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  • Ash played with King for a while, gently stroking the sand-dragon's head and back. And that's how they passed the time

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    • Like, I'd love to get more story out of people but I'm just not sure who to pick at this stage. So unless someone has a good suggestion of who to dig in to more, I suppose I'd agree with reinforcing our bond with King, who's gotten so little spotlight.


      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

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      • Ash played with King for a while, gently stroking the sand-dragon's head and back. And that's how they passed the time.

        "Scaly baby", she said quietly, "We've come a long way, haven't we?"

        And they had. Ash had first met King when he was only the size of a dog, long ago. Ash - or rather, the White Plains Ranger - had been on the hunt for a group of bandits who had taken to kidnapping farmers to sell into slavery. In the ruins of what had been their hideaway, she found a few dozen cages of their stock - mostly people, but also a few rare animals, including a young, bright red sand-dragon. For her, it was like love at first sight.

        Taming - befriending - the large lizard had taken months of careful coaxing. She'd had to get him used to her presence, to her voice, and to her touching him. She knew she'd succeeded when he started following her on his own initiative, without bribes of food. After that there was still more training to stop him going berserk around other people or animals, to control his eating habits, and eventually to fight by her side. When he finally got big enough to saddle, that took a lot of training too - for both of them. Ash's ranching days were a long way behind her, and King wasn't much like a horse.

        But it had all been worth it. In King, Ash had a companion who wouldn't judge her, wasn't scared of fire, and could take care of himself if he needed to.

        "I'm sorry, I've got to leave you behind. Again," she whispered into his ear. "But I'll come back. I always do."


        "It's starting!" called Seres from atop the hill. The other four stirred themselves and climbed up out of the dip. Seres was lying on her belly near the top, just high enough to see over without exposing herself. Ash laid down beside her and looked out over the plains.

        It was fully night then, but the moonlight left enough illumination to make out the shapes and movement below them. The shadow land was pitch-black - even Ash couldn't make anything out. But just at its edge, where the moonlight fell past the clouds, scores of shambling figures were walking out of the black. Here and there, she could see the glint of light on metal - they were armed, or enough of them were, at any rate. Theirs was a slow, silent march without any particular formation, as if all of them had individually decided to take up arms and then go for a walk.

        "I can't make out how many," said Ash, quietly. "...More than a hundred already."

        "Too many," said Lans. His voice shook a little, and Ash looked at him in surprise.

        The others stayed silent. More and more figures ambled out of the dark, until the plain was practically flooded with them. Then they reached the walls, and shouts of alarm and terror echoed through the night. They hit against the palisade like a wave. From here, it looked like the shamblers were trying to climb the wall - that, or make a ramp out of their own bodies to reach the top. The sounds of clashing metal on metal, metal on wood, and metal on meat began suddenly and grew louder with each passing moment.

        "They're thinning out at the back," said Seres. Ash looked back at the border of the shadowland and saw it was so - there were a few stragglers, but it seemed like that bulk of the horde was busily surrounding the town.

        "Let's go," replied Serge, moving to a crouch. "Stay low and slow."

        Ash bit back what she'd been about to say and climbed back down into the dip. Serge watched her curiously, but said nothing as she dug through her saddlebags. She found her poncho and her other hat, put them on, and fixed her bandana over her nose. Then, together, they made their way over the fields and empty scrublands.

        The dead either didn't see the posse, or simple ignored them. Either way, they were able to quietly hustle up to the shadowed border.

        At first, the Ranger wasn't sure they'd crossed. Then she realized that although she could no longer see the moon, a dim light seemed to permeate everything around them. It was like walking through a darkened house, with only enough light to see by if you were already well-accustomed to the dark. And when she looked back, she could not see the way they had come - the hills simply were not there. She could not see the Bronze Hill either. She wondered how the walking dead could leave, if they could not.

        Gaze halted, straightened up, then put a hand to her back. The Ranger stopped, and when she stopped the rest of the posse soon stopped too. They looked at each other, unsure why they were pausing, until Gaze spoke.

        "[There,]" she said, pointing with her staff in towards what the Ranger assumed was north - it was hard to tell. "[Beyond the edge.]" Then she fell silent, but Ash could almost hear her look of disgust.

        With no other guidance, all six of them walked through the dark, dusty ground, until they cleared a small ridge. And on the other side...

        ...it could be called "lively" in the sense that a corpse covered in maggots is more lively than a rock. Instead of a desert, the land below them resembled a drained swamp. A stench like compost hung in the air, along with a persistent an unpleasant buzzing noise. Strange blue-green lights drifted near the ground, providing spots of illumination to a flat land covered in mud, stagnant pools, and dead plants. Here and there, the Ranger saw movement in the reed-like grasses - some kind of animal?

        "Wow," said Serge. He looked to Lans and shook his head "You said it would be different, but I didn't think-"

        "No," said Lans, shortly. "Don't think. From here on out, trust your instincts. Nothing else can be trusted, here." He glared out over the dead marsh. "[Elder, where do we go now?]" he inquired, without looking at Gaze.

        The mystic frowned and looked about. "[I know not. This land does not heed my call.]"

        The Ranger grunted. She looked about for landmarks, signs of human passage, anything that stood out.

        Well, to start with, on the far side of the dead marsh there was a stand of trees. At least, the Ranger thought they might be trees - they seemed to be enveloped in fog, hard enough to glimpse in the dark. Off in the distance to her right, there was a series of low hills... too low and too regular to be hills. As she squinted, trying to discern more details, she heard a loud clattering noise some somewhere to her left. She turned to look and so did everyone else. She couldn't make out much - there wasn't enough light in that direction, but just for a fraction of a second she thought she saw the flash of a lantern.
        • The Ranger pointed at the stand of trees.
        • The Ranger gestured towards the mounds.
        • The Ranger drew her 'pieces and began walking towards where the light had been.
        • The Ranger indicated to the others that they should split up.
        • Something else?
        Last edited by semicasual; 10-27-2017, 10:01 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.

        Avatar by K.S. Brenowitz

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        • I say we investigate the


          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

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          • When dealing with the land of death, perhapse it would be best to follow the light.

            @The Unsung Hero: I can't see your picture and only know there is supposed to be one because I quoted your post.


            Thoughts ripple out, birthing others

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            • Originally posted by FallenEco View Post
              When dealing with the land of death, perhapse it would be best to follow the light.

              @The Unsung Hero: I can't see your picture and only know there is supposed to be one because I quoted your post.
              (It's a picture of a Mounds bar. I assume that means he wants to go to the mounds. Or maybe he's taking a Something Else? option and wants to look for candy.)


              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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              • What could possibly go wrong with investigating some "non-hills"? Let's check out the mounds.

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                • The Ranger gestured towards the mounds.

                  "That way?" said Serge. "Mmm. Alright."

                  The Ranger led the way, the others following in a loose group behind her. It was only a short walk, but it felt longer in the dark. And when they were just about there, with the swamp behind them, Gaze abruptly stopped.

                  "[I will go no further,]" she said. She gave no other explanation.

                  "These are burial mounds," said Lans, slowly, perhaps trying to explain for her. He walked slowly up one of the low hills. His face showed growing shock and pain. "I remember this place. This is where..." he paused, swallowed, and looked around. "This is where we buried our own. It looks... it looks just the same..."

                  The Ranger studied the ground at her feet. The soil, the sparse grasses here, looked more like Bronze Hill than the rest of this underworld. And the mounds... the earth was still loose, and fresh. The ground looked like many feet and hooves had churned it, and not long ago. But the air felt thicker here. There was a smell like woodsmoke, and little flakes of some kind drifted by her on a faint breeze.

                  "...the custom for Dunefolk is to consume their dead - symbolically or literally..." Lans went on, his voice distant. "We burned them instead. The priests assured us it would work-"

                  "Oh, get a hold of yourself, old man!" Serge snapped. "It's just a bunch of graves."

                  "Something is there?" Bo stepped out in front and pointed at 'something' sticking out of the earth between the mounds up ahead. It was rectangular, low to the ground, and would not have been visible through the dark except for a pair of pail blue lights resting atop it.

                  By unspoken agreement the Ranger, Serge, Seres, and Bo approached the thing while Lans stayed behind, not far from Gaze. It turned out to be an altar, illuminated by two wax candles that (for some reason) burned blue, piled with a loose collection of paper objects. Some of it looked like scrips, others were folded paper sculptures of simple objects or animals.

                  "Huh. Haven't seen one of these in a while," said . He reached out and idly picked up a small folded-paper horse. "Sijanese thing-"

                  Serge's arm suddenly fell and he let go of the horse. The statue dropped into the dirt, and then there was loud whooshing sound. In the blink of an eye, the statue was gone, and full-grown, live warhorse stood in its place.

                  Seres cried out, Serge swore, Bo yelped, and the Ranger kept her silence. She studied the creature while she waited for the others to calm down.

                  Yes, it looked like a horse, but it didn't act much like one. It looked like it was made of hair and muscles, but it stood perfectly still before the altar. Without light, she would have assumed it was another kind of statue. The Ranger reached out and stroked the creature's head. The horse felt real, but it did not respond to her touch, not even with the twitch of an ear. She put a hand under its jaw and pulled its head towards her. the horse turned without resisting, and looked at her without expression.

                  "Wow," said Serge with a chuckle. "Grave-goods really work. Bury me with one of these!"

                  The Ranger felt a a change in the air - a sudden chill. She let go of the grave-horse and looked back the way they'd come.

                  Lans was on his knees, shaking, barely holding himself upright on his sword. Ashen mist swirled around him, obscuring him. The Ranger began walking toward him, then jogging, then she broke into a a run. As she came closer, she had an impression of shadows formed in the mist by flying dust - human shadows.

                  And when she got within shooting range, the impression became unmistakeable. Two human figures circled Lans, figures of smoke and ash, and their voices carried on the wind

                  "{murderer...}" they said, in a language without words. "{murderer... murderer...}"

                  Lans' shaking intensified, and then he collapsed. He sprawled onto his stomach while the dust-devil swirling around him grew more violent.

                  Just then the Ranger saw Gaze-of-the-Sun approaching the vortex. She walked carefully, prodding the ground ahead of her with her staff.
                  • The Ranger slowed to a stop and waited to see what she would do.
                  • The Ranger raised Judgment and fired a blast at the cloud over Lans' body.
                  • The Ranger grunted and ran into the dust-devil.
                  • 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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                    • The Ranger raised Judgment and fired a blast at the cloud over Lans' body. Now is a time for action!


                    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

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                    • The Ranger slowed to a stop and waited to see what she would do

                      I want to see Gaze's mojo.

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                      • "The Ranger slowed to a stop and waited to see what she would do."

                        GO GO BIRD LADY GO


                        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!

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                        • The Ranger slowed to a stop and waited to see what she would do.

                          The old mystic walked right up to the edge of the mist, then stopped. She stood there for several heartbeats, waiting.

                          For no discernible reason, the wind suddenly died down. The ash and mist around Lans subsided, and the wordless voices became silent. Lans still lay motionless on the ground.

                          Then, as quickly as it had stopped, it started again. The vapor around Gaze-of-the-Sun's feet began to spin around her, picking up speed with each passing second. Gaze showed no reaction, even as the swirling cloud completely enveloped her.

                          The human figures reappeared, but it was different this time. They did not spin and turn in the dust-devil as before. Now, they stood in place despite the wind on either side of gaze. Their arms were upraised, as though reaching out.

                          "{mother...}" they said in their speechless way. "{mother...}"

                          Gaze raised her staff, then jammed the end of it into the ground. The Ranger's view of her was blocked by a sudden burst of red-orange flame.

                          "{NO!}" cried the voiceless voices, and then they fell silent.

                          The figures and the dust-devil were gone. Gaze stood alone in the regathering mist, as impassive as before.

                          The Ranger moved to Lans' side and turned him over. The old hand was pale as a sheet, his eyes were dilated, and he was barely breathing. Then he began coughing hard. His good hand reached out and grabbed the Ranger's arm. Coughing and groaning, he pulled himself into a sitting position.

                          "Ghosts..." he said, forcing the words out. "Nightmares-"

                          "[Memories,]" said Gaze, coming forward. Her voice was as empty of emotion as her face. "[In this place of death, they do not remain buried.]"

                          Lans made a noise somewhere between a groan and a growl. He let go of the Ranger and awkwardly got to his feet. "[My memories? Or yours?]"

                          Gaze looked off to one side. "[Yes,]" she replied to neither Lans nor the Ranger. Then she paused, as if unsure how to continue. "[I once had two sons,]" she said, and shook her head. "[No longer.]"

                          The rest of the group hustled up right around then.

                          "What happened?" demanded Serge.

                          "Are you well?" Bo asked Lans.

                          "What was all that-" Seres started to ask the Ranger, before she realized what she was doing and stopped.

                          "I'm alright," said Lans, who did not look alright. "We must've disturbed something by coming here. We should go."

                          And they did go. Lans grumbled about how he had warned them all about the mounds, but no one listened (then or now). He kept shooting looks at Gaze, who never returned them.

                          They skirted the edges of the swamp, unsure what they were looking for but certain they did not want to look in there.
                          It was mostly luck, then, that the Ranger spotted something moving in the dead rushes. It might have been the same critter from before. It was big enough to be a person, but she couldn't be sure that's what it was. After a while, she realized it was tailing them. But before she could study it further, the thing high-tailed it away, bolting in the opposite direction from the mounds.
                          • The Ranger gave chase.
                          • The Ranger stealthily followed its tracks.
                          • The Ranger indicated to the others that they should wait and get ready.
                          • Something else?
                          Last edited by semicasual; 11-16-2017, 03:40 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

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                          • "The Ranger stealthy followed its tracks."

                            Let's sneak this blighter


                            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!

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                            • The Ranger indicated to the others to be ready and quiet, before stealthy following the tracks.

                              It is not safe to go alone, after all.


                              Thoughts ripple out, birthing others

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                              • The Ranger stealthily followed its tracks.

                                First she drew her flamepieces and turned to the others. She raised a finger to her masked lips, then ducked down and slid into the reeds.

                                "Ash, what -" Seres started to say, before Lans put a hand on her shoulder and shushed her. They stayed in place and watched the Ranger go.

                                The earth down there was muddy and damp. In some places, the Ranger's boots sunk below the ankles. Keeping up with the person she was following was a tricky business, and not just because they could afford to run while she had to move slowly to stay hidden.

                                It was a person, she became sure of it by how they moved. Before, they'd been disguising their movements. Now, she could see enough to guess it was someone smaller than her, and light-footed.

                                Their indistinct shape eventually became a far-off bunch of shaking plants, and then a vague rustle of grass or squelch of mud. Then there was nothing.

                                The Ranger stopped and waited, listening, then kept going. She might have lost them, but their heading hadn't changed in the short time she'd been in pursuit.

                                It seemed like the fog in the air got thicker as she went along. It got thick enough, in fact, that she almost didn't notice the far edge of the swamp until she'd walked over it. The ground sloped up and kept going, forming a long, low hillside. The Ranger couldn't see the top.

                                But she could hear something up there. A lone voice, vaguely familiar, shouting. "HEAVE!"

                                There was a loud groan, a low rumble, and a dull thump. Ash thought she felt the earth shake a tiny bit.

                                "HEAVE!"

                                The same noises, and another slight shake.

                                "HEAVE, YOU DUMB SACK OF BONES, HEAVE!"

                                A a groan, a rumble, a brief pause, and then the noise of something immense crashing to the ground.

                                The voice cried out in jubilation, and then abruptly fell silent.

                                The Ranger got down onto her stomach, and slowly crawled up the hill.

                                The hill was covered in loose earth. It was freshly dug, or nearly so, but the layer of earth wasn't deep - like someone had been digging a pit further up the hill and had carelessly tossed the leavings down.

                                After climbing for sometime, the Ranger heard voices, froze, and did her best impersonation of a rock. There were two people, talking quietly, only audible because of how quiet this place was.

                                "...Six of 'em. They must've snuck in."

                                "Just six, and you had the drop on 'em? Shit, you could take 'em yourself."

                                There was a girlish, high pitched laugh, quickly suppressed. "Hee! Sure! But I thought, 'Hey, let's throw the deadhulk at 'em! That'll be fun!"

                                The other voice gave a disagreeable grunt. "Huh. I'm still using him. We just got it out. And now you want to borrow him? Fuck no. I ain't wastin' another minute in this gods-forsaken shithole, when we're this close."

                                "Ugh! You're always hot and cold, Em!" said the first voice, wheedling. "Come on! It won't take that long! Just take off the harness and we'll be right back! You could even come and watch!"

                                Hearing the name triggered the Ranger's memory, and she recognized One-Eyed Em's voice. She couldn't tell who Em was talking to, but it was a safe bet to assume it was another Lost Soul. She couldn't quite see them from where they lay, but she could make out the silhouette of something large looming further up the slope.

                                • She creeped and crawled back the way she'd come. She'd heard enough - it was time to muster the troops.
                                • She stood up, dusted herself off, and burst into roaring fire. The Ranger raised Judgement and Absolution and charged.
                                • She stayed where she was, waiting to see what would come next.
                                • 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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