Pegulis, Chapter 1

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  1. CHAPTER 1
    The Ghoul Whisper




    Esteemed colleagues,

    My name is Galain Medwick, a sage of Barvelle. I write to you from the Guilder's Library of the Black City, at the southern border of Pegulis. I do not have long. With my companions I am bound on an errand for the Northern Archon. I dare say it is a task that will decide the very fate of our fledgling nation.

    A weapon has been found, from the age before the ice. And though this artifact will surely bring turmoil to our borders, know that it is not the first. In every corner of Sunne divine weapons are being uncovered. The dust of the Cataclysm settles, and treasures beyond imagining glitter.

    Our enemies in Kaustir and Viridos will move for these weapons. Be sure of that, as you are sure of all mortal greed. Yet heed my further warning, brothers and sisters: there is a greater threat from within.

    Of the expedition that set out from Barvelle, only a handful remain. We have lost many, to plague and exposure, to monsters beyond our comprehension. We are being hunted, by a figure half-seen in the snow behind us, by a creature who tracks our every move and walks with ancient power. A wizard in white, a sorcerer of ice and cruelty.

    In the Guilder's Library I have scoured the books and learned of him. I have found his name.

    The Ghoul Sage.

    Look to the east, Pegulis. You will see the storms he has conjured and the plagues he has wrought. Look to the west and you will see the shadow of his golems, his servants of bone and magic. And look to Barvelle, our secret city in the north, and know what has transpired there. A white dragon, massive and starving, has been brought down in the ice. By the genius of the Northern Archon we slew the beast, but in horror learned that it was summoned there by the Ghoul Sage himself.

    I beseech you, watch the borders. Watch the mountains and the plains. For he is coming. The Ghoul Sage holds the reins of nightmare, and casts a shadow on us all.



    * * * * * *​


    Medwick stepped from the library archway, and into the deluge, the doors shut quickly after him by black robed menials. His time was up. The hospitality of the Guild had expired and he was expelled into the streets. Pulling tight his robe, the mage tucked an object in his pocket - a shard of eldritch wood, snapped from the staff of the Ghoul Sage. It was how the battle had ended in the Norsigal Mountains, where first he encountered that white wizard. His sword had severed the staff and banished the Ghoul Sage in a whirl of ice.

    Now, with the bruising on his shoulder, it was all Medwick had left to remind him of that battle.

    That, and the memory of his comrades slaughtered. Friends cut down by golems, stricken with plague or crushed by ice. The attack had been brutal, but the warning clear. The Ghoul Sage had sworn destruction on Pegulis.

    Crossing a cobbled square through hammering rain, Medwick found three companions saddling horses. A Nocture, a Draken and a feline Anima, each decked out in furs that clung like seal-skin in the downpour. They were hoisting laden backpacks and mounting up as he reached them. One hand extended and presented the trio a clutch of scrolls.

    "This is it. All I have learned of the Ghoul Sage. Carry it to the three cities - to Aldus, Tavark and Barvelle."

    The papers were taken, stowed in cloaks and stuffed in satchels. The horses bucked, as if something more than rain now bit at them. Perhaps they sensed the unease of their riders, the weight of the message they carried. Medwick shook hands quickly with each of his companions. "We have travelled far, but we must part ways. I will keep the others safe. Go now. Ride against all winds. Speak to all ears. Let the people know that he is coming."

    A crack of riding crops and reins made music with the thunder. The horses spurred away down separate exits from the square, chased by Auxes through the black-tiled streets. And as they vanished into shadow Medwick pulled up his hood and, stooping, dashed back towards a lamp-lit tavern where a crow was perched.
     
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  2. The messenger to Barvelle would never arrive. Tegol would suffer an unfortunate death at the hands of the wilderness, learned though he was at the ways of the untamed. His horse would arrive, the bloodied corpse of his rider lashed on its back, letter in the satchel:

    "Esteemed colleagues,

    My name is Galain Medwick, a sage of Barvelle. I write to you from the Guilder's Library of the Black City, at the southern border of Pegulis. I do not have long. With my companions I am bound on an errand for the Northern Archon. I dare say it is a task that will decide the very fate of our fledgling nation.

    A weapon has been found, from the age before the ice. And though this artifact will surely bring turmoil to our borders, know that it is not the first. In every corner of Sunne divine weapons are being uncovered. The dust of the Cataclysm settles, and treasures beyond imagining glitter.

    Our enemies in Kaustir and Viridos will move for these weapons. Be sure of that, as you are sure of all mortal greed. Yet heed my further warning, brothers and sisters: there is a greater threat from within.

    Of the expedition that set out from Barvelle, only a handful remain. We have lost many, to plague and exposure, to monsters beyond our comprehension. We are being hunted, by a figure half-seen in the snow behind us, by a creature who tracks our every move and walks with ancient power. A wizard in white, a sorcerer of ice and cruelty.

    In the Guilder's Library I have scoured the books and learned of him. I have found his name.

    The Ghoul Sage.

    Look to the east, Pegulis. You will see the storms he has conjured and the plagues he has wrought. Look to the west and you will see the shadow of his golems, his servants of bone and magic. And look to Barvelle, our secret city in the north, and know what has transpired there. A white dragon, massive and starving, has been brought down in the ice. By the genius of the Northern Archon we slew the beast, but in horror learned that it was summoned there by the Ghoul Sage himself.


    I caution you all against approaching the slain Dragon. The archives say that a dragon near death attracts more of its own, who gather near to take the Dragon off to its final resting place. They are jealous and territorial. Unless there is imminent threat to our sanctum it must be left alone. To venture out to the Dragon will only invite death, and play into the Sage's hands.

    I beseech you, watch the borders. Watch the mountains and the plains. For he is coming. The Ghoul Sage holds the reins of nightmare, and casts a shadow on us all."
     
    #2 unanun, Apr 8, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2014
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  3. THE CITY OF BARVELLE, royalblue "Here is another one. I believe it's all bones."

    Eirene took the scroll handed to her, examining the written contents quickly before she approached the wagon to inspect it's contents. A woolen tarp was flung back to reveal a haphazard collection of bones. Some still covered with bits of meat and tissue, while others had been stripped as best as they could be. This and other wagons were arriving from the plains just outside of Barvelle, filled with the scavenged remains of a giant white dragon. Though slain by the brave actions of steadfast heroes with the help of critical thinking, it was not the dragon itself that weighed so heavily on the Northern Archon's concerns. It was the summoner. Too little was known and what was unknown could bring about too much damage.

    "There's still a few more, but the important parts have already been taken in to the city. Er-" he paused, sounding unsure about his next statement. "We're getting a few arguments over where to send some of these crates. The eggs for in-"

    "I suppose every wizard in Barvelle and beyond are entertaining the thoughts of raising dragons." she mumbled. Her tone sounded amused, yet the weary expression on her face suggested she was anything but. The Northern Archon of Pegulis was young and resilient, but the past few weeks were beginning to wear on her. To herd a bunch of wildmen in the frozen tundra and create a community from the chaos as a fiery young woman was easy. To hold things together while scholars and mages squabble over prizes when there were bigger things in the world at foot... that was a challenge. Something was brewing and Eirene could see it as plain as day. Everything they had built in Pegulis could be in danger if they lost sight of the bigger picture.

    A whimper and soft growl at her feet drew her out of her thoughts. Eirene cast a quick look at the large wolf shifting impatiently by her side. Skadi was restless. Her Aux was a furry reflection of Eirene's own feelings.

    "Store them safely for the time being. There are plenty of teeth, organs and scales to fill their time until we've decided who gets to have what. I will be heading back to the conference chambers and you may send anyone that has a problem with this decision straight to me."

    She was yet unaware of the arriving messenger.

     
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  4. Ilsa Lisbon ― Guard Captain of the Aldus Watch, Indigo

    Aldus was bathed in sheets of white, a pristine layer gleaming in the afternoon sun; the freshly laid snow crunched underfoot with every step. It was the first clear day in weeks, following a seemingly endless downpouring of rain and snow. But the storm had passed; the sun shone brightly in the cloudless sky, and the people of Aldus were in good spirits.

    A charming flute melody floated effortlessly through the air atop a guard tower adorning the Eastern gates of Aldus, where Ilsa sat with a small group of other men and women of the Aldus Watch. In her hands was the source of the tune, her fingertips dancing across the keys of the flute as she enjoyed her break while another guard stood watch in her stead. Her Aux, Pax, sat perched on the ledge of the tower, occasionally preening itself, digging through his white-tipped feathers with his beak.

    "How do your fingers move like that in this cold?" Inquired one of the other guards who was also off-shift. "It's freezing."

    Ilsa, eyes closed and torso swaying in tempo with the rhythm of the melody, didn't offer an immediate response. She continued the tune to an appropriate end, holding the end note with gentle vibrato before releasing and lowering the flute from her lips, eyelids slowly opening and rhythmic swaying falling still. "Practice, and conditioning." Ilsa finally responded, her voice not quite as sweet as the flute but full-bodied and rich all its own.

    "Besides," she continued, standing up from her seat as she disassembled the flute. "You know full well that today is far warmer than the past several have been. Cheer up, Taye." Ilsa made a habit of addressing members of the Watch by given name rather than by surname, and encouraged the other Watchmen to do the same. "Enjoy the day," she reassured, patting Taye on the shoulder. "It's the first peaceful one we've had in weeks."

    Almost as if on cue, the voice of an on-watch guard called over to the captain. "Might not be anymore, Ser. A rider approaches!"

    -----​

    The Captain's brow furrowed. "A rider?" she echoed curiously as she approached the battlements, lifting a gloved hand to block the sun as she looked to the east. "What messenger rides alone through the kinds of storms we've been having?" The answer was clear, and even as she asked the question aloud - more to herself than to anyone else, she felt a sinking in the pit of her stomach. Only something of dire urgency would require a rider to brave those storms.

    Both horse and rider were visibly exhausted; rider slumped forward in the saddle, horse trudging with a fatigued gait through the deep snow, followed closely behind by a small white dragon. The horse slowed to a halt as it approached the East gate, prompting a Watchman to call down from his post.

    "You stand before the gates of Aldus. State your business!"

    The rider, a hulk of a Draken, was clearly a mere husk of his typical self. His voice was barely audible over the mountain winds, never mind his heavy Draken accent, notable hisses and clicks nearly overpowering the words. "s'I bearrr an urgent messsage for all citiesss of Pegulisssk," the Draken managed. Before he had even finished, Ilsa had already called for the gates to be opened, Guardsmen scrambling to crank the gate open to allow the rider entry. It was clear to her that this man posed no threat.

    Ilsa emerged from the bottom of the tower, followed closely by two other guards as they approached the rider. The messenger stayed his steed before doing his best to sit up straight in the saddle, closing a fist and placing it over his heart in salute. "s'I am Arcantos. s'I havvve an urgent messs--"

    "Save your formalities, Arcantos." The concerned Captain cut him off. "You must be exhausted. Taye, secure his horse. Warren, bring the man to shelter and give him food and drink."

    The Draken seemed surprised, but grateful for the gesture. Reaching into a pouch, he pulled out a tightly bound scroll, kept surprisingly dry despite the inclement weather as of late. His scaled hand extending it to Ilsa as he dismounted, he explained briefly: "From the blackk cccity." The words echoed menacingly as Ilsa took hold of the scroll, unbinding it and spreading it open as the Guardsmen escorted the rider and horse off. Her hazel eyes studied the scroll before widening as she finished reading. Immediately upon reading the final word, she burst into a sprint towards her horse. The suddenness of the action seemed to catch even her Aux off guard as the falcon cawed in surprise, taking to the air to keep up.

    Saddling quickly, Ilsa rode as hard as she could towards the capital building of Aldus to deliver the letter.
     
    #4 fatalrendezvous, Apr 8, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2014
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  5. ETHELWEN - BARVELLE, royalblue
    Ethelwen bent a little closer to the slightly yellowed piece of parchment that was spread out before him, so close that one of his whiskers brushed against it. He pulled his head back quickly, not wanting to accidentally smear the still-damp ink, but within moments he was bent in close again, eyes unfocused with mental concentration. The red quill bobbed fitfully in his grasp, the golden tip wet with black ink, and slowly, ever so slowly, neat words began to unfurl on the page before him.

    On the far side of the room, a middle aged man, hands crooked from constantly holding a quill, but pale eyes still gleaming with the enthusiasm of youth, looked up from his work and across the room at his apprentice. Ethelwen, far too busy with his own work to notice a parade passing through the halls, let alone the attention of a single man, continued to work. His tail flicked back and forth only a few inches above the ground in a steady rhythm, complimenting the turning of his mind.

    It was nearly an hour before Ethelwen rose from his seat, stretching long arms wearily over his head, rolling his wrists, and then flicking up the hood of his white Aux that trailed around his shoulders. This time he noticed the scholar’s contemplation of him, and he blinked sheepishly, not sure what he had done, but certain that there was something deserving of the attention.

    “One day,” the scholar said, his voice tinged with a touch of a smile. “You will need to learn to write at least a little bit faster. Those notes shouldn’t have taken you an hour.”

    Ethelwen’s ear twitched slightly, and he took the criticism for exactly what it was meant to be. A conversation starter. “Would you like to take my notes for me, Feneri? I’m sure things would go much quicker then.”

    Feneri scowled at the youth, but his eyes were laughing. “You should do as you are told instead! After all, I was the only one generous enough to take in your slow behind.”

    Ethelwen grinned, but there was a touch of sorrow in his expression. Even now, after having lived in Barvelle for a couple of months, not everyone welcomed his presence. A wildcat who had stumbled across the secret city quite by accident, he had quickly been hustled inside and sworn to secrecy. And it hadn't taken him long to choose never to leave. Feneri had been the first one to see the bright mind behind Ethelwen’s still face, and had taken the time to come and test the young Anima before taking him as an apprentice.

    “They’ll come around soon,” Feneri said, sensing Ethelwen’s feelings, but a smile once more crossed his features, and he let out a soft laugh. “Maybe they would like you better if you didn't smell like garbage.” Ethelwen, always very careful to make sure that he cleaned thoroughly after one of his more filthy jobs, laughed off the barb.

    “You’d better hurry,”
    Feneri continued. "You’ve got to start working in fifteen minutes, don’t you? Maybe you could head out front and see what dragon pieces you could get me, hmm?”

    Ethelwen nodded, quickly packing away ink, quill, and parchment into a small satchel, which he swung across his back. He waved farewell to the scholar, who smiled obligingly and went back to his own work, before darting out into the streets of Barvelle.

    The city was sprawling, seemingly endless, and paths came and went with almost startling and certainly confusing frequency. Ethelwen devoted his attention to every corner, mapping out his own progress in his head. He studied everything around him with intensity and obvious pleasure. This city was his only obsession, and he devoted himself to it completely. That was part of the reason he had taken his job; for no other occupation allowed him to wander as freely as his. Even as he rounded a corner he bent down fluidly, picking up an abandoned piece of paper that had been balled up and tossed out into the street, stuffing it into his pack to be disposed of later. His responsibility was to keep the city clean, to dive into the muck that naturally began to accumulate around people and keep it moving on its proper course; away from here. And he would cover every street, every corner, in pursuit of the completion of his job.

    Besides, there was no telling what interesting things he might find, or people he might meet.
     
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  6. In Barvelle...

    Darin grunted as the yellow light faded from around his hands. When he parted them and looked down at the young lad below him, a smile crept across his whitened face. The boy smiled back and tested his arm. When he found it pain free he threw his arms around Darin. Darin hugged the boy back and ushered him off to his awaiting mother. The young lad's broken arm had been healed.

    Darin had been at it, healing that is, for the past hour. A small crowd had gathered not long after he healed the young woman who had broken her wrist. There was a line forming, each person a desperate soul looking for reprieve from whatever ailment or injury they were suffering.

    "Darin," the smooth, silky voice of Telra, his Aux, came from over his shoulder, "If you keep at this, you'll be laid out and in need of a healer."

    Darin shrugged, causing the small ball of light, no bigger than an apple, to move from his ear, "Telra, if I don't help these people, then no one else will."

    "And who will aid you when you've healed yourself into a coma? You are a knight first, healer second, your body can only take so much punishment before even you fail," concerned laced her words.

    Darin sighed. He knew she was right, she was his Aux and the embodiment of his inner self. She often reasoned him out of foolish deeds like healing without a break. He wasn't like most healers. Those who were Knights of Orden could heal but had to suffer the phantom of what they healed for a time after. A body could only take so much.

    "Very well," he surrendered to Telra and stood to his feet. He hadn't even realized he had fallen to his knees, he was so exhausted, "I cannot heal anyone else, not today," there was a murmur that arose in protest to the healer, "Come back here tomorrow and I will try and heal some more," desperate people often forgot the frail nature of healers. But with more pleading and a stronger tone, the group finally dispersed.

    It wasn't until everyone left that Darin truly understood just how far he had pushed himself. He wasn't sure there was any part of his body didn't hurt. He tried to remember exactly what injuries he had healed. There was the woman with the broken wrist, that pain was nearly gone. The man with boils on his back, Darin's back was sore, but it didn't burn like it had earlier. The older man with stiff shoulders, he didn't feel that anymore. The more recent and severe the healing of an injury the longer it hurt. He was just glad that he had not had to heal anything major.

    "Can we go rest?" questioned Telra.

    Darin nodded, "Yes, let's try and find a room for cheap." Darin cleared his throat and straightened himself before he started his march toward shelter. He had walked with his own injuries more severe than these phantoms, this should be easy.
     
    #6 4everDifferent, Apr 8, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 8, 2014


  7. Shardis had waited outside the library for Medwick, mostly. A guard had shooed her away once but when there shift changed she silently returned and waited in a different shadow in a different doorway until Galain walked out into the rain handing off the scrolls to their friends.
    Shar wondered if she would ever see them again, odds were not good in their favor. It wouldn't be the first time she lost someone and she was sure it wouldn't be the last, if she did. Even if they made it and lived, the world was rough and cruel, it held no promise that they would meet up again in the future. Shrugging and wishing she could shake the wet off, this felleon was becoming an avid hater of rain, she quickly followed behind Medwick as he headed back to the inn for refreshment and warmth, something that could not be found out here.

    As Shardis walked a familiar shape swirled down out of the sky to land on her shoulder.
    "It's wrong you know, they should not go, they go to their deaths."

    A deep sigh came out of the felleon as she responded, "So now you're a profit then? You see what will be before it happens?"

    "Perrrhhhaaps," Tandra replied slowly as if she was mulling over the idea. She preened her wings and slapped the water from her tail in frustration on Shar's shoulder, "Before long we will both grow mold in our nether parts from all this wetting! Honestly, can we not go out in rain for one lousy day??"

    With that image in mind Shardis smiled as she turned to Medwick, "So what do we do now?" She almost dreaded the answer...
     
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  8. Medwick led Shardis through the tavern doorway and slipped with her into a realm of smoke and blackened wood.

    "We stick to the plan. We make south for Avarath and find a boat that will get us across the sea. Ethel gave us good notes on where that dragon might have come from, but conjecture is no substitute for experience."

    The tavern was a maze of corridor and alcove, made narrower by the dark of woodstain. Passing side-rooms, they had glances of the Black City's clientele: gamblers smoking hookah, hooded cutthroats sharing whispers, whores hitching skirts as they straddled old men, and opiate zombies lost to the world. Every step was hazarded by cats or passed out drunks.

    "We will need a local's guidance. Glyph has gone ahead to meet this Dokar fellow. Let's hope he connects us rightly."

    The mage clutched his aching knee as they tromped up a crooked flight of stairs. It took them into a low-ceiling room, made lower by herb-smoke, where larger tables were soaked in ale.

    "Now... where did Aerie and Caoimhe get to?"
     
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  9. Grabbing a none-to-clean towel off a hook by the door on the way in. She wiped the worst of the rain off and tossed it in a barrel by the hook then gave a scrawny girl child the customary coin for the use of the towel. Catching up to Medwick just as he had started the assent of the stairs. Tandra had disappeared upon the entry of the inn and could not be seen in the milling cloud of Aux in the rafters of the main room.

    "I don't know, they said they would meet us here." She crained her neck a bit trying to get a good look around.
     
  10. Jaladin sat at the bar of a local tavern drinking a mug of ale that was warm as piss. He chuckled at the thought considering where he was, in Pegulis the coldest country known. "Come to Pegulis we have snow more snow and piss for ale!" He said out loud before taking a huge gulp finishing the last little bit. He felt his coin pouch on his side it was starting to feel a little light now. It spent most of it here drinking and whoring, money well spent he thought idly. He would have to find work soon or start whoring himself but now, now was the time for another drink so he motioned for the barkeep to fill him up.
     
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  11. Medwick and Shardis would not have to look far to find one of their companions, that is if they could even see two feet ahead in the thick smog that filled the room. And that is if they were looking in the right place. Since Medwick had been the only one with a suitable pass the rest were doomed to wait with this stinking hellhole the center around which they were supposed to gather. It had taken Caoimhe all of a second to decided she didn't like this place, it set her more on edge than the Jackobane, for there while most of the occupants had been the rough sort they were all the sort who had spent all day either traveling or working and were more inclined to relaxing than bothering their neighbors. Here, here you could not move for the drunks that stumbled about, or breath for the smoke that lay thick in the air, or hear for the shouting and fighting.

    After having her knife almost disappear into the cloak of some sketchy man nursing a large mug of ale and her bag nearly stolen twice, the first man treated to a dangerous snarl, the second nearly loosing a finger to her powerful jaws, Caoimhe had found a table against the far wall to suit her taste. After evicting the drunk that had been napping underneath crawled under herself. With her back pressed up against the wall, knees drawn up, and pack cradled against her stomach, her head reached no higher than most peoples waists. The air was a bit cleaner down here but she was sincerely glad that she had a water proofed cape to sit on. The floor boards were saturated with a mix of booze, booze filled vomit, and booze filled piss. True the spot she had chosen was cleaner than most, and had the added protection of a table but the tavern was not going to be scoring high points in cleanliness anytime soon.

    Truthfully Caoimhe would much rather have been in the stable, at least it had clean air and there weren't random drunks trying to crawl in next to her. About half and hour ago she had tried to leave but the serious possibility of having to swim to the stable had convinced her to stay put. That had also been about the second time someone had tried to steal her bag. The thief had made the mistake of trying to reach inside of her bag, most likely looking for something to grab off the top. Instead he had found himself with his hand clamped between a very pissed off girl's teeth. She had crossed mountains, valleys, and a plain, she had not intention of loosing her egg to a stinking thief, in this stinking tavern, in this stinking town. So she had resigned herself to wait. After what had seemed forever she spotted two pairs of familiar feet enter the room. Taking great care not to touch the floor with her hands she scootched forward ducking her head to avoid clipping it on the edge of the table as she quickly stood up. Clasping her pack against her chest she dodged toward the shaded figures of Medwick and Shardis.

    "All good?" she asked as quietly as the noisy room would allow while still being heard. The question was kind of an all encompassing question; did you find what you were looking for, is everyone set, can we go? There were all in mind when she asked the question, whether or not others could tell that is what she was asking was another matter entirely.
     
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  12. "Ah! There you are Caoimhe, Have you seen Aerie anywhere?" Once again she crained a bit and looked around. Truth be told, she didn't understand why they had to meet here. It was a thoroughly disgusting rat hole of an inn and she would rather sleep in a stable that spend one minute here. Her tail swished and her ears flattened from frustration and she gagged back her bile at the horrible smells that plagued her nose. Shardis pinched it as closed as she could without using her fingers. "Gah! Galain, please tell me we are not spending the night in this place?" Her words had that nasal sound like someone with a head cold, which at this rate wasn't far off for her with all this disease and filth.
     
  13. ETHELWEN - BARVELLE, royalblue Just outside the tunnels of Barvelle, where the wind blowing from over the ice fields dropped low through the mountains, Ethelwen paused briefly, ears folding back tight against his head. His Aux reacted immediately to the sudden drop in temperature, lengthening and swirling around his body, and although the cloak did nothing to actually cut the wind Ethelwen was mostly protected by his thick fur coat. Once the initial shock of the transition was over Ethelwen shook himself slightly and hurried out to where a small group of people were standing around a wagon laden with goods.

    Ethelwen hadn’t originally been intending to heed his master’s request to go see if he could get any parts of the dragon, but, as he wound his way through the city, the thought of seeing exactly what goods were waiting to be distributed through Barvelle tempted him beyond measure. He had turned around practically mid-stride, and plotted a course in his head to get him to the main gates of the city. Even as he had walked, dodging past a small cart and around a group of chattering women, Ethelwen mused about the best way to get himself integrated into the group working with the dragon remains. Of course, he had heard rumors about the eggs, and had no doubt that they were going to be very securely guarded until such a time as they could be used to their full advantage, but that didn’t mean that there was nothing else he could learn.

    Eventually, he had simply decided upon offering up his services to the disposal of whoever was in charge of the operation. Perhaps he could convince whoever it was that having one more person who was not looking to get close to the dragon parts for his own benefit was a good thing. And so Ethelwen made his way confidently to where the people were standing, the beginnings of a script already forming in his mind. He paused a little way behind them, wanting to make sure that he wasn’t about to interrupt anything, before beginning to speak.

    “Excuse me, I...” His tongue froze as solid as the ice around him when he finally took in to whom he was actually speaking. He felt himself grow warm under his fur, and was grateful for the thick coat, for without it his cheeks would surely be stained pink. But inside, his heart was pounding with excitement. The Northern Archon herself! There was no better moment. If he could get his tongue unglued from the roof of his mouth, that was.

    “I... I was...” he stammered, before scolding himself mentally. Stammering would not get him anything. He fell back inside of himself, letting the calm, confident Anima who had been planning to recite the lines come to the forefront of his mind. “I wish to offer my services, if there is any way I can assist.” He threw in an awkward half bow at the end, and regretted it almost immediately. If she didn’t think him anything but a foolish youth it would be a miracle.
     
    #13 Peregrine, Apr 9, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2014
  14. As luck (and a healthy dose of dramatic irony) would have it, Aerie found herself at home for the first time in several weeks. Ironic, because of course the crowded inn reeked with the almost tangible musk of sweat and vomit, and could almost literally not have been farther from the humid forests where she'd been raised. Added to the fact that the proud Avian folk of yesteryear had buried their roots deep in the unforgiving ice of Pegulis, while her own clan had taken claim in one of the sprawling sylvan networks of the Poisoned Forest, this made for all sorts of inconstancies.

    But of course Aerie had never been one for tradition, and the smell of human sweat (and more) only made her recall those filthy cobbled streets where she'd pedaled her own sort of wares. She'd been just a bit to acerbic to garner many returning clients, but she'd made a name for herself -- entirely too much of a name, as it turned out -- even so. She'd had to flee the city, expecting a few weeks' vacation in the frigidity of Pegulis would by her measure of anonymity. She'd always loved her job, but she'd never loved anything enough to die for it.

    And yet here she was, caught up in the muck again, because, as per usual, Bossy Human had a stick buried so far in his craw, it was a wonder he hadn't succumbed to infection on top of everything else. She'd meant to go back to Viridos, she really had. It would have been much easier, and much warmer, if not much drier. But there had been a dragon, and its bones, a long trek through the mountains, and then something nauseatingly close to loyalty had claimed her.

    Bossy Human was nothing but...and yet he had saved her life from that idiot thief with whom she'd never gotten along, anyway. And as much as she loathed him, there was all that nonsense about keeping friends somewhere, and enemies somewhere else, and she certainly didn't trust WolfGirl to keep herself alive on her own. At least not given the luck their group had had recently.

    Besides, she knew her presence irked that louse-ridden cat, and nothing, not even muted recollections of warmer climes, made her happier. So, she was willing to tag along, if only to make sure Bossy Human and WolfGirl didn't fall into further decay and/or danger.

    She heard her name and smiled sweetly, sidling up beside Caoimhe and Shardis even as she mentally braced herself for a full week or so of sodden wings, if Shardis's condition was anything to judge by.


    "Gah! Galain, please tell me we are not spending the night in this place?"

    "Oh, come now, kitty, I think it suits you. Particularly the more...pungent bits. There's a real musk of cat and wet fur here, I'd have thought you felt at home."
     
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  15. THE CITY OF BARVELLE, royalblue In her arms were several scrolls, a few messily stacked log books, and one awkwardly shaped box. Her mission to oversee the arrival of dragon parts became a little more complicated when more than one wizard and overly interested scholar decided they too would make a 'coincidental' appearance. The conversations always started the same, and ended the same.

    "Oh my lady, my dear President. What a surprise to see you here. Why, I was just bringing you this spell scroll. It's quite the discovery. OH what is this here? Dragon parts, you say! Would it be terribly inconvenient of me to request a piece or two here on the sly? I mean, I don't want to make a nuisance of myself, but I am just desperate for added material in my latest experiment you see..."

    Six or seven of these conversations later, Eirene was losing her patience for pleasant conversation. The last straw was the near-duel over a box of eyeballs. There were only two, thus making them quite a prize for those not brave enough to posture for one of the eggs. Eirene confiscated the box herself and allowed the two men to continue their duel as they pleased, so long as they did it outside of the city walls. Had she not known better, she might have thought the real curse of the dragon was some sort of brain-eating virus that turned scholars with common sense in to blithering idiots. If they worked together, they might accomplish something grand, but too many had heads full of pride, and too many wanted to claim sole ownership of accomplishments. This was not how she envisioned a future for Pegulis.

    The Anima that approached was the first individual to say something different. And much to her amusement, he seemed to be embarrassed about it, if she were to judge by his pensive body language. Her Aux's fluffy tail was now wagging back and forth, beating softly against the ground.

    "Yes, as a matter of fact. I have quite a few things I need to carry and not enough arms to carry them." Eirene immediately handed him the awkward box she had been trying to balance. Wiggling her finger at an assistant, she added two more boxes on top of it. That left her free to tuck her papers and scrolls over in to one arm. "You may follow me. And seeing as you are now my assistant, I may as well have your name." Even as she spoke, she was already turning and beckoning with a hand for him to follow her down the street. Her Aux was still thumping it's tail, and waiting for him to take the lead.
     
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  16. Standing atop one of the fragments of the wall, Rayus felt slightly uneasy in the uncharacteristic warmth. Eyes turned to the horizon, he couldn't help but feel the same kind of wonder he always did at the ever-stretching horizon. Spear in hand, he took a seat at the edge of the wall. People liked to say it was a stupid thing to do, that he'd slip and break his neck and join those ghosts that already moan in the night. Hell to them all, though. They had never sat in that spot, seen the world for the massive place it was. Planting his spear in a gapin the stones, he gazed off into the distance.

    Coming to sometime later, he blinked as he heard the sounds of the city's gates opening. Standing, he turned to see if he could snatch a glance. However, sighing as he realizes that he won't see anything worthwhile from there, he began heading to the city's capitol. His shift was over, anyway, so he might as well see if it truly is anything important. Arriving there minutes later, he leans against one of the nearby buildings to watch.
     
  17. The Wilds of Tavark [Two Weeks Prior] -

    Something wasn't right here. Castigarian had been tracking a large buck for a few hours now; it should have been a simple kill with his first arrow striking its mark within the animals right leg, but it proved to be more powerful a beast than he'd anticipated and had used all of its strength to dash off at full speed. Normally, this wouldn't have been a problem, Castigarian was a patient hunter and the blood trail was bright enough against the forest floor to track easily, all he would have to do is wait for pain to overtake the creature before he caught up and delivered the final blow. However, as he continued to follow the trail of blood, he began to notice two things that were off...firstly, the blood he was following had gone from a crimson hue to something...darker, something definitely wrong, as if the blood had suddenly become infected; secondly, the more he followed the trail, the more blood he began to find...far too much to be from his quarry.

    Eventually the trail of blood tapered out, as if the buck and whatever else had been bleeding had just simply...ran out of blood to bleed; fortunately however...or unfortunately, the stench of death was more than enough to let Castigarian know that he was in the right place. As he passed through a small patch of undergrowth, he entered a small clearing where he found the laid out corpse of the animal he'd shot; the arrow sticking out of it being a strong indicator of that, and as well the mangle body of what he assumed was a man...perhaps. "Gods be..." he muttered in disgust as he went over to the buck, kneeling down to give it a better inspection. Its eyes were black as night, its tongue swollen and puffy, and the wound around his arrow festering as if it had been dead for weeks rather than hours.

    It was far too sudden a transition for a simple infection...the creature looked blighted, and smelled of it too; there wasn't any way he could salvage any part of it without risk of getting whatever this poor thing had. Shaking his head, Castigarian rose to his feet, only to make his way over to the mangled pile of meat a few feet away and knelt back down. The clothing on it definitely told him this used to be a man of some description, not that he could make out any discerning features on the man as he poked and prodded around with his gloved hands. "Din think ye own mam'd recognize ye lad..." he said sympathetically as his eyes scanned the wounds on the victim; they were definitely wolf bites...but they had the same festering and rotting stench his buck had had...just what in the blazes was going around these woods as of late?

    He shook his head slowly and turned his attention to the man's rucksack. He had no intentions of taking anything of value of course, a man's items were his even in death, but perhaps he could find some form of identification that he might commit the man's soul to the forest properly. While he didn't find anything of that sort, much to his chagrin, he did find a small scroll which he opened and began to read, the contents containing not a clue to the man's identity, but things that were of far greater concern.


    Esteemed colleagues,

    My name is Galain Medwick, a sage of Barvelle. I write to you from the Guilder's Library of the Black City, at the southern border of Pegulis. I do not have long. With my companions I am bound on an errand for the Northern Archon. I dare say it is a task that will decide the very fate of our fledgling nation.

    A weapon has been found, from the age before the ice. And though this artifact will surely bring turmoil to our borders, know that it is not the first. In every corner of Sunne divine weapons are being uncovered. The dust of the Cataclysm settles, and treasures beyond imagining glitter.

    Our enemies in Kaustir and Viridos will move for these weapons. Be sure of that, as you are sure of all mortal greed. Yet heed my further warning, brothers and sisters: there is a greater threat from within.

    Of the expedition that set out from Barvelle, only a handful remain. We have lost many, to plague and exposure, to monsters beyond our comprehension. We are being hunted, by a figure half-seen in the snow behind us, by a creature who tracks our every move and walks with ancient power. A wizard in white, a sorcerer of ice and cruelty.

    In the Guilder's Library I have scoured the books and learned of him. I have found his name.

    The Ghoul Sage.

    Look to the east, Pegulis. You will see the storms he has conjured and the plagues he has wrought. Look to the west and you will see the shadow of his golems, his servants of bone and magic. And look to Barvelle, our secret city in the north, and know what has transpired there. A white dragon, massive and starving, has been brought down in the ice. By the genius of the Northern Archon we slew the beast, but in horror learned that it was summoned there by the Ghoul Sage himself.

    I beseech you, watch the borders. Watch the mountains and the plains. For he is coming. The Ghoul Sage holds the reins of nightmare, and casts a shadow on us all.


    This was enough to shake the large man to his very core. Normally he would have questioned the contents of the scroll, but a mere look around the wilds as of late stood as a stark verification to what was written. The faulty harvests and the blighted animals in these woods were proof enough to him, and the threat of invasion from either of Pegulis' "neighbors" was enough to spur him into action. As a man tends to his home, he felt that he must answer the call to his country's aid, though at the moment he didn't know how. What he did know, as he gave the mangled corpse a short prayer, is that he knew where he had to go and who he was looking for. He was off to Aldus to find out more about this Medwick character...perhaps then he could find the answers to his questions and maybe a clue as to where he should go next, seeing as it was quite a bit bigger than Tavark. The bigger a city, the more information one might be able to glean...with the right approach that is.

    Gates of Aldus [Present Day] -

    It had been two weeks hard riding, but now Castigarian found himself outside the gates to the large city. Everything here seemed...tense, to say the least, but with no time to spare he looked up to the walls and held a hand up in greeting to the guard perched above as he called to him. "Hail, guardsmen. Cannye open t'gates fer meh?"
     
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  18. The Frozen Elk - Tavark

    "You're joking right?" Ture lowered his tankard to the table and fixed the large man with a disbelieving stare.

    "No I am not. You read the letter too Ture." Dion pinched his nose and began to pace around the small table. "Those poor bastards"

    "But it has nothing to do with us.."

    "It has everything to do with us!" Dion's fist came down hard on the table, making the thing rattle and jolt as Ture scrabbled to hold his drink steady.

    "You don't know that! It could have been any of the surveyors that found it."

    "Oh don't be so juvenile! You know it was us! We even said there was something special about those ruins." The large human sat back down head resting lightly in his hands. "We're going to Barvelle"

    "Oh but.. it's all ceiling and no roof.."
     
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  19. ETHELWEN - BARVELLE, royalblue Even as Ethelwen was straightening from his half bow, he suddenly found a rather large box placed firmly into his arms. He floundered with it for a moment, trying to get a better grip, when two more boxes were stacked on top of that. For a moment he struggled, sagging to the side and causing one of the boxes to slide a bit, but his tail whipped around, pressing firmly against the side of the box and righting it. He shifted the other way, and the boxes suddenly stacked together cleanly, no longer moments away from toppling.

    Now that he was not off balance Ethelwen was easily able to stand under the weight of his new burden. He was used to carrying around large loads of building materials, or fighting to keep a wheelbarrow full of some unpleasant substance upright, and it wasn't as though the crates were full of lead. Presumably. Either way, he let the strain on his shoulders transfer through his back and into his hips, relaxing into the weight of carrying unwieldy objects. One further shift, ensuring that he could actually see where he was going, and wouldn't accidentally trip over the hem of Eirene’s cloak and make even more of a fool of himself, as well as a substantial mess, and he hurried after her beckoning hand.

    Assistant. The word seemed to ring in his ears, and excitement bubbled up within him, accompanied, perhaps even enhanced by, the slight coppery taste of fear that coated his tongue. He would not make a mistake. He would not do anything stupid. And even as he walked he pushed these fears into the small portion of his mind that was left alone to deal with all of his anxiety. Fear would not aid him at all in this situation.

    “I am Ethelwen,” he replied to her query, quietly reminding himself that it was not necessary to feel disappointment at the fact that she did not remember him. She was the one who had sworn him to secrecy about the city of Barvelle, but she was otherwise occupied by many things. Of course she didn't remember him.

    His mind was churning with so many thoughts that the sound of the wind was almost drowned out. He had to make an impression, had to make sure that she would remember him, but nor would it do to make it seem as though he was seeking attention. He wanted, no, he needed to get close to her, more than he had ever needed anything in his life. But she didn't need another pompous scholar or fawning apprentice trying to curry her favor. What did she need?

    He was making this far more complicated than was necessary.
     
    #19 Peregrine, Apr 10, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2014
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  20. "How's the Black City treating you my friend?" Jaladin turned around to see his old friend and partner was standing behind him. With a small grin he said a bit drunkard "Eh, it's the same as ever. Didn't think I'd find you here thought you settled down up north."

    "Aye, I had for time too. But my wife ended up sleeping with my brother for only three coins"

    Jaladin let out a roar of laughter. "Aye that's what whores do. I tried to telling ya but you always been hard headed." Jaladin laughed again while Destin just nodded his head in agreement. "That's why I left her and started my own travel guide business."

    "With my own maps too, I suppose."

    "Well you did make the best. Anyways where's your Aux? She was always zipping around."

    "She doesn't like the smoke or the smell of this place so she's resting in my shirt pocket right now." He lightly tapped his chest indicating where she was.

    "She was always an odd one. But anyways my old friend when I saw you I had to warn you, I wouldn't travel north for awhile strange things happening up there and they say a dragon was slain near Barvelle and them scholars been harvesting its bones and eggs since." Jaladin went to question him but his friend left before he had a chance saying he had an important meeting to attend to. So Jaladin lit his tabac pipe and took a big puff, thinking of his options.


     
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