Registered Member #24078
Joined: 3:40:59 am GMT 05/14/17
"Death cannot kill what never dies."
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The last rays of the weary sun drift through the the weathered rows of headstones of the Necropolis as the celestial light gives way to the rising moon. Time has not been kind to the veritable forest of cold stone monuments that litter the gloomy cliffs, nor does it seem to concerned of whose life each lonely sentinel commemorates.
Perhaps some solace may be gleaned from knowing that those who have left were able to find a final rest wherever their battered souls may have wandered.
The poor bones of those trapped within the walls of the Necropolis would certainly say otherwise....at least those with such a means of course.
The haggard man perched upon a crumbling monument has learned long ago that the dead are often a stubborn lot. Nay... very stubborn. Such a condition oft lends itself to much confusion at best, but more often than not it instead manifests as a spiteful hatred of those who have what the dead most desire.
Is that life? Another chance to challenge the regrets that plague their undying souls? Perhaps it is simply a fear of the unknown...or in some cases...the known destination of their souls? More likely it may be due to the esoteric machinations of some practitioner of the dark arts or perhaps even a curse.
The sickly looking man has a few ideas regarding the Necropolis itself fueled by his own investigations of such. Dark lords, mass sacrifices, coupled with an eternal and twisted love affair between those drunk with power: All the workings of a tragic tale indeed. He never has cared much for such schemes of power and the like, nonetheless supernatural predicaments require supernatural solutions.
He's an old man now. Even though he is hardly 30 winters old, his ragged body has not taken well to the negative energies he has harbored for so long. It's always been a cause of great concern to the brittle man, one he has had to address on more than a few occasions. Fortunately the kind and quite brilliant arcanist Acanthus was able to contain the most caustic spirit and greatly slow the effects of the degradation.
He clenches the now yellowed and cracked skeletal hand that forever reminds him of the price of defying Death. The remote island of Thain has proven a fine place to begin finding suitable resting places for the spirits of his long-dead family that cling to his own living soul.
Nonetheless, the living are not meant to hold such energy it seems. His bones creak while this once handsome face becomes hollow and pallid. For the longest time the weary necromancer has been able to keep on most folk's good side with a bit of wit and charm, or at least enough to keep most of the more opinionated folks from hindering his work.
It's quite easy to keep such things from the living. They have plenty to keep up with as it is what with all the sleeping, dressing, working, fighting and the like. Even better: most simply do not care at all.
The dead however have nothing but time. Well...time and plenty of resentment for those who walk in the world of the living they would love to put to use.
The ground quivers with a life of it's own as the darkness crawls and meanders its way through the maze of gravestones
The man looks over to the half empty bottle of Hamely-distilled spirit as it topples off its own little perch on the headstone next to himself. The treasured bottle rolls across the damp ground before coming to rest at the base of another derelict monument.
The man pulls the tattered grey hood of this threadbare cloak over his pale visage and stumbles towards the forlorn bottle. As he reaches for his companion, a sickly hand erupts from the grave and seizes the vessel with the cold strength of the living dead.
The bottle bursts, lacerating the unfeeling hand as another decaying limb rises to greet the night.
Admist his own lamentations for the unfornate accident arises the thudding steps of the dozens of other undead shambling towards the man with a burning hatred.
Morton sighs before rising on his creaky bones, reaching inwards for any assistance the remaining spirit within himself may see fit to offer.
He thinks of the moody elf he has seen sulking around the Necropolis and makes a point to seek him out as he stumbles himself towards the growing horde of angry dead.
Registered Member #24041
Joined: 4:19:01 am GMT 01/24/17
A Chance Encounter
(reposting from an earlier thread to consolidate adventures)
Mors was tired. Tired in a way he didn't know he could be. In the past few months he had been beaten, scratched, bitten, bruised, burned, shocked, knocked unconscious, and in one particularly galling case, stuffed inside a barrel. He ached in a way that was difficult to explain, and for Mors to say that was as close to an admission of his lack of bardic knowledge as he was likely to make.
And yet, not all was lost. He had met some rather... interesting people on this island. And they in turn had taught him some things.
Some of them talked to him about music and song and verse. For the most part Mors ignored them. He knew the songs that spoke to him.
Some of them though talked to him about magic. About the weave that encircles everything. About his own blossoming talents.
And some of them, in the darkest nights, taught him how to harness that weave to animate the corpses of those who had beaten and bruised and burned him. And in secret places, in between nearly dying, he works to channel that power.
He looks upon the bones that have re-assembled in front of him and smiles. The music in his head swells. He pulls out a cracked lute and starts to play.
It had been a chance meeting at first, and a nearly catastrophic one at that. In the dim light of a near-covered moon he had seen a skeletal hand reaching out in the dark, grasping for something. Mors had sung his words of summoning before he even saw the rest of the man, and already a half-formed skeleton was growing in front of him, sword starting in an arc that would bring it into contact with the shadowy figure.
"Stop" Mors hissed, a sound like bone rubbing on bone. The skeleton stopped. A man stepped into the light, looking almost as ragged as Mors himself.
Registered Member #24078
Joined: 3:40:59 am GMT 05/14/17
Digging up Bones
In the fading darkness of the waning night, a hooded figure shambles through the misty Necropolis towards the crumbling remnants of one of the more peaceful tombs.
The rusted iron gate has endured much over the years, and protests the notion of being disturbed by the skeletal hand that now reaches for its pitted bars with the shrill screeching of rusty metal on itself. The damp air of the dew covered-night drifts into the dry, stale tomb to intermingle with the heavy scent of decay as the cloaked man enters.
The hooded figure looks about the dark tomb with sullen eyes that pierce through the inky shadows of the subterranean crypt as he shuffles towards a bent and battered brazier next to a moldy table scattered with parchment and tired-looking candles. Amidst the muttered syllables of a minor spell drifts forth a flurry of sparks that dance into the dried bits of splintered wood that are piled into the rusty vessel. The flames lick the offering of wood still sporting bent and rusty nails of the shattered coffins, filling the dismal lair with a flickering glow.
The bony hand of the weary man reaches deep within a leather satchel to produce a bundle of dark cloth enveloping something vaguely spherical in shape. He sets the object carefully on the table before pulling the darkened fabric away to reveal a cracked skull. As the warded cloth falls off the burnished bone surface, the young fire flutters and nearly fades.
He recalls the battle in great detail.
There on that long-forgotten moldy table sat the remains of the lich known as Cyriacus. He was in the company of the dwarf known as Cuchuwyn who had sought to rid the land of such an unnatural horror. He also recalls taking the skull to ensure its safe disposal as per the dwarf's request following the lich's defeat.
Seems his memory has slipped.
The bony fingers of his necrotic hand scrape across the brow of the former lich while his mind saunters through all manner of dark thoughts and desires, interrupted only by the screeching of the fussy gate as another hooded figure enters the tomb.
Morton turns to meet the elf and the undead host that stalk along to the cadence of his insidious humming. He looks back to the skull that now pulses with dark waves of energy.
"Seems the lich has manifested yet again...bring your friends: We shall need them."
He pauses before casting a final glace to the vile skull.
"Bring your manners too: I should like our host to entertain a few questions."
Registered Member #24041
Joined: 4:19:01 am GMT 01/24/17
Digging up bones, part 2
Mors enters the tomb quickly, trailed closely by two shambling skeletons. The music inside him, always so close to the surface now, so ready to spill over at the slightest provocation, animates the dry bones for a few seconds before a quick motion of his hand releases the magic that holds them together and they quietly fall into two small piles on either side of him.
"So, you've found the skull then? I trust it wasn't too difficult?"
Morton laughs drily at the little joke, but Mors' eyes and ears are on the object on the table next to him, the pale bone glistening in the small magical lights cast by Morton's spell. He can feel even from here the aura of evil and hate emanating from the skull, the hollow eye sockets looking for all the world like black portals into some otherworldly dimension of despair in the shadows of the tomb.
He looks back up at Morton, grinning. "Yes, I see it now. What better way to accomplish our goals than to ask one who has walked down that path before? Assuming of course we can get them to answer..."
He paces the room for a moment, humming idly to himself as Morton continues to examine the skull, muttering softly over it.
After a few moments Mors speaks again: "I suppose we'll need to have something to bargain with. One such as this is unlikely to simply offer the information without some kind of return. But this is not an insurmountable difficulty. There are any number of things even one so powerful as he might have use for."
The tomb grows silent again as they contemplate the implications of this. Yes, there are things that may be of interest to a lich, but those things are unlikely to come without some cost to them. It will be a matter of deciding how much they are willing to sacrifice.
"We will need to have as many friends as we can get as well, in case things go poorly. I am confident in my ability to control two at once now, but more than that is beyond me at the moment. In time I may become more skilled, but," here he stops and gestures at Morton's skeletal hand, at the empty flasks of alcohol scattered around the tomb, at his own chest, "...we may not have that kind of time."
He closes his eyes for a moment, the music in him building to a crescendo as the bones at his side begin to reanimate into their skeletal forms.
"Very well. If this is our chance, let us take it."
He extends a hand to Morton. It hangs over the skull of Cyriacus, one more bargain waiting to be struck in sight of the dread lich, two more destinies to become entwined with his.
Registered Member #24078
Joined: 3:40:59 am GMT 05/14/17
A Mother's Love
Morton found himself having more difficulty finding sleep in the past few weeks, his body groaned and the spirits never rested. On those rare days when they were quiet, Morton would dream of days long past....
A light breeze blows across the Waterdavian countryside, its presence revealed by the swaying wheat and barley of the seemingly endless fields. As the nascent rays of the rising sun cause the morning dew to shine, a ragged old rooster hops its way to the loft of a rustic barn to herald the arrival of the burning orb.
The rays drift through the curtains of the old farmhouse, shining off the worn wooden floors of the home. It is an venerable, yet elegant home featuring architecture and furnishings reminiscent of a now bygone era, a time far more enamored by a now outdated aesthetic. The warming sunlight coupled with the crowing of the rooster stirs a young child from his slumber. He shields his eyes from the rays of light trickling through the window and pales as realizes he has overslept.
"Mother is going to kill me" he thinks to himself as he stumbles out of the bed.
As he dresses himself in his worn out tunic and linen slacks he realizes that he has not heard the melodic voice of his mother filling the halls with her flowing songs, in fact it is to such songs he has often found himself awakening to, usually well before the dawn.
"Perhaps she's already out in the fields then?" He muses to himself as he tosses on a pair of heavy leather boots far too large for his own feet, boots once belonging to his elder brother who left home years ago for war speaking of glory and victory, only to return unceremoniously within a pine box being carried by his fellow soldiers. Thayan mercenaries if the boy recalled their origin.
He wipes the grogginess from his eyes and hurries down the creaky stairs to find his mother. As he hops from the final landing he finally hears the familiar notes of the sweet-voiced woman.
"Mother, I'm getting ready now, don't worry!" He shouts, fearing the inevitable scolding he will be subjected to for oversleeping so late. That wheat cannot reap itself after all.
The flowing notes of his mother's melody come to an abrupt halt as he shouts, filling the dusty home with a stark silence.
He pauses to listen.
The silence permeates the house, clinging to the young Morton as stands alone in the kitchen.
A sharp knock upon the front door causes the boy to jump as he turns. He can hear the sounds of voices as they mutter to each other in between the loud thuds upon the old oaken door. The voices mutter more muffled words to each other before the door gives in with a horrible groan as two men bearing the colors of Waterdeep squeeze past the heavy door and step into the old farmhouse.
Morton ducks under the kitchen table and holds his breath as the two figures step past the foyer and into the kitchen themselves.
The rustling of dry parchment can be heard amidst the two men's heavy voices.
"Says here this place belongs to some family named..Felon? No..No Falone? Yeah Falone." One man speaks as the other trudges across the creaking floors, making all manner of racket as he sifts through the dusty pots and pans hanging upon the walls before replying:
"Whoever they are, they haven't payed any taxes in over five years now, but hells it looks like no-one has been here for longer than that."
The other man lifts a jar that once contained some manner of preserved fruit from a cob-web ridden shelf and inspects it before a small spider nestled under the lid surprises him, causing the jar to slip from his grip to shatter upon the hardwood floor. The shards of glass shoot forth, striking Morton in the face, causing him to let out a painful cry.
"Hey! Someone's here!" says one of the burly men as he rips the threadbare table cloth away with a shower of dust.
The terrified child tumbles from under the table into the corner, knocking several old pots and pans to the floor as he scrambles away from the men.
"A trespassing little urchin eh?" says the man with the parchment. "This is private property ya know kid, soon to be state property unless we can find the owners..." He nods to the other man who then moves to confront the child.
Morton looks to the massive man approaching him and realizes he is quite trapped. He lifts an old skillet and takes a swing at the hulking fella hoping to open a window, any window, for escape, but the man bats away the pathetic assault and grabs hold of one of Morton's arms with a crushing grip.
"Mother!" Morton screams as the man seizes him.
A heavy thud shakes the remaining pots and jars off the shelves as the parchment toting man collapses to the floor, his face bearing a cold look of terror as it pales and finally stills. From the cold corpse emerges a dark shadow that darts about the room towards the remaining man. The shadowy apparition merges into the hulking man holding Morton, causing his grip to tighten before growing frigid.
Morton feels the numbing coldness permeate through the man's previously warm, sweaty body as his strength fades into the dark oblivion of the shadow that now consumes him. As the man collapses to the floor with a sickly thud Morton hears the soothing songs of his mother begin to fill the disaster of a kitchen once again.
It is cold. So very cold. Morton always felt cold around his mother, but he just thought that's how everyone's mother was.
He gazes into the now cloudy eyes of the man slumped before him, before looking to the strange tracings of letters now forming in the dust of the floor. Morton watches as some unseen force forms several letters in the thick dust coating the floor boards. "F..O...L...L..O...W" It reads before a cloud of dust kicks up as the dark shadow darts down the hallway towards the door.
The young child carefully steps over the still body before him and runs after the shade, following the freezing dew that marks its path towards the old family graveyard.
It was a small graveyard, with but three graves beneath a crooked and withered maple tree..well four graves if you count the tiny, shallow one for the kitten Morton had once called Grasshopper.
The chilling presence halts before the graves, causing the dew to crystallize into a thick sheet of frost.
Morton watches the ghostly message form across the frozen ground and agrees that it is indeed time to move the family.
A soothing, ethereal song harmonizes with the strikes of the shovel as Morton digs.
Registered Member #24041
Joined: 4:19:01 am GMT 01/24/17
A Father's Pride
"Up boy! No son of mine will laze about when the light of Corellon shines so bright on the world!"
The harsh words bully themselves into the chamber where a young Mors sleeps, his dreams full of castles and princesses and other boyish fancies. Even as he wakes he resents his father's interrupting his latest journey, where he was fighting a great dragon to win the secrets of a long-forgotten treasure. But the day has dawned and Mors must face it, ready or not.
His eyes open, focusing first on the fine linen sheets he has pulled around himself to stave off the chill in the early spring air. They pass over the well-crafted mahogany end table, past the tapestries that line his walls, depicting famous elves of all walks of life, warriors, smiths, leaders, healers, and finally they rest upon his father.
Alwyn Cuthran is every inch an elf. His bright green eyes sit beneath a proud brow, lightly lined from years of leading his people. His posture, even in his own household, is erect, military even, as though he is at every moment ready to spring to the defense of his land and gods. His mouth is more often than not a hard line, and when he smiles it is distant, as though he is merely humoring those around him before turning his mind to more pressing matters.
For many years Alwyn had little use for young Mors. He was, as these things go, small for an elf, and would never match his father's physicality. His mind was good, but not exceptional, and once Mors had overheard Alwyn complaining to his mother Sylrona that he, Mors, was "too pretty" to be taken seriously. For years Mors had watched with envy as his younger brother, Adsalor, became the son his father had always wanted. Adsalor was strong, but more than that he was wise. Where Mors often felt rushes of passion his father decried as downright human, his brother, even from a very young age, showed the patience and forethought that Mors' people valued so highly.
And so it was that Mors became more and more a stranger in his own home. His mother, clearly understanding that Adsalor was to be the son who would carry on the family titles, began to see Mors as little more than a well-bred servant, and whatever time Mors had free from his tutors (for his father flat-out refused to have it be known that a son of his was not being educated in the way of the elves) was spent with his mother, preparing food, making clothing, tending the large gardens, and generally keeping up the household.
For the most part Mors didn't mind. He picked up a handful of recipes that would be quite useful in coming days and weeks. He became relatively adept with a needle and thread, and learned a smattering of herblore from some of the family gardeners who were happy to share what they knew about some of the more exotic plants in the family plots. And so while his brother learned to parry a sword and arrange a treaty, Mors talked with tradesmen and farmers about their crafts. He was deft at getting those who viewed him with suspicion as a noble's son to trust him, and soon his mother relied on him to make bargains for the family, as he could always get the best prices. His father rather saw this as a mark of weakness, that his son was so good at talking with commoners, but his mother, in one of the rare times she stuck up for him, said that he was simply charming, that he put people at ease. His father, who valued the distance rank and privilege can put between men, snorted, but said no more.
The other thing Mors learned in those days was to appreciate a song. His mother would often sing as she went about her daily tasks, and soon Mors would find himself joining in, the harmonies coming as easily to him as breathing. His father looked on this with suspicion at first, but even he could not deny that the singing had a certain beauty to it, and besides, it was one of the things his wife enjoyed most in life. So he let it continue.
Mors was never sure why his father bought him the lute. Perhaps it was out of a spasm of long-repressed filial love, welling up in the form of a gift to try and make up for the years of neglect. Perhaps he simply got a good deal. Perhaps he was desperate to find something, anything, that his son could excel at, something that he could display to his people with pride.
Whatever the reason, within a fortnight Mors was as good with the instrument as some who had played for years, and within six months even the musicians his father brought in, from ever-widening circles of cities in Faerun, could not improve on Mors' craft. His playing would stop men in their tracks. It would cause the birds to slow their songs before falling into silence. With the first real smile he could ever remember seeing on the man's face, Mors' father declared that his son's songs could make the very trees of their green city grow taller and prouder, the leaves unfurling in wonder at the music, which must clearly be a gift from Corellon himself.
At first Mors was happy, deliriously so, that he finally felt the love of his father which for so long had eluded him. He walked straighter, head held up high, and while he still had lessons, it was not uncommon now for his tutors to ask him to play for them with a quick glance to make sure his father wasn't watching. Mors didn't mind, and while he learned much less he enjoyed himself much more.
But as the weeks went by, his newfound freedom began to reveal itself for what it really was- a cage. A well-crafted and comfortable one, to be sure, but a cage nonetheless. Having finally found his wayward son's talent, Alwyn was determined that Mors should spend as much time as he could to hone his gift into something equal to his brother's talents in arms and statecraft. And so the days rolled by, spent in endless practice, until one day was much the same as the rest...
"The master linguist will be here soon. You must be ready."
Seeing Mors nod, Alwyn departed, the thin line of his mouth indicating he was already thinking on some other problem, his son dismissed from his mind now that orders had been given. Mors rises from bed, but makes no move to get ready. Instead, he pulls out a small sack from underneath the blankets. Quickly changing into some old clothes from the times when he would help his mother, he slips out the window and into the early morning sunlight. There would be no lessons today.
Mors slips past the gardeners with a small nod- Mors had become good friends with the head gardener when he worked there, and they asked no questions of him today. Smiling a little, he adjusts the lute in its case on his back, the sack in his other hand.
"Mors? There you are, I've been waiting forever!"
Convincing Adsalor to come on this journey had taken the better part of a month, but Mors knew that his younger brother needed a break as much as he did. His father drove Adsalor just as hard, if not harder, than Mors, and he had endured it for far longer. Mors had another reason for wanting Adsalor along- he was far less likely to get in severe trouble if Adsalor was with him- his father wouldn't want to punish the favorite son.
The brothers walk through the family gardens for a few moments, each lost in their own thoughts. Adsalor has left his sword at home, Mors reflects, but still carries a long knife, strapped tight around his waist. He wears simple clothing, but of fine cloth. Mors doubts his brother has ever worn something that might be in danger of looking like working clothes.
They jump the large hedge at the far end of the gardens and find themselves in the woods abutting the family estate.
"So why are we doing this again?" Adsalor asks, looking around warily.
"Just a chance to get out of the house. Get away from the tutors, the masters, the constant, well, you know."
His brother nods, but Mors can sense he's still not entirely convinced. He sighs, but follows Adsalor as they make their way down a steep embankment. The sound of a steam can be heard ahead of them. Mors pulls out his lute and begins to tune it idly, his feet carefully picking their way even as he does so.
"I would think you'd want to not play while we're out here playing truant" Adsalor teases him as Mors starts a lively little walking tune.
Mors shrugs, then responds: "Why? I enjoy playing, I just hate what the stupid tutors make me play. Songs about people dead for thousands of years. Endless hymns to Corellon. It's the same thing over and over."
Adsalor shrugs this time. "Someone told me that the songs you play on your own make them sick. They make them feel terrible and lifeless and it's only when you stop playing that they feel like themselves again."
Mors shrugs. "I guess. Not all songs are happy is all. I don't do it on purpose, it just sort of happens."
His brother looks at him with disapproval. "You are an Elf, are you not? Things should not 'happen'. We are not humans who flail around with their short lives and cause chaos everywhere they go." His mouth is pressed into a line that reminds Mors so strongly of his father he has to work not to apologize.
They have reached the stream now. Adsalor looks at Mors once more, a long, searching look, before shrugging and stripping of his shirt. He dances out into the stream, graceful as a cat, before starting to hop from rock to rock at the stream's center, the swift water burbling around the stones at his feet as he crosses back and forth, a proud smile on his lips. Mors watches enviously, knowing if he tried that he would fall almost immediately- his father has told him often enough how graceless he is.
Before he knows it the lute is in his hands and he is playing, his brother's words ringing in his ears: "...make them sick..." "...terrible..." "...lifeless...". His fingers rain down on the strings, his anger flashing out now, the anger of a brother who has been in a shadow for too long. Perhaps he can show his preening younger sibling why the musicians his father brings to the estate leave weeping tears of sorrow after hearing him play.
"Mors? What are you... I feel... MORS STOP!"
He looks up. His brother is suspended in midair, but the angle is all wrong. Mors expects to see his brother in proud flight, a bird on the wing, skipping lightly from exposed stone to exposed stone. Instead what he sees is a young man, falling. For the first time in a long time Mors realizes how young his brother still is, how fragile. The lute falls from his hands onto the hard stone of the streambank. In the coming days, Mors, will reflect on how the crack in the lute almost perfectly mirrored the crack in his brother's skull.
The world is silent. The birds do not sing, the river seems to have temporarily stopped its flow. The very trees seem to be withering before his very eyes. And then, a cacophony.
Mors is at his brother's side without realizing it. He feels for a pulse, finds none. He pulls the boy out of the water, lays him on the ground. He feels for a pulse again. Finds none.
He does not know what to do. His father will kill him. He does the only thing that he can do. He picks up his lute, and he plays. He plays for hours, until the sun begins to sink in the western sky. His eyes are closed. When they finally open, his dead brother's eyes stare into his, the skin around them growing paler and tighter as the day goes down into evening.
And Mors notices something strange. The frostbitten grass he has laid his brother upon, which was brown before, is green. Just a tiny patch. An island of green in a sea of brown, on top of which lays his brother's cold body.
It is six months before. A man named Evenglenn has just left, shaking his head at his precocious student. But Mors remembers him now for something he said before he too was eventually driven from the estate, despairing at being the inferior to a man of a quarter his years.
"A true singer, one who goes beyond the songs of his people, one who is not afraid to set out in search of the unknown-- a true singer can influence the very balance of life and death. I have seen this. I know it to be true. I do not have the talent, but there are those out there... in the hidden places of the world, where life and death are close all the time. You'll never find it here in this city, unchanging as it is.
It was all he would say. It was all Mors had to go on.
It takes most of the night to bury his brother. Not having a shovel, Mors uses the knife on his brother's hip. He marks the place with a stone, and before he fills in the grave he takes a few final things. A few of his brother's hairs. A cloth soaked in his brother's blood. A small piece of skin. Mors doesn't quite know what he will do with these things, not yet. But he knows that there is power in the world. And with enough power, he can bring his brother back. Not knowing how long it will take, he keeps these things, in case he may need to rebuild a body for his little brother too. He doesn't know if this is possible, but he has seen his songs give life to that which was dead, a thing he would have said was impossible even that morning. The grass is still green where his brother lay before. He knows he cannot find his answers here, but he needs supplies. He hefts the bag at his side. A few days' worth of food, if he stretches it thin. He needs a ship. He needs answers. He needs to bring his brother back, to restore his father's pride.
The songs he sings to himself as he slips through the night to the docks of the city are dark. His people sing songs of their wise leaders, their green lands, the kind benevolence of their gods. These are not the songs he sings.
Registered Member #24078
Joined: 3:40:59 am GMT 05/14/17
Time Marches On
Sheet after sheet of heavy rainfall lash across the dark Necropolis while the wailing wind bends the desiccated trees. Flashing bursts of lightning crack and arc across the angry sky, breaking the veil of darkness that lies upon the cursed land. A multitude of corpses fueled by the dark curse trudge through the thick mud, blinking in and out existence with each purple arc and thunderous boom. The undead pull and tug at the rusty gate to the old tomb, drawn to the flickering, warm light that dares to invade the domain of the dead. Rivulets of muddy rain trickle down the steps of the tomb, pooling into a placid puddle that grows steadily towards the hooded man seated in a creaking chair before a table cluttered with rusty armor, flickering candles and several half empty bottles of strong drink.
Beyond the feeble light lurk the shades that cling to to the shadows of the tomb, straddling the line between the ethereal world and and that of the living. They watch the gaunt man who dares to dwell among them. They watch him try to find sleep, they watch him come and go, and they watch him speak to others of their kind. They watch him drink from from the bottles, hoping to banish the ever present spirits with distilled ones. Some wish to harm him, others beg him for release from their hellish existence. They see him speak with Jerrit, see him bring a ray of hope to the tortured shade's painful existence.
Now they watch him sift through thick tomes and scribbled upon ancient maps, watch him slowly wither away as the days march past. Soon he will be but another shade to haunt the shadows. The spirits see this. The spirits know this.
Morton pushes the heavy tome aside, knocking over a bottle of dwarven liquor that hits the floor. The stout bottle lands with a clink and rolls across the stone floor into a shadowy corner of the tomb. Before he can rise to recover it, it is rolled back to his feet by some unseen force hidden in the darkness.
"Very funny...even the spirits are enablers" thinks Morton as the sets the bottle back upon the table next to scattered and tainted armor taken from the Curst on his last venture out of the tomb.
He thinks back to the past week, reflecting upon what he has learned from the sullen elf he encountered while trekking towards the Moribund. He recognized her as Rita, although he had not seen her in some time. Nonetheless she proved to be a valuable asset in his research regarding the Curst Elves of Greenwood who forever stalk the halls of the ephemeral spectral tower that haunts the expansive bog on the south coast of the isle.
He moves to lift the stiff quill to pen what he had discovered into the bound parchment before him. A thick tome, waiting to be filled with all he has come to learn of what he calls "The Lucid Dead" those undead who walk the world of the living, yet retain their memories, often to their own torment. Tormented they may be, but they do have something Morton is in desperate need of: Time.
Even as the scrawls his thoughts onto the crisp parchment, he sees his own once elegant handwriting has now been replaced by with an erratic and sloppy script caused by the quivering of his hand. The infliction spreads through his deteriorating body as the energies of the undead continue to infest him still.
He writes of how the elf, herself a knight of Beshaba or Lady Doom as she is often referred to, told him of the Curst and how they came to their current state of being. She speaks of tasks unfinished, binding geas, and Fate itself: of how those who become so devoted to a task may petition certain deities for a miracle, or make use of the powers of the Arcane Weave to continue their work beyond the short and fast fading days of their natural life.
She speaks of a solution to the dilemma of time. Time so fervently desired by the dying necromancer.
She speaks of her own Lady Doom, who is said to strike bargains with mortals desperate to cheat death for a chance to fulfill their fate in this world. Petitioning such a being is no easy task she explains, it requires much in the way of components, and more still for one who understands such dark enterprises well enough to conduct the needed rites and rituals.
Morton hears her and listens, listens well to the formerly unknown path being illuminated before him that may be tread to achieve his lifelong goal and duty to the spirits that have raised and protected him. The spirits who have loved him.
The frantic quill gradually slows as he considers the magnitude of what may lie before him.
A dark path perhaps, and certainly an arduous one to travel, but one that leads to a means in which he may find a final rest for his family and his own weary soul at the end of it all.
The shadowy, cold spirits dash about the tomb as they watch the defiant man make his choice.
There is much to be done. He'll need to find the spirit of his Mother who wanders the isle on her own accord and also retrieve the violent spirit of his elder brother from the Greenvale mage he was entrusted to. He is sure the morbid elf Mors will be quite thrilled to join him in such a task.
Morton rises from the creaking chair, feeling a wave of cold as he passes through countless other spirits who are drawn to this curious mortal who walks so closely to Death. The weary man ascends the stairs and disappears into the stormy night seeming ever so similar to the corpses that shamble about him.
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In Search of Lost Time
Night drapes like a heavy cloak over the Necropolis as Mors staggers back to the tomb he has made for his home. In his periphery he can sense, more than see, the wayward spirits which haunt the place already entering a pile of old bones, preparing to animate them. Mors ignores it, even as the bones begin to form in the rough shape of a humanoid skeleton, the pale fingers grasping at a large rock as the hand controlling them attaches itself to an arm, which in turn begins to fuse with a torso. Mors notices all this dispassionately. His music surrounds him at all times now, even without his noticing. It wraps him in a kind of aura now, even when he's not singing or playing, the unceasing rhythm of it directing the pulsing of his heart and the pace of his breathing. The skeleton is nearly formed now, and Mors finally glances over to it, noting the way the rotting tendons still bend and flex, holding the pale shards of bone together.
He is reminded of the puzzles he would play with as a child. Each piece fitting perfectly in its place, building one on the other until the final picture was complete. In those days when he completed a puzzle he would run to show his mother, who would always beam at him, telling him what a clever boy he was.
He pushes that memory to the back of his mind now as the skeleton shambles towards him. His mother would never look at him like that again. His voice rings out, raw and pained, and a shower of white puzzle pieces rain down on the unfeeling earth.
He follows the trail of the ghoul Morton summoned earlier to carry back their prize, hard-won in a tomb off the coast of the island. The scent of the undead fills his nostrils as he walks, remembering how they had called on the spirits that haunted that place to come to their aid, how those same spirits had struck down foe after foe, releasing many to their final rest, until they came to the throne of that which they sought. While Mors directed the small army of undead they had collected to take care of any remaining enemies, Morton had engaged the mummy lord in a battle of wills, from which the pale man ultimately emerged victorious. The mummy lord was theirs, and they had but to make it past one final, desperate, spirit to escape the tomb. It was the strongest such spirit they had faced thus far, but with the mummy at their command even it could not stand in their way. And so began the long trek back to the mainland.
The captain had looked askance at the thing they brought on board with them, but one look from Mors was enough to silence him. They paid him well for the return voyage, and smuggled their prize through Raven's Watch in the dead of night, Mors having cast a spell on the thing to make it invisible. But Morton was near collapsing from the effort of containing the thing, and so after summoning a ghoul to carry it off, he was forced to retire for a time, leaving Mors to look after it and learn what he could.
The door to the tomb creaks a little as he steps inside, a small light forming in his hands. The mummy lord's spirit has long since fled the trapped body, but even so the body is worth studying. Dismissing the ghoul, and sending the light to stand above the mummy laid out on top of one of the tomb's sarcophagi, Mors begins his work.
From time to time he unconsciously grabs a small pouch that hangs from his neck, feeling the things that rest inside it through the thin leather. The pieces of his brother he still carries with him. Adsalor will need a body, and this is the most complete one they've ever found. Mors cannot help but feel a little excited, even as he carefully unwraps parts of the undead creature. He will need to find his brother's soul too, but this always seems like the easy part to Mors. He imagines his brother will be looking for him, looking for revenge. Even so, he doesn't know how to let his brother find him. One more thing to ask Morton, when the man is feeling well again.
The long night passes slow. The young elf observes, takes notes, listens to the sound of his own breathing, the rhythm of his heart. He imagines the magic it will take to create a new life for his brother. It seems closer now. He is making progress.
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Joined: 4:19:01 am GMT 01/24/17
Playing a Role
The pouch containing the last bits of his brother weighs heavy on Mors of late. Indeed, it seems that with every passing day it wears him down further. Experiment after experiment ends in failure. His song is powerful, of that he has no doubt, but all he has been able to create is the shadow of life, a rude and sputtering shadow at that. The... things... his song brings forth cannot speak to him, and so quickly outlive their usefulness. Where first he felt a wellspring of hope that his talents would soon redeem him, he now feels despair.
He reflects that he was foolish all those months ago to assume that finding the spark of life would be easy, that it would be a simple matter to draw it out and fan it into a flame using his song and his lute. In retrospect, he was a bind man trying to find his way in an unknown room. But even a blind man can feel his way to a wall, follow it's path around and eventually find the exit.
He reflects that the only other time he felt something like this was on a family trip to the coast. He had swum out deep into the water when a wave pushed him far under. He remembers being blinded by the force of it, tossed and turned until he didn't know what direction was up. He remembers being suspended, not knowing where to swim, not even knowing how far he was from the surface, not knowing what else might be in the water with him...
It was his brother who had saved him that day. He had followed Mors out and pulled him up just as the boy's breath was giving out. They laughed about it after, but that feeling of hopelessness, of knowing with utmost clarity that he was, quite literally, out of his depth, never left him. He feels it now, watching yet another ghoul fall apart in front of him, his fingers slowing to a stop on the lute, releasing the small spark of whatever force held it to this world.
He knows what he needs. He needs a creature that is undead but has retained its sanity and it's intelligence. He needs to be able to talk to it, to ask it questions.
And then, just as his despair reached a peak, just as he began to truly believe he would never make a breakthrough, an offer lands in his lap. One that will solve his problems. One that he cannot turn down.
There is a catch. There is always a catch. He has a role to play first. But he has been trained for this his whole life, first by his father, then by the hardships of grief and guilt. He can play a role, wear on a brave face. He can put on a performance. And when the time comes, he will do whatever it takes to get his brother back. He has gone too far down too many roads best left untravelled to turn back now.
His hands finally come to a stop on his lute, the last notes echoing through the empty tomb.
He will burn this island to ash and bone if that's what it takes.
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Joined: 4:19:01 am GMT 01/24/17
A Small Song
The small group of adventurers claps politely as Mors finishes his latest song. Like many of the songs he sings, the ending is bittersweet, telling of two lovers torn apart by ambition and pride.
The applause washes over him, filling him with a strange warmth that has nothing to do with the cheerful fire he performs in front of. The fact is, he likes this. He likes it in a way that is unexpected to him. All his life he has seen music as a tool, a way to first please his exacting father, and, later, a way to influence the world around him for both good and ill. It has been a useful tool, to be sure, calling forth the recently departed to fight by his side and weakening his foes with its ferocity.
But this music is different. It serves no purpose except to entertain others, and he gets nothing from it save the accolades of the various adventurers who occasionally stop by to listen. As the applause dies he reflects on the strangest part of all of this. When he plays, the weight of his brother's death seems to lift from him, just a bit. The pouch he keeps around his neck doesn't bow his back quite so much.
Perhaps it is because there is not as much of him...
Standing there now, he reflects how in the previous weeks, upon the recommendation of Morton, he had sought out a certain wizard, who was apparently an expert in the field of spirits and how they interacted with the material world. Finding this wizard proved to be a task, and it was only by happenstance that they finally met-- the appearance of some strange mushrooms near the Trade and Tackle prompted many to come investigate, including him.
One long conversation later, having handed over a few of the precious remains of his brother's body, Mors leaves Jerritt's tomb to see sunlight intermittently playing upon the ground of the Necropolis through the wisps of unnatural fog that seem to permeate the area at all times.
The sun is setting, and with it the Necropolis begins to come to life, in its own way.
A voice whispers in Mors' ear: "You must be feeling better now. It seems like that man is willing to help."
He smiles. "Indeed Sophia. I think he will prove his worth..."
The Vampiress' eyes glow in the deep shadows of the tomb as Mors casts a darkness spell over the both of them, protecting her from the day's last dying rays...
... the world comes back into focus, the majority of his audience having now moved on to other things-- feasting, jesting, whispering among themselves. He stands alone, a small figure with a cracked lute in front of a makeshift fire in the middle of a desolate field.
He has come a long way from the comfortable childhood he grew up in, a long way from the manors and the galas and the endless stream of tutors.
And yet, it is not all bad. For the first time in his life, his music makes him feel free.