The Adventures Continue...

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Episode One: The Way of Life and Death

In this episode, our heroes meet in Fairhaven with little more than hints to guide them to a meeting with the Wayfinder Foundation. Through various means subtle and otherwise, their resourcefulness pays off, and they meet one Arnis ir'Dayne in the Whisper Tavern, located beneath a curio shop in the Comfort Ward of Fairhaven.

Meeting with Arnis, who is in fact a cousin of the famours Boromar ir'Dayne, founder of the Wayfinder Foundation, our heroes learn that they are to be tested before they are accepted as members of the Foundation. In a break from their usual methods, the Wayfinders will be putting our heroes to the test as a group.

From this point on, they are told, assume that everything is a test.

Their first mission is to travel to northern Karrnath and locate a hermit living on a remote section of the rocky coastline. Years ago, during the Last War, he stole a scroll called the Way of Life and Death, purportedly a sacred relic of the Aerenal Elves, from the special collections of Morgrave University. Our heroes are to retrive this artifact, and any copies they might find, and return it to the Wayfinders as soon as possible.

When our heroes finally board their airship, they have in tow one corpse with falsified documents and one unconscious chair of languages at the University of Wynarn. They chair of languages makes his daring escape, and our heroes, undaunted (well, semi-daunted and nauseous in one case) make their way north.

As they close on their quarry, they find that they are not alone - a ship flying the colors of Morgrave University is nearby, tacking along the same coastline our heroes were scanning themselves.

They design a warm welcome for their Morgrave rivals and land the airship. Making their way over a rocky bluff and toward a copse of trees from which they have seen flashes of light coming, they are ambushed by forest warriors! The warriors are quickly dispatched by knife, wand, and thrown arrow. Following their trail deeper into the copse of trees, our heroes come upon a mysterious, dark figure who is only then secreting the scroll they seek on his person. They learn only that his name is Rune before he takes to the sky in the form of a large carrion-bird! Their nets and knifes are no avail, and he seemingly escapes with the very artifact our heroes were seeking.

A we cough brings their attention back to what is clearly the hermit's dwelling. He is lying in the ruin of his own furniture, surrounded by smoldering papers and, inexplicably, dead animals, as well as blackened corpses of the same fighters our heroes faced. He reaches out, and with his last breath, coughs out a final message.

Based on his hint, our heroes find another scroll, the original, secreted away in a hollow compartment of the hermit's bedside table. And just in time, because the angry Morgrave contingent is coming over the rocky bluff, hot on their trail and full of bad intentions!

They collapse the hermit's stone home behind them, serving as a pyre and final tomb for the strange old man, and carrying handfuls of papers salvaged from the ruins of his home, they return quickly to their airship and depart, making their way back to Fairhaven, and hopefully, answers...

The Prince

"I've been watching you for a while now, you know."

Princess Anezka sits bolt upright in bed, clutching her blanket to her chest. Perched in her room, at the foot of her bed, is a man. Her first thought is He's going to kill me. Her second thought is I can't look away.

He raises a hand, says gently "There's no reason to be frightened. I don't mean you any harm. I didn't know of a better way to introduce myself. I'm not really...part of your household, so to speak. They don't know I'm here."

"Who - who are you?"

He smiles, and she can see his teeth glimmer in the moonlight. He is tall, she can see, even hunched over, and graceful, even elegant. "You can call me Rune. Because for now, I am your secret."

He's dressed like an aristocrat beneath the dark cloak that obscures his silhouette. She whispers a spell to let her see more clearly in the dark, and he comes into stark relief.

She sees he is unarmed, but is undeniably dangerous.

He shifts, then steps backward off the bed and stands up. He tosses part of his cloak over his right shoulder and bows slightly, his eyes never leaving her face, her body never even considering moving from where it is. His eyes are like a starless night sky.

"I hope we can speak again soon. We will, if you wish it. If not, then you will not see me again. I believe there is a lot we can offer each other. You are a woman of beauty, intelligence and guile. You've shown yourself to be very strong, already mistress of this great keep, already...learning a great deal. I am quite accomplished in my own right. I am of means, of skills you will find useful, of knowledge you need."

"You aren't meant for this place. Not at all. This great keep will someday become a prison to one such as you. No, I know you. I have watched you. You have grander designs than this."

"As it turns out, so do I."

They talk. The guards, slumped in deep sleep outside her door, do not hear. But in another part of the keep, an old woman who is more than merely a woman gazes into a dim image in a mirror and smiles a slow, cold smile.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Crone

Skaina is old, but she is most certainly not a woman. Do not let your eyes fool you.

You cannot trust your senses.

Long, long ago, when the winds over the stones of Lhazaar were wild, there was a storm-tossed island, on which lived dour, fierce people with cold blue eyes. At the heart of this island was a cave deep in the side of a hill, and in this deep cave lived the Crone.

(It was said that at the back of that cave, hidden behind an ancient stone, was a door, and that the door led all the way down to Khyber. If such things are to be believed.)

The people and the Crone lived together, shared that small storm-tossed isle, and yet they only met once a year. That was the time of Sacrifice, when the winter storms brewed on dark horizons. In exchange for the Sacrifice, the Crone would sing down the winds. She would protect them, even from the ravages of time. She granted them an unnaturally long life, and was their secret which they jealously guarded.

The price was merely a single child. And so the weakest was chosen by the elders, and brought to the Crone, left for her, and never spoken of again.

Before the first cold-eyed people came in their long boats, the Crone was there, and it was believed that she would be there long after. But it was not meant to be.

Many years ago, following a great war between Dragons and Elves, there came a lone woman to that isle. She was fleeing great powers, and yet she hid within herself the greatest power; that which all life must answer to; none other than Death. She came to the isle weakened, grieving, broken, her body stitched together by dread energies drawn from a thousand graves.

She and the Crone met. They spoke. And it is said that, slowly, with creaking limbs, the Crone did what she had never done.

She bowed.

A sacrifice, of sorts, to be sure.

And when that dread woman called upon the Crone once more, after long years had passed, she came, and answered, and traveled to a certain keep in Lhazaar which was once her home, to inquire of a certain family whether they were in need of a nurse for their newborn daughter...

The livid purple birth-mark bothered her not at all. She only smiled, and cooed, and waited for the girl to grow up at last.

Anezka's Journal 2

It has been a year, and I have learned that blood washes out of almost anything.

I did not want to take my husband's place so soon, but it seems that fate has intervened. Skaina says that it is fate, anyway, that it is me becoming who I am meant to be.

I've gone too far now. Too far to turn back.

And the birthmark is growing. I know that Skaina notices it when I bathe, and I have to try to hide as best as I can, even in summer. It is more than just unsightly...but Skaina won't tell me. "Not until you're ready" she tells me.

But I am ready now.

I've taken to running Kronan's household - its more than I'd expected. Endless decisions that no one else will make. I thought I would feel more...powerful. More in control. But instead I just answer to more people. My training has slowed, and Kronan is...much less useful in his new state. And I don't yet have the knowledge to modify him. Skaina says that too will come, in time.

I grow tired of waiting. Of being waited upon.


I am going to have to take matters into my own hands. Skaina is holding things back from me. She is not teaching me all she knows. But she is all I have here in this accursed place.

Well, almost. There's always Kronan, much more amenable as he is now than he was.

Its interesting to see how no one asks questions here. No one asks why the Lord has taken ill so swiftly, why he seems so unlike how he was only days before. Now, I think they are used to it. He is part of this keep, but he is more like decoration or furniture than its Lord.

Such a lack of loyalty.

Yesterday I found what I am calling the Vault. I need to go to this place's small library tomorrow morning and see if I can find more about it. It is locked with some sort of puzzle-lock, but I cannot solve it, and dare not show it to Skaina - not yet! - and of course damned Kronan is hardly in a state to tell me the solution.

I know enough to recognize the markings, though. They are symbols used by the Blood of Vol - not the feeble local cults but the true Blood.

I must know what's in that Vault.