Roleplaying > Freeform Roleplaying

The Gatekeeper

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...only to crash headlong into the magical barrier erected by Aithne.  Glowing blue ripples spread across the barrier and a sound like thunder filled the clearing.  The men yelped in fear and pain as they were thrown backwards into the snow.  The assailants gathered about the entrance struggling to see thru the misty barrier into the cave beyond.

Shandriel jumped in alarm.

The pack leader ambled forward, swarthy face covered with tattoos speaking of ancient power.  He spoke with the calm air of one used to being instantly obeyed.  His voice was harsh, foreign.  "Summon Heckler."  The leader sat down cross legged in the snow with fluid grace, staring at the barrier as if he could penetrate it with force of will alone.  His second scurried off to do as he was bade...

OCC: Happy

At the sound of bodies hitting the shield three heads turned as one to watch the ripples that signaled danger. 

Shandreil drew back in fear and horror from the barrier.  So soon!  How could they be here so soon?  First they had evaded her wards.  Now they had found her so swiftly.  As she watched the ripples calm themselves questions swirled through her mind with dizzying speed. Who were they?  What were they? Who had sent them? Why did they want her?

She looked at Aithne and opened her mouth to apologize for bringing these things, but stopped herself.  Time for apologies later...if they were still alive.

Aithne's eyes darkened.  She had know there would be an attack, but had hoped for more time.  The girl had not yet told her story.  Aithne still had no idea what was attacking her, or how best to defend.  If she had been alone she and Cullen would simply have walked the shadows and vanished.  But they were not alone.  There was a frightened, injured girl who could not wrap herself in darkness.  There was no choice.  They must stand and fight.  More... they must stand and win.

The cave that had seemed so warm and comforting now seemed small and trap-like.  The flickering walls that had held them in a safe embrace now closed in ominously.  If only Shandriel could walk the shadows.  If they survived this night Aithne vowed to remedy that omission in Shandriel's education.   Aithne sang softly and reached into the air to withdraw from the nowhere a staff, carved with runes of power and topped with a gently glowing purple crystal.

Cullen rose to his feet and turned to face the barrier.  He made no move.  There was no flash of show of power... only a small shudder of fur.  The smallest of movements as if a cat shrugged off a bug.  And Cullen changed.  Surely his teeth were longer now, and somehow there appeared to be too many of them.  Was he smiling?  Could cats smile? Those soft, strokeable ears were smaller and lay closer to his head.  His claws were longer...much longer.  His head was now higher than Aithne's waist.  His soft golden fur was still gold but as Shandriel looked it changed from fur to hard, overlapping scales.  Whatever he was now was hungry to sink its teeth into warm flesh and tear things to bits with those knife-like claws.  His snake-like tail whipped back and forth as if some part of Cullen had to be in action already.

Aithne stood still, her hand on Cullen's head, and chanted.  A blood-red mist formed at her feet and sent tendrils wrapping around her legs and Cullen's paws.  Whatever was out there would regret assaulting her home.

The twelve pack members sat about the clearing, their positions though appearing random to a casual observer, were chosen with precision.  The leader, known as Salko sat in the center of a powerful spell form.  In the meager light of the twin moons the twelve chanted softly, breath visible in the frosty night air.  The chantings were harsh, guttural, and not of this world.  As the chant continued the air between the pack members began to glow an errie green incandescence that had the effect of turning one's stomach when looked at directly.  A glowing ball appeared exactly five yards in front of Salko and exactly two yards in the air.  Salko slowly stood as the globe, glowing a sickly green began to spin. He doffed the hood of his cloak revealing long black hair shot thru with silver.  The tattoos on his face cast a faint glow the same color as the globe.

The spinning increased in speed and the glow became brighter, creating shadows that danced and capered like living things, evil eldritch demons brought to life.  The shadows were illusory, mere figments, the globe and its occupant however, were not.  The glow from the globe and tattooed runes on Salko's face revealed pallid taunt skin and a shadowy scruff.  His lips went from being compressed in a tight line to barking a single harsh syllable that shook the surrounding trees with its power.  The chanting of the twelve ceased in unison as well as the spinning of the globe.  There was a sound like rending metal.

Inside the cave Shandriel vomited noisily.  Bent over double, she emptied the contents of her stomach onto the floor.  Her senses swam as she struggled to maintain her balance.  As quickly as the nausea had come it passed in an instant.  The girl reached out a hand to steady herself and looked at Aithne, confusion painting her face with creases.

Heckler hovered exactly five yards in front of Salko and exactly two yards in the air.  He had the air of spoiled milk and long dead things mixed with the smell of freshly baked bread as if the latter could mask the former.  It could not, it never would.  Long leathery wings slowly, unfurled and began to flap languorously.  The glow of the creature's eyes was like a hooded lantern.  It looked about slowly realizing that Salko had taken the appropriate precautions and he was trapped in the spell form.

The demon laughed.  The sound was like infants being dismembered. "What do you want?"

The ground fell away at dizzying speed as the wind blasted at Dolgin, nearly knocking him from his saddle. Sky became ground as Valkyr soared upward and spun.  The mountain temple dwindled in size as the Gyphon and Dwarf rider sped away.  Dolgin squinted his eyes against the buffeting wind as snow capped peaks and dark valleys blurred by below.

"Come on girl." He urged, "We have to get to her."

Aithne shuddered.  Those sounds!  That stench!  The feel of ageless evil clawing on the edges of her mind.  The very air felt defiled.  By the Goddess, who would have, who could have, brought that ... Thing ... into this world?  What could a horror like this have to do with this girl?

She glanced at Shandriel.  At least the girl was no longer being sick.  The look of confusion on her face stopped Aithne from asking the questions she so urgently needed to have answered. 

Aithne did not panic.  That was not her way.  Years of training had seen to that.  Panic dissipated power.  She stood as resolute as Cullen.  The red mist climbed higher as they waited.  No, this was not panic ... but that Thing out there ... there was strength and evil the likes of which she had not faced in ages.  She knew with certainly that strength would soon be turned against her.  She knew with certainly it would be, at least, her match.

She closed her eyes and looked into the Shadow.  Calmly she began to call.  She called to her allies of earth and of the elements; she called to her guardian spirits.  She needed aid.  The minor evils, the trackers, were a nuisance she and Cullen could deal with.  It would be messy, but Cullen would enjoy himself.  The Thing, however, was of another level.  Its power could easily be a match of hers.  It had had many, many more eons to learn evil. 

As she called, the Shadow began to form images.  Her spirits formed out of the twisting darkness; familiar shapes pouring their strength into her.  Then, slowly, hazily, a new shape began to emerge.  The Shadow had not lost its capacity to surprise her.  She saw a Dwarf.  A Dwarf clinging to a speeding gryphon.  They were not coming to her, but to the girl.  Aithne sent a wind spirit to aid their flight.  Perhaps he was not who she would have chosen.  She would trust the the Shadow and the Goddess had their own plans.

Had Shandriel been looking at Aithne, she would have seen a slow, grim smile creep over her lips.


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