OPEN SIGNUPS Strangers: The Path of the Khan

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The Racuten Plains. A band of grasslands, savannah and shrublands which wraps around the world as a green border between the mountains where the ancient and mighty Forlers make their homes, and the rest of the world. It gets it name from the sole race which inhabits them, the Racuten who look to be half-human and half-horse, but you would call them that at your own peril; if you even got close enough to talk to them that is. The Racuten lived in a truly wild manner, more so than even the Barbin and Palerme, and shunned all contact with other races thus far.

Which made them a challenge for the curious of the world to examine. Vallis is only the latest in a long line of these curious souls. Who is Vallis? So far as anyone knows Vallis is a solitary scholar who dresses in simple leather armor over a blue tunic, and wraps her head in a light blue cloth to conceal all but her light brown eyes.

“The herd rested here, and moved on.” Vallis says looking down at the hoof prints and wallows left by the herd in the thick grass. She has been tracking this herd for a few days now. “Moving slower, I think, because one of them is nursing an injured leg.” She speaks aloud to herself very quietly and looks around cautiously. The Racuten went unharassed by the other races, but there were other dangers which prowled these plains for them. That’s why she has a short sword and bow along with her other scholarly equipment.

She stalks up to a high hill, and takes from her pack a spyglass. You can see for miles around in the right spot in these lands, and Vallis hopes she can spot the herd still moving, as those wallows had still been warm and tracks fresh.

Tracking and recording her findings on the Racuten was, Vallis felt, a productive and necessary task for the young woman. They were the least understood of all the races on this world, aside from of course the people called Strangers. Now that was a fascinating topic, but one she couldn’t readily study beyond what’s been written by the Red Shield Guild and a few tomes from the Zylrel Grand Library.

“If only the Gods were kind.” Vallis muses to herself while following the faint signs of movement through the grassland of the Racuten herd. As she looked to the next hill, those parts in the grass became fainter and she puts away the spyglass to begin walking to that vanishing point, where she’d repeat this process again until either she found the herd, or her feet tire out and force her to make camp a while. The latter was not likely. But that wasn’t all bad. She could make camp, cook up some of the fish she’d caught when crossing a river that morning, and give Edea a call on the Seer Orb. Maybe her search for adventure had been more fruitful. As of now her only ‘dangers’ had been avoiding the droppings these beings left behind. Maybe they could even meet somewhere, like Doren, and catch up in person. It’d been too long, in her opinion, since they’d talked face to face.Vallis thinks this while keeping her eyes alert and forward on the climb up the next hill. Would be embarrassing to step in Racuten dung, or a rodent burrow hole, or walk right into that door…

“Door?” Vallis stops in place on the hill and her brown eyes go wide looking up at this door that was suddenly at the top. It was large, the doors wooden and set in a stone arch. “A door...a Stranger Door!” Vallis exclaims, almost squeaks with excitement at this discovery. The lore of Strangers said that sometimes, but not always, a Stranger entered this world from theirs through some kind of door. Sometimes they just walked, others were described by onlookers as just being thrown out of them. And here was one, right before her!

Vallis trots up to this door, hoping she can get up and at least touch it before it expelled whoever was on the other side and disappeared. Touching it may not be the wisest thing to do when presented with an otherworldly door, but she wasn’t thinking cautiously right then. To her delight, it remains there when she comes up to it. She looks it up, then down, and around the other side. Yes, just as described, it was the same on both sides. There were even simple iron knockers on it. Vallis takes off her pack and digs out her hammer and chisel, and gingerly taps the chisel into the corner of the stone arch to get a sample.

One tap. Nothing. Two taps. Nothing. Feeling bold, Vallis gives the chisel five rapid taps with the hammer hoping to get at least one little chip off this wondrous thing before it vanished. But then the actual wood door flies open, and someone is expelled from it along with a gust of wind to go rolling down the hill. Said wooden door slams open and hits Vallis in the side rather hard.

“Graahhhh!” Vallis yells, dropping her tools and grabbing her arm. The door vanishes before her eyes and the woman kicks the ground in frustration. “Damn it all! It’s gone!” She screams, then realizes “Wait! It’s gone! That means…” She looks around, down the hill, and yes she sees someone at the bottom.

“Wait there! Dont you move!” Vallis tells the Stranger from the top before running down, still clutching her arm as it throbs with pain. The amulet under her clothing allows her words to be heard by the mysterious Stranger as their own native language, with perfect dialect. Vallis slows down as she gets closer, those eyes taking in his every detail while underneath the blue wrap she is grinning like a madwoman. “You...you are….” She notes the armor, the weapons “A warrior!” Vallis puts her hands together and looks to the sky “Thank you Gods! I swear I will never speak ill of you again for this gift!”

Quake Quake
 
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Jochi Khan: The Dragon of the North




The last thing Jochi Khan remembered was plummeting towards a deep ravine, his body riddled with arrows and blades. He had been on the run for days on end, waging a losing battle against his father, Genghis, who he believed had turned against him in jealousy and fear of his success and possible rule. Despite his incredible combat knowledge and commanding leadership, Jochi had simply not had the manpower to battle the rest of his father’s Empire for an extended period of time, and he had lost the northern capital much sooner than he had expected. With his armies decimated and strewn across the land, he and a select few of his most trusted vassals had fled into the Altai mountains, where he had taken a final stand on the cliff’s edge. One by one his advisors had been killed, slain by those he had once called his brothers. Towards the 18th hour of the fight upon the rock, Jochi’s wounds finally robbed him of consciousness and the young warrior had been kicked off the mountainside towards the cold death below that awaited him. And yet, the forsaken prince never hit the bottom. In the last moment his body had been engulfed in darkness. And then there was nothing.

The next moment Jochi’s eyes shot open, the blood in his veins running cold. Where was he? The frigid mountain air and rolling fog had been replaced with blue skies above him and green fields all around. Was this some sort of devil work? The Khan’s hands grasped his side, shoulder, and leg. His wounds had disappeared, and there was no lingering pain either. The young warrior prince could not understand. Rolling over, Jochi reached for his sword which had been flung a couple feet from where he had landed.

A yell from nearby and the sound of rapid footsteps approaching brought him to his senses. The warrior Khan jumped up quickly and spun around, swinging his sword back and forth violently. He had expected a horde of fierce Mongol warriors to rush him, so he found himself quite surprised to see a woman come over the hill and greet him. Her face was hidden, but Jochi had heard her speak briefly when she called out to him. It was the language of his people, and yet it’s familiarity brought him no comfort. He had just fought against his brothers and former countrymen, slaying them by the hundreds while losing twice as many more. It was very possible this woman standing before him was some sort of assassin or spy sent by his father or his other enemies to finish him.

Keeping his eyes on the stranger before him, the young warrior knelt down, picking up the large steel glaive he had carried into battle. His ears listened intently for anything out of the ordinary, but it seemed that they were the only ones around for the time being. With spear in one hand and blade in the other, Jochi slowly approached the woman before him. His piercing black eyes seemed to stare through her soul, and he continued his advance until he was a breaths distance away from her face. The longer he stared at her, the greater his rage became. Finally, he spoke, his words harsh and filled with contempt.

[Spoken in Mongolian-Khamag Dialect]

“You stand in the presence of a Khan. The Dragon of the North, The Flail of God and the pillar on which the entire dynasty of Khamag was built! The people of the tongue with which we speak!” He roared, his voice shaking with fury. “And yet you do not bow! You do not kneel. Surely you have no honor! Even my greatest enemy would not disrespect me in such a way.”

Jochi circled his target like a tiger stalking his prey, studying her every movement, just waiting to see how she would respond. “Perhaps you meant to slay me while I laid on the grass with that blade of yours that you carry? Was that it? To do my father’s bidding in hopes of reward? Because if that was your purpose then draw your weapon and kill me this instant, lest I rip your head from your shoulders with my bare hands and damn your soul to never the see the afterlife!” The Khan forcefully planted his weapons into the dirt beside him, waiting for some sort of response, his knuckles white with an intense rage.

"Come!"


 
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Ms.Ezra

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"A Khan? A ruler?" Vallis says in response to the first words this Stranger says to her. This was very unexpected, at least his confrontational attitude. The literature on Strangers hadn't gone into great detail of how they reacted. Now she was facing someone who looks willing to behead for not giving him his due respect.

Oddly(or sadly) enough it was very familiar. Just like her father. Thus it was easy enough for Vallis to put up her hands and fall down to her knees and prostrate herself before the man without feeling humiliated at all. Hands and forehead to the ground, in a manner from a long-gone Stranger the people of her land had been compelled to adopt when facing a ruler.

"Forgive me, mighty Khan of the North, I was not aware I was in the presence of your greatness. I am only a humble scholar, and my name is Vallis. The sword and bow are only for my defense against bandits and beasts. I would never dare think I could strike you down with such meager weapons." Vallis says all this, and hopes it is enough for the man to not use that glaive to behead her anyway. Her neck was exposed after all.
 
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Jochi Khan: The Dragon of the North

Jochi glared silently as the woman dropped to the ground and introduced herself. Was this some sort of trick meant for him to lower his guard? He couldn’t be too sure. And yet her words were more surprising to him than her actions. For starters, the woman’s name was unlike any he had heard before. Vallis? What kind of foreign name was that? Perhaps she was from a different country or another part of the Empire he was unfamiliar with. Next were her weapons. While clearly recognizable as a bow and sword, they were fashioned in a style unfamiliar to his own. How odd, he thought. And had she said something about being a scholar? Surely that was a lie! Women were not educated beings. At least not where he came from. And yet as the Khan surveyed his surroundings, it became more and more apparent he was not in his home country anymore.

“Come.”
Jochi commanded, his voice finally breaking the silence. The large man marched over to his weapons, drawing his sword from the earth and strapping his spear to his back. “Pick yourself up. You are familiar with this area, I am sure.” he growled, his voice a deep rumble. “You will act as my guide and I will discover just how much truth you speak. Be grateful I am unfamiliar with these lands, for it is the only reason you still draw breath. Now, let us go.”
 
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Ms.Ezra

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Vallis breathes a sigh of relief into the grass, and rises when she is told to come along with this Khan. Her light brown eyes watch him take his weapons from the ground; wonders for a moment which he would kill her with if she oversteps her allowances in his presence. She brushes the grass and dirt from her knees while thinking about how to speak next.

"I know these lands well from animal to plant and it's lay. There are a few things you must know, if you will permit me to speak further." She says thinking this man would have allowed her to keep speaking, but errs on the side of caution first. Vallis had been practicing this explanation with her teacher, a Stranger who has been here for a long time, and her cousin. It would have been preferable to do so without fear, but seldom does life follow your comforts.

"You are not on the world of your birth. This is another, called many things by the many races who live upon it. I call it Nomae-Ralo. And you my Lord, are what we native peoples call a Stranger, a widely diverse people who come into our world it seems at random for unknown purpose. At this moment we are in wild unclaimed lands called the Racuten Plains." The translation amulet makes Jochi hear 'Racuten' as 'Horse people'. "The nearest town is to the South, and in the Kingdom of Linia. We can make it there by nightfall if we are swift and not delayed."

A rumble is heard, then felt in that moment before the two could start walking. Vallis looks around and looks to the hill where the Stranger had entered through the door. It was loudest there and getting louder.

"Run! They're stampeding this way!" Vallis yells and runs runs away from that spot.

Over that hill comes the herd she had been tracking. If Jochi were wondering what she had meant by 'Horse people' he will know when they come over the hill and stampede down. A herd of beings that are human at the torso(all bare from the males, females to children) but those torsos are attached to the body of a horse. They are frightened, and do not make any motion to go around him.

Why they are frightened makes itself known with a loud shrill call from up in the sky. It sounds like a bird of prey at first, but is followed by a big cats rumble. The predator flies overhead, and while it was hunting the herd, it's eyes focus on Jochi. Mainly his armor and weapons, the shiniest things around. It likes shiny things, so it swoops down with claws out to claim those shiny things from what it sees as a helpless creature.
 
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Jochi Khan: The Dragon of the North

”Nomae-Ralo,” Jochi repeated. “Interesting. Perhaps some sort of powerful magic summoned me here.” It’s given me another chance, he thought. And did this woman say horse people? More lies surely. As the Khan listened to his guides’ information about the new world he felt a slight rumble beneath his feet. At first it seemed a ways off, but it was quickly growing more powerful with the rapid approach of a large group. Something was coming. Something big.

Vallis yelled out a warning to run, and Jochi, unable to see what was coming over the hill, turned and began to run away from the large commotion that was seconds away barreling down their path. After reaching a slight incline away from the commotion, the warrior Khan stopped, turning to see what had caused such a powerful tremor. Having expected a great army on horseback or possibly a herd of deer, the young Mongol could hardly believe his eyes when a plethora of half man- half horse creatures came charging the hill.

“Incredible,” he whispered under his breath. He had seen art of creatures like them on old scrolls in the temple of his childhood, but he had never believed them to be real. And yet his eyes did not deceive him. Perhaps the one called Vallis wasn’t a complete liar after all. As Jochi watched the herd run, he was startled by a loud animal cry from the sky. Looking up, Jochi saw a powerful beast hurling towards him at incredible speeds. it’s face and wings were that of a bird, and yet it shared the body of a wild cat. Drawing his spear from his back, a terrifying smile crept across the Dragon of the North’s face as he watched in anticipation. It was one of sheer excitement, of great challenge, and of pure bloodlust.

“Uukhai! Uukhai! Uukhai!” Jochi began to scream violently as he began to pound his spear into the dirt, each hit matching the rhythm of his war cry. Throughout the Mongol Empire, it had been well known that Jochi Khan’s heart and spirit were above all others in the kingdom. This warrior’s spirit was present and on full display now as the flying creature swooped down on him, it’s claws outstretched and razor sharp. Jochi yelled once more and launched his spear at the beast as a powerful talon tore into the armor above the warriors left shoulder. Thrusting his blade forwards, Jochi managed to barely clip the edge of one of its wings once before it rose high into the sky and came around for a second pass. Jochi quickly turned to assess the damage to his shoulder but then stopped. Surely the creature had hit him. His pauldron had a large dent in it now. I felt the force of it’s blow, he thought. And yet...no pain. As the winged predator began its second attempt, Jochi took a moment to prick his finger with the edge of his blade. Blood? Yes. But pain? Jochi roared with laughter at the realization and turned once more towards his airborne opponent.

“Come and sip from the cup of destruction. Surely I am blessed by the gods!” He yelled at the beast, ridiculing it with malicious intent. “I feel no fear, no doubt, no confusion. And now,” he laughed. ”Now I feel no pain! I have become death itself! I-”

In an instant, the creature was on him once more. It’s claws, talons and beak tore and ripped at Jochi’s armor as it carried him into the sky. Fighting through the monster’s powerful grip, Jochi laughed with glee at his newfound ability as he wildly swung his sword at the creature underbelly. It was surprisingly harder than he had expected, but a ferocious thrust through its chest slowed the creatures endless onslaught as it began to glide down and fall out of the sky. Continuing to tear at the creatures underside, Jochi fought like a savage endlessly until the two crashed into a small river nearby.

Crawling off the slain beast, Jochi pulled himself up the river bank, exhausted and weighed down by the few remaining pieces of armor he had left. Tossing his ruined chest plate off himself and onto the ground, Jochi chuckled as blood trickled from his forehead into his mouth. He had no lethal wounds, although gashes across his forearms, legs, and face were evident. And yet it meant nothing to him. Just more wounds that would heal over time and turn to scars. More importantly, he had just slain a powerful creature, and his discovery of the inability to feel pain meant he could do what he had been unable to finish in his own world. He would rule this world as it’s one and only Khan.

A true Khan. And nothing would get in his way.

“Uukhai. Uukhai. Uukhai!”
 

Ms.Ezra

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The first thoughts to cross Vallis' mind were how amazing the Griffin looks in mid-flight in the middle of a hunt. The Griffin was one of the most well-documented around, but that did not make it any less glorious to behold, if also terrifying. Reverence aside, Vallis reaches for her sword, ready to fight back should the animal come for her as easier prey than the Racuten; forgetting for the moment their predilection towards shiny objects until seeing the creature go for Jochi.

"He is..a madman." Vallis says in a very low whisper when she witnesses Jochi defiantly facing the Griffin. He claims to not feel any pain, and that makes him even bolder than he may have been before. To Vallis he is only more of a madman than before. In the time he fights off the animal on the first pass, Vallis takes up her bow and knocks back an arrow. She fires off two when it comes in for its second pass, but both miss. Her eyes follow Jochi being carried up into the air, and she is certain there is nothing to be done to prevent this newcomer from a bloody demise even for how fiercely he fights. And she was looking forward to having her own research subject too....

Vallis follows the pair until they fall from the sky into a nearby river. The Griffin makes a death rattle as it bleeds out into the water, caught on some rocks that had broken all of its bones. To her great surprise, Jochi is able to not only get onto the riverbank, but chuckle and yell his war cry again.

"My..Lord?" Vallis asks approaching cautiously. "That was...glorious. It's not many who can say they were in the clutches of a wild Griffin and lived." and she means that as a fact, not flattery.
 
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