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Offline Dream

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« Reply #150 on: September 23, 2005, 09:03:15 PM »
The Penkwe maintained a steady pace, with two Dekms of light cavalry moving ahead to scout and engage only if necessary.  Not a gallop, which would tire the horses, but fast, open and free.  These animals were born to run, and covered the miles joyfully, as horses were meant to do.  Only the best for the Blackhand Riders.  Of course, if they found better, they took it.

Two Dekms of heavily armoured knights on the larger draft horses remained back with the archers on the light wagons with the ballista teams.  The projectiles would engage the enemy at range, with the heavy cavalry as protection, or the knights could overrun any unfortified positions after the missiles pinned down the enemy.  

The ballistas were about the size of a bed, made of oak, with steel reinforcing members.  They were essentially large crossbows that launched spears.  The spears varied according to the target and range.  Some could break stone fortifications.  Some could set fire to flammable materials.  Any of them could kill a man -- or men, if they were in a file -- at ranges up to 300 yards, whether they were armoured or not.

A force of this size required logistical support.  An army does not travel on its horses!  Several fast-moving wagons in the rear carried the secret weapon of the mobile army... food.  Lots of it.  Loaded with barrels of beef jerky, heavy bread, potatoes, plus the essential staples of any fighting force:  Alcohol and tobacco.  Skillful cooks could create a feast in minutes for fighting forces.

Of course, if the Blackhand came across better, they took that, too.  It's What They Do, and they did it very well, indeed.  No one who "contributed" to their store of supplies, money, jewelry, women, etc., ever complained.  

At least, not more than once.

They were passing Sergeant Griswold's impromptu fortifications.  Lieutenant Millerson noted the forest rising just ahead.  If the enemy had not moved from the clearing further in, there would be a battle within minutes.  He planned to engage in skirmish fashion, to allow the heavy forces to catch up.  No reason to rush in headlong and repeat Lieutenant Hanley's mistake.
"Stop thinking, and Dream."  /  Selene Nightwalker

Offline POG

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« Reply #151 on: September 24, 2005, 04:37:52 PM »
“Diceâ€? Rory nodded.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“Well done.â€?  He turned to Odat, “I’ll take your money another time.  When you’re more sober or I’m drunk.â€?  He was beginning to doubt Odat would ever be sober.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“Smeed that ends your first lesson, my teacher referred to it as Mage sight when he was trying to impress people, we never called it that we just referred to it as opening your eyes.

Rory turned his attention to the trail they had just traveled down; the bent grass and disturbed twigs, overturned stones.  He took a deep breath and turned his vision inward kept his breath in his stomach and hummed an invitation.  This took far more concentration than just seeing.  He extended his concentration, his will dividing his intent like a thousand fingers on a hundred arms.  The magik fingers straightened each grass blade mended twigs, turned stones dirt side down, replacing them, expanded moss that had been compressed by footprints.  After five minutes the trail looked as if no living thing had passed along it for years.  Rory wiped his sweaty brow with the back of his hand.  He turned to Smeed.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“I don’t know if you saw what I did but if you open your eyes the aura will look as if I’ve tampered with it.  Conventional trackers even if they are as good as Baldwin, will find nothing.  There are those among us that can track the magic.  That’s what the false trails are for.â€?  Rory faced northward, a direction they wouldn’t be going and concentrated; letting out a puff of air.  The sound of footsteps was nearly audible and twigs snapped, blades of grass bent, all leading in a direction the group was not traveling in.  The false trail ran for about four hundred yards or so.   Rory started to walk towards the rest of the group.  They traveled for about five minutes and Rory said. “That makes me tired.  It’s subtle manipulation which is more difficult than moving bigger things.â€?  The pouch on his staff lifted up and started to float lazily around him in a circle as he walked.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“I’ll let you in on a secret.â€?  He winked at the older man, “Don’t play dice with me.â€?

**********************************

Baldwin rubbed his horse affectionately as he looked at Holly; he could see what his brother saw in her.  Well I guess Rory has time for that.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“It’s time for us and these horses to part ways.  We need them to run down the road while we take to the woods.  There’s a river just east of us.  We can cross it to make us harder to track.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“Holly can you think of a way to make these horses run down the road?  I have an idea but it involves fire and a branch.â€?…
"Pain can be your greatest ally, from pain you can learn to apply it, endure it and avoid it. Without pain there is no understanding of reality. If you never get hit with the things you strike out with every thing you know is pure fiction."
 
The Ares Chronicles

Offline Dream

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« Reply #152 on: September 24, 2005, 08:27:33 PM »
Lieutenant Millerson arrived at the clearing with the light cavalry.  No one there.  Only dead bodies, which were starting to show a real need for burial.

He posted one man there to chase off the buzzards, with orders to tell the supplies squad to bury properly the dead men from the first two Dekms.  

Then he ordered his scouts forward to find the trail.  That was not hard.  The six horses (and the little troll footprints) had led through the forest, then to an encampment that was deserted.  However, the 6 horses had then re-entered the trail and continued down.  Millerson ordered the two Dekms of light cavalry after them.

Within two hours, the heavy cavalry and the support wagons arrived at the clearing.  Captain Kraggis and the mysterious hooded figure also caught up at this time.  The Kras-minion Voramis dismounted lightly from his mount -- unarmoured, a racing breed.

Voramis put his arms outstretched and stood still for a full minute.  Then he whispered to anyone who listened, and yet to no one,

"The Lieutenant chases a diversion.  One with the spear that hungers.  They should follow a different trail.  To the untamed magic.  Thousands of eyes have seen them.  We shall go that way."

Kraggis was one of those who listened.  However, he only heard "spear that hungers" and he suddenly knew where he wanted to go.  He yearned to have it back in his hand again, and to kill any and all who had ever touched it.

Several men stayed behind to bury the dead, and the full array of heavy cavalry and archers thundered off seeking Rory and the children.  With Voramis receiving guidance from The Strand, it was only a matter of time before they were found.

**************
"Stop thinking, and Dream."  /  Selene Nightwalker

Offline Dream

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« Reply #153 on: September 24, 2005, 08:28:38 PM »
OCC:  "Rules":  I have been told that I am supposed to tell everyone what is OK to do with characters I created.  So here I go...

If and when you choose to engage these cavalry, they are available for your disposal.  Please remember the units:  
Light cavalry = 20 men, very lightly armoured, fast horses.  They are following Baldwin, Holly and Grumple.
Heavy cavalry = 20 men, heavily armoured, slower and heavier horses.  These should be hard to kill by conventional weapons.  Following Rory, Smeed, Tantus, Odat, and the children.
Archers and Ballista teams:  Accompanying the heavy cavalry, but on carts pulled by unarmoured horses.  These carts cannot travel quickly over rough ground, but the archers could move well on foot in such a case.
Support:  Basically a few cooks with a horse and wagon of food and drink.  They set up camp, build fires, and stay well in the rear.  They can fight on foot if they have to.
Captain Kraggis:  Don't kill him outright, please.  He's useful to the story, IMHO.  But feel free to engage him one-on-one, since he is a very fine conventional fighter and would make a good sort of "boss battle" if you use your imagination.
Voramis:  Don't attack him just yet.  He would remain in the rear anyway, and would not fight you.  Arrows will not hurt him; not even Holly's.  If you are dying to fight him, PM me and I'll give you details.

Everyone in the Penkwe has orders to wound and capture the "magik users" (not that a soldier in battle could easily tell).  If that doesn't go well, they will do what any soldier will tend to do: kill everyone, or retreat if necessary and regroup.  They are quite disciplined, and have some idea of what to expect from the previous battle reports, but probably are fearful.

Please forgive me for controlling (what I think is) too much of this story.  I did not have that intention in the beginning.  It just sort of grew out of Grumple's introduction.  If anybody wants this story to go another way, please let me know!  I didn't create this thread, but I did try to play off Holly's beginning.  Thanks for listening, and happy hunting.
"Stop thinking, and Dream."  /  Selene Nightwalker

Offline POG

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« Reply #154 on: September 25, 2005, 10:45:02 AM »
Dream: Check your PM's
"Pain can be your greatest ally, from pain you can learn to apply it, endure it and avoid it. Without pain there is no understanding of reality. If you never get hit with the things you strike out with every thing you know is pure fiction."
 
The Ares Chronicles

Offline Wogden

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« Reply #155 on: September 25, 2005, 07:08:56 PM »
Smeed cracked a grin at the other man's jest. Kind-hearted and noble as he seemed, Smeed somehow doubted that Rory was above cheating at dice every so often - especially with a gift like that. Still, he'd underestimated others before.

After another few minutes' uneventful travel, Smeed remembered his side of the bargain. "I suppose I ought to give you some tips about the cards," he said sheepishly, "But, well, it's kind of an involved process. For me, at any rate." Which was true. Often it took upwards of half an hour to disentangle the threads of meaning from the jumble of cards.

"The actual layout is simple, but to teach you the meanings of each card - and how to tell which one is being referenced - we would need some time to spend. Perhaps when we reach Halbad..." He stumbled an nearly fell over a tree root he hadn't seen and muttered an oath. "Although, I suppose I could impart the very basics as we walk."

Smeed cleared his throat, and wondered where to begin. Perhaps it was best to start simple, with the cards themselves. "No doubt you've seen fortune-tellers at work?" he queried. "How they - we - use a deck of 100 cards? Fifteen Bound Arcana per suit and 10 Master Arcana? Well, there are six suits that each correspond to an element - Sabres for air, Towers for earth, Masks for water, Torches for fire, Stars for light, and Vaults for darkness."

"These suits each stand for a variety of emotions, symbols, events, and such," Smeed went on, "and every suit is comprised of 10 numbered cards, and the Fellows - Serf, Merchant, Knight, Queen, and King. Then you have the Master Arcana, which are ten cards that don't belong to a suit. These stand for very specific and powerful messages - like life and death, or love and hate. A fortune-teller's job is to lay the cards out and figure out what they are trying to say." He cast a glance at the limping boy ahead. "Similar to seeing auras, I suppose - except one is trying to find a meaning, not just a presence."
There is very, very good reason why I believe Life to be a gummy bear, but the exact wording of it escapes me at present. It was something about sugar, anyway.

Offline Dream

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« Reply #156 on: September 25, 2005, 09:15:18 PM »
Grumple looked at Baldwin as the man spoke about chasing off the horses.  Grumple thought about this for a moment.  Then he Got It.

Grumple hunkered down for a moment and took a huge breath.  Then with a foul spray of saliva, Grumple let fly with a tree-shaking bellow!!!  The ear-splitting roar shook the earth and echoed off the trees and hills.  Everything that lived either flew, swam, crawled, or ran away for their lives.  Especially the horses!   They ran, and ran, and RAN, as if the Devil Himself were behind them.  

Not a bad assumption, all things considered.

Holly and Baldwin had to struggle to get their mounts under control before they got their heads knocked off by low tree limbs, but their horsemanship was superb, as usual.

Grumple looked around with a satisfied grin on his toothy mouth.  He picked up a furry little bunny rabbit nearby that had died of fright, nodded his misshapen head and thought, "Yep.  Grumple still Got It".


Grumple's work here was done.  Time to disappear, with Holly and Baldwin.  Grumple knew how to do that, too.
"Stop thinking, and Dream."  /  Selene Nightwalker

Offline Callista Miala Moonshade

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« Reply #157 on: September 26, 2005, 10:19:42 AM »
the only horse which didn't run away was holly's as it flinched with fright but didn't run, Holly turned to the horse and it just stood there watching her, as if she would keep it safe no matter what, she walked up to the horse right to it's ear "do not worry, we shall meet again somewhere down the line, run after the others and take them to safety, make sure they get enough food and water, and we will meet you at Halbad, go careful my dear, and run smooth." she whispered in it's ear, the horse whined and nudged Holly's face, Holly smiled and patted him on the back, then he was off, he ran half way down the field when he stopped turned and reared onto his hind legs, before taking off at a fast canter, Holly turned to Baldwin "right lets get going" she smiled and started to walk to the east, smiling as she walked.
'What goes up!! Must come down,"

Offline Nobody

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« Reply #158 on: September 26, 2005, 01:13:22 PM »
OOC: Dream, I think that you are doing a very fine job with the story line. I am sure that Callista would have told you if you were overstepping your bounds here, and I am personally very satisfied with the overall progression of behind the scenes plot that you have taken upon yourself to create. Don't be so hard on yourself.

As for posting, I think that I shall wait upon somebody else to set up the battle scene, as my character would likely only attract the outside fringes of attention from anybody who would wish to attack. By my way of thinking, the battle scene should be set up by those who would recieve the brunt of the action. It works out better that way anyway.
"I am just a figment of my imagination" -"Loki", Illusionist Trickster

Offline POG

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« Reply #159 on: September 26, 2005, 02:03:06 PM »
Bereft of their mounts the trio made their way down a heavily wooded slope to the banks of a river.  The river was about fifty feet across and the current was swift.  The water didn’t appear to be too deep though.  Baldwin led the group south along the river bank looking for a way to cross.  Halbad was less than a day away by horse but going cross country like this, it could take them two days or even longer.

The forest was different here.  The trees were older and larger.  The forest floor was flat and even, covered by a bed of fallen pine needles.  Baldwin was about to suggest swimming across the river when he heard a voice yelling for help.  He gave Holly a look before running towards the voice that was not too far off.  The trio ran through the woods for about a hundred yards or so, and came upon a figure trapped under a fallen tree.

She was small, pain twisting her beautiful features as she struggled to lift the large log that had trapped her leg, nearly crushing it.  Although she was diminuitive in stature her dimensions were that of a woman.  Almond eyes looked into Baldwin’s imploringly with a hint of vulnerability, hints of promises.  They were wide with fright like those of a frightened doe; lavender orbs that looked into his soul.  He felt exposed and compelled to help and shelter her.   He went to help, but wait…

He had to take precautions lest everything was not as it seemed.  He lifted final judgment free from its scabbard, just a handspan so he could view the blade.  There was no glow.  He bent to lift the log…

…and pulled it away.  Her leg looked fine, as did the rest of her.  The flimsy, nearly transparent slip she wore as clothing left little to the imagination and did nothing more than emphasize the assets at her disposal.  As Baldwin lifted her from under the log she could feel the curves of her body melting into his arms as he lifted her and carried her to a nearby clearing.  Her eyes were the sun glistening on morning dew as she looked at him her words the musical babble of a stream, her breath was like wildflowers.
“Thank you.� She said, “I am called Nya.�

Baldwin’s words were caught up in his throat as he looked at her realizing how close she was.  Her beauty was extraordinary, it made his blood boil and he ached to do more than just hold her.

In the back of his mind something nagged at him.  Something, a small piece of him, something he had learned in the past, told him that something was wrong.  Nya kissed him on the side of his neck and nestled deeper into his arms and he suddenly forgot what he had been thinking about.

Baldwin looked over his shoulder as he walked towards a large tree, the largest in the area.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“This looks like a good place to rest.  We should stay here until Nya feels better.â€?

Meanwhile twenty men on fast horses thundered down the road gaining distance on the trio.  They were led by Kraggis himself.   Voramis can handle the wild magik I will have my spear back.  The dolts I command don’t seem to be able retrieve it.  I will do it myself.  The morning sun turned the dust red as the horses closed the distance.  They were about 30 minutes away from where the trio had sent the horses down the road…
"Pain can be your greatest ally, from pain you can learn to apply it, endure it and avoid it. Without pain there is no understanding of reality. If you never get hit with the things you strike out with every thing you know is pure fiction."
 
The Ares Chronicles

Offline POG

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« Reply #160 on: September 26, 2005, 03:07:41 PM »
Armor of metal
Well oiled weapons]
Sweat and leather
Horses struggling over rough earth
Curses flung easily over orders not understood
Fear of powerful dark magik  that
Brings acquiescence

Rory stumbled back into his head.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“Horses bearing heavily armored men come this way and carts as well.  They can track us, which means they are using magik.â€?  He paused letting those words sink in.  For his companions benefit as well as his own.  He was already thinking of a plan to get them away but it would take all of his strength to cast such a spell on a group this large.  He’d be unable to cast any other spells for a day or two.  One chance always one chance.  He told the group to stay still and he drew a circle in the earth around them with the end of his staff.

“Stay in the circle.  Even moving over rough terrain our foes will probably get here in an hour or two.  If I’m still asleep wake me up.  You guys should try to get some sleep too.  But leave a watch just in case they have advanced scouts.â€?  He looked at Yas who was looking at him with a look of disbelief.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“Yes?â€?

“You say there are men on horses coming to kill us and you’re going to go to sleep.�

“Uh-huh.�

“But…but…â€?  The girl stammered.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“Shouldn’t we run or something?  How can you sleep at a time like this?â€?

Rory was already wrapping himself up in his oversized cloak as he answered, “Practice.�

“Practice?!?â€?  Yas nearly shouted in exasperation.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“Rory….Rory!â€?

The young wilder was already asleep, his snores infuriated Yas as she turned to Smeed for an explanation.

*********************************

Dugal looked out of the small rectangular grimy window of the narrow confines of his cell.  The narrow hallway with its low ceiling was filled with the bulk of the latest prison guard come to taunt him about his impending execution.

Dugal took it in stride.  Of course the man hated Dugal, hated what he represented, hated that the cruel barbs and taunts he threw Dugal’s way were met with stony silence.  

The guard soon tired of his sport.  As he waddled down the hallway he called over his shoulder,  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“The day after tomorrow Black Dugal, you die.  Ha Ha.  You don’t look so legendary now.â€?  He slammed the heavy iron door at the end of the hallway with solemn finality, leaving Dugal with the sound of dripping water and the furtive scratching of rats for company…
"Pain can be your greatest ally, from pain you can learn to apply it, endure it and avoid it. Without pain there is no understanding of reality. If you never get hit with the things you strike out with every thing you know is pure fiction."
 
The Ares Chronicles

Offline Nobody

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« Reply #161 on: September 26, 2005, 08:39:56 PM »
Odat really wasn't paying attention to what Rory had said. He did know that he was running low on flasks that weren't empty. That meant either he needed more alchohol, or a lot of water to side-step that hang-over the next day.

 So figuring that if fourteen flasks wouldn't do it, that maybe another probably wouldn't help, that he would get some water. He stumbled over the magic line without breaking the circle, and headed west in search of water in like...a lake...or...a river...or...maybe a pub. There had to be a pub around here someplace....

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Daren patrolled on his horse for the magic users. So far he had seen no traces of them, so he really wasn't sure what they were looking for, but this Voramis kept telling them that they were there, so him and the other eight knights with him kept looking.

Everybody was on their gaurd. Those rumors of what had happened to the last of the men sent after this band were making everybody on edge. Who wouldn't be. He had heard that one of them commanded the Fog of Souls and could kill a man with a single command. What armour could stand against that.

This very thought went through his mind when he saw a lone man, walking drunk through the woods. Just looking at him made Daren a little uneasy. It was a miracle that the man could stand. With all of the rumors going about, Daren did not feel like taking any chances. He decided to get the other eight knights.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"So let me get this straight. You thought that you needed eight other knights to take down a single drunkard in the woods? What exactly did you think he was going to do to you? Steal your brandy?" Tomas said as he clipped off the last words of his scalding remark. I mean what has gotten into you Daren. You have been figety since we started this Mission."

"lay off the boy" came Zandar's Deep Bass tone. "He was only being a bit over-cautious. I remember that you used to believe every ghost story you ever heard."

 Zandar let the silence fill the air a moment before continuing. "Besides... Something killed those men, back there, and it would be best if we didn't add to that tally by being reckless."

"Well speak of the Shadow" Tomas said. "It looks like thats our man" And he pointed to the almost invisible silloette of A drunken man staggering through the woods.

Since we are all here, we might as well take him by the books. Take an Archiomer Eye formation"

"For a drunk, I don't think so. Im gonna take him down now, And just for wasting my time, I'm gonna trample him a little first."

Tomas rode his horse hard at the stumbling man, but just as he was about to trample the man, Odat seemed to fall backwards and catch his arm. In a second, Tomas was flying through the air, his arm on fire, before his life came to a quick and abrupt end with  arm splintered into pieces and  a broken spinal column.

Odat seemed almost as surprised as the eight Knights at what had just happened. In seconds they were on him, Eight Knights in Chain mail, surrounding him with lances and swords.

Odat merely stumbled about in his usual fashin before raising his hands and slurring out the words "Errr. I givvvve up"...
"I am just a figment of my imagination" -"Loki", Illusionist Trickster

Offline Dream

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« Reply #162 on: September 26, 2005, 09:10:55 PM »
Even a troll could tell something was wrong with Baldwin.  He was just sitting there all mushy over this, this, this Thing!  Grumple couldn't see any beauty in her.  (Of course, Grumple's idea of True Beauty would probably range somewhere between an orangutan and a rhinocerous.)

One thing Grumple could see was that they had all been running for their lives, and now they were just standing there.  She seemed to have attached herself to him!  Grumple wasn't much for worrying about someone's fragile emotional state (or had you noticed?), so suppressing a growl, Grumple peeled the little lady off Baldwin with a jerk and quickly shook the man.

Well, Grumple got a reaction, all right, of the emotional kind he hadn't been much for worrying about, up to then.
"Stop thinking, and Dream."  /  Selene Nightwalker

Offline Dream

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« Reply #163 on: September 26, 2005, 10:07:10 PM »
It is a fact appreciated by very few among us, that there are truly countless numbers of insects in the world.  Insects which, all things considered, do basically two things.  Eat, and reproduce.  Millions upon millions of tons, trillions upon trillions of bugs, crawling and flying about every day, everywhere upon the planet, endlessly.

True, some insects eat other insects, and that some birds consume their share.  But one thing, basically, holds this relentless teeming horde of six-legged desolation from multiplying and stripping the earth of all its vegetation in a single season; from wiping out all other life forms in a year.

Spiders.  The silent sentinels.  Patient.  Clever.  Mercilessly efficient.

It is a fact appreciated by even fewer among us that the ubiquitous arachnids devour the weight of insects Equal To The Weight Of All Humanity.  EVERY DAY.

All spiders have some poison.  Some have poisons that can kill a man in minutes; the most hideously toxic substances on earth.  Most of the energies absorbed from liquifying and sucking out the life of the insects go into the spiders' webs... since most spiders use them, either as the snares we have all seen or gotten on our hands or faces, or as a silken thread to transport the smaller spiders as they float through the air.

They are everywhere.  Under every exposed rock or stump by the dozens.  In every house by the hundreds.  Hanging in the trees by the thousands.  Watching everything.  Waiting everywhere.  And always, always hungry.

---------------------

Back at the clearing, near the cooks setting up camp, Kras-minion Voramis put out his arms once again and silently sunk deep into the vibrations of The Strand.  Eight thousand thousand eyes gave him sight for miles around.  Eight thousand thousand legs felt the vibrations of horses' hooves, twitched at the sensations of life they felt through the forest.  Cavalry, men, archers, animals, Captain Kraggis on the wrong trail, a troll -- every living thing.  But something was missing.

Why could he no longer "see" or "feel" the enemy magic users and the group he had "seen" before?  There was a stumbling man only two miles away, with several spider webs caught on his face and body as well as several eight-legged passengers.  Another dead soldier on the ground.  

Where was the enemy?  Voramis knew he had been sent by Belzar to capture magic users, but had not expected such mastery from the "undisciplined" ones.  Even the spiders of The Strand who were carried on their bodies were silent.

And this stumbling one!  His "passengers" were jumping off him, repulsed by the stench of alcohol.  Voramis ordered them back on again with little effect, so he also ordered those who rode along with the horses to observe.  This man was very, very interesting.  He had killed a heavily armed knight with no effort at all, stone drunk.  Could that have been an accident?

Voramis turned to a guard, and hissed: "Tell Zandar to bring the captive to me".  The guard rode off toward the knights, snaring spiders and webs as he went along -- just like everyone else in the woods.
"Stop thinking, and Dream."  /  Selene Nightwalker

Offline Wogden

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« Reply #164 on: September 27, 2005, 12:49:37 AM »
Smeed simply shrugged his shoulders at the exasperated girl. Rory's quirks were as unfathomable to him as they were to her. "I suppose if Rory thinks it's safe, we ought to trust him," he said with a wry smile, sitting down next to the snoring form and rummaging in his pack. At least now he would have enough time to lay out his cards and do a reading. It was a shame that Rory couldn't watch, but a young fellow needed his sleep. Somehow, Smeed felt a little too apprehensive to join him.

Smeed drew out his dense stack of pasteboard cards, and took a moment to admire the intricate, ornate artistry adorning each face. The Master Arcana especially were given lavish care, painted with bright colours and interwoven patterns - and subtly reinforced with hidden symbols. Like Death's cowl, with its hem woven into a spiderweb motif.

For a moment Smeed wondered why this particular detail had caught his eye... but, then, he did look at Death very often. Almost without thinking, he shuffled the bulky deck in his knuckled grasp and laid it on a relatively flat patch of dry earth, pausing to draw ten cards from the top and lay them in a circle around the main deck. Not once did he look at any of them: to do so would compromise the pattern and force him to start over.

Drawing a long quill from his pack as well, the old man scratched five marks in the hard soil on the inside of the card ring - one below every second card. He used no ink: that was only useful on surfaces that would accept pigment. All the spell needed was a connection; it didn't matter if that was ink or simply lines in the earth. In fact, he suspected that such a natural method might even help the process.

Joining up each of the marks with a furrowed line in the dust (thus creating a pentagram inside the circle), Smeed replaced his quill and sat back. The layout was complete - now he needed to wait for a sign as to which card he should pick first.

The aged man closed his eyes and let himself relax, waiting for the tug to come from one of the ten. Usually it was from one of the five points of the pentagram, but there had been times when the lesser points of the circle had called to him instead - these were often less important, though. Smeed had no idea why; he just turned over the cards and puzzled about what they meant.

An odd, mental pull brought Smeed back to the present, and his eyes flew open - he'd never felt this before... Looking around him, he saw that the limping child had come up to him - remarkably quietly - and was touching one of the cards in his ring. Just touching... running a finger over the back of the face-down piece of pasteboard. Yet the feeling the card was giving him was unlike anything he usually felt when some low-life in the market-place tried to take a card... It was almost like singing - faint, unearthly singing in the back of his head...

It was disconcerting. Smeed sat up and brushed the boy's hand away, with more force than he intended. Startled, the boy flinched and drew back, rubbing his finger. "It hurt," he complained in a high voice. "The card hurt me."

Smeed wondered at this - his cards had never hurt anyone before - but he was concentrating on the card that Yas's brother had touched. It was definitely tugging at him now - stronger than they usually did when he noticed their call. Yet only after the boy had touched it had this feeling arisen - would the spell still hold?

Only one way to find out – Smeed tentatively reached for the card in question, feeling the accustomed tingling as his fingers met the grainy surface and flipped the card over to sit face-up.

It was Death. An odd coincidence indeed. Smeed felt a shiver run down his spine, and quickly moved into his accustomed habit of flipping each card up, going counter-clockwise from the first.

The next nine cards were less coincidental: the Six of Masks, the Serf of Sabres, the Deuce of Towers, the Leper, the Seven of Vaults, the Seer, the Queen of Masks, the Ace of Stars, and the Ten of Sabres.

Now came the difficult bit: determining the message behind the scattered bits of pasteboard.
There is very, very good reason why I believe Life to be a gummy bear, but the exact wording of it escapes me at present. It was something about sugar, anyway.

Offline POG

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« Reply #165 on: September 27, 2005, 01:03:35 AM »
Rory snapped back into his corporeal body, looking at Yancy and Smeed.  What was going on.  He had been checking in on his brother.  Hopefully Holly and Grumple would be able to smack some sense into him.  His group had their own problems to contend with.  Rory didn’t know the extent of the power of his foes but he was sure they had the use of magik so he couldn’t be too careful.  The bad thing is that he didn’t know what the extent of their power was.  

He looked into Yas’ scowling face that was inches from his own.  She was very much like Baldwin, he could understand the affinity they shared.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“How long did I sleep?â€? he asked with an infuriating smile.

“An hour.â€?  Yas responded thru gritted teeth.  She missed Baldwin more than she thought she could.  This Rory was crazy, he was going to get them all killed.

The object of her disdain was stretching his long arms and looking about the clearing, sleepily.  Odat was gone.  Well, Rory had the feeling the man could look after himself.  Besides his absence meant there would be one less person Rory would have to spell.

Rory closed his eyes, breathing deeply.  He spun tree times then ran around the group running his staff around the same path he had before he went to sleep.

“Behold� Rory said in his best show voice and a flourish of his slim arms.

Yas looked at him like he was a tree toad.  Nothing had happened.  Rory told the group to stay together and move along down the path.  Yas didn’t mind dying herself because Rory was an idiot.  She just thought it was really sad that her younger brother and the other children had to have their lives snuffed out because…

A leaf hanging suspended in the air in the middle of the path stopped her in mid-thought.  She walked up to the leaf and looked at it.  Upon closer examination she saw, with wonder, that the leaf was drifting downward, very slowly; almost too slow for her eye to register the motion.  Something caught her attention from her peripheral vision.  She turned to see a fly hovering nearby.  She could see the wings moving up and down slowly.  Yas noticed that she didn’t hear the sounds of the forest anymore.

She turned to Rory with a look of skepticism painted across her young features, “So you made a leaf and a fly move slowly.  I’m impressed.â€?

So much for respecting your elders.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“Young lady,â€?  Rory began again in his stage voice, “I didn’t make anything move slowly.â€?  He pinched her cheek.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“We are moving much faster.â€?  His voice took on a serious tone as he addressed the rest of the group.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“We are moving much faster than anything around us.  Let’s move a bit more quickly.  But stay with me and be careful.  I don’t have to tell you what would happen if you hit a tree or a large rock while moving this fast.â€?  He started to trot down the trail at a brisk jog.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“At this pace we’ll be in Halbad in about fifteen minutes, although to us it’ll feel like the rest of the day.â€?

Yas’ mouth dropped open, Halbad was at least two days away by foot, she was at a loss for words, stunned at the feat Rory had just accomplished.  She was attempting to stammer out an apology for doubting him earlier.

“Just keep up.â€?  Rory interrupted…

Baldwin hit Grumple as hard as he could.  It felt like he was striking a tree.  The troll staggered back two steps but held his ground.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“CAN’T YOU SEE SHE’S HURT!â€?  His eyes had a crazed look to them.  He backed up standing protectively over Nya’s prostrate form…
"Pain can be your greatest ally, from pain you can learn to apply it, endure it and avoid it. Without pain there is no understanding of reality. If you never get hit with the things you strike out with every thing you know is pure fiction."
 
The Ares Chronicles

Offline Callista Miala Moonshade

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« Reply #166 on: September 27, 2005, 04:31:04 PM »
"yeah just like a dog, what are you stupid or something?" Holly had a very angry look on her face and she was giving Baldwin a very deep glare, she turned and looked at the girl, Holly stepped forward, towards the girl, and pushed Baldwin out of the way, "what are you? how have you done this magik, let him go or i will be forced to kill you" Holly gave her a nasty look and awaited what Baldwin would do.
'What goes up!! Must come down,"

Offline Dream

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« Reply #167 on: September 27, 2005, 07:47:21 PM »
OCC:  Well done, "Mr. Smeed".  I think I never really understood the possibility of prophetic card use until now.  Unbelievable writing.  Or, I wonder, if you experienced such a thing for real?  (You don't have to answer that.)

--------------------------------------

IC:  The wolf spider was hungry.  It was its turn to feed.  The spider existed not just in the now-moment like so many insects, but had a basic comprehension of time.  No surprise, since it was several years old.

It had to be, to be this big.  As big as a man's hand.  A large man's hand.  (The Wolf spider knew this.)  The Wolf spider's body was the palm.  The Wolf spider's legs were the fingers.  Always moving, always feeling, always sensing.  

The Wolf spider knew this because it had once bitten a large man's hand and been struck by the hand in return.  But the Wolf-spider was strong, and fast.  So strong, so fast.  It had escaped.  The man had a 500 to 1 weight advantage but the Wolf spider had escaped.  To recover, and to hunt again.  And again.  Forever.

The cold time long ago had made the Wolf spider slow, but the warm-time had been good.  Moisture had been plentiful.  Green things were grown fat and juicy.  (The Wolf spider could not eat green things).  Game was fat, juicy, and plentiful.  But insects were too small to satisfy the Wolf-spider any more, too small.  The Wolf-spider needed bigger, juicer prey, day by day by day.  Bigger.  Juicer.

The Wolf spider hunted and found a rat-hole.  The smell was intoxicating.  Life... Life for the taking.  The rat-hole was barely big enough for the Wolf spider.  It moved carefully down the hole.  Carefully.  A grown rat could do great damage; more than a successful predator could suffer, and still hunt.

In total silence.  No heat signature to give it away.  No real scent that a rat could detect.  Oh - so - quietly on padded, gently hairy leg-tips.  Always and forever on tip-toe, even at a dead run.  The ultimate hunter.

There, ahead.  In the total darkness, where even the Wolf-spider's eight eyes could not see.  But they could be felt by their heartbeats, their tiny vibrations; smelled by their breath,.  Baby rats.  Only the size of a man's fingertip.  (The Wolf spider knew this.)  Naked.  Defenseless.  So delicious.

With rapacious hunger growing, it spread its eight hairy legs over the first of the rat's offspring.  The Wolf-spider plunged its sharp mandibles into the squirming, blind infant.  It squeaked quietly, calling for help.

There would be no help.  Juices flowed in.  Liquefying the tiny mammal, melting the cell membranes, turning bones to jelly.  Juices flowed out, into the Wolf spider.  Strength, and energy.  Life transferred from one, to another.  Simple.  Direct.  Efficient.

Not satisfied, the Wolf spider plunged its mandibles into each tiny form in the nest.  Again and again.  Over and over.  Until all were shriveled sacks of pale pink skin, silent and still.

The Wolf spider silently crawled up out of the hole and across the clearing in the forest.  Across the clearing to Kras-minion Voramis.  (The Wolf spider knew this).  

To join with him again.  To give strength with all the others.
"Stop thinking, and Dream."  /  Selene Nightwalker

Offline Scrasamax

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« Reply #168 on: September 27, 2005, 07:50:57 PM »
OOC - once again, Dream, you have impressed me.


Stout Lagerale of the Dwarven Guild
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Offline POG

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« Reply #169 on: September 27, 2005, 08:41:57 PM »
OCC:  Dream I'm stunned by your post.  I can't even post now.  Callista, Rory's not with you, just Baldwin.  When he was in Astral form he didn't get close enough for you to see him (if your character can see such things).  I'm out.  I've gotta check my room for spiders after Dream's post.
"Pain can be your greatest ally, from pain you can learn to apply it, endure it and avoid it. Without pain there is no understanding of reality. If you never get hit with the things you strike out with every thing you know is pure fiction."
 
The Ares Chronicles

Offline Dream

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« Reply #170 on: September 27, 2005, 08:45:33 PM »
OCC:  Thank you.  This was one posting I had thought about a bit.  Usually I just sit down and write and what comes out, comes out.  [Scares me, occasionally.]

I really thought Tantus' trick on Odat in poisoning his drink was enormously well done.  "Nobody" was impressed, too, even though he had Odat shrug off the event.  (He had contacted me.)

We have a good group here.  I predict a very fine story for anyone who wishes to observe.

----------------------

IC:  Grumple staggered back a bit.  Grumple opened and closed his mouth a time or two, but could not find words to help.  Grumple had seen drunken men before, and although Baldwin did not smell like drink, Baldwin had been drinking.  Or something like that.

Grumple looked down at the... at the girl-thing, which was getting up now.  It didn't look all that hurt.  The only thing hurting here was Grumple's head.  Nothing made sense.  They all had to leave.  Grumple could hear horse's hooves pounding down the road.


-----------------------


Lars Ness was a cook.  How a tall, blonde, huge northerner like Lars Ness became a cook was a long story.  But Lars Ness was the head cook, and the Quartermaster to the Black Hand Riders.  Lars Ness was the fuel in their fire.

Sargeant Ness was known as "cookie".  But he was not sweet.  Lars ruled his men with an iron hand.  An iron hand that was also artistic and rewarding.  Artistic, since Lars could create edible, even delicious, food out of the most meager of supplies.  Rewarding, since any man could bring to Lars what he wanted, and he would give generously in return.

Every soldier wanted respite from his hard life.  A decent meal.  Maybe even a hot one.  Or a plug of tobacco.  Or -- the holy grail -- a flask of strong drink to quench his thirst and bring sweet release.

100 men ate a lot of food.  A LOT of food.  And drink!  Then there were the horses as well.  Each required hay, oats, salt.  Eating Machines, every one.  A soldier and his horse might sleep at night, but the Quartermaster had to plan, prepare, and frequently scheme.

Sargeant Ness would send his squad out to, shall we say, "requisition" supplies from nearby towns.  His wagons carried only enough hot food for two days.  Dry food for three more, usually.  The soldier that brought him a deer got a flask of wine.  For a cow... a jug of strong rum.

Ness preferred strong drink in his casks.  The stronger the better.  He could water it down and make Grog.  He could purify bad water with it, and preserve it for travel.  He could pickle meats and even start fires with wet wood.  Most of all, he could win over any soldier with it, and guarantee their loyalty.  In a battle, the soldiers could be counted on to protect their "Cookie".

Even Captain Kraggis gave Quartermaster Ness his space, and due respect.  If the men were fed well, they could be led well.  Lars Ness always fed them well.

--------

Quartermaster Ness looked up from a huge steaming kettle of beans to see Zandar and his men bringing in a prisoner; a huge, tall man.
"Stop thinking, and Dream."  /  Selene Nightwalker

Offline Wogden

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« Reply #171 on: September 28, 2005, 12:01:22 AM »
OOC: Wow, Dream. Just wow. As always, your eloquence is indomitable.
 
As to the cards - I'm just working off the top of my nut, with a little help from some random website I Googled... I had never even seen a Tarot deck before that. :wink: But thanks for the compliment...
 
IC: Trotting to keep up with Rory's gait, Smeed wondered how best to approach the subject of his card reading. What he had found - if it were correct - might cause them a good deal of trouble before the end.
 
"Er..." he began, keeping his gaze on the ground ahead, "While you were asleep, I took the liberty of, well, reading my cards, and... I don't know if you'll want to hear this, but..." the old man swallowed and forged ahead. Thirty minutes' puzzling over little painted cards couldn't be wasted simply because he didn't want to break the news.
 
"The first one I turned over was Death. Now, even in ordinary circumstances, that's not good - but this time it was different - that Yas' brother touched it without realizing, and it suddenly felt... odd." Smeed hardly realized that Rory might not have any idea of what he was talking about; he just wanted to say it all, and quickly.
 
"So the first was Death, which I thought at first meant that someone was going to die soon. I hoped it wasn't the boy who touched it... but these things work in odd ways. The other ones were clearer…� Smeed went over them again in his head. The Six of Masks - deceit - the Serf of Sabres - speed and diligence, which must have meant Rory’s time spell back there – the Deuce of Towers – strength in numbers. The Leper – corruption and revulsion – the Seven of Vaults – secrets best left undisturbed – the Seer – magikal espionage – the Queen of Masks – beauty hiding danger. The Ace of Stars – nobility or dominance – and the Ten of Sabres – military force. Together, they formed a picture he wished they hadn’t.
 
“Well, to put it shortly, I fear we’re being followed by a good deal more people than we thought – and somewhere out there, there are plenty more. Not only that, but someone among those people has been tracking us – but not using normal methods – some form of deception, I believe.� He lowered his voice, hoping that the children would not hear. “And also – as if that weren’t bad enough – the cards are hinting[ at something. I hate it when they do that – it means that even they are afraid. They’re hinting at something repulsive, deceptive, controlling, corrupt – everything we’d rather not have following us. The sooner we reach Palaten, the better – Lord willing they’ll be able to stem the tide – before whatever it is makes itself known…� He shivered. It is a terrible feeling, that the very tools of one’s trade refuse to speak for fear of what they might disclose. All of a sudden, the forest looked much less tranquil.
There is very, very good reason why I believe Life to be a gummy bear, but the exact wording of it escapes me at present. It was something about sugar, anyway.

Offline POG

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« Reply #172 on: September 28, 2005, 02:16:03 AM »
Captain Kraggis led the twenty Black Hand horsemen down the forested slope.  They floated toward Baldwin and the others like a vengeful spirit bent on the destruction of everything in its path.  Soft boots trod upon the grassy earth with scarce whispers of sound.   The group moved as one, in unison, slowly.  Their blades were fell objects to behold, wickedly curved and notched with signs of savage combat, and forged of blackened steel that seemed to suck in the light of the sun.  These blades were poised to strike as the group flowed down the hill and across the flat ground approaching the river like a dark shadow poisoning the earth with its passing.

Nya, a creature of magik to be sure, gazed at Holly with a look that would have slain the woman if it was within the Dryad’s power.  Baldwin glared at Holly and Grumple and if not under the sway of the Dryad would have noticed the wave of black gauntleted armored killers creeping down the hill.  He would have noticed them fanning out and surrounding the large tree they were standing next to.  Beguiled as he was, he did not notice them until Kraggis growled at Grumple, “Troll!  You hold something that belongs to me.  Return it and I will let you live.â€?  Kraggis held his armored hand out expectantly.  The Black Hand surrounded the group; a ring of deadly steel, reinforcing Kraggis’ unspoken threat.


*************************************

Rory listened to Smeed as they jogged down the main road leading the West Gate of Halbad.  His enchantment had worn off and they were moving at a normal pace once again.  The west gate was the commoner gate and the area outside was surrounded by ramshackle shacks and huts that seemed like they had been thrown together at the spur of the moment.  There was a twisted maze of paths cutting through the clutter and a larger rutted path that was in ill repair leading to the gate itself.  The inhabitants of the shanty town stared at the group of children with varying degrees of guarded interest and open curiosity.  They wore ragged clothes and the hungry visages if those who had fallen on hard times and were doing the best they could under hard circumstances.  Burly guardsmen bearing halberds stood at the gate itself, denying entrance.  Gleaming chain mail peeked out from beneath tabards bearing the sigil of the baron, a green dragon on a field of gold.  Yas was stunned.  The ragged clothes her group had worn since their flight from Palaten seemed like Nameday finery compared to the rags these people wore.  Why?  Yancy limped behind her holding her hand, eyes wide with awe.  He looked at Smeed and shook his head.

Rory had a pensive look on his face at the news Smeed had given him.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“Death,â€?  He began, his voice low.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“Our constant companion thru all our days, it dogs our steps, waiting for us to make a fatal misstep.  The ten master Arcana are not the most important.  At least it doesn’t seem so to me but I’m a bit different than others.  I see things thru my way.  Thru the now.  Every message in the cards is important.  Just as every decision.  Nothing is small or large.  We just place judgment on the choices we make based on our limited understanding.â€?  He gave Smeed a wry look.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“That’s why the sword chose Baldwin.â€?  He looked at the three guardsmen at the gate, who returned his glance with flinty stares.  ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“What decision should we make here?â€?…
"Pain can be your greatest ally, from pain you can learn to apply it, endure it and avoid it. Without pain there is no understanding of reality. If you never get hit with the things you strike out with every thing you know is pure fiction."
 
The Ares Chronicles

Offline POG

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« Reply #173 on: September 28, 2005, 02:41:06 AM »
In addition to being the Baron’s son Malik was the Captain of the NightWatch.  The NightWatch was in addition to being the eyes and ears of the baron was the group that kept order in Halbad and the surrounding lands.  Their methods would be thought of as draconian by some but the common weal often necessitated extreme means.  Order was necessary, by any means.  Often the common man had no idea of the forces at work and the labors undertaken by Malik and the men under his command, in shadow, to maintain order.

A serious threat had hounded Malik and the fair city of Halbad for years:  Black Dugal!  Malik closed his eyes and imagined the joy at the thought of the execution on the morrow.  Savoring the thought as he sat up on the edge of his large bed, the silken sheets the color of blood falling away.  Malik strode to the large doors of his bedchamber, they were ornate, pressed with gold leaf.  Throwing the doors open he called for his servants to fetch his clothes and draw water for a bath.  The death of Black Dugal was not all he strove for.  No simple death was for lesser men.   Simple death was too good for one who had been such a thorn in his side and a threat to order.  Malik would destroy all that Dugal held dear.  The Deshii would all die today…
"Pain can be your greatest ally, from pain you can learn to apply it, endure it and avoid it. Without pain there is no understanding of reality. If you never get hit with the things you strike out with every thing you know is pure fiction."
 
The Ares Chronicles

Offline Nobody

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« Reply #174 on: September 28, 2005, 10:41:14 AM »
Zandar was not being particularly kind to his capture. The man had killed one of the knights under his command. That had not boded well. Not well at all.

Zandar still could not fathom how the man had managed that move. Never in all of his years in the service, had he seen a single man kill a heavy cavalry up close and on the charge, without taking at least some kind of serious injury in return. And it had been done without a weapon of any kind.

The scene kept replaying itself in Zander's head: Tomas was charging. The man stood drunk and stupefied in front of the charge. Then, in the very last possible moment, the man moved out of the way of the charge, hooked and caught Tomas's weapon hand, and with a powerful twist of the arm, had literally flung Tomas in a rainbow arch over his head, and send him head first into the ground. Tomas's body weight, and his chain mail came crashing down on him with more than enough force to snap his neck.

How was that possible. Just the weight of Tomas's armour alone should have made the feat impossible, and that was leaving out the flawless precision and timing required of such a move. And that was forgetting that the man was stone drunk.

He was drunk. There was no way to fake that. He had eleven empty flasks in his trench coat, as well as two un-opened flasks, and then the one that he was holding. One of Zander's men had taken a sip from one and had nearly burned his throat out. The stuff was very strong, as it turned out.

Zandar wanted to kill him. He should die. If it had not been for Voramis's order to bring him back alive, the man would not be alive right now.

"We have the prisoner, and he awaits questioning" Came Zandar's heavy Bass voice.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It came upon Odat's realization that he was not enjoying this experience very much. Being dragged behind those horses was pretty painful. Plus, being carried by the arms now was really starting to hurt. Not fun at all. And even worse, they had taken his flasks. Not just the empty ones either. What kind of world was this that they would take a man's drink.

It was then that Odat saw the only thing that could make this day go any better. Several casks of drink being trucked along with all sorts of foods and supplies.
"I am just a figment of my imagination" -"Loki", Illusionist Trickster