Ruins of the Dragon Lord - Tales of Mount Moru

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Boss Frost

Original poster
Intro - A Tavern In Another Time:
Across years of time, in a warm tavern surrounded by a beautiful summer night, a young bard sings from a corner, entertaining those within with his cheery song. Children peek in through the window, giggling at him and those within. The bard turns his head, smirking, "What-haw! Some little goblins, up to raid the tavern!"

Hopping out the window, he grabs one of them, laughing. The children squeak excitement and jump back. The child in the bard's arms squirms, "Uncle Raffs! That's not fair!" The bard laughs, shaking his head, "No it's not, little goblin! However..." He puts his nephew down, kneeling to the children's height and grinning. "If you little ones are having trouble sleeping... I could tell you a tale..." He winks at them, and they nod.

"Swords! Swords and action!" One pipes up, the girl behind him - a bit older, grins, "I want to hear a SCARY story!" The younger female shakes her head, "No... I want to hear something romantic!" The bard's nephew looks up at him, "Well I want to hear something with magic in it... lots of magic... a-and a good ending!"

Raffs grins, leading them all inside the tavern. "Oh, yes. I think I have just the story. It includes all those things... and it goes..." Grabbing some powder from his pack, he tosses it into the fire, which turns blue. " this."

-Ruins of the Dragon Lord-
Chapter 0: The Road Begins
The pale flames at the fireplace dance as fading white ghosts, their light and heat barely needed or noticeable in this temperate summer evening. The atmosphere is dry and empty, as there are very few patrons at the inn; however, their chatter is enough to give the place the feel of a crowded hall. These days, it seems everyone is talking about some thing or another in Meadowvale...

A blond-haired, clean-shaven man affably swaps good-natured jokes, tales and gossip with a few other patrons, very clear in being the town's minstrel. The owner of the inn, a middle-aged woman who has retained her great looks, walks around to dispense drinks, laughing at the jokes and adding her voice to a couple of song choruses here and there.

Outside, an airship packs up, getting ready to leave. Their passengers now well-off, they wave farewell - and good luck. They, for one, will not stick around here any longer than usual. Night or no, the great House Lyrandar airship begins to rise, the ring of fire that was the bound elemental flaring up - the half-elven crew quickly leaving the area, out of Moru Country as fast as possible.

As for our heroes, well... let's let them show themselves - how long they have been here, what they have been doing, and how they got here. Did you come on the now-leaving airship? Did they come by another route - already here, in the tavern where our story will begin? Have they been here forever?
In the tavern, his back to the minstrel Ruk mused over the man's tales. He had experiences of his own but always enjoyed hearing of others braving the wilds, tempting the guards of just falling in love. It was been a while since he had had the freedom to go his own way, though with freedom came uncertainty, he had no idea where his next coin was coming from, and he'd be damned if he was going to sell his equipment. He turned in his chair leaning back against the bartop clapping with the crowd as another tale concluded amid the laughter from those who remembered the small nugget of truth it had been based on. The applause was interrupted by a boisterous bout of singing from a nearby table, the song matched the tome of the recent story, a warsong that was near universal, of valor and bravery, of men that shall never be forgotten and Ruk, found himself humming along.
A thin creature wrapped in black robes stumbles slightly, shield clashing against the armor under his robes. Reaching a gloves hand back to adjust his armor, he strode forward. The airship ride had been one of the most amazing moments of his life. He turned to look back at it wistfully, for just a few moments... as he did, he became enamored with the sight of the Lyrandar airship against the starry, navy-blue backdrop. Sighing happily, he turned away from it. He could say goodbye to it, and the old continent of Khorvaire. Here, in the dust... the sand... and the sky, he'd make his own life.

"Away from..." He spoke aloud, before shivering - and not because of the night air. Hood had been up, scarf wrapped around his face - he had been careful not to show it. While it was obvious he was inhuman, it was hard to tell what he was. He lacked the size and fearsomeness of an ogre or troll, and lacked the body style of a medusa... so for the most part, most just let him be. He had a right to privacy in Argonessen, and he was happy about that.

Still, he looked about nervously... happy that there were people here. No one he knew, but... still people. Shivering again, the human-sized figure moved into the tavern... what he assumed to be an inn, as well. Sighing happily as the warmth and familiarity of the tavern environment, he was startled by a voice.

"Sugar," the voice said, "You gotta leave your weapons at the door." The barmaid who spoke it pointed towards the shield and the bulge of a concealed weapon.

Nervous, at first, he nodded, "Yeah, alright." His voice was coarse, though young. Again, obviously inhuman, but not threatening in any way. Gloved hands reached in to take out a flail, putting it next to various other weapons... he then strapped off the shield, setting that right on top of it. The dark-robed man then took a look around, before moving over to a seat - as good a seat as any - across from Ruk, at the same table. He, however, faced towards the minstrel, obviously interested in what he had to say.
The door opened again, and this time a woman walked through. She wore the robes of the Soveriegn Host, though the bottom edge of the robe had numerous small tears. A sure sign of a missionary.

The weapons weren't exactly normal for clergy either, though.

The barmaid gave her a friendly reminder about weapons, and so she put her morningstar and crossbow in a neat pile next to the door. Briefly, she considered the hidden blade in her sleeve, but decided to keep it. It was a close friend, and she was loathe to part with it.

Ran (for that was her name) sat down at the same table as Ruk and a hooded figure. They looked like they could help her, so she waited there for one of them to speak, gently twirling some of her brown hair to pass the time.
Ruk looked from the hidden face of the hooded stranger to the face of the missionary. He had traveled for most of his life and fought against and with many different types. But a man of indeterminate species ("man" simply used for convenience) and a battle scared missionary of the sovereign host were a new one so rather than listen to the same old worries inside his empty skull he called the barmaid over.

"A drink for me and my friends!" he said loudly putting three gold coins in her hand, "The rest you may keep as the price of your smile." He turned back to the others at the table leaning forwards. "Now I've been listening to that minstrel all day, perhaps one of you two have a story that can beat his?"
The hooded figure nods kindly to Ran, gesturing graciously at the table. Ruk's boisterous activity prompted a chuckle from him. "I haven't listened to the minstrel all day, so I'm not sure I've got one... at least, the ones I've had you've likely heard a dozen times." The deep, growl of a voice continued, as social as can be, "Unless you count a few songs I heard and liked enough to learn, but those are hardly stories..." He shrugs, happily accepting a drink - though not touching it. He was unwilling to attempt to put his scarf down to drink it.

While the monster nation of Droaam was a sight in Khorvaire, here in Argonessen it was hardly heard of, save from travelers. He'd much rather play it safe and avoid the lynch mob. The cloaked figure shivers again. He turned sights from the man to the woman. A holy woman, at that. He considered the ramifications of that, for a moment. While he had grown up worshiping beings of the darker planes, his faith was lost at their apathy. What he knew of the Sovereign Host and Dark Six intrigued him so far... that their followers held such power was amazing in it's own right. The firelight flashed off green eyes in his hooded robe, and he realized he was staring. "Sorry," he states, before looking back to the man.

Staring at the cup, he states, "I came to Argonessen from Khorvaire." Clearly striking conversation, he leans forward to rest on one elbow, gesturing with the other. "Do some honest work for a change." Slightly on guard, he continues, "Not like you can farm much in Moru Country though, from what I hear. The life's been sucked right out of the ground. If growing it doesn't work, might be able to get a job cooking it." He shrugs, the many layers of cloth rustling. Trying to think of small-talk things, he finally reveals: "Ah. I'm called Runt. Pleasure to meet you."
"I'm here to investigate the mountain."

Ran took a sip of her drink before continuing.
"It's been in my dreams, you see-and such things are not to be ignored. Granted, it did take quite a while to figure out which mountain was plaguing my sleep, but the grey waste at least was fairly distinctive."
Ruk looked the woman up and down finally noting the style of her robes before taking a large gulp from his tankard. "Runt, Ruk." he introduced himself offering a firm handshake over the table. "Unusual name.." he commented giving the other man another look in case he was smaller under his apparel than he appeared to have earned it, though without being able to tell his race it was impossible.

Another sip and he turned back to the woman "What little I've heard about the mountains is they're dark places best avoided."
"Dark places best avoided? Sounds like my kind of place!" Came the voice of a handsome, fair-skinned half-elf. His eyes were a crystal blue, sparkling with charm and mischief, and his grin was lop-sided and broad, belying deep and calculating intelligence. He had black hair the length of his shoulder, pulled into a tight top-knot atop his head. It was stylish, but also appropriate of travel.

Aidan d'Lyrandar had traveled to the sleepy town of Meadowvale on board the airship that had only moments ago taken off. His reasons were his own, however entertaining they had been, and while he was told to be protective of his reasons for being so far from proper civilization, any suitable amount of alcohol would be more than enough to illicit from him the tale of spoiling a virgin daughter aboard a luxury liner of Sela's Path. It had been her idea, be damned!

Hefting a hastily and ill-packed backpack over his right shoulder, royal-blue cloak splayed open to display fine studded leather raiment, Aidan relinquished the sheathed rapier from the frog holster at his lift hip, and un-slung the light crossbow from somewhere hidden beneath his cloak. He took further steps into the inn, mockingly exaggerating a shivering and sigh-and-moan of exhaustion as he took a seat near the conversing patrons.

"So, what you fine folk carrying on about? The name's Aidan, by the way," he told them with a bright smile. He had almost slipped his last name. Perhaps another time, he thought...
"Mount Moru. You know an entire tribe of people supposedly vanished in that mountain?" The heavily-cloaked man stated, eyes shining beneath layers of cloth. He had returned the handshake, a weak little 'tug' of Ruk's hand. Whatever the hooded man's size, he didn't seem to have the strength to back it up. "As for seeing it in your dreams..." His gaze turned to look at the woman. "I've been told not to talk about those sort of dreams. Prophets aren't taken kindly among..." He falters. "...Aren't taken kindly where I come from."

He raises his gloves hands, "I've got no problem with them, so no offense meant! It's just... dreams are meant to be dreams, or so I'm told." He shivers, staring down into his cup again. He couldn't drink it without taking off the coverings about his head, and had really just accepted it to be polite. His rough, calm voice continued. "I was named for my deeds, as custom. I'm a... what's the word?" He considers it for a bit. "Underachiever. The shaman wanted to just kill me and be done with it from the start... as did my mother and father. Luckily, our leader had different ideas." He said this easily, no need to guard the information - many lived under tribal codes, even back in Khorvaire.

When the half-elven man came up, Runt nods, "Aidan, then." Looking the man over, he comments, "Touch out of place, aren't you? At least bardic conventions make a hooded man in a tavern a staple, but you look a little off."

"He does not say that." One of the tavern-wenches slaps Uncle Raffs on the shoulder. The man laughs, holding his hands up, "You caught me! Little joke."

When the half-elven man came up, Runt nods, "Aidan, then." Looking the man over, he comments, "We're just talking about the mountain. The young lady here wishes to go towards it... something about..." He looks towards Ran again. "...Dreams, was it? What sort of dreams, if you don't mind me asking?"
"No, I did not." Ran blinked, looking at Runt. "They were very vague dreams...dragons entered the mountain, and I got a sense of the vastness of the place, but that was all."

Ran nodded curtly at the newcomer to their table, then continued.
"I could use some protection, though...exploring is a fairly dangerous activity, especially if that mountain has some dark legends around it. I'm afraid I can't offer you any monetary compensation, though."
"Prophet huh?" Ruk rubbed his chin. "Always wondered what it would be like to see the future or imminent danger. Would have made my job a fell of a lot easier." he though for a second sizing up the request, he was a firm believer in the face value of something and the deal was an honest one. While the thought of dragons was not appealing it was an opportunity to keep his skills sharp and get a taste for private contracts. If he was going to be a mercenary he'd need experience.

"I could lend you a hand but my experience is more in the line of scouting and finding enemies than dragonslaying."
"Dangers be-damned, this sounds like an adventure!" Aidan proclaimed excitedly after quaffing down a huge amount of the ale that had been offered to him by the inns-keeper. He had a grin on his face, and a thin string of the frothy beverage had traveled down to his chin. He wiped hastily with the back of his hand.

"Besides, I can't leave a woman to go into a dark, dangerous mountain-dungeon to go a-huntin' for dragons all alone! She needs, well, um," Aidan looked between the four of them, grinning all the meanwhile.

"Well, this fellow here is a big and burly one," he said, tapping Runt's belly quickly. "Ooh, tough," he added, feeling the armour.

"I've never struck me anything larger than another man, buuuut," he grinned, "I wouldn't mind seeing how well I could stand up versus a big, scaly beast."
Runt's form had, in fact, recoiled from the newcomer's hand before he could even touch him. His chair had fallen behind him, and he stood, staring at the man incredulously. Silently, not asking for an apology, nor expecting one, he turned and picked up his chair, carrying it over to sit at the exact opposite side of the table as the half-elven man. "I don't think you understand the implications, here," he continued as if the scene had not, in fact, happened.

"Dragons don't live in the mountain. They vanish into the mountain. In all of Argonessen, you can find dragons - all save here, in Moru country... I've... taken some time to learn about the area before coming here." He pauses, considering the three of them. "You're going to die." He states this plainly, not an ounce of humor in his voice. He adds, "Gruesomely."

After a while of silence, he sighs, "...I could help, I guess. Against my better judgment, I might add." Tapping a finger on the table, he continues, "...It might be a bit better if you lot ask around town about the mountain. I only know myths and legends, these people actually live here. At least, that would be the... wise... course of action."

"...Granted, as adventurers, you don't take 'wise' into your vocabulary?" Runt directly stares at Aidan as he speaks, before sighing and looking towards Ruk. "Scouting? That's a word I'm familiar with..." He smiles, though no one could see it under his cloak. He rustles something, pulling out... a collar. Specifically, a collar like that worn of a Droaam mercenary, decorated with the orange-and-red markings of a 'living artillery'... a war mage. The tag attached to it clearly read 'Runt'. He placed the collar back into his cloak. "I'm rubbish in melee, but I've leaned towards a tactical role anyway."
"Interesting," Aidan said excitedly, his eyes sparkling at vaguely recognizing the markings. Something to do with 'living artillery'; he could be none other than a War Mage! A master of evocation, having memorized the most dangerous and destructive of magics. Aidan had no talent for any of that, save what his Dragonmark offered, but it hardly meant he was helpless.

"So offerin' up your bit of weaponry hardly meant going unarmed here, did it?" He grinned at the 'man' named Runt. He had pointedly decided not to react to the way the man had recoiled from his hand. He had only meant it in a jest of gesture, but obviously, it was something he was not comfortable with. While Aidan might have lacked a fair bit of experience and wisdom, he was far from dull.

"Well, I'm not so sharp here without my bit of steel," he said, finishing off the last bit of his cool frosty brew before tossing his thumb into the direction of his rapier leaning against his spot on the wall. "But I tell ye, ain't hardly a person in this room that can stand up to me with that in me hand. And sure as sure, anything made o' flesh will feel the bite of that piece of steel."
Ruk chuckled softly, melee was a messy affair at the best of times and best avoided, he left the butchery to other men and it seemed he had that in common with Runt. The stranger also had a point. "Minstrel." he called out over the noise of the tavern. "Got any stories about the mountains, ones that are true?" He lifted the tankard to his lips and drained the last of it's contents, it was unlikely that would leave today so he could afford to be less than sober.
Ran thought to her sleeve blade as Aiden remarked on Runt's armed nature. Perhaps it was best not to mention it for now.

She leaned back in her chair, still twirling some of her hair.
"Well, this is certainly better than expected. I think we should get going right now...any objections?"
Runt shakes his head, "I object. You know too little about the mountain to do anything of any use besides die in a horrible manner."

The bard turns his head, looking at the group with a smile, though at the subject matter, his eyes turned uneasy. "Ahhh. Heading to the mountain... none of you would happen to be of draconic blood, are you? Just curious." He rubs his chin, "Lots of half-dragons, draconic and even a few dragonmarked individuals are going to the mountain, never to return. They pass through here for supplies and information, but..." He shrugs, before considering a bit, "You might want to try the Last Shrine just out of town first. They're looking for people to enter the mountain, for some reason or another... and if I were you, I'd prepare for goblins. There's been a ton of them about the mountain."

"As for a truth... I'd say every myth you've ever heard about the mountain is true, as well as most you haven't heard." He smirks, "Ahh. I've got it."

He begins, "Not long ago, there was a great matriarch in the Dragon Stone Clan, leader of three different tribes and sister to all the great Morudhain chiefs of the Dragon Stone Cairns. Her name was Aedhaine, and she was regarded as a mother by hundreds of the Moru people, even though she had many children of her own. For Aedhaine had the gift of vision - the spirits of their people talked to her through her dreams, giving her advise and warnings that she then imparted to her children. As fortune would have it, it would be one of those dreams that would mean Aedhaine's downfall - and that of all those who followed her.

"Aedhaine had nine natural children from her retinue of five husbands. Her second son was called Aogarn, which means born of unknown father in the tongue of dragons. About the kid's father... there indeed are no tales; he resembled none of Aedhaine's husbands, plus there was an unnatural quality about him, such that people said his father was no mortal man, but one of the spirits that haunted Aedhaine's dreams.

Nearly a score winters ago, Aedhaine had a very vivid nightmare about the great dragons of old, the ancient wyrms her people revered thousands of years ago before they turned towards godds. These dragons were not mere dieties to be worshipped and prayed to but something far more solid and terrifying, for they lived in the same world and breathed the same air as the primitive Morudhain of past millennia. One day dragons disappeared and men were left alone to create gods as a pale replacement of the great wyrm's presence; at least, that was the message of Aedhaine's dream.The matriarch, as the whole Dragon Stone Clan before her, had grown worshipping the Old Dragon, the Morudhain's wyrm-god; therefore, she was greatly impressed by the image of great dragons treading the earth, with mortals paying homage to them in the millennia of primal darkness.

After her dream, Aedhaine began to make frequent pilgrimages to the Dragon Stone, her clan's sacred sanctuary, where the words of the Old Dragon had been written millennia ago. For some reason, she always took her son Aogarn, who counted nine winters at that time, on these pilgrimages. There, mother and son spent hours... or even days on end studying the writings on the monolith and discovering a while new meaning to it - the Dragon Stone poem was a message, calling the Morudhain to worship the dragons again. When she thought she had understood the hidden message, Aedhaine copied down the poem in a smaller stone tablet, took it with her and established it as the new credo of her tribe. This was in fact the start of a new religion, split from the main worship of the Dragon Stone Clan; after a few months, nearly half of the clan had joined Aedhaine's faith.

"Once Aedhaine's followers numbers in the thousands, she revealed the message of the stone - the spirit of the Old Dragon still lived inside Mount Moru and his followers had to live closer to him; they had to return to the dark vault of his love. After the great revelation, Aedhaine left everything behind - including her five husbands and all of her children...

Except for Aogarn, who had no father to be left with.

Establishing herself as the leader of her new clan, which she called the Moru Tribe. After it was formed, Aedhaine led the entire tribe on a great pilgrimage to Mount Moru, the "Mountain of Terror" in your tongue, to repopulate it as their ancestors had attempted centuries before. More than two thousand Morudhain followed Aedhaine inside the Mount, disregarding the ancient superstitions regarding it as a cursed place. The Moru Tribe successfully settled on the upper mountain levels and prospered there for a few decades, building underground farms and even a working silver mine near the mountain entrance. Two winters past, however, the dream assaulted Aedhaine again and she was compelled to seek the Old Dragon in the depths of the mountain, to which her entire tribe followed her once more. Here ends what knowledge mortal men may have about Aedhaine and her Moru Tribe..."

He nods, leaning forward with a grin, "And that's all you'll get for free. If something makes you wonder in the future, come back with some gold. I might have some information for you... I'll always be in the tavern, here. My name's Seallan, by the way... town minstrel and keeper of tales."
"Hope that answers your questions luv." Ruk said nodding to Ran. "So before we go running of in search of a bunch of dragonborn bones I think we should take the time to speak to the wonderfully helpful towns people and see what kinds of critters we'll be running into on the trail. Don't know about you but going out there is a bit useless if we don't know if the barbarian tribes will trade with us or eat us. Intelligence wins wars more than action, or at least thats what was floating around my unit."

He cradled the now empty tankard in his arms and burped loudly, it felt great to have a belly of ale and a mission ahead. Though there was the matter of a man unwilling to show his face to be addressed.

"So Runt, what kind of tribe you from? Havn't seen anyone of your.... bearing.... well ever."
"Hah. I wouldn't rely on the Morudhain tribesfolk. They hate all outsiders - this and the Last Shrine are the only outsider-friendly places in Moru Country." Runt states with a dark chuckle, adjusting the cloth covering his face. Twiddling with a coin on the table, he considers the bard's words. "So that's the full tale, huh? Aedhaine's name certainly comes up a load. The Dragon Stone would certainly be an interesting place to visit..."

Seallan chuckles darkly, "Yeah, if the surviving Dragon Stone Clan didn't live around it. As you said - they don't like foreigners."

Runt nods, his clothes rustling. "Ahh. Right... blast. At least the Last Shrine is a proper place to look... as well as the only shrine to the Sovereign Host here in Moru Country."

He looks to Ruk at the question, staring at him for a long while before shifting nervously. "...My tribe was of great warriors. We weren't the greatest of tacticians, and we lacked magic-users entirely save for a few of the druid faith, but we got by just fine." He sounds... evasive, almost. "We are of Droaam, as you could tell from my Collar." Which was all he would say, bowing his head to stare into the still-full drink before him.

"With the four of us, we should be fine. I'll not walk the roads at night, though. Moru Country's dangerous enough during the day, I'll not risk death by the night... we'll get provisions and mayhaps a tent in the morning... until then." He looks to Ruk. "What of you? Which country are you from?"