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  #151  
Unread 16th of December, 2004, 01:38
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Heulwen

"South or east to the Eren it is then. The Eren will be patrolled by orcs, but perhaps Aaysha's gnomish friends might help us find the information you need to find you father Dun."

"So, unless you have any objections, or know something you have told us, I say we head that way, and now."
  #152  
Unread 17th of December, 2004, 09:21
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Aashya

Something about the Dorn's ritual strikes a chord with Aashya.

Bound by blood... They are brothers now.

Aashya looks away, thinking about family ties and the bonds between comrades. Does she have a brother out there somewhere looking for her? Had she left behind something like a 'tribe', a community of people who still mourn her absence? What kinds of ties had been severed by her ordeal in the river?

Thinking about it leaves her feeling hollow and empty inside. But how can she miss something she's not sure she ever had? Perhaps it is a blessing that she doesn't know or remember the past. Wouldn't it be even worse to remember the tender moments of a life full of happiness and love, if you also had to remember that it all came to a sudden and violent end?

Fire and death.

And the river.....

Heulwen's words break into her thoughts.

"... perhaps Aaysha's gnomish friends might help us find the information you need ..."

Aashya doesn't say anything for a few moments. Back to the river? But that would be going backwards, not forward. It doesn't feel right. She left the river to find her future - a place called Greenfield. A place of hope.

But can she really find her future without first discovering her past? Aashya's eyes find Aleina's, and she wonders what the seeress is thinking right now. Back to the river. Of all the directions this disparate band could choose to take.......

Aashya finally responds to Heulwen. "I suppose the gnomes might help us. But it's no sure thing that I'll find the Sun Fish clan again. And I don't know how much goodwill the other clans will be willing to show me.

"But I'm surprised you'd trust the gnomes." She looks at Lyr as she says this, remembering the misconceptions he'd held about the gnomes being collaborators.
  #153  
Unread 18th of December, 2004, 02:13
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Aleina

As Aashya looks into her eyes, Aleina finds herself wondering about this young woman. She had no memory at all of her former life whereas Aleina remembered far too much. Did she have any family still living?

The others are grouped loosely behind her, Dun's face filled with something between joy and horror. The chill descends on her as she stares into Aashya's eyes, moments drift away life flotsam on the river, and she suddenly finds that those eyes belong to a different face.

'Brall'

Her stomach twists as she looks at her brother, dead now this past year, his cheeks still smooth with youth. Aleina's dread blue eyes fill with tears at the accusatory look on his face, at the hardness of his dark eyes.

'I am sorry'

His face doesn't change, but grows larger, as if he is moving forward towards her but he hasn't moved. Then he is so close she can no longer focus on him, and there behind him is a figure cloaked in shadow, someone she hadn't noticed before. Her eyes follow the man as he moves further away but his form is elusive, denying the identification she craves.

Deep in her belly a sense of unease grows like a squirming white larva, feeding on her uncertainty. The land behind him grows and shrinks at the same time, showing her the vast expanse of Southern Erenland. Out of the corner of her eye, far to the east is the twisting silver ribbon that can only be the Eren.

Ahead of her, she tries to focus on the man, to pierce the shrouded veil of his identity with her gimlet gaze. It is like trying to grab at smoke barehanded. He is everywhere and nowhere at all. The pit of her stomach is full now, the larva swollen into an immense, bloated thing, exuding sickness throughout her narrow frame.

She follows, South and South again, the vista darkening until she can no longer pick the mysterious figure out from the shadows around her. And then there is darkness, and she is left alone, her stomach heaving though she cannot vomit up the sickness inside her. The world is gone and she has nowhere left to go, her muscles clenching as spasming as she fights the corruption within her. And then, when things can get no worse, the shadows around her being to move, this time with hideous form . . .


Her breath comes in a great heave, an in rushing of air that snaps her back to the present with a great gulp of the cold. Involuntarily, she stumbles forward a step, then catches herself. The blood has drained from her face as she looks to the others.

"South. We will go South first."
  #154  
Unread 18th of December, 2004, 03:54
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Heulwen

Unsure of what causes Aleina to stumble, and ignorant of why it changed anything, Heulwen challenges her declaration, "South? Why south? It may take some time, but finding and contacting the Sun Fish clans of gnomes will allow Aaysha to find out far more information about the whole length of the Eren then we could hope to get in the south. Unless you have some contact there that could be a similar wealth of information?
  #155  
Unread 18th of December, 2004, 09:37
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Aashya

What just happened? Aashya wonders, her eyes on Aleina's pale, strained face. The woman had seemed to be.. somewhere else for a moment there.

And why South?

Heulwen asks the same question, but out loud. While the halfling voices her concerns, Aashya tries to remember where the gnomes were supposed to be heading next. Unfortunately, she hadn't ever paid much attention to things like that while she travelled with them. She'd been content to drift along, seldom worrying about where she would end up.

"It's possible that the Sun Fish clan was going to be moving back down river," Aashya says, almost to herself. "Let's see..... they were at Swift Water five or six days ago, I guess it was, maybe more. Gylda mentioned that they might be going back to the Ardune soon." But then again, she'd also said something about the Sea of Pelluria. The gnomes' choice of direction depended on something. Too bad Aashya couldn't recall what that something was.

Aleina seems to be so certain that we should head South.

"The Ardune is South, isn't it? Yes, I'm pretty sure that's where they were going."
  #156  
Unread 21st of December, 2004, 03:10
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Aleina

The channeler looks away from Heulwen's gaze and the question the halfling huntress posed. Her breath steams in front of her, a wispy cloud vaporized almost at once by the chill wind. The ice white eyes are distant.

Why South?

"I feel there is something to be gained, though what that is remains to be seen."

It was not a very convincing argument compared to Heulwen's. Aleina had already given up her most damning secret to these people - her use of forbidden magic. After all, she had told Aashya, and in a place where the others had probably heard. Why then should she be so frightened to explain this? Perhaps saying it out loud, admitting she put faith in it, made it real.

"It is not much to go on, I know. But I . . . I don't know how to explain it. I have . . . visions . . . sometimes. I never used to, but now I do. My mother told me, a long time ago, that my grandmother had them."

She pauses, looking over to them, seeming somehow unsure and certain at once. Maybe she was afraid to admit this supernatural knowledge because of the feelings it might generate. Dun might believe they had more of a chance to find his father than was really true. Rhotha'ah could choose to see it as new hope.

"It isn't magic, not in any conscious way. One of these visions led me to Kingscross. But they are vague and often only half-formed, open to interpretation. Maybe it is as Aashya says: perhaps her clan is there, and thus your logic coincides with my feeling. I do not know."

In her chest, her heart sinks. It wasn't how they would interpret her admission that bothered her. No, deep down Aleina was feeling that her words would make her responsible for their course. Whatever happened would become something she had led them into. It was a lonely feeling.
  #157  
Unread 21st of December, 2004, 04:58
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Aleina's words stir a myriad of reactions. Cytaill tilts his head and watches the woman speak, his flinty eyes suggesting an intelligence not found in most hounds. Lyr purses his lips and folds his arms across his chest, the cogs of his mind spurred into motion once. Feyd raises his eyebrows momentarily before shrugging. And the dwarf? He grumbles softly but remains unconscious.

"That's something, 'leina," Feyd says at last. "Must have some of that old blood in you. Strong. If you think we can find his father, then we'll do it. But we'll need to figure out a way to travel here. A big man with weapons and a little one with her wolf are going to get us a lot of looks. More importantly though" --he crosses his arms-- "did anyone do anything in Kingscross last night? Anything suspicious? Right now the orcs probably just think they're after a...man and a dwarf. Be good to know if anyone else has been up to trouble."

Last edited by Cadrius; 21st of December, 2004 at 08:52.
  #158  
Unread 30th of December, 2004, 11:09
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Heulwen

"We can travel cross country," Heulwen replies, "We'll attract little attention if no one knows we're there."

"As for Kingscross, my own appearence there is probably enough to have stirred up something with orcs coming. Though no one will have any knowledge of which way to direct the orcs, they won't know that and aren't likely to accept 'I don't know' as an answer. We best avoid Kingscross and the surrounding environs."
  #159  
Unread 3rd of January, 2005, 08:26
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Aashya

Aashya doesn't know if they'll find her friends - the gnomes of the Sun Fish clan - going south to the river. But for some reason, she is hopeful that they will, and that the gnomes in turn will be able to give them information regarding Dun's missing father.

Why is she hopeful? Surely the odds are not in the party's favor. She has no real idea where the gnomes were planning to go after Swift Water. And all Dun has to go on in the search for his father is that he might have gone south. Thinking about it rationally, even an optimistic person couldn't believe that there is much hope that the party will be successful.

But Aleina feels there is something to be gained by going south. And that fact gives Aashya hope. Aashya has only known this strangely calm and confident woman for less than a day. But somehow, Aashya believes in her.

Even the thought of more days trudging through the wilderness doesn't sound so bad if Aleina says that's what they have to do.

Aashya has filled her waterskin, and is as ready to get moving again as she ever will be. She hovers near Aleina and the dwarf, helping the seeress prepare the dwarf for the long journey.

"Can you wake him?" she asks Aleina. "Or maybe you shouldn't. I can walk beside him to make sure that his ride is smooth, and that he doesn't fall off as we go."
  #160  
Unread 5th of January, 2005, 05:52
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Rhotha'ah

As the halfling speaks about the best way to avoid notice while searching for the Sun Fish gnomes, the Dorn's ears twitch as they hear something. If not for the pause in her words, he would never have heard it. Turning his gaze towards Kingscross, he locks eyes with Feyd, and his suspicions are confirmed. Rhotha'ah swiftly reaches behind his back and retrieves one of the small throwing axes, raising his other hand to halt the conversation.

"I think that, perhaps, we have taken too long."
  #161  
Unread 5th of January, 2005, 11:13
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Heulwen

Cursing herself silently for missing whatever sign it was that Rhotha'ah has sensed and for not pushing harder for the party to move on quickly, Heulwen looks, listens, and sniffs for signs as she moves quietly into the copse, fading into the brush as she goes.
  #162  
Unread 6th of January, 2005, 05:27
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Heulwen

The halfling slides through the veil between the oasis and the rest of the Westlands. The panock trees and small shrubs that grow here aren't plentiful, but they are enough to shroud Heulwen and her companions from the outside world. The only smells are those left by those gathered at the oasis, the plants, and the death given to the orcs earlier. She feels more than hears Cytaill at her flank.

It's her ears that serve her better than her nose, at least until she reaches the edge of the oasis. Kingscross stands, at least five miles distant, to the south east of her. The halfling squints and she can make out figures running to and fro, most are being chased by larger ones. Sounds echo faintly across the distance, cries here, shouts there, but all tell the same tale of pain and fear. Thick, black smoke begins to gout from the tallest building, leaving little doubt in Heulwen's mind as to what doom has befallen the village.

Kingscross is burning.
  #163  
Unread 6th of January, 2005, 14:12
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Aleina

Shaking her head at Aashya's first question, Aleina merely nods when the woman offers to help keep the dwarf from falling. Her eyes swiftly move to Rhotha'ah as the big man gestures. Her stomach freezes and her eyes dart around, looking for some foe. There are none, but for some reason that makes her sense of dread rise higher. When Heulwen melts away, Aleina follows as quietly as a woman leading a burdened mule can go.
  #164  
Unread 7th of January, 2005, 16:53
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Heulwen

The sight of Kingscross burning stirs a vestige of pity in Heulwen, but she quickly quelches it. Such emotion could only interfere with continued survival.

Turning to the sounds of Bombur and Aleina coming through the trees, Heulwen speaks when Aleina gets close, "We need to go now. Its only a matter of time now before the orcs tire of their sport in Kingscross and come to find us."
  #165  
Unread 8th of January, 2005, 03:27
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Dun

Dun follows the others silently, stealthily.

When caught up with the others, he stays a few steps back. Beholding the sight and sounds unfolding in the distance, Dun is horrified. He slowly shakes his head, not wanting to believe, and yet knowing... "No...." the Erenlander whispers to himself.

Dun nods when the halfling voice breaks distant screams.
  #166  
Unread 8th of January, 2005, 03:55
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Rhotha'ah

Determined not to let his newest tribemate out of his sight while there could be orcs, or worse, about, the large Dornish man walked through the trees with an agility that many wouldn't guess he possessed. Coming out of the copse of trees, the first thing Rhotha'ah saw were the pillars of smoke coming from the town they had left only a day earlier.

Steeling himself against the newest flood of memories from the night his own tribe was attacked by bandits unknown, his hand tightens around the haft of the throwing axe, the muscles up his arm rippling with raw force. He steals a look at his make-shift tribe, each showing a mix of horror, fear, and dread on their faces, before looking back at the doomed town.

"We should leave." He says, blinking his eyes to shunt the pain of his own words back into his reservoir of rage, where they would do the most good. Rhotha'ah places his large hand on Dun's shoulder and squeezes it slightly before turning away from the grizly scene unfolding in the dale below.
  #167  
Unread 9th of January, 2005, 01:48
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Aashya

Aashya walks beside Bombur, watchful of the dwarf's precarious position on the mule's back. She assumes that it is the town of Kingscross she sees in the distance. Her assumption is confirmed by Heulwen, and a sudden desire to flee wells up inside of the young Sarcosan.

Aleina and the others had just come from this town! The night before, it had been an ordinary farming community, and now....... Kingscross is burning. The smell of smoke is heavy on the breeze, and far-away screams pierce the morning calm, awakening vague and fearful half-memories in Aashya's mind.

"Run, Ganesh, run!"

"No, stand and fight!"

Yes, that's right. Stand and fight! You knew they'd find us eventually. This is what you've been training for!

"The horses! Someone see to the horses!"


The memories are a muddle, but Aashya is beginning to make some sense of them. She'd been afraid at first. She could feel the panic rising in her like it was now. But then her training had come back to her. She'd dodged the lumbering, torch-carrying orcs, and even managed to land some blows. She'd gone toward the river to round up some of the horses......

Aashya shakes her head, coming back to the present. The urge to run away is gone, replaced by anger. People don't deserve this. Ganesh didn't deserve what happened to him. What HAD happened to Ganesh? Who was Ganesh?

"We should do something," Aashya mutters. She looks at Aleina. "Shouldn't we?"
  #168  
Unread 12th of January, 2005, 02:24
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Aleina

The channeler bows her head, an action which hides the pain in her face and eyes from the others. Mayor Lusk had seemed so certain that nothing would come of it that she had wanted to believe. Even then she had known better but she had pushed that knowledge aside, unable to do anything else and unwilling to accept what would come. Unwilling to accept this.

It was the way of things in the twisted world they found themselves a part of. Fighting meant suffering, but often that suffering was inflicted on someone else - friends, family, loved ones. Even strangers suffered when the dark hand of Izrador clenched to punish. It was the fundamental obstacle to heroism: there was no way to avoid the fact that when you fought the evil you ended up with the blood of innocents on your hands.

Isn't that what had happened before? Even if you didn't fight, even if you just wanted to mend the hurts of others, even then you might do more harm than good. It had been her own healing magic that brought the attention of the legate down on her brother's camp. In the end she was left appalled both by what she had done and what she hadn't done.

The river hadn't washed the pain from her soul, nor had it removed the doubt. But this wasn't just about her anymore. She looks up, composed.

"I know. They are hurt and we have fled. Perhaps it was our presence or our action that prompted this vengeance. Make no mistake: whatever we did or did not do, the evil there is the work of the dark one.

"When a tree falls, you cannot stop it by standing under it. Nor can you fix it by heaving it upright. We do not have the strength in arms to fight the force present there. My healing magic will likely bring legates thick as flies. The odds of us doing any real good are small but if you are resolved to help them, I will not leave you. However, our help must come from the shadows if it comes at all. Do not decieve yourself into thinking we can make this right."
  #169  
Unread 12th of January, 2005, 02:35
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Heulwen

"Orcs need little excuse to rape, burn, and pillage," Heulwen replies, "there is no telling what little thing set them off this time. It could have been a child's insult or organized resistance. In any case we must fly before the two orcs that escaped the dwarf and Feyd make it to Kingscross and back.

Leading the way south, Heulwen attempts to choose a path that will serve a two-fold purpose: one, to keep them out of sight of Kingscross as much as possible, and two, to make any attempts to follow them as difficult as possible.
  #170  
Unread 12th of January, 2005, 03:05
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Aleina

Heulwen is practical as usual but when she mentions Feyd, Aleina's heart skips a beat. There had been something about his manner earlier, an edge that hadn't been present when they first met . . .

"Feyd, did you know Kingscross was under attack?"
  #171  
Unread 12th of January, 2005, 06:21
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Aashya

Aashya stands with her brown arms folded across her chest and her head down as Aleina answers her. She knows that what the woman says is right, and yet....

"How can we not do anything? We cannot stop them, but we can make them pay!" She looks up, a fire burning in her dark eyes. Aleina has turned toward Feyd, and Aashya looks at the lean man too. He must know what she's talking about. He'd already made some orcs pay.

But that reminds Aashya of the injured dwarf, and she sighs. They can hardly go chasing after orcs while dragging along an unconscious dwarf on a mule.

And suddenly, the insanity of what she is thinking about doing comes home to her.

Chasing after orcs?! What would make me think of doing something like that anyway???
  #172  
Unread 12th of January, 2005, 14:08
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Heulwen

She sets off, uninterested in whatever further ruminations the humans might be interested in. As far as she's concerned there's only one course of action: to survive. Fighting a band of orcs and wicked men would only lead to their deaths. They'd be lucky if even a few of the inhabitants of Kingscross escaped. No, this is one fight the halfling knows she cannot win.

Cytaill follows at her side, casting a wary eye toward the burning settlement while his companion searches for a hidden route. She doesn't find all that much. The Westlands is a place of rolling plains interrupted only occasionally by spots of trees and water where the Eren and its tributaries make their way. Kingscross has one small forest to the south. She could try and skirt it, keep the trees between her and the orcs. Of course if they were searching for someone, it would be the second place they'd check after the oasis. Yet she guesses there's enough time to get out of immediate danger.

Dun, Rhotha'ah, Aashya, and Aleina

Lyr follows Heulwen for a dozen paces before realizing none of the others have joined him. The scholar stops and casts a glance back at his companions. He looks torn.

Feyd averts his eyes from Aleina, and from her question. The man seems to find it easier to watch Kingscross burn. He draws in a deep breath and sighs. In the distance several of the larger shapes run down some of the smaller ones. The faintest whisper of screams cut short drifts to where the companions stand.

"I didn't know. Not really. But she's right" --he nods at Aashya-- "something should be done. Take the dwarf and get as far away as possible. Make for the village of Fairbrook. It's right off the Eren, maybe a week or so to the south east. I have a...friend there who owe's me a debt. Look for an innkeeper named Kerrich. He should keep you warm and fed for a day or two. Don't rely too long on his hospitality. When you get there, get him alone and say this to him. 'Aa' menealle nauva calen ar' malta.' He'll know what it means, just don't do it in front of anyone else. Say it."

Feyd has the four repeat the words until he's satisfied. The woodsman strings his bow and checks his quiver before turning his gaze back to the town. Where one building had burned, five now do each sending their own cloud of black smoke into the air.

"Don't despair. I'm not planning on dying down there. Remember the words."

He turns and moves away quickly, half-crouched and headed toward an outlying farm of Kingscross.
  #173  
Unread 12th of January, 2005, 16:08
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Dun

Stunned by the wanton killing and destruction, there is little the Erenlander can say and, more sadly, nothing he can do.

He repeats the words Feyd wants them to use with the innkeep Kerrich, 'Aa' menealle nauva calen ar' malta' and commits the phrase to memory.

Dun immediately understands what the ranger intends to do when he strings his bow, and shakes his head. He knows nothing that can be done to save Kingscross and realizes, Feyd knows as well. And yet he persists, knowing it will change nothing. He wished he was as skilled and brave.

Once the ranger sprang from sight, Dun speaks to the others in a somber tone, "Let us go, there is nothing we can do here."
  #174  
Unread 13th of January, 2005, 02:45
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Aleina

"Feyd . . ."

There were no words for what she wanted to say. A good man. He was a good man and he was going to almost certain death. And even if he survived now, how long would he last on the course he had chosen? Her eyes almost fill with the well of tears rising through her, but she refuses to let them. Instead she meets his gaze, locking her eyes on his, hoping he remembers that if the world was different maybe he could have lived a normal life, found a wife and had children, lived in peace instead of war.

"We will meet again."

He is gone before her voice fades. She rubs Bombur's nose, wishing that her final words were prophecy instead of just a fool's hope. When Dun speaks, she looks toward Aashya, the question clear in her eyes.

Which way will you go?

Last edited by Gralhruk; 28th of January, 2005 at 01:12.
  #175  
Unread 13th of January, 2005, 06:19
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Aashya

Run away or fight?

Running makes more sense.... Aashya thinks. It's what people usually do in situations like this. Run. Hide. Don't look too closely. Don't act or react. Don't call attention to yourself. Don't help.

Why had she thought, for just the briefest of moments there, that making the orcs pay was important? Where had such an idea come from?

Feyd is leaving them. He said....

He said that I'm right. That something should be done. Did I say that?

She remembers feeling hot anger a moment ago - the memories and the distant screams had fanned a tiny ember that smoldered inside of her. But now she is cold again. The flames had died quickly. There was not enough fuel yet to sustain them.

But Feyd.... Feyd is going to make the orcs pay. She could go with him.

No, I can't. Not yet. I- I......

"I know we'll see you again," she tells him before he walks away. She believes what she says.

Aleina is looking at her, a question in her eyes. Aashya stares back, wondering how much of what she thinks and feels is plain for the seeress to read.

She thought that I might go with him!

There is something to think about there. For Aleina to believe that she could consider helping Feyd.... well, it made the whole idea seem less crazy afterall.
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