Adventures of Caelereth

Active Stories => Destiny => Topic started by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on March 07, 2011, 03:46:52 AM

Title: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on March 07, 2011, 03:46:52 AM
It was early.  The first rays of morn were not yet breaking over the horizon, though it was light enough to see without the light of the campfire.  Altario sat a small distance from the tiny fire, wide awake, taking the final shift as lookout for the group.  He preferred to be up before the others.  It gave him time to himself at the start of each day.  Besides, he was finding it hard to sleep in this god’s forsaken land.  At night, it was cool, sometimes even cold, and he found that he could sleep, but within moments of the sun coming up over the horizon, the heat became too hot to sleep, at least for him, so he would have been up anyway.  This way, he got to sleep as much as was possible.

He glanced to the others.  Though some stirred with the coming dawn, none were yet awake.  Just as well.  Strange as it seemed, as the Remusian's eyes traveled over the sleeping form of the orc, he did not feel hatred bubbling inside him.  Nor was there a liking, mind you, for if she disappeared right this moment, he would never lose a moment sleep over it, but simply an absence of malice.  After all, it had been her idea about the wagon.

Altario looked to the wagon.  Much larger than the cart Ana had used to guide them to Strata.  Larger, but still sleek in design.  It would not bog down in the loose sand.  But there was something else about the wagon, something only the mind of an orc could come up with.  Though from the outside the wagon looked sleek and light, it held within in a secret.  Somewhere between the bottom of the wagon and the floor of it was a chamber, skilfully designed by carpenters to exact specifications set out by the orc.  Only a creature of cunning (not a positive attribute in his mind) could conceive of a plan like this.

A soft neighing brought his attention to the two horses of his.  Danilyn was tied to the wagon, while Horse was hobbled off a little way further.  She wasn't yet able to be hobbled, as he didn't trust her not to try and run off and possibly hurt herself.  From his squatted position, he hauled himself to his feet, grimacing as his knee protested.  He noticed that the mare's eyes were on him again, as they often were.  She was smart, that one, Altario mused.  She had much character.  It had been too long since he had owned a horse like that.  Horse was a faithful friend, but he was nothing special as far as horses went.  She was.  But, she still needed much work.  She was young, with too much unfocused energy and a wild spirit.

He walked over toward her, and raised his hand to stroke her neck, but she pulled back violently.  The tie to the wagon held, but a frown came over Altario's face.  She was too skittish.  This had to change.  She couldn't be allowed to stay jumpy at everything that moved.

The Remusian leaned forward and checked the rope that tied the mare to the wagon.  It was strong, and it was tied well; there was no chance of her breaking away.  He then stepped over to where he had stowed his saddle and belongings.  From there, he picked up his saddle blanket and shook it vigorously to lose the sand from it.

Spinning on his booted heel, Altario started back toward Danilyn.  The large bay eyed him warily as he approached, her star catching the first rays of light as the sun finally broke over the horizon.  As the Remusian strode forward, he began to wave the blanket wildly about, over his head, then off to one side then the other.

The wain pulled tight against her ropes, but was held tight.  She snorted loudly and with a frightened tone, her eyes large and white with fear.  Still, Altario advanced, and when close enough reached out and allowed the spinning blanket to brush against the horse.

Danilyn whinnied in terror, pulling back with all her might, her back end lowering to give her more pull, but it was in vain.  She was trapped.  She tried to dodge the blanket as much as she could, but there was nowhere left to go.  Even if there was, Altario read her every twitch, her every move, and whenever she tried to shy away from him, he stepped in her way, waving the blanket and letting it wash over her, hard enough that she felt it, but not hard enough to hurt her.  After all, this was a lesson to teach her not to be afraid.

For several minutes this dance continued until finally, panting heavily, her dark coat covered in froth and dripping sweat, Danilyn came to a stop.  Though her eyes continued to follow the waving blanket, her body no longer had the strength to try and escape it.  Altario noted this with satisfaction, but continued to wave the blanket, allowing it to hit her.

He watched her eyes.  With every wave of the blanket, every time he allowed it to drag over her back, her flanks, around her hooves, over her backside and around her head, he watched her eyes.  Slowly, the white in her eyes began to disappear, until she closed them, too exhausted to keep them open any longer.

With that, Altario casually tossed the blanket back onto the ground.  His own breathing was laboured and the muscles in his arms burned.  He barely had the strength to place his arms around the neck of the wain, leaning in and resting his forehead against the star on her own forehead.

“Do not feel bad, Danilyn.  You fought bravely.   You must learn that there is little that can hurt you, if we are as one.  When you learn this lesson, nothing will be able to stop us.”

Altario felt a set of eyes on him, and he turned toward the source.  He knew the look in those eyes.  “I did not hurt her.  She needs to learn that there is little to fear in the world.”  He strode past the figure.  “If you wish to make yourself useful and help her, why don’t you grab a brush and groom her until she is dry.”

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Toama SorInyt on March 08, 2011, 03:49:58 AM
She was feeling wonderful. Despite the illegitimate nature of their endeavour, it had been a long time since she had felt quite this good. Of course, that was not to be wondered at - it had also been a long time since she had been in an environment quite so much like her own homeland. When she closed her eyes she could almost imagine being back with her sisters. The hotter the weather became as they travelled, the more she enjoyed herself, though she could tell that the warmth had a different effect on a number of companions.

As she had been used to do back home, though the habit had slackened somewhat with living in these soft countries, she woke with the first rays of the sun. The change in the temperature was immediate, and that woke her up. She loved living this close to nature again. She got up quietly, so as not to disturb any of the party still asleep. Altario was up, as she had known he would be - he had taken the last shift more than once on their journey here. He was doing something with one of his horses, though from where she was standing she could not see what exactly. She walked around the sleeping form of the orcess to get a better look.

What she saw made her raise her eyebrows in surprise. The man seemed to be waving a blanket at the horse, which was obviously terrified of the flapping item at its back. It was interesting to see the struggle between the horse and the man, but in the end the man won out - if barely, as far as she could make out. His caress of the horse was as much a hug as it was a search for support. Then the man spotted her looking at him, and snapped something about helping out. As Toama grabbed a brush, a crooked little smile lit up her face, though she did not say anything. She wasn't quite sure why he had snapped at her like that, she hadn't understood half of what he said, but she felt too good to let his brutish manners get to her. Anyway, he was a man - what else did she expect, sensitivity? As she brushed down the sweating horse, the thought actually made her laugh out loud.

When she was finished with this horse, she turned her attention to her own. Desert was freshly rested, contrary to Altario's horse. She worked methodically, occasionally scratching the horse in places that she knew he enjoyed. She murmured sweet nothings to him in her own melodic language, which few people around here understood. For a while she stood with her cheek pressed against Desert's neck. Then she looked up and around to see who by this time had also got up. She was eager to go on.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on March 22, 2011, 09:56:29 PM
The desert had eyes. That’s how it seemed to Lili. Because there was nowhere to hide, she couldn’t do a step without the feeling that she was being watched. And at the same time, what with the glare of the sun in your face and the sudden winds that swept eddies of sand in your eyes, blinding them, Lili felt that she herself could see hardly anything. And because of that, she suspected that others, with eyes better suited or trained, must surely be watching her. Behind every dune that she and her companions climbed or circumvented, she suspected something to wait for them. An animal maybe, of a kind that she had never seen before, yellow like sand, quick like the wind, ready to bury itself into the dunes at any blink. Or a Shendar caravan with their aj’nuvics that had stopped for a rest, unconcerned by the sandstorms or the burning sun, at peace with themselves, and unsurprised by the arrival of Altario’s party of greenhorns, whom they would have seen or heard or smelled from strals off.

This was not how Lili was used to travelling. There were no trees to climb for a better view, no animal calls to gauge the presence of danger by, no undergrowth to disapper in if required. She felt exposed, vulnerable, small under the towering dunes, and small in the face of the endless expanses of sand on whose soft surface the party were riding and walking like on a yellow sea.

But she liked the nights, when it was cool and you finally felt like eating again, and your tongue would stay moist for longer than a blink after you’ve had a swig. For then, in the sky, another sea would reveal itself, its dark smooth waters unblurred by clouds, and thousand stars swimming in it. Lili looked for, and found, the four stars that made the constellation of the dove, the sign of Eyasha, Goddess of Peace, and would reflect that even in the middle of an unknown desert, on a desperate mission to smuggle contraband into the most fiercily guarded city in Santharia, hoping against reason that this would satisfy the blackmailers that had a hold on Altario’s brother – well, that even in situations like this it didn’t pay to worry too much. So Lili slept rather well, thank you very much.

When she woke, someone was already up and stirring. It was Altario. Apparently, he had a little disagreement with his new horse. He tried to teach it not to be afraid of a blanket, and, it seemed to Lili, wasn’t succeeding all too well, for the horse’s frightened whinnying was what had woken her.

Lili rubbed her eyes, but didn’t sit up. For a blink longer, she would stay under her blanket and enjoy the illusion that she actually needed it, before facing the fact that the sun had already begun to warm the air, and that very soon she would wish for a river of mountain meltwater to sit and cool down in.

Meanwhile, Altario had noticed someone else who was awake, and commanded them to brush down his beast. This someone, it turned out, was Toama, the dark-skinned stranger. And she actually got up and did his bidding! Why in the boardrak’s name would she do that? Lili realized that she hadn’t figured this lady out yet. Her actions and her motivations were a mystery. Maybe she came from a land where the women obey the men, and do their chores for them? It was possible.

Lili propped herself up on her elbow and surveyed their makeshift camp. There was the wagon, sitting in the sand like a sleeping beast. There were the horses, her own Fiddlesticks among them, with Kassandra perching on the saddle, her head still in the wings. There were the little bundles of blanket, cloth and hair, were the companions lay and, presumably, still dreamed of cooler lands. And there was Altario, who always managed to put on an air as if he was in control, even though this whole journey, of course, proved that he was not.

”I take it you used to have servants?” Lili said to him, and lifted an eyebrow.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on March 25, 2011, 12:30:26 AM
Something was breathing wrong. Grallen’s ears twitched, poking out from under the mess of dark hair and rumpled blankets bunched over her face, and she opened an eye, staring blearily at the rough wool a nailsbreadth from her face. On second thoughts, this wasn’t such a terrible awakening. She’d woken to fire and falling masonry before, and to kicks in the ribs and the sound of chains. It had become habit to identify the sounds that had pulled her out of her dreams.

Ah, right, the breathing. Panting, whinnying, snorting sort of sounds... oh. She smiled to herself, realising it was just a horse, probably that awkward fancy thing his lordship had picked up at the inn in Strata. In her eyes the ideal horse should be fast, not averse to the sudden introduction of a new rider, and not too securely stabled.
She stayed still and quiet, not moving the blanket off her face and just seeing what she could pick up of her surroundings. It was usually Altario on lookout at this time in the morning, so he must be the cause of the horse’s whinnying. Sure enough, he spoke, presumably to somebody else already awoken by whatever he was doing.

“I did not hurt her.  She needs to learn that there is little to fear in the world.”

A sour look came over her concealed face. Yeah, right. She shifted very slightly, and felt the dull ache still in her abdomen, where the knife wound had only just healed over. It hadn’t much added to her enjoyment of the journey over the dry, hot unreasonably sandy desert, but she’d done her best not to show any sign of discomfort. It wasn’t pride, she told herself; it was necessity, with her standing in the group still not quite higher than that of the carthorses. Alright maybe it was a little bit pride, but nobody would notice with Altario in the vicinity. She smirked to herself, at that, and then her muzzy smile widened as she heard Lili’s voice.

”I take it you used to have servants?”

So from the sounds of things that’s three others awake. Probably the one brushing down scaredy-horse is Toama, she’s always up early... Grallen decided she might as well give up the pretence of sleep, if only so she could see the expression on his lordship’s face, at Lili’s remark. She turned over, and sat up, picking up the pouch with Ernest inside in an automatic movement.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on March 27, 2011, 04:56:17 AM
Altario returned to the sleeping area, where the others were beginning to stir.  Good, they could get a move on soon.  He stepped to the back of the wagon where a keg was attached and opened the spigot, allowing a few drops of precious water to fall into his cupped palm.  He then sipped the water from his hand.  He hated having to be so careful with the water.  It was so very different from the north where there was water everywhere in the form of ice and snow.  But, he knew that wasted water meant death, here.  Their guide, a Shendar, kept giving them all disapproving looks whenever they would drink too much; whatever "too much" meant.  Come to think of it, Altario couldn't remember seeing the man drink at all.

His lips moistened, he knelt down near the others and began to gather his belongings.  He looked up when he heard Lili ask him a question.  He stared at her for a moment, wondering if her query was some sort of backhanded insult.  If it were the orc, then he'd know for sure, but with Lili...  Of all the people here with him, Lili was the one he found most perplexing.  The orc and the dark elf, well, they were orcs and elves, what was on the surface was all there really was.  How deep could they be?  But, Lili was different.  She was, by and large, the friendliest of the group, nearly always in a good mood (somewhat annoying to the Remusian), yet, from what little he could gather about her past from her stories, she had lived a life not entirely on what one would call the straight and narrow.

He shrugged minimally.  "A few.  Grew up with them."  Altario glanced back toward Danilynn and the dark skinned girl who was brushing her.  "Though, when my parents died, they were more like surrogates."  His eyes fell back on Lili.  "My attitude comes from my days in the army, I suppose.  I mean, that is what you were asking, right?  Why I'm such an ass?"

He scoffed slightly.  "I was a good soldier.  I'd like to think that by my commanding, I saved more of my men than I lost."  For a moment, his grey eyes clouded over as memories of people long gone crossed his mind, those he lost in the war with those damned orcs back in Remusiat so many years ago.

It was then that he became aware of the orc moving.  He caught her stare and for a brief second, their eyes locked.  Inside, he was awash in differing emotions.  In his minds eye, he saw the carnage those orcs in Remusiat had caused.  He saw the violence, the killing, the rape.  He could still see clearly the faces of those monsters that tried to kill him, and the faces of those that he left dead or dying in the snow.  But her face wasn't theirs.  Yes, it was a damned ugly orc, but it wasn't the same feral face as those in Remusia.

Altario scowled.  Moral ambiguity always confused him and confusion only annoyed him.  He quickly scooped up his stuff and stood.  "The day is wasting.  We should get moving."  He turned on his heel and headed toward the horses.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on April 22, 2011, 11:02:45 PM
Men who like to lead also feel the need to justify themselves. To a brief remark that, however remotely, questions their personality, they will respond with a Grand Speech. Lili had often found this, and she was not surprised that Altario decided to use the morning to prove her theory – even though it was a Remusian Grand Speech, of course: rather concise by Southern Santharian measures. Well, at least he managed to summon some sense of self-mockery. Of course he was an ass. But he was a likeable one. And that, thought Lili, was because he was vulnerable. What a privileged life he must have been able to look forward to - servants and all - and what a hard life it had turned out to be.

”A few servants, eh?” Lili said, and grinned.

”But don’t worry, mate. I won’t tell. Almost nobody has a clean past.”

She wondered what it would be like to be a soldier. Pretty much the same as being a bandit, she thought, except your gang was bigger and the top neeps had fancier titles. But either way, you killed for your money, and if you lost a leg, you ended up sitting on your bum in a city street, sewage running into the holes in your boots, and stretching out your hand to beg for your bread. Let’s be grateful, then, thought Lili, that we still have both our legs, so that we can use them to walk into this desert to die of thirst. Or, failing that, to have our hearts ripped out by the Thalambathian guards.

Lili yawned, stretched her arms, crawled out of her blanket, and got up. The day is wasting, we should get moving,  Altario said. Lili looked at Toama, who seemed as sprightly as a kuatu, despite the early hour.

”It’s nice to have someone tell us what to do, isn’t it?" Lili said, and winked at Toama.

”That way, we don’t need to make any decisions by ourselves, and have time to enjoy the scenery. Do you like this desert much?”

Lili hadn’t really understood Toama until now. Why she was in Stratania, where she was from, why she had been on that pirate ship, why she had decided to join this party. It was time, Lili decided, to change that.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Toama SorInyt on April 23, 2011, 12:44:50 AM
By the time she was finished with the brushing, it seemed that most of the party had woken up, some a little grumpier than others. While she grabbed a bite to eat, knowing how important it was to digest her food while the sun was not yet too scorching hot, she wandered over to where Lilli and Altario were having a conversation. The bantering was a little fast for her, but she liked being near talking people. It had been too long since she had actually been in a travelling group, and it took her right back to her nomad sisters. There had been constant chatting then as well, though the language was different.

Just as she finished her breakfast, Lili crawled from under her blanket, her hair a tangled mess. It reminded Toama that her own was probably not much better off, especially since she had let it loose the night before. However, that was something she could take care of while she was in the saddle. She smiled at the other woman's quip, as far as she understood it. "It is way for dealink to men. Let thinkink they are be in charge. We are knowink better." Her expressive eyebrows arched upwards a little, then she winked back, feeling a little bit more connected to this strong woman.

The second question she did not really have to think about, but still she took a moment to look around at what lay around. "I do am likink desert. It is home. Or... not home, but ... like home? I was beink livink in desert too, but other... I meanink... far away, yes? Over big water, what is beink name. Ocean? We livink as nomad, the way that are livink these Shendar. I am thinkink that many our group are not liking desert, yes?" As usual, she was getting frustrated with her lacking Tharian, but she ploughed on nonetheless. In some ways this Lili person reminded her of her sisters. In short, she liked her, and didn't really want the conversation to end - it would soon enough, when the heat became too much for much more exertion than going onward.

While she talked, she took a comb from her saddlebags and then mounted Desert. The horse seemed to remember home as well, and was eager to be off. Controlling the horse mostly with her knees, she started combing her long hair, working methodically to have everything looking as neat as possible. She decided on a simple braid, one that would shorten her hair considerably. The best hairdo while travelling was one where your hair didn't fly in your hair constantly. While she worked, she looked to the side to Lili, hoping that the woman would ask some more. In the foreign Tharian tongue, she was better at answering questions than she was at asking them, she was always a little bit at a loss what to ask, even when she was bursting with curiosity.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on April 23, 2011, 02:01:25 AM
“...that is what you were asking, right?  Why I'm such an ass?"

Grallen didn’t bother to suppress a low chuckle. It’s a good day already. She took her canteen and poured some new water into Ernest’s bag. He seemed to be doing pretty well, despite the heat. Provided she kept him safe in the shade he would probably bear up better than she was.

"I was a good soldier.  I'd like to think that by my commanding, I saved more of my men than I lost."
Sensing his gaze on her, she looked up, smile vanishing briefly as she thought of all the commanders she’d known. The givers of orders, the men at the end of ropes and chains.

It is a nice day. Don’t spoil it.

She smiled, briefly, friendly, every bit the slightly sleepy girl just woken up, and took a sip of her water before stowing it again, and starting to get up. Stretching out stiff fingers, shoulders, back, and yawning languorously she nodded to the others awake, breathing in the desert air. It was still a little strange not to breathe sticky city air, full of scents that must be ignored if you value your appetite. This place just smelled of space and heat. She ran a hand over pockets, belt, sleeves, checking everything was still in place, and grinned.

Yes. It is a nice day. Let’s, as the man says, get moving.

She found a safe place for Ernest in the cart (our cart, our idea and look how beautiful it is, it’s perfect) and stood up to see if anyone needed help packing up. It also allowed her to see the desert, stretching for strals in all directions. She frowned at it, and asked nobody in particular:

“Are we nearly there yet?”

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on April 23, 2011, 06:37:38 AM
The women’s trick, the tattoed one said, was to let the men think they’re in charge, while the women (“we”, she said!) made the real decisions. She really did come from a place where the men call the shots, then, Lili thought. Else why would she have to play tricks? Anyway, this Toama lady had spirit, and that was good. How much easier it was to make friends with women than with men! For a man to include you in their “we”, you first have to prove your worth, swear twelve oaths of allegiance, or (and this was the only method that never failed) show them you’re stronger than them. With women, it was enough to share a joke and a wry smile at the messiness of one’s morning hair, and – Seyella behold – you had made a friend.

Toama talked funny, and slow, and sometimes Lili wondered whether she understood what was going on around her, especially when the talk went fast from mouth to mouth. But now, when it was just the two of them, Lili was pleased to find that Toama followed her perfectly well, and actually turned out to be quite eager to speak..

"I do am likink desert, she said. ”It is home. Or... not home, but ... like home? I was beink livink in desert too, but other... I meanink... far away, yes? Over big water, what is beink name. Ocean? We livink as nomad, the way that are livink these Shendar. I am thinkink that many our group are not liking desert, yes?"

”You can say that …”, Lili said. From the corner of her eye, she saw Grallen digging her way out of her blanket. The little orcess was one who looked particularly out of place among the dunes, with her rapscallion's cloak and her backalley grin.

”Actually, I think you are the only one who likes it here. So you used to live in a desert? Maybe you can teach me a thing or two, you know. I mean, how do you know what’s happening? To me, it’s all just sand, sand, sand. The sun kills all smells, and the wind brushes away all traces. Everywhere we go, it looks as if nobody’s ever been there before. How do you know where the animals are, where you can find water, where you can find food? How do you tell if someone’s following you, or laying in wait to cut you to bits and steal your horse?”

While they talked, Lili didn’t fail to notice the practiced movements with which Toama mounted her horse and arranged her hair. There was a poise and an elegance to this woman that made Lili feel good to have her in her party. Even her mutilated, three-fingered left hand looked graceful as she plaited her hair into a practical braid. Yep, someone who could deal with unruly hair so easily might just be able to look the Thalambathians in the eye and neither run away nor rush into a mad attack.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Toama SorInyt on April 23, 2011, 07:58:58 PM
It seemed that the woman was quite interested in the subject. Toama thought for a moment, trying to order her thoughts so that her answer would not be too jumbled. "Large part of livink in desert, is workink together, as team. Is like... every Sister is knowink every skill, but one person is knowink it better, and she is one to doink that task. To take example, water findink. I am not knowink how is in this desert, Shendar will be knowink better, but home there is beink certain plant, it can keepink water inside. If you are knowink this plant, and knowink where cut just good, this you can drinkink. But there are be also place in desert, where water is close to surface. It is beink not easy to findink. Some of Sisters had... feelink... how you say, instink? When we were beink near. Like desert had different feel there. I was not havink this instink, I was "Cani'tpa". I was defendink Sper'itua for attackink. This I am knowink more of, how see comink of enemy. In places in desert, you are seeink very far, if you are seeink movink it maybe is enemy. Maybe also not enemy, but you are knowink somethink is there, you are can beink prepare. But sometime... sometime they are managink surprise. Sometime you are not knowink."

For a moment the desert woman's face darkened, as her memory went back to the day she lost her mother, and two of her fingers. She flexed the fingers of her left hand, looking pensively at the injury. Then she woke herself from her memory, looking back at her conversation partner. "And so is beink with all knowink things. I am knowink animals in desert, but is for Loopa... hunter... to knowink where is beink animal, when is comink out, and so on. This way, every Sister is doink what she can doink best, and tribe is better of it."

As she was talking, she watched the orcess getting ready for the coming day. She was an enigma to the desert woman - savage looking, with a face that was much harder to read than a human's, and yet there were times when she seemed to be just like any other woman. Just as she finished with her explanation, Grallen asked if they were nearly at their destination. Toama waited to see if anyone would answer - probably the person to know this best would be their Shendar guide. If she had been at home she would have known exactly where she was at any point, but as this time she did not know the place where they were going, it was hard to know how far from it they were. However, something in the feel of the sand told her that it could not be very far anymore, even if it did look just as it had ever since they had entered the desert. It would be hard to describe this feeling to someone who had not grown up in the desert - it was like the finding of water, but still a little different, telling her that they were nearing the end of the desert proper, even if the place where they were going to was still hot and surrounded by sand. It was colonised by settled people, and that for Toama was no longer desert.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Damien Scar on April 24, 2011, 07:54:58 AM
Damien Scar stood at the bow of the ship, his right leg bent as his boot rested upon the rail, his right arm lying casually across the lower section of his thigh, his left leg was ramrod straight as he stared at the ocean in front of him. The water sparkled as if the stars themselves had fallen from the sky. The sun behind him and climbing gave warmth through the slight chill of the ocean breeze that caressed his dark hair and creased face.

He looked down at the two small pieces of paper gripped between his right thumb and forefinger. They were messages from home; one was from his friend who he had given authority to take care of his lands and holdings, and the other was from Voltigar, King of Voldar. The first message was actually meant for the bank merchant of Strata confirming that it was okay to give Damien any amount of money he so desired as it would be paid promptly, and the second one from Voltigar surprised him even more: He reread the message again.

My friend and compatriot. After careful consideration I have determined that I was in error when I dismissed you as Captain of the Guards. I wronged you and for recompense I have given you the title of  Duke along with all rights, lands, and privy’s associated with the title. I look forward to seeing you.

Voltigar: King of Voldar.

“Tis a nice day to be sailin’, don’t cha think yer lordship?”

Damien turned and looked down at the Captain of the Pearl, a twin mast schooner he had hitched a ride on to take him to Thalambath. The Captain was a small wiry man, with bright blue eyes, deeply tanned and wind burned skin. His hair, which Damien assumed was probably brown, had grown so light now over the years of being on the sea and in the sunlight, that it was almost colorless; Damien had no name for it.

“Lordship? What made you say that?” Damien asked.

“Yer ring. I ‘ave seen many rings in my time and yer’s has a crest on it. Only people I know that wear those kind of rings are titled men or women, as the case may be,” the Captain answered.

Damien glanced down at the ring snuggly encircling his right ring finger. “Ah, I see,” he said as he removed the ring and put it into his pocket. “Let’s keep that a secret between you and I shall we?”

“Fine with me yer lor…”

“Damien will do.”

The Captain grinned. “Damien it is then. You can call me Grady or Captain. I came to tell ye that breakfast will be served soon.”

“Thank you, and I will be down in a few blinks,”

“As you wish, but I would not tarry, or else the crew will eat yer portion,” the captain said as he turned and left, nimbly climbing down the short stairs to the main deck of the ship.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on April 25, 2011, 02:10:39 AM
It was a mountain, albeit a mountain unlike any he had ever seen before, and he was somewhat chagrined that he hadn't realized before what was now so obviously apparent.  He had seen this mountain before; they all had.  In fact, it had always been there, just beyond the horizon, for as long as he had been in this gods cursed desert.  Now they were heading for the mountain; this Norong'Sorno.  Yet, each morning he would wonder if they would reach it by that night, and each night it still lay beyond the horizon, only larger and taller.  How large was this mountain?  It looked as if the whole of Remusia could fit on it, if not the entire world.  It was bigger than anything in all his imaginations.

Taking his eyes off the mountain, he glanced back to the others.  He had often set himself apart from the rest, as they crossed this burning sand and pebbled sea, telling himself he was ahead in order to scout the trail.  It wasn't that he didn't enjoy talking to them, it was just... okay, it was because he didn't enjoy talking to them.  He didn't know what to say.  What did he have in common with any of them?  Nothing.  He was pleased that they were coming with him, thankful they were helping hunt for Nayriss, but he didn't understand why.  He wouldn't have done it for them.

Sitting atop Horse, he had the rope that held Danilyn wrapped around his left arm.  Most days, she followed obediently.  This was not one of those days, as occasionally she would pull back, nearly pulling the Remusian from the saddle, and causing his shoulder to ache.  What was her problem, this day?  Was it simply the sacking out she had received earlier?  He scanned the desert around them and there was nothing, no people nor animals, that should frighten her.  It puzzled him.

It was well after the sun (the Injera, Valannia would have said), had passed its zenith that Altario spotted what was the probable cause of the mare's distress.  What had started out as a dark line on the horizon was growing fast.  Rolling dark clouds above a brown cloud of sand was heading in their direction.  The speed on which it was crossing the strals between them and it left little doubt that they could out run it.

Altario pulled back on the reins, bringing Horse to a halt.  He waited for the others to catch up to him before turning in the saddle to face them.  "Looks like a storm coming in.  We might want to rest up a bit."

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on April 25, 2011, 07:27:46 PM
It was the same mountain, she was sure of it. There could not be a second one like it. She had seen it on her journey to Strata, from the ship that travelled down from Varcopas. The mountain was so high that you could see it from far off the coast, even if you saw no other land. This mountain, Lili had thought, didn't look as if it was standing on the world. It was the other way around: the world was clinging to the bottom of the mountain. If the world let go, it would fall into the Netherspheres, never to be seen again. But the mountain would still be there, sitting in its accustomed place in space, unperturbed at having lost a puny hanger-on.

Lili had sat on the railing of the ship, her legs dangling over the calm see, and gaped. That looks just like the sort of place where dragons live she had said to Kassandra. A sailor who had happened to pass by on the deck had overheard her, and said: Aye, dragons do live there. It's the Norong'Sorno. Its belly is full of flames, and sometimes it vomits liquid fire, which flows downs its flanks and over the land, scorching and destroying everything that it touches.

Lili had thought for a moment, and said: Well, let's not go there, then.

And now she was here, in the fierce volcano's shadow, within the reach of its fire tongues. That's how life goes, when you're a Kuglimz girl that roams aimlessly around in the South, hesitating to do what she has decided to do, because she is too afraid of what she'll find if she returns to the home that she lost.


From a distance, the sandstorm looked beautiful; like a dance of golden air, a wind spirit in trance. Lili's head told her that a flurry of sand couldn't be so bad: okay, storms that hit you in the face are never pleasant, and she'd get sand in her eyes and her nose and her clothes – but then, Lili's eyes and nose and clothes were full of sand already anyway, and for someone who has lived through the snowstorms of the North, eddies of warm sand didn't appear so threatening.

But her belly told her otherwise. Her belly told her not to trust the golden colour and the pretty appearance, but to look at the furs on the brow of the Shendar guide, and consider the utter lack of protection their little group had here, in the middle of the desert. Lili's gaze fell on Toama, the only one here who knew what a desert was, apart from the Shendar guide. Lili had come to like the woman, and had found out that many of her assumptions about Toama had been wrong. This morning, after Toama had explained how her tribe was able to read the signs of the desert and make a living, Lili had scratched her head and said:

”Sisters? You keep saying “sisters”! You mean, in your tribe the women do everything? So what do the blokes get up to?”

And the widening of Lili's horizon had started from there. During the day, Lili had kept close to Toama, steering Fiddlesticks to trot next to Toama's sand-coloured horse whenever she could, trying to find out more about the tribe of sand sisters from over the ocean. Uncharacteristically, the bird Kassandra had not interrupted the conversation much. The heat, the dryness of her beak, and the buglessness of the desert had shut her up. In fact, she spent most of the day hiding from the sun in Lili's saddlebag, sucking on a moist rag. And so Lili had had plenty of time to ask questions.

She was close to Toama again as Altario halted the group.

”Stopping here?” Lili said. ”Where's the inn?”

”Inn,” repeated Kassandra from Lili's saddlebag, but without much hope in her voice.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Toama SorInyt on April 28, 2011, 03:56:11 AM
All day, as they were travelling towards the city of Strata, an uneasy feeling grew in Toama's stomach. Like something was about to happen, and not something good. It was a feeling that she knew, one she had learned not to ignore. She enjoyed her conversation with Lili - apparently a group of women living together without any men had never even crossed her mind as a possibility. But during the talk, she kept scanning the horizon for signs of trouble - in human form or, more likely, sand-form. She was so intent on dividing her attention between what might be coming and talking to Lili that she at first did not even notice the mountain looming in front of them. When she did spot him, however, she was speechless for long moments. It was huge. It was humongous. It was larger than anything she had ever seen before in her entire life. Her home lands had high places, but nothing could quite match this towering mass of blackness. The sight of it was enough to make her forget her uneasy feeling for a while. She would never forget this moment, and feeling so small and insignificant, like she had never felt before. This mountain had been right there since before anyone could remember it, and it would remain long after anyone now had passed away, even long-living elves. All she could do to express herself was whisper to Lili, who was close by: "I was not knowink this could be existink!"

From that moment on there was a constant awareness of that mountain looming over them, seemingly close no matter how far away it still was, mixed with her uneasy feeling. Every now and then her gaze would stray upwards, then she would quickly look away again to continue her scan of the horizon. When she saw the first rolling of golden sand there, the mountain was again pushed to the background. Her uneasy feeling had finally gotten a name, and it was definitely not a good one. She kept looking at their Shendar guide, but apart from a frown in the general direction of the sandstorm, he did not show any signs of changing their course. Her worry grew at the same rate as the golden cloud on the horizon. It was Altario who finally spotted the brewing storm, and made everyone stop. Lili, who was still close by her, asked something about an inn. Toama shook her head irritably - her reaction having not so much to do with annoyance with the woman, but everything with focus on the storm. Deciding that their guide was useless, she led her horse towards Altario. "No inn, no stoppink also. We must be tryink get around storm. Tryink not go in if can help. I am knowink desert, you all followink me, yes?" She hardly waited for a curt nod from the Remusian before leading her horse in the direction of the storm, but considerably to the east of the course they were following before. There was no use in trying to actually outrun the storm, as that would take them in the direction they had been coming from. She went at a canter, knowing that a full-out gallop would tire and dehydrate her horse, and make chances of an accident even larger. She preferred being stuck in a sandstorm quite a lot above being stuck in the middle of a desert without a horse.

As she rode, she kept looking worriedly at the growing cloud. Only once did she look back to see the rest of the group following her, then she went back to judging the distance between them and the storm. The closer it came, the louder the humming noise became. It sounded like one of those... what was it, hivelings? The things made of insects. Except that this was no human form, had no awareness of anything and consisted of sand rather than beasts. Apart from looking at the approaching mass of sand, she also kept an eye out for any shelter, but found nothing apart from sand dunes, which was not a good place to hide behind unless you wanted to be buried in sand.

Eventually, she had to admit defeat. They were not going to be able to outrun the coming sandstorm. If they had wanted to do that, she probably should have spoken up sooner, instead of assuming that their guide would lead them right. And then the other part of the problem was the cart. Maybe if they had not had that with them, they could have gone faster and perhaps still outrun the storm. As it was, it slowed them down too much, and they could not leave it, it was their only way of getting into the city with their precious cargo of wood. She stopped her canter, holding up her hand to have the others stop as well. Automatically she sought out Altario, who seemed to be generally considered the leader of their expidition - of course, because without him they wouldn't even be on it. "We are not beink outrunnink storm. We are needink stop, preparink storm. Makink horse lie, together but tied with rope, or they might goink away alone, we are not wantink this. We are should puttink on mask, make little bit wet, put over mouth and nose, then other mask, puttink over eyes and ears, keep out sand as many as can." As she talked, she pulled from her saddlebag the bandana's that the Shendar guide had given all of them before they set off - at least one thing that he did right. She mimicked binding the bandana's in front of her face, but would leave off binding her own on until she had seen everyone was prepared. She had to speak up as the wind around them was picking up. "Now we must linkink hands... arms, make sure nobody is wonderink away, and lie down also."

Their preparations were done just in time. The horses were lying with their backs towards the approaching storm, their eyes and ears also covered with cloth, partly to keep out the sand and partly to keep them from panicking. Their leads were tied to the cart, with the most steady horses on one side. Even if they more flighty ones panicked and tried to galop away from the flying sand, they would not be able to. Desert was one of the steady group - At least he knew what was happening, and would not run away, even if it had been quite some time since he had last seen a sandstorm.

The group, their bandanas tied around their heads and their arms linked, was lying behind the horses, trying for the little bit of shelter their bodies and the cart could afford. Toama was the last to tie the cloth over her eyes, after she had made sure that everyone had the arms of at least two neighbours. She felt her way to her own place, keeping Lili's hand in her own maimed left hand, and linking her right arm with the orcess, Grallen. By this time, the wind was so loud that they would not be able to understand each other even if they had been so foolish as to open their mouths. She felt rather than saw the sand engulf them, wind blowing around them and sand beating on their skin, making them feel almost as if they were being flayed alive. Almost immediately, the outside world became dark, darker than night almost. It was good that she knew what was going on, or she might well have panicked. She tried to communicate through her linked hands to her neighbours that things would turn out ok, that they were going to survive this turbulent time just fine. She had no idea if the message came through, but it was the only means that she had of comforting at least two people. There was nothing more she could do now. It was just a matter of waiting until the darkness had passed - literally.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on April 30, 2011, 06:00:16 PM
Grallen closed her eyes and made herself breathe slowly against the dampened cloth in front of her face. She did not like this. Do not like that I’ve somehow got stuck holding Altario’s hand, do not like that I have no idea what to do, do not like that our guide seems not to be as expert as I’d made the mistake of assuming, and most of all do not like the storm.  She could hear it now, hissing and moaning like some demon from wild spaces where people shouldn’t go. It stung and bit and clawed at them and there was no way to fight back. You couldn’t talk your way around a storm, and there were no vulnerable parts to kick, no way of scaring it. Lying flat and submissive here, she felt very keenly that she was a city-grown creature, had left the place she was born so far away it was out of reach even to her instincts.

Toama’s hand squeezed hers, and she remembered she was supposed to be taking deep breaths, keeping calm. Smoke-scarred lungs would not do well if she panicked now, with the air full of powdered rock. Ears laid flat against her head, she tried to think of something else. All she could think of was that bloody enormous mountain, or the faces and scents of the slavers back in Strata, or the storm that had rolled in that night, that confused, ugly, desperate fight at the docks, or, or...

Or the cart. In her mind’s eye the solid, sturdy shape of it, the secret hollow at its heart, became a beacon of stability. The cart was the Plan and the plan would see them through, if they were careful. It will be alright.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on May 01, 2011, 06:29:26 AM
She didn’t get my joke about the non-existent inn,  Lili thought, as she lay in the sand biting on the scarf that served her as a face-mask, feeling the wind throw two bucketfulls of sand at her head every two blinks, but when it comes to sandstorms, Toama knows what she is doing. In contrast to that Shendar - Lili didn’t look, but she knew he was by her side, holding on to her left hand and not exuding even half a mut of confidence – that Shendar, whom Altario picked up I-don’t-know-where. This should teach you to rely on other people’s choice of guides, Lili.

But neither remorse nor anger would do any good now. Anyway, the desert was the desert and would play its tricks, no matter how good a guide you hired. There was nothing to do but to stay calm and see this through. Meanwhile, there was time to think.

Sand sisters. That’s what Toama called them. Her tribe. Women all. And they take men as they need them, for one night, one hour only, just to have baby girls. What about the boys?  Lili had asked. There were methods, apparently. Herbs. But sometimes a boy was born nonetheless. At that point in the conversation, Lili had thought she’d seen something in Toama’s face. But she hadn’t found out more. Why had this woman left her tribe?

Next to Lili, the Shendar let go of her hand for a blink. Immediately, Lili moved her arm and searched, until she had found his wrist and grabbed it, yanking his arm towards her as strong as she could. She felt a convulsion, a resistance. Good! That meant he had felt the pain, and was awake and alive.

Around her body, Lili felt the sand pile up into little unstable ridges. Already her legs were almost completely covered. It wasn’t bad protection, but if anyone ever needed proof that you could have too much of a good thing, being drowned in sand should do the trick.

There was a little relief within the storm, a slight lessening of the assault. Lili gave a short but distinct squeeze to Toama’s hand on the right, and to the Shendar’s hand on the left, so as to warn them that she was about to do something. then she let go of both their hands, and began to wriggle her body and shovel sand underneath her. Then she carefully felt the side of her cloak, to which she had attached a bundle of scarves that contained Kassandra. The bird suffered her fate in silence, but as Lili’s hand groped to feel whether the bundle was still there, she felt the disgruntled stab of Kassandra’s beak. Good! Awake and breathing, also! Lili pulled the cloak back over her friend.

Her work done, Lili spread herself out on her belly once again and sent out an arm to each side, feeling for her companions’ hands. She would have like to ask Toama what, in the event of a sandstorm, the best method for going to the toilet was. But she felt sure that Toama wouldn’t have appreciated that joke, either, and anyway it wasn’t possible to talk through the face-masks and over the storm. Just get on with it, then, will you , Lili thought at the desert. Blow your lungs out, and then shut up already and leave us in peace. We are trying our best to get out of you, you know!

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on May 01, 2011, 11:43:26 PM
The storm came fast.  It reminded the northerner of some of the fierce winter blizzards that the Icelands Coast had to offer.  Except there was no moisture in this storm, nor any frigid wind.  It was with great relief that he accepted the moistened cloth offered by the dark skinned woman, who showed him how to tie it over his face in order for him to breath without taking in a mouthful of sand with each breath.

Each of the group was outfitted with this mask by the Sand Sister (?).  This Toama, the dark skinned one was very adept at preparing for this coming storm.  Altario could not help but be thankful that she was with them.  She was, in this instance, more help to them than the shendar guide that was driving the wagon.

Toama took them into the shadow of the wagon, the horses having already been taken care of.  She created a chain, where each of them held onto the hand of another.  To the Remusian's horror, in his hand was placed the clawed hand of the orc.  Worse, the orc had even a greener palour than normal, as her eyes were darting about at the blowing sand.  She was obviously distressed, and it came through in her grip, where small rivulets of blood were flowing down his hand where her claws were digging into his skin.

"Try not to tear my hand off!" he called to her over the howling of the wind, which roared at them like some dragon.  She either did not hear, or could not help herself, for the grip stayed just as tight.

Following the lead of the dark skinned one, they hunkered down, laying prone on the ground, allowing the wind and sand to blow over them.  It relieved the pain greatly, not having the sand eroding the flesh right off their bones.  As they lay there, Altario watched as Lili appreared to be trying to dig herself into the sand.  It might be a good idea.  He started to extricate his hand from the orc, but it only caused her to grip even tighter.  With a sigh, he started to dig with his free hand.

The sound of a shout over the howl of the wind caught Altario's attention, and he lifted his head to see the Shendar guide rising from his position and begin to run away from the camp, stumbling as he went.  Altario cursed.  Fool must have let panic overtake him.  He wouldn't last ten minutes out there in the storm.

The Remusian pulled his hand free from the orc, yelping in pain, sure that he'd left a good chunk of flesh in her claws.  "Stay down," he yelled at her, as he stood.  "Stay down!" he repeated, yelling at the entire group, using his good hand to motion for them to remain safely buried in the sand.

Standing, it took only a moment to realize just how wise Toama had been for making them lay down in the sand.  The wind had been flowing over them, but upright, the sand was battering him relentlessly.  He started to follow the guide, but it was by no means easy.  Though the guide was only several peds ahead, it was very difficult to keep him in view.  The blowing sand forced Altario to keep his eyes closed for the most part, only opening them slightly every few steps to confirm where he was going.

The sand hurt.  It bit into him, and along with being rough and tearing at his skin, it was hot.  All exposed skin burned.  As he ran, he felt sweat beginning to run down his face on the upwind side, rewetting the cloth tied about his nose and mouth.  "Te-oh!  Te-oh!" he called after the guide, but to no avail.  The guide either was not listening or could not hear.

A few more steps and Altario became aware of something troubling.  He could smell and taste blood.  What he assumed was sweat running down his face was blood.  The damned sand was rending the flesh right off his body!  If they did not get under cover quickly, their bones would be exposed soon.  By the time they were found, they'd be nothing but skeletons.

The guide, Te-oh, stumbled and fell, and by the time he climbed back to his feet, Altario had closed the distance to only a few peds.  They crested a small dune, and as they both raced down the backside, Altario threw himself forward, wrapping his arms around the guide's legs.  They both rolled a few peds, and when they came to a stop, the Remusian threw himself onto the Shendar, who was scrambling to get to his feet again.

"Stay down, fool!  You'll get us both killed!"

The guide continued to struggle and in desperation, Altario balled his hand into a fist and swung.  Both he and the guide yelped in pain, but the guide stopped moving, to Altario's relief.  Hand aching, Altario rolled the guide over onto his stomach, protecting his face from the burning sand.  He then began to emulate Lili, trying to bury himself in the sand.

As he worked, he became aware of a movement against the flow of wind and sand.  Looking up, he saw three figures standing above him.  

"Oh, sh-" The Remusian began to speak.

One of the figures raised a booted foot, then Altario's world went dark.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Toama SorInyt on May 02, 2011, 03:18:51 AM
As she lay there to outwait the storm, there was not much in Toama's head by way of thought. Her state of mind could be called something very close to meditation, although she did not call it that herself. It allowed her to ignore most of the pain from sand flailing her skin. However, motions and sounds that did not result from the storm but from her companions brought her back to herself. First there was Lili, who suddenly let go of her hand. With the cloth tied in front of her eyes to protect them from the sand, she could not see exactly what was going on, but luckily very soon she felt the woman's hand again, reassuring the desert dweller that she had not decided to wander about in the utter darkness of the storm. You could not see even a ped in front of you, so wandering off was one of the worst things you could do. Before you knew it, you were lost.

And then there was Altario's voice, yelling above the storm to stay down. Oh no. That could only mean one thing, namely that he was NOT staying down. Damn! A heartfelt curse in Sorinyt escaped from the woman's lips, muffled behind her moistened cloth. For just a moment she let go of Lili's hand, only one moment, enough to rip the cloth from before her eyes. Then she grabbed her friend's hand again, to make sure that she at least was not going anywhere. Squinting against the raging storm, she could just barely see  Altario's back. Looking quickly around the circle - which was about as far as she could see, anyway - she noticed that aside from the Remusian, their Shendar guide was also gone. Curse that man! Altario must have somehow seen him get up and leave - why had he not had his eyes covered? Men! Could they just not listen for once, even if she WAS a woman doing to ordering? She knew what she was doing, which could obviously not be said for either of the two who had just decided to wander away from the group in the middle of a sandstorm! She decided then and there that their guide was not Shendar. If what she had heard about these sand dwellers was correct, he would not have led them straight into a storm and then gone off when they were engulfed.

She tightened her grip on both her neighbours, making sure that they at least would not get away. Survival lay in the group, as she thought she had made clear, though apparently not as much as she had thought. She screwed her eyes shut, her only protection of them gone. Her sense of time was obscured, as usually happened when she was in a storm, but she didn't think it was half an hour before a lightening in the air around them told her that the end of the storm was not far off. They had survived, at least everyone who had stayed with the group as she had instructed them. Another ten minutes later and she decided that now was the time to let go of her companions and take stock of the damage. She sat up and removed the cloth from her face - the one that had still been tied in place, the one for her eyes had been ripped out of her hands when she'd removed it to see what the heck Altario was doing. For a long moment she looked back at the cloud of sand, now quickly leaving them behind - it did not care at all if what it had left behind were living human beings - or, well, beings anyway - or corpses with the skin flayed off to the bone. She made a sign with her hand and gave the cloud a short bow, to show her respect for the forces of nature that a place like this could conjure up.

She went past the horses one by one, to remove the cloth from their eyes and check them over for damage. She knew that they would have to look for Altario, who was nowhere in sight - Foiros only knew which way he had wandered after he'd left the group. But their mounts were important too, without them they could not look for the Remusian and they would not survive the rest of the trip, not even with her own expertise. Any footprints that he might have made were long gone, of course, and while she had seen his disappearing back, after he had gone from view he could have gone any way. Stupid man! If he expected others to follow his leadership, the least he could do was extend to others the same courtesy. Even if the false Shendar had gone off on his own in some sort of misguided panic that only proved that he had not, like herself, grown up in the desert, then their so called leader should have stayed with the group. Now there were two people lost instead of just one, and while she did not mind taking up the leadership seat in Altario's absence - only because she knew the desert, of course - she would have preferred it if it had not been necessary.

When the horses proved to be unharmed, if just slightly panicked, she turned to the remainder of their group - which, in the end, proved to be just Grallen and Lili. "First I want to sayink, I am seriously not likink men right now. At least sisters are listenink when you are somethink sayink. I am not beink thinkink very high of Altario, and very, very low of so-named Shendar, who I am thinkink is not at all Shendar. That beink say, we are needink to be findink them again. I am not wantink to be leavink anyone now, so if Grallen can sit on cart and leadink horses, then all horses who are beink not ridden can beink are tied to cart. We are goink to higher dune there." she paused for a moment to indicate one sand dune that was higher than the surrounding desert. "We are needink tryink to see if we can findink Altario and other man." Only then did she realise that she had just taken command without talking it through with the other two, even if she did know what she was doing. "This is beink my suggestions. Is everyone beink ok with this?"

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on May 02, 2011, 08:06:35 PM
"Try not to tear my hand off!"

Altario’s words reached her as if from a great distance, ground down and blasted like everything else in the storm. She tried to loosen her grip, but didn’t seem to be able to. Somewhere under the fear, and the anger at herself for being scared and for showing it so plainly, it occurred to her that there would be hell to pay for making the great Altario bleed. The thought didn’t have long to settle, as he wrenched free of her grip and was gone, instantly veiled by the biting sand. Grallen snarled, and half sat up, but even that felt like it would lacerate her ears. And the noise of the thing, it was unending! She curled back down again, shivering despite the heat and angry in a dull, fearful sort of way that rasped at her like sand.

It was a long, long time before she felt Toama’s grip loosen on her arm, and realised that the noise was dying down. She stayed curled up tightly until she couldn’t hear it at all, though, until the cloth around her mouth was oppressive and she had to sit up and pull it off. By then it seemed Toama had taken stock of things. Altario and the guide were nowhere in sight. Grallen scowled, and looked at the hand he’d pulled free of – blood under her nails, crusted with sand. She wiped it irritably on her trousers, standing and heading for the cart at Toama’s words. Well if he’s still alive, what are the chances he’s got other things on his mind than a little scratch I gave him? Her head buzzed as the fear and anger melted away, chased off by Toama’s words. So Te-oh is (was?) some kind of fake? And he and Altario are lost in the dunes. Lovely.

Kicking sand off the cart (oh for Kahn’uck’s sake it’s in my boots again...) she stepped up and started to tie the spare horses on.

"This is beink my suggestions. Is everyone beink ok with this?"

Grallen laughed, hoarsely. “Ive got no better ideas.”

She looked to Lili for confirmation, flicking her ears as the odd quiet of the desert returned. They felt burned and tattered by the storm, but in this hush surely she’d hear anything. What had happened to the two men that they weren’t calling out?

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on May 02, 2011, 11:35:04 PM
Eventually Te-oh the Shendar did escape Lili's grip. Well,  she thought, if by all means he feels he must run around while the sand blasts his nose off, I'm sure he's got a reason.  Yet when the end of the storm came, she was surprised that Te-oh had actually disappeared. She had assumed he'd wanted a drink or food or something, and had, after finding what he needed, got shelter elsewhere. But then it turned out that not only he had mizzled off. Altario was gone, too.

Why? Surely there had to be a good reason? If Toama was to be believed, there wasn't. Lili smiled as the Sand Sister ranted against male foolishness. Yeah, us girls, eh? Some sand sisters we are. I've got no idea what's going on, and little Grallen here looks as though she'd happily give one of her ever-twitching ears for a promise from Seyella that she'd never pour sand into her boots again.

Anyway, it was good that Toama took command. She laid out what to do: strike camp and get to higher ground, in the hope of finding some trace of the runaways. Reasonable actions all. Then she did something strange: she asked whether Grallen and Lili agreed. Some Sand Sister custom, maybe? It occurred to Lili that she had not asked Toama how decisions were made in her tribe. In Lili's experience, in any group there was always some man who ended up assuming command, often by the sheer ability to talk with confidence and ooze strength of character, rather than by knowledge or skill. So how did the Sand Sisters do things, given that their groups had no men?

Anyway, Grallen agreed with Toama's suggestion, albeit with a sarcastic laugh. It was good to hear the orc's voice again. She had seemed surly all through the journey, and Lili hadn't liked that. It wasn't good to have someone in a group who sulked and detached herself, who had to be dragged along. People like that couldn't be relied upon when Seyalla threw boardrak dung at you. Oh, Grallen could fight, Lili had seen that. Fight people, that is, with her knife and her teeth and her claws. But could she fight the desert? Could she fight with her heart and her guts? Could she fight herself ? That's what Lili wasn't sure about. She was so young, this orcess. How strong was she really?

For now, though, Grallen had made it through the storm with more grace and sanity than either Te-oh or Altario. Time to look for the fools, then. One had to. Even if the chances of finding them seemed slim.

”Boys, hey?” she said.

”Always running off to play somewhere. Sure I agree, Toama. If we can get the cart up that dune, that is. The sand seems soft, and those cartwheels so enjoy soft sand that they sink into it at every opportunity.”

While talking, Lili unwrapped Kassandra out of her rags, and let the bird hop on her shoulder. There Kassandra squatted, and started biting Lili's ear, in revenge for the hardship and indignity she had suffered.

”Ouch! Stop that, you manky scoffle. You can bite Altario's nose off, if we find him. He deserves it."

With one hand, Lili shoved her bird further down her shoulder, away from her ear.

"Toama, if you don't mind me asking: Let's say we don't find them... Would you know the way out of here? Because if I tried to get us back to Strata, Kassandra would have hacked both my ears to bits before I'd even found the first waterhole.”

Was Lili in danger of encouraging panic? Nah. It was better to look Seyella's traps right in the eye. If there was panic, it was Te-oh's and Altario's fault. What kind of guide leaves their group in the middle of a storm? And what kind of leader does so? What could they possible have seen or heard that would make them run off, without leaving any sign of why they'd done so, and where they'd gone?

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Damien Scar on May 06, 2011, 12:49:55 AM
Damien watched the captain for a few blinks and then turned his gaze back toward the ocean and the two pieces of paper in his hand. He let the one note telling the Stranarian bank to give him any amount of money he so desired...go and reread the other note. He recalled when he received the notes, it was a few days after Altario and the group had left. He was drunk and broke and feeling sorry for himself...once again.  When Altario had showed up he had thought perhaps things would turn around, especially when Altario accepted his help trying to find his brother who had information leading to the disappearance of his daughter Nayriss.

Damien chuckled, as he thought of the motley group that Altario had assembled; mostly women! Which must have been a first for the Remusian, as far as Damien had known him Altario normally did not take help from women, but this was different wasn't it? He was on a desperate search for his daughter and yet he helped Damien with the twins, fought against the Dark elves and the Orcs, was awarded a knighthood by Voltigar for his help in rescuing his wife to be, her sister, father and others. Altario graciously turned down the title, saying he already had enough from his own homeland. Voltigar still gave him land and told him that if he ever changed his mind he could have it at anytime. When it came time for Damien to say good-bye to his new found friend it was a very emotional, however being who they both were, the emotions stayed inside and all there was as Altario climbed on his horse was a firm handshake and Damien promising he would pray that Altario would find his daughter soon; that had been almost two years ago and Altario was still looking...while he had become a drunk!

A drunk who thought perhaps he might get redemption, some self-respect, and friendship back when Altario unexpectedly walked through the Sea Shoals Inn so many weeks ago, but even after Damien had helped rescued Lili, that strange, but somehow alluring woman, who had a sharp wit and a bird who could almost mimic anything it heard. Then there was the Orcess, Grallen; she was an enigma, and many questions about her should have been asked and answered. Damien did try, but he was ignored. Then, Toama, another woman who somehow was aboard the slave ship, had escaped from her captors and even joined in the fight and rescue of Lili. She had the most unusual way of speaking, sometimes it was so strange that Damien had a hard time comprehending what she was saying. Then there came the elven woman, Drustai. How and where Altario had met her Damien did not know, but she was a very important part of the puzzle that needed to be pieced together to find Altario's brother and daughter; after all of that Altario did not want him. It was the last blow. Oh, he tried to make it sound like Damien was needed to stay in Strata to search and question more around the town about Altario's brother, but Damien read between the lines: Altario did not trust a drunk. His respect for Damien was suspect and he did not want him around.  Damien nodded, left the table and went to his room. The following morning when Damien woke up they were gone and Damien headed for the bar.

It was not too long afterwards, perhaps a day or two, when Damien discovered he had no more money. He had lost his money belt with the fight with that big bruiser of a sailor on that ship. When? He did not know. It could have been during the fight, or it could have been when he and the others jumped off the ship, either way it was lost and so was his most of his money as well as his Sengren!, his one of a kind Mithrill shafted and bladed axe given to him by his father before he left home. He had just a few sans left in his trunk that he quickly used up. He had been sitting in his room considering selling his ring when a man and a few things happened to him.

First, the old healer showed up at his door.

"I came to see if ye needed anymore medicine," he said, as he entered the room looking around. He looked disapprovingly at Damien who had sat back down upon his bed after opening the door for him. "However I can see you have plenty left and it seems you have not taken my advice about not drinking, since I can smell it on you and in this room. I thought I told you once that I cannot help ye if ye did not want to be helped. That sickness in your lungs will only become worse and worse if you continue drinking, not eating properly and not taking your medication. If ye want to die, I cannot stop ye, but if ye decide to live then do what I told ye."

It seemed liked an eternity as Damien just stared up at the man. Finally he slurred, "live, I want to live."

"Then for Baveras's sake, take a bath!"

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Damien Scar on May 11, 2011, 12:21:59 AM
That was three weeks ago. The healer paid for some new clothes for Damien for his old ones were rags and as the healer had stated as he gingerly wrapped them a cloth and then he and Damien burnt them; "The stink would chase a dragon away"

"Thank you. I promise I will repay you for the clothes," Damien said.

" Stay on your medications. No more alcohol and be prepared. That will be thanks enough," the healer replied as he left to take care of his other customers.

Damien did not know what the healer meant when he said "be prepared' but he found out soon enough. It started the following day when he tried to mix his medicine; his hands were shaking, and his belly felt as if it were on fire. He tried eating, but retched it up soon afterwards: soon the pain became so unbearable that he cursed the day he was born.

He could not stay in his room. He had to get out and move, do something to take his mind off of taking a drink to stop the pain. Finally, one day, as he was walking...stumbling around town, mostly bent over in pain, he saw sand. It occurred to him that the way to dry out would be where it was dry and so one morning he woke up, gathered his medications, and several water skins filled with water and began walking.

He walked out of Strata into the desert and continued walking. The sun glared down at him, like an angry parent. Its heat like a forge, smelting his skin like it would a piece of raw iron, burning out the wanting of alcohol. He gasped with each breath, his lungs striving to breathe in air void of moisture. He gulped down the water, but it was worse. The water eased his thirst but for just a little while and then he became violently sick. He did not understand. He walked as far as he could until he collapsed. He turned and looked back and realized that he was barely a few peds out of the gate. He cursed, got back up and went back to his room.

That night he still had the shakes, and sweats and his head pounded as if a smith were inside pounding upon an anvil. It took all he had not to storm out of his room and spend the last of his sans on just a thimble of ale. He craved it! He needed it! He damn well wanted it! Damien grabbed the sans, stumbled out of his door and down the stairs. He heard laughter, could smell the ale, taste the grapes of the wine. His mouth watered and then just when he reached the bottom of the stairs, he saw Altario's face. The scowl of disappointment drowned out the laughter. The feeling of rejection from his friend, felt like it had when Voltigar stripped him of his position and snuffed out the smell of the ale and the question of the healer, "Do you want to live?" made the grapes...tasteless. Damien turned around and went back to his room, lay down upon his bed, shaking, miserable, and finally had a fitful night's sleep.

The following morning he again woke up to the same condition but he was more determined; after eating a small breakfast, filling his water skins, he headed for the desert once again. And once again the sun beat down upon him, and he breathed air void of moisture but he walked and walked. He got farther this time before he returned to his room and fought the alcohol driving sickness within him. And each day he woke up, feeling a bit better and followed his routine. The sun beat down upon him, forging him like a raw piece of iron, creating a sculpture hard as mithrill and an indomitable will to overcome, until one day he woke up with no shakes, he was clear headed, the only pain in his stomach was the ache of hunger which he quickly filled.

When he was down to has last san. He went to the bank to request funds, who in turn sent a message via a Wynd-Rider, to his castle in Northern Sarvonia.It took almost a week before the bird returned and during that time the authorities found him, questioned him about the slavers and slave ship, and then instead of throwing him in the dungeon, surprised him by thanking him -for they had been looking for those slavers for years- and then surprised him even more when they returned his Sengren to him. It was found by a street urchin, who told them who the ax belonged to, and that he was repaying a debt he owed the man. Damien thanked the gods as he walked out of the main guard station.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Ílarolén'yliás (Drustai) on May 16, 2011, 04:08:59 PM
The brigands did not stop after knocking Altario out. They threw both him and Te-oh over their shoulder and continued onwards against the power of the storm. Though it threatened to topple each of them over, they did not let that halt their movements. They knew the layout of the land, the winding path through the dunes that was no stranger to many caravans--all of which lead to their unfortunate demise by none other than Te-oh. More than that, however, their path was lead by something better than a guide--they had a sorcerer.

The leader of the three, unidentifiable beneath the same golden cloak that each of them wore, stopped momentarily to glance over his shoulder, looking at them with twin golden eyes. The others nodded at him, in acknowledgement that they had not lost him in the dunes. The man returned the nod, before continuing onwards.

Within two hours they arrived at their destination. It was a domed tent, nestled between two dune hills. Though covered by sand from the storm, and requiring no small amount of digging to get to the entrance, it was their only reprieve from the desert around them. Resembling Shendar domes--one large central dome surrounded by six smaller domes--the structure was, like Te-oh, a farce, serving as a refuge that few would think out-of-place in the great desert.

The trio entered as soon as the way was clear, before shutting the door behind them. The interior was far less humble than what would be expected of a Shendar dome, floored by a rich red carpet and surrounded by pieces of exquisitely-crafted wooden furniture and golden ornamentations.

The leader of the band turned around to gaze at his fellows, once the door was securely shut against the outside winds and sand. He pulled back his hood and mask, revealing a bald head adorned with twin black tattoos running back parallel along the crest of his skull. He was tall and lean, and his dusky skin was tough and aged. His deep golden orbs eyed his fellows with a look of disdain.

"Bind the stranger, then wake up Te," he spoke plainly. The other two dutifully complied. The first propped Altario's form up against the wall, before tightly wrapping a piece of leathery cloth around his hands and another around his mouth. He then removed Altario's sword from his belt, and pilfered his belt packs for anything of value. The other retrieved a pack of smelling salts from his belt, before waving them before Te-oh's nose. The "Shendar" woke with a violent, coughing start, before looking around wildly as he discerned his location.

"Where is the caravan." the wizard queried, calmly.

"I... they were... you didn't see them?"

"No," he said, showing no emotion, "There was a storm. You do remember the storm, do you not?"

"Yes. There wasn't supposed to be a storm."

"But there was. And instead of leading us to the caravan," the man motioned to Te-oh's belt, indicating something within it, "You lead us to this man--after getting your senses knocked out of you."

"I don't know where they went."

"Yes you do. Because there was a storm. They didn't go anywhere. You did. And now we have very little chance of finding them."

Te-oh pursed his lips, then looked the other way, unsure of how to respond.

"You do not make a very convincing Shendar when you run away at a little sandstorm. Perhaps we should throw you out in it until you learn how to no longer fear it?"

Te-oh glanced back at the wizard, and shook his head.

The wizard did not continue the lecture, and instead turned his gaze to Altario. "Tell me of this one."

"His name is Altario Shialt-eck-gorrin. He's from somewhere called Remusia, I think. Some kind of noble or something, but he didn't seem that rich to me other than the sword."

"Hmm. Remusia." The wizard tapped a long-nailed finger against his chin as he pondered. "That is a long way from here. And that he comes with little of value yet hangs on to that weapon despite the fact it could fetch him much coin--clearly traditional-minded. Not cast out or he would have not been allowed to keep such a weapon, so clearly his departure was voluntary. Too old to be an adventurer, for I doubt he has the restlessness of youth. Clearly there is a pressing matter that has taken him away from his home, when he would have rather stayed there."

"It did seem like the others were following him on some quest."

"Intriguing. Who were the others?"

"All women. A sand sister, a tall, awkward woman with a talking bird, and an orc."

The wizard glanced at Te-oh, raising a thin, curious eyebrow. "Interesting denizens that come to these dunes of late. First the elf, now an orc--traveling with a man from a land that reviles them, no less? I wonder if..." The wizard looked back at Altario. The corner of his lip curled up slightly. "Desperate, aren't you? Willing to do anything for this quest, aren't you? Yes... you might still be of use to me."

He glanced back at the others. "Put him in our guest quarters. And wake him up. I am interested to see if my guess is accurate."

Te-oh and the other two nodded. Without another word they picked up Altario, and began dragging him towards the doors to one of the smaller tents. They then opened the door, held up a small quantity of smelling salts beneath his nose, and tossed him in. Behind them, a curious-eyed wizard observed silently.

Within the 'guest quarters', another occupant stirred. Her sharp, grey eyes narrowed as she saw her fellow guest, before widening. She then glanced at the men, glaring. A low growl arose from her throat, behind the cloth binding between her teeth that kept her from speaking.

The wizard smiled to himself, then closed the door.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on May 24, 2011, 09:27:40 AM
Altario ducked, the club missing his head by mere nailsbreadth.  From his crouched position, he thrust his father's blade forward, the point finding soft flesh.  He twisted the weapon, standing, then pulled free his sword as the orc before him crumpled and fell into the snow.

His head on a swivel, Altario surveyed the scene.  The wall was chaos with the orc horde desperately trying to take the advantage, while the Remusian defenders fought with everything they had to defend their wonderful city of Remusia.  They dead and dying littered the battlements and the ground below.

His forhead throbbing, Altario reached up to touch the large lump that jutted out from above his left eye.  Withdrawing his fingers, he saw that they were coloured karikrimson with blood.  Strange, he didn't even remember how he had received the wound, but it throbbed relentlessly.

He heard his name shouted out as warning and he raised his shield to deflect another orc attack.  A few parries later, an opening gave him the chance to dispatch yet another enemy.  He looked over to the source of the warning to see Denrykmar grinning like a fool.  Altario raised his sword in salute.

It was then he noticed that Denrykmar did not appear as he should.  Though his younger brother could be no more than twenty summers in age, his hair had some grey in it, he eyes had the wisdom of age and the hint of wrinkles in the corners of them.  It was if the younger Shialt-eck-Gorrin did not belong here.

Altario's eyes widened in horror as an orc arrow then lodged itself into Denrykmar's chest, and the younger brother toppled silently off the rampart.


Altario found the nearest set of stone stairs, and with panicked speed leaped three and four steps at a time.  He rushed to Denrykmar's side and knelt down in the sand, cradling his brother's head on his lap.

With blood trickling from the corner's of his mouth, Ryk stared up at Altario.  "I'm sorry, Alt.  I couldn't find her.  I couldn't find Nayriss."

"Shhh.  Quiet.  Conserve your strength."

Ryk coughed, more bloody spittle staining his cheeks.  "It's so hot, Alt.  So hot.  Undo my coat.  I just want to go home.  I want to see snow, again."

Altario fiddled with the buttons on Ryk's heavy tunic, opening it, seeing the karikrimson stain fanned out over his brother's chest.  He watched helplessly as the unsteady rise and fall of Denrykmar's chest slowed, then finally stopped.

As tears fell from his eyes, he raised his head and surveyed the unmarked horizon of nothing but strals and strals of sand, not a soul around them.  A dark cloud on the horizon was steadily approaching, the wind howling its approach.

He looked down once more, his fingers tenderly smoothing the long blonde locks of hair.  "I'm sorry, Nayriss.  I am so sorry" he sobbed to her, burying his face against hers as the wind overtook them, burying them in sand; blocking all light, hiding them forever.

But, there was light.  There was sound.  And there was smell.  Most definitely smell; as it burned his nostrils.  He slowly shook his head, trying to distance himself from the smell.  Then one eye opened.  The other he wanted to open, but it did not want to cooperate.

With one eye, he tried to find his bearings, but he didn't recognize much.  He went to move but realized three things.  One was that his hands were bound, another was that he was injured as his head felt as though it would split in two with each motion, and three that his mouth was gagged as he tried to moan in pain.

Aware of a low growl, he twisted his neck about so he could see the source of it with his one open eye.  If he could smile, he would have.  Sitting there near him, in much the same predicament he was in, sat the elf, Drustai.  He eyes flashed with anger, and he followed her gaze to the Shendar guide Te-oh and another who stood in what appeared to be another section of a large tent.

The tent flap closed, leaving the Remusian and the elf alone in the room.  Seeing Drustai's gaze full of hatred, Altario suddenly found the situation humorous.  If he could have, he would have laughed.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Toama SorInyt on May 28, 2011, 03:07:34 AM
Toama listened to the other two as they agreed with her plan. Grallen seemed rather sarcastic about it, but she didn't object to driving the cart. That was something, at least. Lili also agreed, though with concern for the cart. Her last words had a trace of panick about them, though she was doing a very good job of hiding it. It was a good thing then that she was with a desert woman who knew what she was doing. "Cart will beink fine, if drivink careful. If we are not findink false Shendar or Altario inside reasonable timink, we go out of desert. I can leadink us out, but it is maybe possible that we are then not near to city we are tryink to find. I am understandink that Thalambath is beink near... mountain there." For a moment she gestured towards the Norong'Sorno towering up in the distance. "So I can leadink us there. But I am not knowink on which side is beink city."

While she talked, she was busy tying the reins of the spare horses to the cart, so that they would follow when the three of them started out. When she was done, she mounted her own horse, nodded to Grallen who was seated on the cart, and turned towards the dune she had indicated, rising higher than the ones around it. "Let's go." Nudging Desert to a simple walk, so that the cart would not get bogged down in the sand, she lead the way to the point she had in mind. Her horse's hooves dislodged sand with every step - mostly recent sand from the storm - but she was used to adjusting her position to the slightly different motion this resulted in. The dune lay in more or less the direction that she had seen Altario disappear to, though she knew well enough that he could have changed course once he was out of sight. Still, it was better than nothing - she needed to get up high.

When she reached the top of the hill, she dismounted from her horse, though keeping a hold of the reins with the three fingers of her maimed hand. She needed to be able to turn easily without dislodging the sand she was standing on too much. With her good right hand she shaded her eyes from the sun, looking every way to see if she could find anything. What she was looking for were two black dots that might turn out to be two men. What actually arrested her gaze was a large tent, standing some way away. If today had been a normal day, and that guide - she refused to call him by name - had still been with them, she would have assumed that it belonged to the desert dwellers of this region, the Shendar. Her distrust of the false Shendar since the sandstorm, however, led to distrust of anything else remotely human-like looking like it belonged. She could not really see any movement near the tent. Looking at Lili, who was standing next to her, she pointed out the dome. Then she motioned to Grallen to keep the cart on the side of the dune hidden from view from the dome. On foot, she went down to the cart, thoughtful about what she had seen. She glanced at Lili. "What do you thinkink?"

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on June 04, 2011, 11:23:30 PM
”I am thinking,” Lili said, looking at both Toama and Grallen, ”I am thinking that we can hope that Altario was taken in by the people that are camping down there, and that he’s sitting under those shady roofs slurping mil’no fire. I am also thinking that if that was so, he must surely have gone bonkers, since in his usual state of mind he wouldn’t have left his horse in the desert for one blink longer than absolutely necessary – especially not if the horse was guarded by none save a bunch of women. That’s why I am thinking most of all that whoever is down there doesn’t need to know how many we are.”

Lili paused. The cart, she thought, had stayed behind the tip of the dune. She didn’t believe that it could yet have been seen by someone who may have peeked out of the dome-like tent that stood in the distance, strange and unexpected like a lone pimple in an immaculate face. A plan was taking shape in Lili’s mind – or maybe not a plan, but a strategy: something that might give them some time and space to have plans later, when they might need them.

”Grallen,” she said. ”Are you up for doing one of your disappearing tricks? Two women and a cart are quite harmless. Two women, a cart and an orc might be seen as trouble.”  

Yes, orc. Lili had decided to say it. There was no reason to beat about the bush. Grallen knew what it meant to be an orc among humans. If she’d wanted her feelings spared, she’d be up in the North with her fellow orcs. Lili looked Grallen straight in the eye, to show that she was talking about other people’s prejudice, not her own.

”If everything’s fine and Altario is sitting there playing cards, you can just come out and join. If everything’s not so fine, it might be better for us to have an ace up our sleeve. Or under our cart.”

It had worked once. Why should it not work twice? Lili kicked a bit of sand off her boot, and watched it form a little swirling cloud behind the cart. There was still a breeze in the air.

”What do you say?” she asked Grallen.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on June 05, 2011, 09:06:20 PM
Looking up at the dune looming ahead, Grallen was uncertain – she wasn’t particularly skilled at driving the cart, and it seemed impossible that the heavy thing, with a gaggle of still-nervous horses tethered behind, could manage that slope. But following Toama’s path as closely as possible, the wheels didn’t stick, and the horses found solid footing – enough to haul the cart up without sticking, anyway. The heat was worse, higher up, with little in the way of breeze. After the fury of the storm everything felt oppressively still and quiet. Grallen’s poor beleaguered ears felt like they were being slowly baked.

Toama and Lili were nearing the top, and at a signal from Toama Grallen tugged on the reins, halting the cart. The horses tethered behind jostled and whickered uneasily, and she shushed at them, wanting to hear what the others might be saying.

They returned soon enough. The idea that there was a camp of some kind nearby immediately prompted thought of shade, rest, something to drink... then realism asserted itself. She nodded at Lili’s appraisal of the situation, and suppressed a grim smile, as she realised what came next.

”Grallen, are you up for doing one of your disappearing tricks? Two women and a cart are quite harmless. Two women, a cart and an orc might be seen as trouble.”

She barely twitched at Lili’s choice of words, and returned her look with a small nod, though something bright and angry stirred behind her eyes.

”If everything’s fine and Altario is sitting there playing cards, you can just come out and join. If everything’s not so fine, it might be better for us to have an ace up our sleeve. Or under our cart. What do you say?”

She looked back at the bed of the cart. It would be stuffy as hell under there... but it would also be a chance to test it. And a challenge. This time the sly smile broke out from under her defences. She looked back to Lili and Toama, halfway-grinning.

“You want me to save your hides if Altario manages to get you all in trouble? It’d be my pleasure.”

She inclined her head in a mockery of a courtly bow, and dropped the reins, hopping off the cart to go round the back.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on June 10, 2011, 05:22:23 AM
This was the netherworlds! There was nowhere to hide. With the help of the horses, they pulled and pushed the cart through the sand. And around them was nothing – nothing but space and sand and sand and space. Rarely had Lili felt so visible, so vulnerable before. She thought of Grallen, hiding between the two layers of floorboards of the cart. And she envied her. Bumpiness, hotness, stuffiness and general unpleasantness of the ride notwithstanding. At least Grallen had a secret. But Lili felt as if the desert could see right through her.

And there were no traces either – nothing to read! Lili kept looking, but if Te-oh and Altario had walked in this direction, the sandstorm had taken extra care to remove all visible signs of it. ”What a sumptuous boardrak’s mess this is," Lili whispered under her breath. ”If those people have bows and arrows, we’re at their mercy.”

On and on the party walked. When they were about a hundred peds away from the tent, Lili could begin to make out its structure. Like a collection of soap bubbles it looked – a big one in the middle, to which smaller ones cling in a perfectly regular circle. She saw no movement. Not even the canvas of the tent seemed to be stirring, for there was no breeze now. It was as if Grothar had decided to halt his breath to increase the suspense.

No movement. No person walking around the tent, inspecting any damage the sandstorm might have made; no head sticking out between the canvas; no smoke coming from anywhere. But in her heart Lili knew that she was being watched – she, and Toama, and their half dozen horses, and their stupid cart. But not Grallen. Not yet. She might really be our only hope , Lili thought.

And then they were there. Just ten steps from the dome tent with its adhesive bubbles. Lili realized that the structure was larger than it had looked from afar. It was as high as a small house, and considerably wider and larger. She wouldn’t have been surprised if someone had told her that two dozen people could live in there.

”Here we are, then,” Lili said to Toama. ”Two helpless women lost in the desert with their humble cart.”

Lili cleared her throat.

”But make sure you know where your scimitar is,” she added in a whisper. Not that she thought it was necessary to remind the Sand Sister of the danger they were in. But she felt like saying it, nonetheless. Talking loudly again, she went on:

”So what’s next? I doubt they have a doorknocker. Do we just walk in, or what?”

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Ílarolén'yliás (Drustai) on June 12, 2011, 04:13:23 PM
Drustai looked at Altario, as he looked at her. Though the rag kept him from smiling, the rest of the muscles on his face betrayed his opinion of the situation. She narrowed her eyes at him. What did he think this was, some kind of joke? Was he pleased with the irony of the situation? He should be thinking of a way to escape, like she was! In fact, now that he was here, perhaps they could maneuver in such a way as to allow them to undo each other's bindings? Though she could not much move her arms, tied as they were behind her back, her fingers were still loose. That might be enough. At least enough to pull off the rags keeping them from speaking.

She turned her gaze back towards him, and then exaggerated a look over her shoulder, trying to point out her hands behind her back. "Hanh," she said, as best as she could with the gag. Hopefully, he would understand that she was saying 'hand' or 'hands'. She then dipped her head forward and made a pointing motion, directly towards Altario's mouth, to try and indicate the gag, before repeating the gesture over her shoulder. Without waiting for some kind of response, she shuffled on her knees so that her back was facing him, and wiggled her fingers.

The whole predicament was beyond embarrassing, she mused. She had left the group to go retrieve a Travel Coin for them from the Thalambathian outpost of Southwatch, and had arranged to rendezvous back with the group at a location specified by Te-oh. Of course, she never reached it, having been ambushed on the way by these highwaymen. Last time she would ever trust a 'guide'. She hissed to herself.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on June 22, 2011, 08:07:21 AM
A gesture from Toama shut Lili up, and made her look at the scene before her – look properly, that is. It didn’t take long to realize what the Sand Sister was showing her: on one side of the dome tent, the storm had left high dunes of sand, which leaned into the canvas, so that the canvas was stretched tight and bulged inwards. But around the entrance, the sand had been cleared away – efficiently, albeit not very evenly, leaving several golden anthill-like heaps to the left and the right of the door. At the bottom of the entrance, more sand had gathered, albeit in smaller amounts than in other places around the tent. If Lili had been able to read, she might have said that these traces were like a notice board which large red letters, which spelled: “someone entered here just before the sandstorm blew itself out”.

Coincidences can happen, of course. Seyella, the goddess of destiny, has the oddest whims. Lili knew that better than many. But in this case, she felt rather certain that whoever had entered this tent recently had been accompanied by Altario and Te-oh.

And there was another thing. Toama showed it by holding a cupped hand next to her ear. There was no noise from the tent, and no apparent movement. Contrary to Lili’s paranoid expectation, then, it seemed that herself and Toama and the cart had not yet been seen, nor heard.

Lili glanced at the entrance. She was tempted to steal a look inside straight away. But of course, whomever she would be able to see might then see her, too. It would be better first to summon all the help she could get.

She stepped to the cart, leaned over the loading area, and gave it three soft but distinct knocks, right in the centre, between two parcels of provisions. She did not doubt that Grallen would have the sense to be quiet when getting out. She only hoped that the orcen limbs hadn’t gone too stiff from being folded into their tiny hiding place.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on June 23, 2011, 08:07:11 PM
It soon became apparent that however much she shifted around, nothing got any more comfortable. By jamming both her knees together she could save her shoulders being pressed into the boards so much, but then her foot went to sleep, and she became painfully aware of the way her back was twisted. The cart bumped slightly as it rolled down towards the tents. With every jolt and tilt Grallen swore under her breath. The air was viciously hot, and as she wriggled, trying to turn onto her back, she felt a momentary stab of panic. She quelled it before it could get hold. I checked when it was made, there’s plenty of room to let air in.

The cart had stopped, it seemed. How long would they be? Anything could be happening, it was too quiet. Maybe they’d already been quietly killed, and she’d stay here until she baked, or worse, be found... dammit can’t reach my knife from here...

Her hair stuck to her face with sweat, which stung her eyes. Her arm seemed to have gotten stuck under her, and her elbow was poking into her ribs. She had just decided to fill the interminable ages by naming, and then personally cursing, every grain of sand in the desert, when three knocks sounded, near her ears.

“Thank Kahn’uck!”  she hissed, and gently kicked out to release the panel. Boards scraped and scratched at her as she wriggled out, and then dropped onto the sand, knife drawn before she even stood up.

Even in the airless, timeless space under the cart, it didn’t seem she’d been under very long. Had something gone wrong? No drawn blades or looming, unfriendly figures greeted her as she slid out of the hiding place, so it didn’t seem so. And Lili and Toama were still there. She threw them both a quizzical look, and tried not to gasp for air as she shrugged the stiffness out of her joints. What next?  

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on June 27, 2011, 05:10:20 AM
No sooner had Grallen clambered into sight than she stood on the desert sand, knife pointing outwards like a deadly sting. Lili put a finger to her lips, signalling the need to be quiet. Then she pointed to the traces at the tent entrance.

”We think Altario’s in there,” she whispered into one of Grallen’s ever-twitching ears. ”But if he was all right, he’d come out, wouldn’t he? We better have a look. Discreetly.”

She looked at Toama and Grallen, and gestured to the tent. ”Any suggestion where to start?”  her eyes asked. The tent was an odd construction. A large central dome was surrounded by six smaller ones, one of which served as the entrance. Despite its impressive size and symmetric arrangement, the whole thing had a provisory, ramshackle look about it. The canvas seemed threadbare in places, and wasn’t drawn tight evenly, leaving folds and creases for the desert wind to grab and shake.

Was it best to check the entrance first, or should they start from the back? The entrance side had been the one exposed to the sandstorm, and consequently the front three of the smaller tents had grown heaps of sand around them, which looked like little battlements protecting the tent from an attack of desert domovidgies. At the back, however, the sand had been sucked away by the wind, and the bottoms of the canvases showed in a few places, as far as Lili could see. It might be possible to sneak round there, lift the canvas from below, and peek inside.

”Let’s split up,” Lili suggested, cupping her hand against her mouth to prevent the sound from reaching the tent. ”I’ll check the back. You want to take the entrance? Meet back here in half a pipe?”

A few blinks later, Lili was squatted at the back of the dome, cutlass at the ready. In front of her, there was a piece of loose canvas that she reckoned she could lift and peek under. ”You,” she hissed to Kassandra, who was sitting on her shoulder now, hiding from the sun in the shade of her hat. ”You keep still. And don’t you dare fly off.”

”Still,” whispered Kassandra, and as Lili bent forward to bring her head close to the ground, she adjusted her position with little sidewards steps, walking from Lili’s shoulder down her back in order to stay upright.

Slowly, carefully, Lili lifted the canvas and peeked into the tent. Compared to the dazzling sunshine outside, the light was grey in there, and Lili’s eyes needed a few blinks before they could make out anything. By and by, shapes began to distinguish themselves, and Lili saw that she hadn’t picked the most interesting tent. There was no movement in the room, no person. The sandy floor was partly covered with rugs, and the walls were lined with heavy-looking sacks and bundles. There was a pile of cushions, too. Maybe this was someone’s sleeping chamber?

Lili dropped the canvas, and listened. Nothing. No sound from Grallen and Toama. What might they have found? Maybe she should get back to check?

But when she looked around, she saw what looked like another promising spot, where she could peek under the next small tent along to her left. She crept over. Kassandra scuttled about on her shoulder blades with nervous little steps, weak from the heat, and barely succeeding to maintain her balance without using her wings. Finally, Lili had reached the next tent. She went down on her knees and bent forward, until her right cheek touched the sand. In one hand she held her cutlass, the other reached for the canvas. Her fingers sweated. The air, suddenly, seemed very still.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on June 29, 2011, 08:27:08 PM
”We think Altario’s in there, but if he was all right, he’d come out, wouldn’t he? We better have a look. Discreetly.”
Grallen nodded, yellow eyes flicking over Lili and Toama’s faces. No point delaying, then. The long wait in the cart had made her restless, and the tense, quiet exposure now she was out in the open left her eager to find out if Altario was here or not and leave as soon as possible.
”Let’s split up, I’ll check the back. You want to take the entrance? Meet back here in half a pipe?”

Grallen glanced to Toama, to see if she agreed, and then nodded, trying to suppress a grin. Splitting up to surround an unknown foe... it reminded her of her usual work, which seemed to have been left far behind, back when she first stumbled into an inn in a bad mood, and got wrapped up in this whole venture.

Gesturing to Toama to follow closely, she padded up to the front of the nearest tent, for once glad of the sand, which was easy to walk soundlessly on. She pressed her ear to the tent, listening intently. It was still oddly quiet; if there are people here (and looking at the sand kicked about by the entrance, it would seem so) they have either noticed our approach, and are waiting to ambush us, or they’re oblivious, and asleep, or relaxing...  her ears swivelled, straining to catch breathing sounds, or the shifting about of furniture as someone moved across a room. Was that something? A sigh? A rustle of fabric? She bit her lip, looking up to meet Toama’s gaze.

“Somebody’s in there, but I can’t tell how many. Any ideas?” Her voice slipped easily into the soft whisper of thieves; clear but not carrying. Toama looked at the entrance again, and for a moment Grallen wondered if she could tell who had entered from those scuffed, sandblown tracks – it seemed impossible to her eyes. But then the human’s gaze drifted to the sand heaped at the base of the tent, and she crouched, starting to push it away, digging the base of the tent clear. Ah, of course. If you can see in from the back, where the sand hasn’t blown round that should follow at the front.  Grallen grinned, and helped kick the sand back, before standing over Toama, knife in hand and keeping a close watch on the door. Is this the only door? Never robbed a tent before, do they have back exits? Suppose Lili will have found out, but she’s on her own...  

She strained her ears for any sound, eyes fixed on the entrance. Anyone to step out of that door would get a knife to the side of their throat and a friendly kick in the kneecaps. To Toama, she hissed “See anything?”

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on July 18, 2011, 01:47:53 PM
Of course, the Remusian finding the situation somewhat humorous only served to infuriate the elf.  But, as little as he knew her, he knew that would happen.  Knowing that he aggravated her made him feel somewhat better.

The situation was not funny, he reminded himself.  He didn't know who had captured them, or where they were.  Worse, Te-oh was missing.  Was he dead?

Hearing the elf trying to speak focused Altario on her.  She appeared to want him to move closer to him and have her remove his gag.  It seemed to be a good plan, so he scuttled over to her, bending his face down to where her wriggling fingers waited.  It only took a moment and one poke it the eye for the gag to slide down to his chin.  He gulped the air, not realizing how stifling the gag had been.

Lifting himself up, he nodded his appreciation to her before twisting around to profer his hands to her.  "Don't know what you're doing here, but its good to see you, elf.  Let's get your gag out."

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on August 04, 2011, 10:54:34 PM
There were two of them. Two shadows. Awkward they were, twisted. Making strained small staccato movements, rubbing against each other. While her eyes were getting used to the darker light inside the tent, Lili thought that she was witnessing two people making love.

Presently, the shadows grew colours, and the shapes turned from fuzzy to sharp. Lili realized whom she was seeing, and what. Both people were sitting with their hands tied behind their backs. Altario was leaning forward towards Drustai’s back, while her hands fiddled with the gag stuck inside his mouth, trying to remove it.

Lili’s thoughts moved like flashes of lightning across her mind. Should she go and tell Toama and Grallen? Should she warn them not to do anything that might alert Altario’s and Drustai’s captors? Or was it better to free the two prisoners first, so as to get away as quickly as possible? Or so as to have two more swords if it came to blows?

Just when Lili had made up her mind, Drustai succeeded in unknotting Altario’s gag. Lili’s heart made a yelp of sympathy as she heard the sharp relief of the proud Remusian's first free breath. "Don't know what you're doing here,” Altario said. ”But it’s good to see you, elf. Let's get your gag out."

Lifting the canvas higher, Lili stuck her head into the tent as far as she could, and whispered:

”Pshht, no sound! It’s Lili and Kassandra. Let’s get that gag out indeed. Won’t take half as long as roasting a blackhog.”

Lili tried to raise the canvas even further, but it stretched too tight. If she crawled underneath, some buckle or boot or cutlass would surely snag, and she’d lose time. Not to speak of Kassandra, who might complain and raise a racket. So Lili let go of the canvas, pulled out her knife, and cut herself an opening.

”One twitter, and you’re chicken soup,” she hissed to Kassandra, as she crawled through the hole into the tent. The bird clung to her shoulder, looking mischievous. But Kassandra hadn’t been the companion of a highwaywoman for twelve years for nothing. She knew when she had to be quiet. And sometimes she even was .

Using her knife, Lili cut off Drustai’s gag, and then turned to see to the elf’s hands.

”Ladies first!” She grinned at Altario. ”Toama and Grallen are on the other side. Whom are we facing?”

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Toama SorInyt on August 11, 2011, 09:24:11 PM
When she had cleared enough sand from the back of the tent, Toama crouched down to see if she could peer inside. An immediate problem showed itself - of course the tent had been created in such a way as to stop sand from entering, which was a rather smart precaution to take in a desert. However, she did see a seam running, so with a little manoevring of her scimitar, she managed to make a hole big enough to peer through. However, she could not see anyone there, only loads of boxes, stacked in neat rows. If she'd had any doubts whether these were actually Shendar, they were now laid to rest - no true desert dweller would have that many boxes, not when they led a nomadic existence. She could hear the same voices as Grallen now, but they seemed to be coming from further away. She could not hear the words, only that they sounded male.

She stood up and shook her head. In a whisper, she told the orcess "There is beink nobody, but I am can too hearink voice. Maybe you are hearink what it say, if listen there? You are hearink better than I, I am thinkink." She took up the same guard position as Grallen previously, her scimitar ready for use when she needed it. She did not like being here, convinced more and more that the inhabitants of the tent were not friendly. The sooner they could go, the better. She'd prefer leading their little ragtag group all the way back through the desert a thousand times over standing here, practically waiting to be caught - it needed only one person coming out and seeing them to raise the alarm, and she had no idea how many of them there were.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on August 13, 2011, 07:43:50 PM
"There is beink nobody, but I am can too hearink voice. Maybe you are hearink what it say, if listen there? You are hearink better than I, I am thinkink."

Grallen smiled, despite herself, and nodded. No jibe at her beautiful (if now sand-burned) ears, for once. She knelt down in the hollow Toama had made, and ducked to peer into the tent. Boxes obscured her view and blocked the light – though there was a light, yellow and dully fading in and out; a lamp? Not a candle in this storm beleaguered place. She turned her head, pressing through the tear in the tent-

Easy, muted conversation greeted her twitching ear. The faint shuffle of furniture – that’s what she had heard before, sounds like someone wandering around, aimlessly. Something metallic, and cloth, and idle sighs- they don’t know we’re here. Nobody breathes like that if they suspect they’re being watched.

She was surprised at how well the tent had muffled them – or maybe she’d gotten sand in her ears. Three of them! Had Lili seen? Hopefully we’ll find out on her terms rather than theirs. Grallen sat up, and caught Toama’s eye, before holding up three fingers, and pointing in the directions she thought she’d heard them. Well I think it was three. I really hope it was three. We can manage three, if we’re careful. Was there an extra murmuring, from further away? She pressed her ear back to the hole in the tent for a moment, but couldn’t convince herself it was anything other than the rustle of sand against tent cloth.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Ílarolén'yliás (Drustai) on September 22, 2011, 07:44:23 PM
Drustai let out a gasp as her gag was cut off. She closed and opened her jaw, stretching it this way and that, trying to work out the kinks in her muscles from having had it locked open for so long. She then licked her dry lips, frowning at the realization that they had cracked a bit. Cursed, filthy conditions! She hissed to herself, before looking at Lili as she finished cutting off the bindings around her wrists.

"Thank you," she remarked. She reached up to rub the sore, reddened flesh, before raising her hands up to her hair, ringing them under and through it to smooth it out. She gritted her teeth as her fingers caught and pulled at some tangles.

Drustai rolled around so that she could be facing the two of them, and watched as Lili went to sever Altario's bindings as well.

"We need our things back." She was not going to leave all of her magical supplies here--she had little elsewhere and no means to replace them. She also assumed that Altario would want his precious sword back, as well.

She looked at Lili. "Are the others here?"

*     *     *

Te-oh sat with the group, at a table in one of the side rooms of the tent. He cut into a piece of salted steak, then lifted it and pressed it between his lips with his knife. Things had been quiet since they had brought in the man, Altario. He had expected more chiding from the others, but they spared him aside from a few jibes while they had moved Altario's few belongings to the storage room.

Te-oh looked up towards Rudohn, the leader of their group. He had never been one to raise a temper, but the cold confidence he always possessed worried him. He always knew more about what was going on than anyone. Like he could see into the future. Could magic do that? It could, couldn't it? Te-oh frowned. He almost never saw him cast any spells, though. He always just knew.

"Te-oh," Rudohn commented, suddenly looking up from his plate at the "Shendar."

Te-oh blinked, speechless for a moment. "Uhm, yes sir?"

"Bring me the man's weapon. I wish to examine it."

Te-oh took another bite of his steak, then nodded and pushed himself to a stand. "Right away." He gave a curt bow of his head, then turned to exit the room. He could have swore he saw Rudohn smirk as he did so, though.

Te-oh pushed aside the flap separating the dining room from the center room of the tent, then paced across it to the other end. His footsteps were quiet on the crimson carpet, as it and the sand beneath did well to muffle him. As he reached the other end, he pushed forwards the other flap and entered.

Te-oh frowned as he glanced around the storage room. There was a bright light emanating from behind the boxes, casting shadows over the rest of the room. Damnit! The tent must have come up again during the sandstorm. He muttered to himself, then reached forward and grabbed the sword. He then turned and exited the room, crossing back over to the dining room.

Rudohn was already looking at him as he entered. Te-oh held out the sword, handle first. "Tent came up again. Going to go out and fix it."

"No need," Rudohn replied as he took the sword.

Te-oh blinked. If they left it, the next sandstorm could take the whole tent with it. Not to mention all the sand that would come in.


"We shall fix it later. Finish your dinner."

Te-oh let out a sigh, then plopped himself back down in his chair. He looked to his right at Surok, who just shrugged at him before taking another bite of his steak. Te-oh frowned. Something fishy was going on.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on October 08, 2011, 11:10:39 PM
As Altario moved to help Drustai with her gag, there was the sound of material moving and he spun his head around to see the ever smiling face of Lili.  A moment later, and the cutting of the canvas, and Lili and her bird were in the tent. 

"Glad to see you, too." he replied as he waiting for his binds to be cut away.  When done, he rubbed at the chafed skin at his wrists.

He nodded at the elf's assessment.  "Yes, we need our weapons back.  Any idea where they could be?  How many people are we up against?  They took Te-oh, as well.  We need to find him."

So many questions and no answers.  Whatever was going on, they were at a disadvantage.  The only good point was the arrival of Lili, and hopefully the others.  Having the advantage of surprise might be enough to change the tide here.  It was a good thing Lili...

Altario raised his eyebrow.  It just struck him that he really was glad Lili was here.  As much as it chagrined him, he was starting to develop a real friendship; not just with Lili, but with everyone in the group.  Even the dark elf.

How things, and even he, had changed.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on October 09, 2011, 08:19:00 PM
Lili stared at Altario and Drustai. They did not know. Their captors were just a few steps away, separated from them by nothing but a couple of flimsy sheets of canvas – but Altario and Drustai did not know how many there were. Did they not have eyes to see who was binding their hands? Did they not have ears to hear their voices? Heads to work out what was happening? Drustai had even managed to ignore what Lili had told her: that Toama and Grallen were on the other side of the tent. And Altario had obviously found Te-oh, then contrived to lose him again. How these two had survived long enough to grow grey hair and bitter expressions around the mouth was beyond Lili’s understanding.

But they did not want to escape. They wanted their stuff back. Sure, nothing more important than stuff. Die in the Jeyriall-forgotten Ráhaz-Dáth, your body cut open and stuffed with sand, your eyeballs dried and shrivelled like raisins – but at least you have your sword by your side; family heirloom, you see, old companion, dear as a child’s favourite toy, can’t go to bed or the privy or the Netherworlds without it.

Kassandra, still sitting on Lili’s left shoulder, felt the scar on Lili’s cheek grow red and hot.  Desert sun, sandstorm, exhaustion, fear – when it came to flushing Lili’s face with blood, nothing could match pure exasperation. There was a faint shiver on Lili’s lips, too. All signs indicated to Kassandra that the conversation, which had been dull and whispered so far, would soon turn interesting. After days of travelling through treeless land in a mood of grim silence, after being told to shut up during the rare exciting bits, Kassandra was beginning to hope that there might be some reward at last for a gossiper bird. Feeling her feathers come alive, she made a little hop of anticipation, and whispered an imitation of Drustai's voice: “Are the others here?”

The sound made Lili flinch, and roused her from her self-righteous fit of anger. She had probably glared at Altario and Drustai for longer than was considered polite in either Remusia or Nybelmar. ”Chicken soup, I said,” she growled through the left corner of her mouth. ”Unsalted.” Kassandra stiffened, and sunk back into resentful silence.

Right. Stuff. They want it, we shall get it. No rest for the cutlass, then. Probably not a good idea to have Shendars on our track anyway. Lili allowed herself a sigh, before she said:

”We saw no signs of Te-oh. I left Grallen and Toama at the tent entrance. We should get to them. They are well, but they don’t know you’re here. They were going to have a peek inside of their own.”

Her hand still held the knife that she had used to cut her friends’ bonds. She offered it to Altario. ”Not as long as your sword, but it cuts okay.” The elf, she hoped, could defend herself by her magic.

Turning toward the hole in the canvas that would lead them outside, she said: ”All right then. Enough chatter. Ready to go?”

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Ílarolén'yliás (Drustai) on October 21, 2011, 03:10:52 PM
Drustai looked at Altario as he mentioned Te-oh. Her lip curled back, revealing a sneer. Of course they did not know. They had not even thought that this entire situation had been completely rigged. That they had just been randomly discovered in the middle of a sandstorm across a vast expanse of dust and sand. The odds of that were astronomical.

"Te-oh is not your friend. He is the reason you are here."

She didn't let either of them ask for an explanation as she continued. "He lead you to an ambush. There are four of them, total. Not Shendar. The leader is Thalambathian--one of their wizards. He is the dangerous one. The others are armed, but they are no soldiers--otherwise they would not be resorting to such trickery and deception. Their swords are most likely for intimidation, I doubt they have the skill to match one such as you, Altario."

Drustai looked towards Lili, her gaze peering for a moment at the woman's gossiper. She was such a fool, to bring that thing here! They were lucky that the bird had stayed quiet this long. One single squack or loud mimicry and everything would come undone. She hissed, before looking down towards the woman, and gestured to the hole in the tent.

"Lead the way."

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on October 22, 2011, 06:56:39 PM
The hairs on the back of Altario's neck began to rise.  His arm shot out and cold fingers grabbed onto the cloth of Lili's sleeve, stopping her before she had a chance to leave.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!  What did you say?"  His grey eyes locked onto the elf's.  "You're telling me that Te-oh is a traitor to us?"  His blood began to boil.

If there was one thing that Altario could not abide, it was treachery.  He had trusted Te-oh.  They all had.  They had put their lives and well being in his hands to guide them through this accursed desert and the man had betrayed them.  When man did this to fellow man, it was worse than what any orc could do.

The confirmation in the elf's eyes told Altario all he needed to know.  Te-oh was a traitor.  The Remusian's jaw tightened and his teeth ground together.  He released the sleeve of the flamboyant woman and gave her a curt nod to continue.

"I'll kill him, myself!"

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on October 24, 2011, 06:57:00 AM
That explained a lot. Te-oh was a wilier warg than Lili had given him credit for. He had us all for breakfast, lunch and dinner!  So much for Lili’s hopes to sneak away without a tussle. For even if we find Sir Altario’s blue-blooded sword before Te-oh’s gang find us – Sir Altario won’t make a step towards Thalambath before he’s shoved said sword into Te-oh’s innards. Lili repressed a sigh.

When Altario finally let go of her arm, she scuttled towards the hole in the tent and crawled through. Outside, she crept two steps to the left, making space for Altario and Drustai to follow, but remained crouched until her eyes had re-accustomed themselves to the assault of fierce sunlight on yellow dunes. Sand, sand, sand – well, this probably wasn’t good country to get away unseen anyhow, especially not if these tent-dwellers were really led by a wizard, as Drustai had said. Well, so. How do things stand?

Lili watched her two companions as they moved, free of fetters for the first time in hours, if not longer. Were their wrists still stiff? Did their knees creak? How did their eyes react to the sudden brightness? As she led the way round the tent, Lili moved deliberately slowly. She wanted to give Altario and Drustai time to regain their full suppleness of limb, which they would soon need. Also, that way everyone was less likely to make a noise.

Toama and Grallen were still where Lili had left them. By the looks of it, they hadn’t run into trouble. Lili wasn’t one for thanking the gods, but she did raise her eyes to the sky for a moment, savouring the relief. Things would be a lot easier with those two in fighting form. There’d be more weapons for everyone, too, since Grallen owns seventy-three knives. Although then again, those two behind us would probably not take a knife from an orc if their mothers’ lives depended on it.

As soon as her eyes caught Grallen’s and Toama’s, Lili put a finger on her lips. With her other hand, she pointed thumb-backwards over her shoulder.

”Look whom I found,” she whispered. ”Two for the price of one.” It had to be a surprise for them to see Drustai.

The elfess worried Lili. She was maybe the group’s best hope against a wizard – and what Lili had seen of Drustai’s skills on the ship in Strata harbour certainly made her feel lucky that they were fighting on the same side. But Lili never felt at ease around her. Couldn’t take a joke, never had a warm word to say. And all that snarling and sneering and showing her teeth, even within a blink of having been cut loose from her shackles – it was more like a caracal than an elf. Well, as long as she saves her biting for that wizard, we’ll tolerate it. Just about, anyway.

”Te-oh fooled us all.” Lili explained to Grallen and Toama. ”He’s with the bandits.”

She paused for a blink to let the news sink in. Then she went on: ”And you? What did you see?”

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on October 25, 2011, 06:14:13 PM
The voices grew louder, and Grallen's heart shuddered as she realised someone was headed straight for them! She had time to glimpse a flash of light as the tent flap to another room was opened, and hear an unfamiliar, imperious voice before she pulled her head away from the tent flap and shifted to the side, out of sight. She gestured frantically to Toama to be quiet, and still, and listen, whilst trying to do the same herself.

He was saying something, the man who had come into this section of the tent. Holding her breath, she managed to make out a metallic sort of noise, and then he was walking away again, saying, “Tent... go out and...” Oh bugger.  Someone replied, sounding negative but too muffled to make out words, and she let out a held breath. Still, she so barely knew what was going on...

she looked to Toama, worried, and was about to ask if she’d heard any of that when footsteps on sand brought Grallen from crouching at the base of the tent, puzzling over whispers, to half-on-her feet with a hand on her blade, almost quicker than she could think.

”Look whom I found, Two for the price of one.”

She couldn’t help a smile, as she lowered her hand from the blade. Well now we can definitely manage three, not that we need to. We can go; we can get out of this blasted desert...  she flicked her gaze over Altario and Drustai. They looked a little worn-out and sand-eaten, but not too terribly maltreated. Not as if they’d been worked over for information, at least. This is just an everyday kidnap attempt, nothing to worry about.

”Te-oh fooled us all. He’s with the bandits.”  

Grallen scowled. It stood to reason though, Toama had said he wasn’t much of a guide... Dammit, they better not come chasing after us.
“And you? What did you see?”

Pointing a thumb over her shoulder at the dip in the sand where they’d been listening, she whispered, “Nobody in that first chamber- I think there’s three of them, but it’s hard to tell- they don’t know we’re here, so if we’re quiet we can get away easy.And we need to go soon- one came to pick something up from the front of the tent, I heard something about going out... I don’t know exactly, but they could find us any second.””

She looked at them expectantly, eager to be on her way, though something in Altario’s expression made her doubt it was going to be quite so easy.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Toama SorInyt on October 25, 2011, 07:25:33 PM
After Toama had made way for Grallen to listen, she stood guard with her scimitar drawn. At the same time she kept her ears open, hoping to catch some of the conversation going on inside. Small chance, but you never knew. As before, she could not exactly make out words, just voices. One of them grew louder at one point, and though she could not hear the words, she was fairly certain that she had heard that tone of voice before.

Grallen crouched next to her with a worried look on her orcish face. In a way it surprised the desert woman that the fairly alien features could express such an emotion, but then she did not know too much about orcs, so perhaps she should not be surprised. Before she could ask if the orcess had found anything, they were joined by Lilli, who had brought Altario with her - and not only Altario, but also the elfess, Drustai. Where had SHE come from? Toama was sure that she had not been with them during the sandstorm. In fact, she had almost forgotten that the elfess was supposed to part of their quest, it seemed so long ago that she had last seen her. Now, however, was not the time for questions.

The news that Lilli brought did not really surprise Toama. She had been suspicious of him for some time now, and certainly since she heard his voice in there. Lilli's words were really just confirmation of her suspicions. She took it in stride without really changing her expression. In addition to Grallen's words, she said in support: "I was not hearink words, but knowink I am that Te-oh is beink in. Also, now is beink done storm. I am thinkink also that we need go soon." She kept her voice low, barely more than a whisper. The more they parleyed here outside the tent, the bigger the chance became that either the people within would hear something and investigate, or that they had business outside and spotted them - a group of 5 was not that easy to miss.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Ílarolén'yliás (Drustai) on November 06, 2011, 04:48:15 PM
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!", Altario exclaimed, "What did you say? You're telling me that Te-oh is a traitor to us?"

Drustai turned her gray eyes to him, and nodded. Yes, he was a filthy traitor. A highwayman, looking to score quick coin at the expense of travelers like themselves. A smart plan, though risky--as their forthcoming demise would soon confirm.

"I'll kill him, myself!"

Drustai pulled her lips back into a smirk. At least Altario was quick to believe her word. She had worried he might try to argue for Te-oh's innocence, completely fooled by the trick.

"Be my guest," she replied, before turning to follow Lili out of the tent. Her movements were slow, and stiff, and she suppressed a groan as her legs tried to move for the first time in days.

When the light of the injèrá met her eyes, Drustai could not help but stop to place a hand to her eyes. "Caeháemín!", she hissed. She kept her hand to her eyes as she waited there for a few moments, trying to will her eyes to adjust to the sudden bright light. Caehí injèrá! This was not the time to be worrying about this. She grit her teeth together as she removed her hand and opened her eyes again, blinking them rapidly a few times as her sight continued to adjust. Finally, she managed to hold them open long enough to look towards Lili and Altario, and follow them back to the others.

As they approached, she could not help but sneer a little at the orc as she saw it again. It still bothered her that Altario was hypocritical enough to keep one with him. She would not be so bold to rectify the situation herself, but it was certainly a matter that displeased her. Regardless, however, she did find it within herself to listen to the orc's words, and even respond after the orc and Toama had finished speaking.

"We are not leaving, yet. Altario and I have valuable supplies that must be recovered. His sword, my reagents. They should be kept in the storage room," she paused, then said, "And there are four of them, not three. Te-oh, a wizard, and two others."

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on November 18, 2011, 09:30:50 PM
"We are not leaving, yet. Altario and I have valuable supplies that must be recovered. His sword, my reagents. They should be kept in the storage room, and there are four of them, not three. Te-oh, a wizard, and two others."

Grallen was silent for a moment, struggling to control her thoughts and stop them from becoming rather violent actions. Eventually she managed to hiss, “You what? A wizard, for khan’uck’s- bloody hell is it that important?! I’ve got blades to spare if you want...”

She trailed off into furious muttering, all in a vehement whisper as she was now painfully aware of the four, yes, four people so close, and one of them a wizard. I’ve not had much experience with magic users, by dint of careful choice. Thieves who steal from mages tended to regret it, from what I’ve heard.
A cautious little voice in the back of her head pointed out, you’re standing in front of a magic user right now. And then there’s Altario. Remember Altario? You have some of his flesh still lodged under your fingernails, and don’t think you can forget about that because I doubt he will. We don’t necessarily have a choice in this.

Suppressing a groan, she looked to the others, hoping they could help sanity prevail upon these two sunstruck fools.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Toama SorInyt on November 19, 2011, 05:56:38 PM
Toama listened to Grallen's hissed outburst, her own feelings mixed. On the one hand she wanted to get out of here as quickly as possible. On the other, if it was her own scimitar, she would want to go and get it back. Not only were swords expensive to replace, but there was something special about the sword she'd had for years. As far as she understood, that went back even further in Altario's case, if she rightly understood the word "heirloom" that she had once heard him say in regards to the weapon. What reagents were, she had no idea, but according to Grallen they belonged to a wizard.

The orcess looked at her, possibly hoping that her own voice would be added to hers, as it had just before. Unfortunately, Toama could not oblige her, this time. Their mission would fail if their leader did nothing for the rest of their time together than blame them for the loss of his sword, and she had seen enough of Drustai not to want to make an enemy of her, whatever 'reagents' were. If they first went back to the cart to decide on a plan of action, the chance would increase that the group of men inside the tent would discover that their prisoners had escaped. If they were going to get these things back, they would have to act now. And she had seen enough of the determination in both Drustai's and Altario's eyes to know that no matter what the others in the group might say, at least they two were going back.

When she answered, it was in a low whisper, while sending up a fervent prayer to Foiros that they would remain undetected a while longer. "I am thinkink storage room is here. I was seeink boxes when looked in. Question is, are we gettink back just things, or are we goink fight bad men?"

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on November 19, 2011, 06:35:05 PM
Placing Lili's blade into his belt at the small of his back, Altario followed Lili outside, crawling along.  He squinted in the bright light, feeling the relative coolness of the tent disappear quickly with the heat of the outdoors.  His palms burned in the soft sand.  His knee protested the crawling.  This only served to worsen his demeanor.

Outside, the Remusian listened to Drustai as she spoke about needing to get back their stuff.  Although he cared little about the mage elf's magic stuff (honestly, that he wouldn't mind leaving behind), he wasn't about to leave his sword.  A family heirloom like that was irreplaceable.

Still, if they needed to fight a mage, having a mage would be invaluable.  His mind went back to the night he and the dark elf met and how she had tossed him around with nothing but wind.  The thought made him scowl even as he realized that he and her had come along way since that night.

He looked at the orc.  She was offering her blades?  Inferior and no doubt stolen from the body of a victim of an orc raid no doubt.  No, he wasn't about to accept the looted booty of a murderous orc raid.  "The sword has been in my family for over a hundred years.  I'm not leaving it."

The dark skinned Toama brought up a good question.  Were they going to just quietly steal their goods back, or were they going to kill these men?  His first reaction was battle.  Te-oh deserved to feel the steel of his father's blade. But, the wizard made him nervous.  What could he do?  Was Drustai capable of defeating him?  Would her wind tricks be enough?  Altario was smart enough to know that he had no inkling of the power of these magic users.

He tried to think back.  In Remusia there had been those who were trained in how to attack mages.  Horvahn, was that his name?, had been particularly renowned during the war for capturing a few mages and bringing them to Remusian justice.  Someone like that would be useful right about now.

He then looked to Drustai. "What do you think?  Are you up to doing battle with an unknown mage?  As much as I want Te-oh under my blade, it's not worth getting us killed if we can get our stuff back without getting caught.  I leave it to you."

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Ílarolén'yliás (Drustai) on November 28, 2011, 09:00:18 AM
"You what? A wizard, for khan’uck’s- bloody hell is it that important?! I’ve got blades to spare if you want..."

Drustai looked at the orc, eyes narrowing. It was a cowardly wretch, and she would have loved nothing more at that moment than to use the thing as bait for the highwaymen, to get it out of her sight. She still could not believe that Altario traveled with it.

"We need no blades of yours, orc," she stated dismissively.

Drustai then looked towards Altario as he mentioned his family blade. As much as she was inclined to view the weapon as replaceable, she knew the emotional power of heirlooms, what they meant to a person. It was his piece of home. She nodded as he continued speaking, then looked towards the dark skinned woman as she commented.

Drustai frowned. She would prefer not to fight, if she could avoid it. They were not outnumbered, but without her equipment she felt vulnerable.

"What do you think?", Altario said, "Are you up to doing battle with an unknown mage?  As much as I want Te-oh under my blade, it's not worth getting us killed if we can get our stuff back without getting caught.  I leave it to you."

"I can do some minor tricks, but without my reagents my aid would be limited. They are essential to my spellwork. Thus I would rather get our things back, first, before we make any moves to combat them."

She paused for a moment, before adding, "If we do have to fight them, then the wizard must be neutralized quickly."

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on December 19, 2011, 11:18:34 AM
Altario nodded.  Yes, the mage was a prority.  He looked at the motley crew.  Were they up for it?  Somehow, he thought not.  Some of them were still hurting from the battle on board the pirate ship back in Strata.  And his knee was aching, being bent low and crawling along the ground like an animal.

He stared at the dark skinned woman. "Let's get our stuff.  If we need revenge, we can get that later."  He kept his voice low.  No telling where these thieves might be.

He looked to the orc.  This was her specialty.  "Okay, Grallen.  Show us how to do this quietly and quickly."

Grallen?  Did he actually use her name?  He really was getting soft.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on December 22, 2011, 07:46:35 PM
It was no good. Damn them all, they were absolutely set on regaining their things. Grallen couldn’t help bristling as they repeated their arguments.
"The sword has been in my family for over a hundred years.  I'm not leaving it."

And that makes it sharper, does it? Oh, I hadn’t realised, but yes of course, you couldn’t possibly leave it behind if it is old. Beg forgiveness, your lordship. The words hissed through her head, aceedic.

Drustai didn’t help her temper. There was something about the word “orc”, spoken like that, which had a direct line to her nerves without seeming to cross her brain. Grallen concentrated on not forming her hands into fists. It was surprisingly difficult.
"I can do some minor tricks, but without my reagents my aid would be limited. They are essential to my spellwork. Thus I would rather get our things back, first, before we make any moves to combat them. If we do have to fight them, then the wizard must be neutralized quickly."

Ye gods, if it has to come to that I will happily gut whoever causes it. The barely-healed wound on her belly still ached faintly from being crammed into the cart bed recently. Not ideal conditions for battling wizards. And those two fools won’t be much use, having refused my knives. I suppose, looked at backwards, that’s as good a reason as any to get them their toys back.

"Let's get our stuff.  If we need revenge, we can get that later. Okay, Grallen.  Show us how to do this quietly and quickly."

For a moment, she was too stunned by the sound of her own name to vent the bitter ocean of complaint she’d been damming up whilst the others spoke. For half a blink she stared at him, and then blinked, and murmured her instructions, not looking at anyone so as not to have to see their displeasure.

“Right, well fewest people inside is probably best. If there’s any trouble we can turn tail and lead them out onto everyone else’s blades. If we’re lucky nobody’s looking, and we can do this quickly and quietly and leg it before they know we’re about. I say we, because I’ve no idea what these reagent thingies look like, so guess who gets to come along?”
She looked up suddenly, and smiled coldly at Drustai. That’ll teach you to call me Orc like it’s a bad taste in your mouth.

“You will do as I say. No arguments. Everyone else, keep watch. How does that sound?”
For khan’uck’s sake, no more arguments, let us just get this done and get out of this bloody wasteland.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Toama SorInyt on December 22, 2011, 09:04:16 PM
Toama looked from Drustai to Altario to Grallen and back as they whispered back and forth. The tension between those three was almost palatable, seeming to crackle in the air between them. Something very close to hatred was sent out in waves from one to the other, or so Toama imagined. In her thoughts it looked like the shimmering in the desert when the sun was at its hottest and you were as likely to see a mirage as an actual reality.

Grallen explained how they were going to go about this expedition, selecting herself and Drustai to go in, the others would stay outside and guard them. For a moment the desert woman wondered if a third person should not go with them to protect them inside, but then Grallen had her load of knives, which should prove enough protection until Drustai had her stuff back. She was not used to subterfuge and stealing things, so as far as she was concerned Grallen's plan sounded good.

The orcess shot a triumphant look at Drustai when she was named as accomplice to go inside. Again Toama was reminded of the heat-waves that she had thought of earlier. She looked sideways at Lili, who had not contributed much yet to the low-voiced discussion. "You are feelink also left out of little group? I also..." The only sign that she was joking was a little creasing around her eyes. Not that their situation was so funny, but this was one way of dealing with the tension she was feeling. She wanted to get out of here fast.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on December 23, 2011, 12:44:09 AM
Seyella has made up her mind,  thought Lili, that for Lili the Elfcat there are but two ways to be in the world: either on her own, with only a talking chicken for company, or amongst a bunch of priggish cockalorums that snarl at one another and take themselves far too seriously.  Well, the obnoxiousness had one thing going for it: it shook Grallen out of her habitual surly mood and brought out her bossy side, which Lili rather liked. If the lordships didn't like to listen to the commands of an orc, they shouldn't get themselves captured and their precious heirlooms nicked.

Toama had come to stand next to Lili and leaned over to her. "You are feelink also left out of little group?” she said. “I also..." After a blink of confusion, Lili understood. She furred her brows in an expression of mock-seriousness, and whispered back: ”Ah, let them have the tent to themselves for a bit. You know, when two people love each other, it's only polite to give them some privacy.”

Turning to face the group, she said: ”Grallen's right. Let's do this, and let's start before next winter. Grallen, would you have a spare knife? I want to practice my throwing.”

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Ílarolén'yliás (Drustai) on January 05, 2012, 08:11:13 AM
"I say we, because I’ve no idea what these reagent thingies look like, so guess who gets to come along?"

Drustai turned her gaze to look at the creature, as it stared right back at her. It thought it would insult her, but she cared little for the jibe. Someone had to go in with the orc to make sure it got the job done, afterall. Entrusting it with something on its own would be foolish. Still, Drustai would have rather gone by herself than with that thing.

"You will do as I say," the orc continued, "No arguments. Everyone else, keep watch. How does that sound?"

Drustai straightened her back and stiffly nodded at the orc. "Very well." She then looked at the others for a moment, before turning towards the tent. She reached up to unclasp her cloak, and dropped it nonchalantly to the sandy ground. She didn't want it getting caught in anything while trying to move quietly.

Without looking at the orc, she said, "I trust you have a better entrance in mind than the front door."

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on January 08, 2012, 05:45:22 AM
”Grallen's right. Let's do this, and let's start before next winter. Grallen, would you have a spare knife? I want to practice my throwing.”

Grallen nodded, and wordlessly slipped a narrow-bladed dagger from her belt, holding it out to Lili. She managed a brief grin at the woman, glad there were those that didn’t consider themselves tainted by receiving aid from an orc. The idea of the risk she was about to take
was fading away, replacing itself with a familiar excitement.

"I trust you have a better entrance in mind than the front door."

Ignoring how Drustai wasn’t looking at her, ignoring a gnawing uncertainty about the layout of the tent, she padded to the front of the tent, where they’d scraped away the sand by the base.

“Well, it’s the front door or squeezing under here... OK, we go under, but if there’s trouble, leg it out the door if we can. Right then...”

She grinned at everyone, crouched down at the base of the tent. For a few seconds her ears twitched, listening intently, and then hurriedly lifted the clot at the base of her tent. It’d be a lot easier if she could cut a slit in the fabric, but she knew the noise of a knife tearing through canvas would certainly attract attention.

Let’s hope this works.

She wriggled through the gap, feeling like a rat pushing under a door, and stood up, blinking and feeling exposed as her eyes adjusted to the light.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Ílarolén'yliás (Drustai) on January 17, 2012, 04:38:47 AM
"Well, it’s the front door or squeezing under here... OK, we go under, but if there’s trouble, leg it out the door if we can. Right then..."

Drustai looked at the orc, then at the base of the tent. It seemed like a tight fit for the orc, who was significantly smaller than she was. She wasn't sure if she would actually be able to get in under it. She hissed to herself. Perhaps the front door would have been better.

Once the orc was fully through, Drustai dropped down to her knees at the side of the tent. After a moment of contemplating, she dropped down onto her back and pushed the hem of the tent up as high as she could. She tensed her muscles, dug her heels into the ground, and attempted to push herself in.

It became pretty clear, pretty shortly, that this was not going to work. The tent was fit snuggly to the ground to keep sand from pouring in--meaning someone of her size would not be able to fit. After a silent growl, Drustai pulled herself back out, then got up to her knees. She then reached her hands down, and started digging sand away from the base of the tent hemming.

"Dig out some of the sand there," she whispered quietly to the orc on the other side.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on January 19, 2012, 05:13:23 AM
Do not laugh, Grallen. Really, do not laugh in the grumpy elf’s face. But I thought they were all supposed to be slim and sylphlike? There again, Damien was never averse to letting me go through narrow gaps while he stood and “kept watch...”
Focus, Grallen, focus.

She stooped and quickly swept away some of the sand from under Drustai, listening intently as she did so. When it seemed the hole was a little bigger, she stuck a hand through and waved frantically. Not got time for this!

She allowed herself to look round the tent she was standing in, as her eyes started to adjust to the gloom. She couldn’t see a sword, just boxes and bundles and things... a light beyond the boxes she was currently ducked behind hinted that there were people alarmingly close, and she felt herself tense, all traces of laughter gone.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on January 26, 2012, 10:53:03 PM
Lili took the knife Grallen offered her, and winked in thanks. Without looking at the weapon, she proceeded to weigh it in her hand, to let it twirl around in her fingers, to toss it three palmspans into the air and catch it again. She was coaxing it, teasing it, asking it questions – finding out how it would behave in her hand, which way it would fly if thrown in earnest. Eventually Lili smiled, and relaxed. The knife wasn't the straightest. Its path in the air would have a bias to the left, in fact – although Lili knew that only in her fingers, not in her mind. In any case, it would do. If someone came out of the tent, Lili thought, some person she had never met before, it would be impolite to let them run up to her for the greeting. Instead, Lili intended to be the first to introduce herself, from the distance of a few ped that separated her and the tent.

Meanwhile, Grallen and Drustai crawled underneath the canvas and into the tent. As the elf strained and wriggled her body to fit through the narrow makeshift entrance, she did not look her usual aloof and icily graceful self. Lili suppressed a grin, careful lest the proud Drustai should see any change in her face, should she chance to glance back. Only inwardly did she allow herself to enjoy her amusement. And that was her mistake.

She felt a well-known movement on her head, and distracted as she was by the spectacle of Drustai digging herself through the sand, it took her just a blink longer to react than it otherwise would have done. Her free arm shot up, but her hand could only grasp thin air. Kassandra was already out of reach above her. Fluttering through the shimmering heat, hanging over the vast expanse of yellow sand, the green jungle bird looked as alien to this desert as a flower would. Kassandra described two circles above the heads of the waiting adventurers; but hungry, thirsty and aggrieved as she was from the exertions of the journey hither, she had soon exhausted her spirits, and sailed over to the tent. She perched herself on its top and shook her wings. A few short breaths were enough to recover from her brief flight, then she was ready and began to sing at the top of her voice:

”Ooh muck, muck, rake all this muck,
Do it no matter if others shout 'Yuck!',
So join me, oh join me at night in this city,
Together we'll rake all this muck!”

Lili's left arm was still uselessly extended above her head, where it had stopped when she had failed to catch her bird. Her face expressed considerable compunction as she turned it to Altario and Toama and said apologetically:

”She always did like that song.”

(Song by Deklitch Hardin)

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Toama SorInyt on January 27, 2012, 01:24:58 AM
Toama wrinkled her eyes at Lili's answer, though she did not make a reply. Better not to alert anyone, so long as two of them were inside - well, if they ever did make it inside, of course. Drustai was having some trouble fitting into the hole that she and Grallen had made earlier. The desert woman watched with some detachment as the cold elfess struggled to get inside. She would help, except that there really wasn't room there for another pair of hands.

A sudden movement to her side drew her attention away from the spectacle and in Lili's direction. She was just in time to see the woman standing in a ridiculous pose, and the bird she always had on her shoulder swooping up, apparently delighting in its sudden freedom. Toama watched as it spiralled up and then went to settle right on top of the large dome. Unbelievably, it burst into song there. Her gaze went from the bird back down to Lili, who was still standing in the same position. At the apology - if you could call it that - her mouth opened, then closed again. Great Foiros! She had no idea what to say to that. If they weren't quite in this position, she would probably laugh at the ludicrousness of it all. Everyone so careful to speak quietly and not draw their attention, and then that bird went and ruined it all!

However, there was no time now to do anything about it. With deliberate movements, she drew her scimitar, hoping with all her might that Drustai would hurry up and get inside. That way, at least this would be a diversion of sorts, and it would serve the purpose of leaving Grallen and Drustai unnoticed. Narrowing her eyes, she looked towards the door, where any moment now the thieves would come out to discover them.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Ílarolén'yliás (Drustai) on January 30, 2012, 02:58:06 PM
Drustai quickly pushed herself through the hole once it the two had managed to dig some of the sand away. For once she cursed her heritage--the Kaýrrhem were far from the smallest of the elven races. Humans called them 'high elves' for a reason, afterall. She hissed to herself as she finally finished clearing the hole, and then stood up right (or at least, as up right as she could in this part of the tent).

Just as Drustai took a step forwards, her ears pricked. Her gaze immediately shifted towards the center tent, just as someone broke into song. Not someone, something. Damn that bird! Drustai growled under her breath. Suddenly, all the subtlety they had kept until this point was broken. She swore she was going to kill that thing once they were done here. It was a liability!

Drustai looked towards the door of their part of the tent, and held up a finger at Grallen, indicating for her to be quiet. Her ears twisted forwards a bit, as her eyes narrowed. She could just make out a bit of murmuring from one of the other tent rooms. Drustai licked her lips. No steel, or the scuffing of boots across the floor. Were they reacting at all? They certainly heard it--one did not need elf ears to have picked up such a racket. But no movement. No drawing of weapons.

"They are waiting for something," she whispered quietly, mostly to herself. After a moment, she spun her head to look at Grallen. "Start grabbing our things. Quickly." She then reached over to the top of one of the crates, and grabbed her belt. Without checking to see if everything was still there, she swiftly buckled it around her waist before moving over to the door. She waited one moment before slipping her finger between the pieces of canvas, and then pulled it aside just enough to peek into the main room.

Nothing. The room was empty. They must have been in one of the side rooms. What were they waiting for?

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on January 30, 2012, 07:49:35 PM
Finally, Drustai was inside.  Any relief Grallen might have felt at being that bit less exposed evaporated, however, on hearing a burst of song, raucous and bringing memories of the thronging streets of... some city or other. But loud. Far too loud. She froze, pressing back into the shadows, but there was no immediate hue and cry, no puzzled querying or arguing over who should see what the noise was, not even a murmur. She frowned, too puzzled even to take offense at Drustai motioning her to be quiet. As if I need to be told. Something is wrong.

Still, it wasn’t, as of yet, the sort of wrong that pokes holes in you with sharp objects, so provided this quiet, apparently deserted style of wrong persisted, she felt she could warm to it. Such a shame that was probably too much to hope for. "They are waiting for something.” Grallen nodded. Sounds about right. Perhaps they’re expecting guests. Or throwing a surprise party. It’d be rude to bother them, then.

"Start grabbing our things. Quickly."
Grallen raised an eyebrow and gave the elf a look which meant “You think I have to be told?” Drustai seemed to have found her reagents, though Grallen still wasn’t entirely clear what the word meant. Probably just sounds better than saying “magic dust” or whatever it is mages use. She returned her gaze to the boxes and packages, and rummaged through them- nothing even remotely sword shaped, though there were a few interesting and expensive looking trinkets which she pocketed out of habit, before turning back to Drustai-she froze for a moment. What is she doing standing at the doorway like that!? They’ll see us they’ll-

No yells, still. Frowning, she padded up behind the elf and peeked past her shoulder. Empty. This is really weird, there were definitely people in this tent moments ago.  Keeping her voice to a whisper all the quieter for a growing unease, she said, “The sword isn’t back here. I guess we have to check through there?” she did not like that plan, and even as she said it, hoped Drustai would come up with an alternative. It felt an awful lot like walking into a trap.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on February 03, 2012, 12:02:29 AM
Kassandra's song evaporated in the heat as quickly as a drop of sweat; her effort to raise her own spirit came to nought. She closed her beak, let her neck sink into her shoulders, and sulked. She had nothing more to give, no more notes more to sing. The little strength she had left was not enough to keep the enemy at bay – the enemy that was all around her, all around the tent, all around the endless desert. This enemy was silence.

Lili heard it, too. The silence was menacing, creepy, and above all, it was physical . It possessed a body of its own – a body that was at once infinitesimally small and gigantic like the desert itself. Silence was just as capable of crawling through your nostrils and infest your head as it was ready to pounce on you like a sky-cat and push your bones into the sand like so many dry twigs. Lili nodded to her companions, grim-faced now, sweating, her good humour subdued.

There was no movement in the tent, no sign of any presence; not of the bandits, not of Grallen and Drustai. Lili knew that she had to keep her eyes alert, that she had to prevent herself from thinking too  much. The possibilities rushed through the back of her head like flittertwitches: Grallen and Drustai had run into a trap. The bandits feared a trap and kept still. The bandits, invisible through the mage's art, had left through a back door. The bandits, invisible by magic, were standing behind her, ready to stab her in the back. – Lili listened to her thoughts like one listens to the wind. Her eyes continued to focus on the tent, ready to spot any movement. Her right hand held the knife Grallen had given her. Her left hand, like a little animal that had a mind of its own, floated down to her belt. Once there, it crawled sideways until it had reached the hilt of her cutlass. Its fingers closed around it. And slowly, very slowly, nailsbreadth by nailsbreadth, Lili drew her main weapon.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on February 06, 2012, 08:11:28 AM
Altario shifted in the sand.  The longer he was stuck here kneeling and hiding, the more stiff he would become.  If they were surprised by these rogues, that could very well prove to be a problem.

For a brief moment, Altario indulged himself with a quick grin.  Hearing the orc giving the elf orders was funny to him.  If anything, the elf was even more haughty towards the orc than he was.  He could only imagine how it must burn in her belly to have to listen to it.

After a few moments of planning, it was decided they would slip under the tent.  It was the best decision.  When it came to being sneaky, Altario would readily admit that an orc would be more qualified.

It took only a moment for the orc to do what came naturally and make her way into the tent.  The elf, on the other hand, did not have the same ease.  She tried to wriggle underneath, but it was obvious that she was not going to fit.

To try and help, Altario leaned over and was about to place his hands on her rump and push, when a little voice inside warned him not to it.  This elf had a bad temper, regardless whether it was friend or foe.  Just remembering the night she and him had met brought back painful memories.

As he paused, the elf suddenly pulled back out of the tent.  Sheepishly, Altario lowered his hands and gave her a half smile.  He opened his mouth to speak, but closed it as he decided thebetter of it.  Instead, he began to help her dig a larger hole under the tent.

He was distracted by the fowl sounding voice of the bird.  His head shot up and an accusatory stare fell onto Lili, who only stared back at him apologetically.  "Keep that damn bird quiet, or we'll be eating chicken tonight!" he growled.

In the minutes that followed the damnedable birds chorus, the oppressive stillness of the desert became palpable.  Instinctively his hand went to where his father's sword should have been hanging.  A curse was muttered under his breath as fingers felt only his empty belt.  Instead, he simply gripped Lili's knife more firmly, his knuckles turning white.

He began to wish something, anything, would happen.  The waiting was the worst part.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Toama SorInyt on February 06, 2012, 08:55:31 PM
Nothing. There was nothing. Not a hue and cry, not even a whisper as far as she could hear. It made her nervous. The bandits knew they were there, or at least that someone was there, someone singing loud songs. So if they did not come out to investigate, that must mean they had known before that someone was there as well, since there was obviously no surprise from their side. She did not like that, not at all. She itched to go and have a look inside the tent, just to know what was going on, but she knew that would be a stupid idea, exposing herself to attack.

Her eyes flitted to Lili, who was standing close by, still as a statue - or no, not quite. Her hand was moving, slowly, though the rest of her was focussed on the tent. Toama could not see Altario from where she was standing, unless she turned her head. She was reluctant to do so, from some strange superstition that if she moved, the bandits would come boiling out of the tent. She bit her lip, stopping just short of drawing blood. There was a point between her shoulderblades that itched, as if someone was standing behind her with a blade which just barely did not touch her. How unnerving.

Giving in to the desire, she did turn her head just enough to see Altario from the corner of her eye, half of her mind still preoccupied with the entrance, the other half looking beyond the man, just in case anyone was sneaking up from behind.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Ílarolén'yliás (Drustai) on February 17, 2012, 02:36:29 PM
Drustai looked over her shoulder at Grallen. "The sword is not there? You are sure?" She took a moment to let her eyes flick over the various crates and supplies behind the orcess, before frowning and looking back towards her. She pursed her lips a moment, and took a sharp breath. Curse it all. She did not want to have to go looking around for that damn weapon, but Altario would certainly want it.

"Did you find my staff? My mace?", she paused to look the orcess over again, observing what she had gathered. "Give me the staff, then go outside and tell Altario that his sword is not here. If he decides he wishes to fight for it, which I am sure he will, then give him the mace... I am sure it would be a better weapon for him than a knife."

Drustai then turned back to looking out the small opening in the tent flap. She waited for Grallen to hand her the staff and then stated, "I will stay here and keep a watch for any movement."

She didn't wait for a response or acknowledgment of her instructions. Instead, she lowered her free hand to her now-recovered belt and then opened one of the pouches, before shoving her fingers in. After a moment, she pulled out a fistful of coarse powder--ground glass. She mumbled a quick incantation in Styrásh, before tossing the sand-like particles out into the center chamber. The spell was a quick divination, designed to reveal the presence of disturbance in the surrounding Cár'áll by the way the powder flickered in the light. If there were any magical adjustments made, she would be able to tell.

The particles, however, sat lifeless on the floor. Dull and flat. Drustai frowned. No magical traps. At least that was a good sign. She reached down to her belt again and allowed her fingers to lightly lap across the edges of the various pouches, before coming across one with a stiff, rectangular bulge. She unclasped the pouch, and then pulled out the wooden container that was inside of it. The container, enchanted to eliminate heat exchange, was what she used to preserve her more environment-delicate reagents. She undid the latch with a flick of the thumb before opening it and pulling out a chunk of ice. She then closed the small box and placed it back in her belt, before she closed her eyes and began to focus.

It was difficult here, in this place. The desert was consumed with fiery energies, and attuning her body to water felt like trying to run a marathon. She tapped the cube of ice to her forehead, and then gripped her fingers tightly around it before raising it vertically, arm bent at the elbow. She focused on the sensation of the melting ice as it began to delicately trickle down her skin.

Drustai stood there silently, clearing her mind and allowing her aura to realign. Her muscles loosened, and her body almost began to sway as she pried at every trace of water within her body, beckoning it up to the surface. There was no other water to draw on here, only her own body. It would have to be enough.

Within moments, the ice had completely melted, and the spell was finished. Drustai opened her eyes, and almost immediately stumbled to the side before catching herself on her staff. Flashing shapes danced across her vision, and her skin felt clammy and tingly. She closed her eyes again and then allowed herself to drop to her knees as she slumped her head down. She took several deep breaths and tried to stem the burgeoning feeling of nausea that was racing through her body from the sudden onset of dizziness.

"I hate deserts."

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on February 17, 2012, 07:41:50 PM
"The sword is not there? You are sure?"
Grallen nodded, biting back the reply that it was a sword, they don’t really look like anything else. She could see from Drustai’s expression that she wasn’t too keen on going hunting for Altario’s favourite toy either, now that she had her own things back.

At the request for staff and mace, Grallen’s ears flicked. Forgot about them. But didn’t we see... She turned on her heel and stuck an arm down the gap between two crates, where a pole rested against the side of the tent. Not a pole, Grallen, a staff. Can’t you tell the difference? Look, it’s got a bit of glittery glass at the top, and a handy little grip halfway along, because you wouldn’t want your hands to slip while you’re summoning pixies from the nether realms. She handed it behind her to Drustai without looking, and reached down a bit further, where the mace glinted dully in the shade. Personally she didn’t trust weapons you needed room to swing, but she could at least see the purpose of this. Hopefully Altario would as well. Maybe it would make him realise the danger he was putting them all in with this insistence on retrieving the sword.

Grallen hesitated before stepping out. They would be nervous outside (if they hadn’t all been quietly killed already) it made sense to tell them what was going on. But we don’t know what’s going on, or if Drustai does she isn’t telling. She didn’t like the idea of leaving the elf there, even for a moment. It still felt like a trap waiting to be sprung, and what if that moment of isolation was just what it was waiting for? Pull yourself together Grallen, you’ll be less than ten paces away. Shielding her eyes against the burning light that would wait for her outside, Grallen pushed silently through the tent flap.

Everything looked white, and she winced, disoriented despite knowing it would happen. There were still apparently only three blurs waiting outside the tent though, and they gradually resolved themselves to look convincing imitations of Lili, Altario and Toama. Grallen quickly raised a finger to her lips, indicating they were still apparently undiscovered, and needed to keep quiet, then stepped forwards, open-handed thrusting the mace at Altario.

“No sign of anybody, but they were here really recently I’m sure. We can’t find your bloody pigsticker an’ Drustai thought you might want this. Looks like you may have to fight for it if you still want it back. Something is really wrong here.”
She was glad she still couldn’t see well enough to register the expression on his face, and turned back towards the tent before that had a chance to change.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on March 05, 2012, 06:18:50 AM
 It seemed like an eternity before the ugly little face of the orc pushed through to look at him.  She came out, brandishing a large mace, which she unceremoniously thrust forward to him, which he took more in self defence than because he wanted the unwieldy thing.

As he turned the heavy, unbalanced weapon over in his hand, he glared at the orc.  "And what am I to do with this?  Pound nails?"  He shook his head.  None of them, least of all the orc, realized just how pure a weapon his father's sword was.  An Odomon Blade was more than simply a weapon, it was a work of art inspired by the gods.  In the right hands, there was none that could stand up to it.

Frustrated, he pushed forward and forced himself under the tent flap.  Once inside, he glared at the elf.  "Go on, get.  Take the others with you.  I'm not leaving without my sword.  If I have to retrieve it myself, then I will."

His plan was neither particularly bright, nor practical, but the heat was bothering him and he was in no mood to simply stand around like a dog waiting on scraps from the table.  His fate was going to be in his own hands.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Ílarolén'yliás (Drustai) on March 25, 2012, 02:12:03 PM
Drustai turned her gaze towards Altario as he entered. She leaned heavily against her staff and tilted her head as she tried to focus on him. The attunement spell was leaving her dyhydrated, causing her sight to feel blurred. She snorted to herself and then shook her head, trying to snap out of it.

"Altario," she began, pausing for a moment before finishing, "... what are you talking about?" She held an almost a furrowed, almost incredulous look on her face, half from feeling woozy and half from general surprise. She hissed as she continued, speaking quietly, "I was getting ready for a fight as soon as I sent the orc out there. If you are going to fight for this damn thing, which I know you are, then we are assisting. Tell the others."

Drustai turned back to the door for a moment, before turning her gaze back to Altario. She reached out to grab his arm, in case he was about to walk outside. "They are waiting for something. As far as I can tell, they are all in one room. I suggest we smoke them out."

She let go of his arm and then turned back to the door, parting it slightly with her finger again. "Set a few fires across the tent outside. And there may be oil lamp in one of those crates there. That would help." Drustai shifted her head backwards, motioning towards the various small boxes and bags in the storage room.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on April 02, 2012, 03:00:22 PM
It took only a moment for the Remusian to realize that something was not right with the elf.  She looked drawn and tired.  Even her rebuke to him seemed weak and without its usual rancor.

Listening to her, Altario felt a heat spread across his face.  "Hmmph.  Well, how was I supposed to know when you sent the orc outside with this?"  He held up the mace.  "She didn't exactly explain you had a plan."

Well, this was surprising, but welcome.  They weren't going to abandon him.  He was about to turn away when she grabbed his arm.  His eyes locked onto hers as she confided her suspicions to him.

"Why would they be waiting?  They can't know we've escaped."

Could they?  Altario shivered.  There was a mage with these bandits, so he couldn't underestimate them.  Drustai might know something.  Obediently, he nodded toward her and began rummaging through the crates.  It took only a few moments to find what he was looking for.

Outside the tent, there was a movement at the improvised rear entrance, before a Remusian head popped through, followed by one arm carrying an old copper and glass oil lamp, one of the panes broken.

"The elf has a plan.  We need you to start a fire on the next tent.  Get ready for a fight.  Stay together and watch each other's back."  His head and arm then disappeared back into the tent.

A moment later his rough hand reappeared, dropping a flint and steel.  The hand signaled with a thumbs up before disappearing once more.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Toama SorInyt on April 04, 2012, 01:30:18 AM
The only relief from the tension was watching what the others were doing. Lili was doing the same as herself - waiting, weapons at the ready, for any sign. At first Altario was doing the same thing, but then places were being switched. Grallen came out, giving a heavy-looking mace to the man, who proceeded to wiggle under the tent. Toama could not believe that after that, the bandits were still biding their time. The orcess seemed almost frozen with outrage at being pushed aside by Altario. This was getting more ludicrous by the blink.

Not long after, Altario came back out - or at least his head did, and one hand holding oil lamp. Toama quickly approached and took the lamp with her maimed hand. Next came the hand again, this time with flint and steel. One of the others was going to have to take that, she couldn't keep hold of both the lamp and her scimitar and then create the fire as well.

Next question; where did they need to make that fire? The next tent he'd said, but as far as she could judge there were several small tents attached to the larger one, so what did he mean? She assumed that next literally meant next, so one over from the one Altario and Drustai were in. She just hoped that was not too close to them to enable them to escape - the combination of oil, tent and fire in this heat could turn this thing into an inferno quite quickly.

She poured part of the oil on the next tent as Altario had asked. The rest she poured over another side tent, just to be sure - maybe that was where the bandits were, so a fire there would drive them out all the sooner. At least that was her hope. Then she turned to Grallen and Lili to see who had taken the flint and steel.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on April 14, 2012, 07:15:36 PM
"Go on, get.  Take the others with you.  I'm not leaving without my sword.  If I have to retrieve it myself, then I will."

As Altario pushed past her, leaving her standing at the entrance like a dog kicked out for stealing food off the table, Grallen fought a brief but persuasive urge to trip him up as he strode, so full of the importance of his mission, into the tent. The moment passed as he did, but she comforted herself by picturing him landing right on his proud human face, and making those interesting bubbling noises produced only by fear and a broken nose, as she picked up the mace, and showed him exactly what it was for...

She was snapped back to the here and now by Altario’s reappearance, face whole and unharmed and infuriating as he pushed a lamp at them. His words sank in past the growing irritation though, and she made an effort to be professional. Causing trouble was her profession, after all, and firestarting with a promise of fighting to come sounded as much like trouble as anything she could think of. She stooped to pick up the flint and steel, glancing up to Toama and Lili. Fires were not her strong point, not since she’d lost Lucien, and staring them had never been her particular skill- she didn’t have the patience for fiddling about with bits of tinder and sparks, and when they did light, they invariably made great lungfuls of smoke which sent her coughing until she wanted to throw up, and tended to blow her cover, somewhat. Following after Toama as softly as she could, she held out the flint and steel to Lili.

“I expect you two are better at this than me. I’ll watch for trouble.”
She drew a dagger from her belt, and another from her sleeve, and carefully brushed the blades clean of sweat and dust, ears pricked for any sound. Let them come out and fight. I could use a good fight about now.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on April 15, 2012, 12:38:37 AM
In Lili's memory, the house looked as though a child had drawn it into the sand with a stick: a wall, a door, a window; the roof a triangle, the chimney a little round tube. The flames that shot out of the window and the door, also, were drawn by a child: they were substantial like tongues, long and thick and slow and colourless. Lili never questioned this memory: she was convinced that her parents' house had looked just like that when the bandits had pulled her from the flames and taken her with them. I must have looked back, maybe from the horse on whose back I was sitting, held by Hadyuk the Lord of Bandits himself probably, squeezed into the saddle between himself and the horse's neck. Or maybe I was sitting on Pitjof's horse. Poor fat Pitjof, the cook, too kind to be a bandit really, and too stupid, and too good a cook, too. Anyway, I must have looked back, and the memory is what I saw then.

Her parents had died in that fire. That's what Pitjof had told her. Since then, she had often imagined what it must feel like to burn in your own house. Had her mother and her father tried to help each other to escape? Had they choked on the smoke? Had they maybe lost consciousness even before the flames reached them? Or did they feel the fire lapping at them, felt their hair rise up in flames, felt their skin turn black and curl like paper and peel away from their flesh? Were their eyes open when they died, or closed?

Lili watched Toama douse the tent in oil. The idea, of course, was only to force the bandits out in the open, not to burn them. But nobody could know what would happen once the fire had actually started. Flames and people in panic of fire – how's that for two unpredictable things? Lili shook her head.

That's when Grallen came up to her and said:

”I expect you two are better at this than me. I'll watch for trouble.” In her hand were pieces of flint and steel. She offered them to Lili.

Lili did not take them.

”No,” she said. ”Roast people alive for some stupid sword?  Those folks are bandits, but...”. Lili hesitated. She did not quite know how to put her point.

"Well,” she said eventually, ”we're all bandits to someone else.”

Those  bandits, however, were highly peculiar. Hiding in their tent with all that commotion going on around them. They were either extremely sure of themselves, or extremely scared. It occurred to Lili that she had not asked Drustai how she got captured; so there was really no telling, for Lili, how dangerous these people were. Anyway, if Lili wanted to stop the madness of setting fire to a tent with people in it, it was time to change the game.

”Oy,” she shouted. ”Tent feel cosy? Nice and cool, away from the sun? Well, that's about to change. My friends here think it's not warm enough, and want to make a fire. That's not going to be very nice for your chances to keep the heat out.”

Lili listened. There was no response from inside the tent yet. Lili looked at Grallen and Toama. Did they approve of what she did? No matter, good or bad, she had to finish what she had started.

”Only one thing my friends like better than fire. That's getting their stuff back. And their sword in particular. I'm sure you know the thing I mean. Long, silver, pointy at the tip. So I've got a suggestion for you: you be good boys and give the sword back. And I make sure nobody's hairstyle gets ruined. Then you can keep your tent, such as it is, and we'll be on our way.”

From the top of the tent, Kassandra replied feebly: ”On our way!” But she did not have much hope in her voice.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on April 29, 2012, 06:56:44 PM
”No. Roast people alive for some stupid sword?  Those folks are bandits, but... Well, we're all bandits to someone else.”

Grallen couldn’t help the clenching in her jaw, and turned away to keep from glaring at Lili. No need to antagonize the one person in this sorry band who knows more about us than we’d like. But still, it was infuriating to hear her arguing for reason and calmness when what was needed, what Grallen wanted right now as something bright and angry stirred behind her eyes, was confusion and mess and just anything to break this awful quiet. And what made it even worse was that Lili was right, absolutely right, and even as she had said it she’d remembered waking up in that house with smoke crawling into her lungs, and Lucien blocked away by fire and panic, and it occurred to her that somewhere just outside the house had been maybe only one or two people not so very different from themselves…
She bared her teeth at the desert in general, and scuffed at the sand with her boot, before opening her mouth to say that someone had better do something, then-

Later, she was pleased to reflect how quick and unthinking her reaction to Lili’s speech was. For a split second she was stock still and wide-eyed in bewilderment, and then every thief and vagabond instinct in her took over. Softly and quickly she moved towards the nearest entrance to the tent, now pungent with lamp oil in the dry desert air. Shifting her grip on the knives in her hands, she crouched slightly, ready to lash out at anything that stepped outside. Lili might not want these fools burned but surely she wouldn’t object to a few minor cuts, if they were slowed down enough to keep them from causing any more trouble? She looked back at Toama, to see how she had reacted to this abrupt change of plans, in as much as there was anything you could call a plan, and then glanced over Lili, unable to keep the anger out of her expression. It was the petulant fury of a child who was promised a treat only to have it whisked away from under her nose. I have had enough of this desert, it said, and I want to hurt something, because you never know, sometimes that makes me feel better.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Ílarolén'yliás (Drustai) on May 08, 2012, 08:53:21 PM
”Oy, tent feel cosy? Nice and cool, away from the sun? Well, that's about to change. My friends here think it's not warm enough, and want to make a fire. That's not going to be very nice for your chances to keep the heat out. Only one thing my friends like better than fire. That's getting their stuff back. And their sword in particular. I'm sure you know the thing I mean. Long, silver, pointy at the tip. So I've got a suggestion for you: you be good boys and give the sword back. And I make sure nobody's hairstyle gets ruined. Then you can keep your tent, such as it is, and we'll be on our way.”

Drustai practically threw the tent flap shut as she ducked back inside the storage room. Those idiots! Had they no head on their shoulders at all? She spun around, almost toppling over as she did so, and let out a low growl. She looked up at Altario and then just shook her head. This was ridiculous. How could they be so careless?

"The idea was that the smoke would make them come rushing outside in a flight. Now they have forewarning and can plan how to come out and deal with us. Your friends are imbeciles."

Her eyes lowered, and glanced from side to side. She began to pace, as she pressed a finger to her lips. If they come out, she and Altario could flank them from behind. But that would require them to be stupid and use the front door. If they were smart, they'd make a hole in their part of the tent and exit that way. Then the only notice she and Altario would get would be the sound of shouts and drawn swords.

She began speaking, though her lips moved of their own accord, unguided by any rational thought, "Perhaps we-..."

"Do not do anything so rash!" a voice shouted, immediately halting Drustai's projected thoughts. She sneered, and tightened her fingers around the shaft of her quarterstaff.

"If you want your weapon so badly, all you had to do was ask. This is not a land of barbarians!"

Outside the tent, one of the bandits emerged. He had his hands up, but not too high. He kept them close enough to his chest to react swiftly if he was endangered, but spread enough to indicate his being unarmed. A cautious stance. Likewise, his steps were slow and ponderous, and he kept close to the door flap. The wizard said these people could be reasoned with, and by Avhan he prayed that he was right. The enemy had a better position, more numbers, and a wizard themselves, too. Even though most of the enemy were women, the prospects were bad. Still, perhaps savagery could be countered with civility. He rose his head high.

"Arcanist Rudohn has expressed his desire to resolve this incident as men of high culture. He would like to speak with your leader, the sword-bearer, to negotiate the return of his weapon."

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Lili the Elfcat on May 14, 2012, 06:12:02 AM
For someone who'd been huddled in a makeshift tent in the middle of the desert, the bandit talked in distinctly overblown terms. He did look dangerous, though – or at least more dangerous than Te-oh, the little trickster. His movements were controlled and deliberate, and he was readying himself for the possibility of fight. Yet Lili wasn't worried. She'd seen Grallen's alertness, and had no doubt that if the bandit tried anything, the orcess would be over him like a swarm of wopses.

Lili lowered her cutlass, signalling that she, for her part, was not going to start a battle. Her voice rang out loud and clear, making sure Rudohn and the rest could hear, if they chose to listen.
”Tell your arsonist that we are glad to encounter high culture in this otherwise boring desert. I see no need to burn high culture to the ground, if it ain't necessary. All we want is for the sword-bearer to be the sword-bearer again. We'll even forgive Te-oh his pranks. Ain't that right, sword-bearer?”
She shouted the last question, so that Altario would hear.

She did not intend to insult Rudohn, by the way. She had not heard the word 'arcanist' before now, and had little idea what it meant, beyond an intuitive guess that it referred to some prestiguous title or other. She did not know what 'arsonist' meant, either, but that word, snatched unconsciously from overheard conversations, had lodged itself in her mind. And since her mind thought it had better things to do than learn new vocabulary while watching for tell-tale twitches in the shoulders of a bandit whose hands were only a few palmspans away from his weapon, it had decided to assimilate “arcanist” into the vaguely familiar form of “arsonist”. Who needed all these words anyway?

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on May 15, 2012, 11:41:13 AM
Altario dropped the flint outside the tent and then scrambled back to his feet, mace in hand.  He looked to Drustai for a signal as to what they would do next.  He hoped whatever plan she had was a good one.

"Okay, what now?"

At that moment, he heard Lili's voice ring out loud and clear, taunting their foes, as well as announcing their plan.  With dread he awaited the elf to blame him for this.  Sure enough, it took only a moment before she accused his friends of being imbeciles.

He opened his mouth to argue, but he had nothing.  Instead, he could only shrug sheepishly. "I think that may be a bit strong, don't you think?  Imbeciles?  Yes.  Friends?  Still working on that one."

Then the voice of one of the bandits called out, asking to meet with him, as the "sword bearer".  He locked eyes with Drustai.  "This sounds suspicious.  But I don't think we have a choice."  He stepped past the elf to the tent flap.  

The next voice was Lili's once more.  Altario grimaced at what might come out next.  Did the strange women really need to taunt the bandits further?  Her last statement was directed at him, asking for assurance that Altario wouldn't cut Te-oh's throat.

No!  That little bastard is going to feel my wrath, and I'll gut him like a squirming fish!

That was what screamed out, if only in his mind.  Instead, he stepped out of the tent into the searing heat once more.

"I only want my sword.  With that, as long as we get to leave, then no blood need be spilled this day.  No one need die.  No one's been harmed yet," his hand went to the bruise where he had been kicked.  Well, almost no one. "So, I for one would like to keep it that way.  What are your terms?"

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Toama SorInyt on May 24, 2012, 07:11:57 PM
It would seem that neither Grallen nor Lili had the inclination to set fire to the oil she had spread over the tent. Perhaps just as well - she didn't actually want to hurt anyone, just drive them out of their tent. However, Lili's solution to the problem seemed somewhat... radical. Toama's eyes went wide for a moment as she heard the woman's challenge. Not allowing her surprise to dull her senses, she immediately dropped the lamp she was still holding, and gripped her scimitar to meet any challenge that might present itself.

When she thought about it, as they waited for a reaction, it was not even that bad that Lili had called out, instead of starting the fire. The bandits now knew they were here, but then... there was really no way in Caelereth that they had not already known, what with the commotion of the bird singing out, and the furtive whispering of her companions. This way, at least, they were forced to react - if after that they still did not come out, there was definitely something wrong.

As it turned out, they did finally come out of hiding, even if it was only one of them. He held his hands spread out in a gesture of peace. Toama slightly lowered her weapon, though she did not put it away - if things went to the Void, she wanted to be ready. She kept an eye on the bandit, but she was happy to let Lili do the talking, and when he came out Altario as well. She understood most of what was being said, though some part of the conversation went over her head. For example, she had no idea what an arcanist actually did - or an arsonist, either, though she did hear the difference in words used.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: grallen gast on May 30, 2012, 10:02:20 PM
As the man stepped out of the tent, he very nearly died. Grallen stopped herself as she was shifting her weight to lunge forward, gaze fixing just under his arm, where a blade would slide easily between ribs.  No. he is talking and things are still just about alright. Not yet. She slid the knife up her sleeve, letting the tip rest against a curled index finger. The slightest movement would bring the weapon to hand again, and she was willing to bet that she could have the blade at this man’s throat before he lowered his own hands to a weapon.

She wasn’t really paying attention to what was said. Words like “negotiate” and “necessary” drifted by, but mostly she listened to the tone of voice. Everyone was speaking cautiously, icily polite, concealing as much as possible. In this desert? It seemed laughable. In any case, Grallen was waiting for someone to raise their voice, or waver in fear or doubt. That was when it would be time to listen again. For now, she tried to hasten the process along. She stood her ground, by the door of the tent, and smiled at the alleged arsonist, in her characteristic manner, with too much teeth, but pleasant and cheery as you like unless one happens to take a close look at the eyes. Grallen’s eyes said very plainly that she was waiting for a chance to gut someone.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Ílarolén'yliás (Drustai) on June 24, 2012, 11:29:54 AM
Avhan peered at the party around him. Though they were likewise avoiding making any hostile moves, his muscles remained tight in anticipation. In the event they decided to go from peaceful to aggressive, he wanted to be ready. The most dangerous was the orc. It was closest, and he could tell by the way it stood--stiff and staring--that it was as ready to pounce as he was to retreat. The other two women, however, had lowered their arms, while the man seemed more distracted with speaking and nurturing his recent wound. He was safe--for now at least. Even if the orc attacked, she was only armed with direct weapons. Avhan could easily make it back inside before she reached him. However, one of the individuals was still unaccounted for, and that worried him. Where was the elf? Rudohn had said she had escaped as well.

No matter. They seemed civil enough for now. Avhan took a deep breath, allowing the cooling (but still hot) desert air to invigorate his muscles and steady his nerves. He gave the tall woman a nod in acknowledgment of her comments and then turned his gaze towards the sword-bearer. He then began to speak, with a smooth and deliberate voice as if he was speaking to a wealthy customer over a fine meal.

"I am merely a messenger. Avhan is my name. Arcanist Rudohn is inside, and invites you--and your friends, of course--to join him at the table to negotiate. We had just finished dinner when your friend shouted."

Okay, so it was not likely that the party would accept the invitation. Afterall, they would expect an ambush--and frankly, Avhan thought that that was just what they should be doing. But Rudohn had other plans, apparently. Either way, it was worth offering, at least, if only for the purpose of maintaining proper manners.

Title: Re: Chapter Two - "Thalambath" - Part One
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on June 25, 2012, 06:04:24 AM
Altario watched the man, watched his companions, and listened to the short speech.  Arcanist; a fancy word for mage.  Negotiate; a fancy word for trap? 

In his head, many thoughts raced.  What would happen if he refused?  Was this a trap?  Did they really only want to talk?  If he were to fight, could they win?  Was the elf strong enough to defeat this "Arcanist"?

Altario's gaze travelled to the other members of the group.  What were their thoughts?  Did the orc have one?  A question best pondered a different day. He shifted back to the man, Avhan.

"I speak for myself.  I don't trust you.  How do we know you are not setting a trap?  If you are who you say you are, bring me my sword, and allow me armed into this negotiation.  My friends can come or stay outside as they wish, but we will not relinquish our weapons."

This sounded like a good compromise.