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The Darakan Chronicles, Part 2


Michael-TLH
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The scouts move forward and slowly and perhaps reluctantly everyone follows past the clear line marking the beginning of the Blighted Wood... for that is what Tanaar groans as he crosses into the decay and rot.

 

The air is foul and hot, heavy with the taste of ash and metals on the tongue. He staggers once as his brow sets and he moves forward. Cover is sparse, but the magic of their cloaks cover Robert and Warrick as they pass from view.

 

Everyone feels differently as they pass through. Whispers spring up around Mykayla and Stern, promising eternal torment and pain. Cuchullain and tiny Fen both gasp involuntary as they flush with heat which quickly subsides into a dull and steady ache. Hammer's ears go flat and her hackles rise as she sniffs the air, and sneezes, growling low in her throat. The warrior woman from the northern reaches shivers and feels an icy trickle down her back, not unlike a surprise snow in the dead of winter. Warrick's joints creak in pain, the potion he just forced down almost rising again. Roberts eyes dim and water before he shakes his head and keeps moving.

 

Ahead, the black mountain rumbles and the earth answers, trembling slightly. All is still and quiet. No bird calls to mark it's boundary, no squirrel darts on these twisted branches, no brittle blade of grass will stir.

 

For several minutes the only sound the companions hear is the shuffle of leaden feet and the subvocalized whine of mighty Garr, lost confidant and familiar to their missing Skoli. Gradually, another sound is heard, the pounding in their ears is not that of their hearts bearing blood, but is in fact drums, booming out a rhythmic call to unseen listeners.

 

Cresting a rise, Warrick and Robert squat down, instinct making them forget they are invisible. Ahead, a colum of shambling pale creatures can be seen, chained foot to hand and hand to foot. A mix of elves and humans, rail thin and sullen in captivity. On either side, three great slavering wolves bear stunted green-skinned riders. Behind follows a covered cart drawn by two massive horses. Riding up front are two dog-faced creatures, spotted fur sticking up and out of boiled leather armor. One keeps a casual hand on the reins while the other bangs out his marching cadence.

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From the crouch, Robert's first instinct is to turn back to the rest of the party who have not yet seen the caravan, and with the flat of his palm held toward them signal his comrades to halt. He motions them to squat down, before returning his attention to the front and beginning to whisper with Warrick.

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The feeling and images swirl about Mykayal both tantalizing and revolting as she finds her emotions swaying from one extreme to another. Shaking her ehad, to clear her mind, she does her best to keep he mind on track. Looking about the blighted land she shakes her head and sighs...if her own people couldn't stop this...what chance did they?

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Cuchulainn does his best to keep his belly off the blighted earth but the added weight of his new armor makes the task difficult. The added protection is welcomed though...

 

For the second time, Cuchulainn witnesses the horrors of slavery. An evil taste fills his mouth as Cuchulainn eyes the overseers. How can one treat another so poorly? Cuchulainn turns away, wishing to see no more. He then scoots away from the ridge and waits for the group to make a plan of action.

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The distant beat of the drums fully grabs Stern's attention...

 

The enemy approaches... a war party perhaps.

 

Responding to Robert's hand gesture, the mighty Ageis halts his determined march and quickly takes a knee as he raises Karamor instictively to a defensive position. The enourmous ancient blade crackles and hums with sentient anticipation. Stern's thick corded muscles tense and flex across his back and through his massive arms. It is time for battle.

 

The giant paladin looks to Myka and nods reassuringly, then to Cuchulainn, then back at Ilde, motioning for her to move to his side, then finally to Hammer. The loyal warhound responds by emiting a low steady growl deep in her throat.

 

With Hammer at his heel, Stern waits for the signal to attack from the ranger and scout.

 

What is it Robert, wha' do ye see man? Steady Stern steady. Must wait for the signal... steady.

 

SK

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Ilde sees Stern's gesturing and takes her position at his side, anticipating an order from Robert or Warrick to attack or defend against the source of the drumming that approaches on the other side of the crest. She readies her axe with a quick nod to Stern. She is anxious to see his sword in combat, having suspected earlier but now being quite certain that it is a weapon of great magical power.

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The moment seems to drag on as the drum beat grows closer and closer...

 

Stern waits for Robert and Warrick's signal, but gets none. Fearing the two companions may be under the influence of an arcane spell, the giant paladin slowly strides forward as the drum beat continues...

 

As the mighty Aegis moves closer he spots the source of the war drums, but it is no war that these drums beat for.

 

SLAVERS!

 

Stern's eyes open wide with disgust and pure hatred... His teeth clench together tightly as he vividly remembers the slave caravan they liberated in the Southlands some months ago...

 

Giving a quick glance at Robert, then Warrick, the massive Corpus Knight of Rockfist suddenly has but one objective, one duty, one moral obligation, SET THESE PEOPLE FREE FROM THEIR BONDAGE AND STRIKE DOWN THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR SUFFERING AND TORMENT...

 

Driven by his sworn devotion and divine commitment to uphold all that is righteous, Stern charges toward the caravan, his rune covered greatsword gleaming in the golden sunlight, and with Hammer at his side, he bellows a thundering war cry...

 

"IN THA NAME O' ST. MARCUS, LET FREEDOM REIGN ON THIS DAY!"

 

 

 

SK

Edited by Stern Kestrelmann
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Though at first hesitant to advance without first seeing a signal from the scouts, she decides to follow Stern as he moves toward the crest of the hill to see what is coming. The echoing words of Odilla the wise-woman in her mind tell her she should protect Stern at all costs, even if his own actions might not be the most prudent.

 

Quickening her pace, she comes to a full run alongside Stern. When she is certain the slavers can see her coming, she swings her axe in an arc over her head and chants in her native tongue an invitation to the enemies of her tribe to either die on their feet or on their knees.

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Again, acting without a council........

 

Cuchulainn can't say he's disappointed though; its a chance to wade into the mud and cleanse the filth from the river... as it were.

 

Before rushing in behind Stern and Ilde, Cuchulainn looks to the Scouts. "Make sure none of them get away!" He shouts over his shoulder.

 

Cuchulainn then begins to run along with the fighters. Though the dragonscale armor is still more lithe than steel, Cuchulainn still feels the added weight with suprise. While running, Cuchulainn takes a moment to appraise the situation before diciding on his actions.....

Edited by NymMoondown
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I have taken my cloak off, haven't I? He can see me telling him to stop?

 

"IN THA NAME O' ST. MARCUS, LET FREEDOM REIGN ON THIS DAY!"

 

Oh for..... "STERN! I have had it with you! In one ear and out the bleeding other, isn't it?"

 

Before rushing in behind Stern and Ilde, Cuchulainn looks to the Scouts. "Make sure none of them get away!" He shouts over his shoulder.

 

"You can sort it out yourself, you impetuous idiots! GODS DAMN IT!"

 

Robert is extremely annoyed and turns to see what Mykayla is doing, taking a few steps toward her, deliberatly ignoring the 3 rushing down the slope.

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Alerted by Stern's shout, the drumbeater snarls and yips in his native language, and changes the pitch and tempo of his drumming, urging his allies into battle. The cart driver snaps his reins and the workhorses stop. Tumbling out of the back of the cart, two more gnolls emerge and each draw a long curved sword and a smaller short sword, perfect for stabbing into vital areas. Inside the cart, chanting and hissing in some arcane tongue can barely be heard over the moans of the elf and human slaves who drop and huddle into place, covering their heads.

 

Tanaar's form is replaced by that of a huge eagle and he snaps his wings and takes to the air. Two of the goblin riders shoot arrows as their mounts maneuver around the back of the caravan, ready to meet the Chosen's charge. Unable to hit the fast moving druid, they snarl and wait forr him to move closer. The last worg eases to the front of the caravan. His rider sets a wicked barbed lance and levels it in the party's direction.

 

Stern, Ilde and Cuchullain fly forward bellowing out various battle cries while the rest of their party looks on, shaking their heads. The closest worgs spin and ready to meet their charge, each goblin rider pulling a sword and setting a shield and helm.

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Driven by duty, honor, and the divine power of St. Marcus himself, Stern continues his wild charge, moving quickly toward the caravan with suprising speed for such a large man. With greatsword held out at waist level across his body, the young Aegis flexes his hands squeezing the padded leather grip tightly in ready anticipation. The sentient weapon, Karamor, hums and crackles, almost seeming to pull it's giant human wielder down the hill toward the imminent melee. Stern quickly scans the caravan as they respond to the Companion's assault, sizing up his evil opponents.

 

Two, three, four, five, six... riders, and maybe a sorcerer or cleric.

 

"THESE ARE YER LAST MOMENTS SLAVERS, SO MAKE PEACE WITH YER FOUL GODS!"

 

Stern gives a short sharp whistle and Hammer resonds immediately sprinting straight for the nearest gnoll. It's fury throat her only target. Then the Corpus Knight shouts out to Ilde, "ENGAGE THA GNOLLS N' I SHALL STRIKE DOWN THA WORGS RIDERS!"

 

Then to Cuchulainn, "STA' CLOSE SUN PRIEST, SEEK OUT THIER WIZARD IF'N THEY 'AVE ONE!"

 

Finally, Stern cries out another thundering battle cry as he charges forward, "ST. MARCUS IS WITH US AS WE STRIKE DOWN OUR FOES, GOD IS WITH US ALWAYS!"

 

Once again the giant Knight of Rockfist is in his element, the field of battle. And, as he might say, tis indeed a good day ta die.

 

SK

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With an exaggerated shrug, Robert says to Mykala that "Restraint must be something that happens to other people, as far as Stern is concerned."

 

"This place is dead. After a forest fire, you know that beneath the surface the seeds and the tiny beasts are still alive, and they'll recover and burst forward again. It's not just the surface that's scoured here - there's no life at all. It's sadder than I ever thought I would feel."

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Ilde hears Stern's command and sets her mind upon taking down the gnoll nearest to her first.

 

Though by instinct rather than mathematics, she calculates her enemy's distance in running strides and chooses what she hopes is the best moment to begin swinging her axe, hoping to kill the gnoll with one fatal stroke.

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