ZeroDown and Oppenheimlich

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Oppenheimlich, Jul 14, 2014.

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  1. Orphan's Crossing.

    It was a relatively small town built of stone, wood and thatch, and serving as one of the many production hubs of the empire of Riemar. Though the gnoll was not originally from this town, rather from another town called Winterhaven, he had found a quiet enough existence among the outskirts of Orphan's Crossing where he might farm a plot of land, tend to a coop of chickens and sit beneath the shade of his front yard tree in a relative peace. Sure enough that the townsfolk were wary of a gnoll in their midst, but he could not blame them in the least for keeping an eye trained on him when he walked through the marketplace; his kind were often dangerous and there were few exceptions. Though he happened to be an exception and held no measure of love for unneeded violence, he still understood the largely human population of The Crossing.

    His own land, once owned by his adoptive father's uncle and given to Merrick so that he might have a chance at a life outside of Winterhaven, lay at the northern end of the road running through Orphan's Crossing. The road ran next to a little river, both of them cutting the town in two parts. Merrick's land was situated easterly of that calm little river.

    Looking up at the sun, the gnoll noted midday and stood from his work. His small, fairly paltry plot of wheat had been sown some months before in the spring. The cool, temperate weather let it grow through the summer so that he might work at the harvest now, in the middle part of the fall. It was enough that he could cut and bundle it on his own. Even if he had needed help, he held no real friendly ties in the town and had hardly enough coin to hire any workers.

    He gave a huffing sigh and stretched. “...about time for lunch, I'd say,” he muttered to himself quietly. He looked to the forest behind his field, his ears dishing slightly. Shaking his head, he dismissed any odd feelings he had as hunger and began to walk to his humble, one-room home.
  2. Now there was one. Yes there was one certainly. He was perfect, a little shorter than the thief had expected, but otherwise perfect. He had been wanting something a bit furrier for a while now, he needed to travel up to the mountains and it was cold up there. He looked down at his current skin. It was human, and it was starting to sag a tiny bit in a few places, but it would be enough to convince the gnoll. They never looked all that closely at people anyways.

    Quietly making his way towards the unsuspecting man, Skin Thief kept himself low in the grass, going over in his head the possibilities. He had been watching this village for two days now. It wasn't hard to pick out the gnoll from the crowd. He couldn't believe his luck when he saw the beast. And this one gives off odd vibes, very odd indeed. Different from most of his kind. No matter. Two minutes and Thief would work him over, then he'd had a lovely fluffy pelt to wear to protect him from the snow until he found something better.

    Thief finally got close enough and stood up, appearing to anyone around him as a young pale lad, freckles, hand-me-down clothes, probably seventeen. His wild copper colored hair glinted like a penny in the afternoon sun, which contrasted his brilliantly green eyes. The boy ran quickly up to the gnoll. He carried a heavy odor of fish. "Sir? Sir please oh please you must help me! I don't know who else to ask!" Skin Thief clasped his hands together pleadingly, gazing up at the man.
  3. The gnoll jumped at the sudden sight of the wild-looking boy. He noted the scent of the copper-haired human, but certainly did not say anything of it. He looked the boy up and down for a moment, his brow furrowing and his ears lying somewhat to the side. "If you've got some sort of problem, you'd do much better to ask the town guard. I'm only a farmer, Boy," he added before continuing his walk.

    "I've got bread to eat and wheat to get gotten," he said over his shoulder once he was a few strides from the boy. "The guard's got good men in it, even an elf. They'll help you with . . . whatever it is you're needing."

    Merrick had no time for the boy. Besides that, he thought it more likely than anything that the boy was a wily urchin of some sort--the kind after a handful of coins or a night or two of free room and board at the expense of more gullible, helpful folk. If there was anything that his growing up how he had grown up had taught the gnoll, then it was that being gullible and helpful was often more trouble than it was worth.
  4. "But sir, they won't help me. They laughed at me when I said a troll took my mother's watch. Threw shoes at me they did. Called me as smart as a potato sack they did. Oh please sir, that watch means everything to her, she's had it for so long, it's worth ever so much. Please?" The Thief was very convincing he knew, he'd practiced this routine for months, and it hadn't failed him once, not even with those who knew far better than to trust someone who looked like someone they knew from another town or place, but just ever so slightly off. But the gnoll didn't know this boy, he was sure of that.

    The boy tilted his head to the side, looking as innocent and helpless as any child could be. "I've asked everyone else in town, only to get the same I did. Oh sir, you're a gnoll, aren't you? Your kind is so big and strong, why, the very sight of you would probably be plenty and then some to scare the beast off. I know where it lives, you could get the watch back, why it'd be child's play for you. Please...I'll do whatever you ask of me in return."

    He took a few steps forwards, his grief and sad expression all too real. There was something strange about his eyes, now that he was in closer view to Merrick. They seemed almost too green, like moss or algae. "Will you help me kind sir? You're different from the other gnolls...."
  5. Merrick turned about on his heels and looked at the boy. He studied his expression with a quiet, hard-lined look upon his face. He studied the boy's eyes, those green, green eyes. They were strange, but Merrick had seen people, his own sister among them, with very blue eyes. He did not see why the same could not happen with other colors as well, so the green brilliance of the boy's eyes was written off just as quickly as it had come about.

    "Where is this cave? I'm no adventurer, you know. And I'm no real gnoll, either. You're right to say I'm not like the others; I'm not. I don't like to scare and kill. I don't like going into caves," he explained, frowning. Still, the boy was clearly in true distress. Could he really turn away such a troubled soul? He had been just as troubled, though over more serious things than a watch, in his own life. In some way, he knew how the boy felt in his panic.

    Sighing, the gnoll set his sickle down and made his way to his home. "Come on. We'll get a bit of bread and cider in you, then you can tell me more about where this cave is. The troll'll have to be gone, though. I'm not fighting a monster over a watch, hear?"
  6. The boy lighted up, eyes gleaming with enthusiasm. Perhaps a little too much. "It's just over at the foot of that hill over there," He said, pointing westward. "In the woods a ways. Whether or not you're a gnoll sir, I am ever so confident that you can scare off that nasty creature in the cave, you won't have to do anything at all, no certainly not." He rocked back and forth a little on his heels, smiling the entire time. "Though I thank you ever so much for your kindness, I truly appreciate it, I do ever so much."

    He followed Merrick cheerfully, swinging his arms by his sides. "Oh I am sure even if the creature sees you it won't make a fuss. Why, trolls aren't brave enough to take on anything of their own size, let alone something as big and powerful looking like you." Oh happy day, the thief thought. Free food and a pelt. Maybe he'd do a little sifting through the house before he left. Especially if there was cider. That would definitely come with him on the trip, something nice to warm up his belly. "You are truly a kind man sir." He chirped happily.
  7. "And you're lucky you came here instead of another home. The town's rather strict on beggars and urchins," he said, cutting his dark eyes to their corners and down at the boy. He realized he gave away his own ploy at trying to send the boy to the town guard to be rid of him, but he was sure that the youngster would not be able to put that plan together. He did not seem like the smartest boy.

    "Though," he added, "you've got a mother. That means you're no street-urchin."

    The gnoll opened the door to his home and left it open so that the boy might follow him in. "Leave the door; the breeze'll be nice." He opened the back door of the house, the likes of which was directly opposite of the front so that a breeze might flow freely through the building.

    Merrick poured a wooden mug of apple cider for the two of them, albeit a bit less in the boy's mug, and broke a loaf of honey-glazed bread in an unequal half. He handed the smaller half to the smaller creature and kept the larger for himself. "Eat and let's be done with this. I've work to do that isn't goose chases for jewelry."

    He finished his own half-loaf quickly and gathered up a bit of supplies. It was a cave, so a span of rope, a stored torch and a fire-starter were all requirements. The gnoll gathered a few of his rather cheaply made hunting arrows and his yew bow, the likes of which would have been considered a longbow for a human. For the gnoll, however, it was a bit short. A hand axe went on the belt at his side. The axe was more of a utility tool than a weapon, but it would serve the purpose of skull-splitting well enough should the need arise. Merrick's only worry was that he had never really taken a life. A plains rat or moss slime in the shed was entirely different than a troll or any other such cave-dwelling monsters.

    He had to admit, he was rather nervous.
  8. Skin Thief made a mental note of that, oh how he hated to be called a beggar. He'd never begged for anything in his life, he'd always taken, sweet talked or bribed, or lied, but never begged. The tiniest hint of malice in his eyes glimmered but a few seconds, but then immediately faded away back into giddiness. "True kindness sir, you won't regret it, I do whatever you ask in return oh wonderful sir." He ate the bread voraciously. Truth be told, he hadn't eaten in two days, so the food was welcome. The cider also went down his throat in a matter of seconds. Thief was eager now to get moving. He wanted to get to the mountains as soon as he could. It was snow berry season and there were always breweries throwing out perfectly good berry wines.

    "Then let us make haste sir." Thief bobbled his head side to side, somewhat awkwardly. Realizing that the skin he was wearing was going to wear out relatively soon, he hurried to the doorway. "Come now, let us retrieve the watch and I shall get my urchiness out of your fur." The boy said with a smile that was just a little too wide. "It's a short walk, won't require any effort at all, no certainly not." Thief rocked back and forth on his feet excitedly. He was finally going to get the gnoll's pelt. The skin stealer could almost feel its fuzzy warmth embracing his body, keeping him all comfy while he walked along while no one knew any better. No one ever knew any better.

    "Let us carry on then."
  9. His door sufficiently locked behind him and its key tucked into his less-than-full coin purse, the gnoll began to set his feet in the direction that the youngster had bid him walk. Westward, if he remembered correctly, over the hill and into the forest just a ways. Those, he couldn't help but think, were rather aloof and vague directions to give in order to find a thing as small as a watch. He very much doubted that his mother's prized grandfather clock had been stolen by a troll.

    Then it dawned on him. He could have kicked himself atop the head for his stupidity.

    "Wait," he grumbled, holding up a hand and turning about on his heels to look at the boy. He pinned his ears and narrowed his eyes, arms across his chest. "What would a troll want with your mother's watch, Boy? Else the thing ate her and picked its teeth with the thing. I mean to say, I've never heard that trolls are particularly known for their time-telling and clock-collecting."

    "I understand it's worth a lot, you've told me that already, but what's it worth to a troll? A gnome, maybe, but they're not living around these parts, as far as I know. A little green-drake, if it's gold or silver. A troll, though?"

    [OoC: It literally just dawned on me that he had no thoughts about that. So . . . it just dawned on Merrick too. xD;;]
  10. The motion of the gnoll turning made the boy stop. His heart rate jumped immediately. "Ahahahehehehehhhh...." Skin Thief's laugh was awkward as was his smile. He thought that the gnoll was too stupid to catch on to him. Usually people eagerly ran to any call of action if some small child needed help. He needed to take the pelt soon but he couldn't give himself away.

    "I honestly don't know. Perhaps he's a most unusual troll? I know he took it sir, I saw him, he was big and ugly and had terrible breath, but I was too frightened stiff to do anything as the beast took my poor mother's watch away. Perhaps something was controlling him? He did take other things. There have been practitioners of magic around here lately I've heard. At least that's what I overheard from the guards before they laughed at my story and threw things at me."
  11. "I suppose there can be strange trolls," he muttered, toying with the fur beneath his chin idly as he thought. If the guards had said something of magicians amidst, then there must have been magicians amidst. It was not often that the town guard repeated words of rumor, so he could believe as much. He had no reason, at that, not to believe the boy. Somewhat torn, the genuine air that the boy gave off won over Merrick's skepticism.

    "I am, after all, a strange gnoll," he added.

    Merrick turned back around and motioned for the boy to follow him as they walked. "Very well, then. I only had to ask, you understand? It's dangerous to just go trusting anything anyone says willy-nilly."
  12. "Oh I absolutely understand that sir, you are very much correct in not trusting word of mouth of just anyone." Perhaps a little too perceptive this gnoll. He had almost been given away, but all the practice he put into talking at his reflection in the river as a child was paying off as it always did. Admittiably the thief was impressed, but he continued the game, walking with a chipper bounce next to Merrick. He eyed that lovely fur. Oh how it looked cozy, it most certainly did. Skin Thief was thrilled. He was getting ever closer to that wonderful pelt.

    It was such a dumb story really, he thought to himself as he followed along, guiding the gnoll in the direction of the cave. To think this man was believing it, or at least, believing enough of it. The only thing that was somewhat true about any of it at all really was in fact the rumor of magic floating around. But he had heard that at a bar when he was stealing some mead. Drunken old men can tell lots of stories, so Skin Thief was not worried at all.

    In fact, he could care less about much of anything. He was simply reveling in the game of pretend.
  13. Soon enough the mouth of a cavern broke through the trees. There were rocks and fallen trees lying about, as was a broken and half-rotted wagon. There were no bones of animal or man nearby that Merrick could see, so that gave him some measure of comfort. Still, it was just as likely that any remains had been taken into the cavern by whatever creature had befallen the unfortunate cart and its party. The gnoll tried to dismiss that possibility, but he prepared an arrow and his torch just the same.

    Handing the light source to the boy and notching his arrow, he spoke. "Stay close and douse the flame if I say so. It's only for you to be able to see, really. I can see a distance in the dark. Not a great one, and there's no colors, but one just the same," he explained, unsure if the boy knew of the handful of creatures with an affinity for dark vision. His own kin and the drow elves of the deep earth were among them, to name a couple.

    Merrick walked ahead of the young man, his steps surprisingly light for such a large creature. He kept himself somewhat bent so as to give less of a visual target. A bat flapped, then two, then a dozen. They left their perch in the top of the cavern and fled for the light at the mouth, screeching just overhead as they went. Merrick jumped slightly and cursed under his breath, the tension having nearly caused him to loose an arrow into the darkness of the cave.

    "Do you know how deep this place goes?" he whispered behind himself.
  14. The bats startled the skin stealer as well, but he was more used to being in caves than Merrick thought. Their presence was familiar, as was the darkness, and his future victim. He smiled to himself, the grin slowly getting impossibly wider, the skin around his hands beginning to sag. He followed the gnoll deeper and deeper into the cave. No one would know any better, they never knew better. That pelt, that delightful pelt, it was so close to him, he could almost taste it, feel it. He wanted it. He would take it. It was going to become his.

    "It's only a little father, the troll is probably sleeping." The boy replied quietly, trying to hide his excitement. "Do be careful good, kind sir, sound travels surprisingly well in here." He wanted to laugh. This gnoll was so stupid, so wonderfully stupid. And now his pelt was ripe for the taking. Skin Thief silently started to peel the skin of the village boy he had found in a ditch a few weeks ago. Despite the pitch black cave and the fact that his actual skin was the same color as coal, he knew this was going to be difficult.

    The gnoll could see in the dark, how well he didn't know. Most of the time he could just disappear into the night. "Keep going good sir, I think I can just about see it." If he could just disappear before the troll awoke, let it take care of the dumb gnoll, he could be out and head into the mountains by tomorrow.
  15. "Douse," he murmured. His own eyes had become accustomed to the darkness by now; so much so, in fact, that the light of the torch reflecting off of the cavern walls had began to irritate his eyes.

    Continuing to move forward through the winding cavern, the gnoll stopped suddenly at the mouth of a large, central atrium in the cave. This was a system, it seemed, likely going deeper than he would feel comfortable knowing. After all, he only lived a short distance from this place. The thought of flayers and other such underground monstrosities having a haven so close to one's bed would certainly worry anyone.

    "Hush," he hissed behind him. He walked quietly into the area, putting a hand up as a way of telling the boy to stay behind him.

    Sure enough, the creature was sprawled in the middle of the floor. Bones and scraps of clothing and meat were about its bedding area, and the whole cavern smelled terribly foul. Merrick thought he may even have to excuse himself to be ill.

    He raised his boy and steadied his aim.
  16. Obediently the boy took out the flame with his real hand. Thief was becoming terribly excitable by now. He couldn't really see the terrible creature before them but he could smell it. He remained quiet just like Merrick asked. As soon as he sensed that the gnoll had stopped, he stripped down completely from the skin he was wearing. It was terribly cold now.

    Oh well, he thought to himself, that fluffy coat of this silly man would keep him warm. So very warm. So wonderfully warm. Skin Thief could hear an arrow being drawn against bowstring. Oh no, he couldn't allow that.

    Abruptly the thief screamed. It was a piercing, loud, painful noise that echoed throughout the tunnels of the cave. The troll immediately awoke with a start. It rolled over onto its stomach and reared its ugly head to look up at them. The beast lunged forward with surprisingly quick speed, heading directly for Merrick and Thief. The skin stealer was already clambering away to find a hiding spot, his skin providing camouflage but his motion giving him away.
  17. In a cave, of all places, the thing shrieked!

    "Really!? Why would you--!?"

    The cave troll, a creature standing a bit more than nine feet in height and weighing in excess of four-hundred pounds, threw a hulking strike and the gnoll and sent him tumbling along the rocky ground for a distance. The creature heaved its body with a guttural holler in an attempt to throw itself upon the gnoll and squash him into the most unsavory form of jelly imaginable.

    Merrick cursed and rolled, hoping to any god who might listen to his hope that he might survive this long enough to pummel that insolent little urchin for screeching.

    "SQUISH DOG!" the troll bellowed in an odd mixture of common tongue and a primordial language of the hills. It chuckled and kept speaking in what could be called a teasing and hungry voice.

    The gnoll rushed behind the cover of a huge stalagmite, giving him enough time to notch an arrow and peer out. He fired, the first shot missing. He fired a second shot as the troll came close enough for Merrick to hear the sound that sagged skin makes against sagged skin when a creature with such an ailment runs. The arrow cut through the air gracefully and found a mark in the troll's cheek. The strike startled the creature long enough for Merrick to notch a third arrow and fire it into the troll's shoulder.

    He rushed back in the direction of the cavern opening.

    "Adventure over!" he called loudly as he ran in a high-stepping sprint. "Out, out!" He turned behind him, paying more attention to the quickly recovering troll than the skin-shedding creature. If, in fact, the boy was still where he had left him in the first place.

    Merrick looked about, unable to spot the boy. "Damn it!" He notched another arrow and fired it. A miss! Another. A deflection off of the rough skin of the troll. A third. That one made its mark, all right! Nearly the same spot as before, the shoulder!

    The troll cursed and rushed at Merrick. The gnoll reached for another arrow, but the troll was upon him too quickly this time. Again the gnoll rolled along the ground, this time being stopped by the wall of the cavern. He grunted and stood with a great deal of pain in his back and shoulders. He hoped nothing was broken as he put his bow over his top half and drew his axe. "Fine then, Handsome. Come and get dinner, then!"

    The two rushed each other, the gnoll ducking beneath the troll's swings and the troll knocking Merrick's strikes aside. They were rather evenly matched, a gnoll and a troll. Merrick would have never guessed, actually. "Boy, if you're still here then get out! Go find help!"
  18. Skin Thief watched placidly from a rock he had scrambled up upon to hide. Having no smell of his own without someone else's skin on, the troll didn't even notice him. He smiled while picking at his crooked teeth, wondering how long this man who never fought would last. The gnoll was alright at shooting, he was getting decent shots, but Thief figured it wouldn't be long before he could recover that pelt and feel its sweet caress.

    He didn't expect the two of them to be of similar strength. The skin stealer simply waited in silence despite Merrick's calling out. The gnoll was impressing him again, but you wouldn't know it from how he lazily scratched at a bug bite on his leg. The troll would outlast him, most likely.

    Dreamily Thief thought of the berry wines and the snow. He would stay for at least a few days, maybe a week if he felt like spoiling himself. Unfortunately for him however, help did in fact arrive in the form of several guards. They shot multiple arrows, enough hitting the troll to cause a considerable amount of blood to come oozing out.

    He cursed to himself. What bad luck.
  19. The gnoll continued on with the fight alongside the guardsmen. His axe, with a throw, lodged itself firmly in the chest of the troll. It wasn't the blow that killed the beast, but it certainly helped to expedite things for the guards.

    Once the creature was down, an elven man approached Merrick. "I'm assuming there's a good reason you were out here?"

    "Reason, right," Merrick huffed quietly. "There was a boy. He said his mother's watch--"

    "Was here? In a troll den?"

    "I thought the same thing," Merrick muttered.

    "Then," the elf questioned, narrowing his green eyes and readjusting his black, straight hair into a ponytail, "where is this boy, Birchdown?"

    Birchdown, for that was Merrick's surname, shrugged idly. "He must have taken off when the troll woke up. He screamed and I haven't seen or heard from him since."

    Aleophael shook his head. "So we've got a missing child on top of things. At least the troll's done. I suppose it's a good thing to get out of the way; he won't be bothering the sheep come the spring."

    Merrick nodded. "True."

    The gnoll excused himself. "Boy!" he called into the cavern. He frowned and scratched his head. Perhaps the youngster had run back to the field or Merrick's home. Perhaps still he had become so frightened that he had scurried clear and away from Orphan's Crossing.

    "Go home, Merrick," the elf said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "We'll find the boy if we can. Just . . . stick to the wheat. You're no adventurer, hm?"

    It stung a little, but Aleophael was right. Merrick was no warrior or adventurer. Gathering his things, the gnoll began the walk back to his own home.

    The guard split up to explore the different passage ways of the caverns, each man by himself as he explored.

    [OoC: If, yanno, he wants an elf skin, or some other random whatever you want from the guard company, to pass the time. I understood that he got rid of his urchin-boy skin, and I didn't want to leave you without options. c:]
  20. Stupid. Stupid stupid stupid. Why were those guards even here? They couldn't have heard the noise, this place was too far away. Unless the rumors of magic were true somehow? Has his lie been real? No. Impossible. Slowly the defeated skin stealer slumped down the rock. The smell of troll invaded his nostrils and lungs. He coughed quietly. After fumbling around, Thief managed to locate the skin in the darkness.

    After finally finding his way out of the cave, which was difficult because of all the guards, he looked upon the corpse of the troll. The guards were still in there, not knowing any better. They never knew better. The corpse still reeked. Thief's nose crinkled, the motion on his face stretching the already aging skin.

    One guard returned to the entrance, a human, who immediately called out to the wrinkling boy. "Hello? Are you the lad Birchdown mentioned? The gnoll?" The boy slowly turned his head around, a smile slightly wider than it should have been. "Why yes. Don't worry about me, I'll be fine soon."

    ((Heh heh, thanks, but I have another idea. : 3))
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