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Thread: Oblítus (Updated June 25, 2013)

  1. #1
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    Default Oblítus (Updated June 25, 2013)

    Hello, again! It's been a while since I've posted any tales, and I think it's high time I get back on the horse and try something new. This isn't Pokémon, much as I would like for it to be, but it's a submission of creativity and I'd like to share it with you, all the same. I've been moved to offer up some writing based on the events of the D&D campaign in which I'm currently playing. I hope you enjoy!




    a Dungeons & Dragons tale


    My name is Gargonn.

    I have had this name since before I was born. It was my first possession. Perhaps in the end, it remains the only one I have. The name was given me by my father, who felt it would be a good, strong name for his child. He did not care whether I was male or female. Among my native race, the orcs, gender truly does not matter when it comes to naming children. To my knowledge, I am the only owner of this name. It has no meaning, because orcs use words and names that have no deeper meaning. It is just a random collection of sounds, although it resembles the name of a strong, stubborn, bull-like creature that terrifies even the most stalwart adventurer. Whether this is a coincidence or not does not matter.

    My name is Gargonn.

    Humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, and many other races customarily take no fewer than two names for themselves. Some races have been known to take as many as seven. Orcs see this as a ridiculous practice. It would only be necessary if there were far too many members of the same race, or if they were stupid enough to give the exact same name – or names – to many of their children. Such a practice is a sure sign of either extreme overpopulation or idiocy. Perhaps even both.

    This is not to say that orcs only ever have one name. Throughout the course of his lifetime, an orc may take several names for himself, as befits his status, his stage of life, and his experiences. I myself have taken the names Blackmane, Nosebreak, and Neverwinter. But an orc will always be primarily identified, and will identify himself, by his given name, not by his taken names.

    My name is Gargonn.

    When you live in the Desert of Blood, you learn quickly that it is not your name that matters. What matters is survival. Therefore, there are no names shared among family members. When you survive into adulthood, that is when you are respected. That is when you are family forevermore. There is no need for a shared name, for you have already shared the experience of living through the harsh, unforgiving weather of the dunes.

    This is not the practice of orcs everywhere. But it is the practice of the Blood Desert orcs. To them, there is no greater ritual that will prepare you for the harsh life of an orc than learning how to survive and adapt to the climates that nature itself will use to try to destroy you. The heat of day is as if the sun itself were offended by the sweat on your brow... but the cold of night would have you believe the moon scorns you by giving light and no warmth. There is no respite. There is no peace. There is only the will of nature set against the will of the orc.

    The Blood Desert orcs believe this is the greatest trial of life. A never-ending battle against nature... a battle suited best to them, for nearly all other races shrink, wither, and die in this place. But when we have lived in this searing hell long enough, we will be rewarded for our endurance, our struggle. Each orc celebrates this struggle in different ways, and pays homage to many gods. The Blood Desert is host to no fewer than seven temples, each of them a house for a different deity – some are moral, some are immoral, some are neither. All demand discipline and sacrifice from their followers.

    I always found it simpler to believe in nothing but myself, my own abilities. I trusted that if I was capable, I could see myself through the trials that befell me. Very simply, I would learn how to adapt and overcome, or I would die. I darkened the steps of no temple... I paid homage and sacrifice to no god. I was not the only one who chose to be atheistic, but I was the first of my immediate family to willfully ignore the temples in the surrounding desert.

    Orcs do not live nearly as long as most other races. Ours is a violent and brutal culture, in which the strong survive and the weak are left without mercy. Even the strong will not survive very long, when compared to the others. Even humanity, with their brief lifespans, lives longer than my native race – without illness or injury, a few humans have even lived to be one hundred years old... while orcs are venerable elders when they reach sixty years of age.

    In fact, I am sure that one day, the other races will live to see the death of orcs, as we know them. Perhaps not the race I was born of, but the majority of orcs will eventually be driven underground, or into other realms of existence. It will never be a dominant race here, on the Material Plane. The time will come when orcs pass on... and it seems the only people who do not already know this are the orcs.

    My people have held, since first setting foot in the Desert of Blood, that the extreme climate would eventually make us strong enough to survive anything. Each generation would be better, more powerful than the last. So it was, for a time. An entire age passed, followed by another... and the orcs that lived in the Desert of Blood became their own race. Our eyes and skin turned black as they became accustomed to the sun, and we rid ourselves of this weakness that our cousins in more temperate climes still suffered. The red sand itself became a part of us, built into our skin as a layer of resistance to the realm we had chosen to brave. Some say it was a blessing, a reward for our boldness. Others claim it to be a curse, for not an inch of our flesh was spared this bonding, and everything we touched henceforth was scored by the roughness we carried – even our mates.

    The Blood Desert orcs are a relatively small population, when you compare them to the grand vistas that humans, elves, dwarves, and others have built together. Eldht-Khan, Ghren-Dhomin, Nordmere – these are the cities that have thrived for centuries, and welcome all. My ancestral home in the Scar Canyon, however, is filled with orcs that suspect any who would visit. They are not immediately hostile, but they have few friends. They consider it just short of madness that anyone would wish to penetrate so deeply into the Desert of Blood as to find the canyon, let alone do any business there.

    But the world is getting smaller, day by day. There will come a time when the Scar, too, is populated by more than just orcs and the occasional strangeling. It has not arrived yet, but I hope that I am long departed from this world... or at least this realm... by the time it does. I have already lived far too long, and seen far too much, to feel assured of anything except the decline and death of the people and home I have loved. I wait for my own passage not with anxiety... but gladness and relief. The burden of my life has been a heavy one, a heavier load than any Blood Desert orc could ever be truly expected to bear.

    In truth, I have heard little of the Scar Canyon, these past three hundred years. I only know that my people still survive there, even after everything that happened. Perhaps they may yet ascend to a level of glory that I have chosen to scorn. I can hope for that. Failing this, I can hope that orc-ken will eventually learn to embrace the rest of the world, and coexist in it. They might have a chance for survival.

    Why I should still care for them, after they have forsaken and forgotten me, is beyond my ability to understand. It is certain to be that the last nine generations of Blood Desert orcs have never heard or spoken my name. And yet, it was that sense of community among my people that encouraged my survival. Everyone had a duty to himself and each other. That sense of duty inspired me to hone myself into a creature of discipline, respecting the rules and regulations that ensured our continuation above all else.

    It is responsible for the lessons I have learned in my very long life. It is how I became who and what I am now. Because of that drive to learn discipline for myself, that desire to be a greater use to my community, I sought out the means I needed to ensure our survival and strength – and upon acquiring those means, I became lost to my people for the rest of my existence.

    The humans have a saying. “Be careful what you wish for.”

    My name is Gargonn.

    It was my first possession. And because of what I wished for, it remains the only one I have.
    Last edited by mattbcl; 25th June 2013 at 07:02 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Oblítus [PG-13]

    My life has seen more than its fair share of complication. Despite this, I try to remain simple. I do not care to be called complex, because I feel it is not an accurate description. That is a word fit for the philosopher sitting on top of the mountain, the mage councils of capital cities, political systems and economies. It is not a word fit for me.

    I am a creature of few words. When it comes to sharing thoughts and experiences, I do not have the same sense of enlightenment as others do. There are those who feel great kinship in pouring out their hearts to those who would listen. I have never been one of these – and when circumstances demand I listen, I feel ill at ease. Given these facts, it seems strange to me that I should write down any of this. I do not sense, even as I put these words to paper, that I will be any more at ease with myself or the world around me if I lend quill and ink to my thoughts.

    This text, however, is not here for me to complete. It is here only for me to begin, and offer my thoughts throughout as it is written, so that the author has a steady supply of sampling to work with. The true task of authoring the work before you was undertaken by Tasym. At this writing, he is a bard who aspires to document the greatest stories never told. He is a man of tremendous gift and wit, and it is by his insistence that I write at all. He tells me it is vitally important that I give him this chance to scribe my history and adventures. When he first presented me with his proposal, I thought it would appear foolish and vain, and I turned him down, until he said to me that the story was not mine alone. I was merely a part of it, and he wishes to see that part – and the many which went with it – submitted to historical texts. He thinks it far too important to go unwritten.

    I wonder now if the sages of Eldht-Khan will accept the telling he means to offer them. Tasym aims to become a loremaster in his own right one day, or so he claims. I know the city is in need of one. Perhaps it will be this text which brings him favor with the council, and sees his admittance into the High Library.

    You who read this text, know that I neither endorse nor condemn the politics and motivations I have described here. My concern is only that Tasym is accurate in his re-telling of the events you will soon read. Know, too, that my greatest desire is to be left in peace. My adventuring days are finished, and many of my closest friends and allies are long dead. I give you this, and nothing more. Do not seek me as a companion, for I am not restless. Beg no tales of me, for I am no storyteller. Do not ask me to train you, for I have abandoned the monasteries of the Red Sun and the Blue Moon.

    This text is no guide for hopeful adventurers. This is a historical recounting. I mean to offer you no advice. Your adventures must be your own. The choices you make will be yours, and yours alone. You must discover for yourselves the difficulties of living with them.



    This recount begins on the date of Soluunar/Kintharvest-9/23. Although there are other texts which can offer a greater account of historically significant events through interview and factual recitation, this is a narrative which is designed to present to you, the reader, the details and circumstances surrounding the Great Fall and Rebirth of Eldht-Khan, the Reckoning of Ghren-Dhomin, and the Spirelands Invasion, as experienced by the Rogue Expedition of Loremistress Jalen. The narrative I hereby present is taken directly from divinations performed by myself and Nog Mhakar’s Belur Council of Archmages; the foci for the divining spells were a series of samples donated to this project by Gargonn, Nimlossiel Celeg’pengwen, and Droth Sai-Raiel Teásen with their express sanction.

    Direct inquiries to Nog Mhakar’s Belur Council of Archmages, the Justice Hall of Ghren-Dhomin, or Eldht-Khan’s High Library.



    Learning to Crawl


    The city of Eldht-Khan was considered the crown jewel of Soluunar. It seemed an appropriate term for the place, in several ways – the continental plains were temperate and quite beautiful all year, lush with wild foliage and well-tended crops alike. There was little that was not attractive to the eye when one gazed upon regional Soluunar from above or across. Hamlets and villages dotted the landscape, each of them populated by farmers, cobblers, blacksmiths, and merchants whose combined work adequately subsisted their own small communities.

    Eldht-Khan, though, was a special place for Soluunar. It was made of the strongest stone and mortar, hewn from the western mountains by dwarves and built up by a joint force of goliaths, giants, and even a clan of ogres. It was visible from halfway across Soluunar’s territory, thanks mostly to the construction. As its building blocks had been hewn from the interior of a mountain, the city itself was a skyscraper in its own right. It was tallest at its interior, where the high towers belonging to the governing bodies – the elder council, the hall of justices, the academy of mages, and the territory’s dragon lord – threatened to disrupt every cloud that passed near. These towers, along with many other structures dedicated to the city’s resources, government, and military, stood upon a roughly circular plateau whose spectacular breadth would have exhausted even the most hardy warhorse.

    That plateau was complemented by another one which stood at half its height, and ringed the entire city. With this secondary region surrounding Eldht-Khan came an extension of its radius, to fully twice what it would have been with just the high plateau alone. But this was still not enough for those who wished to live in this place, for that radius was again doubled with the inclusion of residential, industrial, and commercial districts which sat at ground level beneath the artificial plateaus.

    Quite simply put, Eldht-Khan was the greatest city of Soluunar... a marvel of construction, technology, and unprecedented social equivalency, whose very presence commanded the attention of all those who lived in Soluunar but did not live there. It was fitting, then, that it was the capital, the center of all commerce, and the home of Soluunar’s militia. The world knew the name Eldht-Khan and spoke of it with reverence and awe. Were it not for the outer territories under its protection, the city could have been a region unto itself and would have thrived just as easily.

    There was little fear attached to the level of power present within Eldht-Khan, however. For all the potential it had as a city-state seeking dominion over other territories, its military had not been sent out to forcibly arrest more land during the entirety of the Lulous Epoch – indeed, the militia had only ever been called out to defend its borders in all that time. Nevertheless, its armed forces were still renowned throughout the world for their acumen and skill. The fact that Eldht-Khan’s non-expansionism was joined with a distinguished military record, a robust economy, and an extremely satisfied populace, meant that Eldht-Khan enjoyed a reputation as one of the greatest cities in the world.

    Given all this information, Gargonn Blackmane thought it strange that the “crown jewel of Soluunar” would reach out to the Red Sun monastery for help. Few people knew of its existence, few among those enlightened knew where it was located, and only the most hardy and dedicated of messengers could hope to deliver a missive to that remote sanctuary. Then again, once he’d performed his research on Eldht-Khan, he was more disturbed to discover the city didn’t have a monastery of its own, either within the limits or somewhere nearby.

    Perhaps I should not be so surprised, he thought, as he marched with the caravan through the southern gates of Eldht-Khan’s lowest ring – colloquially known as “Lowtown”. He cast his eyes briefly to the bright blue sky above, a sky with the occasional wisp of white cloud passing near the sun. A breeze was flowing across the plain, flapping his low-drawn hood about his dark face. The Blood Desert is one of the harshest climates in the world, a perfect location to train mind and body. What difficulties could one be expected to endure when the weather is as mild as this?

    In contrast to the news he’d heard of Eldht-Khan, he couldn’t recall any time in his life when the Scar Canyon had even been presented with the remote possibility of invasion. It was easy to consider the fact that it was populated overwhelmingly by orcs, half-orcs, and goblinoids as an effective deterrent, but even so, that population was still sparse – by his eyes, the entire populace of Lowtown could overwhelm the Scar. Moreover, the Scar was by far the most hospitable locale in the Desert of Blood, as anyone and everyone he had ever met was perfectly willing to acknowledge... if anyone truly wished to establish their home in the Scar Canyon, it was the most strategic location.

    That fact had never once been lost on the current occupants or their ancestry, however, and in order to even reach it, one had to cross the barren wasteland that was the desert for no less than a week’s hard ride on horseback. Assuming such a force wasn’t decimated by the heat, the cold, and the sandstorms, the various temples populating the desert provided the occupants of the Scar with ample warning to any attempts at intrusion.

    Not to mention, he thought wryly, those in the temples who choose the path of the cleric or the sentinel would provide such invaders with an adequate challenge. They would not even require the help of the Red Sun.

    He kept his hood drawn low over his face while he paced with the gathered masses through the gates of the huge metropolis. There were only a few other cities in the world that could match Ehldt-Khan for its variety in culture, its success in trade, and its reputation for diplomacy, never mind for its size. Even so, he suspected that the likes of orc-ken might not meet with the kindest of smiles, the warmest of hearts, or the least judgmental of passing looks. And he wasn’t interested in having that suspicion confirmed.

    It was difficult for him to figure out where to go. The bustle of the busy streets made it so that he could only determine where the roads were by following the featureless mass of heads and shoulders bobbing up and down within his field of vision. Beneath his bare feet was a path of cobblestone that was cool to his toes, but unsettling to his balance. He preferred soil or sand, not pavement. He considered paved roads to be a sign of decadence that typically invited the sort of attention communities were better off avoiding. Is it any wonder they have so many guards at the walls? he thought.

    A slight smirk touched his thick lips as he made his way through the throngs of people, unsure of where to let his feet carry him. He had entered the southernmost gates to the city, so he had a general idea of what cardinal direction he was following, but beyond that, he had little idea which path could be the most efficient one.

    He scowled beneath his hood. A military commander might do well to instruct those he recruits on how to get where he means for them to go, he brooded, eyes scanning the skyscraper towers of the interior city. It seemed the structure of Eldht-Khan had been intended to inspire and impress, as well as intimidate. His ears caught locals discussing shopping trips or significant events occurring in such places as “Hightown” and “Midtown”, which he supposed was in reference to the inner rings.

    As opposed to this rightly-named “Lowtown”, he mused. While the name fit the geography, it also appeared to speak to the social standards of the local populace. The people he passed tended to correspond to one of three types – there were the shamblers, the folks that wore too much heavy clothing for such a warm season and walked with a slight limp to their gaits... there were the suspects, who moved far too fluidly to be simple law-abiding townsfolk... and then there were the clearly homeless, who had their backs rested against local buildings, either out in the sidewalks or in dark alleyways. Most of them had a similar expression on their faces: one of hopelessness. Whether they were idle or active, none of them seemed to be expecting anything good would be forthcoming in the near future.

    His intuition told him to seek a path toward Hightown. It seemed the most logical place to keep a military headquarters – at the apex of the city, where one would be able to see everything both within and without the city, and the greatest possible distance. At the same time, he kept his cloak tightly about him... thieves would have few opportunities to try and steal what few belongings he’d brought with him.

    His journey up into Midtown was marked by a wide stairway. Briefly he wondered how one could expect trade goods and supplies to reasonably make it up such a staircase, since beasts of burden were normally needed to pull freight wagons; then, at the top, he noted a series of teleportation circles, clustered off to one side, engineered and monitored by magic-wielding folk in officious-looking garb. A wide and spacious road led from that place and alongside a main pathway of foot traffic, into what was presumably the central north/south trade lane.

    That might explain the difficulties of attempting to invade this city, he considered. Build stairs that beasts of burden cannot climb, then conscript magicians who can teleport things. You cannot invade what you cannot reach.

    His progress through the central market lane revealed to him a menagerie of merchants willing to sell virtually anything and everything. Interspersed among these were more magicians, proclaiming themselves able to enchant any item or piece of clothing you please at a very reasonable price. It was difficult for him to figure out his footing in the midst of all the fumbling around of other folk, and the shouting was something piercing to him. He resolved to get to Hightown as quickly as possible, and pushed impolitely through the massed throngs of people.

    There was another stair to be taken up to Hightown, and from his perspective, this one wasn’t quite so wide as the last. To be more accurate, it was in fact just as wide, but there were lanes of stairs, each blocked from the others by a tall wall of stone, and the lanes were designed to permit creatures of various width. He made his way up one of these lanes; in line just ahead of him was a humanoid creature wrapped almost entirely in black robes.

    Something inside Gargonn made his lip curl slightly at the sight of this form. There was no real reason he could discern as to why such a reaction was forthcoming, but there was something he instantly didn’t like about this person... something that made his blood boil with the intensity of the Blood Desert sun. He did his best to shrug off the sensation, and set his attention instead on what he would face at the top.

    Each person in line was made to stop at the apex of the stairway and answer to a guard. The officer posted at the end of this particular line appeared able enough, and well-equipped with armor and weaponry, and Gargonn began to wonder what he would say. Each entrant was given the same interrogation – “Name, please. Is your business diplomatic, commercial, legal, or personal?” Everyone ahead seemed to have a prepared answer to that question... having a selection was likely helpful... but the business that brought him to Eldht-Khan didn’t really seem to be encompassed in any of those descriptions.

    While he pondered, the person in front of him stepped forward to face the guard. “Name, please.”

    “Droth Sai-Raiel Teásen,” came the stiff response – the silky smooth voice was male, but wasn’t human, and Gargonn began to suspect he knew the reason for his initial reaction to this entrant.

    “And is your business diplomatic, commercial, legal, or personal?”

    “My business is with General Bared. I was summoned here by her and I need to know where I must go,” Droth replied crossly. “How would you classify that business?”

    The guard narrowed his eyes at Droth. “For your sake, I hope that business is nothing more than diplomatic. But ‘personal’ will do fine.” He gestured in the general direction of the four central towers. “Make your way to the center of Hightown and find the Hall of Justices. The general’s offices can be found there. You will not be permitted to enter under shroud.”

    “I have my reasons for concealing my appearance,” Droth retorted.

    “I don’t care what your reasons are, and neither will the contingent of guards posted at the Hall. You’ll unmask yourself for your visit or you’ll be turned away – it’s as simple as that. You may proceed.”

    Gargonn felt smugly satisfied at this interaction. Clearly this Droth was an adventurer, and was accustomed to doing things in whatever way pleased him... and it didn’t please him to adhere to rules and regulations. But Gargonn also considered that this didn’t bode well for him at all. The very same general had sent to the Red Sun monastery the missive which had ultimately brought him here. That means she could have sent the same message to whatever organization he is a part of... I might be made to work with him!

    Nevertheless, he stepped up to the guard post with a touch more confidence. The guard didn’t let his mask of professionalism drop when he looked up at Gargonn’s dark face. “Name, please.”

    “Gargonn Blackmane, and my business is personal.”

    It was only here that Gargonn could see on the hilt of the guard’s sword a crystal that glowed faintly with each word spoken between them. Perhaps it records the names and voices of visitors? he wondered. The guard’s reaction, meantime, was simply to tap his thumb on the glowing crystal, and then nod a moment later. “Very well, you may proceed.”

    Gargonn offered the guard a short nod of courtesy and moved forward in the general direction that the surly entrant ahead of him had gone. I suppose I should consider myself grateful to him, sparing me the awkwardness of properly answering to the guard. He did his best to give Droth a wide berth, however; he suspected he would not be appreciated as a borderline stalker.

    Nevertheless, their path was decidedly direct, and within minutes brought them before the front entrance to the Hall of Justices. Although it was the shortest of the four central towers, it still stood as an intimidating and impressive monument, and Gargonn set aside a quiet moment to feel humbled before it. Whether the people of Eldht-Khan were softer than his Blood Desert kin or not, there was little doubt they had poured heart and soul into the construction of these skyward structures.

    Droth, however, didn’t seem at all interested in letting himself be caught up in his surroundings. He approached the guards at the entrance – Gargonn noticed he’d defiantly left his mask and hood in place, so neither skin nor feature was visible beneath – and crossed his arms. “My name is Droth Sai-Raiel Teásen. I’m here to speak with General Bared, at her summoning.”

    “Then you’ll reveal yourself, stranger, and make yourself properly known,” one guard replied – four were stationed at the entrance, each just as well-equipped as the one at the Hightown stair. None made any threatening gesture, but his meaning was clear.

    “The general did not warn me of this requirement. I assure you I am not here to harm anyone,” Droth replied, not budging.

    Predictably, the guard didn’t budge either. “The requirement is a precaution, which you should be able to understand is intended as only the most minor of inconveniences. We will know the face that belongs to your name, or you won’t enter.”

    Gargonn chose that moment to approach. Although the masking about Droth’s face ought to have obscured his periphery, he nevertheless turned upon sensing the orc’s approach and stared at him directly. Even his eyes were obscured by a pair of dark-lensed goggles; he stood about two full heads shorter than Gargonn, but his fingers were curling in a way that suggested he was itching for a fight. Gargonn sneered at him in response. “You waste your time. Either accept their terms or stand aside.”

    “Says a man almost as obscured as myself,” Droth snapped.

    “I am no man,” Gargonn answered, and he pulled his hood back. Then he deliberately turned away from Droth to face the cadre of guards, who still hadn’t moved a muscle. “My name is Gargonn Blackmane, of the Monastery of the Red Sun, and I come in answer to a summons sent by General Bared. I seek permission to enter.”

    The guard who’d been speaking with Droth offered a curt nod. “Very well. You may enter. Be advised you will be carefully observed while in the Hall.” He stepped aside, while a second guard rapped his knuckles on the large wooden door – it swung open with a loud groan.

    “I stand warned,” Gargonn remarked. He cast one last look in Droth’s direction; he could only guess as to the expression beneath the mask, but his limited imagination suggested it wasn’t a pleasant one. He allowed himself a small, satisfied smirk as he entered the doorway.

    The Hall of Justices immediately struck him as lavish. While the outside had been made of high-density mountain stone and mortar, it did little to convey the true nature of the interior – a highly polished set of marble walls and floors greeted him. The acoustics were such that he could hear employees bustling about on the other side of the building from where he stood. Even the public furniture seemed to be made of glossed stone. He wondered if perhaps some form of urban stoneshaper had taken to this structure when it was being built.

    He didn’t have time to wonder for long, however, because a pair of guards identical to the ones outside were approaching him. The one on the right spoke. “Gargonn Blackmane?”

    “Yes,” he rumbled.

    “We’re to escort you to General Bared’s chambers.”

    He gave them a nod, and allowed them to bracket him and lead the way. Their path took them up halfway across the building, and then up a spiraling set of stairs that hugged the interior wall of the central column. The design might have fascinated architects, entrepreneurs, and vagabonds, but to Gargonn it was little more than a bland, artificial vista of stone whose smooth perfection was too eerie for his liking.

    He estimated that they were just a little more than halfway up the tower when they stopped their ascent. He was brought to a door of no lesser size than the one through which he’d entered on the main floor, and a quick series of knocks from the vocal guard caused it to open in identical fashion. Beyond, Gargonn could see the office space afforded the general... a space that was mostly bare, save for a desk covered with scrolls and parchments, and the chair to go with that desk. Two large, open window portals bracketed the room, and he had little doubt that a fall through one of them would be fatal to most.

    Gargonn was not the only person in the room... but then again, neither was the general. At least, that’s who he assumed she was – she was not seated at the desk, but rather, pacing back and forth in front of it. His assumption was derived from the sight of her uniform, a crisp piece of black and blue with red highlights. He was instantly struck by two facts about her: she was a halfling, and as such, stood barely as high as his waist. Her ilk were typically free spirits, and he had never heard of one joining a military force, never mind rising to such a prestigious rank. Yet here one was, and she stood at her full height, back as straight as the best quarterstaff the Red Sun monastery could offer, which demonstrated to him how seriously she took the position.

    The other fact about her that he found noteworthy was the absence of one arm. A quick scan of her visible features showed him some scarring on her face – something had slashed her, and perhaps that same something had been responsible for the loss of her left arm. He could only assume whatever that something had been, it was no longer alive.

    Her attractive face bore a severe expression, and when their eyes locked, Gargonn could see flames of strength and will in her gaze. “Greetings,” she said curtly. “Please come in, and join the line.”

    The line she spoke of was populated by three people, each of a different race. All were bipedal, but as he inspected them, he was quick to note that only one was a species with which he was familiar – a human male, looking to be of adult age, standing in the center of this group. He wore shining plate armor and carried a shield on one arm, his helm under the other. In contrast, on his left was a humanoid creature with gleaming, hairless black-and-white skin in patterned markings which Gargonn couldn’t identify; he wore only a pair of tan trousers, cinched with a rope belt, and a necklace festooned with razor-sharp teeth. On the human’s other side was some form of bipedal feline that stood perhaps only a head taller than the general, and gender wasn’t possible for him to determine at this angle.

    Gargonn decided to take stance next to the black-and-white fellow, with whom he exchanged quick glances. The general approached Gargonn and stared up at him. “There’ll be plenty of time to get to know each other later, so you don’t need to bother doing it here. We have one more guest we’re waiting on, and then we’ll begin, as soon as he decides to stop being a pompous ass and follow the rules around here.”

    “Not likely,” Gargonn muttered.

    Her eyes narrowed. “Maybe not, but taunting him before you’ve even begun to work together won’t help keep either of you in line, so keep whatever prejudices you have to yourself. That is why I sent for a representative of the Red Sun monastery, to receive an enlightened disciple – not a petty thug.” She looked at each of the others in turn. “I expect all of you to maintain discipline, just as I would any unit under my command. I have no illusions that most of you would have the knowledge or discipline of military training, so I expect certain rules of decorum will be unknown or ignored. That matters less to me, so long as you work together, and work well together.”

    There was a brisk knock at the door. The general wordlessly gestured at it; it swung wide open with no apparent motive, revealing a pair of guards, and Droth standing between them. His face was still obscured by the mask and goggles, and none of the rest of his features were visible beneath his black clothing. He looked about the room, unsure of what to make of what he saw there; but already the general was walking towards him.

    “General Bared,” he started, “I am–”

    “No overtures are necessary, I already know who you are,” she snapped. “And if I’m to expect you to continue this juvenile defiance of our protocols, I’ll see you in irons for it. Show me your face and join the line.”

    Gargonn could sense Droth bristling, despite the fact that he wasn’t looking at him. “General, with due respect–”

    “You don’t get to tell me you have respect for me as a prelude to saying you won’t respect the rules that help to keep this city and its valued inhabitants safe,” she said. “My brand of paranoia is warranted here. Yours isn’t. There are no undead here, nor is there a single person standing in this room who knows you. Should any of them be turned, one way or another I don’t expect you’ll have to worry about their knowledge of your face for long. The mask came off for the guards at the front entrance, and so it will for us here. There’s no room here for cowardice.”

    Gargonn wondered if anyone else in the line was as interested in the conversation as he was. There had always been a part of him that enjoyed seeing belligerent people get their comeuppance, whether it was undisciplined students at the monastery, or mouthy drunkards at the Split Toenail. But his peripheral glances told him that the other three were not turning to face the two warring personalities, and neither would he... he didn’t want to hear any more lectures on discipline.

    There was a shuffling noise behind him after a long moment, and he knew that Droth had chosen to accede... though why, he couldn’t even begin to guess. He’d thought perhaps the man – or whatever he was – was too full of pride, and would simply walk out. But maybe being called a coward might have had something to do with his decision, he thought.

    Droth moved to the other side of the feline, which put him at the opposite end of the line from Gargonn – for which the orc fund himself remarkably grateful. He didn’t bother trying to look at Droth’s features now, but he knew it would be the first thing he did when the opportunity availed itself.

    The general returned to her position in front of her desk, where she draped her arm behind her back. “Now, then,” she said, her tone a touch less severe than before. “We may discuss the matter at hand... and it is just this simple – several people, whom I consider valuable assets to this city, have gone missing. Most were military conscripts, part of an exploratory unit whose makeup was even more ragtag than that of this group. The last was the High Librarian of Eldht-Khan, a well-respected loremistress who was stolen away from the very place of her employment in an organized attack last week – an attack which could have resulted in the destruction of the library itself.”

    “But the library was ultimately saved, correct?” the human intoned.

    “Yes, Sir Cajentan, it was,” Bared replied. “Unfortunately, in the confusion, the attackers were able to get away and escape our territory. They were last seen fleeing toward the reservation of the lizardfolk. As for the exploratory unit... I’m afraid there’s been no news of them for over a month.”

    “What does this news have to do with us?” Droth asked. “You lost a few wandering soldiers and one librarian... what’s so special about them that you would call in outside help?”

    The general’s stare was penetrating. “To answer your question as simply and directly as I can... without them, Eldht-Khan will be destroyed, and five million people will die.”
    Last edited by mattbcl; 25th June 2013 at 07:28 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Oblítus

    We stood there for a moment, not sure how to respond. The general was a force of personality to be reckoned with, and I did not think she would appreciate further interruption. I gather the others thought the same as I, because it was she who broke the silence.



    Divide to Conquer


    General Bared lifted her hand up to her face and rubbed the bridge of her nose with thumb and forefinger. “Lady and gentlemen, I can assure you that as foreboding as that prediction is, it’s no exaggeration. But since you’re all looking at me with dumbfounded expressions, maybe I should start from the beginning.

    “Some of you may be aware that there was a misunderstanding between us and Ghren-Dhomin some time ago. The details of the misunderstanding are unimportant now, but they were of great concern at that time. This incident involved an army that was sent to threaten us, and though there was no chance they’d have truly been able to invade us, their point would have been made quite spectacularly. While we prepared our defenses within the city, this unit of conscripts foolishly went out to speak with the commander of Ghren-Dhomin’s forces. To our great surprise, the issue was solved peacefully, and the army of Ghren-Dhomin turned back.

    “We immediately debriefed the unit, which as I’ve mentioned was as mongrel a group as you could find... a raptoran, a goliath, a minotaur, an orc, even a yuan-ti. They’d been thrust together into a unit of misfits, but these misfits somehow managed to turn back an army without an arrow fired or a blade swung. From this moment on, we explored their potential and used them as an exploratory force, trolling the borders and keeping the peace. They performed admirably.

    “In time, we grew to trust them enough that we put them on extended assignment, allowing them to enter other territories to pursue various opportunities at their own discretion. They were diligent in reporting back – until their latest outing.”

    She shrugged. “From the moment they last set foot outside Soluunar, we’ve heard nothing. There are no traces to follow. They originally traveled northeast, but the path they originally took would have taken them to the North Sea. No guard outpost between here and Nog Mhakar reports having seen them.”

    She began to pace in front of the assembled party. “The composition I listed just now doesn’t reflect their last known members. The raptoran, goliath, and yuan-ti were still among them, but the minotaur chose dishonorable discharge over a dispute regarding an alliance with some brand of undead creature they found in their travels. The orc, meantime, has a rather...” She paused, as if unsure how to continue. “...I’ll say extraordinary history that led him to likewise part ways with us, in not the most amicable of terms. We compensated for the unit’s losses by adding a dwarven wizard and a jaebrin scout. They were with the team at last contact.”

    She turned to her desk and pulled a stack of parchments from the top, which she then handed to Droth. “Profiles of the unit. You’ll be keeping these and studying them on your journey.”

    “With the general’s permission...”

    She shot a sidelong glance at Sir Cajentan. “Yes?”

    By contrast, he was still staring straight ahead at full military attention. “You offer this unit considerable praise, and for all I know, it’s entirely merited – but I’m afraid I still don’t know the answer to our latest arrival’s question. What is so significant about these people that Eldht-Khan’s destruction is assured without them?”

    She gave a brisk nod. “Very well. The goliath, Zelrig by name, has a gift that rarely graces this world, and has never – to my knowledge – been located in any citizen of Soluunar... clairvoyance. Or, at least, some version of it. Zelrig is plagued by nightmares which are not simply nightmares, but omens... portents of the future surrounding him. His descriptions of them are not always focused, but they’ve proven to be accurate on a number of occasions. His people couldn’t identify the reason for his nightmares and so were unable to help him cope, and so he left them to seek out a life of his own, and a means to understand the omens. It was our High Librarian, Jalen, who helped identify the gift. These ‘dark premonitions’ have predicted dire circumstances on several occasions. Some have come true due to noninterference. Some were avoided thanks to his and his unit’s actions.”

    “So then it’s Zelrig we are seeking, more than the rest of this unit,” Droth supplied.

    The general aimed a withering stare at Droth. “Don’t misunderstand me. I want everyone in that unit found and brought back. It’s true that no other has a gift like Zelrig’s, but they are nonetheless extremely gifted, their variety and skills unmatched by any other military unit Eldht-Khan has to offer.”

    It was then that the catlike creature piped up, with a high-pitched voice that was as rough as Scar Canyon sandpaper. “Why send us, and not more military, to find them?”

    “Once it was clear contact was not forthcoming from them, I did send out another unit, which likewise never returned,” Bared answered. “I think it unwise to dispatch yet another. Our militia is necessarily uniformed when on official business, whether in or out of our territory. I have to consider the possibility that they were targeted because they were identifiably Eldht-Khan militia. If I send a group of traveling mercenaries, their interceptors may not give such a team a second thought. Also, you would have more latitude, as you would bring no consequences down upon Eldht-Khan if you were to act beyond our laws and customs.”

    “Unless we tell the people we’re acting against who we work for,” said Droth.

    “And I would imagine that might hasten the demise of the very city I want to save,” she answered smoothly. “I thought the Brotherhood of Blackwood had greater wisdom than that. So far their representative has been underwhelming, to say the least. Do you wish to simply kill undead, or protect people while you’re doing it? If the former, you can go now, and be a thoughtless engine of destruction, just as your targets are.”

    There was a long pause, pregnant with the palpable tension – and then, in the stiffest voice he could muster, Droth said, “The general has made her point.”

    She blew a disgusted breath out through her nose, but that was the last of the spar. “Now, with regards to our High Librarian... she’s not simply a learned colleague of the greater echelons on Eldht-Khan. She’s kin to copper dragonkind, and alliances with metallic dragonblood are rare and extremely valuable, as you should know. Loremistress Jalen has served this city extremely well as a historian of unparalleled education – she imparts that education most particularly and meticulously to royalty and military. It is thanks to her that we are always mindful of our past... particularly the mistakes we’ve made... so that a better future can be secured for us. I cannot stress enough how vitally important she is.”

    She paused and looked at each person standing before her. “The truth is, I don’t need to convince you of her importance. All I need to do is promise you payment for either her safe return, or if that’s impractical, news of her whereabouts. Without her, and without our unit, we are made intolerably blind, deaf, and ignorant. We need them found, and brought back. This is your mission. And to demonstrate not just the seriousness, but the sincerity of this cause, I am offering each of you the sum of fifteen thousand gold pieces upon news or retrieval of all involved parties. In addition, every last bit of loot or treasure you locate in your travels will be your own – Eldht-Khan will seek no appropriation tax upon it.”

    The knight called Cajentan straightened up – or he might have, if he could’ve stood any straighter. “General, due respect, I need no bribe to do my duty in the service of Eldht-Khan. You convened this unit to perform a task on your behalf, and so we shall.”

    A slight, sad smirk found its way across her features. “Sir Cajentan, your nobility is admirable, but I think you misunderstand me. This mission is not approved by the Council of Mages, nor the King, but given to you by me in secret. For the purposes of your travels, you and your team will not be from Eldht-Khan, nor answerable to either me or any other military channel here.”

    He blinked and frowned. “General, I’ve only ever served Eldht-Khan, and I’m not accustomed to the clandestine. May I ask why I have been chosen for such an assignment?”

    “Because you’re a knight, Cajentan, meant for leadership in both diplomacy and battle. Your training didn’t prepare you for this, but nothing can – nothing except true experience. That’s why you have these others here with you now. It’s easy to lead a group of soldiers trained to follow your command... it’s much harder to lead a team whose respect you have to earn.”

    She gestured to each one in turn. “Gargonn Blackmane, of the Blood Desert orcs. His monastic training, combined with his racial heritage, gives him unmatched speed and strength in battle. Keeleenoktu, of the darfellan race. His ability to travel water is beyond that of anyone else here, and his pendulum blade won’t stop until it ends his enemies. Vivian, of the catfolk, is graceful and agile not merely in combat, but also with many odd skills that you’ll find useful in your travels.”

    She stopped in front of Droth. “And Droth Sai-Raiel Teásen, a wood elf of Suulonar. Despite his poor attitude, his pride in his arms is well-founded – the arrows from his double-bow will find their target and kill it before it ever has a chance to meet you in battle. I’ve heard he’s also quite capable with food.”

    “Food can end disagreements in a way that words can’t,” Droth supplied.

    “This seems a rather combat-oriented unit, General,” Cajentan noted. “Do you expect that we’ll encounter heavy resistance to our mission?”

    Bared scoffed. “You’ve never met Loremistress Jalen, otherwise you would understand just how difficult it is to forcibly take her anywhere she doesn’t want to go. It’s not just the copper blood within her, either – her magic rivals that of the archmages.”

    “Yet magic is not represented as an ally of this team.”

    The phrase had been uttered by the one called Keeleenoktu, who until this point had remained aloof – his voice was a baritone that rivaled Gargonn’s, and carried with it an undertone that was equal parts anger and sorrow. His white eyes sought out the general’s gaze. “Was this intentional, or an oversight?”

    “That isn’t entirely true,” she returned. “Droth’s elven blood and his training as a member of the Brotherhood of Blackwood has endowed him with a spread of magical abilities, beneficial spells he can cast on allies.”

    “Yet there is no dedicated sorcerer, nor wizard.”

    She nodded. “I don’t trust magicians,” the general admitted. “It’s a science best explored in the high towers, not in battle. By and large, you’d be hard-pressed to find an able, sturdy warrior able to cast effective offensive magic. I believe those dedicated to magic are not dedicated to anything else, including bodily training, and that they lose something very important in that devotion. The unit you’re seeking discovered for themselves the chaos of having a spellcaster with them.”

    “Your words are especially bold, General, since you yourself are also a spellcaster,” Keeleenoktu boomed. This assertion drew looks from the others in line, as well as a hard stare from the halfling herself. But he continued. “I have seen the power you wield. Is it possible you trust only yourself with this power, and no others?”

    She narrowed her eyes at him. “Don’t presume to overstep your bounds, darfellan. I trust my strength in magic because mine is tempered with skill and experience in the Eldht-Khan military. My pride in that strength is no less than your pride in your pendulum blade.”

    “I have good reason for that pride, General – I fought in a war. When was your last one?”

    Something flared in her eyes, and for a single moment, Gargonn found himself wondering if she would attack the warrior standing next to him. But no – she had greater self-control than that, and she stayed precisely where she was, allowing no movement of any sort to betray her emotions further.

    The knight dared to reintroduce his voice to the conversation. “This discussion is not about conflicts of the past, but of the present. I understand your concerns regarding inexperienced magicians, General, but I believe it may be appropriate to seek a cleric for our party, someone who can cast beneficial spells and also see to the healing of injured party members, should it come to that,” Cajentan asserted. “It would increase our chances of success, I think.”

    Bared considered that statement for a long moment, then bobbed her head. “Very well. I have an ally who would serve you well on this mission... his name is Tihomir Hamza, a cleric of Calitha Starbrow. There are no temples in Eldht-Khan dedicated to her, but you can find him near the Sanctuary of Obad-Hai.”

    Droth blinked. “I’m a patron to Obad-Hai.”

    “Then you’ll have no difficulty finding the sanctuary.” The general rounded her desk and sat down. “Ordinarily, there would be a mercenary contract for you to sign regarding the terms of your mission’s completion and reward, but in this case, I can’t take the chance that it would be intercepted or questioned. If you accept this mission, you’ll have to trust me when I tell you I will fulfill my offer if and when you fulfill your assignment.”

    “If Eldht-Khan is truly threatened by destruction, what guarantee do we have you won’t be dead by the time we come to collect?” Droth asked.

    “In that event, I would think you’d all have greater problems to worry about than money.” The general sighed. “Any other questions before I sweep you all out the door?”

    Gargonn chose that moment to speak. “You never mentioned how it was you know Eldht-Khan will be destroyed.”

    She tilted her head, looking momentarily unsure as to whether she should answer that not-quite-inquiry. After a moment, she indulged. “Before leaving on his last exploratory assignment, Zelrig confessed to Jalen a premonition in which Eldht-Khan was, as he put it... ‘flattened by boulders and melted with purple fire’. The Council of Mages was dead and the King was nowhere to be found. Eldht-Khan had no resources prepared for whatever this attack was... but even if we have the resources for it now, we don’t know how the attack began. He became aware of it in progress. Jalen took what images she could from his mind, and was performing research on the nature of what she saw through those images when she was abducted.”

    “It almost sounds like someone knew what she was up to,” Droth sniffed.

    “Maybe. It could even be that there’s a saboteur or traitor in our midst... which is why I can’t afford to send any other militia or establish any further official assignments. I simply have to try to prepare for an attack whose origins and power are far beyond me. I’ve brought you all together because most of you are not of Eldht-Khan and have no interest in our territory or politics, nor knowledge of our military strength... I’m hoping I can trust that none of you would betray this city. As a respected knight with no current assignment, Cajentan can leave the city for an extended period without attracting attention.” She directed her index finger at Cajentan. “Leave the title of ‘Sir’ behind you. The farther away from Eldht-Khan you get, the more that’ll mean to strangers.”

    Cajentan offered a quick nod. “I will.”

    “You’ll travel light, and on foot until you leave the city behind. No horses from Eldht-Khan. But assuming you have the coin, you can purchase them from a hamlet.” She shook her head. “Beyond that... the unit went missing while traveling north-northeast from Eldht-Khan. We lost track of Jaelin’s attackers when they fled east. Whomever you find first, find them quickly.”

    She gestured to the door. “Take the parchments, find Tihomir, and go. Time’s wasting.”
    Last edited by mattbcl; 25th June 2013 at 06:43 PM.

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