Caverns of Blood ~Awakenings~

Discussion in 'The Salty Dog Tavern' started by The Watch, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. The Watch

    The Watch Well-Known Member
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    Fiorn stood before the mouth of Shame, his entire body trembling. He almost felt as if he were being dragged physically toward the deep, dark opening. A quick glance at his feet showed that they were still firmly planted in the grass and leaf litter of the surrounding forest. He knew he must enter the dungeon, but every fiber of his being resisted, fought and held out as long as he could against the summoning.

    But slowly, that resistance was breaking down. He was compelled by magic older than the bones of the very mountains he stood before, and he could not break it. Painfully, grudgingly, he took one agonizing step after another....closer and closer to the entrance of the dungeon. That cavernous maw seemed to smile at him as he drew near, the unnatural way the light failed to penetrate even the threshold sent shivers up his spine.

    Fiorn had spent years in that dungeon, in the deepest depths of the mountain, suffering at the hands of his Master. Here he had been changed...corrupted.... turned into something other than the man he had been....something darker. He had known pain like no mortal before him, and he did not relish returning to that prison.

    But he had no choice.

    As the darkness swallowed him, Fiorn thought he felt the light brush of a woman's fingers on his neck, and he heard the briefest hint of sultry laughter.

    The blackness inside was complete. For a short, panicked moment, Fiorn fumbled for the potion that would give him sight...and then he found it. He unstoppered the bottle and drained the foul concoction in a single gulp. As the magic elixir worked through his veins, the darkness around him lifted slowly, and he was able to see.

    Before him, close enough to touch, towered a massive Earth Elemental. The faceless creature of soil and stone seemed to peer at him, its craggy head tilted slightly to the side. It was a look of pondering that was unsettling in such a normally dense monster. Finally, after a moment, the elemental made a sound deep within like the rumbling of boulders falling down a mountain, and it stepped out of Fiorn's way.

    As much as he hated it, Fiorn moved into the deep, twisting tunnels of the dungeon. He passed more earth elementals on his way, but these barely seemed to notice his presence. They did not have the discerning, contemplating gaze of the sentry at the entrance. Fiorn shuddered as he thought about what eyes may have been seeing him through that monster's consciousness. Even the scorpions that approached him drew near, and then skittered away into the recesses of the dungeon. Fiorn was bound, both by the blood summoning and by a magic deeper and darker than any of these denizens of the dark had ever encountered. They felt the power of it washing off him in waves, and they cowered from it.

    In the lower levels, Fiorn passed swirling air elementals, columns of walking fire, and even clouds of poisonous vapor that moved with purpose and power. Efreets howled in their walled prison, clambering to escape and devour anything they could touch. And finally, Fiorn entered the lowest levels of the dungeon, where the stench of old and corrupted blood hung thick in the air. These blood elementals were the most powerful and the most terrifying of Shame's natural occupants, but even they moved out of Fiorn's path as he approached.

    Before him rose the black stone walls of the Dark Lord's keep. Two sentries stood on the wooden bridge as he approached, and they sneered at him as he passed. Their glowing red eyes held no spark of life, and no light of intelligence, only the deep and twisted hatred they served. Fiorn pitied them. He was a worm, and he knew it. But at least he was still a man.

    Suddenly, the door to the keep burst outward in a shower of smoking splinters and chunks of charred wood. Fiorn threw himself to the rough wood planks of the bridge as a massive set of hinges whistled over his head. There, in the doorway, stood the Dark Lord himself, his power rolling off him in visible waves of utter blackness. Rage seethed across his milky pale face as his eyes fell on Fiorn. WIthout moving his glance, he twisted the fingers of his right hand, and both sentries fell dead.

    "So, my hound has returned," The Dark Lord grated in a deceptively soft, but rasping voice, "When I send a dog out in search of prey, I don't expect him to return empty handed. Such dogs are beaten."

    "Master, I had no--" Fiorn began, but the Dark Lord fliked the little finger of his left hand, and pain exploded in Fiorn. It was a pain unlike any he had ever experienced before, or since. Only the Dark Lord could punish someone like this, reaching to crush their very soul in the palm of his hand. Fiorn tried to cry out, but found he had no breath in his lungs, and could only wheeze as he spasmed uncontrollably on the bridge.

    Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the pain subsided, and Fiorn lay panting and exhausted. The Dark Lord towered over him.

    "You speak when you are told, dog," The Dark Lord rasped, "Or have you forgotten who your Master is?"

    Fiorn pressed his lips tightly together and shook his head vigorously. Even the compulsion of the summoning wasn't enough to force him to brave that pain again. The Dark Lord smiled, a dreadful sight, and knelt to stroke Fiorn's head.

    "Good, pet," The Dark Lord grated, and then he froze, his eyes burning with intensity as he clasped Fiorn's head in both his hands, "I feel a power here, deep and ancient...a blood summoning! That spell has not been invoked in many ages in these lands. What treachery is this? Speak! Or by the Darkness I'll flay the flesh from your living bones!"

    Fiorn whimpered, and trembled uncontrollably, but he managed to deliver his message, "Master, Zeddar has awakened. Zeddar walks again."

    What little color there was in the Dark Lord's face seemed to drain, and his eyes widened. Then, just as suddenly, the Dark Lord's lips pulled back in the tight white line of a snarl, and growled, "You LIE!"

    Fiorn was ripped from the bridge and hurtled through the air. A sharp pain in the back of his head and a blinding flash of light marked where he impacted the stone wall of the dungeon. He slumped to the ground, briefly knocked unconscious. When the pain brought him back awake, the Dark Lord was there, towering over him once again, his face twisted in a mask of rage, hatred, and barely concealed fear.

    "I was there, dog," The Dark Lord said, "I watched as that Wizard spent his life's blood in a spell to consume my master and me. My master died, but I escaped. Barely."

    The Dark Lord threw open his robe, exposing the charred, cracked flesh of his chest...flesh that still oozed and seeped black blood, "This is the token that Wizard left me in his death, so I know you lie."

    Fiorn shook his head, trembling uncontrollably, the tears streaming down his face, "I swear it! I swear he lives," Fiorn stammered, "I don't know how, but he lives!! And he remembers. He remembers his past lives....remembers my betrayal. He called me by name... my true name.... and used it to invoke the summoning."

    The Dark Lord snarled again and bent, one hand the color of a maggot darting out to seize Fiorn's throat and lift him easily into the air, crushing his larynx slowly. Fiorn had to struggle harder and harder to breathe, and his vision was going black, when the Dark Lord suddenly frowned. He dropped Fiorn, and bent close, inhaling deeply through his nose as if trying to catch a scent. Just as sudeenly, the Dark Lord straightened, threw back his head, and roared with laughter.

    "So," He rasped at last, "Fate is dancing her dance once more....she thinks this Wizard can destroy me? We shall see. I can dance as well..."

    Fiorn coughed and sputtered, and when he could finally speak asked, "Should I kill him, Master?"

    The Dark Lord chuckled softly, his rage subsiding at last. "No, dog," He grated, "This prey is beyond you. I will deal with him. But killing a man is nothing...any cutthroat can do that. I will destroy him. I will take everything he holds dear, and I will break him. In the end, he will beg to be my servant before I feast on his soul."

    The Dark Lord grinned an evil grin, "For now, you are to complete the task I set you to before. Find the one they call the Watcher... Ascher Kraw.... and bring him to me....alive."

    Fiorn nodded, reaching out to clutch at the Dark Lord's feet, "Yes, Master. I won't fail you again. I swear it."

    The Dark Lord bent so that his face was directly before Fiorn's. "See that you don't, dog. Or I will make you twist in eternity and pray for a thousand deaths to release you from your torment. Now....gggooooooo...."

    WIth the last, lingering word, the Dark Lord opened his mouth and a wave of darkness washed over Fiorn. He felt himself drifting, weightless, until at last his eyes fluttered open. He lay on his back in a clearing, trees surrounding him. The sun was high in the sky, though the wind was cold. Mountain peaks rose into the sky around him, capped with snow, but they were different from the mountains around Shame.

    Fiorn stood slowly, his head spinning. As he looked around, blinking, he began to convince himself the whole ordeal had been a nightmare, some fiendish dream brought on by too much ale and too little food. Then, a blinding, searing pain erupted in the back of his mind, and his Master's voice echoed in his soul, "Never forget who's hound you are..."

    Fiorn cried out, and fell to his knees. As he balanced on the edge of unconsciousness, he thought he heard a woman's laughter..... Then, the darkness took him.
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  2. Jupiter

    Jupiter Well-Known Member

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    (See Rescue of Lady Lafayne if you have not yet read it)


    Plink, plink, Pli-plink, PLINK, plink. At first the sounds drew Catalin slowly out of his dreams. The ringing sound drew dreamy images of a champion fighting against a horde of orc captains. But as the veil of sleep drew thin, Catalin suddenly realized there was no epic battle occurring; it was the perimeter alarm!

    He sprang from his sleeping mat and had an arrow notched in his mighty bow trained towards the sound of the empty potion jars he had tied to a line. It was a rather elementary system of defense, but the creatures from which it provided protection were not the cleverest. But as he scanned the area, he saw no signs of orcs or harpies.

    Squinting his eyes and focusing his attention, he allowed the rest of his senses to recall and piece together the last few moments. He had learned that often one could over-look the most obvious signs due to relying only on their sight to perceive the natural world. The sound of the plinking bottles - he allowed himself to recollect the way they had awoken them. What was different about this time? It was the gentleness of their song. They were designed to cause chaos and confusion; to disorient and aggravate, but somehow they were providing an obscure serenity, almost as if they were being clinked deliberately; musically. He sniffed the air lightly, but the only information his sense of smell provided was that there was no hint of orc musk or dank harpy nearby.

    With his new sense of awareness he peered again towards the tree to which he had fastened the line of bottles. Then he saw it; at first it had appeared to be an extension of the tree, but no longer. This tree Catalin had named Primavera and had given her a special place in his heart. He had even adorned her with the left-over potion bottles so she could play him sweet melodies as the summer breeze passed through her. He could perceive now the shape that did not belong. Whatever it was that stretched out from her trunk was out of place. With his quarry in sight Catalin lifted his bow higher, gently resting the bolt of the arrow against his cheek; the bolt was drawn back so that the tip of the arrow met with this index finger which he used for a sight. Suddenly, to his right, Kiln's lumbering steps caused him to wince and let out a sigh. The dwarf had no sense of caution and was definitely not light on his feet. Without taking his eyes off his target, Catalin lifted his finger and twirled it in a circle; giving the dwarf the signal to perform their rope-a-dope which they had been practicing against ogres and ettins. Whatever element of surprise they had, was vanishing quickly. He glanced towards the dwarf for only a moment to see that he had understood the signal. When he returned his gaze to Primavera, she had lost her abnormal growth.

    "SUFLARE VITALE!" the dwarf cried out, but cut himself short has he charged into the clearing. Instead of seeing Catalin's arrows in the torso of whatever it was they were chasing he found a woman betwixt them. She struggled to her feet, her hands were loosely bound by rope and her mouth muffled.

    "Lady Lafayne?", Catalin stammered "How are you come to our small settlement?"

    The maiden rolled her eyes with exasperation; as if focusing all her contempt towards the opposite sex straight at Catalin. He stared at her for a moment trying to divine what he possibly could have done to merit such a reponse, and then suddenly he noticed the gag in her mouth. "Oh right, sorry, let me just," he fumbled as he slung his bow around his shoulder and made his way towards Lafayne. After loosing her binds on both hand and mouth, Catalin prepared himself for a verbal lashing to exceed that which she had just served him a moment ago with her eyes.

    "Come, sit, tell us what happened. Your father sent us after you, but I feared we would have to return to him with the most bitter of news," Catalin explained and he recounted the events surrounding her disappearance from the orc camp. How he and Kiln were preparing to journey to Trinsic on the morrow to report to her father that they had lost her trail.

    "There was a man, with the most striking eyes," she explained somewhat still mesmerized "They pierced me, but did not defile. I wasn't able to see anything else but those eyes."

    Catalin tried to learn all he could about this mysterious champion of Lafayne's, but she said he only spoke once during all their time together, when she had tried to offer him her token for saving her life. "Give your token to Catalin of Paws, in return for that which I must take back from him."

    Catalin and Kiln looked at each other when she mentioned this bit. The metal! They didn't even bother returning to the forge to look for the metal; they knew it was already gone. Catalin suddenly realized now that the singing bottles had indeed been a deliberate decoy. While they were chasing shadows, whoever this man was had made off with the only clue they had to his identity...

    Or perhaps not the only clue; the fact that Lady Lafayne was alive and well spoke volumes of this unknown character.

    "Are you even listening?," the lady tapped her foot impatiently "You must return me to my father's house at once. I must alert the Paladin's that the Treant Order is marching on Shame - with TWO of the Entbane's at their lead! Raoul and Obadiah."
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2014
  3. The Watch

    The Watch Well-Known Member
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    Takings and Leavings ~Awakenings~

    Ascher sat, listening carefully to the rhythm of the wind as it rattled the empty bottles. These two were clever....and they knew that danger was about. The dwarf moved past him, the heavy footfalls unmistakable. Ascher liked dwarves, for the most part. They could be a bear in a tavern brawl, though. He had once seen one take a wooden bar stool to the head, chuckle, and throw the fellow who'd done it through a window. All without spilling his ale.

    Ascher waited, scarcely breathing, until the dwarf had passed. Dwarves had keen eyes for shadows, and keen ears as well. Once he was gone, Ascher slipped silently back through the trees. The Lady LaFayne was waiting where he'd lefter, her eyes wide and her face pale. The poor woman had suffered at the hands of the Orcs, and it would take some time yet for her scars to heal....the ones on the outside, as well as the ones within.

    "Listen, M'Lady," Ascher whispered, "I'm sorry about the gag, but I can't have you making any noise that would alert those two."

    Lady LaFayne shook her head violently, trying to indicate that she would be silent, and she held her hands out to him, a look of pleading on her face. Ascher sighed and knelt before her. He brushed a stray lock of hair carefully from her face, and checked to make sure that the bindings on her hands and feet were still snug, but not biting into her skin.

    "These men carry a seal from you father, M'Lady," Ascher said for the tenth time, "I saw it personally when I investigated their camp last night. They've been sent to rescue you, and I'm going to help them out a bit. But they also have something that I need to get back....something I dropped on the night I rescued you from those orcs."

    At the mention of the orcs, the Lady's face crumbled into a mask of pain and fear, fresh tears staining her cheeks and wetting her gag. Ascher's heart twisted as he saw her discomfort. Gently, he took her head in his hands, and raised her thin, fair chin so that her clear blue eyes met his gray. He poured what little power he'd gleaned from the scrolls of the Elder Elves into her, soothing her wounds and her mind. The Lady quieted, and she sighed deeply. Her eyes seem to drink in his face.

    "I swear that these men will not harm you," Ascher said, "If they try, I will fill them with arrows before their blows fall, understand?"

    The Lady nodded slowly, and Ascher gently lifted her small frame, carrying her silently around to the far side of the camp. He set her behind a large, magnificent tree, and reached up to jingle the bottles tied to the perimeter string. He carefully tied his jingling so that it fell out of rhythm with the wind, and then he waited...

    The man in the bedroll shot up, his bow in his hands immediately, an arrow notched and pointed straight at Ascher's chest. Yes, these two were clever indeed. Ascher could see why they'd been sent. The dwarf started to come into camp, but stopped at a small gesture from the man. This would be Ascher's only chance, and he had to take it. He slipped his dagger between the Lady LaFayne's feet and cut her ankles free.

    "Go slowly just inside the edge of the camp, and sit. Wait for the dwarf, then rise, understand?"

    The Lady nodded again, and bent to kiss Ascher's cheek through her gag. As she moved, Ascher slipped carefully and quickly around to the opposite side of the camp through the thin brush. He watched as the archer again raised his bow.

    Just then, the dwarf crashed into the clearing, calling out a battle cry, and stopping mid-sentence. The two stared for a startled moment at the Lady LaFayne in their midst, then they both moved towards her. Ascher slipped into their camp, lifted the archer's pillow, and retrieved his lost treasure.

    Ascher stood in the shadows, his bow at the ready, long enough to make sure the two were indeed honorable men. As they comforted the Lady, Ascher smiled and nodded to himself. They would see her home safe, and would likely be rewarded for their troubles.

    As Ascher placed the enchanted metal into his pouch, and tied it tightly to his belt, he was troubled. Lord Zeddar had given him that artifact ages ago, and told him to guard it with his life. "It is powerful, Ascher," The wizard had said, his face serious and stern, "But it will never betray you, so long as you do not betray it. One day I will return, and I will have need of it." Ascher had known the old Wizard to be wrong from time to time.... but never about something connected with magic.

    Shaking his head, Asher broke into an easy, loping trot. As he moved quietly and swiftly through the forest trunks, he rolled over the words he'd heard the dwarf begin to utter.... they'd definitely been in the old tongue. And they sounded like words of power... something about breath...and life....

    As he ran, Ascher patted his pouch from time to time to reassure himself that the artifact was still there. He hadn't seen Zeddar for a long time... or any of his order, for that matter.... but when a Wizard gave you his word, he kept it.

    And Ascher would keep his.
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