a lot of them were too fresh-faced, aged, or fat to be career fighters or volunteers. She guessed they were new conscripts, probably townsfolk given arms and orders.

            In the center of them all was a long building that turned out to be a barracks. Soldiers bustled in and out, and no one tried to stop Ash as the guardswoman led them inside and up a short flight of stairs.

            The second floor led to a large room that evidently doubled as the commander's office and bedroom. At the moment, the bed and all other personal furniture were pushed to the side of the room to make way for a large table with several men sitting around it. They were arguing about resource needs, defenses, work, and especially time.

            One of them was a late middle-aged fellow with thin grey hair, a roughly shaved face, and a stout build. Ash guessed he might be mixed race, somewhere between pure Isle stock and one of many southern peoples. He wore the uniform of a senior Legion officer, and the sash of a Shuzhu. When the guardswoman led them in, he looked up from the table and raised a hand. The others around the table quieted down and turned to look as well.

            "Yes, what is it?" he asked, tired but also curious. His eyes wandered over the posse, and he did not look impressed.

            "Ak... Sir, a Marshal has come to see you," said the guardswoman. She stepped aside to give Serge some space before the table, although there wasn't much room to give.

            Serge stepped forward and saluted the commander. "Marshal Tepet Serge, sir."

            Without standing, the commander saluted back. "Shuzhu Akram. These are my subordinates, lieutenants Firh, Hendri, Ural, and Naray." Each of them saluted in turn. "And this is our mayor, Bran, and our sheriff, Zolt."

            The mayor, a thin greybeard with rheumy eyes, spoke up then. "Pardon the cold welcome, Marshal, but we weren't expecting you."

            Serge nodded and crossed his arms. "At ease. What's happening here, Shuzhu?"

            Akram glanced around the table, then refocused on Serge. "About a week ago, the old battlefield to the east abruptly transformed into a shadowland. It happened during the night, so we didn't notice anything especially unusual until the walking dead formed a mob and attacked the town." His face bore the deepest frown Ash had ever seen. "Even once I got the guard mustered, our defense was chaotic, We lost almost half our forces. We effectively evacuated the eastern half of town and tried to hold out until the morning. The dead mostly fled before dawn, allowing us to reclaim everything, but the surviving townsfolk were terrified of another attack."

            Zolt grunted. He was a bear of a man with thick red hair and a face that looked like it had been punched a lot in the distant past. "Nobody was expecting this. We've never had walking dead. Hardly even any ghosts in the past fifteen, twenty years." He grunted again. "So we took steps to defend ourselves."

            Akram had turned his frown on Zolt, annoyed at the interruption. He resumed speaking as soon as Zolt left a gap open. "The mayor agreed to give me broad authority over the town's affairs. So I conscripted every able-bodied person I could to fight or build defenses, seized the town's food supplies, and organized a ration system. We've sent out riders to the third legion and neighboring towns asking for reinforcements."

            "Have the dead attacked again?" Serge asked. Behind him, Ash cleared her throat.

            The men around the table nodded. "Every night," grunted Zolt. "The walls help, but it seems like their numbers never go down. Meanwhile, we can only go out during the day and we've got to sleep in shifts to keep the town running and the defenses manned."

            "I see, I see," said Serge, then fell silent. He put a hand on his chin.

            Mayor Bran cleared his throat. "Marshal, not to sound ungrateful, but I'm surprised to see you here. I thought it would be another week before anyone would come from Roca Roja."

            "No, Tepet Eicus is in Roca Roja," interjected Zolt.

            "Oh, yes. My mistake. I do apologize, Marshal." Then Bran blinked. "Wait. Then what are you doing here?" He blinked again. "I don't think I remember a Marshal Serge..."

            "Marshal Serge is a... recent appointee," Ash interrupted. "We're in the area for other business. And we couldn't help but notice the clouds."

            "Nevermind, Mayor," said Serge, in a hurry. "We've come to help. I think..." Ash cleared her throat again, and this time Serge noticed. "Ah, yes. Let me introduce Swifthand Ash, a famous bounty hunter. And this is Janeve Seres, a... Chosen martial artist. On pilgrimage. That's former Marshal Damon Lans. And Mistress Bo, a professional healer."

            "Lans? Really?" Bran stood up and squinted at the old marshal, hanging in the back of the group. "Gods above, it is you! You've barely aged a day!"

            Slowly, reluctantly, Lans stepped forward and tipped his hat to the gentlemen at the table. "It's been a long time, Bran," he said, sadly. "It pains me to come back and see the town like this."

            If Bran seemed brighter and more energized, Akram looked stormier and more withdrawn. "I'm sure it does," he said with a snort. "Well, if you've come back to fight, Lans, I pray this battle goes better than our last one."

            The room went dead quiet. The other folks around the table took on assorted expressions of discomfort. Lans said nothing, and his silence spoke volumes. At least, until Seres broke it.

            "Hey!" she said, clenching her fists. "He won the battle of Bronze Hill! At four-to-one odds! Against Anathema!"

            Akram spat. "I know, girl. I was there. And if you'd call that a victory, I'd hate to see what you think is defeat."

            "Seres, stop," Lans commanded. Seres looked at him with disbelief, then anger, and then real hurt in her eyes.

            "Let's not get sidetracked," Ash cut in. "The fact is, we're here. Now, what can we do for you?"

            "Aye. What can you do for us?" mused Zolt. He turned in his chair to look out the window. Purpling skies outside indicated that sun was beginning to set. "Nightfall will be here soon, and with it another attack. You could join the wall-guards, but..." he trailed off and scratched his forehead.

            "They are three Chosen," said lieutenant Firh, with either awe or disbelief.

            Serge thought for a moment. He glanced back towards Bo, who nodded encouragingly.
            • "We'll join the defenders," he announced.
            • "We'll strike into the shadowland!" he declared.
            • "Let me just, ah... consult with my associates," he said, and immediately turned to Ash.
            • Something else? (If you'd like more information about the situation in Bronze Hill, now is a good time to ask.)
            OOC Commentary

            I'm going on vacation for a couple weeks, starting this saturday, and I am deliberately not bringing my computer with me. So for this week I'm doing as many posts as I can squeeze out before I leave - dependent on your input, of course.


            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


            • "We'll strike into the shadowland!" he declared.

              Because dang it we have HUMANS WHO CAN BECOME FIRE. Sod the undead with the flame of the dragon!

              (I may be foolhardy buuuuuut this should be fun!)

              Also, I think this song works reeeeeeally well for this game: https://youtu.be/WqmbqnjbLco


              The artist behind the quests From Out of a Dream (complete) and Back Alive, or Maybe Dead (running!). Go give a read and make your choice!

              Comment


              • (Last call before I leave for two weeks - anyone have a preference for how this adventure goes?)


                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


                • "Well", drawled Serge, "since we're facin' long odds I suggest we use the Damon Gambit from the Battle of Bronze Hill. We've got the forces and terrain to make it work here."

                  (I want to hear about the Battle of Bronze Hill! And why not introduce some facts?)

                  Comment


                  • "We'll strike into the shadowland!" he declared. The alleged marshal stepped forward and raised a fist. "We'll go around their flank, find the source of them, and destroy it."

                    There was a brief pause while everyone took this in. Then, everyone reacted at once.

                    "That's bold." "What source?" "Yes, destroy them!" "Hold up - does this mean we're bait?" "You've very brave - or mad." "Finally! On the attack!" "I would never question one of your stature, marshal, but..."

                    "Tonight!" Serge yelled over them. The room quieted down, and so did he. "Tonight. When the undead attack the walls, we'll circle around and reconnoiter. By morning, we'll have put paid to whatever sorcerer or haunt is causing all this."

                    Everyone started talking at once again. But the Shuzhu started banging on the table, and the others quieted down. "Very well," he said. "If that's what you think best, we'll support it. Do you need supplies? Weapons? People?"

                    "Only what we brought with us. We're ready," answered Serge. Ash swore if he puffed up any more, he'd explode.

                    Akram looked around the table. The others nodded at him, or refused to meet his gaze. "Then I suggest you leave now, before we lock the gates. You can wait in the hills, or wherever you see fit, for your chance. Good luck - I hope to see you in the morning."

                    Serge saluted once again, turned on his heel, and led the way back down the stairs. Their guardswoman escort met them at the base and directed them back the way they'd come.


                    And the entire way out, they argued.

                    "Have you lost your mind!?" exclaimed Lans. "Running into enemy territory, with no idea what to expect, and no support, and no way to retreat? Do you have a deathwish, boy?"

                    "Don't call me 'boy.' I know what I'm doing!" Serge snapped back. His aggressive posture looked odd sitting on his old nag, who by this point was nearly knackered.

                    "Whaddaya mean, no retreat?" Seres interrupted. Her pony was a little behind them, although she was evidently riding as close as she could.

                    Lans, still frowning intensely, turned to her as best he could on horseback. "It's the nature of shadowlands. During the day, it's only land. But at night, they become gates to the underworld, a place inhospitable to life. Once we cross the border, we'll be trapped until the sun rises." He turned back to Serge, his expression now deadly earnest. "Trapped," he went on, "with an army of the dead."

                    "Well, that's what marshals do!" said Serge with a huff. "Take the big risks! Fight the hard fights! Do what they have to to protect people!"

                    "That is right!" Bo spoke up, surprising them all. "You are Chosen! Heroes to the people! This is the reason why you live!"

                    Serge looked away, seeming embarrassed.

                    Lans shook his head. "No one gets to be a hero by dying senselessly, achieving nothing," he said, a bit less vociferous than before. "And I don't make that claim lightly. I don't know if you know this, marshal, but I once attempted a maneuver much like this, in much more favorable circumstances." His frowned deepened. "It ended poorly."

                    Ash, riding at the front, sat and listened to it all until she could keep silent no more.
                    • "Lans, let the past stay in the past. Serge's plan is as good as any, and we're committed now."
                    • "We don't have much choice. If the Lost Souls are behind the dead rising, we've got to catch up to them quick. And this is the fastest way."
                    • "This is a stupid plan," Ash concurred. "But we're committed now. Folks're countin' on us."
                    • Something else?
                    Last edited by semicasual; 10-18-2017, 06:14 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


                    • Unifying answer, focus on productivity: "Folks're countin' on us, Lans. For better or worse, we're committed to this plan and it is the fastest solution to a big problem. I don't pretend to know what happened when you tried this, but we are capable of a lot. Instead of griping, let's work together to make this work, here and now. Talk to us about shadowlands and what we can expect."


                      I post Artifacts in this thread. How I make them is in this thread.
                      I have made many tools and other things for 3rd Edition. I now host all of my creations on my Google site: The Vault of the Unsung Hero

                      Comment


                      • Originally posted by The Unsung Hero View Post
                        Unifying answer, focus on productivity: "Folks're countin' on us, Lans. For better or worse, we're committed to this plan and it is the fastest solution to a big problem. I don't pretend to know what happened when you tried this, but we are capable of a lot. Instead of griping, let's work together to make this work, here and now. Talk to us about shadowlands and what we can expect."
                        This sounds like a most excellent idea.. also

                        "Don't call me 'boy.' I know what I'm doing!" LansSerge snapped back. His aggressive posture looked odd sitting on his old nag, who by this point was nearly knackered.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by Nightwinder View Post
                          This sounds like a most excellent idea.. also
                          (good catch. Can you tell this is 2nd draft? :P )


                          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


                          • Originally posted by The Unsung Hero View Post
                            Unifying answer, focus on productivity: "Folks're countin' on us, Lans. For better or worse, we're committed to this plan and it is the fastest solution to a big problem. I don't pretend to know what happened when you tried this, but we are capable of a lot. Instead of griping, let's work together to make this work, here and now. Talk to us about shadowlands and what we can expect."
                            Sounds good to me.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by The Unsung Hero View Post
                              Unifying answer, focus on productivity: "Folks're countin' on us, Lans. For better or worse, we're committed to this plan and it is the fastest solution to a big problem. I don't pretend to know what happened when you tried this, but we are capable of a lot. Instead of griping, let's work together to make this work, here and now. Talk to us about shadowlands and what we can expect."
                              Agreed, probably would ask if there is advice Lans could give us. After all, if he has done it before and even though it 'went poorly' we could try to avoid some of the same pitfalls.


                              Thoughts ripple out, birthing others

                              Comment


                              • "Folks're countin' on us, Lans," Ash said, her face a stoic mask. "For better or worse, we're committed to this plan and it is the fastest solution to a big problem. I don't pretend to know what happened when you tried this, but we're capable of a lot. Instead of gripin', let's work together to make this work, here and now. Talk to us about shadowlands and what we can expect."

                                Lans didn't answer right away. Just then, they were approaching the gates, so maybe he didn't want to talk around the massed guards and townsfolk. Or maybe he needed to gather his thoughts. Either way, he waited to speak until they were well clear of the town, moving west.

                                "During the day, shadowlands aren't so different, but you can see that from here," he said, pointing towards the darkened landscape. "Plants get blighted, animals leave. But that's supposed to take time..." he started to trail off, then caught himself. "At night, when the shadowland touches the underworld, it changes. As I said, the borders get untangled with our world, the living world. The terrain inside is no different, but you find strange creatures living there - mostly scavengers. Ghosts rise freely. Animals spook easily - at least, horses and dogs do. Nothing is safe to eat or drink. And if you go beyond the border once inside, you're good as lost."

                                He let that sink in for a moment before continuing. "The 'true' underworld, as I like to think of it, looks less and less like our world the further you go into it. I don't know how to explain why, but it's harder to get back - it's like something is pulling you deeper. And the land looks nothing like where you came from, so you can't depend on familiar landmarks."

                                "How many of these shadowlands have you been in?" Ash asked.

                                "One," said Lan, shortly. "It was in-"

                                "New Chanos!" exclaimed Seres. "Anathema turned up there in '06. Cursed their graveyard to turn up spooks, then-" she paused abruptly, looked at Lans, then made a face.

                                "It was '96," Lans said, gravely. "And the Prince of Ashes, as he liked to style himself, used a shadowland as cover. He hid inside beyond the border, so he could only be attacked at night, when his powers were greatest." He let out a heavy sigh. "Marshal Eicus and myself led thirty warriors in there, all veterans, packing enough dust to scorch the earth for miles. And only six of us made it back."

                                "...yeah, but you got him," Seres hesitantly spoke up.

                                "I've had too many costly victories," Lans answered, looking up at the sky. Then he shook his head and sighed again. "What I wanted to tell you was that the deep underworld near New Chanos held an ocean. Black water as far as the eye could see. And there were other, subtler oddities. We can't know what to expect, so be prepared for anything."

                                "What about the battlefield?" Serge looked towards the sun, trying to gauge how much daylight they had left. "You said the terrain there would be the same."

                                Lans shook his head. "Mostly the same," he corrected. "In the sun, it's low hills. Gullies. Old ditches and pits, if time hasn't filled them in. At night, who knows?" His mouth twisted. "...Keep an eye out for burial mounds. No telling what might come out of them."

                                Ash spotted the cloud of birds coming in before they landed, but everyone else was surprised when Gaze-of-the-Sun abruptly appeared in front of them. Black feathers scattered to around her as she rose to her feet, clutching her staff. She looked disgusted, but not at anything in particular.

                                "Shit!" exclaimed Serge as he sharply pulled up. Seres and Bo, behind him, stopped somewhat more easily. Lans didn't seem to react at all, but his mount paused and let out a whicker.

                                "[It is as I feared,]" the old woman said without preamble. "[The land is tainted, but the true source of the taint lies beyond.]"

                                "[Beyond?]" Ash echoed back.

                                "[In the underworld?]" Lans chimed in. His unfamiliar accent still caught Ash off-guard.

                                Gaze nodded. "[The death-tainted earth creates a gate, but something older and worse is outside. The gate will open only when the sun has departed.]"

                                "Well, I guess that settles it," said Ash, swapping back into low Realm without a thought. She turned King around so she could more easily face the others. "We'll find a spot to wait. Probably should leave our rides behind. When it's dark, we'll try to sneak over."



                                Their spot was a deep dip behind a hill that left them a short distance away from the edge of the shadowland, concealed from sight and away from what they all reckoned was the most likely path a battle group coming out of there would take towards the town. There they took a short rest, ate a little, and waited.

                                Each of them waited alone. Within their limited space, they all found ways to isolate themselves. Lans sat on the slope of the hill, carefully sharpening his sword with one hand. Seres stood off to one side, eyes closed, going through a series of stretches and exercises. Bo picked through her saddlebags, trying to figure out what more she should carry on her. Serge laid down on the opposite slope, looking up into the sky. Gaze sat cross-legged in the lowest part of the dip, meditating and softly mumbling.

                                Ash...
                                • ...found herself walking over to Lans.
                                • ...came over to Seres.
                                • ...joined Bo.
                                • ...sat in front of Gaze, facing her.
                                • ...hunkered down beside Serge.
                                • ...played with King for a while, gently stroking the sand-dragon's head and back. And that's how they passed the time.


                                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

                                Working...
                                X