Dungeons and Dragons


Boss Frost

Original poster
The Scorpion Rebellion
-Chapter 1-

A cool breeze flowed from the east. A good omen, though that they were fighting misled peasants weighed heavily on quite a few soldiers. Shao stood among three regional lords a within the largest tent in order to discuss strategy. The personal armies of each lord discussed plans with each other, what they would do after the rebellion was stopped, sparred among each other - it was a time for rest, even though there was still a 'war'... though in truth, it was a quelling of the rebellion that plagued the natural order of the world with it's destructive path.

The men assembled had fought not just peasants... but monsters, summoned from the shadowlands to do the scorpion's bidding. Those that survived became stronger - those that did not were mourned. Among the well-trained militaries of Shao, Jian Sun, and Cao, were the ragtag group of peasants under Guan-Liu - fitting in as best they could with the private militaries of the other lords.

In a set of private tents stood some of the more elite of the military... a group of specialists, chosen for their unique skillset and powers - as well as their ability to succeed. Soon, they would all march upon Fallen Pheonix Mountain and take down Jiao once and for all. For now, however, was a time of preparation.

Cao could clealy be heard yelling about the others' plans - no surprise there, but still something to be considered. From what could be heard, he was quelled with a snarky remark from Jian Sun.

Another cool eastern wind flows through the camp, ruffling the flags of each lord... In this area of the camp, with the specialists, our story begins.​

I pray I shall learn grace in the days to come,
For it is grace alone that demands nought.
Were I to rage for what was done to my countrymen, I would seek an enemy.
Were I to ignore the pains that I have suffered, I would seek distraction.
Were I to dwell upon the nightmares, I would seek the answer to questions with none.
And so, headlong into these trials I am cast,
To suffer with the soldier and wander with the fool,
To toil with the mercenary and scream with the crusader,
That I may see all things, and in time question no longer, nor weep again.
I pray I shall learn grace in the days to come.

From the diary of Darius Castablane

A little way off from the conversing nobles, in one of the solid-built tents overlooking the plains, a table creaked slightly in the breeze, accompanied by the flapping sound of the tent canvas.

Darius unrolled the map across the wide expanse of the table, pinning the four corners beneath a pair of oil lamps, his diary and his warhammer. He ran his hand across the parchment, smoothing the creases, defining the faded lines of brown and black ink.

"A direct assault would be ill-advised," he said, his soft voice speaking out to the other mercenaries who stood and lounged beneath the shelter of the tent. "There are two options: an infiltration of the eastern tunnels, or a crossing to the west paths through the Julgaran Swamps. Those are our only ways to get past the Scorpion's garisson.... and the magics of his two brothers."

He straightened, pouring himself a tankard of water from the jug the servants had brought. His kindly eyes ran over some of the other mercenaries as he drank. "Shao would not have summoned so many of us if he intended a single approach. We shall be split in two - a group for the swamps and a group for the tunnels."

The paladin's kit lay against one of the wooden poles that supported the tent. He moved to it now, crouching and making final checks on the straps of his backpack, dusting clean the plates of his scale-mail, which he had yet to put on.

"I for one am ready to die in this cause," he said, filling the stoic silence that had held between the mercenaries as the nobles ranted in the other tent. "And those who travel with me shall be of my house and my kin. I shall stand with you, and this is my word."

He wiped the dust from his shield as it rested atop his backpack. And then he looked up at his companions, a sincere smile coming to his rugged face. "All I ask in return is that you let this old man keep up with you."

"Are you always so cheery or is this a special 'casion?" Dripping with sarcasm, Liu Tong played at keeping a leaf aloft in the air using only his breath. He was doing fairly well, eventually, he let the leaf fall and looked at Darius. The noble spoke with the drawl known to plague the land his part of Paradox - it made him sound dreadfully stupid, though for the most part he proved otherwise.

For the most part. After all, he had been wanting to shatter the tense atmosphere for quite a while, and had kept his mouth shut up to this point.

"You say 'only' like you mean it. The world 'as never been black and white..." He raises himself, walking over to the map. "See 'ere? Jiao's at the very top of this bad-boy." His finger hovered slightly over Fallen Pheonix Mountain. "His brothers and 'im are all up there. Going through the swamps would certainly give us the surprise, but the fighting'd be over 'fore they got there. Plus, lizardfolk aren't all that pleasant. I'd rather fight a 'ooman than one o' them beasties."

He takes his finger from it's hovering position, taking it up to scratch at his cheek, where stubble had been allowed to grow. A weasel, Liu Tong's companion, flitted out of the messenger bag Tong kept at his side and looking down at the map... terribly sentient little creature. "Now, m'jes' takin' a guess 'ere... but the prack-tickle thing to do would be to send the entire army slowly up, an' let us creep up the back for some flankin'. I do love to get in some flankin'." The weasel on his shoulder moved over, raising a claw to scratch at Tong's chin. Tong smiled at the creature, "Much obliged, Onu." There was a chitter in response from said weasel.

"Now, we don' 'ave much spellpower, but what we got is four-middeh-bibble." Terribly mangling the word 'formidible' in such a way would probably have made a normal wizard cringe... 'Bladed Thesis' was hardly that, though.

He shrugged, sitting back down. "Whatever it is, I'm more'n happy to be 'ere. I'll be tryin' my 'ardest not to die, of course. Can' get much stronger when you're dead, 'less you're un-dead, and then there ain't much to live for anywa'." He smiles at everyone there, his young voice kind and lighthearted the whole way through. "Some o' ya'll be comin' with me. 'Ope you can stand me long enough for us to win this little 'war', right? An' when we get paid, drinks'll be on me."
Darius smiled as he finished fastening the straps of his backpack. He had heard only a little of Liu Tong, a nephew to the House of Sun, spoken of with some disdain in the noble circles. But there had been no ill-report of his skills with the rapier of the left hand of magic, and that was commendation enough. Tong and Darius shared something at least - they were both resented by the Samurai Caste.

An unruly noble and a peasant champion... strange that these two should lead the defence of the cosmic order this day.

"As you will, Master Tong," replied Darius, standing again and lifting his armoured breastplate into place, "By your leave I shall take my group through the forests and find the old waterways that lead to the caverns. Your own team can trace the edge of the Lizard realms. God willing, both our passings shall go unnoticed." He locked the breastplate in place, then picked up the wrist and shin guards, fixing them as he continued. "If your team can reach the foot of the Genjobi Pass, you shall have a path up the western climb. The Scorpion will have fewer defences on that side. And if my own team can find the waterways in the east, we can likewise evade their defences."

Slipping on his gauntlets and working the fingers, Darius returned to the table. He looked again at the map, and as his smile faded the crease of his scarred cheek straightened and deepened.

"There is a plateau a few miles short of the peak." He tapped the foreboding shape of the mountain. "If the fates see fit to keep us alive, perhaps we may meet there and prepare ourselves to face the Scorpion."
Ando Reyer

Strategic discussions; I hate these things.

Sitting roughly near the back of the room, with my legs up on the table (which has earned me some angry looks from my fellow 'specialists'), I listen to the pair of men as they each put their cases forward. Quite what I'm doing in such company is a little beyond me. I'm a former-mercenary, only recently sworn to the service of Lord Cao, and not even the best fighter the lord has in his army. And yet, here I am, sitting amongst the 'specialists' of the loyalist army.

'Specialists'. Fuck, there's a stupid term.

Clearing my throat, I take my legs from the table and sit up properly, looking at the two men standing in front of the map.
"Well, I dunno about the rest of you, but that guy there's making the most sense, you ask me," I say to the room, nodding towards Liu Tong, "No offence meant, of course, to you," I turn to Darius, "But I know the crusader type when I see one, and you guys tend to throw yourselves into things without really thinking about it."

Chuckling, I put my legs back up on the table once again. "Still, jungles means Lizardmen, mosquietoes and heat. There's nothing worse that high temperatures and armour; you boil to death in your own sweat. So... Darius, was it? I guess I'll try my luck with you. Just no suicidal charges ending with us all having 'glorious deaths', 'cause I dunno about the rest of you fine people but I intend to try and survive this mission."
Liu Tong sighs, rubbing the back of his head. "Aww, man..." Looking away from the group for a moment, he thinks it over. 'Well, it's prob'lee best this way. Wit' that armor of yours you'd just sink into the swamp and we'd be minus one warrior. Not a fun way to go, m'sure."

He nods to Ando. "Wouldn't much say I 'ate the lizardfolk... but they do give me the willies. Don' much care for the scalier beasties. Least they don' crave human flesh, like I 'ear the gnolls do."

He sighs again, Onu the weasel patting him comfortingly on the shoulder and chittering at him. Tong smiles, "You're a real pal, Onu. Thanks." He looks to Ando. "I don' really care where I'm goin' long as I survive the trip there. If you're wantin' to avoid the swamps, guess Darius 'ere is your buddy for the trip."

He didn't have any armor to pick up and put on, and his rapier - kept in good condition from a few tricks he had picked up about blades - always stuck to the left side of his belt. The warrior-mage had a... unique style of battle that his nickname came from.The man stretched his arms out with a yawn, looking around a bit. "I'm no genius of battle, an' I certainly aren't no skilled sneak or warrior. I've got a few tricks, sure, but that's what you get when you plan on survival. I'mma have to think a bit... any o' you that are familiar with the swampy territory, might be nice t'speak up. I've got no real clue other than we might need a boat - I don' plan on swimmin' with leaches, crocs and lizardmen."
Fielli sat angrily in her tent, glaring around petulantly and daring anyone to open her tent flap and peer inside. Her soft pink lips were turned down in a deadly looking grimace. If she weren't promised pay, she would not be here. Nails curved into the soft material of the bed and she tried to ease her muscles as Pipqua, her serpent, curled its smooth body around her throat.

Voices could be vaguely heard, and it made Fielli despise this all the more. A child who grew up in near silence, associating with at most ten people a day, this was stressful and it was the cause of her near violent reaction to even being here. With a sharp sigh, Fielli sat up and stood, Pipqua still moving sinuously, hardly noticing a change.

"I've probably been assigned to work with fighters, idiots who slash at everything.... but at least I'll have protection if I'm working with them. Expendable meat shields..." Fielli hissed in a whisper to Pipqua, who flicked her red sliver of a tongue into the air.


In stark contrast to Ando's blasé attitude towards the proceedings, a young man standing over near the command table was watching the strategic planning with an uncomfortable amount of interest. His face appeared calm, but the tenseness of his posture and the fact that he was blinking less than normal communicated easily what his feelings were: this boy was scared out of his mind.

It had been a surprise to Karwik to find himself part of the team of specialists. At first, he had just applied to the peasant militia, but when he had finished listing off his string of qualifications, specifically his ability to sneak and pick locks, the recruiting officer had suddenly sprang up and asked for a demonstration. Before the young thief knew it, he had suddenly been drafted into this team, where he wouldn't even have the protection of a formation in case trouble started.

Being this far from the city made Karwik uneasy. He had never seen any of the local flora or fauna, certainly hadn't ever crossed a swamp, and had barely an idea about what a lizardman actually was. He didn't know what troubles were in the mountains, or even the extent of the peasant rebellion. Of all the people here, he was most likely the one who was most in the dark.

Still, when it came down to the only decision he had some knowledge about, he had to admit that he'd probably be safer from random ambushes by going along the edge of a swamp. And besides, gallivanting around with holy men wasn't exactly going to be comfortable for him. Be like having his mother hovering over his shoulder 24 hours a day.

Summoning up a weak voice, he said, "I'll go with....uh....that guy?" Pointing at Tong, he tried not to meet anyone's eye. All told, his lack of knowledge about mountaineering would be probably a greater hindrance than any personal disgust about traversing marshland.

Father, if you could only see me now. Hardly the tailoring job you wanted me to pursue, is it?
Darius looked at the young Karwik for a moment, sensing an uneasiness in his manner... an awkwardness in his words. But there was little he could discern from it. For though Darius had worked with many like Karwik - athletically built, quiet, concealed in both their talents and their opinions - this youth seemed to hide more than most.

But the Paladin thought no further on it, taking heart in Ando's decision to join with him. Smiling at Karwik and bowing in slow acknowledgment to Ando, Darius then turned back and stepped closer to Tong, looking down at the map once more. "Forgive me, but I spoke with the Quartermaster at first light, and one of the smaller junks has been readied for you. It will get you to the end of the Julgaran River, then less than an hour on foot will bring you to the mountain pass." He pointed at the marshy areas to the west of the mountain, before circling his finger to the east. "As for my own group, we can take the hunter's trails through the forest and come out close to the foothills. The tunnel entrances will be close by, I am certain."

He turned, casting his soft blue eyes over the assembled mercenaries, speaking a little louder. "Myself and Master Reyer are set for the Phoenix Caverns. Who else here will follow us into darkness?"

Fielli let her soft eyelids close briefly as her ears picked up the tone of a man. The fools were already preparing to leave? With a soft sigh, she gathered her things neatly before slipping out of the tent, her mood assuaged by Pipqua, who was now soothingly coiling around her upper arm.

She glanced at the people present and her mind cried out with idiocy or arrogance as she examined each face. What a shame. Deciding, however, that the Paladin would vex her even more highly than the man who could hardly speak, she slipped closer to the latter. At least his weasel seemed intelligent, though Pipqua was not pleased with this decision, wrapping more tightly around her arm.

"I can sort of swim," she offered, her tone light and meant to be vaguely droll.

Sitting quietly in the corner, her animal companion lying grumpily by her feet and glaring at the boots of everyone within range, the Druidess watched the proceedings with an expression that was merely serious- little more. She leaned back in her own chair, arms crossed over her lap, with the fingers of one hand barely touching the handle of the mace that hung from her belt.

They had been gathered for naught but a day, and yet already it seemed two leaders had asserted themselves. The one, the paladin, the other the nobleman. Both would seem to be trustworthy, but Jillian Tealeaf saw little reason to care for either of two men, one who was city-bred and the other who clad himself entirely in steel. The rest of the present company was little better; the fighter with the vulgar vocabulary, the timid lad, and the girl with the air of condescension about her, and these were the merely the ones who had already spoken.

Jillian had spent the vast majority of her adult life living in her secluded haven in the woods, where the only interaction she found was with the creatures that could be persuaded to dwell near her cottage, and the bandits who thought a Halfling to be an easy mark; if she knew little of people in general and the sort she found herself now keeping company with, well, she thought that ought to be forgivable.

No, she cared not for the prospective traveling partners, the Halfling who sat quietly in the corner of the tent- regardless of who she must go with. The Druidess pursed her lips as she considered the only thing that would truly matter to her; the terrain.

"Perhaps I ought to be traveling with the group that's headed for the swamps?" she asked, just loud enough to be noticeable to those present as she shifted in her place, the badger at her feet rousing to look up and direct a baleful look at her. "My own skills would be of far more use in the swamps than in the tunnels, and aside from that, I take no fancy to being underground." No fancy, indeed- while her companion Coda might be used to digging and seeing in low-light conditions, Jillian herself preferred the light of the sun, moon, and stars, and the open air to enjoy it in- even if that air did have the odour of a swamp permeating it.
Tong looks to Darius with a surprised smile at his foresight. "Ah! Luck for me, then. Was abou' to head over there an' see if we could grab one. Dredgin' through a swamp onnar own would be ickle tough on the equipment." With an approving nod, he looks down to study the route - when he had given proper time to do so, he rose back up again.

Tong turns to offer a smile towards Fielli. "Tha's good - though iffin' we be doin' this right, we won' have to be swimmin' at all." The weasel, Onu, turns to scowl at Pipqua, raising it's paw in a fist and shaking it angrily at the creature. The familiar's master places his index finger on the weasel's head, mumbling a "Be nice". He gives an impressed look over the female, stating, "You're an... illusionist, righ'? One of the schools of spells I really didn' have the mindset for. I 'ad my head in more physical effects at the momen', though the tack-tickle aspects of it aren' out of my 'ead. Happy to 'ave a specialist aroun'."

How someone who commits such genocide on the common language would be intelligent enough to be a wizard might have been a mystery for a grand long time. He maintained his smile as he turned towards the druidess. Onu kept his glaring eyes firmly planted on Pipqua, however. "Ahhh, an' we 'ave someone more familiar wit the style o' the lan' to go wit our illusionist. Shapin' up to be a mighty fine team - as well as our exter member." He gives a nod to Coda, before grinning. "We'll be sure to 'it'em all where it 'urts."
Ayumi was standing somewhat awkwardly in the tent. The few chairs had been taken, and she didn't really have that much to offer to the strategy. Her knowledge was good for giving birth, tending to the sick, and helping people sort out there own problems. Strategy? Not so much.

For now she sat down on the pack containing her equipment and armor.
"Ah, Darius, I'll be going with you. Swamps don't appeal to me that much, and something tells me that you'll need someone to keep you from bleeding everywhere."
I clap my hands together once and chuckle.
"Guess that's all settled, then," I say to the room at large, "Shall we get this suicide run on the road? I dunno about you guys, but I can't wait to face almost-certain death and insurmountable odds."

I get to my feet, pulling my scarf tighter around my neck and step out of the tent for a breath of fresh air. This is ridiculous. Why am I with these people, these heroes and spellslingers and crusaders? I'm a fucking mercenary; I don't belong, and what's more, I don't want to be here. The prospect of going up against the forces of the Scorpion without any backup isn't one that appeals to me, to say the least.

Let's just hope Darius knows what he's doing.
Fielli stroked Pipqua gently with her index finger, watching the man who seemed to slaughter his language, as well as the weasel menacing her Pipqua, whom she restrained killing on the spot only because he was the man's familiar it seemed. Turning slowly to the druid and her familiar Fielli quirked an eyebrow but said nothing.

"All this talk... when are we planning on leaving?"

Fielli realized she sounded very rude and gave a short sigh. "I mean, we seem very anxious to be going, right?"
The flap of the tent peeled back and some of the mercenaries straightened in respect as Lord Shao entered. As ever their leader wore his golden armour, a cloak of enchanted silk trailing behind him. Removing his helmet, Shao smiled at them in greeting, piercing hazel eyes fixing each mercenary.

"Are you prepared?"

"Prep-aired like a duzzen flyin' taigahs huntin' wounded oxen," replied Tong, still pouring over the maps and other intelligence data on the table.

"A two-pronged infiltration, my lord," added Darius with a gentle bow, "I will take a team through the forests and seek the Phoenix Caverns, while Master Tong will make for the Genjobi Pass."

Shao paced the length of the tent, stroking his moustache as he pondered. "Very well. There is a spy by the name of Xenoxis. I will have him meet you on the hunter trails. He can lead you to the cavern entrances. As for yourself, Master Tong, I believe there is a Ranger I can call upon to be your guide through the Jalgaran wetlands. I will send word."

There was no need for further instruction. They all felt it, the moment of resolution, the point from which there was no return. The mercenaries gathered up their equipment, slinging on backpacks and securing weapons.

And as they prepared, Lord Shao stood by the entrance, looking out across the camp. The morning breeze brought a chill, misting the breaths of his infantry as they busied themselves with the foreplay of war.

"This land is out of joint," the noble whispered, "Is it our honour or our curse that we were born to set it right?"

Darius drew up beside him, pulling tight the straps of his backpack. "All callings are an honour, my lord, if you have strength to make a difference."

Shao smiled a little again, the fragile smile of a leader who had sent and mourned countless missions such as this one. "I pray you are my strength this day. The gods go with you, Darius."

The mercenaries filed out of the tent, a ragtag group that drew the stares of the peasant recruits and private soldiers alike. In the early morning, everyone seemed like shadows of themselves, the tired and pale reminders of the home they fought for.

Before they parted, Darius held out his hand to Tong. "I hope to see you on the Plateau, my friend. If not, then we shall share a drink in the afterlife."

Shifting his spellbook to the other hand, Tong gripped the Paladin's gauntlet and replied simply, "Ayup."

And with that the two groups divided, one heading to the stables where horses had been prepared for the forest trek; the other for the river docks, where a junk was waiting to bear them into the wetlands.

The quest had begun.