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  • "Keep looking," she said. "I'd like to take a walk up Frewilk's Peak, see if I can find anything."

    Because Firewatch time!

    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!


    • Originally posted by midnightcyclist View Post
      "Keep looking," she said. "I'd like to take a walk up Frewilk's Peak, see if I can find anything."

      Because Firewatch time!
      Agreed. This.


      • "Keep looking," she said. "I'd like to take a walk up Frewilk's Peak, see if I can find anything."

        Lans blinked. "Is that..." he paused, and his brow furrowed "...A nearby mountain? Whatever for?"

        Ash shrugged. "From what I've been told, somebody connected to the eyeless gent was up there a few days ago. They might've left a trail." Lans looked unconvinced, so she went on. "It's a long shot, but then again so was comin' out here."

        The old hand harrumphed. "Well. I suppose I can't disagree with that. Do as you like."

        Ash left Lans to his search and, over the next hour, gradually rounded up the rest of the group. Bo and Seres, being literate, joined Lans in picking apart Hunters' Rest. Meanwhile, Ash, Serge, and Gaze saddled up to ascend Frewilk's Peak.

        It wasn't a comfortable trip. It began on a sour note when the three of them passed the undertaker, still covering over the mass grave. Ash and Serge couldn't help but stare. Gaze, on the other hand, averted her eyes.

        Once they'd broken line of sight with the man, Gaze spoke. "{Do not dwell on him. He is cursed.}"

        Ash turned in her saddle to glance at her. "{The gravedigger?}"

        Gaze nodded. "{He was meant to die. Death surrounds and infests him.}"

        "{That is a cruel thought, elder. He is undeserving of his fate.}"

        "{Few receive fates they deserve. Life or death do not care for the deserving.}"

        "{You have told me this before]," Ash replied. She turned away to look forward and up. "{And I say again that people can create justice when life or death do not.}"

        Gaze grunted. "{It is useless. Between life and death, there is only survival. Justice does not-}"

        "Hey, what're you talking about?" Serge piped up beside them. He looked at Gaze with suspicion.

        "Nothin' much," said Ash, deciding against relaying the mystic's philosophy.

        Serge scowled. "Doesn't sound like nothing."

        "It's not important, Serge. Forget about it."

        "Fine." Serge's lip twisted. "You want to have a conversation without me, go right ahead." He tugged on his horse's reins and pulled away from them.

        "{That one is doomed, too,]" said Gaze. "{He expects his strength to carry him through all dangers. But what we face has strength beyond strength.]"

        "{And what of us?]" Ash retorted. "{Are we not doomed with him?}"

        "{Only if we are unwise,}" the old woman answered, and she did not elaborate further. An awkward silence hung over the group for some hours after that.

        Frewilk's Peak was tall, but not steep. Sparse vegetation and a few trees decorated slopes that were mostly rocks and dirt.

        The path up was long and winding. The sun was going down by the time they neared the top. Even so, finding the site of the beacon wasn't hard. King flicked his tongue into the air a few times, then walked straight towards a clearing containing a large pile of ash and mostly-burned wood. This was a fresh clearing, by the look of things - all the nearby trees and brush had been cut down and stripped.

        Ash stopped him before he got too close, dismounted, and helped Gaze off his back. Serge up quickly and joined the two women as they walked around the clearing.

        "Must've taken some time to put this up," commented Serge. He lightly kicked a burnt branch away from the ash heap. "Not much wood around here, and I don't see a cart track."

        "How many people would it take, do you think?" Ash thought aloud as she scanned the ground.

        "Depends how much time they took. Give me a day or two, I could do it all myself. With a couple squads, we'd be done in a few hours."

        Ash knelt down and scrutinized the ashes. She had found a footprint - a flat shoe, smaller than her own feet.

        "{One came here. One took every tree. One burned them. Then one left,}" Gaze called from the far end of the clearing. She, too, was kneeling, holding tight to her staff with one hand and touching the earth with the other.

        "{Only one?}" Ash called back.

        "{Only one.}"

        Serge glanced back and forth between them. "What's she saying?"

        "She says there was only one person here. I reckon she's right - I only see one set of prints that's not ours."

        Serge frowned and pointed at the ground near another part of the fire. "What about those?"

        Moving to join him, Ash saw another, different set of prints - heavy boots, by the look of them. They were clearer and deeper than the ones Ash spotted before. "Those must be the undertaker's. Did you find any others?"

        Serge grunted and shook his head.

        Ash turned to Gaze. "{Is there a trail we may follow?}"

        The mystic nodded. Ash noted her eyes were closed. "{I see it,}" she said. "{Faint, but true.}" She pointed northwest, down the slope opposite the way they'd come.

        "She's found a trail," said Ash, pre-empting Serge's question.

        Serge rubbed his chin. "A trail. From someone going on foot, two days ago?" He sighed, then muttered something like "damned dunefolk witch..."

        "It's the only solid thing we've found since we got here," Ash asserted. "I say we follow it."

        "What about the others?"

        Ash considered the situation. It'd be fully dark by the time either she or Serge got back down the mountain. Gaze could fly to Salsola, but even if she did it'd be dark before the rest of the group could join them on the peak. And this was a place where the night could hide unknown dangers.
        • "We'll go get them. Better stick together."
        • "I'll go get them."
        • "You go get them. We'll wait up here."
        • "You and Gaze go get them."
        • "Gaze and I will get them, you wait here."
        • "Gaze can get them. We'll make camp here."
        • Something else?
        Last edited by semicasual; 09-26-2017, 10:42 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


        • "Gaze can get them. We'll make camp here."


          • "You go get them. Gaze and I will wait here" And we can talk some more with the mystic.

            Thoughts ripple out, birthing others


            • "Gaze can get them. We'll make camp here."

              We need to talk to Mr Grumpy here

              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!


              • "Gaze can get them. We'll make camp here."

                Gaze-of-the-Sun was persuaded to "gather the flock" (in her words), while Ash and Serge stayed behind. They unpacked their supplies and began setting up a camp not far from where they found the beacon. Neither of them felt like making a fire, partly because looking for wood would have been a real trial in this place and partly to make a token effort at hiding their presence up here.

                Night arrived and fell quietly. Ash and Serge sat on their bedrolls, ate cold trail food, and talked.

                "Ash, I've been thinking..." Serge began, then trailed off.

                "What about?"

                "What are doing out here?"

                "Didn't I explain this? We're tryin' to find whatever Stitch-Eyes wants before he does. If we do, we can it to bait him to fight in a time and place of our choosin'."

                "Yes, but how does this help?" Serge waved his hand at the empty mountaintop around them. "As far as I can tell, you're just guessing the Lost Souls came this way, or something. And maybe they'll show us where to go."

                Ash took a bite of jerky and smirked as she chewed. "Well, when you put it that way, it does sound a mite foolish."

                "More than a 'mite', Ash." Serge's voice rose, and he began gesticulating with both hands. "This is a snipe hunt. We're looking for something you don't even know exists."

                Ash nodded. "Yup."

                Serge froze in surprise. "...That's it? You're not going to argue?"

                Ash took another bite of jerky, then flung the rest over one shoulder. King, some ways behind her, took a step forward and snapped it out of the air. "Nope."

                She finished chewing and leaned forward. "There's no certainties in life, Serge. Sometimes you just got to follow your instincts and see where they lead."

                Serge sniffed and crossed his arms. "I had a commander like you, once. Thought the same way." He began to look past Ash, towards something far away. "He was just a boy, but he was Chosen, so of course they put him in charge of my squad."

                Ash's eyes flicked down to Serge's badge.

                He went on talking, mind elsewhere. "He always liked to charge in ahead of me. Didn't seem to care if we split up. Time after time, he'd rush into what we all knew were ambushes, and fight his way back out again."

                "So what happened to him?"

                "At first, it seemed like he couldn't lose. I don't know if it was a luck or skill, but being bold worked for him." Serge sniffed again, then spat. "Then he took a spear in the back. We all learned a valuable lesson that day."

                Ash tilted her head to one side and tucked back some loose hair. "Let the man with stone skin take point?"

                Serge frowned. "Always know where the enemy is. It doesn't sit right with me that you don't mind we don't know where we're going."

                "Who says I don't mind?" said Ash.

                Serge's face twisted up, but he didn't answer.

                "I like a clear trail as much as anyone, Serge," Ash went on. "But we ain't got one. Luck or skill will have to do, for now." She took off her hat and scratched at her head. "If you don't mind my changin' the subject, I've been wonderin' - where'd you serve, anyway? The legion hasn't been big in the frontier for years."

                "Up and down the inner coast - east, mostly. I spent most of my time around Jiara." Serge's face eased a little - but only a little.

                "Who'd you fight?"

                "In Jiara? Rebels. Or bandits. Not much difference between them."

                "So what's the country like?"

                "Well, depends where you are. There's a lot of rivers. The capitol is... I don't know how to talk about it, there are so many mansions and palaces. Other than that, it's all either farms or forests. Nothing like here."

                "Did you like it there?"

                "Eh." Serge shrugged. "It was nice, but uh... I never really liked how wet it was. Don't think I ever mentioned this, but I'm no friend to rain. Or mud. Or rivers, since I don't swim."

                "So when you left, you came to the driest place in the empire." Ash chuckled.

                Serge chuckled too. "Guess I did. It wasn't all by choice, though. I was in the Lap, when... I was discharged, and at the time south was the best direction for me to go." His eyes flickered, and he stopped meeting her gaze. "What about you?" he asked, abruptly. "What did you do, before all of this?"

                Ash sat back.
                • "Before Stitch-Eyes? More bounty huntin', with a side-business of masked heroics...."
                • "Before I was a bounty hunter? I was trainin' to be a sorceress. Imagine that..."
                • "Before all of this? That was a long time ago. My parents were ranchers..."
                • Something else?
                Last edited by semicasual; 09-18-2017, 02:49 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


                • "Before I was a bounty hunter? I was training to be a sorceress. Imagine that..."


                  • "Before I was a bounty hunter? I was trainin' to be a sorceress. Imagine that...

                    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


                    • "Before I was a bounty hunter? I was training to be a sorceress. Imagine that..."

                      Serge gave Ash a funny look, but she paid him no mind. "Towards the tail-end of my young-'n-crazy years, I had run away from or gotten kicked out of most civilized places in the frontier. Soon enough, there was nowhere to go except the Wastes." Ash laid back on her bedroll and stared up at the sky. "I guess I didn't care enough whether I lived or died. But I wandered out into the desert, not knowin' what I'd find.

                      "I got attacked by Dunefolk - only got them off me by droppin' my supplies and runnin' away. But then I was stuck out in the desert with no water, and I surely would have died, except for Gaze."

                      "Ah. So that's how you know her," said Serge with a nod.

                      "Yup. I don't know for sure why she saved me - she's not usually a givin' type. Sometimes I think she just wanted some kind of legacy - somebody to remember her teachings when she died. Or maybe she already knew what I was and thought I'd be handy to have around. Whatever it was, I know that at some point I passed out in the heat, and when I woke up I was in a cave with this strange old lady."

                      "We couldn't talk to each other at first, and I didn't want anything to do with her. Soon as I could, I tried to leave, but I couldn't get far in the desert by myself. I tried anyway three, four times. Each time, I'd just end up back in the cave again, a little weaker and a lot madder.

                      "But Gaze can be real patient when she wants to be. I eventually understood she was some kind of shaman, and wanted to teach me what she knew. She eventually taught me the dunefolk's language, and the desert spirits'. With her help, I learned how to control what she called my '{inner fire}.'" Ash used the spirit speech words unconsciously.

                      Serge rubbed his chin. "So, wait. Is Gaze Chosen too? I didn't think the dunefolk could be..."

                      "No, she ain't," Ash cut in. "Her magic comes from... somethin' else... but enough of what she knew fit well enough to my problems." She paused, then frowned. "I won't bore you with the details. They're a bit... arcane... and not really important for this story. Suffice it to say she knew discipline and focus - two things I sorely needed."

                      "Uh huh. So, how long did she spend trainin' you?"

                      "Well, I don't rightly know. Time's hard to measure in the wastes - all the seasons feel the same. I'd guess I stayed with her two years, maybe three. And it wasn't all magic - she taught me what she knew about how to survive in the desert, work with animals, and a little bit of spirit-lore. I got introduced to some of the Dunefolk tribes living nearby - they'd seek Gaze out for help with something or other, and sometimes she'd agree to help in exchange for whatever they brought with them."

                      "Clearly, you didn't stay, though."

                      "No, I didn't." Ash was quiet for a while. When she resumed speaking, she had trouble keeping the anger out of her voice. "Push came to shove when she really started ridin' me to become more like she was. She'd always been talkin' about how everyone was always alone, and livin' meant stripping away everythin' that held you back, but eventually I started to realize she meant it. No, it was more 'n that - somethin' about that philosophy was key to her magic.

                      "Now, I'm not gonna deny she impressed me - the things she saw, the things she knew. Over time, I grew out of distrustin' her and I wanted to do everything she did. But I just could not wrap my head around the idea of havin' nothin' - no home, no family, no reason to keep goin' other than for the sake of keepin' goin' - and that became a point of tension between us."

                      "Did you fight?"

                      "We argued. Never came to blows. But I think the straw that broke the yeddim's back was when we found that escaped slave."


                      "Yeah, a prisoner or something from the [Stonewalker] tribe. Dunefolk don't usually take prisoners, but sometimes they let someone live and do work instead of, you know, eatin' 'em. But we found this one while walkin' the sands, still tied up, lyin' there about to be vulture food.

                      "I wanted to help 'em, and I thought Gaze would agree - after all, this was more or less how she'd found me." Ash sighed. "But she refused, said the man was useless, he'd slow us down, and so on... and I really laid into her. Told her that there was no point in livin' for nobody, and I wasn't goin' to stand for this."

                      "She just looked at me for a long time, then turned into crows like she does and left us both there."

                      "Well, shit," said Serge, with a whistle. "What did you have on you?"

                      "One skin half full of water, a knife, just enough clothes to keep the sun off, and a sackful of roots that Gaze had me pickin'."

                      "So what'd you do?"

                      "I picked him up, carried him to the nearest shady spot, gave him all the water. Then I helped him get to the nearest friendly settlement. It took us three days." Ash exhaled hard. "His name was Yosh. Wasn't great company - whenever he did talk, it was either to moan or thank me, and I learned I could get tired of thanks after about a hundred of them."

                      "How'd you go three days with no food or water?"

                      "There's food and water, even in the wastes. You just need to know how to look. Granted, it's not easy, 'specially not if you're huntin' for two. But we managed, somehow." Ash paused a while before she went on. "...And I didn't go back. I decided I wanted somethin' more than what Gaze could give me."

                      "...Huh," said Serge, as if he'd just realized something important. There was a short silence, then: "Those tricks you do with flamepieces... Gaze didn't teach you that?"

                      "No. I worked that out on my own," Ash replied. She rolled onto her side, facing towards Serge and propping her head on one arm. "It's kinda... well. One of the things I did pick up from the old bird was... feelings have power. The, the passions are the soul's way of releasin' energy. If you know how to focus, sometimes you can use the energy for yourself instead of just lettin' it go. For me, that power takes the shape of flames."

                      Serge grunted. "Hmm. When I... change forms, I usually have to think about it pretty hard - wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, I've got to concentrate on being tough. Strong. Immovable. Is it like that?"

                      "A little," Ash agreed. "It's not quite so much about what I am though, as much as it is about what I want."

                      Serge frowned. "And what do you want?"

                      Ash closed her eyes, thought about the answer. When she opened her eyes again, there was a spark behind them that had not been there before. "Justice."

                      The night passed without incident, and the rest of the posse arrived the following morning when Ash and Serge were in the middle of breakfast. The group ate together, and caught each other up.

                      Lans had opted not to climb the Frewilk's peak before dawn. Instead he'd kept busy sorting paper during the night. Eventually he found letters from Dilatro to his scholars referring to some grand discovery the Hunters' Rest crew had uncovered in the last few months. When Ash where this discovery was supposed to be, Lans got quiet. Eventually, he said it was northwest of where they were, very likely where the trail Gaze picked up would lead. But he wouldn't give a name.

                      Bo and Seres, on the other hand, had explored elsewhere in town and had found a certain sigil, painted over and over again in all sorts of places - mostly on the walls of poor folks' dwellings. It looked something like the Tower they had seen on the Painted Rocks weeks ago, but black and foreboding. The same sign appeared in some of the artifacts found in Hunter's Rest. Seres was sure it meant something. Bo had asked the undertaker about it, but he claimed ignorance of it all.

                      In time, they got underway. Gaze went in front, on foot, tapping the ground ahead of her with her staff. The rest of the group followed behind, making a slow journey down the mountain and then onto a path running parallel to the Deadrocks.

                      The gentle pace meant there was plenty of time for strategizing, reminiscing, and idle chit-chat. But after a couple days, something went sour. It started with Lans, becoming uncharacteristically quiet. Seres picked on his discomfort and became snappish towards the others. Serge took to riding at the back of the train, and Bo went with him - they only spoke each other, and quietly at that. When Ash tried make conversation and ease the tension, Gaze told her to stop.

                      The trail led down into a dry valley, and by the time they began to climb out of it the tension had silenced everyone. When they reached the top of a hill on the valley's far side, Ash finally understood why.

                      "We took a shortcut," she thought aloud. "That must be Bronze Hill down there, then."

                      On plain below them, surrounded by roughly plowed farmland, was a small town encircled by a crude wooden palisade. A dozen watch towers, each with its own fire sending smoke signals into the sky, loomed over a densely-packed collection of wooden houses with thatch roofs. From here, it looked more like a fort than a farming community.

                      But Ash wasn't looking at the town. She was looking a short distance to the east of it, nearer to them, where the foothills met the plains. The sky there was overcast, in defiance of an otherwise-cloudless firmament. The shadowed ground beneath seemed to have an unnatural darkness to it, as if the very land itself had been stained. And nothing grew on that land - the farms stopped well short of its border, and and so did the wild grasses and shrubs.

                      Gaze halted in her tracks and pointed at the deadland. "{The trail leads there,}" she declared with finality. Then she turned to face Ash. "{Know that to even look upon this place is to violate my oaths. I should never come here, save that my life depends on it.}" Her face as as grim as Ash had ever seen it. "{And yet, it does.}"

                      Lans seemed not to hear her. He rode to the front of the line and stopped, face full of confusion and worry. "We did the rituals..." he said to himself. "I know, I gave the order. This should not be... It wasn't..." He shook his head, then set his jaw. "We have get to the town," he said, turning about in his saddle to speak to the group. "Someone must be able to tell us what happened here."

                      The rest of the group looked over the sight before them and kept quiet. Serge, with dismay; Bo, with horror; and Seres, with something between dread and awe.

                      Ash looked between Lans and Gaze.
                      • "There's no time to lose," she declared grimly. "We go straight for the deadland."
                      • "Yes, we'll make for the town," she agreed.
                      • "I say we make camp up here," she said, returning her attention to the land below. "We should watch what happens during the night, and work out a plan in the mornin'."
                      • Something else?
                      Last edited by semicasual; 09-26-2017, 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.

                      Avatar by K.S. Brenowitz


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

                        Anything that well fortified probably has a pretty good reason behind it. I do want to see what happens out in the dead lands but I also want to make sure the party doesn't get eaten by skeletons

                        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!


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

                          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


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


                            • Lans, go ahead to the town and find out what you can while we make camp out here. We'll watch for activity during the night and make our plans when you come back in the morning with news from the town.


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