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  #26  
Unread 8th of March, 2009, 02:30
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Grief, was catching up with Piletre. She gratefully listened while Gorm described the events that had led up to them being stranded on this particular stretch of beach. She could not bring herself to talk about it herself. The truth of the matter was that even if every other person who had been in the boat with them had survived she had still lost at least half of her family in one fell swoop. She realized now why Rowan's seeming eagerness to throw himself to his death had so angered her earlier and she further realized that she had behaved badly. It was her problem not his and her anger faded almost as quickly as it had come.

What she really wanted to do was run off somewhere and cry for a week. But that was not possible, and moreover it was irresponsible in a way that would have both her uncle and her father screaming in their graves. Her job now was find as many survivors as she could while ensuring that their promise to get Ghostface to his destination was kept, assuming that was where he still wanted to go.

She roused herself from her daze as Gorm finished their story and did her best to deal with the practical matters of the living.

"Gorm, would you be willing to see to first watch tonight?"

Gorm nodded, "Not a problem."

"Rowan I think it would be better if you allowed yourself to sleep tonight," Piletre said in her most soothing voice, hoping to make up for the curt way she had spoken to him earlier. "It will not hurt us to have longer watches for one night; if you wish to take a watch however, I would be pleased if you would take the fourth watch?"
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Last edited by Tashiba; 8th of March, 2009 at 04:06.
  #27  
Unread 16th of March, 2009, 17:09
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As the fever subsides he grows reacquainted with modesty. The ocean’s icy kiss has faded the crimson from his skin into a pink blush. Rowan scuffs the sand, shifting his weight awkwardly between his feet. His one consolation is that the orc possess little more than scraps of cloth as well.

He stares down at his body, wondering if he has always been so thin. His fingers are long and narrow, and the bones of his hips jut out. He doesn’t remember being a hairy man, but he can’t seem to find any on his body. Running a hand down his face reveals neither stubble nor eyebrows.

What had happened to him?

Gorm, perhaps sensing Rowan’s slow return to normalcy, hands him a strip of cloth. It is dirty and crusted with salt from the sea, but it will at least cover him. Rowan bobs his head in thanks and offers a weak smile. Gorm is what Rowan is not: handsome and friendly. The grace in his walk reveals a man comfortable in his own skin. Rowan averts his eyes. In this moment Rowan hates him for it.

Ghostface looms near, a mountain on the beach casting a long shadow upon the strand. A sense of unease grows in Rowan’s belly. He cannot place it, but the orc makes him nervous. Perhaps it is the fact that Ghostface stands two hands taller and weighs twice as much, but it is more than his prodigious size. Rowan sees something primal in him. It lurks in the depths of the orc’s eyes and gleams on his tusks. It scares him. He swallows hard and doesn’t hold his gaze for long.

Piletre’s voice is gentle and sweet. A flash of memory kindles within him of another woman’s voice and of dappled sunshine filtering through the trees ringing a meadow. The long grass sways with the breeze. The air is warm. He is not happy. The glimpse vanishes, sliding through his grasp like sand.

Rowan becomes aware of Piletre’s gaze on him. He has not answered her. Blood rushes to his cheeks. She has the pure ivory hair of an old woman yet all the vitality of youth flow through her tanned limbs. Her exotic beauty is only enhanced by the steel lying just beneath her surface. Again, Rowan is reminded of his nakedness.

“Of course,” he says. There is more edge in his voice than he likes. “But I am not tired.”

It is a lie. Even his bones are weary, but from what he does not know. A thought seizes him. He awoke, stumbling through the woods. If he closes his eyes again, will he lose these three as well? Will he awaken by himself once more? Is his wyrd one of solitude and fear?

There is naught he wants more in this world than to lay down upon the sand and sleep a hundred years. His name will slip from the world’s memory, disappearing like his footprints here on the beach. He could start anew. He could be born once more and mold his life and fate into what it should be and not the cruel japery that it has been. But that would mean waking alone again.

No, it is far better to be awake. He does not trust his dreams.


The heat from the fire bakes into him, warming his outsides as the grog warms him within. The fire is ringed by rocks and the four sit around it. Gorm is sprawled in the sand, propped up by a fallen log Ghostface dragged over. On the other side of the ring, Ghostface holds a strip of wood over the fire watching it until the very tip begins to burn. He pulls it back from the fire and blows out the flame. Rowan sits in the sand with his knees drawn up to his chest and his arms wrapped around them.

Piletre sits on the other side of the log from Gorm, her hands clasped, and staring into the flames. There is something in her bearing that makes Rowan sad. She must be mourning those that did not survive their wrecking. The firelight softens her features, making her somber face break Rowan’s heart all the more.

Gorm sits up and shakes the jug hooked through one finger. Rowan nods. The Cyleni grins his devilish smile and tosses it to him. It sails up and over the fire and falls into Rowan’s hands. Gorm has a silver tongue and is all too happy to give it leave.

They three were part of a ship. Both he and Ghostface were recent additions to Piletre’s crew. However, he glosses over the circumstances of their shipwreck. His eyes flick over to Piletre before he changes his tone and launches into a tale about a daring thief. In this story, the thief stole the prized gems from a mad king who punished all crimes by burning men alive. Each comment or question Rowan makes spawns a new tale. Jealousy still burns in Rowan’s belly, but he laughs despite himself at Gorm’s ribald stories. He is a hard man to hate.

Nearby, Ghostface picks up a rock the size of Rowan’s fist and rubs the point of the makeshift spear against it. He tests the point against his thumb before sticking it back into the fire. He is quiet. Rowan is still uneasy.

“How did you end up here, Rowan?” Piletre asks. Her hair has picked up some of the color from the fire.

He takes a swig of the grog. It burns. He considers lying again, but doesn’t see the point. Having arrived in their midst naked and feverish, it is reasonable that he would not recall the circumstances of the previous few days. But he can’t remember his mother’s name either, only the ghost of her face. He doesn’t remember the name of his village, but he does remember the sod huts and low stone walls. He remembers the smell of tilled earth. He remembers hating the place.

“I don’t know.”

“I’m sure it’ll come back,” Gorm says. “Just give it time.”

“Yes, let’s hope it does,” she says. Piletre stands. “I am going to rest. Rowan, I urge you to do the same. Gorm, wake me when you are ready.”

“Aye,” Gorm says.

Rowan stretches out on the sand and stares up into the cruel stars above. Before sleep can come he hears the brush of sand and faint thud as Ghostface approaches him. Wary, Rowan pops himself up on an elbow.

They lack a common language and the great orc has to mime his intent, but that doesn’t stop Rowan from talking. “Ghostface. What is it?”

He faces away from Rowan and toward the sea. The spear dances in his hands, snaking to and fro, spearing imaginary foes. He turns back to Rowan and nods his approval at his work. Ghostface lets the spear rest in his open palms and extends it to Rowan, who gets to his feet and takes the weapon with some trepidation.

It is a good spear. The wood is stout but not too heavy. Rowan lightly dabs his finger at the point of the spear. It is deceptively sharp. He looks in wonder at the orc and feels more than a little guilty at his disquiet. Rowan smiles and awkwardly claps Ghostface on the arm.

“Thank you,” he says. “I’ll sleep better with this by my side.”

Ghostface nods his head once and goes back to his place by the fire and lies down. Rowan does the same. This time, sleep takes him within moments.
  #28  
Unread 4th of April, 2009, 15:58
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Heavy lids fight his return to the living. Yet after a moment they bend to the inevitability of his interrupted slumber. Groggy, he sees the lithe silhouette of Piletre framed by the dim firelight beyond. He gives her a nod, acknowledging his rousing, and slowly climbs to his feet. As he stands he notices that even in the dark her hair shines.

A faint breeze has picked up, and it runs its caress across his arms and neck. He shivers and looks to the fire. It has burned low. While Piletre beds down, Rowan moves to the diminished pile of sticks and branches and lays a piece of driftwood onto the bed of coals. The embers wake to their passion for consumption and soon after the greedy flames begin to lick at the thick branch.

Fetching a smaller stick, Rowan plants himself and his makeshift spear in the sand where Gorm had sat earlier. Wedging his back against the log, he pokes at the fire with an idle curiosity. As the wood catches he watches small motes of sparks spiral into the air before disappearing, crushed by the breeze.

Rowan’s eyes fix on the growing fire, mesmerizes by the shifting flame. As a child he always liked watching how it moved and flowed like water, but seared everything that came in contact with it. He watches it now, recalling only brief glimpses of his childhood and the confusing memory of a woman with copper hair. It image unsettles him, causing his stomach to churn. There is something about her burnished hair and pale skin that is beautiful and frightening.

His eyes close.

His eyes open.

The fire is brighter now, shedding its illumination further onto the sand. Yet to him, it looks nothing more than the smallest bastion of light in a sea of shadows. His thoughts turn again to his home and his family. Their faces are clearer now. He can see them in his mind, but their names remain hidden, like a mummer hiding a prop just out of view from the audience.

Past the ring of light, he can see them moving in the dark. The shades of his past draw near. They are here to punish the forgetting of their names. The irony is not lost on him and his mouth twists into a sardonic smile. His greatest fear is the one he has already subjected them to. One hand grips the haft of his spear, waiting for them to claim their due.

He has lost his future and his past. There is only the present. There are only the sparks lighting on the air. His mother and father roam the dark places of his mind, shrieking in blind torment, yearning to be acknowledged and recognized and cherished and loved. He can’t give it to them. He doesn’t know how. His own embers smolder within, but there is no wood to feed them. Their light is dying.

His eyes close.

His eyes open.

They are almost here. Their shapes solidify and with a creeping horror Rowan realizes these aren’t his parents at all. Each is a head taller than his father and half again as broad. Their skin is dirty from mud caked to their flesh and their teeth have been filed to horrible fangs. Gruesome talismans hang around their necks and wrists and the arms they bear are wicked and cruel.

They are the Black River Tribe.

In a flash, he remembers Myles and Bradden and their death screams. He remembers how the tribe had cut trophies from the bodies of the fallen and then ate the rest. He remembers the arrow burying its way into his body, searching for his life. Most of all he remembers the abject terror that had ruled him.

The embers fan into a flame.

“Not again,” he whispers. He scrambles to his feet, the spear clutched in both hands. His lungs fill with air and he feels the fire raging within. “NOT AGAIN!
  #29  
Unread 5th of May, 2009, 12:26
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Segment 12

Darkness.

A darkness so complete that Piletre can feel its umbral fingers caress the nape of her neck and run down her spine. She doesn't know where she is, nor how she got there.

All she knows is darkness.

Groping forward she can feel wet stone against her legs and hands. Stone smoothed by eons of dripping water. The air around her is hot and damp, and it reminded her of when her adoptive mother would boil down berries to make dye. Every pore of her flesh wept sweat as she struggled across the cloaked terrain.

CLANG

The sound is like a peal of thunder from steel storm clouds. A vibration of such purity that it tugs at her soul even as its raw power crashes against her, dropping her to her knees.

It was both terrible and breathtaking.

Obscured red flames flare in the distance, briefly illuminating the inner contours of a tunnel. Stumbling forward she finds her self stepping out onto an immense cave ruddily lit by great glurping pools of magma. In the center of the room she can make out a figure standing over an anvil made of bluish ice, holding a hammer of the same material. Stooping over one of the magma-cauldrons he pulls a long, gleaming blade from their depths. Piletre can feel the air charge with kourass as he lifts his hammer.

CLANG

The world around her shatters under the reverberating magic and her mind buckles from the weight of its eviscerating beauty.

"NOT AGAIN!" the scream cuts through the cool night air. Instinct leaps down Piletre's spine and seizes control of her limbs. Rolling out of the tent, her mind feverishly attempts to stitch together the chaos that is erupting around them.

Rowan sinking his wood spear into a man's guts, sending him to his knees.

Ghostface snatching another off of a log and hurling him with a bestial yell across the campsite. His bones sound like brittle tinder as they break loudly.

Dirt stained humans rushing at the great orc, their yellow, filled teeth glinting fang-like under the moon.

Gorm snoring soundly.

Last edited by -J-; 25th of May, 2009 at 12:32.
  #30  
Unread 13th of May, 2009, 12:10
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Segment 4

It is the sensation of dirty nails sinking into his cheek that wakes Gorm from the dark void of sleep. Eyes open and hand-axe poised, it takes him a moment to realize that its Piletre. The incoherent din of melee around him is punctuated by Ghostface's deep, bear-like war cry. He makes eye contact with the silver haired half-elf, and she gives him a half smile. Death had come this night with red hands and filed teeth.

It would be rude not to greet her.

Like a pale ghost Piletre slinks out of the improvised shelter, her inverted bronze knife tucked securely against her forearm. Gorm moves to follow her but is brought up short by a spray of rocks and sand. Rowan had driven his opponent right to the shelter opening, pinning the northman inside.

Lunging forward the mossy eyed Derbolg swings his hatchet in a flat arc, its bitter iron edge biting deeply into flesh and bone. The Black River scout roils in agony as he collapses. Surging to his feet Gorm catches sight of a club wielding savage moving to blindside Ghostface. Without thinking he sends the hatchet through the air. End over end it tumbles, trailing dark crimson in its wake. With a tooth jarring thunk the axe sinks into the scout's skull, drinking deeply of the brain within.

Across the camp a spear wielding savage rounds the pile of tree limbs that served as one of the shelter's walls. Catching sight of Gorm, he draws back his arm to throw. Springing up from her crouch Piletre pushes his arm aside and drives a foot of sharpened bronze into the base of the man's neck. A spray of hot blood washes over her arm as she jerks the blade free of its quivering sheath. Filth-caked hands claw impotently at the wound as the Black River scout sprawls out in the sand, his red, jaundiced eyes glazing as every beat of his heart sent the steaming streams of his brutal life arcing into the night air.

Last edited by -J-; 14th of May, 2009 at 01:00.
  #31  
Unread 25th of May, 2009, 14:41
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Segment 6

Rowan jerks the fire hardened spear from the bowels of the nearly legless scout with a wet, slurping pop that reminded him of a foot being pulled out of a bog. Rage boils out of his eyes making the whites glow a ruddy orange.

They had taken everything from him.

His freedom.

His pride.

His humanity.

They took from him and now they must pay.

Even as he watches the filthy Black River scout thrash about in his futile attempts to scoop his guts off the ground it isn't enough.

Behind him he can hear the great white orc bellow something in his husky tongue, and there's something about the tone makes him turn quickly. Another muck caked savage leaps at him swinging a crude hickory cudgel with both hands. Reflexively Rowan lifts the spear up, its blood soaked head jerking into line with the savage's face.

Lost in the hot throes of battle the scout doesn't even check his pace.

The rough tip of the spear slams into the scout's sternum, furrowing the skin as it tears down the bone. The savage's momentum carries Rowan a few steps back before auburn haired Cyleni manages to regain his footing. Surging forward, Rowan rips the spear through the last bit of cartilage and into the scout's liver. Unable to pull himself along the roughly shaped spear, the impaled savage froths a gnashes wildly.

Give him to me.

Without thinking Rowan pivots his hips and sends the scout crashing into the campfire. They had kept the fire small throughout the night, and now the weight of the flailing scout all but smothers it.

Give him to me.

To burn a living sacrifice is sacrilege, and deep within the slaughterous recesses of his mind Rowan knows that. He knows that what he is about to do is an affront to the gods, and he knows that they must surely punish him for his hubris.

He knows, but he doesn't care.

He calls to the embers - calls to them with words that no Namegiver has uttered in eons. He calls to them with words that swirl like burning ash in Piletre's ear.

"Take him!

Take this offering of flesh!"


Red flames explode from underneath the scout, and wrap him in their searing embrace. The man screams, and the flames leap down his throat and into his chest. They swirl like a burning tornado inside him and when he is hollowed they twist back up through his neck with such force that the blackened tube of his trachea sings like a banshee playing a demonic flute. At length the sanguine flames leap high into the clouds leaving in their wake naught but a faint tracing of ash.

It still isn't enough.

__________________________________________________ ________

Bloody-tooth stares at the human pyre and weeps. Never had he expected to see the sacred flames of blood, and their beauty robs him of his rage and bloodlust.

This place is holy now.

The People had lived near the Fire-That-Lies-Within-The-Mountain for as long as any could remember. They had danced and sung for Her. They had thrown captives and slaves screaming into Her depths. He himself had been given the honor of drinking the black water that eked from the stone.

The Fire-water.

The Blood of the Mountain.

Only a few who drink of it live, and he was one of them.

Chosen of the Mountain.

A smile spreads across his lips as the last of the blood red flame vaporizes his brother and then leaps into the sky, carrying his soul back to The Mountain. There is a twinge of jealousy in his heart as he watches the last of the ash scatter on the wind. His brother had never done anything great for The People, not like he had, and yet he had been chosen to return to Her, and Bloody-tooth had not.

The dirty savage's attention again returns to the melee just in time to see the great white heshenai swing a club as thick as a man's leg into his crotch. Sacrum, testicles and pubis explode as he is sent sailing through the chill ocean air, his last though melting beneath the white hot agony of death.

Why not me?

Last edited by -J-; 27th of May, 2009 at 08:07.
  #32  
Unread 29th of May, 2009, 02:32
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Reinstadler
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Ghostface sniffs the air. Nothing but Heshenai flesh smoldering. Gore drips from his club, blood dapples his moonlight face and chest, and the broad-shouldered pale orc regards Rowan, a human channeling kourass. He shakes his head in wonder. Never has he heard of such a thing among the tribes. The orc furrows his brow for a moment considering then flashes his tusks and claps Rowan's back.

He raises his club and and caws shaking his club in victory. Looking up for the night birds to come and feast, he sees strange lights moving on Fire Mountain. They seem at first eyes, then lost spirits, then they resolve into thin lines of flame, trails of glowing ants marching down the mountain. At the realization, the long low sounds rumble down the mountain over the four of them. The horns echo over the sea as the warbands of Black River start to pour out of the mountain.

Ghostface gathers the weapons of the fallen. He keeps a spear, gives the remaining two to the human men and the hatchet to Piletre. Without pausing, he reaches into the remains of their fire and darkens his pale flesh. He adds in Mirrian, “We should head inland, try to reach another tribe before they reach us.”

Standing hastily covered in blood and ash, he adds in the same tongue, “The forest will provide more cover than the shore. Piletre, you can easily follow the path I make. Gorm and Rowan should stay together behind you.”
  #33  
Unread 3rd of June, 2009, 14:24
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It is an awakening akin to the blind man who opens his eyes one morning and, by the grace of the gods, can see all the glorious colors of the world around him. He rejoices in every sight, from the greatest of castles to the tiniest of gnats. All things in the world are new again and he is thankful for the blessing he has received.

Rowan, too, is thankful, but his gratitude is shown in fire and blood. The filthy warrior burns until there is nothing left but the slightest motes of his soul drifting away into the ether. His lady deserves better. She deserves more than this. He can deliver the entire tribe in a holocaust. He will gift them unto the fire.

“What was in old times, shall come again,” he says, eyes blazing.

But there are none left.

He casts about, eyes piercing the night looking for another. His gaze lights upon the great orc that had stolen Rowan’s next offering. A mad gleam kindles in the depths of his smoldering eyes.

Not that one. Not yet.

His lip curls and he looks again for another to give up in immolation. He needs a second, and then a third, and a hundred more until his hecatomb is complete.

The silver haired one—Piletre, some distant part of his mind recalls—disappears into the shadows. The great orc follows her. Rowan is not given the chance to find his next victim. Gorm crashes into him, knocking him to the ground, and Rowan’s head strikes a log sending an explosion of pain through his vision. The man half-helps and half-drags him to his feet. Rowan’s vision swims. His head lolls.

But the blind man has not lost his sight.
 

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