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  • scratch_flannigan
    scratch_flannigan  2 days ago

    Section Six starts in 1.75 hours. That will be 7pm CST (GMT - 6).

    Good(ish) characters of LEVEL 10 or below.

    We will meet at the Iron Minogon in Webster's Landing. Just assume that your character received a mysterious invitation.

    I will be IG as Taran if you have any questions!

  • Zhymm
    Zhymm  1 week ago

    Happy Turkey Day (i.e.Thanksgiving Day) to all our US players. And Happy Thursday to all others!

  • Zhymm
    Zhymm  2 weeks ago

    Uh, what happened to my message? Two paragraphs now random impulses across the interwebs ...

    Take care, Scratch.

  • Zhymm
    Zhymm  2 weeks ago

  • scratch_flannigan
    scratch_flannigan  2 weeks ago

    RL calls me away from Section Six tonight, folks! sad

    Should any of you want to go ahead and run it, please feel free to do so! smile

  • Crayzee4dnd
    Crayzee4dnd  3 weeks ago

    Sam and Hugdish's wedding will begin in about 4 hours from this post. Yay!

  • scratch_flannigan
    scratch_flannigan  3 weeks ago

    Section Six starts in 2 hours. That will be 7pm CDT (GMT - 5).

    Good(ish) characters of LEVEL 9 or below.

    This week will be a bit different, with time being "frozen" at the end of the last event.

    There will be a portal in the Iron Minogon that will take your character to the very start of the Temple level in the Yuan Ti caves.

    If you did not join last week, that is perfectly ok. Just assume that you caught up with us like we do whenever someone shows up late.

    If your character has never been on a section six mission, you can assume that you stumbled on us while exploring !

    It is a little unorthodox, but we will make it all work! biglaugh

    I will be IG as Taran if you have any questions!

  • Squidget
    Squidget  3 weeks ago

    Edrick and Vae in the same day? heart suprised

  • scratch_flannigan
    scratch_flannigan  3 weeks ago

    Hello Edrick and Vae!

  • Oberon
    Oberon  3 weeks ago

    Seeing you here makes my heart smile! heart


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The Island of Thain :: Forums :: In Character Discussion
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The Razor's Edge of Life and Death: "My name is Sam."

LAN_402 LAN_403
saadow
3:44:56 am GMT 01/29/21
saadow Registered Member #23976 Joined: 1:31:54 am GMT 11/30/15
Posts: 140
[ image disabled ]

Gratitude: a final goodbye for now



Down by the reeds, down by the reeds;
swam the sirens of Mara's Shingle out to the seas.
Down by the reeds, down by the reeds;
float the souls left unbroken, by wicked ancient deeds.
Down by the reeds,
Night-blooming lotus embrace the fey dancing in their poisoned dreams
Down by the reeds,
A twisted path leads, to the dead lost from the shire,
may their souls be freed.
Nobody know, nobody sees
the sirens of Mara's Shingle,
down by the reeds.



"Heya Sam!" The tall figure of the outsider had spoken to the Hin. By all accounts, they should have been mortal enemies, but perhaps Lily knew more about his true nature than he knew himself. Wicked and evil as he was, motivated for his own wants as he was, there was purpose, congruency, where a man who was a father could not let another father suffer to loose his daughter. Danger and the matter of tending the dead, it came to when Sam descended to the Fugue and fought the ancient figure of the Gatekeeper, who likely left the Hin to win, truthfully, yet it did not change the bravery to even take this task. To stand when this creature would strike them dead, and the silver sword kept safely in storage, far away from prying hands. "I'm glad I ran into you," she said, coming over, "My dad was hoping to talk to you?" The Halfling was seated in the stone chairs around the table in the crypt, beside his lover, Hugdish, with his hand in hers. He looked surprised, processing what the outsider had told him, "Alton-Sama summons me? I'll go once these matters are resolved here today, at once." It was all she had to say. Alton Afein was perhaps one of the strongest still-corporeal necromancers on the Isle of Thain, well, at least tangentially on the island. With his interests in the art of false life and Sam's patron with interest in those very same things, in a half-hearted effort to attain his favor the Hin would not pass up the opportunity. That mission, Sam was deeply distracted by the matter at hand, an opportunity to learn more of the art was something he deeply desired. Hugdish could see his excitement in this and it clearly was infectious, when she leaned down and kissed his cheek, he drew back to reality, looking up to her with affection, "What do you think Alton wants, love?" Walking with her, the Hin left the crypt, holding the door open for her as they passed, "I know not, love; but we shall have to see, won't we?"



A chance to learn from this man would not be missed, could not be missed. He did not approach with that intention, or at least to lead with it; Alton had been warm, and accepting, and the least one could do was be dependable if you were hired. Perhaps not the best warrior, at least when hired he took the task seriously. The docks at Tauerglond were peaceful, it was uncommon to think of anything of the poisonwood this way, but he appreciated it, even as his throat tightened from the acrid vapor in the air. He stood with the Half-Orc woman and leaned with her at the pillars of the dock, "Thank you for coming with me," he said to her gently, "If this will be something disagreeable, I would understand if you would not want to be involved." She looked at him like the fool he'd be for making such a statement, "I know you find it hard to believe, but there's very little you could do that would turn me away." A color tinged his cheeks, when a shadow fell across the Hin. The dark dragon-kin and the dark-armored hin stood opposite each other, a light fog rolling in, "Ah, Sam, Hugdish. Good to see you. Let's cut right to it, shall we? Hand me a parchment." Finding some before he could, Hugdish handed it to him before Sam could. He watched as the man wrote down a list in his script, and offered it down. Taking it, the Hin was perplexed. Some of these words, Sam did not know. He looked at the list with curiosity, and then back to Alton. "I'm not, familiar with this, but, I will do my best to find it." The dragonkin answered that they could be found with those who practice the alchemical arts, or the more hermetic pursuits of magic. Presuming that the list was a nature of something magical he did not understand, he focused first on the things he did know; and that was he knew someone who probably could help him out with this. With Hugdish at his side, the two took a long journey back to Steinkreis over land, taking their time to walk together as he formulated how he wanted to ask who he intended to ask.



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A conversation with the void, tasks for tasks

Hugdish and Sam parted ways for a short time, entering the city of Stone Circle. "I'm going to check the stores and see if we need anything at the house. I'll meet you in the square once I'm done?" "Surely, love," the Hin replied to her, watching as she headed off. Sam knew of only one person that might have the knowledge or the connections to procure things that were these "chemicals." Some were things he knew, he knew about the common uses of salt. He knew about carbon through burning and charcoal. He also knew of course of things as iron, and sulfur. It was in this incident he learned however, that the person whom he sold Void Stones to on the regular had been injured. Sam was not driven to deeds for helping others in the sake of doing it, but pragmatically speaking, he fought alongside this person and knew their arms were important. When it came up that she needed Mithral, Sam knew he had to go into the mines to collect it anyway. He'd avail himself to that, though indulged in a few questions about a particular faceless figure. On the timing of it though, another person of interest who was suggested to him appeared as well. With an exchange of cold-hard coin for expertise and connections, he was well on his way to fulfilling the order for the man of esoteric persuasion. A visit to "Alma Mater" allowed him to collect some of the other materials he had been commissioned to retrieve, as well as join back up with Hugdish when she picked up some needed things from the store of magics. While he was there and dealing, she and he worked together to wrap, bundle, and put away the various materials he needed to retrieve for Alton Afein. This was attained with special containment, to prevent these materials from blending in concern that they might be dangerous. Sam presumed the effort was to make something dangerous chemically.



The two lovers travelled out of Steinkreis, walking along the road. In their affection, the two continued along minding not the empty road ahead of them. Though it was not so empty behind them. A figure parted off and headed north from the trail, passing the bridge towards the graveyard beside Steinkreis, watching the two trail off further down the pass, before the relief to the guard duty here changed. Hugdish and Sam stepped over the bridge and then towards the south, approaching the caravans. After a short ride together, the two had left the crossroads behind and slowly crept up the north road, an exchange of coin for safe passage was made at the gates to Dragon's Watch, and the caravan proceeded further north, scaring off a few wolves prowling on the road and heading up by Hamley, turning left to head over the foothills towards the Gray Iron Mine.



The mine delved deep for them and they spent many hours within the stone halls, hewn and clinking with the sound of picks and hammers, chisels and the blast of furnaces subsuming the elements within ore and dropping impurity away as slag. Deeper, deeper, yet deeper still did the lovers delve together. Caverns breaking in the darkness lit with the aid of his lover's darkvision, and his own with the help of potions of ultravision, lest the servants of the Underking were making their way through these caves again. Beetles crawling in the dark, spitting their acid under careful moving steps, avoiding the splash and striking them down to stillness, the two travelled to the very bottoms of the mine. Work for hours on hours yielded the metals needed, not only for his commissioner, but for his business associate in Steinkreis. "Do you think you'll find what you'll need down here?" The Hin looked up as they walked together, "Oh of course; I have you here with me, you're the greatest fortune I've ever had." Looking back here, in the depths, the twisted figures of hook horrors clawed and bayed at the two, only to meet with martial strikes as the two fought back to back. In the course of this though, Sam became more and more unsettled. Hugdish could tell something was wrong, asking him as they stepped in deeper. "It's nothing. Just-- this is the domain of, one of Yondalla's children. He does not love my patron. I do not wish to risk his ire staying down here longer than we should." Signs of this came to him, as he dug deeper, as he kept going. Every single stone he overturned, every rock he struck apart, dropped an Onyx. For the uninitiated, the material component for the animation of undead creations. Eyes peered from those stones, watching him. Every shift in the earth, every quaver in the stone caverns, any fall of rubble or sound of stone grinding to stone filled him with worry, with nervousness that they flirted with danger. It got to be too much, and he didn't wish to risk further. Reaching into his pocket, he removed one of the Whispering Stones, Kikianna's whispers. He never forgot that one of the gems Urogalan favored was a gem that spoke. Leaving it behind on the ground, he hurried after Hugdish, who he had told to go on ahead.



The next day, an arrangement was made in Steinkreis to collect the last of the materials from a mutual contact. Exchanging some pleasantries with a few figures recognizable from the Tin Tankard, the Halfling had parted ways with them and was seen taking a caravan south. On the road, he carried the bundle close to himself, travelling the bog lands towards the acrid, verdant woods. Thankfully, he was tentatively welcome, and thus he moved peacefully through the verdant bluff of what was an overgrowing Ridgeshield. The water lapping on the coastline with the haze of green floating through it caught his eye, as he descended the hillside and approached the settlement. Guards watched him with mistrust, he understood and respectfully left them to that, before he met with his lady love deep within the Tauerglond. In his arms, he carried a bundle within a magic bag, carefully bound shut and held safe. She looked happy to see him, "Ah, so you made it!" Grinning up to her, he pulled the bag over his shoulder, "I see you're here among the Tauerglond, it's good to catch you, I hadn't seen you back up north." She shook her head and leaned down to kiss his cheek, "No, Sam; I had to return here. I figured you'd be here soon enough to deliver what you had been collecting." The voice of a figure that one could describe as fatherly filled the docks as the dark shape of Alton Afein, father of the outsider Lily, had stepped from the halls under the cliffside with his mug of coffee in hand. "So glad you could make it," he began, "Come inside, bring that with you."



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The love of two fathers


"This is-" Sam trailed off, walking deep within the Tauerglond behind Alton, Hugdish at his side, just as taken in with the sights as he was. "Yes, Sam," the Dragonkin spoke, walking ahead and around a dias with two braziers on either side, rising up the steps, "This is the crypts. What they could erect, with the Poisonwar. While you and Hugdish are here, allow me to make your stay just a little more comfortable?" Incanting and letting a glow fall around his hands, he laid that palm on Sam and Hugdish in turn, the spell providing relief to their symptoms of the poison coursing through their bodies, from the woods. The easement was felt immediately and the Hin relaxed on his feet, as Alton knelt down and offered his hands out for the materials Sam was holding. Shifting forward on his knees, he opened the magic bag on the ground, and then dug his arms into the space within. His upper body stretching in, he collected component after component, safely bundled. Set before the necromancer, he laid the parts out each. "Tell me, Sam, Hugdish. Have you ever heard of a homunculus?"



The staccato of information that came was so fast and nothing but questions burned in his mind, as he watched these things blended in a bowl with intention, a stone edifice held under arm that was carried up to the dais when Sam and Hugdish had met with Alton Afein. The inside of the bowl had a distinct look, an appearance like the grind of sausage, meat that had been processed. It fascinated him, as the explanation of this creation, this design, came to at least be understood in high concept. Laying this mold out, this stone clamshell, the dragonkin necromancer poured the contents down into the container, and then had capped it off, binding it in his arms and holding it. Incantation was given, heat and steam rose from the stone clamshell, ebbing off into the air around them as the Hin watched in amazement. The size of this mold was stark, and both Hugdish and Sam began to realize what was happening. A combination of curiosity, of worry, of uncertainty, all filled him. As if sensing this, the Dragonkin spoke kindly, gently, and made his intentions plain.



"You see," he began, "you all brought me back my daughter, and I had been trying to think of an appropriate way to repay you. Now, I can only give you a day with her, but, that's more time than some of us would have had otherwise, isn't it?" Astonished, the Hin looked up, and nodded, shifting to sit on his heels. He looked over with his hands on his thighs, Hugdish watched him in return behind the old kabuto mask, the skull grimace of the face-covering looking back from her down to the mold with fascination. "Now, would you both mind turning around for a moment? A little privacy?" Sam obediently turned around, reaching up to pull the helmet from his head, and setting it down aside to hang from his possessions. He looked to Hugdish, who was just as amazed with all of this, as she was aware how uncertain Sam was. She reached over and took his hand, giving his a squeeze. With Alton's bidding to turn back around, the Samurai looked to a face that was familiar, an approximation but, still it was more than the face; it was the eyes and the person behind them.

"Daddy?"

He wept with abandon, hands held his shoulders as his love came to him.



[ image disabled ]

One more day


The last good memory he had was a gift bequeathed like ancient secrets lost in sedimentary rock, broken open as the earth is moved and shifted over time immemorial. It was the fourth of Alturiak. The smell of a pie was filling the air; it was a custard that was his favorite, with a little shavings of a preserved bean they kept it in alcohol so it did not spoil. He remembered they were told it had come from the jungles of Chult, and it was delicious. Matilda used it sparingly, much to his chagrin. An excited little girl strode into the house, stomping her little feet out on the mat at the door, yet still tracking in a little dirt and snow with her. "Daddy!" She called out, "Daddy, you have to come look!" Sitting up from his chair, he pulled his old wooden pipe out of his mouth and tamped it out on the edge of the fireplace, letting the ashes join the rolling blaze recessed into the stones, warm and radiating the room in heat. "Yes, pumpkin?" Rising from his seat, the bown-haired Hin walked over to his little girl and reached out to tussle her hair. She grabbed his hand and laughed, hanging on, before pulling him. "Come on!" She tugged him outside, and he walked out to see what she had to show him, reaching his free hand to grab his coat to ward off the chill for a moment. As they stepped outside, he was greeted with the look of four snowmen on the lawn. Tilting his head, he smiled and shook it then, "Well, someone has been busier than a bee! You made Mommy, Yonah, and I. What a nice job!" The two laughed, he reached down and picked up his oldest, turned, and began to walk back into the house. Figures, six of them, left the woods and approached the door.



It was not Alturiak anymore, Sam had lost track of the months in his new life with his lady love, having said goodbye to Terry once out in the Fugue plane. The family, together as Hugdish, Sam, and Terry--or the Homunculus that currently housed her for the day--stood on the portal stone of the Crossroads. Snow all around them and gently falling, Terry laughed in the way a child would, with joy at such a sight. Sam had to carry her, as the homunculus body she was given had no bones to keep itself steady. He wrapped the robe around her that was given, and the cloak around his shoulders of his Do, to further comfort her from the cold. They laughed in the snow, they talked, and together as the day gradually came to a close, Hugdish, Sam, and Terry moved up towards Steinkreis. The figure, usually seen stalking with a sheathed blade and a bitter look, had a face of joy and warmth, a glimmer of which seen ever since he took that trip to the Fugue to find this one, to save her. The old city on the hill rose impossibly high and he showed her the stone walls. Hugdish had spoken about the great open air market and the large keep at the far western end of the city. He showed her the people as they hustled and bustled about. They even saw a Druid that Sam and Hugdish knew, Avaggdu. Avaggdu could not be fooled by what was not natural, but Sam was too lost in his joy, or perhaps it was Hugdish and a discrete, pleading look to the druid, but Avaggdu in his kindness did not rob the Hin of it or assail what was not natural. Father and Daughter parted ways with Hugdish as well, as she needed to speak. Sam carried his daughter in his arms, they walked to the left of the gate to a little house he rented past a little park bench. He cradled her in his arms as he pushed the door open, and entered within.



In the peace of this last homely house, a little foyer with an old high-back chair, and a rocking seat beside it, the Hin in his strange armor lowered down to his seat. The rocking chair creaked as it did comfortably, where he had gone to think after his deeds. Sam had not been a good man for a long time, not that he thought much of that on the average day. However, when you put a daughter in the arms of her father, and you tell him the only way this should be is if he can change, only the truly broken might leave unscathed from this thought. In the twilight hours of their last night together, the Hin held the effigy of his daughter, her soul in made flesh, and rocked with her in the chair. They spoke of many things, and held for a moment that felt simultaneously like it could last forever, and that it ended far too quickly. As the sun rose, so did the golden light in that soul which knew it was time to leave. With a final farewell, and a chance to say goodbye again, but only for now, the father wept as he held the body his daughter left, a blessing he could not have when that horrid night on the fourth of Alturiak his face was ruined and his family was dashed to pieces. The door opened and Hugdish walked into the scene of him as he was weeping into the bundle in his arms. Quickly, she crossed the room and laid her hands to his shoulder. The touch of his love was felt, and he looked up to her. The look on her face gave him a reminder, a gentle one, and understanding crossed his face. It was through this Sam realized this was a second chance at many things, and he remembered the cave. He remembered the words of Alton, that it was never too late to change, that some day he could be in his families arms again and join them on the Green Fields. Thoughts on what Terry had told him of, the endless apples and to always hear mothers voice no matter how far they ran towards forever and onward. His voice cracked as he found the courage to speak, "I-I will need, tablets of stone, and, a- a chisel, and hammer. Please." In her affection, she did not ask questions, she cared for the wounded heart of her lover and left to collect these tablets, as Sam held the body in his arms.



It took hours, the guiding force of his soul tugging for the sake of doing the right thing, that he could not do, and would not do when he had gone down his dark path. His eyes turned and he looked at the little figure laying in the arm chair while he knelt before it. She was smiling. The driving force of a father rang with the sound of the hammer hitting the chisel, with a ping, a crack, and an uttered murmur. Sam had never done this before, and so as expected his ability was terrible. Hugdish, however, remained near, prepared to even collect more tablets if he needed them, and to support him as she had always done. Finally after hours of work, he managed to write out the name on the stone tablet. Terry Banicknet, born the 28th of Flamerule, passed the 4th of Alturiak. With finally a symbol that might--if one were significantly intoxicated--look like it was someone's recollection of the head of a dog, Sam extended the Tablet to Hugdish, before scooping the body of his daughter into his arms. He held her to his chest while she was still, head tucked to hers. The two thought back and forth on where to take her. Every grave yard was either deeply accounted for, or resplendent with fell power. Sam knew too deeply that none of these places would truly be suitable to lay even this effigy of his daughter to rest. Finally, an idea came to him, perhaps inspired by He who is Inevitable. "What about, where the orc lives? The one I paid for his freedom?" Hugdish and Sam discussed it and she agreed this was a fine idea; this was a good place. So the two walked and Hugdish lead the way. Sam left his home, Helmet on his hear to cover his face puffed by tears and eyes reddened. The two walked a long way, free of the city and the road to the north taking them to a valley, and finally a place of peace.



The clearing opened up ahead as he cradled the little girl in his arms. A figure in red sees them, and her draconic heritage becomes apparent as the figure approached. Sam met Tedya but once in passing, but he knew of her by reputation only slightly better. That was what he hoped for. "M'lady," he began in somber tone, "I have come to ask a favor of you and this land; no other place is safe and suitable. I am not a good man, but I ask for amnesty to do what's right, perhaps this once. I need a place to bury my daughter." The conversation had set a tone; he was thankful that Hugdish was here, as he did not in this moment feel like he had the strength to stand for this alone. He supplicated his need immediately and let her choose; to which she replied that all were welcome here so long as they conducted themselves rightly, and she even had a place to suggest. On a cliffside overlooking the encampment, the body of a woman named Colorless had been laid to rest, she died bringing news to the camp. This warm place, it was a safe place. With this Sam felt it was the best place to lay his little girl to rest. Hugdish held the tablet, and offered immediately to help while he laid the little girl in the grass beside the spot he felt was a perfect grave. He was also offered a shovel, and to both the help and the tool he refused, "No. This dirt, I move with my hands in penance for failing to do this when it was time. Urogalan forgive me, if he can." With soft prayers in his throat, his hands gripped into the grass. Tedya in mercy warmed the soil as she could with her magic, and Sam scooped the grasses up with his hands. They were bleeding and worn after this effort, covered in soil and drying blood, that would scar into his hands and knuckles. Hugdish had to fight every ounce of her nature not to jump in with him and to help him. He was thankful not only for her presence, but her control; he needed to do this. As the hole grew, eventually it found its depth. Wrapped and swaddled in her robe, he gently took his daughter in his arms. Hugdies took the tablet in hand, carrying it to the edge of the grave and kneeling down. With the tablet in her hands, on the surface with the symbol of the dogs head and the inscription of Terry's name and the dates of her birth and death, the Hin man reached up and collected it in both palms, before laying it on her chest and letting her little hands lay over it. He wept softly, before finding his strength to continue. The dirt was drawn with his hands, to cover her tenderly. Hugdish joined him in this, which he welcomed, and the two carefully covered the grave. He uttered his prayer to the son of Yondalla to protect his little girl and his family, who he had known had passed over, but because it was the chance he had to do so again in failing to all those years ago. His prayers carried long into the night, barefoot did he stomp on the ground and intone chants long forgotten to memories of childhood and the learning he had of the Gods. It was through this, Hugdish knew she had her matters in the south to prepare for, so she kissed her love, and hugged him close. He understood she had to go, and though she was loath to leave him, they had to part ways. Here, he held her tight, and wished her well, knowing that her meadery was fast approaching completion. As she left, he knelt down on the soft grass and murmured in prayer solemnly.


Huh. I didn't expect this. You? After everything? What could have moved you so-- oh. Well, it's never too late for someone to change. The land does it over ages and ages! Guess I'll tell mom you're home again. Or at least on your way.


Three days and three nights crossed, the halfling looked gaunt, thin, as he knelt in the snow, only the brown robe around his shoulders. He had removed the cursed necklace, and the forbidden ring that once belonged to Dwent, or so the stories of a thousand copies he had seen. He had eaten nothing, and drank no water. He was tired, but he knelt in his silent penance. "You know," a gruff voice offered, in broken and drawled common, "You should have some water. It's not good, not drinking for so long." A large figure in a threadbare gray robe with yellow thread knelt down beside the Hin. He offered a wooden bowl of water, Sam accepted it and took a long drought from inside. He offered it back. "You must be Gunnak. Nice to meet you." The large figure smiled back, gaunt himself now though too, thin and lank in his robes, showing his age in his face at this point. "Nice to meet you too, though, don't know you?" The Halfling looked over ponderously, and nodded, "I know you don't. That's okay, it's better you don't. Thanks for the kindness. I have a long way to go towards the Crossroads." Rising up, the Half-Orc stood with him, and walked down the hill with him. The two made small talk, before they parted ways. Perhaps he'd never know that this Halfling was once sent to kill him. Perhaps he'd never know what the Hin endured to find that position in life. Eyes looked on that weren't pleased however.



[ image disabled ]

Sixth: The last of them



On the sixth hour
of the sixth day; six weeks in,
the sixth of them comes

Six years after their passing;
Six wounds to inflict revenge.



The door closed to his home, a quiet spilled over the hall, empty now. He was alone, having just returned. Sam walked in and settled down, closing his eyes in deep thought. The rocking chair provided a place to lean, as he let his tired body rest. He felt, a hollow pit, after his prayer to Urogalan to save him, to protect his daughter. It was the first time he considered for a moment that he could have a real, honest future. He presumed before this, even as strongly as Hugdish loved him, that he was not long for the world. His usefulness was coming to a close, and he presumed she would have to be strong enough to go without him. But here, he had a chance to live. A chance to return to what he knew. Perhaps he could start a little farm again, perhaps he could work the land and help Hugdish with her mead. Produce his farmhouse ale in peace. His eyes fell shut and he relaxed in his chair, pleasant thoughts filled his mind. The scent of earth on the air, as he had not cleaned yet, his hands were still dirty with both soil from the grave and a little dried blood on them. His blood. Urogalan's blood.


Wake up.


He stirred, eyes furrowing, he refused. He needed peace, emotionally, physically, spiritually, he was wiped out.


Wake up, now.


Opening his eyes, a tomb splayed out before him. A figure in lush purple and black robes stared down at him, burning eyes in that skull watched down at him. He stood and looked up at the figure. "Kneel, Banicknet." Sam was reluctant, but this time, he did not kneel. He stood. The figure rose and descended down the dais, not by walking but by hovering. Lowering, he stared down the nose-ridge of the bleached skull, teeth in a death-smile, watching the Hin as he floated around. "Yet again you prove useless. You now don't even try to follow orders. An utter failure in life, a shadow in death. Fitting; it seems you are no Samurai." The Hin stood up to him and grimaced at the figure. "You are not my master. My master was last Nagahide-Sama, and he released me to return to Thay." The skeletal figure floated away from him. The Hin pressed, as he felt a sense of dread and weakness flood him, biting back one last time, "You cast me aside! You abandoned me, you gave me no more signs, you gave me no more guidance! You never even took me truly as your own, even as I slaved to please you, with every secret I could find!" The figure's cruel laughter rose in the darkness, as it faded, and all else. The sound of knocking in the darkness became apparent. He blinked open his eyes and sat up in the dark, cold living room of the rented home. It had fallen to darkness and he must have slept through the night in the old rocking chair. The knocking on the door became more insistent, the door shuddering under the blows. "Hello? Come i--"



Look out Sam!


The door swung open and a flash of green poured out. He rose to leap but was not fast enough. A fist larger than him crashed into his unarmored body and he crumpled to the ground. The fingers reached around him and the crushing weight of it grasped down firmly, "GACK!" The figure strode into the room and looked down at him. A hand raising to the hood, a bald head was revealed, showing a few tattoos. In the dim light and the glow from the green hand, the red of the robe was revealed. "Hello Samhain." Looking over weakly, as the blood in his body was crushed up towards his neck and head, he felt weak, the dull sensation of a crunch within himself as the hand tightened, his breath was lighter and lighter, and he felt sensation begin to dull. A familiar face loomed in. "The Lord of the Forsaken Crypt sends his regards, as does The Master." Spitting out a mist of vital red, Sam began to sag against the hand, feeling the darkness creeping in. "You don't remember me do you? All those years ago, in Laperdrar. You killed us all. Now, we had it coming, after what we did to your wife and kids. They really went too far that night." He stepped towards the Halfling who burned in his eyes, fighting to stay conscious.



"So imagine my amusement when after they all died, I turned my fledgling talents in magic to serve a Red Wizard residing in Pirador to pick up the pieces, and this man starts raving about some Halfling upstart that paid a bounty he put on some Orc berk. You'd say it was aligned in the stars, wouldn't you?" He came forward and stared down at the man. Blood wept from his eyes and he tried to extend his arm out between the squeezing fingers. They clenched a little harder with a snap, and the arm fell limp. Coughing out, he sagged in the hand as all went black. "Looks like that's it for you, then! Well, that was a lot easier than I expected. Time to go~" Dispelling the magic, the Hin fell to the ground, and a bag was laid down on the ground. Using his foot, he kicked the limp form into it, closed the bag up, and walked to the door. He casually threw a fireball into the back corner at the rocking chair, laughing as it burst into splinters and rose alarm in the town, before casting invisibility on himself, and leaving away from the scene to let the Knights pour over what happened.

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saadow
3:17:29 am GMT 02/08/21
saadow Registered Member #23976 Joined: 1:31:54 am GMT 11/30/15
Posts: 140
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Glory to the Empire

"Hoist the trash up, I want a look at him after all these years." A bleeding mess was dragged up with the help of a pulley suspended from the stone ceiling. Ragged and bare, torch light lit up his face and a choked cough as well as a flinch had him look away from the light. Dangling by his arms, a hand reached to the bloody mass and hooked the hole in his cheek, dragging his face down to level with his captor. The bald, broad-shouldered man, one of the humans that sent him on his path, gripped his smaller head in his hand. The pressure relented until there was an impact and his vision was a starfield of pain and dazed senses. The Red Wizard's apprentice wiped his hand on a cloth towel and dropped it aside. "Your acquaintances are far more resourceful than I would have expected from this backwater hole. It seems not only did one of them know I was scrying, but another was able to look in as well. You must have been a sad sight, weren't you?" The Hin dragged his head up, and suddenly hocked out a wad of blood at him, letting it hit the face of the apprentice. Another sharp strike twisted him away towards the right. He fell limp and still, dazed beyond response.

"I swear," wiping his hand off, "Cedric should have dumped a few more vials on you until your empty skull was a bowl."


"Wizard," a large man approached, leaning on the wall of the cavern, as magical light illuminated him, "As you have asked, we've found a few places that are suitable for his transport. I've left the reports on your desk for you to review as soon as you can. "Excellent. Get the men their training blades, use the Hin as a pell for a while, consider it an order while I review the information." The apprentice stepped down and away from the dais, before exiting out of a side of the cavern. The Knight stepped up to the hanging figure and reached out, pulling the hin's head up and looking him over, "I suppose when we're done here we might just sell you off. Not too much value in a Hin except as a house servant." He dropped the head before it lolled to the side, still dazed. Ordering the others in, each was handed a dulled, blunted blade, and each took their turns smashing and beating into the hanging Halfling. Isolated as the Grauer was, those screams were not likely to be heard, and they didn't' last long until the blessing of unconsciousness returned. Without the blessings of Velsharoon, his body was much weaker, what was once a prayer for strength left his body feeling weaker and frail. What was once a gift of great fortitude, reflex, and willpower left him bereft and wanting in all ways.

Well, maybe not in all ways.


Endure.


The cave was still and dark, there were no others present. The rope wasn't there, nothing was there, except the calm drip of water in the deep. There were arms, and he felt guided up, held up, so he wasn't hanging. The effort to see yielded nothing, though the scent of soil was in the air. There was an aloofness, a distance, that only yielded so much. It was understood. In the moments where there was only one line of footprints in the soft earth, it was when you were carried. Be it by those who loved him, or those beyond, this was not where he was before. This was a response to beseeching for help, when he laid the vessel of his little girl to rest. The arms held him and he rested there, letting his eyes fall shut and seeking to reach deep inside himself, seeking out a shred of strength to help, to endure, just like he was asked. The dull sensation of strikes raining down on his body were present, but they were lost like teardrops in the rain.


That's it. Just like the rock. Be still.


"Yes, Master. We have the Hin. Yes, it's the one." The apprentice sat at a desk, hastily constructed from local wood. He paged through the notes and looked past at the visage of illusion standing just above the desk, looking down to him, "Well that is up to you; we have to move him, his friends were more resourceful than expected. They apparently know a few capable in magic. I am sure I could handle them, however, we have to focus first on putting a little distance between them and us. They had another mage with them, someone quite capable. They were able to scry us easily. I've already planned more competent warding; I didn't expect capable mages here, except for Red Wizard Khalador." The figure seemed to loom in closer, "I do not want any further entanglements. You will insure the warding is sufficient, and put significant distance between you and those meddling locals. I want you to make the Halfling suffer and then get rid of him. I don't want to risk that he has any political allies back here in Pirador after his performance out further east. Is that clear?" The apprentice tented his fingers before spreading them, "Crystal, Master. He will be dead within the Tenday. His destruction is just as important to me, he killed the only family I knew." Maliciously, the apprentice smiled, and sat back on a stool, before looking at a final report. Nodding, he tapped his knuckle on it, before rising to see how the knights were doing. The apprentice watched in silence as blows rained down on the form, but looked in shock as a single eye looked out at him, opening, staring at him. His breath caught in his throat as he remembered back. That faithful night in Eleint.


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The Night of Retribution


"Man, that was a bloody job. I don't think I ever want to get our hands dirty like that again." The man to the left at the fire scoffed, tearing off some now-stale farmhouse bread, and chewing off some of the crust of what would be a trencher, "They're just Halfers. Probably didn't even feel it." Scoffing, the traded stories across the fire. "Can't believe the guy tried to jump us with a sword as tall as he was. Might've been dangerous with a knife but, whatever. He's probably feeding the crows now." They laughed. Thankfully, the larder at the farm house was well stocked, winder was hard as a bandit, living this life was easy street some days; part coin and goods from a merchant on one tenday, but if you didn't manage the goods right, you were starving the next. It was a solid gig, though, better than trying to find work in the bigger tharches. Stay small time enough to avoid the reach of the law, make trouble in the backwater outsides of the big cities then disappear back home where it was safe. Cedric had a good gig here. "So what's the next step? You think we have enough food to hold out and wait for a merchant to come through this pass again?"


"Relax," Cedric said, cracking his knuckles, "I know you're antsy to get more spell books on cantrips, you get first dibs on the scrolls." The man, who from a profile shows he's the same as the Apprentice, nods, turning back to some fowl they butchered and cooked up from the farm before they left. He ate and settled on his seat, resting there as the big man went to the others and clapped their shoulders, pouring himself another ale. It seemed kind of smoky out tonight, was the wood green? Checking their fire, the yet-to-be-apprentice frowned in thought. "Hey, guys, is it just me or is the fire smoking something terrible?" As he said that, one of the lookouts cried out in horror, "Fire! Fire around the camp!" Rising before the flames that licked up the trees and grasses, circling around the entire camp as they lit up in a trail, the sudden illumination made it clear that lamp oil had been spread around the grass and trees the camp had been set to, on the outskirts of this bog. A lonely figure in a dirty robe stood up, with two near-black eyes staring up at the figures around the fire pit. As he strode forward, a long, curved blade rose and caught a glint of the firelight. The men scrambled for their weapons, caught by surprise. In a bloody struggle, one by one, the young man watched as the people around him struggled with the smaller man, who was awash in a furious rage. A well deserved rage. The Rage of a father who lost his family. Cedric was the last to die, turning a crossbow on the hin to catch his shoulder. The curved blade entered up his stomach, and came out through his back. Gasping for air, he laid down on the Hin, who turned to the side and let him fall down to the ground. "R-Run, Patrick!" The bandit leader called out, reaching a hand. Shaking with fear, the shaky hand of the hedge-wizard cast the cantrip of Resistance, and he fled from the Halfling, narrowly avoiding the sweep of his blade, but not the stare of his eyes, burning like coals.

Like that one eye did right now.



"Pack everything up, we're going to the third place you explored, yes, there's some connections to an agreeable divine there. We will not be taking him back with us, he's going to be killed when we're finished with him. Bind his eyes while you're at it, I don't want to see them again. until he's ready to be buried somewhere on this backwater island."

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saadow
11:56:47 pm GMT 02/19/21
saadow Registered Member #23976 Joined: 1:31:54 am GMT 11/30/15
Posts: 140

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Vengeance is an Empty Vessel

"Tell me what happened. Where are the knights?" The broad-shouldered man slowly rose to his feet, frowning in response before answering, "Dead, to a man." Patrick's eyes bulged in his head, he leaned back and rubbed his chin in thought. Had he bitten off more than he could chew for the sake of a chance at revenge? Probably. Could he get out of this one too? Maybe. No matter what though, it was clear the news weighed heavily on him. "Every single one sent there had been struck dead?" The large man nodded, "To a man, Wizard. There are many capable warriors among their ranks, you would do well to escape and leave this to us." Standing up from his chair, he paced away from them. His master had demands of his own, and he could not just leave yet until he found that half-orc and returned him. "Ready the interrogation chamber again, I want to pour into his mind again and make sure he knows nothing." The grizzled veteran crossed his fist over his chest before announcing, "Glory to Thay." He strode away with a turn, his red cape billowed out. The room fell silent as the apprentice stepped down from his seat. Heat poured around him as molten rock rose around and billowed around him, striding around a long promenade, lost in his thoughts.



"Tell me what you want, boy." the cruel figure said, willowy shape and sallow flesh framed the man of Mulani blood. The man grinned viciously, a gleam in his eyes, "Vengeance. I want revenge, damn it! He took everything of mine, everything!" In a distant dream, a figure in black and purple robes stood, the grimace of a skull beaming down on a small shape in the darkness."


Tell me what you want, boy? Tell me what you need.


"Vengeance," a voice seethed, lisped through a hole in his cheek puffing out with every vicious breath. "They took everything. I want revenge. I want them all to die. Every last one of them." Through these moments that happened in the peaks and troughs of time all happening at once, the nature of evil in the universe laughed, and the forces of good wept. There was a few forces that looked on with bated breath, waiting for one hand to drop, and then the other. It led up to his moment, each of them in turn now rotating finally into position. One of these men saw that they both had thirst, the pitcher though that quenched them did no such thing; if anything, it took more than it gave.



Very few were truly beyond redemption, though it might seem like his time was up. Abandoned by the grinning skull that had all it wanted, the weakness of his body sapped of the power he was once filled with, now felt heavy and cold as stone. Even in the dull prickle of heat, his fingers were numb and the beat in his chest was weak. The feeling of the knife in his chest caused a sharp pain, that resulted in a burn. The air from his chest was robbed quickly by the sensation, and he let out the hoarse and ragged cry. "Where is the large Half-Orc, Samhain? Where is he hiding?" Patrick said, twisting the knife between his ribs. The Hin coughed out in pain, ragged throat managing to croak out a voice, "Terry!" The knife dragged out again. He dangled limply on the chains as the tip of the weapon was pressed into the hollow of his jaw, under his tongue. "You're going to need to talk, Sam. You have to tell me where he is." He choked out as the weapon started to push his head up, he couldn't pull away as the tip sank into the soft tissue and he weakly thrashed on the chains, "Hugd-dsh!" The end of his words were garbled as blood flooded into his mouth. He sank on the chains and dangled there, the tip of the weapon scorching the flesh and sealing it, cauterizing it as it dragged out. A cough of smoke left his lips as he hung there. He didn't want to fight more, he didn't want to keep struggling. He was hurting so much, everything felt broken, his legs, his arms and wrists. He didn't even understand where he ended up, and his injured face was covered with a blindfold, so Patrick could not see his eyes.



Hey. Just a little longer, can you hang on?


There was a patience to the voice that was foreign, Sam was not this in many cases, at all. There was a sensation though. As the feeling of stillness came over him, the cool distance of everything came awash over his mind. Things that Sifu taught, things that Tanaka said when he was just a child. Little things. The moment when the mind was gone and there was just sensation. The Halfling grew still, and his eyes fell shut behind the blindfold. Patrick, the apprentice, took his knife and went to jam it into Sam's gut, ready to end him. The weapon pressed, but looking down, he watched the tip plant into skin that did not yield. He turned and sought to draw the weapon across, and the blade sliced, but unlike opening the body of a gutted animal, it only left a thin brown line, a small slice, singed by the heat of it, but no more. "What?" A voice caused him to jump with a start and turn to face it, "Wizard, they are coming!" It was the broad enforcer who left before, approaching on a bridge over molten rock on either side, "They found the trail through the Grauer into the sewers, We've mustered who is left, what are your orders?"




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The Light after the Dark

Rushing down the hill, the adventurers had discovered that the portal which Perrin had managed to replicate lead to a cave in the Grauer. Papers left in haste by the kidnappers had lead the heroes to the sewers nearby, their entrance leading under Steinkreis under the noses of the people there. Deep within, it presumes a nefarious act occurs. What will happen next? Fighting their way through the forest the heroes find their way to the sewer entrance. Sounds and shapes moving within herald to the danger they face, a lover seeking her taken mate, and their friends, working in concert to rescue a man that had suffered enough; it was time for this fortune to change, and they would be the vehicle this would occur by. One thing was sure though: in the moments he felt alone, time and time again the people in his life he had grown to love, thinking he could never do so again, showed him time and time again that he couldn't be further from being alone. The house of cards began to crumble on Patrick, and it was yet to be seen what would become of this apprentice and the swordsman from humble beginnings. Their fate now was sealed, and inexorably tied.

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saadow
6:04:27 pm GMT 02/25/21
saadow Registered Member #23976 Joined: 1:31:54 am GMT 11/30/15
Posts: 140
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Absolution


"Where am I?" The voice fell flat in the still air of this open space. A field of woods around him in all directions, trees towering high overhead. In the center of the clearing was a bowl of earth, as big as a house, worn and bowled out smooth, with a flat spot in the center. Walking towards it, he realized his shape was indefinite, what he thought were hands were just, light. An aspect to show him they existed, or at least his thoughts made them so. The space was empty, and quiet, like deep in the forest after man had walked, where there were no sounds; animals were not in this place, nor were there people save himself. He stepped into this bowl of earth. As he stepped to the center, a voice rose up from to his right. "Well, look who came home?" The figure of a man with the head of a dog loomed high overhead, but he came to a knee before the shape of light set ahead of him. This light stepped back, and the figure set a hand out, to calm this presence, still it. "No, no. There's no need for fear, now. This visit is kindness, warmth. This is home, or will be, you could say." A swallow came to his throat, or the sensation of it anyway. Was this what he thought it was? "You are likely full of questions, it's okay. You'll have answers to everything soon enough. Now, there's some time for-- huh?" The light pulled, something reaching to it from elsewhere; there was a heavy hand stretching through, offered towards the light. "Oh! Well maybe not. See that?" The shape offered, and the light turned to it. "That's for you, if you want it. Go ahead; we'll be here."



The cart ride back was grueling for Hugdish, she watched his shape of color shift and become blue. She had parted with the others and had taken Sam on her own, travelling south first with him towards someone she knew could help heal him, but things were not looking well. A piece of mirror placed to his lips and nose did not fog up, and the color drained from his face and lips. He seemed still, and his skin held less and less warmth. His injuries were too much. As the cart fell still, the limp figure was pulled into her arms, and in her tears she carried him all the way up the mountain. The cave she ducked into coiled around in the darkness uphill, until the spill of light lead to the shedding of darkness into the morning sky. Trees and the great walls of a valley splayed up to either side of her, as she clambered up the cliffside, and walked towards a bend in the trail, leading to a small camp in the forest, protected from prying eyes. Reflecting back on the events which took place, Hugdish held the small Halfling in her arms and went over the scenario in her head again, living the surreal memory once more while she carried him,



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Rats in the Sewers


"So the plan is this," the slight figure spoke, turning his eyes from one person to another, "We will approach the sewer entrance slowly sticking together, we do not know what capability these Thayan's have to defend their interests. We'll head through the western crossroads, into the Grauer, and then we'll approach around the elven wizardess' tower." Once consensus was found, the Hin wizard walked with several companions. Hugdish, beset with worry, followed close behind, keeping an eye on Perrin as he strode along at a slow stride. Among the heroes were friends that all in some way or another connected either to Sam, to Hugdish, or to even just the ideal of adventure. The adventurers together talked with the strange Halfling as they went together, sharing her name and other concerns. One among them was very silent. She stood fairly tall, nearly the same height as the outsider among them, the same who Sam helped to save. She was clutching her Hellshire cloak tight, the lightening of her knuckles signified either great worry or considerable wrath; together, the friends would find both. The presence of their leader, the Kralshaman, offered her support in this trying time.


The Western Crossroads were winding, snow-covered, and a trek themselves. Around the gnarled passageways between the trees trodden by many adventurers heading further into the wood, a path opened up finally for the group. Edges of the trees moved and movement was seen, and heard. Things were in this wood. What used to be a nest of Bane Crows had fallen eerily silent, but not completely still. Rounding a corner of the trees, webbing shot around them. These were seasoned adventurers, they knew these creatures nested here, and though some among them all were slowed by the thick, sticky substance, others moved and weaved between the strands, falling on the bipedal, alien looking creatures; A nest of Etercaps had heard the adventurers approaching, and hoped to consume them as prey. Were it commonfolk on the path that day, they'd have been right, but all that the monsters found was magic and steel, and they fell into a final sleep, well fed on a banquet of violence.


The Grauer is a peaceful place, that does not see the march of armies or the challenges of settlement. People come here to escape, they come here to flee into nature or to paths that the prying eye of Steinkreis cannot follow so easily. Even criminals more prefer the alleyways of Low-Town over the deep woods, too far removed from activity and action, so in this space nature flourishes. Trees of great age rise up around, masking the stone cliffsides that lead up to the city on the hillside. The sound of flowing water, a brook, can be heard and seen with passage via a small bridge. Creeping from the forest edge into old game trails would be the dangerous Razorgrass, that could kill a man without him realizing it, until it's too late and the spring-loaded fronds lash, and lacerate. The adventurers together walked a careful path among these fronts, to head further and further into the forests west, where trees would get thicker and thicker around them all. Talking among themselves, they became aware that they didn't understand why Sam was taken, what would Thayan's have interest in this man for? Hugdish, knowing better than the others that there was a time the Hin served the empire in his small way, but even this did not illustrate the motivations behind why he was taken. A path leading into the deeper wood was found, and together the adventurers delved deeper into the wood.


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The Enemy Within

Passing around the old tower, Avaggdu scolded the man who practiced fake magic, "There was no need for that!" The group had encountered a boar and it did not stand well against the assault of the strange practitioner of stranger arcana. Though as they passed around, it was a few among them who could stop and see shapes moving around the opening to a cave just ahead. A fell odor rose from the woods around them and it became obvious they neared the sewers of the city high up above the cliffside. The waste had to flow somewhere, didn't it? Out of all of them, those who saw the enemies first had an idea of what they were dealing with, and they advanced. A ragtag group of men at arms approached, wielding swords and bows. Their affiliation was not even entirely clear; their gear was poorly supplied, and they were not the most experienced fighters. Delving down into the cavern maw, some of them--including Perrin--were nauseated by the stench within, but together, they stepped down into the sewer system, finding hewn stone steps leading into the mountainside.


"Master, they're already breaching the outer layer of our camp, Is there any way you can send more knights?" The image scoffed, waving a hand, "I've already expended far too much superior Thayan blood for your pet project; haven't I taught you enough of how to handle such interlopers?" Searching around, Patrick scanned the desktop as he pulled up his spellbook. He filtered through and studied a pair of spells, hoping it would be enough. The image faded and he looked with disdain at the crumpled form. A winged devil stepped down around the firey lake which this small pocket space he was loaned for his work surrounded. "Master, what do you want us to do in the meanwhile?" Grinning wickedly, he leaned back on the chair he set up for himself, "I need to study some complex spells to prepare for our interlopers, why don't you shoot for his arms and legs again, amuse me while I work." The Erinyes set the halfling up, propped and unconscious to the edge of a pillar, and each in turn took their bows, and fired upon his extremities, cutting, and pinning the Hin over and over while the malicious apprentice studied a pair of spells. "Lets see how well these "Heroes" handle a casting of "Maze?"


The fighting within was not much worse, though some archers had tried to slow them down, some using droughts of invisibility, some trying to get the jump on them or use devices to try and daze or control the heroes, nothing stopped their march. Coming in further, the group discovered a portal leading somewhere unknown. The teleportation circle on the wall, was read though Perrin, in this short time, could not figure out how. He quickly conjured an elf, but Avaggdu stopped him, "No, Perrin, absolutely not. Not after you said what happened with the portal earlier as you experimented on it." Bravely the druid stepped forward, as did Lily; they decided to risk themselves to go in rather than use the summon. Perrin waited for the others and then stepped in afterwards. Thankfully, the portal was sound and not a trap, letting them through to a place far flung from Thain.


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The Wheel of Fortune

The portal melted behind them as first came the sensation of oppressive heat, then the smell of air fouled with burning and a heaviness that wavered around them all, like the motion of tides in the ocean, but in the air itself. The others could tell they were not on Thain anymore. Resistance began to thin as they got further and further in, a few final half-hearted attempts to slow the adventurers ended all the same; with men laid dead and broken on the steaming stone floor. Hastily erected signs warned of danger ahead, though the adventurers were undaunted. A door pushed open, and as they all passed the treshold, the seeming of the door had closed behind them, and a tangible sensation was felt to most of them; a field of magic was passed. Travel as they might, the maze around them moved on and on, and confounded the mind.


Time was of the essence, but the adventurers were trapped. It was this man, the wielder of fake magic, who had offered an idea about maybe casting a spell to find the way in the maze. Perrin took the suggestion and ran with it; "We shall do a ritual, combine our efforts together, and try to find our way out of this prison!" So together, Both he and the hedge-mage, Avaggdu, and finally the Kralshaman Jiztroyir stood at four corners of a square, each representing the mental image of a cardinal direction. They crafted spell components of their choosing, Blood, Dust, Natural energy, and the will of the Hellshire's God, all together to find their way through this magic. Their combined might was enough to overwhelm the wiles of the apprentices magic, even for such a mighty spell as a casting of Maze. From the impossibly high ceiling, a red light shone down on each of the paths they must take, and the adventurers together stepped out into the heat once again, the maze collapsing behind them to show that had they avoided the spell, it was just a single door overlooking the courtyard of liquid fire.


"Damn you! Damn you all!" The voice raged as he stood over the unconscious form of the Halfling. His hands wove in hateful design and he conjured up a demon of shadows, borrowing from Ombrix a terrible shape of wrath that descended on the adventurers. Erinyes had soared across the thermals and pelted them with arrows, and the battle was pitched, but long decided. With arrows from the Hellshire, with spells from the Druid, with dual-sword wielded by the Hedge-Mage. With wards supplied from the Conjurer, and support from the Witch. With vicious steel and terrible blows from the Outsider and the Lover, the adventurers stood over the carnage. The dead body of the Thayan lay at their feet, but not for long. The fallen frame of the apprentice was rolled off into the magma, to sink down into it and disappear with his hateful ideals to reap the benefits of his parched thirst for revenge. In the heat of battle, Hugdish could not see where Sam had lain, but Lily found him first and helped guide the two lovers to reunite. Hugdish slipped to her knees and scooped the frail form to her body protectively, he was so wounded that no matter how he was held, he stained some of her garb with crimson vital fluid. Sam was still, and his breath was weak. He needed a healer and soon, certainly not long for this world otherwise.


The adventurers together with their friend, stepped through a portal prepared for escape into the Northlands, which settled them right by the docks on the familiar northern coastline of the island they all called home. Well, all but one. The witch waited until all were cast through the portal, before using her magic to protect her hand from the magma the adventurers kicked the body of Patrick into. His body burned and terribly damaged, a sudden mockery of life filled him as Alma used her necromancy to give him that false life. He laid there, as she bid him farewell, to enjoy his existence now, before leaving. Dry howls filled the empty hall, as the air blistered around the body. Somewhere, far flung across the great wheel, a pair of eyes looked on from Thaymount, and the scrying was released. A letter would be due for this.


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Stone and Dove

"Gunnak, that woman is back. This Hugdish." The Yethey spoke across the fire. Gunnak had not seen her yet. Standing, the half-orc had grown thin and wiry, less than his form before had held. Shoulders lifted when he observed her stepping through the mist of the valley. His brows furrowed when he saw the bundle in her arms. "Yagash," he spoke to her, in a drawl. "Get water, please?" She stood, and gently left the healer, who stepped around the fire. Hugdish, in tears, pushed the bundle into Gunnak's arms, who took the Hin and knelt down immediately into the soft grass, "Please help him," she choked out, "H-he stopped moving. And his color is wrong." Gunnak's head fell a moment, and looked away, "He's fallen. Might not be too late. I'll try. Sit, you can't help standing and worrying." Water was brought, and Gunnak took his three medicine bags off the ground beside the far end of the fire. "Yagash, sorry to, a-ask again. Can you go, get my mortar and pestle? I will need it." His broad thumb reached up and he pulled open one of the halfling's eyelids. His expression grew crestfallen, but even in spite of his grim prognosis, through prayer and through his knowledge as a healer, he did not give up on the Halfling.


The matter took a full day of work. Carefully work of his sutures to close his wounds. Careful administration of poultice to knit cool skin, and the application of prayers to knit that flesh and heal the grievous wounds. The terrible wound in his cheek was debrided, the scarred flesh cleaned and carefully washed, then knit with tender threads, and the utterance of prayer to promote healing. Every blessing he could muster for a day was used to knit this fallen body, to tend the wayward children, he who loves the unloved invoked in prayer, in incense, in ritual and action. Even every small task of his sutures were made with prayers under his breath, in a blending of broken Orcish, and the building of strength in Common. Hugdish could not sleep, eating was hard for her too, watching in worry as every broken piece of Sam was carefully knit and stitched, like one knits a quilt. Even for his broken limbs, the incision of flesh with a sharp knife and carefully bound within and bound together. These incisions were stitched, and poultice applied. Bandage covered every surface of the Hin, who laid still. With such grievous injury treated. It was with this, before his little altar, Gunnak knelt with the halberd he used as a shepherd's crook. His heartfelt prayers were given, and finally with all of this, he beseeched for Gruumith to allow him the egress to raise the dead. This was one of the strongest blessings Gunnak could call on. It was here that both eyes slowly pulled open. He tried to move, but his body refused. Gently, the half-orc scooped his arms underneath Sam and held him to his broad chest, carrying his limp frame towards Hugdish, before laying him in her arms.


"He is still very weak. He will need care. Leave him here with me, we'll make sure he'd fed and keep tending his body as it tries to heal." She held onto him tight, and she wept tears of joy to see life in his eyes again. Still unable to move, only a finger managed to reach, pulling against the will of bandages and giving just the faintest definition of pressure to grab her arm. She wasn't the only one with tears. Yagash set her hands on Gunnak's shoulders, watching as he sat down ahead of her, across from Hugdish at the fire. She looked down to the gray-robed healer, "He will stay?" Nodding solemnly, he replied, "Only for, a little while. He needs to be helped with, most things right now. He will need to heal. He will need to be fed, Likely liquids for a while. So we will need soup. I will tend to those. Will you hunt for us while I help him?" She squeezed his shoulders, leaned down, and kissed the top of his head, before grasping her bow off the hollow tree trunk, and heading out into the woods for them all.

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saadow
2:58:15 am GMT 06/07/21
saadow Registered Member #23976 Joined: 1:31:54 am GMT 11/30/15
Posts: 140
The events before this chapter of the story are recorded in "Last House of the Brotherhood."
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A Stranger, I Remain

"Sir, the adventurers that are working on helping you find Kelvan, they're here." Jaiden looked up from the table at the other ranger and nodded, reaching to grasp his medicinal pack. Rising, he strode out of the room. "Sir?" The Brotherhood Lookout said. Jaiden spoke over his shoulder, continuing to walk away, "Watch things here. I'll be back." The door to the bunks had been pushed open, there was one occupied in the far back of the room, near the bedroom in the rear of the bunks, separated with a curtain. On the lowest bunk there, a shape rose and fell in shallow, slow breaths. "We don't have time for you to recover on your own, so we're doing this the hard way." Pulling back the covers, he moved the arms of the Hin out of the way, pulling him up. First, the wound was cleaned, which got the Hin to stir. Poultice of herbs were placed first over the injury in the back, and the exit wound out his chest. His eyes shot open and his fingers weakly grabbed onto Jaiden. "Relax, you're alright. You're still here." He let his fingers go and he sighed, grimacing, "It is so, isn't it?" He laid back, a potion was supplied, which was quaffed. The healing of it all slowly seeping into him from multiple fronts. The wound would scar, likely, but at least he was prepared and ready to continue. "Sam, we've got an indication of where this will all come to a head. We've got some bad news though. Nicolette was captured. She had a plan to do this but it didn't work out as expected, get yourself together and come meet us." Grimacing, an old habit returned to the Hin; he prodded his tongue into his cheek, no longer wounded as it was in his youth, and looked back up to the Ranger. "I will meet you outside."



Outside the gates of Webster's Landing, a group of heroes stood together. Evangeline, Darkania, Lomir, and Jaiden stood together. The old gate opened and the bandaged form of the Hin in his mothbitten cloak slowly joined them walking up the road. Under his arm, the Saya of his family sword, Soen'na rested, the old wrapped handle bobbing as his hands gripped and tied the old obi belt around his waist. "This is going to be a lot harder without Nicolette here," the mage of Greenvale spoke, she nodded to see Sam come up and join them. "Jaiden had said that she was taken. What is the plan?" The brotherhood ranger looked to the Halfling and offered a shake of his head, "She had a plan to leave a trail of flower petals." The others tried to wonder what could be done to even begin to find those. "Had your rangers found those flower petals, Jaiden?" The other shook his head. The companions were realizing just how little they had to go on, but it was not all lost. Evangeline removed a white harp, wrapped in cloth and protected among her possessions. "Ah so, that is Nicolettes, isn't it?!" Sam perked, turning to look up to her.



"It is, in fact. I wonder if perhaps, we had a way to just, find her with it. If we could maybe scry for her with it or something." Lomir cautioned, "We should perhaps avoid a scrying, that did not go well last time," he rasped through his rebreather. Be it inspiration, or luck, or the will of the Gods, Evangeline placed her fingers to the strings of the harp. Such a well crafted instrument was a thing divine, and surely, even the unexperienced in the magic of song could find magic in that harp. Or that magic could find them. As though to draw inspiration, the magess had began to strum the strings of the harp. The music of it held magic, and that magic flitted to the grassy knoll before them. Light began to shine, and it lifted into the air ahead. Step, after step, as if leading to the destiny they had before them, a path was found. Darkania looked up, pulling her white hair back. Her broken common offered the command, "Lets follow. No knows if this will fade. Come!" The companions then began to make the walk westward away from the little port town. Sam looked around and stepped alongside Jaiden, sliding the saya of his blade in at his left hip, where it had lived for these many years.



The island lived on without realizing the purpose of those four as they walked, the Hin with bare footfalls padding along, the pain of his wounds finally starting to subside under the ministration of magic. The mage of Greenvale, her cowl-covered expression carrying up towards where the lights fell next. The seamstress of the same town, who had stepped in with all of these folk seeing the direness of their situation, having seen many others in her time on the island, and knew they'd need help. The mysterious mage who had traveled the planes, who had seen threats across the island of all kinds, Lomir, walked up with purpose, staff in hand and resting across his shoulders. Finally, the stoic ranger of the Brotherhood. His heart burned with a terrible fire, a wrath for the loss of his brother, for the loss of his blood, and for countless other reasons that just begged for a path outward. Jaiden moved alongside the Hin, following up the hillside as the City of Stone Circle rose far ahead. As the gates approached, the others walked through the nighttime streets, it taking the better part of a day to travel from the farmlands up to the city. They walked together, following the lights that the life at night showed no interest in. They entered the alleyways along the square, avoiding the people as they discussed the pattern the lights fell. Sam explored a light in a divot he had followed, but the others headed into Lowtown. Rising, he followed them, realizing the path danced further south than he had seen.



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The Slums of the phoenix that rose from the ashes of Vongottstein were none glorious, the smell of decay, moral and physical, rose from the gutters of this lost cause, where even the guards did not patrol. The companions walked together through the slums, avoiding accostment by some miracle. The quiet alleyways carried them as the single motes of light fell like footsteps on the cobbles, heading off and to the right, away from the companions into a closed courtyard. The four stepped in, and the darkness fell. It was unnaturally dark in this space, and the companions spread out as the light showed no further way through; this was where Nicolette was taken. "What do we do now?" Jaiden asked, he was efficient and focused on the plan, the next steps. Evangeline did as she did best; she began to think through the problem. Darkania and Sam made a brief exchange, and so the Hin parted from her and began to step through the darkness. Maybe there was something here to find? Turning to his left, something caught his foot in the dark and he went down, sprawling. An unflattering curse rose from his lips in Wanese, before climbing back to his feet. He reached for the offending loose cobble but found it was no cobble at all. It was a book, a journal bound in white leather. Bringing it into the light, he reached to hand it to Evangeline, "Here, I found this?" The mage took it in surprise, and then in an expression one might call crestfallen, "This must be Nicolette's Journal. She would never cast a book aside so callously." The party convened on the mage as she took the book into hand. Sam looked around, and then offered, "Wait, Evangeline!" His sudden spark caught the others by surprise, but he nodded to the book, "If Nicolette planned to try and go after and get captured by the Shadowmage, maybe she has recorded what her plan was within, or some method to follow him!" The others poured over the journal together, and within, they found a riddle. The game was afoot!



Trial and error with the riddle was necessary, but finally it was the matter of speaking, that together the four had solved it, and before them a rip in the shadows opened hungry, seeking to consume them, and within it did. As they stepped through, a field before them opened up, with trees. Shades began to rise from the ground, and the party stood shoulder to shoulder. Evangeline with her magic, Jaiden and Darkania with their bows and blades, and taking a step forward, the Hin planted his feet down and rooted to the spot, unwilling to yield. Lomir launched a volley of bolts of magic through the darkness, and Sam unwrapped the sling from his wrist, launching rocks across the fields in the dark at these vile pools of the void, hungry and vicious as they chased the adventurers. Sam tried to fight them off, but nearly was bitten by these hungry maws. Him and Lomir fought valiantly, but they got separated, "Go!" The mage called through the darkness, "I will see if I can catch up!" Sam turned, and ran after the others, who followed the path through the darkness to a grove of trees, that parted to a wispy path, "Where is Lomir?!" Darkania called out. Sam barked back as he ran, "He said he would catch up with us, lets go in further!"



Evangeline among them passed out torches that would fight back the shadows, to which each took one. The torch burned in his hand, and Sam used it to batter away shades that came close. Ahead, into the path, the land scooped up as trees rose on either side of them, and a temple loomed ahead. Shadows yielded as they strode up, as they got closer. The ground was littered with the fallen, the families and friends they all cared about, combined with old shadows and bodies unrecognizable. However, a voice that sang with none of the soul but all of the technique offered her voice to be heard, Sam peered at this as a visage that looked like the songstress, which descended from the temple and bid them to give up. "I am lost," she said, "We were wrong, you should leave this place, he is too strong. I have lead you to your doom."



"No." The Halfling said, slowly walking up towards the temple. He held the torch in his hands and took a deep breath, the flame flickering off the side of his face. "I came to this land, a stranger in a strange place. I faced vicious things, even myself." The shade of the Songstress slowly sank down, he held the torch up and began to walk towards her, as other shades began to rise. "I was not a good man, I walked a terrible path, with a terrible purpose. I changed, I grew, I found love, I found forgiveness, I found friends that are worth dying for, yet a stranger I remain." His left hand reached, and drew the family blade, letting the tip dip downward as he held both it and the torch. It was too large to wield like this, but looking at the torch in his hand, he gripped it, and then brought the flaming device down on the weapon.

A resounding CRACK filled the clearing and bounced off the stone walls.

The dweomer of the shattered Everburning torch sank into the weapon and the flames of white fire coursed up the blade. A bright white light spilled off of him and the weapon was swept upwards. He gripped it with his other hand, and stared up at the shades rising up around him



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"I will not be running from you today. We finish this now."


A horrible scream rose from the shades that surrounded them, the inky blackness swelling upon them. The wraiths of the void descended, but the Samurai stood and refused to yield, as claws bit into his weathered body, he turned and moved to reduce their damage. His weapon of burning white fire shone light through them, and those screams once of fury became howls of terror, as they fell. Arrows from behind, then blades, and magic, as the songstress shade looked on in fury, "No, NO! You were supposed to be the sensible one!" He drove his blade through another, and stalked after her, "I am the sensible one; we're coming in there to get you Nicolette, I swear it!" As the last of the Shades had fallen in the battle, Evangeline, Darkania, and Jaiden joined the Hin who wiped the ichor of the shadows off on the crook of his elbow, sheathing the blade at his side. "We need to find a way in!" Evangeline called, pressed to find her way in, and to pull Sam away from his focus on the shade. Walking down the steps, the Hin joined and the entrance of the temple was found on their efforts. The door opened, and a deeper darkness leaked outward. It was inviting, like the spider to the fly admiring the work of her web. They could not stop here though, the battle had only begun; they had to save Nicolette, and try to stop this Shadowmage once and for all.



Within the darkened hall, pillars rose around them as the great shadow of Kelvan Goodmane towered over the companions. Wraiths rose around them, staring down their long faces towards the warriors, who stood with their backs to each other. The companions all took to their stances, Evangeline pouring over the magic in her harp, she tried to use the tool that brought light, and fight the shadows off with the tunes the harp could play; she was no Nicolette, but she had to try! Jaiden's bow was drawn taut, and an arrow tracked from his cheek to follow a shade. Darkania engaged in hand to hand combat with a shadow of Ramiel, the Celestial under the control of the Shadowmage. Finally, the Halfling Sam stood and watched up at the great creature, the shadowfiend was all that seemed to remain of Kelvan, and all of his viciousness and malice poured down on the Ronin. The battle was vicious, and they were deeply outclassed on all fronts. In the darkness, Jaiden's bow had loosed an arrow, and it hit into the Halfling's back, wounding him terribly as he tried to fight his adversary. Darkania's bow had been struck from her hand and she was fighting hand to hand combat with the Celestial's shade. Jaiden's own bow was rendered useless in close quarters, and so he tried to struggle for his knife to do battle for his own life. Strike after strike fell on the Halfling, who tried to hold back the Shadowmage while the others fought. Seeing Jaiden disarmed, and himself nearly to fall, he reached and threw his blade for him, but it landed short. The maw of the vicious creature opened and tried to drop down on him. It was looking bleak, and he could nearly mount no defense against this creature now.

"Death before dishonor."

He could not let himself be used as a shade, he had to deny this monster that victory. Under the saya of Soen'na sat another sheath, smaller, with a similarly wrapped hilt. He thought back to Tanaka, sitting in his favorite chair in his farmhouse in Pirador, outside the outskirts of Bezantur. "Mister Kagami," a younger Hin had asked, "Why is there two swords? Well, a sword and a knife?" The old man bent down, and placed his hand on the Halfling's shoulder. "One is to fight with all of your honor, until that too, spills out." He motioned then to the dagger, "The other, is for when your honor starts to spill out; and you must keep it in at all costs, even the greatest."

"At least I will hold on this day, it is the light of this sword which you fear."

Snk!

A glint in the dim light as the magic and horrors of void glinted out. Sam pulled the tanto under the empty scabbard and gripped it in his hand. The shadow creature bore down on him and he tried to bring the weapon up at himself, prepared to decline even the slightest part of victory to this creature, to deny it his shadow, and to fight on in death, as that was acceptable to the warrior. He would die with regrets, but they would not outshine the honor he would hold at all costs. It was then he heard Evangeline as the battle shifted, "I told you that I would stop this at all costs!" Her form twisted, and her body took on a chitinous shell, and great size and strength. She charged with violence towards the pillars as the shade on her tried to claw through this shell. The sudden wretch turned his hand and as the shadow came in, the bite glanced away, as if the hands of Urogalan pushed in both directions.



Don't you give up now, Sam. I'm still with you, even in the dark.


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Darkania gripped the celestial's shade by the Lapel and drove her face into his own, forehead smashing into the bridge of his nose and sending him reeling to the ground. Jaiden gripped the burning katana in his hand, and drove it into the shade, which caused white fire to billow across the shadowy tomb. Evangeline screeched and flared her mandibles, crashing through the shade trying to claw through her. With all of his strength, Sam drove his fist into the jaw of the creature. The white light spilled from his eyes as the burning fire of Soen'na coursed through him. The weapon in his right hand slipped up, and he drove it upward, jamming it into t he belly of the great shade. It fell onto him with a horrible cry, as all began to become still. The weight of him fell onto his body, and the bleeding Hin dropped to his knees.



He was barely gripping the Tanto, and even less so his consciousness, "Is this how it ends?" He thought, as he slowly slumped forward. The injuries he sustained could be mortal, if they not be treated. His head and body lolled forward, and he felt the ground? No, he felt hands. He felt two grasp him, and hold him. He leaned into Jaiden as the stoic ranger saw what his arrow had done. Darkania removed a cloak from herself and put the shroud around his injured body. The magic of this old cloth was laid into him, and slowly his body began to knit. As he recovered, Jaiden helped him to his feet, and the companions followed Evangeline's hulking form into the chamber behind which theirs had lain. Each collected their lost weapons, and prepared by stepping into the room, where they saw A great cleft into even deeper darkness lay ahead, as the form of Vexious Inaril had looked down on them. What was once half-elven, was now fully a monster, hulking and horrible. Their own monster for the moment, Evangeline, was stricken with a dispelling that removed her transmutation, leaving her to nearly faint onto the ground from her overwhelming injuries. The caster disappeared into the rip, before the others could see. Narrowed eyes looked on the others and their various states of dishevelment, he did not bother to engage them. Slipping into the void that was behind. The shade of the songstress tried once more to attack their hope, but even in the direst of wounds, as his body knit, the Halfling walked past her, and the others followed, into this terrible place.



In the center of this void, a circle of purple flames closed around the Celestial Ramiel, and the fallen form of Nicolette. "Take not a step closer!" He raved, wielding his weapon in violence, "Not a single one of you shades will take her!" As they stepped in, both parties tensely realized they were not shades, but outside that line of fires, darkness roiled and bit at the fires, seeking to come in closer. This was the trap the Shadowmage had laid for them, and it was perfect. Here, they'd be held until their madness claimed them, and they too would be consumed by the yawning void. Sam sheathed his blades and examined the fired, while Nicolette roused and spoke to the Celestial, "I knew they'd come for us, see? I just knew it!" The others had begun to search. Jaiden in his rage turned to Sam, "You took us too far, now we can't get back!" The Hin looked back at him sternly, "We did not get this far to give in. We can't get back -yet.-" Darkania tried spells, tried means to escape, but nothing would yield. Ramiel whirled and looked as shades loomed in the distance, it would not be long. He explained to them this was the trap the Shadowmage, Kelvan, had set and that they had been caught so far, facing shade after shade for countless hours. Sam listened with compassion, stepping towards the purple flame to see if they would yield to any ministration, but they did not. It looked bleak, until Evangeline had an idea.



Evangeline had been quiet to this point, she had been lost deep in the recesses of her mind, communing to what the others did not yet know. Suddenly, he roused, and blurted to the others a question, "The tomb we were in, it looked like the one on the hill over the Landing. Who is it dedicated to?" The ranger looked over, thinking for a moment, but Sam and Nicolette pipped in, essentially at the same time. "Fangil. It's the tomb of Fangil." Evangeline called out to the void, "Fangil! Please come to our aid! We need you!" A Shadow greater than all shadows was seen at first in the great distance, before it came and swirled far overhead. Before them landed a great raven, that stood three stories tall. The creature peered down at them all, tilting its head




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Who are you to call the name I have not heard in so long?
I am known by this and many others, but in this, call me Ombra

"We need to leave from this place, we've been trapped! Can you help us escape?"



Leaving here requires sufficient courage.
Who among you has the courage sufficient to stand and fight the void?

The others each in turn offered, Each in their own way, offering their courage to fight the void. Sam had only now looked to see the great raven speaking to them, this Ombra, and stepped up towards the others. It was at his approach that the Raven had turned its eye towards the Halfling, slowly bringing his head down.



This one.
Who is this one?

"I am Samhain Banicknet." He said, looking up on the great Raven as the others turned, keeping an eye open towards the edges of the flames, watching the void as it writhed and coiled around itself. Others had offered their courage up to the raven, but finally looking on the Hin, the Raven leaned back as though it assessed him, it looked through him, past him, but ending back where it started.



This is the one who will stand.
To insure he has the power to cut the void, you must all make sacrifices.
It may even be your lives, but take heed, sometimes that is not enough.

Each in turn stood forward and made offerings of each thing that was most important to them. Ramiel offered up a music box which brought him peace when it was needed. Nicolette gave of her harp, the divinely magical instrument that even allowed them to find her. Evangeline gave up the magics she had saved to study and learn, and grow with, casting them out to the void. Darkania, took one look at the bow, her longest and oldest friend on the island, a solid companion, and cast it into the darkness. Ombra stood over the Hin and channeled the energies of these sacrifices down into him. He took to the air, and watched from above.



It is now up to you, Samhain.
Will you have the strength to cut the Void?

The magic swelled around him and he stood, his weapon sheathed at his hip as the sacrifices poured their power into him, his hair whipped in the deepest darkness, and his eyes flashed with fury, the deep brown, so dark they were nearly black, stared into the darkness. It was then he saw the darkness stare back. His friends stood in violet fire around him, watching in the arena of the Void, as a figure in armor stalked around. Two blades were in his hands, curved weapons that too shared their history from the lands of Wa or Kozakura. The figure spoke in a tone that rippled through the void. "What is this small creature. Is this your champion? Is this the best you can do?" The voices of his friends were distant, because before him stood the enemy that had his absolute focus. Their encouragement was a sensation of warmth. The being spoke, and needled, and tried to enter his space with words and thoughts, but Sam had nothing to prove to any of them; to stand on this precipice was the meaning of courage. To face death and to stand tall as the mountain, no matter how truly tall he was at all. The sound of a 'Snik' is heard as his thumb pressed to the guard of the Ancestral Blade. The white fire bit around the guard and burned brightly. He spoke finally at this point, favoring no great speeches or needling of his own, instead to invite his foe forward, and to remind him.

"Come,
you'll wish you hadn't!"



The two figures battled in the darkness, it was a battle without dishonor or regret. The two bit into each other with their swords, the two blades bearing down and parried off the old ancestral blade. 'What do you think, Soen'na?' he thought to himself, as blows deflected off of his weapon, and the energies around him. His own strikes bit in deep, biting through the hungry void that clawed at his weapon, yet howled in rebuke at the terrible shine of white fire. The warriors circled surrounded by purple fires, the two warriors were watched on by the hopeful souls that still had more to live for, even Sam, for the very reason he was the kind of man he had become waited for him beyond the yawning dark. His weapon turned on a glanced blow, and he whipped the katana against the creatures leg, biting into the armor of the void. His body ducked under two strikes, and he whipped his sword upward, hitting under the wrist of the second hand. Black ichor flowed and was gnashed by the roiling flames. The magic coursed around his body. Finally, a lunging blow of both blades were struck off their course and bringing his own weapon in, he jammed the point upward, and sank it into the belly of the Void's champion. Black ichor spat onto the ground, and the creature was dispatched. He fell to the ground like smoke, and boiled off into the nothing. The Halfling stood with his companions around him, and with the void cut. the path through lay open. The Hin tiredly trudged with his friends together, leaving the void through the passageway they had cut through. Vexious would be a thorn in their side again, but at this time, the heroes were saved, and while a stranger he remains, the Halfling was a little more known for his courage against the insatiable maw of the void.

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saadow
4:34:17 pm GMT 08/21/21
saadow Registered Member #23976 Joined: 1:31:54 am GMT 11/30/15
Posts: 140
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A simple life

It is better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war


The matters of the shadows had settled into a time of uneasy peace, the time between the rise of the Shadow Mage, his fall in battle, and the retreat of Vexious Inaril. Things moved in the dark out of sight, but so did countless things. To the overt, to what was plainly seen, the world had delved into a momentary peace. The heroes bound to their actions had a moment of respite, a moment to breathe. Samhain was no different. The air in the evening was cooled thanks to the ocean breeze as Webster's Landing settled from the upset of the arrival of the Huntmaster and his altercations, and the dead settling, for the most part, in the Tomb of Fangil. It was here, between long trips into the South of Thain, back to the Landing, were spent week by week. The Halfling of Urogalan had served dutifully, offering sincere prayer to the warden of the dead, and doing his part to help the dead rest in their final home. Routine fell to the Halfling warrior who found the doldrum of what he was doing day in, and day out, not nearly as impactful as the means of doing real work for the dead. Purpose filled the gaps in boredom, where whole evenings were spent awake in pensive sitting, watching, and waiting. Grave dirt and soil stained his threadbare clothes, and the mothbitten cowl he was given by the dead hovered around his shoulders. His appearance became synonymous with his endless vigil.



Samhain had changed in public appearance, his hair grew long and wild, his nails grew out, breaking with work and then growing again. His mustache had drifted down his face in long fronds, and this wirey coif of brown laid down his shoulders, until held into an unruly ponytail. Locals would see the swordsman walking back and forth, from Steinkreis to the Landing, from the Landing to the South, and back and forth among these places, travelling on this lonely road to be among family, among friends, but to also be among his work which came to the utmost of importance: he had not been a good man in his life, his afterlife would only be assured by truly meaning his worship, and if he wished to see the green fields, he had a lot to make up for. Unfortunately, the ronin's sword had paid the price for his violent life. The beautiful blade of Soen'na had folded, and chipped, and showed stress fractures along the surface. The tamahagane steel of Wa, the prodigy and scion of the Kagami family, and the last remaining vestige of their lineage, sat on the hip of the warrior, but the days it had for this world were numbered. In quiet pensiveness, Samhain ruminated on how many duels more would the blade have, pondering that but still bringing it against the forces he crossed in life, the challenges to his liberty, and wellness of the island he called home. Unwittingly, despite his terrible past, Samhain had become a hero, a symbol of that which stood for courage in the face of the worst that sought to assail their home. He chose not to lean on that, though, and instead lived a quiet life of service, when he found that farmer dying in Saint Jiles Chapel, so many months ago.



One night, while placing the finishing touches on a carving of a relief Sam had been working on with his dutiful hammer and chisel, a clatter was heard just above a whisper. Looking down, a foul blade rested at his feet. He sheathed away those carvers tools and picked up the familiar weapon, with care not to ask for this power, but denying it. Two shapes loomed behind him, and he turned to see the demon Rhandum there, and the wizard Lomir. "So how did you do it?" Rhandum asked him, regarding the sword at in his hand. "You brought back Akumu, the Nightmare. You ask how it was made, though?" He answered, "The sword itself was a fine blade I found on my adventures here on the Isle of Thain, but the technique I used, came from a place of deep emotion and with a stone of the finest quality. I slipped the cabochon into the place the menuki of the blade sits and opened myself up as a force that sought only to consume and not to give. I then plunged that blade deep against them, and drew out the power from them with that violence. It seemed, the creature had drawn into the gemstone through the sword like a conduit. The sword was tainted forever after, perhaps because that was my intention." The two listened, and the Hin showed the sword to Lomir for him to inspect. It fascinated him. Impatient, but contained, the Demon finally spoke, "I need to kill a demon, I need to consume it." The Hin looked pensively up to him and considered his response. Rhandum was not like any other fiend the ronin knew, from his darker service and now his change towards a risen path, he was bound through trust to the tree of Cuchuwyn's sacrifice, and he was there for that binding. "Tell me where it is, and I will see if this technique will still work. I will need a gemstone of auspicious quality, from the time of the second era. Find me a White Lady diamond, as that is the stone I used as a cabochon." The three conversed about these, and with a source they had in mind, they set off and left the Hin alone to his work. As they faded into the darkness, the devout of Urogalan moved back to his position and sat on his heels before the altar, looking back into the tomb and watching pensively for the dead walking.



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Glint of diamond, glint of steel

A grey blade that cuts light and shadow


The efficiency of the pair knew no boundaries. Within the passage of a day and a half, the two appeared from the darkness of the Tomb of Fangil. The Hin looked up from his vigil with tired eyes, and the candlelight glinted off of a massive gemstone that was held down to him. Slowly, he collected it in hand, and nodded. "I will see about getting this faceted. You can find me here, or in the south, when the time is right to strike. Until then, keep me informed and I will insure I am ready to go with you. I, will use my family blade for this. Soen'na is tired and the blade speaks through how it performs. I feel it is soon to be the last duel of this tamahagane steel." Rising to his feet, he bound the massive stone in wool and pushed it deep within his possessions, to protect it. He offered a bow, and the Demon said his goodbyes, leaving the wizard to stand with the Hin. There was a bright flash, and the lumbering form of a Balor rose in the darkness of the Tomb of Fangil. The Halfling planted his bare feet to the stone floor and drew the weapon on his hip with the peal of ringing steel. Bright, white flames blew out across the exposed steel, and it illuminated the massive figure rising overhead, just like the figure of the Shadowmage in the Tomb of Fangil, so many months ago. Lomir and the Halfling did battle with the creature, as spells of death and destruction rained, shaking the tomb to the core, and causing the dead to moan in fury at the disturbance. Finally, with a leap, the flaming blade drove in a downward cut, cleaving into the vile demon, and causing it to discorporate immediately, into the air and stone, leaving only a momentary linger of its taint in this place. A laugh from the shadows was heard, "Perhaps you really -are- ready!" Before all went silent, the Hin looked to Lomir with a stout nod, and the wizard faded out himself, leaving the Halfling behind as the sound of the crypts opened, and the dead began to walk again. Service unending, the Hin sheathed the glowing blade, wrapped his hands, and stepped into the darkness to put the dead back to rest once again.



The notion of this all weighed on the Halfling, as he walked west towards the City of Man, the ashes of the phoenix that was Vongottstein, now Steinkreis, the city of Stone Circle. The impressive gray walls rose long before he could even reach the rise, with the intention of putting in an order for Mortar, to do point work on the exposed bricks of the tomb, and plaster to cover them afterwards. It was here that the gashes on the tree outside of the path on the Crossroads leading up west, watching over the Tombstone of Chane, were visible to him. Approaching, the halfling with wild hair and the long fronds of his mustache billowed in the wind. Hard eyes gazed on the inscription into the old oak with a sense of peace.

S A M
B A C K I N E T

D U E L

W A S T E
B R I D G E


The Hin watched this with a peaceful expression, his eyes only flared for a moment, the tinge of excitement, of anxiety running through his heart. It was a good feeling, a feeling that reminded one they were alive. "Who are you, mysterious antagonist? Who are you that I have wronged?" He considered this, and felt a large hand on his shoulder. He looked up to the owner and exchanged smiles, and greetings. It was Hugdish, "Hey, are you okay?" He looked back to the inscription on the tree and gestured to it, "You should see this." When she read it, she looked at him, but found herself surprised to see he was laughing, and actually smiling. "You're not upset?" She asked, and he shook his head, "No, not at all. I'm curious, I wonder who it is?" Waiting for a long moment, he finally made a decision, and looked to her, "I think I will head to the old camp after the Pass of Ashes and see who this one is." Adamantly, she insisted that she would come along, "I don't want to hear about you getting hurt from someone else." The Hin assented, "I would rather you be cautious, but you should make your own decisions, I'll stand behind them." With that, the two walked off towards the north while taking the long path up the roads towards the Grey Iron territory. They skirted Hamley, and passed the farmlands as they ascended into the foothills. Samhain spoke with her as they walked, "the truth is, I have known for a time now, that Soen'na, the Estranged, is soon to give up her spirit." The Half-Orc looked at him, "What does that mean?" He explained as they traveled along the treeline, scouting the goblins wandering the plains to their side that the weapon had seen Hell and Back, it had seen the Abyss and back, it had fought in victory of over a thousand battles, and each wore heavily on the tamahagane steel, as it had survived thousands of battles in the hands of Tanaka Kagami, and it saw as many in the hands of his ancestor, and their ancestor. The sword had lived many full life times before it came to his hands. "Stress fractures have set across the blade. It still holds strong, but I try not to demand much from Soen'na, save for when the worthy come and challenge me, be it on the field, or on a tree with my walk home."



The looming visage of the Blood Guard fortress is seen to their left, as they skirted around the outside of the structure, keeping away from their vaulted walls and leaving quickly to head further towards the Drakamyre. They intended to leave the monster hunters in peace, "So what it all means, is that I feel soon Soen'na will shatter in battle. I have faith in this steel, but I know that it has given its life over, and over again. I think it may be soon that we shall part ways. I do not know any smith except perhaps Ars, that may know tamahagane steel, as he had made the blade of the Queen of Greenvale. I have seen this beautiful weapon, held it in my hands when I was a darker man, when I had my lamellar armor still. But I do not know if he could save this steel as it has seen centuries of service and may be too far gone." They began to descend into the valley of the tainted dead, towards the Drakamyre, where the knight fell to avenge his love and the people of Karistad against the violence of Fhelkorn.



Battle raged between the Hin and the Half-Orc, their fists flew with fury and decisive strikes, pounding into the dead and guiding them back to a temporary respite. Passing by the bridge, the two sought to make no eye-contact with the Erinyes, and did not seek to bother the Hellknights unless they had questioned where their passage went; he was honest, that he headed for this pass of ashes and would not be staying in their lands with intention for long. Pensively, the pass of ashes and the history of it, and the old guardian there, were shared between the two. Before long, they had come to the old tent. Long had it been abandoned, a place of slaughter once and now decay over time. Quietly, though, the Hin found rest, and after a few hours the two approached the bridge. At the edge of it, the Halfling knelt down and sat on his heels, and waited. The blowing wind whipped his hair around his face, and billowed his mustache aside. His expression shifted from something light, to something empty; he knew, soon, his assailant would arrive, and he would have to face this being, and their desire for his violence.



"You should inform the Kralshaman that we are here, he may be curious to see this, unless that who challenged me wished to do so in peace. If that is the case, I wish you to wait in the tent for what comes after." He looked at her seriously, "If this is the end, I have a few things I need to say." He paused, "The first is that I love you, and I will see you in the Green Fields some day again, I promise." He then continued, "Next, I want you to see to it that the Hin who had been tending the graves before me in Davenshire takes me, and buries me near the grove therein where the sense of Spirit is strong. I wish my gravestone to have that I was a devoted father, a loving husband twice over, and that I was willing to face the darkness to brighten Thain, as it had brightened me. I also wish to be buried the way those of Urogalan are buried, with a tablet that has my name, my date of birth, and my date of death." He took out a small scrap of parchment from his journal, and scratched those values onto the page, before offering them up to her. It was clear this was a lot to ask, but he finally nodded to her, and looked back out across the bridge, waiting peacefully as the wind howled around him, and she parted ways from him to head south.

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saadow
11:28:08 pm GMT 08/22/21
saadow Registered Member #23976 Joined: 1:31:54 am GMT 11/30/15
Posts: 140
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Spirit of the Ronin


Sam knew in his heart this could be a battle to the death, he had to tell Hugdish to go. It was not because he didn't want her there, but because he knew that Honor demanded it. With a peaceful moment of meditation a solitary thought filled his mind; he accepted what would come, death or victory. I am a stranger in a strange land. I wield a blade estranged from its family, so named and so loved. A stranger I remain. Sam had seen many places in the world, from the dirty streets and vaulted walls of Bezantur and their slave markets, and the fighting pits, the office of the Autharch and the great docks that lead to the first leg of his journey. He had seen the lands of Kara Tur over cart and wagon, and he had seen the beautiful Celestial Sea. He had seen the Islands of Wa and Kozakura, and lived among the former--something unheard of for the time--and met with the highest of honors. To the sacrifice he put to himself, for his training, he was named by the Shogun, Matasuuri Nagahide, to the station of Samurai, and was with his honor dismissed, because he could not stay; he was assigned to the delegation by the Autharch and was expected, on his Honor, to return. It was recognized by the court and respected as a means to maintain good relations between the Empire and the Shogunate; the burning of Uwaji became an illustrious moment avoided and now only ruminated on, versus a terrible horror that would be told by the survivors, all because of the auspicious action of destiny. Finally that adventure came to the land of Thain, on a hunt for a fugitive half-orc accused of the death of a red-wizards apprentice, so little cared for that only the cost of the trip and five hundred crowns were offered for his death. He met this one, he met his friends, he made himself among them and finally, the only true justice was to pay the bounty; they had no evidence of his actual involvement. Even later, a scrying of the bolt recovered would find it was from an assassin posted a hill above, using the trajectory this Half-Orc had been firing from to make it look like him. In Bezantur, a human man was hung to death, and now serves in the crypts as a shambling corpse, eating what is left behind to clean the floors of the destitute that could not pay for proper burial.



Destiny had been the eternal foe of Samhain Banicknet, from the days he had been a successful owner of property to letting his ethics go before his conditioning, and allowing his property to leave--something unheard of in the Tharch of Pirador--to being chained to the old oak tree on his farm, and watching as consciousness left him for death, how the single moment of charity could cost a man everything. In spite of fate determining he would die, he did not. He fought back with a burning force in his chest and let wrath, rage, carry the beat of his heart long enough to be found. Scarred like his face was, the man walked a bloody path of vengeance. Fate conspired once again, that when the Halfling took the power of Velsharoon through the dark whispers in his ear, that he would sew his own defeat, by killing only five of the six bandits which robbed Sam of everything. The tapestry was woven, and who was once a hedge-mage learning cantrips from stolen books and scrolls became the Apprentice of an Auspicious Red Wizard. The seeds in motion were set and this apprentice found the way to wheedle the forces of his master to kidnap the Ronin, and to torment him to extents that he had not before. The voice of Velsharoon was silent, the power abandoned him, but another came into its place. Another voice whispered, with the scent of hounds and pelts, and the old ways. The sound of digging soil and the proper setting of the dead. Fate was once again crushed where someone who loved in spite of where the Ronin thought he was unworthy, and the friends around them, came to his aid. The apprentice was thrown to the fire, but not before he was so blessed by a witch with a gift for the man.



Destiny wielding the blade of Fate itself tried to end the life of the Ronin. It was planned as he sought to save the soul of an outsider, committed to death by the slight of a divine plan. It sought to take where it should not; it sought to take from Thain one of her champions. Spirit burning in his chest, the Ronin wielded a silver blade taken from the place where souls are decided in the Fugue, and he bore down on a gatekeeper. Fate would ordain that the mortal man should die. Justice would reign through this alien weapon, and the Gatekeeper was somehow in spite of all odds defeated. At his side through all of this, Soen'na grew. It became stronger, it had become the pinnacle of what it should be, rising to greater heights, to greater demands. The dweomer of the subtle weapon flourished, and absorbed the spirit of the ronin, and the foes it did battle with. The blade was gray, in the darkness it shone bright, and in the light it cast a long shadow. A tale of soul and sword, once again retold.



"It's time." He said, opening his eyes. Bare feet padded to the floor of the old, rotting tent. He took in a deep breath of the must and smell of ash, before leaving out the flap, and facing towards the bridge. Pensively, he walked out onto the surface, and knelt, taking a moment to absorb the visual. Soen'na, had been worn and damaged. The steel was riddled with hairline fractures, so badly that Sam had decided not to wield the weapon unless against foes worthy enough, as the final duel of Soen'na must be worthy of what the blade has seen for over three hundred years of service, in the hands of the Kagami family, and finally ending in the hands of Banicknet. He rose, and strode down the bridge. The winds whipped and dragged his wild hair, pinned back in an unruly ponytail as it had grown out. His long mustache bristled and wild, blowing to the east as the wind raged around him. Elementals fell from the breeze and tried to cast him to the ground with gusts of wind, but his hands flew out, and battered these creatures into submission; they discorporate, and join the wild wind, leaving him with scratches and cuts, that wept as he walked down the bridge.



Coming to the center of the bridge, the wind began to die down. Fate itself seemed to call the winds to stop, for all that he would hear was his mind in this place. The ronin slowly knelt down and sat on his heels. Looking forward towards destiny, his furrowed brows relaxed, and his face held a pensiveness. Soen'na was restless at his side, but he laid a hand first to the saya. Yes, today is the day, my old friend. He looked back up, and the shape of a wind elemental tried to approach; darkness fell all around them, and the elemental was swallowed by the void that grew around them. His eyes failed him in the dark. In its wake, stood a woman in robes. Her features were obscured to him, but the voice was familiar. It was Ombra, who was called on when the name of Fangil was called in the void. He sat up straighter as he heard the voice, was this to be his foe? He didn't know, none had told him who made the carvings on the tree, but he was prepared; it would be an honor. "You have come far, Samhain. And you have come alone this time." Pensively, he dipped his head in a nod, "I saw the carvings on the tree, I knew that I should appear." It took but a moment before her voice rose over the silence once again, responding. He didn't understand at first, "It is the way of the Void. It draws things to it." He listened and slowly, realization dawned on him; she was not the one who marked the tree, "But you have defied destiny before, such is the way of your heart," her voice trailed off, fading into the darkness around them. Slowly, the Ronin rose to his feet, as she spoke again. He still could not see far, just the barest silhouette of her frame in the darkness, "I cannot claim to know what awaits you, for many I would call it doom."



Samhain had wanted to say many things, wanted many words to come to his mouth. They failed him though. Pensively, he looked to the shape of her in the darkness, and offered with resign, "I understand." That was met though with a sudden flaring of spirit, a deep well in himself that rose up. No. He knew that voice, he knew that sound. It was his fighting spirit, the thing he followed into battle with each foe, with each challenge. He gathered his courage from the spirit within, and spoke again, "I will face it though, if it is doom, it will be," he said, taking a breath. His jaw set and his fingers gripped the saya of Soen'na on his side, "but so long as I draw breath, I will continue to challenge destiny." He looked around in the dark, seeing nothing but her shape. Where would it come from? He'd have to be prepared. "I would hope this would not be the hour of doom. So much was lost in your wake. Your friends gave up so much." She trailed off, and he dipped his head in assent, "They did give so much, I was proud to stand for them, proud to be their sword." She looked past him before responding, "You gave even more, it seemed." Slowly, the ronin turned, and the wind began to whip again. His hair pulled aside, the mothbitten cowl around his shoulders billowing out. A voice rose from the darkness, a familiar one, it thundered through the void, "Samhain Banicknet!"



The void spilled away to a figure in black lamellar armor, it was, different than he had worn in the past. The hakama pants were bound up with cordage, girdled for war. Geta sandals lacquered black had clicked to the wooden bridge, On his hip, bound with a black obi belt--stained by the look with squid ink--rested a lacquered black saya, with a wrap that was just too difficult to see through the yawning maw of darkness whipping around him. "You have come." The voice within the kabuto helmet was tinny, metallic, distant. There was surety in this voice, like it was ordained, inevitable; like it was fate. The ronin stared at the samurai with a pensive glare, and a set of his jaw. Sam was assured that thus stared back the agent of destiny set before him. As though to honor the presence before him, the wind had stopped. The dirty clothes of the Hin settled against his body, and the samurai approached but a few more steps, looking down at him. "To whom do I owe the pleasure?" The figure answered, "I am a vacuous swordsman who has something you left behind." Narrowing his eyes, the Hin answered, regarding his opponent with careful steps, keeping their distance from each other as they stared down one another, "Thank you for bringing it here to this place. I don't know what I left for you to gather, though." With a pause, he stepped forward, padding on the bridge, "You must be the one that issued the challenge, aren't you?"



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"I am."


The answer shook the bridge, and the figure stood looming over the Ronin, his frame broad and strong. The Hin looked up at him, setting his jaw pensively. "If you are victorious, I shall return what you have lost." The voice of Ombra speaking behind him rose to his ears, he looked over his shoulder towards her guidance, "Do not take him lightly, Samhain Banicknet. Whoever he is, he has brought the void with him." Taking a look back towards the swordsman, he looked over him with curiosity. The anxiety of the situation weighed heavily, the feeling of adrenaline building up in the body. It was kill or be killed. Deep breath, and a sigh out of his nose, before standing in the darkness, facing up towards the samurai, "Thank you for the grace, it's appreciated." Standing with pride, he rose his chin, and watched up at the figure. A hand rested on the saya of Soen'na. It's time, old friend. This is it. "You've chosen an excellent place for us to do battle." The two paced, and watched each other like hungry dogs, waiting to pounce. Planting his left foot forward, and his right foot back, his hand wrapped around the handle of his reliable old friend, 'The Estranged.' His thumb set to the guard, and he pushed. With a click, an inch of the glinting blade was exposed and the hamon line flared to life, a manifestation of the dweomer on the blade. White flames clawed out and defied the darkness around him, illuminating them with the promise of violence.



"I am Samhain Banicknet, Ronin under the Shogunate of Wa, formerly Samurai named by Matasuuri Nagahide in his grace, and released honorably from my service as I could not stay. Sellsword of Thay and Thain. Wielder of Soen'na, "The Estranged," the legacy of the Kagami family.

I am a stranger, in a strange land, and a stranger, I remain."

The bridge groaned under the weight of destiny, and the wind began to roil through the darkness. Leaves flit through the air and passed by the two warriors. His left foot placed forward with a groan of the bridge planks, and he settled on his back, just the same. Sam looked at that stance. That was the stance of the Kagami lineage, taught by the Sifu who was left behind, taught by Tanaka Kagami. His eyes searched the darkened figure and looked as the helmet melted away from his face. Staring back at him, smooth hair was pulled back into a top knot, dark eyes peered down at him and a visage with a terrible hole in its face loomed over him. It stared down at him with grim intent, before he answered, setting his hand on the hilt of a familiar looking blade, and pressing his thumb into the guard, causing the resounding click to be heard across the void-covered bridge.



"And I, am Samhain Banicknet, I stand as the Vacuous Swordsman.

I am the spirit you left to the void."

The wind was howling, and two grim figures stood, locked in a visage of death. Not even the stars shone through the darkness for their battle, and only the light of Soen'na challenged the void that it cut once before. The bright peal of steel was heard as both warriors drew their weapons, with the same mechanical movement to them. The two stared on, the wind whipping the mothbitten cowl around his shoulders like a pair of wings struggling to keep their poise in the gale. The Vacuous swordsman stood and just as his helmet fell away like the leaves, so did the cloak behind him. Reaching outward and back, two massive wings rose, black feathers as the raven shadowed over the Hin as he looked up at the figure. Sam stood tall, squaring his shoulders and raising Soen'na into the stance of in no kamae. The swordsman assumed another stance with the weapon held before himself and the tip held forward. The posture of his legs was strong, seigan no kamae. Judging how he stood and trying to anticipate the first move, Sam ruminated on what would he use? What would he himself had used? His eyes searched the figure, and got it, The wings, he will close the distance. "The void takes all." The voice offered, glaring down the blade at the Halfling who dared defy him. Grimacing, Sam shifted his posture and moved onto his front facing foot, lighter on the left foot that he was posted on, "The void will try" With a push of force, the figure darted ahead, weapon lashing out with a voidful gap, a long shadow coursing for his middle, "IT IS INEVITABLE!"



CLANG!


Weapon to weapon the blades kiss, the coursing, hungry shadow was met by brilliant flame, filled with spirit and the will to live. The figure looked back and the Kabuto helmet with it's terrible skull mask materialized across his face. Sparks that flew from the dire strike of steel to steel showed Soen'na was still willing to fight. He swept the blade around and drove it upward in a strike, moving from his guard, to sha no kamae. The blade slashed upward in a blaze of white flames, coursing towards the winged creature. Their weapons met with another bright peal, before the two crossed and the weapons were held in a lock. Sam had disadvantage with his height, but held on with the raw strength of his body. The samurai brought the weapon down towards his neck, but the ronin was unwilling to yield. Soen'na was showing damage from taking the strike, a fold appearing across the blade. Sam's brow folded, and he spoke to his sword, "Hold a little longer, old friend." The two, locked in mortal combat, glared to one another. The blade came closer, his skin barely grazed, but toughened from the years of fighting on the Island, and from the gift of Urogalan to his devotion. As the breeze wavered, the dog-headed symbol and the wooden thick beads clicked around his neck.



I see you, Sam. Don't give up!



Will filled his eyes and his hands pressed the old Wanese blade against the shadow's effigy of it. The swordsman looked surprised as the Hin found strength to push back, bringing them back to center, staring up at the winged figure that struggled against the bearing blade. "Accept your DESTINY!" The weapon was disengaged and swept around for a strike to his midsection, seeking to cut deep into the Halfling. The spirit did not account though, for that he was fighting himself, and that blade kissed only the mothbitten cowl, threads from it coursing off into the void around them, whirling with the leaves as he called back in answer, "I am my own destiny!" Taking the initiative, Sam drove the guard of Soen'na into the bottom of his weapon, to clear the way. As he moved and felt the connection, his foot snapped out and he kicked for the side of the swordsman's knee. The figure moved to reduce the damage, but the bridge rocked with his stumble; he fell off into the void and disappeared from view. Sharp eyes snapped around in grim understanding that this would not be enough to stop the opponent that summoned the void here. He was right.



Heavy geta and armor landed on the bridge, causing it to shake. His hand left the blade and a star of dark void lifted from his palm. Sam reached into his pack and grasped the Scale of a Wyvern, and tried to grip it in his hand. He was lifted off of the ground, and pulled towards the swordsman. As the scale crumbled, the magic flit around him in a nimbus of sparkling shards, that could confound some magic. It was too late though, the blade of the swordsman sliced and sought his midsection again. SNKT! A splash of red kissed the floorboards and the sound of two padding feet fell to the bridge. Sam grimaced and fell to a knee, panting heavily for a moment. I'm hurt. Can I make it? Slowly, he pushed back onto his feet with the tip of the sword biting the wooden bridge, slowly he turned to face the samurai, to face the part of himself he left behind. He touched the wound, then set both hands back on Soen'na. It's time, old friend. Thank you for standing beside me all these years. I knew you didn't fail my family, that was me. I know you did not fail to kill the sixth man. That was my fault. I know you did not falter when I faced the elf, that was my failure. If anything, thank you for tolerating me this long.



"Cut me. Wound me as you will," he said, seething as his frame rose, and the weapon was held in o gasumi "I will stand and fight you." The swordsman looked on, to realize Sam was not looking at him, to realize Sam was not speaking to him. Sam was speaking again to destiny, to fate who has tried over and over again to kill his mind, body, and spirit. Yet again, he refused. The Hin stepped forward, bringing the weapon back towards himself, shifting from o gasumi as he charged, to ko gasumi. The weapon tucked in and his body shifted, leaping into the air with powerful legs. It harkened back to the teaching on Wa. Sifu demanded them to leap up the height of a man, by leaping up crate, after crate, jumping for hours of the day. Others had asked, 'Why do we do this, Sifu? Do we not learn to wield a blade?' The old man laughed, and brushed his beard aside, 'Children, think, for without strong legs, will you have a strong stance for your sword? Keep jumping!' Graceful crane crossed his body, and the weapon flashed in violence, as he used the momentum of the swing to bring himself down onto the bridge. SHINK!



A flurry of feathers kissed the wind, as one wing fell limp, a gash into the lacquered armor of the swordsman leeched off into the void. Spirit leaked from the wound, and fell into the void that raged all around them. Sam stood up as the figure shuddered with the terrible injury, trying to recover from the wound that was dealt to him. The weapon was held low, hilt at his waist, legs in a strong stance, and his eyes leveled with stern intention on the part of himself he left, when fighting the Void this samurai dared to carry with him. "Soen'na, my sword, is a tool of Vengeance." He said, watching onward, "It is a tool of Justice. It is a tool of Passion. A tool of Joy. It is a tool of the dying breath of the Light against the hungry darkness!" The dark swordsman recovered, his helmet covered head turning in labored movement towards Samhain, glaring down at him as the weapon was grasped with both hands, and rose into jodan no kamae. Sam looked up in shock as the weapon was brought down with great violence. He brought Soen'na up to guard, and the two weapons collided together in a bright peal of steel. Sparks flit out into the void, and the weapon showed damage. The hilt began to unravel, and though he held tight, the menuki fell and clattered to the ground. The steel groaned under the force. Goodbye Samhain Kagami. It's up to you now.




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Soen'na gave up her spirit, and shattered into a thousand pieces.

The force of the blow caused Samhan to stumble back away from his assailant, the other stood proud over what he had done, glaring down at the Halfling. The light was extinquished. His hands rose up defensively and then dropped into the stance of the Unyielding Bear. His teeth grit and then the well of Spirit welled within him. Light rose from deep within hm and shone from his eyes, just like when he faced the Shadowmage, when he had given Soen'na out towards Jaiden to defend himself. Out of nowhere, he charged forward and his hands were a blurred staccato of strikes, "We all hold the light within, even the darkest of us, even YOU!" Strike after strike sank into the lamellar, the weapon reaching defensively and glancing a blow off of one of Sam's legs to defend itself, "You have given me your light, now give me your pain!" The Halfling roared, as he prepared to strike again, "You can't have it! I will give you my joy, the joy of battle, the joy of raging against the dying of the light!"



"Samhain." A voice behind had called to him. He and the warrior stared each other down, the bare fists of the Hin held in strong fists, ready to endure a thousand cuts against steel if this was to be his last stand. The other stepped back, and rose his weapon, prepared to bear it down on him. He was about ten feet back, this next moment would decide everything. "Ombra, I hear you. It is dark, but I hear your voice, that means there's still hope!" He stared on his assailant with the white glow burning from his eyes, hissing at the void that bit and clawed around them both. "There is. Remember, the Void consumes all. Give the void what it wants. Give it your pain. It will be gone, it will be forgotten." Samhain watched as the samurai rose the blade over his head, and held it high into the roiling darkness of the hole that ate the light around them. "You cannot defeat me, the void is inevitable!" Tears fell from his face as he realized the one moment that left a black hole in his heart, that others have tried to heal, but stitch it closed so it did not leak. He reached into his pack and grasped something. It was a stick held by an old, fraying piece of twine. On one end, was a ball of faded red fabric, and on the other, a small, threadbare stuffed bear that dangled from a harness of twine. "I toss my most hopeless moment into the darkness, the darkest day I ever lived, and survived." He released Yonah's Mobile into the sky, and let the void take it away. The thread unravelled from the mobile and the strings kissed sparkling pieces of metal. The pieces of Soen'na that flew into the void, but refused to be consumed. The twine and metal dragged together, and sparkled in spite of the darkness. Tears streaming down his face, he held his stance and prepared to face his foe.



"It is inevitable!" The hands rose again, but a moment of shock crossed its eyes as it looked up, and the weapon in its hands was missing. Samhain looked down, and something that fit in the saya of Soen'na laid in its sheath. His hand reached down, and he set on the saya. His fingers wrapped around the handle, and felt the menuki bite into his palm gently. Those soulful eyes rose up and the burning white settled on the Vacuous Swordsman. "I have never taken from this land," he said with a sense of peace. The sound of the steel ringing as it drew from the sheath it was fit for, and the blade shone through the darkness. No place his hand rested on it allowed a shadow to exist. As the weapon came into his hand, black raven's feathers rose behind his mothbitten cowl, defying the gale around them. They flittered, and rested around his shoulders as he looked up at the samurai, "that is the way of a stranger." He held the weapon forward, and looked on pensively as he gripped it. A nimbus of Spirit clung to his skin and around him, as he gripped the weapon. Ombra spoke behind him, the shape of the raven resting on the bridge as she encouraged him, "Now claim your destiny."



"I am Samhain Banicknet." He said to the vacuous swordsman, as a horrible hiss rose from within the helmet, the void roiled and bit inward, trying to close in on them. He held the sword low, and just as the movement that opened them, his wings propelled him forward in the stance of the Graceful Crane. "With this, once and for all, I am ready to face the Void." The weapon bit through the shadowy figure and cut through the void around them. The darkness was cast away with the violent cut, and he spun the blade in his hand, dragging the spine against the crook of his left elbow, and sheathing it at his side. The swordsman fell, and the light laid about them. The wings had faded from his shoulders, and the pace across his face was tangible. He was lighter, he had lost the hole in his heart, that others endeavored to heal.



"Some day, there will be peace for you; I swear it." He said gently, over the fallen form of the swordsman, as he slowly discorporated. "There already is peace for him; it's you." The voice of Ombra filled his ears. He looked at the great Raven and nodded his head pensively, "Thank you for being here." She continued, stepping towards the Halfling, "The void takes everything, even what should be forgotten." He nodded slowly, "I am glad that he has peace, that I have peace. But we do not live in a place of peace. This is not the last of the void, is it?" She tilted her head, and the voice came from her in response, "Should it be?" Turning, the Hin considered this carefully, and looked back to her, shaking his head, "There is no peace without the void," she continued, "for without it, all things would linger for eternity." The wisdom of this rang true, and he understood. Slowly, his head dipped in a nod of understanding, "I suppose there must be, I know it's all bigger than I am, and that there needs to be an equilibrium." She looked from him as the light faded back to daylight across the old bridge to the wastes, "For there to be balance, there must always be a shift. But your are beginning to understand. To see." Slowly, he followed her gaze out to the morning light, and thought carefully. "Yes, there needs to be, there has to be movement, stillness is death." She replied, softly, "The light returns to normal and my time wanes. You have proven your resolve, but now the task is yours to keep it. Just know that there was even a time that I needed the void, so that we could forget. The Void is only a danger when those try to use it for what it is not." The Hin answered, "I keep the Tomb of Fangil, in your memory. I shall look to the horizon for our next meeting. Thank you for your guidance and your wisdom, Ombra. Be well." He glanced back towards her, but she was gone. "Maybe, after all this time, I am no longer a stranger in a strange land, but I am home.



Sam turned, and began the long walk along the bridge, towards the Camp. He had a letter to leave. As he walked, his foot hit a risen part of the bridge, and he tripped, falling onto his face.
"Oh, fiddlesticks!"

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saadow
8:15:49 pm GMT 10/03/21
saadow Registered Member #23976 Joined: 1:31:54 am GMT 11/30/15
Posts: 140

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A Stranger I am no Longer

There was a man that walked up that old Drakamyre mountain, and very few knew him. Indeed, many passed by the carving on the old oak tree wondering who it even asked for? You'd see him in the background of what was going on, either tending an old gravestone, or passing by to a store. This man was a stranger in a strange land. But with a stranger that becomes less estranged, the more people would speak to him. The more others heard his story, or he joined with theirs, that stranger started to have a name and a face. He had a story, and he had something to give when once so long ago he had an empty heart. He was once with a wound so deep and long, it extended to his face, and down from his heart into his very soul. With love, with time, with care, with treatment and thought, that hole began to fill. That hole was given to the Void, to be forgotten, to be himself unburdened. The man who walked down from that mountain had an air of peace around his face. He was aglow with the Spirit and those who saw him returning from that long walk could see that he was not empty, but full. With the tatters of his torn and bloody haori laying around his hips, and the whispers of his hakama pants pushing aside in the breeze, the man who walked down that mountain was Samhain Banicknet. The warrior's body was covered in scars laid bare, old wounds, new wounds, it all blended together and showed a tough visage not for what it endured, but for being truly free of enduring its own burden. Dangling off his neck was a thick chain of wooden beads, with the head of a dog in profile; this was the symbol of Urogalan, the shaper.



On his return, a few had looked to him. They asked, "Sam, are you okay?" Another asked, "You look as though you're injured." When he saw them though, when they asked, his face had filled with joy, and he began to laugh. It was confusing, but it was not the laugh of an addled man nor was it discomforting. On the contrary it was a laugh from the belly, from the depth of the soul. It was a laugh of true, unmitigated joy. It was the kind of laugh that was infectious, and maybe even a few joined him. He had tears in his eyes, and wiped them from his face, letting the laughter gradually still. The confusion gave way to smiles, "I'm so happy to see you all. No, I'm fine. I'm more than fine. Thank you! Thank you for everything!" Cuts, bruises, aches, pains; they healed or renewed; it was that which came with having the body of a warrior. But what remained was that joy and laughter. The Hin man had stayed at the crossroad, and enjoyed drinks, and food, but only for a little while as he recovered. He soon began to walk towards Webster's landing, and approached the old Tomb of Fangil. Outside, looking up on the old mausoleum which he had given his love and hard work towards, he offered a genuine smile. "Thank you, Ombra, for standing beside me once more." Quietly, he walked up the hill, alone, to the old mausoleum and entered, to do the work he had taken to.



With harvest time coming, the farmers of Webster's landing collected what they had sewn, laying forth their wares and together trading among one another, to whom needed what. Among them, the Hin walked. He smiled to the people, and they grinned back. He had been a shape of hope, and full of this charity, he traded with them in gold, for the gifts of respecting their long dead. What was once a strange appearance of the adventurer and his foreign dress and blade, became a fixture, not at all unlike the paintings of Saint Jiles, and his familiar sword. Trading for a fresh, ripe tomato, the Hin passed a few silver over, more than was asked, and ate the tomato to share his appreciation with the farmer who grew it, and abate his own hunger. "It's been a bountiful harvest this year. The larders will be full, hearths will be warm with stews and soups, and roasting of the tubers will fill the streets. You've all done so well." The farmer shared his joy with the Hin, "Its been a tough'n, Sam, but I think we pulled 'er t'gether at the right time, we did! How're the 'maters?" He nodded in response, "Flavorful, perfect. I couldn't have found better elsewhere. The soil really has perked up with all the fine composting you're doing. Thank you! Please leave me a note at the old fence if your wife is going to fry more of the green ones, I'd love to pick some up!" The two nodded and parted. The Hin walked through the town with a sense of belonging, a sense of family, not just here but to the island itself. He was no longer a stranger, but he was home, finally. He thought about the Claddagh ring he had purchased, and the woman who was holding it right now. His eyes closed and he took a warm breath. 'Is this what it's like to feel good for once? To feel like you belong?'



The week before his duel


The day passed, and as for every night, he retreated up to the tomb to do his duty. His nights were often without sleep, he would find time during the daylight when the dead would not rise to rest. As he descended down the stairs, the shuffling of footsteps was audible. He moved among the tiles, padding into the dark, and with as much gentleness as necessary, he fended off the walking dead, endured their clawing and biting with his thickened skin, and when they stopped struggling, he gently took them into his arms, and one by one began to return them to their crypts. He left them with their belongings, and used his hammer to tamp back down the crypt covers and their pulled spikes. Damaged plaster was done over with mixture from Steinkreis. Damaged bricks were carefully removed, and new ones were pushed in from red clay baked out in a small campfire. Mortar and pointing was refreshed, and the old statuary was fixed and replaced. He tended to his work with love, swept the old, dusty floor, and filled the oil lamps again so they'd burn brightly and keep the tomb lit as it should be, shadowing the old statue faces and the writing of the old codex in the back of the mausoleum. Finally, the Hin walked towards the altar, and insured all of the candles were lit. Any that were past use, were freed, and a new one replaced them. When this was done, he knelt down, sat back on his heels, and rested his hands on the top of his knees. He looked into the dim light and watched if the dead would rise again, to tend to them with care and set them back to rest.


As he settled there, Sam heard a clatter of steel to the stone tile floor. Opening his eyes, a familiar weapon sat down at his knees. He knew the name of this sword, and could feel the wickedness off of it, even without his hand on the hilt, over the white lady diamond set as a menuki in the wrapped handle. An eye within turned and glanced from the gem towards him, it widened and looked away. It remembered. A voice he recognized spoke from the shadows as it stepped out, "How did you do it?" It was the familiar visage he had seen before, with Cuchuwyn's sacrifice, it was the Demon he knew. Beside him, the shape of a red coat and staff were seen, with a mask over his face, offering a mechanical whirr and a hiss with a breath out. "Ah, Lomir, Rhandum. It's good to see you." He bowed his head to them gently, and gestured, "This is Akumu, the Nightmare. This sword was tainted with evil. I used one of the reproductions of Zeraphil's sword, with a technique that Sifu taught me to capture evil spirits through the blade." He pointed to the menuki, "You must use a diamond of worth, not rough, but cabochon cut. It then is to be set as the menuki of the sword. So long as the gem is used as the menuki--this decorative piece--the spirit is taken into the blade and held there. A bit of the spirit is allowed to come out if the sword is wielded with the gem in place, otherwise it becomes dormant within the gem."


The Demon shook his head, "I understood little of that." He looked to Lomir, who shrugged. The two looked back to Sam, "Can you do it again?" The Hin looked down at the damaged and worn hilt of Soen'na. "This sword, her name is Soen'na. It means 'Estranged.' She has endured too much, and we slowly march towards her final battle. However, I have faith in this blade. I am confident I could pull a dark spirit through it once more and hold it within a gem. Why though? Why would you want such a technique as this?" The Demon twitched a moment, before explaining what was happening. Something was happening in the abyss. Layers were moving, crashing together. Demon lords were trying to vie for control, and to push them back was needed. An effort to balance the situation back. To consume one would give him the edge he needed in these machinations. What moved Samhain though was not the thought of this, no, what moved him was the concept through explaining this, that he saw Rhandum as doing something he never expected: defending something. This motivated his answer, "The best I have seen are the White Lady diamonds, of the second age. Find me one, and I will do this for you."



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A battle of inhumanity

Within a week while working within his tomb, a small bag was set before him, "They were not easy to get, but here. You will still help?" Taking the bag in his palm, he slid it to his pack and dipped his head, "I will join with you for this, tell me where, and when, and we'll go together." The chaos of the abyss was a violent roil. The collisions of layers were deafening, the power was horrific as these, at this moment, antiheros stood together and endured the worst of the Demon's home dimension. Fire, acid, explosions, and magic of death roared around them. Even Sam was out of his element, and had to use every tool he had saved to survive. A potion used for a rainy day, saved from the great treasures of the island was quaffed, and the field around him stopped those dire effects from holding him down. Covered in blood, his own and the demons around him, the nameless blade whistled through the air and struck through bodies. Claws and weapons bore down on his body, buckling through the violence, before a white winged creature crashed over him and knocked the Balor trying to tear into his body away. He ran alongside the frightening visage of the dragonkin and jammed his weapon up through the creatures belly. Layer after layer, through gates or collision, the group had descended deeper and deeper towards a roiling violence in the dark. Finally, drenched in the ichor and sweat of prolonged battle, the companions together stepped towards a burning gate that opened towards a city.


"This is where he resides," snarled the Demon. With all they could do to prepare, magic and potions, and tools of their little island home, these misfits delved into the darkness, and faced at a figure of magnitude. Wielding a great blade, the fiery lord bellowed his challenge, and together the warriors ran forward to meet him. Stalwart and strong, the Hin showed that day that strength did not have to come from the great and massive, and though wounded and struck, he endured those raining blows in this far-away place. 'I know why I'm here. I have to help protect my home. Our home.' The blade in his hand sailed and kissed the edge of the Demon Lord's own, crashing in a rain of sparks as he glanced it to the side. The edge was weakening, and he had to be mindful of that against such power. The heroes together fought until the form of the lord crashed to the ground, and split into many parts. Each rose with their violent intent for them all, spells coursing from the floating skull, a sword bearing down on them all. One after another, did each piece get struck down. Finally, though, the Hin pulled the gemstone into the space where the menuki lay, and with a leap, he plunged the weapon through the bone, pulling that dark spirit through the blade and into the gemstone just as Sifu taught all those years ago.


As the warriors left this dark place, shifting to another place in the shadows, the white winged creature drew a blade from one of the demons that had pierced his flesh. "Here, take this, One of them left it in me." The weapon was, curiously, an untainted katana of exceptional make. Looking the old weapon over, he held it and slid the saya beneath Soenna's own. The demon he knew approached and offered the Hin, "The lord had this among his possessions. You should take it, given you tend the dead." Within, the lonely arm of a fallen Empyrean that had been severed on his final duty in this far away place was bequeathed to him. Holding it gently, he looked over the iconic armor, and knew who he would have to seek out regarding this. Bowing his head, the wounded halfling slowly limped his way through the shadows, and descended into the Bog where the darkness lifted away from him. The dead rose, and he stared down at them, before setting his jaw, and leaping down; hands closing into balled, bloody fists.




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The week after his return


The people around Sam noticed that he was just, lighter. Different. There was a peace and joy that filled everything he did. He was no longer nothing like the man in his black laquered armor and kabuto helmet, those years ago. With his visage almost wild, that peaceful expression and soft brown eyes were filled with spirit and hope. No longer did he look at the world as an enemy and he was just passing by, but he began to engage and enjoy the full spectrum of the design around him. Every moment was full and vicarious, every flavor a thing to enjoy and behold, every moment freeing and engaging. It was through this a whisper on the wind was heard, and he knew this whisper before. Though of different voices and cadence, he knew the voice Arakhor had used to reach him. This one was new, it was Sae-Lor's own. It was a calling, a sending, and with his peaceful stillness the Halfling ronin walked south along the road. The violence of the Kobolds and their territorial hostility was avoided, their stunned eyes looking around in bewilderment for the figure that strode past their slings and their knives and clubs. The Dwarves of hammersong were greeted with a smile and the greeting returned with curiosity, but then recognizing who he was by a dagger on his hip, they rose their flasks and took a drink to remember their fallen general. The Marchwarden's of Sandburrow looked on at the familiar figure as he dipped his head to their passing, and the Hin finally made his way around the bend to the south coast, where as night fell, a contingent of elves fought for their lives against the Razorfang bandits. In a flurry of fists, he had lept up the hillside and rose his hand up, striking away the biting face of a vicious bandit, before landing in the stance of the Striking Serpent, and using the pointed strikes to batter and subdue the bandits, and save the elven contingent. Brief words were given to the Estel as he shared hope with them, before walking through that old forgotten bog. The spirits of the Fenhounds moved through the mist as the sun gradually rose, and the astringent scent in the air of the poison burned the throat. Stepping into the gate of the Tauerglond, the Arben that guarded the gates regarded the Hin that passed through with the same politeness he had generally given them. It surprised them though his difference, it was noticeable that he was just, free as a cloud.


Deeper and deeper still into the Tauerglond, meeting the others within as they passed, the druids as they tended the roots, the Arben as they patrolled. He was guided to the crypt that the Tauerglond supported beneath these caves, and up above he saw the Dryad and her wings, the gossamer colors flitting as she turned to address him. "We need your help, we do," said the Dryad. He listened as she explained what she had spoken to the keeper Teron about. It became revealed to him that there was a deep bond crafted between Sae-Lor, and the Void, or more specifically one of the wardens of Vexious Inaril. Erebus, the Executioner. Those who abused the void were at it once again, and that caused his expression to set more firmly. The Hin spoke plainly, "We need to balance all of these parts of the Heart of Thain, these aspects which bleed out need to be for our home to be in good health. It was told to me by Ombra, that the void is not the enemy, but it is those who use it, abuse it, for what it is not meant for. You have my sword, even if we do not know each other very well yet." It was true, Sae-Lor looked and saw that not at his side was the familiar sword which followed him from lands far away, but a blade that was new, and similar, yet different, set in the old Saya of Soen'na. As if knowing that the Hin was watching it, the blade shivered in her home, letting the presence of it be known. A gentle hand rested on the guard in reassurance, but he looked back to Sae-Lor with a placid expression, "When it is time to go, call for me, and I will come."


Sam was enjoying a meal of roasted boar, among the Hellshire. It was one of his favorite places to go on the island when he was not working in either the Necropolis or the Tomb of Fangil. Resting with Hugdish there, he and her were sharing a meal and stories of the things that had happened most recently. That whisper on the wind came, and when he heard it, he looked to her, and expressed his need to go. She came with him, and the two followed the whisper on the winds to meet with an elf, who he himself had changed so much since the last time the Hin had seen him. "You look so much better, Elarion. I'm so glad to see you." The warmth may, perhaps, have been surprising, but it was that fullness of Spirit which came across in all of he ways he acted and stood for the Island, their home. Avaggdu was there, a friend they had all not seen in a long time. All of them together had approached Sae-Lor. With a quake in the ground, the felt time was of the essence. An old effigy in the corner of a lost part of the woods loomed ahead of them, as Sae-Lor explained what was going to happen next. Elarion told them that they would remain behind so there was a path in for them to continue forward. Hugdish could not follow him here, as she too needed to return. It was difficult, as she always worried when he sent himself into danger, but he held her hands, and told her that it would be okay. "I will come home soon, you being here? It will give me the greatest reason to return." As they parted, the world began to shift, and while they fell down into a dream. Awaking, the Druid and the Hin walked out into the green of the woods. In the distance, the darkness of the Void was slowly creeping over the deep emerald woods, and consuming shapes, skins, shadows that did battle with their mirror images. The two rushed, skirting that barrier of hungry darkness that tried to grapple with the Hin, who had escaped it before. The strength of his soul which was full of the Spirit and the power of hope did not yield to it, and though affected, he pushed on and away.


The Halfing and the Half-Orc strode towards the battles occurring, and together, they sought with their combined will to bolster the warriors on the side of the woods, pushing back the memories the hungry dark was using to fight them. It was in this time they had found many of their old friends, Avaggdu found Seryn fighting with her dark shape, and used the power of nature to feed her great strength, and to fight back against the darkness. When it was defeated, these echoes of memory disturbingly knew they were long gone, but were at the same time present of mind, present of body, present of spirit. Sam had discovered Arakhor fighting her shadow, and though he failed with his strike to stop it in one blow, the sword that did not yet speak to him let the black wings rise from his back, and though the hungry darkness tried to take him again, the weapon shivered as it was called to action once again, and kissed the Void with it's power, cutting it back and freeing Arakhor from her binding. They moved together, all of them, through the woods. Guided by the senses of all of these memories, they found the Warjack; a skin worn by Arakhor during the war, a great visage and engine of distruction. All of them together joined the battle, and fought the shadow as it tried to stop them. Though built for great endurance, the small Hin stepped up before the violent form and the rain of its violence down onto him. He dropped down into the stance of the Unyielding Bear, and endured blow after blow as it struck him, opening the foe to attack from each of them around. With the power of the Warjack freed from its battle with the void, the party of now these old shapes, sought to the south through these woods. It was here that a vicious dark shape did battle with the memory of Sae-Lor, the dream of the poison itself. This malicious shade spoke of the power the poison would have if it followed his command, it spoke of how they were fools to stand against him. "The only fool here," the Halfling spoke, "is the fool that did not learn the lesson of Vexious Inaril; you will fall here today, and we, all together, will stop you. The poison does not need a tyrant like you again."


The power of nature, of the source, flowed through Avaggdu as he rose and bent in shape, twisting to a great dragon's form, rising high above the battlefield! Sam ran towards the foe, screaming kiai from his diaphram. The magic blade with no given name coursed from its saya and the pressure of spirit rose beyond him and behind him, unfurling in black wings as he charged. Sae-Lor's memory looked on as she struggled with Erebus, and was joined by Arakhor with her curved blade, and Seryn with her own thorny crudgel of the woods. Form and shape distorted as the woods bent and twisted, the dream was starting to fold on them all; they did not have enough time to let this be a pitched battle. The bright flash of light, of Spirit as the weapon crossed the shade's form elicited a cry of indignant anger. The weapon in its hands crashed into the gnashing teeth of the great dragon that loomed over the battle, picking its strikes among the multiple warriors. The Warjack stomped onto the earth and caused stone and soil to part in the violence, vines coursing up and trying to grab and work around the shadow and his terrible intentions. "Sam! Do not strike him, look!" Ducking below a swing of the great weapon the shadow wielded, he looked and saw a great thorn of inky blackness biting into the ground. He lept, and ran, dodging blow and spell alike as he ran across the ground. The earth moved with him, rising to meet his steps. The battle as it raged gave him a space to run- up the arm and shoulder of the great dragon that Avaggdu had turned into. Sam rolled on his shoulder and pushed with both legs off of the other arm of the mighty beast, screaming as he lept off the dragon and dove. He aimed the leveled tip of his blade towards the thorn, before crashing into the shape within the dream! CLANG!


The thorn was covered with many spikes, growing outward to defend itself. Blood and sweat poured from injuries across his frame, risking his life and body to get close to damage this weak spot. I know we do not know each other yet, but I have faith in you. I have seen what you were born from, I had watched you come together from the parts of a legacy that stretches long behind us. Forgive me if I do not wield you right, but we need to act. We need to succeed. There is no room for any other result, we win, or we die. Do you want to live? I know I do. I need to see more of the Spirit, I need to see more of you. I want to earn your name some day. The weapon was held up overhead, and he struck at the thorn, again and again. The form of Erebus looked on in horror, howling for him to stop! Avaggdu's shape changed again, dropping the visage of the dragon to take a snake. As the others fought, Seryn was struck down by a mighty blow. The Warjack was struggling under the might of its foe. Arakhor and Sae-Lor did their best to keep fighting back, to keep going. The snake slithered across the ground, and sank its fangs deep into the ankle of the shape, which cursed the Half-Orc, "You dare use my own poison against me?!"


"That is where you are wrong, the poison was never yours, it was never anyone's, the poison was always for itself, for that which lives through it, that finds it home!" White light began to rise in the corners around the thorn, as deep cracks began to form in the surface, light bleeding through them. The Hin drove the tip of the blade into it and with the rippling musculature around his body, he clenched and twisted the weapon in the crack. His body trembled from the exertion and his teeth clenched in vital effort. In his hands, the sword shivered like it did. The battle fell quiet behind him, as the darkness loomed and crept around him. Tears fell down from his eyes as he wrenched and twisted the weapon. The strands of the tsuka gently laid around his wrist and tightened, like a hand was grabbing for his, when he was hanging from the cliff.






What was that? I heard you. He grit his teeth, a thin line of red falling from the corner of his mouth as a spine began to push through his right breast, growing from the cracking and groaning thorn in a last ditch effort to save itself. He turned the weapon in hand and his arms rippled, chest heaved, and he twisted in the other direction. The fit was tight, and the blade shuddered again. It was certain, distinct. The voice was young, like a child. It spoke in those familiar syllables of that far off place.






Just a little louder. I can hear you.



Sam lifted his head, eyes pinning shut as the weapon gripped his hands tightly, and he held on for dear life. He cried out to the Hope of this island, to the great force that swelled around him and within him. And the weapon began to twist the thorn apart and open. Arakhor had been struck aside and stumbled, and Erebus reached out past the others as they grabbed hold onto him, to stop him, "NO! NOOOOO!" The Halfling screamed out at the top of his lungs to put every ounce of his muscle into this final effort. His hands wrenched and twisted as the spines of inky blackness cut across his toughened hide,



"Rengō!"



There was an earsplitting crack as the thick, dense thorn broke apart and shattered into light. The inky black ripped apart and the Hin was thrown into the roiling landscape of the dream. Darkness rolled over him and his friends, and everything became dark in an instant. Slowly, his eyes began to open, but he could not know how long it had been. The sky of Thain opened up and the lazy roll of clouds across the brilliant night sky showed a thousand perfect diamonds suspended above, like the beautiful dress of a titan of impossible size, glinting as she beheld the little sphere before her. He watched up with peace as he felt a large hand rest on his shoulder, "You're finally awake. Slowly, he turned his aching body to look towards Avaggdu. The two laughed, and spoke for a time. Sae-Lor was not to be seen, nor was Elarion, nor the memories of Arakhor, or Seryn, or the Warjack. They were here alone, perhaps they have been asleep for days, or maybe it was just a dream. The Halfling looked down to the scabbard at his hip and the weapon shuddered within its saya.

Rengō. Unification. That is your name.

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