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Offline POG

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The Gatekeeper
« on: May 20, 2011, 08:26:23 PM »
Shandriel dreamt of the ocean.

It had been too long since she had been there.  This dream, like the others was startlingly vivid.  She was swimming in the azure waters of the Eastern Sea, near her hometown of Lennix.  She could feel the warmth from the noonday sun on her tan skin as she cut thru the water effortlessly with long easy strokes.  Gulls wheeled and darted above, diving for the ocean's bounty.  A smile spread across Shandriel's face.

Beneath her, unseen by her, shadows stirred to life.  Slowly, deathly silent, they kicked their way to the surface, towards her not disturbing the water around them save for the schools of fish that fled from their approach.  Shandriel swam on...oblivious.

Closer the predatory figures drew, closing the gap.  The spread out so their quarry could not escape.  They attacked in unison, striking with fang and claw.  Shandriel's smile was replaced by a look of horror as she was pulled beneath the surface by a force too powerful for her to fight.  She breathed in saltwater, gagged, eyes wide with fear as she plummeted, drawn quickly away from the sun's glow into liquid terror.  She...

SCREAMED!!!

The vibration hurled her attackers backwards into the wall behind them cracking plaster and revealing masonry beneath. The stained glass window to the right side of her bed shattered into thousands of pieces.  Three more attackers flowed thru the open door of her bedroom.

How did they get by the wards?

Fully awake but still gripped with horror Shandriel kicked frantically at the three new attackers who were trying to grab her.  The four who had been thrown back by her scream were wandering about groggily pawing at blood coming from their ears and noses.  The long knife jumped from beneath her pillow into her hand and she swung with wild abandon at the men closing in on her, drawing blood.  She didn't have time to be thankful that her foes appeared mortal as she jumped thru the remains of her window clad only in her sleeping clothes.

Tree branches barely slowed her descent and if not for the snow twenty feet below she would have done more than turn her ankle.  She ran pell mell into the adjacent woods, the sound of her wildly beating heart drowning out all else. 

If she could only make it to town...
"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 ala

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2011, 09:56:10 PM »
Aithne leaned back against a pile of cushions, closed her eyes and listened to the night.  It was all there... the song of the wind, the quiet murmmurs of the snow, the purposeful rustling of the small creatures of winter.  But there was more. There were voices in the wind; troubled, troubling voices.  Sounds of combat and the echo of a scream melted into the wind.

Aithne, shook her head as if to clear away the sounds, opened her eyes and pulled her cloak tighter.  She looked around her cave. The fire cast its warm glow, the light from the flames making the walls seem to move and dance.  Usually she would have found this picture soothing, but tonight she could not make her mind quiet. 

At her feet Cullen, her pet and companion, watched her with unblinking golden eyes.  Aithne loved it when Cullen chose his cat form.  It was so pleasant to pet him and hear his unearthly purr.  But tonight even Cullen, the impreturbable, seemed ill at ease.  There were things in this storm that had no business here in her woods, or even in her world.

As Aithne contemplated looking for her scrying mirror to attempt to find the cause of the disquiet, the cause came running toward her cave.  It was crashing through underbrush, falling into snowdrifts, panting, and practically broadcasting fear to any sensitive  receptor.  Then suddenly it pulled back the curtain blocking out the night, and collapsed on the floor at her feet.

Offline POG

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2011, 10:23:04 PM »
Words came from Shandriel's mouth that would have made a seasoned sailor blush. She cursed her ankle for being twisted as if it had done so to spite her.  Her breath sparkled frostily but she was too angry to shiver.  Her heart was still hammering as she half limped half dragged herself into the cave.

"Aunty, I bring danger with me this night!" Eyes the color indigo that can be seen on cloudy nights when the moons are bright were still wide with fear.  Shandriel had run nearly a league through the woods barefoot and in her nightclothes fearing pursuit.  Part of her, the larger part, wished that she were still dreaming but she knew this not to be so. 

Aithne was not a blood relative but a lady who had been kind to Shandriel in the past.  Town would have been too far to run too but Aithne's cave was but half the distance.  Words tumbling out and crashing into each other like stampeding cows Shandriel related the events that had just transpired.

Only when she finished did she begin to shiver.

Eyes liquid she searched Aithne's face imploringly, "What should I do?"
"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 ala

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2011, 02:05:37 AM »
Aithne's green eyes were no longer half closed like the drowsy cat she had resembled only a moment before.  They were open wide, and if such a thing had been possible, might have held a touch of worry.  In one fluid motion she stood, grabbed a warm blanket from her bed, and crossed the cave to pull shut the curtain.  She then turned, helped Shandriel to her feet, half carried her to the pile of pillows and blankets that served as bed, couch, and nest and wrapped the blanket around the shivering girl.  A quick smile flitted across her face as she said, "You are never boring, my dear.  First...you should warm yourself while Cullen and I ensure our privacy.  Then we shall talk, and plan."

While Shandriel huddled in the bed, still shivering, but but less and less from cold, Aithne and Cullen stood at the entrance to the cave.  The green eyes and the gold began to glow as Aithne chanted softly and Cullen wound about her legs tracing a pattern on the floor. Aithne's long red hair moved in a breeze that wasn't there.  The firelight threw glints off the streaks of silver mixed with the red gold.  A mist the color of sunlight through spring leaves rose up from the floor until the opening was completely obscured.  Aithne laughed and rubbed Cullen's soft ears.  "There my dear.  I think we will not be disturbed for tonight at least."

Aithne settled an iron kettle in the embers at the edge of the fire, threw a handful of herbs into the pot,  retrieved two cups from a hidden recess, and came back to sit by Shandriel.  Comforting, calming aromas began the fill the cave.  "Let's look at that treacherous ankle while we wait for our tea.  We won't speak of your  'visitors' just yet."  By the time the ankle was bathed and firmly wrapped, it was time to sit with a warm cup of tea and finally speak of the terrors of the night.

Gently Aithne brushed the hair out of  Shandriel's eyes, put a finger under her chin and raised the girl's head.  The still-glowing green eyes looked deeply into the indigo ones.  "Alright my dear.  It's time to tell your Aunty what you have been doing to attract such unwelcome attentions."
« Last Edit: June 06, 2011, 06:05:01 AM by ala »

Offline POG

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2011, 02:42:50 AM »
Dolgin heard Shandriel's scream 30 leagues away.

It shoved the thoughts in his head roughly aside like a rude unwelcome guest.  Like a physical assault it rocked the sturdy dwarf back on his heels causing him to stagger as if drunk.  His stomach knotted with worry.  He lowered the parchment he had been reading and blew out the candles a drip with wax on the old scarred desk.  Shadow rushed in to replace the fleeing light, but it bothered Dolgin naught as he picked up his bags and slung them over his shoulder   He had to get home.  He could only hope that the others had heard the sending.

**********************************************
Stealthily the ebon clad figures materialized in the wood. Eyeing the glow coming from the cave like a pack of ravenous wolves, they circled closer.  Hand on the hilts of wicked looking blades, they communicated thru hand gestures, briefly before rushing towards the entrance of the cave.

OOC: Shandriel's eyes aren't blue they're indigo.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2011, 03:11:03 AM by POG »
"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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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2011, 08:44:43 PM »
...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 now...lol
"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 ala

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2011, 02:37:23 PM »
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 light...no 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.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2011, 05:20:10 PM by ala »

Offline POG

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2011, 03:10:04 AM »
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?"
"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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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2011, 03:25:44 AM »
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."
"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 ala

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2011, 02:25:17 PM »
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.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2011, 02:27:07 PM by ala »

Offline POG

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #10 on: May 28, 2011, 05:34:55 AM »
Heckler liked green eyebrows with a tongue that was nearly a yard in length.  Though the demon was held aloft by large wings each the size of a draft horse its body was the size of a large child.  There were no obvious signs that the creature was male or female.

Salko's eyes cast a slight glow as he addressed Heckler in a voice that seemed too strident to come from a single man.

"Respect your betters Heckler. DOWN!!!"

Casting a baleful gaze over the others who were keeping him trapped by virtue of their position and the weave of magik Salko had thrown, the demon lowered himself to the ground.  Smothering a growl of defiance in its throat Heckler pressed its forehead into the snow.  The snow quickly melted where the creature touched down and the grass beneath instantly withered and died.

Salko secretly allowed himself a mental sigh of relief.  The difficult part was over.

"Rise"

Heckler slowly rose into the air with an indolent flapping of his wings, eyes liquid hate as they tried to bore through Salko.

Salko gestured at the door, "Ancient magiks bar our path.  There is one in the cave that we would have.  She is ours."

Heckler turned it's head toward the opening, moonlight gleaming off wickedly curved horns.  A grin creased its crag like visage, "Meddlers, neophytes, you have summoned me for a trifling.  This can be done easily." The demon's eyes were shrewd, calculating.  It eyed the twelve forming the spell shape.  "Perhaps you will give me one of them as a reward?"

What Heckler would do with such a reward was best not thought of.  Salko was a practical sort.

He looked at the speck he hadn't noticed before on the moon as he answered, "There are others in the cave with the one we seek.  She isn't capable of this.  You will not touch the one we seek but you can do what you will with the others"
« Last Edit: May 28, 2011, 06:01:09 AM by POG »
"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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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2011, 05:59:02 AM »
Acid spittle dripped down Heckler's chin in anticipation.

The speck grew larger as the demon turned toward the cave opening.

"A trifling."  Heckler grabbed at weaves of magik.  A deep hum vibrated through the clearing as nearby trees burst into splinters, energy leeched from them.  The demon drew more energy into itself, balling its clawed hands into fists, eyes glowing brighter, it swelled in size.

The magik burst forward in an ebon flow from its hands, mouth, eyes, even its nose.

The speck grew even larger still, flapping wings and the glint of silver could be seen now.

The ebon tide hit the misty barrier with an earthshaking impact and the deafening sound of a thousand panes of glass shattering at the same time.

Heckler took a step forward then looked upward at the shadow that had suddenly blocked the light of the moons...

...just in time to catch 1000 pounds of enraged War Gryphon in the chest. Valkyr ripped with talons encased in mithril etched in holy runes.  Sparks flew from Heckler as the talons scored demon flesh.

Heckler screamed.

Gryphon and demon rolled end over end in an exploding geyser of snow and a flurry of leathery and feathery wings fighting for dominance.

Salko threw himself flat, blinded by flying snow.  He stood clearing his vision just in time to dodge the business end of Dolgin's hammer.  A savage blow aimed for his head slammed into his shoulder with a sickening crunch of bone.  Salko was flung to the ground hard enough that the wind burst from his lungs.  He fought to remain conscious as Dolgin raised his hammer for a finishing blow.

But before the hammer could fall the priest was hit from three sides by members of the pack.  They changed as they hit him, snouts elongating, canine teeth sprouting, lupine features contorting previously human faces, they struck with claw and fang bearing down on Dolgin.  Hammer spun sideways into the snow as he struggled to maintain his footing.

Salko mumbled through blood flecked lips, "You fools! The spell form!"
« Last Edit: May 28, 2011, 12:54:07 PM by POG »
"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 ala

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2011, 07:52:09 AM »
Those in the cave watched with foreboding as the barrier wavered ... strained ... as dark spots of corruption marred it's once clear surface.  Sounds... dreadful sounds and waves of  twisted power buffeted both barrier and occupants.  The green glow gave way to sickly black as the shield  began to shred. 

Gone.  Completley gone. Shattered into wisps of useless energy and flecks of gold. 

Aithne rocked back slightly as the air was parted by a heavy rush of darkness;  the sending of an immensity of evil capable of destroying their protection and leaving them open to the night.  The stench of rotting flesh assailed her nose as the horror and power of the Thing's scream tore at her mind. 

All had changed.  Danger would enter.  Danger might devour them.  Aithne's fingers traced patterns in the air.  Cullen crouched to the floor and made a low sound that somehow made one think of teeth crushing bones, and jaws dripping blood.  Ripples flowed over Cullen's scales as he prepared to charge outside.  All that held him in place was Aithne's silence.

Through the open door was chaos.  Tumbling bodies, slashing claws, bloodied snow  -  and most terrifying, a maddened demon barely held in place by a dissolving spell form.

Aithne gave a cry and Cullen leaped through the door, arching over the snow and landing on the nearest figure.  He joyously sank his teeth into the wolf form, shaking it, throwing it in the air;  playing until it lay broken in the snow with its neck at an impossible angle.  Cullen then wheeled and charged one of the creatures who had not transformed.  One gigantic paw cuffed the figure, slashing deeply with long, deadly talons.  The figure rose in the air spraying Cullen with blood, then fell to the ground and was still.

As Cullen attacked, Aithne  raised her staff over her head with both hands and began singing in a clear voice that cut through the sounds of battle.  As she sang, a beam of red-sparked gold shot through the night and hit a hooded shape.  The creature holding that point in the spell form opened it's mouth but no sound came out as glowing threads of light snaked across it's body.  Flames engulfed it and it was gone.   A second song, and a second figure gone.

Then both Cullen and Aithne turned to the struggle between dwarf and wolf creature.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2011, 06:15:29 AM by ala »

Offline POG

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2011, 10:42:14 PM »
An expulsion of acid spittle met mithril plate armor.  Sigils glowed with power as talons cased in mithril clawed at Heckler's throat. The demon gasped and struggled vainly as the gryphon bent its smaller form over a broken tree stump.  Valkyr's armor consisted of a helm covering her skull, a breastplate and greaves covering her forelegs, all inscribed with sigils of holy magik; powerful runes of protection.  The demon's acid sizzled and marred the armored breastplate but did not penetrate.  The Gryphon's beak and front talons were covered with mithril was well and as Valkyr's head snapped forward the business end of her beak entered Heckler's right eye, taking it in a fountain of foul demon blood.  The demon weakened despair swept through its frame, death at the hands of this creature meant banishment for a eons.  The hellish punishment awaiting it was nothing compared to the tortures it had planned for Salko if it ever got the chance.

THEN THE SPELLFORM BROKE...

All those who consort with demons and their ilk and would bind them to their will must take precautions.  The most basic being a spell form that will keep them from striking out at the summoner.  Many novice summoners forget this or don't pay attention to the details.  They forfeit their souls as a result.  Salko was no mere novice.  Using living beings to form the spell form was an advanced technique and took great coordination and the strength of will to dominate, not just the demon but to marshall the life force of those composing the spell form.  All thirteen points had to  stay strong. 

Four points had just....died.

A cruel grin crawled across Heckler's face as energy surged into its body.  It grew to twice its former size, more muscular, scales and ridges forming on its back and arms.  The skin below its armpits burst open, revealing a second pair of arms pushing out from its torso.  It was roughly the same size as Valkyr now and lifted the armored gryphon effortlessly with two arms as the other two clawed appendages savagely disemboweled her, ripping into her exposed underside with ruthless efficiency... 
« Last Edit: June 01, 2011, 10:55:13 PM by POG »
"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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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #14 on: June 01, 2011, 10:53:09 PM »
Heckler tossed the gryphon's still shuddering body aside and cast a baleful eye towards Salko who was fleeing from the clearing at a speed no mere human could match.  With an unearthly roar Heckler rushed off into the darkness in pursuit.

Dolgin let forth a wail like a banshee.  The vibration threw his attackers back, holding their ears, two ran in fear.  The stalwart dwarf rolled to where his hammer had fallen, dashed it up and bashed in the nearest pack member's skull.

The rest of the creatures fled.

With their departure, silence fell upon the clearing.  The deafening silence was broken only by Shandriel who ran out to him and clung to him with tears of relief and fear holding hands on the journey down her face...
"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 ala

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #15 on: June 02, 2011, 02:19:14 PM »
Cullen raced around the clearing in frustration.  He was not ready to stop killing, but there was nothing left to fight. Dead things were no challenge.  He flopped on the ground, beating his tail in anger, scales beginning to change back to fur.  Unless the danger returned he would soon  look less like a gore-covered avenger than a large, annoyed golden panther.

Aithne permitted herself a small smile as a wave of relief washed over her.  The Thing was gone, for the moment.  She had not failed her friend, even though she could take little credit for the victory; such victory as it was.  How much time, she wondered, did they have before the Thing, or other hunters, returned?  She stepped from her cave into the night, looked sadly at the broken body of the gryphon, and approached Shandriel and the Dwarf.  She watched the crying girl clinging to the grim Dwarf and spoke softly.

"My valiant Dwarf I grieve with you for the loss of your companion, but  I thank you for our lives.  I see you know my young friend.  I am Aithne." 

As she spoke, Aithne's breath formed a cloud of sparkling crystals in the night air.  Cullen, who had come to lie at her feet, stopped scanning the darkness for movement and swatted at them in a bored way, since there was nothing else to fight.  Aithne pulled her cloak more tightly around herself.  She looked into the darkness at the edge of the clearing, searching for any movement.  The darkness was quiet, but she still felt uneasy.

She forced herself to stop searching, and turned back to her companions.  Future dangers would have to wait.  They had more immediate concerns. 

"The night is dark, and cold and we need warmth and safety.  Please come back into my home with me.  I can provide at least warmth.  And you Shandriel, and you sir Dwarf, can perhaps provide me with answers.  There is much I do not know."

Aithne turned and walked back to her cave, followed by Cullen.

She paused at the entrance to look at the tatters that  had once been the spellspun door of her cave.  As her hand stroked the fabric the tatters melted together till once again there was a shield to draw against the night.  A moment of soft chants and the fabric glowed.  Not a barrier like the one destroyed by the Thing, but not an easy entrance to penetrate either.

She bent to stir the embers of the fire as she walked past,  placed the kettle back in the coals and added new, fresh herbs.  The fragrance that re-filled the cave still comforted but now into the mix there was added a tang.  Something to spark minds and help with making plans. A few drops of honey added to the pot would soothe those who drank.

As she sat on the bed and waited to see if the others would join her, Aithne absentmindedly rubbed Cullen and thought about the two people outside.  She barely knew Shandriel.  She knew a fresh young face, remarkable indigo eyes.  A few words they'd exchanged in the past.  A smile in passing.  She felt kindly toward the girl...but what did she really know of her?

And the Dwarf.  Grim-faced...a fighter.  Where had he come from?  How did he know of the danger?  What else did he know?

She wondered what they saw when they looked at her?  Did they see the core of power in her?  Did they see the lines of magick emanating from her, and wrapped around her? Or did they see only her outer shell?  Only a woman no longer young, but not yet old.  Tall, straight, not yet bowed with years.  The silver in her long auburn hair scarce so far.  Wrinkles around her eyes more from amusement at the world that from the age that slowly, slowly but inexorably moved in on her. In another 500, 600 years, if she remained in this world,  a fight like tonight's might be impossible.  She thanked the Goddess and the Shadow for the training that had brought her strength.  Laughing to herself she though, "That was a few hundred well-spent years."













« Last Edit: June 12, 2011, 02:57:20 PM by ala »

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #16 on: June 04, 2011, 03:30:38 AM »
"Daughter are ye hurt?" This was in his native dwarven, in a rumbly baritone that  instantly put Shandriel at ease.  Shandriel wasn't dwarven.  Not even close.  She was already taller than Dolgin with a lean muscular build that was predisposed to speed and agility over strength.  Her hair was the color of the night sky and reached her waist.  Modest sleeping attire could do nothing to hide the fact that she was a beauty, even under these extreme circumstances.  Her response to Dolgin's question flowed from her lips in the effortless fashion of one who has spoken Dwarven since they were a babe, "No Pa, I'm not hurt. Just afraid." The questions tumbled out in a flood, "Who are these creatures? Why did they come? What do they want?"

The priest placed a finger over her lips.  "There will be time for answers later.  I will nae let any harm come to ye."  He looked at the scene before him, the slain pack members...and the place where Valkyr lay still...more still than she should be.  The air was still fouled with the demon's passing and the foul energies that had been at play.  Dolgin rubbed his bald pate.  "I've work to do ere your questions are answered.  Answered they will be in due time."

Shandriel helped him then for their work was not easy.  They buried their slain enemies in shallow graves but not before praying for them...praying for their redemption in the next life.  The next task was harder.  Dolgin's eyes were heavy as they removed the battle armor from Valkyr.  Shandriel wept openly but went about the work of removing the armor and preparing the gryphon for the ritual to follow with resolute efficiency. 

Dolgin said prayers in a low voice while Shandriel stood at his side with her head bowed.  Val had been a comrade in arms and faithful companion for many years.  It has been said that thoughts of revenge are unseemly, especially to followers of the Light.  For Dolgin this was one of many areas where Church doctrine departed from reality.

Reality was...Heckler would pay.

The ritual completed, the dwarf put the body to the torch.  "The physical body is just a shell." he intoned, voice solemn.  "The spirit cannot be destroyed.  Go forth and be at peace."  He looked at Shandriel who gave him a nod.

Together they walked into the cave as the pre-dawn gloom gave way to a brilliant sunrise...
"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

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #17 on: June 05, 2011, 02:05:30 AM »
Shandriel walked to Aithne with Dolgin.  The dwarf looked on the woman with kind eyes, feeling an instant kinship.  Shandriel introduced Dolgin as her father.

"I raised her," the dwarf began in common speech, "From a babe."  He made himself comfortable by sitting easily with his legs crossed beneath him.  "I apologize for bringing our...troubles to yeh.  We appreciate yer hospitality and will not trouble you for long."
"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."
 
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Offline ala

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #18 on: June 05, 2011, 05:13:37 PM »
Aithne looked into Dolgin's eyes and smiled.  Suddenly he reminded her of one of her favorite teachers.  Not physically, for Teelo had been tall, thin, and blue, but the eyes were much the same.  Teelo's golden eyes had often had the hint of warmth and humor she thought she saw in Dolgin's eyes, under the look of pain she was sure she saw.  Teelo had often had to hide his laughter in her serious training, but his eyes always betrayed his heart.  Like Teelo, she felt sure that Dolgin's somber face would look at home grinning over a mug of ale.  She briefly wished she had ale to offer.

Instead, she handed a steaming cup of tea to the Dwarf and his daughter and tried to order her thoughts.  What did she most need to know?  What were they most likely to tell her?

"I thank you again for your timely arrival Dolgin.  You no doubt saved our lives.  I grieve it was at such a high cost to you.  Such a noble beast has no doubt passed into a green land where she will wait for you." Aithne raised her cup in a silent prayer for the gryphon.  No such prayers were wasted on the other fallen of the battle.

"As I trust we shall have no more visitors tonight, it is time for questions.  And, I hope, answers.  Good Dolgin, what was the Thing?  I have not felt it's equal in evil for more years than I should care to count?  Who...what..was brazen enough to call it? How did you know to come?  And most importantly, why do they want your daughter?" 

Aithne opened her mouth to ask more, but stopped herself.  Surely if those questions were answered, full attention must be turned to them.  Time enough later for details.

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #19 on: June 06, 2011, 07:53:22 PM »
Dolgin took a long drink of the tea, wishing it was stronger brew.  He regarded Aithne over the rim of the mug with eyes that held secrets.  He wiped his mouth with the back of his right sleeve as was his ritual and tilted his head to the side as he began his tale, eyes growing distant.

Long ago in eons past there was a mage of great renown and power, he was the king's right hand and in those days, much as now, the kingdom was besieged by numerous enemies.  As the foes to the crown became more powerful the king, who was a good man, struggled to protect his subjects.  The mage, we'll call him Rindel, was running out of warmagik, at least effective magik." Dolgin sighed and took another sip of his tea before continuing.

"Extreme measures were called for.  Rindel was a powerful mage and thought he could handle more powerful magiks than he could.  He opened portals...." The dwarf paused for effect here.  "Portals into other worlds.  He became the first....Warlock."
"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 ala

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #20 on: June 07, 2011, 05:06:00 AM »
As the flames of the fire shot into the air, a trick of the light made the shadows on the cave walls appear to nod and sway with the rhythm of Dolgin's warm voice.  Aithne leaned back against her cushions and closed her eyes so that she might hear more deeply.  The words rolled over her and in the dark behind her eyelids the Shadow formed faint images of the men and times of Dolgin's story.

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #21 on: June 07, 2011, 09:48:47 PM »
"At first the new found allies...demons, were all the kingdom had hoped for they turned the tide of the battle, and a time of peace fell over the land.  But it was short lived.  He paused long enough to finish the tea.

"Rindel fell pray to lusts that exist in all of us, lusts that we fight...the battle is won or lost....every day. Normally it means nought In the case of the first warlock, the loss of this battle, was a disaster.  He became drunk with power and a menace greater than any previously faced.  In the end...he had to be put down.  Twasn't easy.  The battle was joined and Rindel fell.  His body was quartered and buried in four different corners of the realms.  As fer the head...well that be a well guarded secret."

Dolgin looked about at his audience, "I nae yer thinkin, good dwarf this be a good story an such but what's it to do wi' the price of bread? Well there are certain magiks that exist to this day, from that time long ago.  The order of St. Stravius is an order that is devoted to the protection of these and other secrets that have the potential to undo us all.  Until recently, I was a member of this order." A wistful look came into the priest's eyes.  He shook off the memory and continued to speak, "Those that tried to take Shadriel tonight seek information from the time of Rindel."

Part of the truth was better than a falsehood.  That would do for now.  "They must nae gain this information and think that by taking meh daughter I will be want to give it up....
"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 ala

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #22 on: June 12, 2011, 02:51:03 PM »
The visions of Rindel's ancient world faded to wisps as the Shadow propelled Aithne back into the here-and-now. She opened her eyes, sat up straight and looked at the Dwarf.  She wished she had studied Dwarves better during her training.  She could not tell if there had been dissembling in his voice.  She looked closely at his power lines and saw no disturbances that might mean lies, but in one as highly trained as this priest, control was expected.  Still she felt, felt with a certainty she could not dispel, that there was much more to this story. This bare boned story was only a hint.  What secrets of both past and present there were, how important they were, she could not even guess.  Still... these two were obviously in great danger, and now they had brought the danger to her.  Perhaps she had been wrong.  Perhaps this was the time for details.  Both for their sakes and her own she needed to find out.

She stood, stirred the fire, refreshed the pot, little homely things to cover how her mind was racing.  Finally she sat again and looked into Dolgin's eyes.

"Thank you for your tale my friend.  It is often as you say.  The past and the present are woven so tightly together that one cannot pull a thread from one without harming the other.  Rindel's folly still echos. 

You must forgive me - it is not my way to offer hospitality by challenging a guest, but good Dwarf, is there no more to the story?  Foul things have been here.  Foul deeds have been done, and I fear there are more to come. Put my heart at ease.  Is there nothing else you can tell us?"
« Last Edit: June 12, 2011, 03:07:26 PM by ala »

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #23 on: June 14, 2011, 09:29:53 PM »
Dolgin eyed his host shrewdly.  She was a sharp one.  That could be good, or it could be very dangerous.  He wasn't quite sure yet in any case the next words that came out of his mouth were the truth.

"Of course there is more. Knowledge is power they say. But in some ways knowledge is a prison.  Knowledge is poison. Knowledge tha can nae be shared lest ye become a target."

That was the honest truth and it would have to do for now.  "Me and Shandriel have to go t' town.  There are some that will help in the journey ahead.  They will meet us there."

The priest took a breath, "The journey ahead is fraught with peril and it is of vital importance.  You have shown yourself to be capable and...I'm afraid that it won't be safe for you here..."
"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

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Re: The Gatekeeper
« Reply #24 on: June 14, 2011, 09:34:32 PM »
"Though I've no right ta ask and I've already put ye in great danger it would be a great boon of you and yer companion came along.  What say ye?"
"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