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Unread 13th of September, 2010, 04:11
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AoM
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The Second Chapter

Chapter 2: Omens

In a wicked age, a slow moving Piyar caravan has fled the war torn north, desperately taking the unfinished Long Road, through an ancient and haunted woodland. Among their number is a summoner, Kadashman-Enlil. The caravan has suited his purpose, providing food, shelter, and porters on his quest into the heart of this ghostly forest.

The days have grown shorter, the nights are cold, and a fog rises from the damp soil every evening to make travel dangerous and the presence of the dreaded Night Wisps even more terrifying. The mighty Lamaxa, the caterpillar-like beasts of burden which hold the Piyar people's belongings are undergoing their annual hibernation. Soon, the caravan shall have to make permanent camp within the woods before they are able to move on again after winter.

Kadashman-Enlil has begun to see signs of the ancient Alim Drati ruins. Unlike the superstitious Piyar, the summoner does not fear to tread off the beaten path during the fog filled night, for he is accompanied by the enigmatic Zasalumi - whose clear visions have led him to the hidden markers. The signs are warnings, promising death and endless sorrow to those who pursue the "most Holy." The summoner has already learned much... the wisps, the night men (or ghouls as they are more commonly known), and especially the dread gaunts - they are all the tools of the Keeper - they are the guardians set in his path, he must overcome them all to possess the power of the Sacred Orb.

The Crone, Hani'ata, is a powerful witch, a Piyar in name, but many stay clear of her, for fear that she will curse them. She has a young and beautiful foreign woman, Kimya, who is bound to her, and does her bidding without question. A powerful and deadly swordsman, Omid, guards them both. She has warned Kadashman-Enlil, telling him his quest is foolish, and that the woman he is following shall only bring him to his doom. The summoner has avoided speaking to the witch since.

Yesterday, the Herald of the Red Hills arrived at the Piyar camp, met with Naszir Ur-Nagha, chief of the Northland tribes and caravan leader. The Herald had dwelt within these woods for many years - his powers and knowledge are considerable. He offers his skills of Warding to the Piyar, to keep them safe through the winter. He shows them a good camping ground, where the caravan shall stay.

Today, the summoner and his visionary have set out, this time with the aid of several Piyar laborers to bring provisions for their trek. The cackles and warnings of the Crone follow them as they set off from camp. Little do they know that a young boy, Ulgath, son of Naszir, follows them - his boyhood curiosity getting the better of him.

The journey is long, but Zasalumi's visions are clear. Night falls. The ever present fog is heavy, and beyond and through it, at the very edge of their vision, the companions see the dancing, haunting lights of the wisps.

"We mustn't look at the lights, Mahid," said Imar to the other laborer. "The visions they give are false... they will drive you mad, and lead you to a foul death."

Imar nodded dumbly, readjusted his pack and kept his eyes on the back of the thin woman who led them through the haze.

Zasalumi stopped several minutes later and pointed, giving the summoner a knowing look.

"We are here," he said, turning to the laborers. "Unpack my equipment. A summoning circle must be drawn immediately, lest the denizens here sense our presence and set upon us before we are prepared!"

The Piyar men immediately set about preparing Kadashman-Enlil's ritual. At the edge of the ruins, the young boy, Ulgath watches on in naive fascination. His presence does not go unnoticed. The Wisp, Sslissol, observes the boy from up close, sensing his heightened emotions... fear, anticipation, wonder. They are like sweet candy to the Wisp. Compelled by its need to consume these emotions, the wisp flickers in the boy's periphery, then disappears as the lad turns his head to look.

Ulgath squints, beginning to doubt that he had seen anything. Then... there! Another flicker, somewhere beyond where the summoner stood drawing symbols in the mud. Ulgath creeps on his hands and knees and maneuvers himself over to the far side of the clearing. The flickering continues, clearer now... it must be some sort of stone, perhaps a precious gem? Wouldn't his father be amazed if Ulgath could bring back a treasure? The young boy moved to moss covered rocks where the light had come from. There, nestled in what must have been a man made archway was indeed a stone, glowing in the dark.

The presence was close now. Bashabael could sense it. A weak soul, an innocent soul. Such a soul could not, and should never have been in these cursed woods. Would not the ghouls who watched over this place be compelled to feast? What had scared them off? The wisps, surely they would have led the innocent into the bogs that surrounded this cursed place - once a temple wrought in his honor. It did not matter now... all he needed was this soul, this child (the boy was close now, he could sense more about him, feel his emotions, his curiosity... yes, that was what he needed now.) One touch, that would be all it would take, then he, Bashabael, would be free again. He would feed, he would inspire terror and awe, and he would be mighty once again. Those Alim Drati were fools to think that they could bind him forever. Closer boy, closer!

"Careful, fool!" the summoner cursed at Imar. "Touch nothing! The Alim Drati have hidden the next marker in the resting place of a demon spirit! One wrong step, and it could devour your soul! Stay within the circle. Hurry now, the ghouls are gathering. I must complete the rites, so they will be bound to me."

It was a gem. The largest gem Ulgath had ever seen...

Sslissol smiled as the boy reached out to touch the relic. His awe and joy were at their peak. The Wisp opened itself to the emotions, let them enter him and empower him.

"My poor Sslissol..." a familiar voice, but alien, like a memory out of a previous life, spoke behind the wisp. It turned and saw the woman, no... it couldn't be...

The ghouls surrounded them. The two Piyar laborers, Zasalumi, and Kadashman-Enlil. Hungry, gray-skinned, and at times monstrous in their visages, they crawled to the edge of the hastily drawn summoning circle. Kadashman-Enlil intoned the final words of the ritual.

Sslissol was struck by a power unknown to him - such strength, such binding ferocity! The woman faded from his vision and numbly, the wisp floated towards this new master, along with the other wisps and ghouls nearby. Out of the stone tombs, the gaunt hoplites arose, grasping their spears in their long dead hands. All of them came to stand before the summoner, who grinned triumphantly at them.

Ulgath was gone. Now there was only Bashabael, who fed upon the boy's memories. Yes, the chieftan and his people were close by. As was this summoner. Good. Good. There was much potential here... but first, the former god knew it must feed.
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Unread 14th of September, 2010, 04:35
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Darius
The Phantom Poster [Epic GM]

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Ulgath, Piyar, Naszir. These names echo in Bashabael’s head, filling his mouth with a sour taste. Names so unlike the ones he was used to.

He resisted the urge to spit, instead his tongue darting out, tasting the mist of the night, the residual fear on the skin he wore.

He crept closer to the sound of words, like yet unlike ones he had heard before. A summoning, a drawing, a binding were being put in place. An oasis was being created, and like all such things, what drew prey needs must draw predators and Bashabael was a predator of the first order.

He forced the body he wore to creep closer. He sniffed the air, picking up the weak scent of a fox in his den, a mother bird protecting its young. He felt the hard packed dirt under his hand, breathed in the scent of it all.

Closer yet and it came on an outlier… a wisp newly formed, only a century or so old, but that had been on the edges of the summoner’s call. Bashabael’s mouth opened wide, wider, widest, and Bashabael chewed, swallowed, grinned.

He would see what this summoner was about, but from a distance. No need to be so brash yet. Each thing in its own time, and now was the time for watching, and waiting. The stalking of prey before the jaws closed down and tasted the sweet blood.
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