Of Shadows & Stars

Discussion in 'ONE ON ONES IN CHARACTER' started by Soulserenity20, Jul 25, 2016.

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    Info Site

    For thousands of years the gods have existed in balance. Six of the divine, one for each of the six sacred elements. Fire, water, earth, air, light, and darkness.
    Two races have risen up from these elements. The first, of the shadows. The Drauga exist within the dominion of the elements of Fire, Earth, and Darkness. The second, of the stars. The Ylraa exist within the dominion of the elements of Water, Air, and Light. These magical races have lived in peace throughout the ages of the gods.


    Every one thousand years, the age will turn and the six gods step into the next stage of their life-cycle, moving from shrine to shrine as they grow to power and choose the form in which they will manifest in the Age of Time. Balance has long kept this cycle in rhythm, but all balance is at risk, for all balance, is fragile.

    The god of darkness, Euvaran the Forgotten, nears his hour of dominion over Maharan. The other gods have sensed a twisted darkness growing in the Shrine of Fortitude and have grown fearful of the dark god's intent. He seeks control, possession, imbalance in his favor, and above all else: power.

    In response to the rising darkness, the Gods have summoned forth two great Heroes of Ages and given them gifts of powerful mana and great luck, will, strength, and wit. Graced by the gods and reared by a pious people, they were bred to fulfill their most dire and dangerous fate.

    Once more the Heroes of Ages are resurrected to combat the forces of ruination: one of shadows and one of stars.

    Our heroes venture to the place where the Elders of the Elements abide, deep in the forgotten woods of Elyra. Only there will their path be made known.
     
    #1 Soulserenity20, Jul 25, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2016

  2. Eäna
    The woods were thick and stagnant here, as if no fresh air could find its way through the maze of trees that surrounded them. It had been at leas 4 days since they lost their way and at this point, neither of the pair were in bright spirits. It was cold up here, and while Eäna was certainly used to the cold, being a northerner herself, there was only so much of the miserable weather she could take. She missed the hearth in her mountain home. The quiet clinking of gemstones as her mother worked the raw objects into things of beauty and elegance. She missed the stew her father made from the deep brown cave fungus that grew wild in the mines he worked in. She missed a lot of things about home, but most of all: she missed the conversation.

    Eäna stood up from her crouched position on the ground where she had been restocking a small fire with chips of wood and bark, and she looked at her traveling companion. Her counterpart. The other hero.

    Aegald was his name and he was of the Ylraa race. He was tall, though not as tall as most of his kind, from what she had seen, and he wore a well-worn expression, one that betrayed his past. She didn't know much about him, but she could tell he had a lot to say, should he ever feel the urge to say it. The more she got to know of him, thus far, the more she got to know she didn't know, nor would she ever know. He simply wasn't as talkative as most. And she respected that. Perhaps she occasionally, silently wished otherwise, but she would not hold it against him. Often those with the most stories to tell are those least likely to tell them.

    "We're going to freeze to death out here, Aegald." She said half jokingly. "Either freeze or starve. The lands are barren. I've not seen a bit of prey since that dire hare you took down three days ago. I feel like the woods want us here. It's no wonder the elf-folk don't go wandering this far north. It's a death trap. Only a god could navigate these woods unhindered." She dipped into her pocket and pulled out a small, black-wood pipe. Uncapping it, she was pleased to see the bowl was still half full of the mountain leaf her father had sent with her. She'd gotten down to less than a third of her stash and so seeing any bit remaining in the pipe was a blessing. Quietly, she hummed a low tune and a small flame ignited onto her finger. She gently pat the mound of dried leaf and inhaled gently, forming a small coal. Flicking her fingers, the small fire was removed from existence and the she-elf was left with smoke rings in the air and a soothing feeling washing over her.

    "Well, it is beautiful, at the very least. The stillness is a rare gift."​
     
    #2 Soulserenity20, Jul 30, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2016
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  3. Aegald

    "As my 'pap told me when I was a boy," Aegald replied in an undertone, "you can only get so cold before 'ya just die quicker."

    Still, that did not mean Aegald Stomund found the frigid Nygah comfortable. Quite the opposite. He had been born and raised in the warm sea air of southern Esendar, where the wind goddess Alaern carried the heat of the ocean currents up to land, keeping the bay temperate all year round. The winters had been short, mild, and with barely a flake of snow save for the occasional drifts from the north. His father had always dreamed of taking to the Nygah to see if he could brave its depths, and perhaps he had, and even now still stalked its depths. Wishful thinking, Aegald told himself, shaking the thought off. Childish fantasies.


    "Of course," he added after a considerable pause, "I'm sure it was never from personal experience. Bastard never seen anything 'cept past Hestheria."

    Tracing Eäna's smoke rings with his gaze, Aegald wafted his hand at his side and, reaching into his inner pool of Mana, thrust the stagnant air around to break up the rings. Though his companion had been correct in describing the Nygah as "barren" - they had found nothing wholesome to eat, be it walking on legs or growing from bushes - something about the woods still unsettled the grizzled ranger. Leaving behind a unique scent to follow could lead to unwelcome surprises. Would he be more skilled in the art of Alaern, Aegald simply could have created more pressure in the air around the pair to generate heat. As it was, his skills ended with clearing smoke rings and propelling arrows.

    Hunching low to the ground to avoid striking his head upon a low-hanging, rotting log, Aegald firmly grasped the log with one hand and tugged himself quickly to the other side of the obstacle. Then, in a flurry of motion, he gripped the log again, kicked off of a single stone, and vaulted to the top of the log. Taking a moment to balance atop the decaying wood, Aeguld looked left and right, searching for a suitable tree to climb. He offered Eäna a sideways glance then gestured to a tall pine upon the left flank of the log, which offered just enough height to put the sturdier of the pine's branches within reach. With a running start, the ranger leaped up, using his feet to gain traction along the side of the trunk as his hands clutched at the upper branch. He paused momentarily, catching his breath, before he began to move again, hauling himself atop the branch.

    "I'll see if I can't get a decent view of the place from up high," he explained, turning around to face his companion as he slung his bow and quiver along the branch directly above.

    Without another word, Aegald set to the task of scaling the pine, moving from branch to branch slowly and deliberately. In little over two minutes, he stood with two feet braced against two wide, relatively flat, branches, clinging to the tip of the tree for support, gazing over a wide expanse of deep green tree tops. He spared a glance down below, at the thicket of undergrowth, fallen logs, and shrubbery. A perfect labyrinth of nature. Only a god could navigate these woods unhindered, he repeated under his breath. No doubt that was their intention in placing their shrine in such a place, somewhere to far from mortal civilization as to avoid all but the most determined and intrepid adventurer hazarding a visit.

    Adjusting himself atop the tree, Aegald gazed back west-ward towards the tall, lonely mountain on which stood the Temple of the Gods, barely visible among a haze of clouds as a rugged outcropping of rock upon the horizon. He shifted his attention up towards the sun, gauging the time and direction of its travel across the cloudy sky. A little after midday, which given their embarrassingly slow pace through rugged terrain in inhospitable weather conditions meant that the mountain overshadowing the woods should have been much, much larger. Thoroughly perplexed, Aegald clambered back down the tree swiftly.

    "Well," he started, answering Eäna's inquisitive look, "no easier way to say it. We are lost."

     
    #3 J_"Kraken", Jul 30, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2016
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  4. Eäna

    Watching a grown elf climb a tree like a nimble child was something she could never have gotten used to. It just seemed far-fetched and unnatural, and yet, there it was. She supposed such a thing could have been considered normal among the Ylraa. After all, the southerners were more of the trees than the lands, nothing like her own people. The Drauga were a study folk with their feet planted firmly on the ground, or in the ground, for that matter. Miners were they and foresters the others. The thought of an entire race of woodsmen acting in a similar manner to her traveling companion made her laugh. Had Aegald not earned her favor through his demeanor and his survival skills, she'd have a hard time taking the Ylraan seriously.

    When he disappeared out of sight, leaving only a few stray needles drifting down from the pine's boughs, she dropped her gaze and let out a sigh. Hopping down off a log she had stepped up onto, she decided she might as well make herself useful. She planted her feet and slid them out, widening her stance. Then, focusing her mana towards the earth, she began to bore a hole into the earth. She pushed the matter upward, hardening it as she did with a burst of fire, forming a shell around a deep, oval pocket in the earth. Once it was formed, she made a second one. These would serve as beds for the pair. While it was true, they looked like graves, the back-fill suspended eerily above the holes, she found them welcoming. They were standard mining pits, used by the workers during their long shifts at the down the tunnel. The earth and fire mana created a hardened, protective material that served as a shield in the rare case of a cave-in.

    Shortly after she had finished, the sound of rustling branches followed by a soft thud sounded into the still air. "And?" She asked, hoping for good news. Unfortunately she would not get what she hoped for.

    "Well, at the very least, we're certain about that." She scoffed lightly, shaking her head. "And that's something for a pair of so-called Heroes who aren't even certain of north and south anymore." She found it all a bit amusing. Here they were, meant to be saving the world from a rogue god and one was digging holes in the dirt while the other was climbing trees, all the while they hadn't a clue as to which was was north or south or east or west. But, at least they knew up from down and they knew that they were lost. So it was a start.

    "What say we scavenge for some plants to eat and call it a night? The sooner we get moving... in some direction, the better, I say."

    She beckoned for him to follow and began making her way through the clear floors of the old forest. There was no underbrush in these woods, beneath the great pines, for they dropped their toxic needles, poisoning the ground, making it unfit for any other species. As she walked, she rose up pillars of earth and set atop them a small flame, to stand as torches to guide them back to where their belongings sat. While they only had a few things, Eäna much preferred to walk unencumbered while out in the woods at night. It was certainly true that her kind were at home in the darkness, but it did not make them any less prone to getting lost. Being able to see in the day didn't save them their location, why should being able to see in the night do any favors?

    They had come to know that with very little plant life, their best bet at vegetation was often forms of fungi and mosses that grew on the trees themselves. While the species were quite different here, Eäna could relate them well enough to her cave mushroom species to pick out the ones that seemed safe, and with the help of Aegald, one who was certainly used to a wider range of biodiversity, as found in the south, they were able to avoid illness thus far.

    It wasn't until they were near 10 pillars from their camp that the sound of heavy footsteps sounded into the night air. Eäna didn't have to glance behind her to see if it was Aegald: he was an elf, and no elf-folk stomped around like that. They were fleet-footed by nature and the stomping they heard bore a weight far greater than any of the nimble beings of her or Aegald's kind.

    She immediately stopped, dropping to the ground in a prone position. Even with perfect vision, she could not see what approached. "Maybe it's dinner." She whispered over her shoulder with a smile.​
     
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  5. Aegald

    As was often the case when the pair made camp, as much as magically-sustained torches qualified as a 'camp', Aegald had elected to keep his bow and quiver by his side. He had left his pack behind, though it had proven thus far to be of little use. Though he had heard tales of the Nygah's lack of game the further into its depths a would-be hunter plunged, Aegald had brought with him a block of salt, an iron stew pot, and carving knife. His store of trail rations had been depleted on the long hike up to the Temple of the Gods, and the Elders had not given either hero much in the way of food save for the trip back down. "And so they perished in the woods from hunger" doesn't sound very song-worthy of prophecized heroes, he mused. No song of heroes of old to date had mentioned the trivial things like foraging for food - and no doubt, if he survived to tell the tale, neither would his.

    "Might find me another dire hare," Aegald grunted. "Maybe even a 'lil Sisken perched up in a tree worth a mouthful or two."

    With the light of day fading, once again the woodsman would be utterly reliant on Eäna's darkvision and arcane torches for sight. She was certainly skilled at manipulating nature: in his time in Nevriathel, Aegald had seen several magi of both races, of every Lore, and yet only a handful of them understood that magic was as much about skill as it was wit. Its limitations ended with the caster's ability to find new uses. Shooting pillars of earth out of the ground, lighting them with a small blaze, and keeping them upright was something the average mage wouldn't have the intuition to create. Still, he couldn't help but feel a tad envious as he strode behind Eäna, examining the shoulder-high torches as he reflected that the Drauga had certainly received the better end of the deal when it came to Mana.

    Out of habit, Aegald placed a cushion of flowing air at the tips of his boots that shoved the fallen pine needles and twigs away as he stepped. It was the first trick any woodsman child learned to help mask their steps, though many grew out of the practice, claiming it took away the 'legitimacy' of the hunt. Aegald never quite adopted that method of thinking, but then, he did not consider it a sport as those who went with nothing but their bows and 'grit' did. He could have done the same for Eäna, but as well as the pair functioned, he still was not quite accustomed to having to work alongside another living being. Besides, the odds of them encountering a-

    Thud.

    In the span of two seconds, Eäna gracefully dropped to the ground prone and Aegald, berating himself for having left his bow unstrung, followed suit. Once nestled low to the ground, he awkwardly procured his knife from its sheath at his side and positioned his arms crossed in front of him, ready to vault up at a moment's notice.

    "Maybe it's dinner."

    Aye, but for who?

    "Sounds a smidge bigger than a dire hare," Aegald replied quietly.

    From the pair's place in the woods, a small ridge in the ground provided enough concealment for the present moment. Aegald inched his way towards the upper lip of the ridge and hazarded a glance over into the woods beyond. Though he lacked the refined night vision of the Drauga, his eyes were still sharp enough to pick out details with the aid of the torches' flickering light. There. Nearly twenty paces to their left. A tall, broad-shouldered figure stood hunched over, its long arms braced against the ground as a second set of legs. Long white hairs upon the creature's back caught the torches' glow, and Aegald could just barely trace an outline of dark grey skin and dim-witted, glittering eyes as it turned. Its head shifted up and sniffed at the air with a series of low, grunting snorts. With the air so stale around them, Aegald doubted their scent would carry, but to be safe, he shoved the air down to the forest floor.

    "Troll," he reported to Eäna.

    He had never seen a troll in the flesh - only heard tell of them and seen sketches of the beasts. They were dim, instintctual brutes with poor eyesight and an even worse temper. One usually needed to make the first blow to a troll the killing one, for a combination of pain tolerance and rapid healing made them quite tenacious opponents. Eäna's flames would take the edge off, but armed as they were, flames would be all their only offensive asset.

    The troll stirred and shifted its head opposite the pair, sniffing at the air once more. It was searching for something. Aegald had every want to believe that it had caught the scent of a deer or, fittingly enough, some dire hare further down the forest floor. If it noted their presence in any way, being lost would be the least of their worries.

    Gods, why couldn't it have been a large hare?

     
    #5 J_"Kraken", Aug 1, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2016
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  6. Eäna


    Eäna bit her lip in frustration; it was all she could do to stop herself from cursing aloud and drawing attention to their location. A troll? Really? It had to be a cursed troll? She moved silently forward and peeked over the ridge Aegald had gathered his news from. Peering into the night, she could see very clearly that he was correct. A Barrens Troll, from the look of its coat. Most trolls kept to caves and the deep woods. Barren Trolls were known for dwelling in the frozen barrens of the north, sometimes even on mountain peeks. She remembered coming across a Barren Troll once before, some 90 odd years ago, if she recalled correctly. Her father had been with her and had taken it out with a swift strike from a mechanized stone-slinger often used among the miners of her kind. It worked by drawing back a lever and kicking it into place behind a metal pick. The pick was attached to a string which, when pulled, released the entire mechanism, sending the stone whirling forward with lethal speed. Her father kept his loaded with sharpened diamonds for the very purpose of fending off trolls and other unwelcomed guests. After all, it took a sharpened diamond at high speeds to the head at the very least to take out one of the fleshy, pale-skinned bastards. Eäna only wished she had one now. Unfortunately, being as dangerous as they were, it was considered unjust in the eyes of the queen to allow them outside the castle and mines, and even then, it was only the most elite that were allowed to wield them.

    "Isn't a hero of ages elite enough?" She had pleaded with her father.

    "Hero or not, rules are rules. You're neither a foreman nor a guard. The Queen would have my head if she found out I smuggled you one."

    Her father had always been a diligent law-abider. She loved him to death for it but cursed it on her freedoms.

    "I'm guessing that since you knew what it was you'll know how hard it is to kill. Now I'm wondering... how good is your shot, dear Aegald?"

    She wasn't sure if it really mattered. No matter how pale the beast's flesh, it was dark out here and soon enough, if the torches stayed lit, it would only be drawn to their location. They needed a way to keep themselves alive while also allowing themselves to capability to strike the thing -- hard -- and as many times as necessary.

    "Why not scurry up this tree like you did earlier, hmm? I'm no good at climbing but if you give me a few minutes I should be able to shift the earth into a pedestal beneath me. From up there, I can peg it fireballs. Burns can go a long way in sustained damage, but it'll be up to you to kill the thing. Problem is, I'll need to bake the stone to harden it sufficiently enough to withstand any hits from the cursed pale beast. We need something more appealing to a troll in the dark than a pillar of fire. Any ideas?"

    She almost broke out laughing for how ridiculous the whole thing sounded when she heard it proposed by her own voice.

     
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  7. Aegald

    Delicately, Aegald reached to his back and drew the bow from where it rest in the quiver, making sure to pull it with both hands and keep his back arched as to avoid it clattering - along with all its munitions - to the ground. Next came three arrows, each painted around with a red ring above the feathered end, their steel tips curving inward to form a crudely-made barbed hook. He fumbled around in his trouser pockets and produced a stout roll of thick string and a small leather stringer. Tucking the string through a fold in the leather square, the woodsman began the task of stringing his bow as best he could while laying prone on his back, casting glances every so often back towards the prowling troll.

    The beast had noticed the torches and stood on its hind legs, lanky arms hanging awkwardly at its side, bent in to avoid scraping against the ground. It cocked its head to the side, wide snout sniffing at the torch. Aegald cursed under his breath and hurried his pace. Never before in his life had so much rested on something so trivial as stringing a bow. By the time he had tied the end of the bowstring to the lower end of the bow's curve, the troll had begun to idle clumsily towards a flaming pillar directly left of the two heroes. Without standing, Aegald would have no way of testing the string's strength, and he was not quite sure he wished to stand until he was ready.

    Suddenly, remembering Eäna, he turned and faced his companion, placing the bow beside him. Moving fluidly, he took his knife to the sleeves of his robes and cut out three strips of roughly equal sized cloth and tied them to the tips of the arrows, being sure to keep the barbed tips unobscured. Satisfied, admitting with some reluctance this was about as good as the situation would likely go, Aegald fit an arrow to the bow string and removed the stringer.

    "Alright," he started in an undertone. "You light fire to one of these once I stand - I can handle the rest with your pillars. While I'm off distractin' the big ugly, you build that platform 'o yours, and we'll go from there."

    Aegald rolled back over on his stomach and propelled himself into a crouching position with his knees, hefting the bow with him. In a fluid motion, he stood and drew back the bow string, generating a build-up of air at the end of the projectile. If the string snapped, or failed to launch the arrow, he would have to rely solely on magic to hit his mark. He cast one look behind him, noting how many pillars he could retreat to before he ran out of flames. Three exactly. Not too promising, but then, no encounter with a troll was likely to be described as "promising".

    Flames began to envelop the cloth end of the arrow right as the troll's attention suddenly shifted. Aegald muttered a silent thanks to Eäna and faced down the white-grey monster, tugging a bit tighter at the bowstring, aiming his shot. The skin was thick, he knew that, and while it would burn, the shard would have trouble remaining embedded long enough to do much other than anger it. The hair was what he needed to set ablaze.

    "'Ya can't just throw an arrow with some wind at high speed and hope to hit anything," his mother had remarked, lifting Aegald's arms up. "And besides, no one will hit anything aimin' like that."

    "Alaern is as much about the fierce hurricane as she is the gentle breeze," she continued, voice heavy with mysticism. "First you must learn to use her gentler side before you may use the storm."

    As the troll reared up its head and let out a guttural noise halfway between a roar and a gurgle, Aegald hefted the bow up, took in a deep breath, and loosed. The string held firm and the arrow whizzed forward, projected by a wall of air behind it to break-neck speeds. Swiftly reaching out into his Mana, Aegald directed the shaft with the air to the troll's shoulder, where the skin ended and the hair began. With an audible crack the arrow landed, burrowing itself deep into its target. The troll howled in anger, grabbing at its shoulder, snapping the quivering arrow in half with one swipe of its meaty paw. Flames began to bloom over its shoulder nonetheless, but Aegald knew then that arrows would be of little use.

    That was my favorite, too, he reflected bitterly before turning and, not too unlike a child from a rabid dog, ran for the trees.
     
    #7 J_"Kraken", Aug 3, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2016

  8. Eäna
    After igniting her companion's arrows, Eäna immediately bolted in the opposite direction of the Ylraa finding a good place for her pillar in mere seconds. By the time she had begun gathering up the earth beneath her, the arrow had struck the pale flesh of the behemoth and in response, a violent howl was released into the air. It sent chills down her spine and urged her all the more forward in her endeavor. As quickly as she could, she motioned her arms in a gathering swoop, thrusting her mana outward and pulling it back in, moving the solid form of the earth, willing it to mold and bend to her desires. Earth mana had always been the most difficult, she found, for it was stubborn and strong and did not wish to move quite so easily as fire. It took a lot out of her, but soon enough, she was rising up off the ground. As each foot of her pillar collected beneath her, she coated it in a film of searing hot fire which baked the earth, hardening it with magick.

    The troll seemed to be distracted for the time being, as it snarled and snapped and grasped at the fire that spread rapidly across its thick hide. It didn't seem to be aware of where the arrow had come from but in no time at all, it seemed to have chosen to blame the pillars topped with flame. Heavily, it trod across the barren underbelly of the woods and smashed directly into the small pillars, obliterating them with ease. One by one, it destroyed them, sending debris flying out all around it. One chunk of earth pegged Eäna right in the chest and almost knocked her off her growing pillar and as she saw the power of the troll, she realized she may be in a lot more trouble than she thought.

    As if on queue, its horrible, dark eyes, found her and as the smell of burning flesh filled the air, it began to charge.

    "Curse the gods and their bloody woods!" She growled as she braced herself for impact.

    It hit like a landslide and in a split second Eäna went from standing atop her 7 foot pillar to flying through the air, being pegged with debris and burning embers. She hit the ground, rolling backwards without a lick of air in her lungs As she rolled, she caught sight of a massive pale cloak of burning fur and flesh lunging down onto her and as she rolled back, she swiped up a thick layer of stone, coating it in fire, forming a protective blanket above her. The sound of a heavy crush sounded all around her and her shield began to crack as the weight of the troll bore down on it.

    "So much for plan A." She hissed to herself as she began to summon a powerful burst of flame that would no doubt leave her exhausted and weak. It took a number of seconds for her to summon the power and correct her will to be able to manipulate it without baking herself in her earthen cocoon. After all, being sent flying through the air by a rampaging troll was hardly a serene situation for a mage to concentrate and formulate a proper spell. Nonetheless, it seemed to have worked for when the spitfire, a massive ball of fire summoned from the residual heat from the sun that lingered in the night air, hit its target, the shield of stone above her cracked and gave in as the troll screamed and clawed at the earth as it tried to get its footing to run.

    She felt her torso and abdomen scream with pain as the rocks crumbled down on her and were pushed under the footfall of the scurrying troll, but moments later she felt relief as its massive weight moved away from the source of the searing pain.

    She extinguished the fire ball and sent the earth that covered her flying out away from her body. Sitting up, she saw that the troll was a mere 10 feet away, rolling around and seething in pain, covering itself in earth and debris as it struggled to extinguish its burning flesh. Eäna moved to stand and get away from it, but her ribs screamed with pain and she struggled to climb her way out of the small hole that had nearly become her grave.

    "Aegald what's plan B?" She shouted loudly into the trees.
     

  9. Aegald
    Aegald, after firing off his first arrow, quickly slung the bow across his back and made a dash for the tree closest to his left. He cast a fleeting glance to Eäna before he began to scale the pine, feet scraping desperately against the trunk in order to gain leverage. His nerves too frayed to adequately grip the tree, Aegald drew in a sharp breath and heaved himself up upon a sturdy branch, arm muscles flaring in protest at the sudden demand. As he cleared the first branch, the woodsman began to hear, rather feel, the rampaging troll's hideous roar as it began to smash every torch in its path. Debris hurtled around the forest floor, striking trees and smashing into a deadly storm of shrapnel and dust. Right as Aegald clambered up to the second branch, his previous foothold smashed under the weight of a jagged shard of rock that went whizzing by. The rock caught Aegald's calf, ripping through leather and slashing open the skin beneath.

    Grunting in pain, with no time to assess the injury, he continued scaling the tree. When he stood at a manageable vantage point, Aegald scanned the floor below him as best he could through the thicket of branches and needles below. Berating himself for letting fear get the better of him - he still possessed two clothed arrows - he tossed the useless missiles aside and drew forth another arrow. Impaired as his line of sight was, a white-grey troll, singed or still aflame, would make an easy target. Right as he notched his arrow and pulled the bowstring back, he flinched as a sudden crack boomed. The troll, fifteen paces to his right, had slammed itself into the pillar Eäna had crafted. As the woman atop the pillar went spiraling down three meters to the ground, the troll itself staggered backward at the force of its impact. Seizing the opportunity, Aegald loosed the arrow and shoved it forward with a gust of wind.

    Crack!

    The arrow sailed forward and splintered against a tree trunk a pace left of his mark. Within the span of two seconds, he had notched another arrow and waited. Down below Eäna had formed some form of barrier from the earth below, though Aegald wondered grimly if it would quickly become her tomb. He loosed and attempted to angle the arrow into the troll's face, watching in satisfaction as the shaft sliced through its cheek. For the briefest of moments the beast stalled its assault, turning its ugly snout to where its assailant stood far above in a nearby tree. Its beady eyes narrowed and its fanged maw opened just as a gout of flame erupted from the earth behind it. In horror, color draining from his face, Aegald watched as, in the split second before the troll's torso became engulfed in flame, the skin surrounding the arrow wound bled a thick, black goo that sealed into new scar tissue almost instantaneously.

    A considerably disheveled Eäna emerged from the ruins of her hastily constructed barrier, clutching at her ribs. If they survived, they certainly would not be besting any trolls to come for quite some time.

    "Aegald what's plan B?" She called up.

    A fair question. Had they all the time in the world, perhaps he might have come up with a plan, but as it was... The troll was dousing the flames, Eäna had burned through her energy and was wounded besides, and arrows would not do them much good for much longer. Aegald, frantically reaching out into the world around him with Mana, grasped at the light pooling from the dying flames upon the troll's back and released it in front of the troll's face in a sudden bright pulse of light. The creature raised it hands from its back to shield its eyes, leaving the remaining flames to lick at its back. That would buy more time. More time to think and, perhaps, to act.

    Cushioning his fall with a timely gust of wind, Aegald landed on the ground, winded from the strain of continuous magic use combined with physical exertion and high stress. Slinging his bow to his back once more, Aegald instinctively reached for his short sword only to find that, like most of his heavier belongings, he had left it behind. Cursing under his breath - the troll was beginning to stir again - he darted over to where Eäna stood recovering herself, giving the troll a wide girth.

    "If you can melt that snow, I can turn this place into a mud field. That should give us a window to run or bring it down," he huffed out a ragged gasp of breath. "I'm out of options..."

    Then he gave a mirthless, bordering deranged, laugh.

    "Some chosen heroes we are."
     
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  10. Eäna

    It was clear to Eäna that they had reached a low point in their adventure and their next decisions would not only influence their own fate, but the fate of the land and all its people. She was tired. The mana stores within her were growing shallow and her strength weakened at even the thought of casting another spell but she pushed all hesitation aside and dove in to the task like a miner prepping himself for the Final Haul.

    Cave-ins were rare. The Draugan miners had a level of expertise in their architecture that it was nearly impossible for a collapse in the supporting columns to occur. Even if one did, the miners all had a level of earth mana training to help defend them from such disasters. But rare as they were, cave-ins did still happen. Usually, it was a case of a miner finding himself in a mana-locked region. There were species of giant worms that lived in the Drauga mountains that leeched mana right from the air and blood of any who neared their nests as a defense mechanism. They were fat, nasty creatures that did more harm to the mining folk than any other happening. The Drauga had nearly killed the species off in the mountainous region of their great capital, but still, deep in the belly of the mountains there were still those unfortunate souls that were left without mana as the burrowing worm wreaked havoc on the structural stability of the mine. In the event of such a collapse, there was a maneuver the miners were taught that had come to be referred to as "The Last Haul." It was a life or death tactic that drew mana from their very life source and created a massive explosion that could open up the way long enough for them to escape, or be caught in the ensuing downfall of 10 tonne stones and debris. She reckoned about 30% of those who tried the procedure actually got out alive, but 30% was something.

    This was how she felt now, standing there, covered in dirt, her mana stores sickening low and her body cut, broken, and bruised. She looked at Aegald, her eyes falling to his lips as he mouthed the cold, spiteful words.

    "Some chosen heroes we are."

    Her lips curled back in a sick smile as a trickle of laughter spilled forward, losing itself to the thrashing and wailing of the troll behind her.

    "If we're going to die, old man, we best die in a manner worthy of tavern tale. I've got a little spark left in me yet." She jogged over to him and summoned forth a long, thing tendril of flame and coated it along the edge of a snowline before casting Aegald one more glance. With a nod, she heaved the mana from her bones, her head pulsing in pain, and with a swift waving motion of her arms, she stepped forward, pushing the thing line of flames across the entire bed of snow, melting it all in one swift motion. Some of it evaporated, but most pooled down into the hard, frozen earth.

    She let go of the trail of magick as soon as the task was done and stepped back, trying to ready herself to run for cover if need be. Breathing heavily, she watched with weary eyes at what Aegald had planned.​
     

  11. Aegald
    Water magic , by contrast to nearly every other elemental magic known to both races, was as much about physical grace as it was skill and understanding. Flames could be summoned in great anger or calm reflection. The earth easily gave way to both the gentle touch and the stout shove. Air breathed through everything, and thus could be influenced by all in its domain. As Aegald stood, mustering up a store of his own inner Mana to shift the melted snow before him, he delicately hoisted up an arm and the water moved with it. Though skilled magi learned in the ways of manipulating water truly did not need to rely on directing the water physically, it had become a part of the culture of water users for centuries. The woodsman's free hand slammed down, and the melted ice water hurtled back to the earth with the aid of a powerful burst of wind. Satisfied, though unrefined as his technique was, Aegald reached out with claw-like hands and willed the water trapped beneath the earth to flow up. The sound of cracking ice and displaced earth echoed momentarily as the field softened.

    With the field swiftly becoming a marshland, the man took a step back as the troll, now recovered from its earlier blindness, grunted. Rearing up on its hind legs, it bellowed out a guttural challenge to the pair of heroes, and slammed its arms back to the earth. With the an audible thunk, the beast's claws sank deep into the newly-formed mud and held firm.

    "Good work, Eäna," Aegald said.

    Still, they did not have long. The troll's powerful frame would not be contained by a simple, hastily constructed and ill-placed marsh. The earth had been too hardened by snow, wind, and ice to give way without expending more energy than was wise in their given situation. Aegald cast a glance to his companion who, despite having expended more Mana and energy than was encouraged, stood firm. Swelling with a newfound respect and admiration of the Drauga, the woodsman readjusted his footing, having found himself caught in the bog of his own design, and began to dash back in the direction of their supplies. With any luck (not that luck had been feeling particularly keen to lend its aid to the heroes of a generation thus far), the troll would halt its pursuit or at least lose track. Though Aegald was himself weary, kept afloat through pure adrenaline and frayed nerves more than flesh and sinew, he masked the scent of the two as they fled, casting the wind back.

    The troll, finding it difficult to move about in the soft ground, snarled, roared, and bellow out to the trees above. Its claws dug furiously into the earth, ripping swaths of dirt and pine needles up and hurling them in a cloud of debris around it. These small, frail creatures had set it aflame, cut it across the shoulder and cheek, and now it could not move without tearing the ground around it to shreds. Ire burned in its beady eyes as it fought to give chase to the two adventurers as their silhouettes vanished into the treeline, blending into the colorless landscape the troll's poor vision presented. The once-snow covered earth now blasted apart by wild, vicious claws, the troll carried itself in the direction it had last scene its prey, following the sounds of their footfalls intently.

    Then the wind changed, and the scent - the scent of blood, sweat, and elf mingled into one - changed with it. The troll's head lifted up and traced the scent back.. behind it? Thoroughly confused, it lurched left and right and back again, attempting to pinpoint the source of the confusion. None presented themselves... With a snort, the creature planted itself firmly in place and scanned the trees around it, searching... searching for its next meal.

    ---

    "I don't think we'll have much time to get out of here before it picks us back up," Aegald grunted, keeping his voice low as he clambered to where their supplies lay. Though they had not traveled far from their initial set-up, the troll had not particularly been too keen to follow. Despite this, its presence could not be denied. Thuds sounded as it stomped around the woods, and its low grunts and snarls echoed through the trees.

    "If we so much as snap a twig or let our scent be carried," he continued, pausing momentarily. "Better not to think about it."

    He grabbed his sword, belted it, and slung his pack over his back once again, never more grateful for the all-too-light sensation of weight across his shoulders. It meant he was still alive, that he wasn't still trapped in these woods even after death.

    Perhaps I speak too soon...
     
    #11 J_"Kraken", Aug 23, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2016
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  12. Eäna

    The decision was made in silence to forgo their chosen camp site that night and the pair ventured out in a direction that would hopefully lead them in a wide radius around the troll and its territory. Eäna felt weak, but with each passing hour, her strength grew. After having her life threatened by the lumbering beast in the night, she had even delved into the very bottom of her backpack to retrieve the meager remains of her emergency preserved meat stores. The meat, dried and preserved through a combination of chemical and magical processes, was Uryak meat, reaped from the hearty livestock they kept in their mountains. It was packed full of nutrients and rejuvenating fats to help replenish her stamina and after some time, it seemed to do its job. Finishing the last bit of chew from the bag she had packed it away in left her with a feeling of foreboding as she realized that she was now relying entirely on wild game to feed herself. She had never been the best hunter.

    Morning had begun to break the horizon from its dark slumber and she could tell Aegald's vision was enhancing drastically for he quickly returned to his near silent-step. At night, he made a small bit of noise as he moved, for his vision obscured what lay underfoot, but in the day, the man was a ghost in the woodlands. Eäna lacked such sure-foootedness. She was one of the rock and thick pine forests of the north but here... there was so little rock. It was all frozen earth and ancient conifers. She didn't know how to conceal the crunching, squishing sounds that emanated from her steps. No, she was much more capable on the rocky slopes of a mountain.

    "But there are no mountains here..." She thought quietly to herself, glancing up at the skyline through the broken, ancient canopy. All that surrounded them was trees. Trees, trees, and more damned trees. Not a lick of stone or altitude available. Only the cold, frozen ground and the ancient giants that rose up out of it.

    "We need rest, Aegald." They had been moving in silence, both on edge after the encounter with the troll. Their trek through the woods had been swift and sure, moving as if they were heading directly to a specified destination, instead of wandering aimlessly in search of shelter.

    "Come, let's make a promise that the next welcoming place we come across becomes our new camp." She paused, realizing how ridiculous her words sounded. "And by welcoming I mean advantageous and adequately protected from the elements, hmm?" They pressed on for a short while and by some stroke of luck, a very advantageous location found itself in their way. They both stopped when the old stone pillars came into view, coated with years of lichen and moss. It almost seemed out of place in this dead, old wood, and yet at the same time it appeared to have belonged here more than they or anything else.


    "Well that's certainly something..." She mumbled quietly as she stepped forward, closing in on the structure. As they came around the massive, gnarled roots of an ancient tree, the image of an old, worn down temple came fully into view. Its stones were speckled various shades of grey and bronze, green and yellow, as biotic and abiotic combined. It was massive, though dwarfed in size compared to the giants that pillared around it. There were stairs, leading up to a large arched doorway and a sharp, peaked roof. The stone that encased the archway was carved with intricate designs of an indiscernible nature and as the light trickled in from cracks in the upper stones, a number of statues could be seen lining a wide, long hallway that disappeared into the belly of the beast. It was obvious that they had to explore it. Something like this simply screamed fate and destiny and path of heroes. But more than that, it seemed uninhabited and sturdy enough to keep out the cold and wind.

    "What say we have a once around before diving in, hmm?" She wanted to assess the structural soundness of the building before daring to venture inside. They could also get a look at the surrounding grounds to determine if there was any activity from trolls or any other animal. "What do you think, Draugan or Ylraan?" She asked casually as they began to walk around the perimeter of the stone entity.​

     
    #12 Soulserenity20, Aug 24, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2016
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  13. Aegald
    They had marched on through most of the night. Though their troll pursuer had not elected to follow the two as they (and the thought never escaped Aegald as they trudged on in silence) ventured even further off their path, the woodsman could not help but flinch at every disturbance in the vast timberland. Eäna, as talented as she had been scaling the foothills and more rugged terrain thus far, did not help in his paranoia as she managed, seemingly, to split every branch, crunch every pine cone, and disturb every pile of needles on the forest floor. Wasn't he the blind one when the sun set?

    Though when at last the morning came and his vision regained its natural acuteness, Aegald was simply too exhausted to truly take advantage of his heightened senses. He made sure to step with extra care as they went, but foul-ups were inevitable. A twig here, an accidental scuff against an overturned rock there. What did people see in these woods? The game was nonexistent, and death was certain the further into the woods one ventured. The Tygan was not for any woodsman to suddenly pack up everything to tackle, no.

    "We need rest, Aegald."

    Eäna's sudden remark sent a jolt down Aegald's spine, shooting a hand to his sword handle. He had suspected another elf, perhaps worse, but his grip around the weapon, an inch or so pulled from its sheath, slackened and the sword slid back into the leather without a sound. To his fortune, she did not notice.

    "Come, let's make a promise that the next welcoming place we come across becomes our new camp." A pause followed. "And by welcoming I mean advantageous and adequately protected from the elements, hmm?"

    May as well add a feast table stockpiled with enough provisions to keep an army fed, he mused, but knew better than to say it. Regardless of their likelihood of finding safe haven in these woods, she was right: they needed a place to find respite and build up their strength again.

    So, with lofty expectations in mind, the duo redoubled their efforts. Some time passed as they pressed further into the Tygan, navigating fallen logs and eerily similar terrain until, finally, something stuck out among the brown trunks of pine trees. At first glance, Aegald had thought something about the angle of the sun, or perhaps just the nature of the woods, had made some trees appear grey in the distance ahead. Then he noted patches of green irregularly weaving through and around what appeared to be cracks in the trunks. A glance to Eäna confirmed his suspicion that, perhaps, there was something more to these irregularities. Before Aegald could speak, his companion had muttered something he couldn't quite discern and wandered off in the direction of what Aegald could now see were ruins of... something.

    The woodsman followed suit behind Eäna, sword in hand. If a fight was awaiting them, he doubted in his current state he could much other than fend off a few blows, but the weight of a weapon had its way of bolstering his wavering confidence. The pair turned the corner of a tree that dwarfed its fellows, roots sprawling into a complex terrain of its own, trunk knotted and bulging with the weight of decades, if not centuries, of age. Perhaps this tree had even seen an entire Age come and go, resting here undisturbed, alone from the world. Beyond the gargantuan tree stood a decrepit archway at the peak of a flight of stairs so eroded that they may as well have been a stone hill. A temple, but to what? Something told Aegald not many holymen wandered this far out of their way for prayer.

    He was vaguely aware of Eäna, still musing on the sudden discovery, but he was too preoccupied gleaming what he could from the interior of the aged structure.

    "What do you think, Draugan or Ylraan?"

    "Draugan," he replied, voice cracking from lack of use. He cleared his throat and continued. "Stonework's too good."

    Before he could venture off to the doorway and take his first look inside the temple itself, he noted that his companion had begun to instead investigate the perimeter of the temple. He hastened himself to join her, and the pair made full circle around the temple without much of note. The designs that wrapped around the doorway had been repeated along the edge of the external support beams, though the elements had made them little more than ridges in the otherwise smooth (albeit cracked) stone. There were, as was often the case in the 'civilized' world, no glass windows. Instead, the remains of heavy wooden shutters sat in square holes cut into the sides of the temple, well out of reach of someone standing on ground level.

    The rear of the temple held a small shrine, overgrown with moss and lichen, standing no taller than to Aegald's torso. What little metal could be seen between the green growth was rusted and riddled with holes. They had paused to identify the shrine's dedication, but to no avail. The opposite side of the temple had proven to be nearly identical to the first, with the same impressive windows and evidence of detailed stonework.

    Fifteen minutes had elapsed, and the duo stood once again in front of the doorway.

    Aegald sheathed his sword and strung his bow as Eäna patiently waited beside him. Satisfied with his handiwork, he strung an arrow and, alongside his counterpart, crept up the stairs to the temple. Though, no doubt, if anyone had wished to ambush them they would have done so while the heroes had examined the shrine, he felt it best not to simply walk in unprepared. Pulling back on the bowstring as he thrust himself into the temple's main hall, Aegald shot a wide glance over the empty floor. Nothing. Just statues and decaying pews. At the opposite side of the doorway stood a large stone mural whose paint had long since chipped and peeled away, leaving in its place carvings that must have been a depiction of some deity or epic scene of conquest so many years ago.

    "Way I see it," Aegald spoke up. "I can get us some wood for a fire, might find a well that isn't frozen here, too. If'n I can't, we'll just have to melt snow again."

    He paused, then chuckled.

    "And see if there isn't no dire hare to shoot while I'm at it."

     
    • Bucket of Rainbows Bucket of Rainbows x 1

  14. Eäna
    The mural caught Eäna's attention and for a while, she simply stood there staring at it, trying to make out its original image from what remained of the chipped, faded paint. Even without any discernible image before her, there was something eerily beautiful about the piece. She imaged it once stood as a beautiful, main display for the temple. It was massive and placed right in the center hall. If this was a Draugan structure, then it would have been of even more importance, for it altered the natural stone, changing it's color and covering up its unique texture. The Drauga only painted their stones when the painting was going to mean something very important. Otherwise, they usually left the stone in its natural state and simply carved their images and designs onto it, keeping the stone in its original state, but molding it to create something of their people.

    It wasn't until Aegald spoke that Eäna withdrew her gaze. She could have remained there for some time, simply staring at the empty wall, pondering the history of her people and the history of this place. Her body would have allowed - enjoyed, even - such a thing at this point.

    Rest. That was all she wanted now, and as if on queue, a wave of exhaustion swept over her. Looking to Aegald, she smiled weakly. "Fire. Sounds nice. I'll have a look around for a well." It made sense that she would: her eyes were better in the low light belly of the stone body. Before she took off to head down the hall into the depths of the temple, she turned to Aegald and said quite simply "be careful."

    She was too tired to offer any wit or humor, but she meant it. She hoped no more danger would befall them for some time.

    When she departed from her place in front of the ghostly mural, she made her way calmly down the large, open hall to the end where a large stone altar sat before an empty wall. Perhaps at one time a panting hung there, maybe an intricate crystal display adorned the top of the altar, it was hard to tell. To either side of the altar was a hallway, a branch off from the main hall that led to further regions within the structure. She chose to go left, for no particular reason, and for some time, she wandered down a long, narrow hall, turning right once. She eventually reached a part of the hall where at least four, worn, wooden doors lined the corridor, two on each side. She tried the first, pushing the weathered wood inward, but found only broken furniture and dust in the room. She expected as much in the other three rooms but the second one she tried was not as boring as the first.

    "Well what do you know?" Upon stepping into the room, she was welcomed by walls lined with bookshelves reaching high up into the dark ceilings. She rubbed her fingers together summoning a modest flame which ignited and lit the room around her with a dim glow. "A library." She muttered to herself, looking around. As she moved about the room, she would glance at the various book spines and scrolls, reading off various names. "A Tale of Tides: Mitrhinde's Sacred Lore." "The Saving Grace of Niserie." "Ore Worship for the Novice." "Blood Sacrifice: The World's Dark Past."

    Each one was religious in nature and each was written in the tongue of her people. Aegald had been correct. However as she made her way through the titles, flipping open the occasional tome, she saw that the writing was almost foreign in its age. The characters were old, dissimilar to the modern ones used by her people. The sentences were difficult to interpret in their dialect and word selection. She felt a strange combination of comfort and alienation among these books.

    "Why are you here? And where did they go?" She quietly asked the temple.

     
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  15. Aegald
    "Fire. Sounds nice. I'll have a look around for a well, be careful."

    "I'd say we've been pretty good about that," Aegald remarked dryly. "Minus a troll encounter, 'o course. Don't worry 'bout lighting the fire, I'll do it the 'ole fashioned way once I get back."

    With that, Aegald flung his bow across his back, keeping the weapon strung, and left the temple. Upon exiting, the woodsman sank gratefully against the wall, casting a quick glance into the temple. Eäna's attention was fixated on the mural again as she slowly idled deeper in the temple. Grimacing, Aegald peeled the split trousers around his left calf, examining the injury for the first time since the shattered rock had first laid it open. A jagged gash, blood still oozing forth from where it hadn't formed into a crusty seal, shone through, glistening red outlined starkly against plain green pants.

    Sinking to the ground, Aegald fumbled in his pack for a plain metal flask, fingers brushing up against his stewpot, salt stores... There, towards the bottom. He snatched it up and sloshed the flask around, satisfied at the slosh slosh slosh of grain alcohol against steel. He popped open the flask and took a whiff of the fumes that ebbed from the nozzle, recoiling at their potency. Clutching at the flask on one hand, Aegald brought his sleeve up to his mouth and bit down hard on the scuffed leather of his arm guard as his hand shakily poured the contents of the flask across the wound. Pain flared white-hot from the gash as the alcohol burrowed its way through the cracks in the dried blood. The two fluids mixed into a river of red that ran down the side of his calf as he sat there, resisting the urge to cry out.

    Once the initial shock subsided, Aegald gingerly reached back into his pack, wincing as the fabric of his trousers brushed against the angry gash. Drawing a roll of cloth from the pack, he drew his knife and sliced a segment of the roll away, leaving him with a sheet of bandage about the length of his hand to his elbow. Tearing the whole in his trousers open wide enough to allow the bandage to wrap around cleanly, Aegald set to work in bandaging the wound, letting out a soft whimper of pain as it initially dug into broken skin.

    The bandage wound tightly around his calf, the woodsman slumped back against the wall and, without thinking, took a swig of the flask. As soon as the grain alcohol hit his tongue, he spat it out in a spray of clear, fuming mist.

    "Right when a drink would've been handy," he muttered to himself, grimacing as he stumbled to his feet.

    Testing his leg's capacity to walk before daring to take the stairs back down to the forest below, Aegald determined that, though painful, he could still limp along without consequence.

    Though it took far longer than he had anticipated, the woodsman returned back up the stairs and into the temple floor, a bundle of sticks and branches clutched in both his arms. He dropped the wood to the ground, letting it clatter for a moment, before he hunched down and began to organize them into a pile. With that out of the way, he gathered loose stones around the temple floor and encircled the pile, leg still wailing in protest at the movement. Content with his haphazardly constructed firepit, Aegald poured the remaining grain alcohol over the wood and took his fire-starter (tried and true flint-and-steel) to it, igniting the wood almost instantaneously. Within a few seconds, a pleasant blaze was licking at the branches, already splitting them open with satisfying cracks of heat and pressure.

    "Find anything, Eäna?" Aegald called out, raising his hands to warm himself by the fire.

     
    #15 J_"Kraken", Aug 29, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2016
    • Love Love x 1

  16. Eäna
    The sound of Aegald's voice, though dampened by the thick, stone walls, surprised her, snapping her out of her daze of wonder and bringing her back to the situation at hand. She was supposed to have been finding a well or some other source of water and what had she done instead? Wasted her time daydreaming. However, the library she had found was interesting and she decided there could be some wisdom in the dusty shelves that could help her and her rugged travelling companion. Looking around quickly, she grabbed a book that mentioned the cycles of gods and time, and another one that may have had a good historical reference of the pantheon for them to peruse through. Heavy books in hand, she stepped out of the room and quickly checked the remaining doorways for any signs of water. She found nothing, but a bit further down the hall she found an old fountain that had long since run dry. Sighing, she turned and made her way back to the main hall.

    Rounding the corner, she paused for a moment to allow her eyes to adjust to the bright light that filled the damp, dingy hall. The fire cast its glow on the statues that lined the hall and gave them an eerie, malevolent appearance. Though hardly superstitious, she felt the need to avoid casting her gaze onto their own worn, stony faces as she moved down the hall quietly.

    "Well," she said, setting the books onto the ground, "no water. At least not for a good few years. But I did find a library. You were right about it being Draugan. The books are written in my language, though a much, much older version of it. They're hard to read, but they may be of some use to us. Any ancient wisdom from a people capable of living and building in these old woods is likely wisdom worth having. If nothing else, perhaps we'll have some good stories to tell when we return -- if we return, I suppose."

    She said this casually, no joking manner, no graven undertones. She was tired and hardly in the mood for optimism or pessimism or anything at all. Her body was rejuvenating but her homesickness was growing stronger and stronger each day. There was something oddly comforting about the absolute of dying out here. As if deciding that she was never going home would rid her of her wishing and wanting, subsiding the pains of longing.

    Blinking, she realized just how pathetic she was. One tough night in the woods, a run in with a troll and already she was feeling the gloomy pit of certain doom setting in. Perhaps she was a hero, but not the kind anyone ever remembered, rather, a runner-up hero that got a medallion and an above average tombstone outside the mausoleum of legends for participation.

    Looking up at Aegald, she slid a book over, dust floating up off the stones and settling onto his worn, leather boots. "Have a look. Are you fluent in Draugan?"

    Even asking such a thing felt a bit foolish to her but the old man was full of surprises. Perhaps he was one of the few of his kind that cared to learn his sister language.



     
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  17. Aegald
    "Fluent? Only on a good day," Aegald replied, taking the book from Eäna. "My mother taught me a 'lil 'bout the numbers, but I'm sure everything else would be a butchery of 'yer language."

    He seated himself and examined the book. Its cover had been preserved remarkably well, given the state of the temple around them, but the characters etched into the soft leather had long since eroded away. His thumb could barely trace where they might once have been, and a low red glint still shone through from where ink must have been once. Delicately, Aegald opened the book and removed his gloves, running a bare finger across the page.

    "Was never much of a reader anyway," the woodsman continued. "My journeyman instructor 'bout had a fit when he realized I was, to his loft standards, some illiterate peasant boy. Could never afford books."

    An amicable silence followed, filled only by the crackling fire, as Aegald contently flipped through the pages of the book. The Draugan alphabet, though similar to his own native tongue, was more square and straight-edged than Ylraan lettering. He understood only about one word in ten, which was insufficient to string together what exactly this tome's purpose was. About to hand the book back over to Eäna, Aegald paused as he came to a diagram drawn into the book with immaculate attention to detail. An ornately-decorated circle wound about six ovals, each segment changing in design as it spiraled around. Billowing clouds morphed into raging flames that evened out into rushing rapids. The rapids struck land and became mighty stone before crumbling into powder throne across the light, which in turn turned into inky blackness. On the inner half of the ring sprawled arrows, which upon second glance, looked to be sketched hastily in after the initial drawing. They pointed counterclockwise across the circle, with minute numbers scrawled into the margins between the arrow and ring itself.

    Strange.

    Aegald's eyes shifted to the ovals, which depicted crudely drawn representations of the six elemental deities. His index finger came to rest on the portrait of Alaern, a woman with flowing long hair and a gentle complexion. He had always viewed the goddess as a raven or hawk, a noble bird, queen of her domain, but the renditions of the Six changed with the passing of each age, so it seemed. Shifting his hand away from the portrait, he noted Draugan text had been scribbled alongside each of the portraits in turn. Curiosity piqued, Aegald offered Eäna the book once again, being sure to keep the page marked with his thumb.

    "Mind translating some of that?" He asked. "Doesn't look like everything on the page was always there."

     

  18. Eäna

    She nodded, talking the book and setting it on her lap. She now sat cross-legged on the floor, examining the old script under the pale firelight. "Alright, so this is quite an old form of Draugan, but from what I can see, these numbers here are dates.. no.. wait." She paused, moving her finger over the letters as she read them out in him mind. "Okay, they're more like periods of time. This one is a thousand years. This next one is just over, only by a few days. The next is the same, a few more days than the last." She continued examining the lines and numbers, noticing that they ended with an arrow that landed on a dark figure: Euvaran. It was quite strange, to her. It seemed as though the person who scribbled in all the extra writing was..

    "Hey, an age of the gods is a thousand years, yeah? What if these are meant to be records in fluctuations of that age? After all, it can't always be a perfect 1000 years, can it? If that's the case, it looks like over the last several ages, and I mean the last 40 or so god ages, Euvaran's cycle hasn't lined up with the cycles of the other gods."

    She flipped to the next page and saw the same diagram, but with different numbers and a different home for the final arrow. "This one looks to be tracking the ages of Morkraan." Flipping the page she found one dedicated to Vakkal, another for Viserie. All the deities had a chart and it seemed to be that the Dark God's cycle was impacting the cycles of the others, if only by a few days.

    Her first thought was "How did they track the ages this far back? 400,000 years? That's impossible." But then she remembered her schooling as a child. They taught the children all about the priests. Old beings that knew powerful systems of numbers and all about the stars and the motions of the world and the cosmos. It wasn't taken seriously by most in her time, but apparently the priests had once been seen as direct links between the people of the land and the divine. She wondered now if there was some truth to it. These books seemed ancient, and for someone to build a temple out here, in the land of the Gods, surely there was a great purpose for it.

    She continued flipping through the book, seeing numerous other diagrams, some pages had been scribbled out entirely and covered with numeric calculations. Curious, she put down the book and opened up another of the books she had brought with her. Inside, she found countless notes on margins, calculations, frantic diagrams, and more. She wondered if all the books had such additions and who had put them there.

    "What is this place, Aegald?" She asked quietly as she flipped through the pages of the second book.
     

  19. Aegald
    The duo slipped into silence once again as the sun made its way over the trees high above. Leaving Eäna to continue to pore over her tomes, Aegald unsteadily rose to his feet and grabbed his sword from where it stood in its sheath, nestled between his pack and his quiver. Strapping it to his side, grateful for the familiar weight of the Draugan-made steel, he offered his companion a curt nod and hobbled out of the temple. Though he had staunched the bleeding and cleaned the wound, it hurt. A dull, aching throb with every minute shift of his muscles as one foot propelled itself in front of the other. It was painstakingly slow work, but eventually, the woodsman reached the bottom of the temple stairs and paused, leaning heavily against the decrepit archway Eäna had first noted.

    Taking in a sharp intake of breath, Aegald began to move once more, trudging on to a patch of the forest floor that lay mostly bare of debris, needles, and roots. Spreading his legs with his right foot planted firmly in front of his left, the woodsman drew the short sword with the soft scrape of leather on steel. The blade was stout enough to hack through armor, having been pattern welded with the skill and elegance only the Drauga could muster, but it was neither bulky nor unwieldy in his hand. In Ylraan fashion, the blade lacked a crossguard, instead the intricate swirling pattern of the welded shot straight from the leather-and-wire wrapped hilt, which extended to allow one to use both hands if so desired.

    Firmly grabbing the weapon with both hands, the woodsman shifted the blade so that its tip pointed directly ahead in such a way that the hilt was perpendicular to his chest. He swung it up and to the left before twirling his wrist and letting the blade fall back down right. He repeated this, alternating sides, until something stirred behind him. Deftly shifting the weapon to his left hand, Aegald spun around, fumbling on his wounded leg, managing to catch himself with a quick-thinking hand before his legs gave out from underneath him. Across the clearing, contently munching on a bit of sparse grass sprouting up from the frozen earth, sat a dire hare, beady brown eyes staring inquisitively at the elf before him.

    ---

    "Right, then," Aegald started, unceremoniously wiping grease from his chin with his sleeve.

    The sun had begun its downward descent without too much in the way of more perilous doom come to strip destined heroes of their fate. All the while the two had traded off sleeping in shifts, Aegald having started a slow roast of the dire hare, concealing all that he could from the cooking animal's meat as the smoke carried its fumes out and into the Tygan beyond. Keeping the fire going had been easier than he had originally anticipated - a good deal of the trees around the temple seemed to have no issue with providing the pair with an ample supply of tinder.

    "I figure we stay here the night, make sure we're all good to go in the mornin', and get on with this quest of ours," he continued, pausing to take a drink from his waterskin. Eäna had, without too much protest, relented and melted snow in short bursts, allowing Aegald to round up the resulting water and steam into his flask and their waterskins. "If we head..."

    Another pause.

    "If we head due east, I think, we'll be, more or less, back on track. Still not sure exactly how we'll manage finding this sacred temple, what with us originally getting' led 'stray, but we'll make it work. It isn't going to be particularly enjoyable, but," he snorted. "Don't wager anything this far north can be. Better 'an trolls."

     

  20. Eäna
    Listening carefully to the older elf, Eäna was more than happy to agree. Her body ached, and while she had ached before, i wasn't the kind of aching she was used to. This ache came with weeks of sleeping on uncomfortable, frozen grounds and bearing the difficulties of traversing the ancient terrain of the Elrya and the Nygah. It had been days since she last slept soundly through the night, her fear of ambush by creatures of the deep, forgotten wood ever entertaining a restless mind. While it was true that she felt quite... safe with Aegald, there was no true consolation for her concerns. Survival demanded suspicious, a lack of trust, and sleepless nights.

    The idea of sleeping there in the temple came to her as a relief, for she was surrounded by stone, protected from the wind, and she had already promised herself that she was going to use some of her mana to create sand-beds for herself and Aegald, if he would agree to it. Sand-beds originated in the deep mines of the Drauga Mountains, where miners found burden in any extra weight they needed to carry with them. Even with the help of their Azyrans, strong, bi-pedal, lizard-like creatures, more weight meant more trouble. And so bedding was knocked off the list of belonging to bring down on long shifts under the mountain and the miners came up with more creative means of rest. The sand was made by systematically breaking apart the stone until it was shattered into thousands of tiny bits which were then traditionally rounded of through a mixing process. The shallow pits were much more comfortable than the hard ground and allowed for a decent night's sleep, even so deep int the belly of the world.

    Eäna made two of these, near the entrance of the tunnel so as not to disrupt the valuable interior of the temple as best she could. One she claimed and the offer she offered to Aegald. When she turned in for the night, she found the morning came too early, and her body clung to the comfort of the soft sand. She needed to muster a fair bit of ambition to wake and dress and even more to pack and depart, but once she and Aegald were out into the open woods once more, she felt a sense of familiarity settling over her in the most unusually calming way.

    "These woods are starting to feel like home, Aegald. I fear we've been here for too long." She spoke out into the clear air, following behind the Ylraan as he led the way through the paths of the forest. "Perhaps we ought to recall our true homes. Tell me of yours, if you would."

    As they ventured on, she continued to press the man for information about his home. Eäna was horribly unfamiliar with the southern regions of Maharan, though it shamed her to admit it. She was fond of her home and rarely strayed far from it, save the occasional business trip to the south. She rather enjoyed Aegald's stories of the climate, the flora and fauna, the festivals, the people, the economy. Anything and everything he could tell her, she took in with great enthusiasm. However, she tried not to press the elf too much, for he was infinitely less social than her and she didn't want to break the beams that held up their conversations.

    The pair pressed on for most the day, stopping only once for a short rest and a small, less-than-filling meal. As they continued on into the evening light, something truly familiar fell upon Eäna from the pale blue sky. "Ah," she said, smiling at the skies. "And so we meet the north, the true north. Surely we draw near our destination. The snow harbingers the realm of the old gods and within that realm lay the temple of the Elders of the Elements." After recollecting their direction, they pushed on for a few more hours.

    The snow that had at first been falling lightly now fell heavily across the grounds. The scene that ensued was breath-taking, to say the least, and it reminded Eäna of home. The crisp, white landscape, the pillars of dark, ancient pine. It was enough to inspire awe into even the most stoic of elves, and more than enough to instill new energy into Eäna. However, as she well knew, beauty often brought with it disaster. The snow fall was growing heavier and heavier and it became clear that they would soon be facing off against the power of the elements. Up here in the wilds, so far away from the shelter of her home and nearby village, she felt a fair bit more exposed than she'd have liked.

    Looking to Aegald, she began to wonder how he would handle the climate of this region. After all, he was a man of the south, acclimated to the warmth of the seasons. "We ought to press on until we can find some form of shelter. We can craft snowshoes out of bark to help keep up atop the snow if it grows too deep. I never thought to bring mine." She shook her head at herself for not considering this form of preparation. Snow. As if she expected anything else from the north.

    "How are you holding up?" She asked, adjusting her bag and pushing forward through the now 2 feet deep snow towards the older man.