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Author Topic: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?  (Read 2176 times)

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Offline MysticMoon

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Note: my story begins with the Quest to Remove Pumpkin Scat From My Lawn

What Price To Become Human Again?

What would you do, gentle reader, were you faced with my predicament? I was animate, I was returned to the world of the living, but I no longer drew breath. The Necromancer knew his work, I fault him not for my condition, but even he had severe limits upon his powers. He could tie my soul back into my body with threads strong enough to fend off the grasping reach of the great and terrible God-King Xbalanque, but he could not make rotting flesh whole again. Not on his own.

He made for me many tinctures, poultices, and salves to slow down the putrefaction of my physical corpus. I learned to dress in clothes, both long and baggy, which would cover the obvious signs of my death. I shied away from bright lights and crowds. I had never been highly social, yet now I found myself downright avoiding the slightest of contact. For who could I identify with, now that I had faced that most hellish of realms? It had turned me, twisted me into a mockery of my old self. I was free, yet I would ever be a prisoner within my own mind, my own memory.

I shall attempt to save you from excessive prattle over my misery. Suffice it to say that I felt an unbearable mix of piteous gratitude for my freedom, yet all around me existed naught but reminders of my state. And what could I do? I knew what awaited me should I ever relinquish my grasp upon this decaying sack of flesh and bone. No, I would rather face an aeon of this half life than go back to the torture chambers I had been saved from.

Affairs between my wife and I continued to unravel. She had saved me, yes, with her steel will against Franz's self interest. And she loved me still, of that I would never doubt. Yet we were forced to occupy separate rooms and my condition required constant care. The pleasures of the flesh were lost to me. Even food and drink had no flavor. I existed quite zombie-like in practice, though I had lost little of my mental faculties. The more time passed, the more we drifted apart.

My attempts to elicit help from Franz were in vain. He would not see me nor respond to my emails, and, somehow, I could never find his place again. Every road I drove upon led me to a cliff's edge or a flowing river. Only the Necromancer offered me assistance; I could tell he felt sympathy for my frustration yet could do naught beyond slowing the inevitable.

Thus it was, that when he appeared at my doorstep quite animated (forgive my pun) and gabbering about some sacred tree, I felt my hopes soaring for the first time since I felt the light upon my eyelids after being snatched wholly from Hell.

"I have found it!" He said, amidst his other babblings. "The Tree of the Many-Eyed One! It is your salvation, my friend. It is but one ingredient of nine, but that is it!"

"What are you talking about?" I asked, afraid to let my hopes rise too high. Though there was but one thing that would excite him so much that he would bring it to my attention personally.

"An agent of Franz. He found it. No, no... I shan't tell you his name. But it was he who unburied the book of Bone and Water. And there... I can't believe it's real... there, in plain text, did it mention nine sacred ingredients used to purify the flesh of the dead."

"You mean..."

"I mean, I now have access to the full ritual of Claiming. It was used in ancient times to allow a dying Necromancer to take up the younger body of a sacrificial victim. Yet, I am certain that I may modify it to bring back your body to full health and well-being. And with your soul still attached."

I was speechless. I stood there, mouth working, tears springing from the corners of my eyes.

"Whatever it takes," I said. "Send me to the furthest corners of the globe. I care not. I will be whole again."

In the back of my mind, I knew there must be a cost. Surely there was a cost, for there ever is with the supernatural. Yet I cared not. Whatever the price to regain my humanity, I would pay it. I would fight the hordes of a thousand Xbalanques, so long as the slimmest chance of success existed.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2015, 11:45:39 AM by MysticMoon »
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
Might: 2 | Agility: 3 | Wits: 4 | Charm: 3 | Spirit: 4 | Power: 2

The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

Offline MysticMoon

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2014, 12:04:31 AM »
The First Step

The evening before my new quest began, I dreamt about Franz's daughter, Irina. She had not appeared in my dreams since my first fateful quest, the one which had so thoroughly transformed my life.

In this dream, I stood barefoot upon the grassy, though scat free!, course of my front yard. The chill air of a winter night bit at my arms and I felt frost crunching beneath my toes. My breath formed into vaporous clouds which momentarily danced about like Halloween ghosts before my eyes; afterwards wafting away in a low breeze. I often dream of being alive; it offers a painful, stabbing reminder of what I have lost, as well as a torturous glimmer of hope that all is not lost. If my soul is alive enough to remember, perhaps my body will one day be whole again.

It all felt quite real; and in fact, I was not aware at the time that I slept.

In contrast to the details with which my dream form was surrounded by, Irina's form looked more spectre than flesh. I could clearly see the iron bars of the fence, the sturdy trunk of the young redwood, through her transparent self. As usual, her bangs had drifted down to cover one eye.

"Ah, here you are, foolish man. I have been searching ever so long... I hate searching. Perhaps it is time to ask daddy to present you with an invitation to the house again. Then we can drink more... tea, together."

I stood there, struck dumb and motionless by her appearance. The barest of twinge struck my wrist, where once her teeth had marked my flesh.

"What... what are you doing here?"

She giggled, that perpetual giggle of amused children throughout the ages. A chill crept down my spine. That giggle held a tinge of something... inhuman.

"Silly, I'm here to give you a message. Don't start where he tells you to start. You'll never finish in time if you do whatever that daft bloke tells you to." Daft bloke was delivered in an oddly convincing English accent. "What you really need to do, is to go shopping for flowers first. Yes, it must be the flowers first..."

I reached forward suddenly, thinking I was falling backwards and that I could grasp Irina's ghostlike shoulder to arrest my collapse. Yet, it turned out to be the world which fell, rolling around me and above me until I began rapidly descending into the sky. I screamed, I'm sure of it, and then awoke with a start as though I had just slammed back into hard ground, and my body.

As I jerked, I could hear and feel the crunch of frozen grass beneath me. I lay in it, barely sensing the cold air and ground seeping into my already chilled blood. Somehow, I had sleep-walked my way to an empty lot several blocks from my own abode and now lay nestled in the wild grasses and weeds of the abandoned grounds.

It seemed wrong that my heart did not beat out a panicked rhythm after that harrowing end to a perplexing dream. Yet such had become my existence. No breath, no heartbeat, no visceral sensation of the freezing cold upon my exposed face, arms, and feet.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
Might: 2 | Agility: 3 | Wits: 4 | Charm: 3 | Spirit: 4 | Power: 2

The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

Offline MysticMoon

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2014, 03:27:09 PM »
My Quest Begins

Had I known how long a time would span between saying good night to my dear family and seeing their faces once again, I would have felt more angst and less simple annoyance at finding myself where I did. Instead, I stood, shaking off loose bits of grass and leaves and preparing to trudge my lonely way back home.

On a normal day, that walk would have taken no longer than fifteen or twenty minutes. I looked forward to spending that time clearing my head before returning once again to my soft mattress and familiar, though mostly unnecessary, blankets. This time, however, it would take far longer than a few minutes to traverse that short distance.

I stepped from the lot and onto the sidewalk. Darkness still ruled here; I guessed it would not become light for another four or five hours, this time of the year. My undead eyes adjusted more quickly to darkness than they ever had before... before the God-King stole my life from me, and even though the nearest pale yellow glow of a street lamp lay more than a block away, I had no trouble picking out details from the grounds about me.

To my right stretched rows of compact housing, dark and quiet, as the hard-working poor recuperated from their collective labors of the previous day. To my left were apartment complexes, rumored to host an unsavory element of the local population. Here and there, lights shown through cracks in window coverings.

Directly across from me lay my route home, a lampless cross street I always found comforting in the dark of the night, as oft I walked it in the late evenings, enjoying the appearance of the myriad stars above, losing myself in their distant mysteries. No doubt, I had been seeking similar comfort whilst in the thrall of my earlier somnambulations.

After looking about, I attempted to step from the sidewalk and onto the roughly paved road. I found, however, that my left leg could not be moved. My first thought was that it had somehow decayed too much during the evening and that I would spend an eternity with a leg locked into rigor. Half in fear, half in annoyance, I leaned onto my right leg and attempted to swing my left forward at the hip. My efforts offered up only a slight forward movement, accompanied by a scraping sound, as of rocks rubbing together.

Looking down, I ascertained the true cause of my immobility: a bony arm had reached from the earth of the abandoned lot and latched itself to my left ankle. Its death grip could not be budged, no matter how frantically I pulled at its bony fingers.

Grabbing a nearby rock, I began vehemently smashing it against the wrist bones of my attacker. They shattered to powder easily enough, causing the arm to fall away, though the fingers still maintained their grasp about my ankle.

Wasting no time, I ran out into the street. The sounds of shifting, displaced earth had begun to reach my ears and I feared looking back at what thing, or things, might wait for me back where I had only moments before been soundly sleeping.

At first, I attempted to run homeward. Yet, before I could cross the street, I clearly saw, along what should have been a path shrouded in darkness, twin orange-red flames racing toward me.

How silly of me to think that the God-King would give up on me so easily. Though the Necromancer had done all he could to mask me and make me safe, what were his powers compared to that of such an elder and powerful creature!

I looked long enough to make out the form of an old-fashioned carriage rushing toward me along what should have been my path home. The craft was illuminated by twin torches, one to each side. The driver's face, a skull shaped as none ever has in life, with a rictus grin broader than should have been possible and eye sockets like narrow ovals lit within by blue flame, locked into my gaze and nearly froze me to the spot in absolute terror.

Yet there was a terror which gave my feet wings before it became too late to flee that most ghastly of apparitions. The terror put in my heart by the great God-King Xbalanque relinquished me from my stupor and allowed me to run. I paid no attention to the direction, so long as it was neither backwards into whatever had begun crawling from the dirt, nor forwards and into the smiling maw of that awful carriage driver.

I ran into the night, and the night swallowed me whole.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
Might: 2 | Agility: 3 | Wits: 4 | Charm: 3 | Spirit: 4 | Power: 2

The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

Offline MysticMoon

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2015, 06:55:54 PM »
Separated

How lucky for me that I could not lose my breath. I ran for I know not how long, street to street, dark to dark. At some times I could hear the carriage as though it were nearly upon me and at others it seemed naught but a distant sound.

In my panic I half expected the very night to come to life and join in the chase. Every dog that barked at my passing, every motor on the nearby road, conjured up images of undead hordes in my poor overwrought mind. In the end, I could not tell how long I had been out of danger before I finally ceased my headlong flight along the darkened streets of the town. I only know that I found myself in some neighborhood which was completely unfamiliar to me. The houses were both older and in better condition than the dwellings to which I was accustomed to seeing. Having lived here for nearly fifteen years, this was not a normal thing for me to experience.

All was quiet; thankfully so, for I was not certain where I could have run to on this particular street. The houses were cluttered closely together, with many trees overhanging them, and a road which appeared to lead nowhere. It became suddenly clear to me that I was thoroughly trapped. Perhaps I had not truly escaped after all.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
Might: 2 | Agility: 3 | Wits: 4 | Charm: 3 | Spirit: 4 | Power: 2

The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

Offline MysticMoon

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2015, 09:12:35 AM »
A First Meeting

A twinge at my ankle made me look down. The skeletal hand, which had clung to me throughout my mad flight, now relinquished its grip upon me and lay lifeless upon the cobblestone road at my feet. I wasted no time in launching it across the road with a swift kick.

At first, I was met only by silence. I hesitated to move, not certain where flight, could I find a direction, would take me next. The houses intrigued me, and I briefly considered approaching one at random.

I did not have to ponder long, for the house at the end of the block soon opened its front door and spat forth a black robed and hunched figure who simply pointed at me while mouthing something which, to my untrained ears, sounding somewhat like Latin. His words were the soft hissing of a very old man, yet they carried easily to me.

Being still night, and dark, with no street lights to illuminate my way, I had missed some very important details about the houses on this particular street: Each doorway was guarded by a pair of still figures. Even with my enhanced vision, I at first took them for no more than columns or statues.

Yet, when this creature (I hesitate to call it a man, which shall later become clear) pointed and spoke his strange words, the twin figures on either side of his door bestirred themselves to motion and advanced upon me. They were hideous creatures, more than eight feet tall, skin a deep gray and covered in nodules. Their faces put me in mind of demons or ogres, with curved horns sprouting from their foreheads and tusks protruding from grim maws.

I knew not whether I could best these creatures, for they were unknown to me and powered by the gods know what magics. Yet I had nowhere to run, and, truth be told, my fear of earlier had begun to turn to blind anger. Thus it was that I found myself confronting two creatures much larger and stronger than I, who obviously wished ill upon my undead self.

Casting about, I found a weapon in the form of a fallen branch from a nearby lawn. It was stout, about three feet in length, and nearly straight.

I stood, facing my adversaries, stick forward and legs braced. They came at me slowly, for it appeared that they were incapable of moving with speed. I dearly hoped that this was so, for it gave me a great advantage and I feared that I could not stand up to many blows from such beasts.

When they were almost upon me, I darted backwards, onto the lawn and around the girth of the tree which had so kindly provided me with a weapon. Now I used that tree to circle behind one of my attackers (being certain to keep him between me and his companion) and strike quickly at neck, kidney, and knee; forward, backhand, forward. I used every bit of leverage at my disposal, whipping my arm in time with the twist of my hip, throwing a last bit of power in at the moment of impact with a flick of my wrist. Well timed strikes which proved that my training had not been dulled one whit by my condition.

My assault proved somewhat fruitful, for the beast grunted and dropped to one knee. The other one lunged at me, yet had not the coordination to avoid tripping over the falling form of his companion.

Anger urged me to stay and press the advantage I had created. Every bit of rage at the unfairness of my condition, of the horrors I had been through this night alone, threatened to overwhelm me and cause me to lose focus. Yet, cooler thinking prevailed and instead I ran for the real threat, the creature who had unleashed his hounds upon me.

He had advanced beyond the confines of his abode, standing on the cobblestones which bordered his property. Perhaps he hoped to wished to entertain himself by watching what his hounds would do to me. Seeing me rushing toward him, understanding dawning of the precariousness of the position he had placed himself in by sending his hounds so far from his person, he turned and attempted to flee back through his door. He made it, but only because I grabbed him, bodily, and threw him through the threshold, slamming the door shut behind me after following him in. I placed my knee upon his back and twisted one arm, holding it by elbow and wrist.

He struggled, briefly, before giving up and hissing at me in impotent anger.

I would have some answers.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
Might: 2 | Agility: 3 | Wits: 4 | Charm: 3 | Spirit: 4 | Power: 2

The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

Offline MysticMoon

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2015, 12:01:25 PM »
More Questions

At first he would respond in nothing but that hissing latin-like tongue with which he had brought to life his gargoyles. Despite not understanding a single word he spoke, it was obvious that I was being cursed at. For a brief moment, I feared that his curses were backed by magic and that I would soon suffer from some sort of supernatural attack.

Such magical curses appeared to be beyond his repertoire, however, for no new difficulties befell me.

I twisted his wrist harder, and his words melded into one monotonous hissing tone.

"Why am I here?" I asked. "Did you summon me? Have I stumbled here on my own? Where is this place?"

The hissing ceased; silence reigned for a few moments.

"You... you are not..."

I waited for the confusion to pass. It seems I was not the only one with questions. I tried again.

"Where is this place? I have never seen this neighborhood before. How do I get out?"

"Please... allow me to sit up. I promise, you no longer have anything to fear from me."

"Answer my questions and I shall consider it."

"It is better if I show you," it replied. Though its English was clearly enunciated, the hint of a hiss seemed ever ready to appear.

Cautiously, I arose, backing away warily. The thing on the floor lay there for a moment before struggling to arise. Wary of tricks, I offered no assistance, yet patiently waited.

The thing before me was undoubtedly ancient, though I could give you no estimate of its actual age. A hundred? Likely far too low a number. A thousand? Could any sentient creature live so long? Looking into the inhuman eyes of the thing before me, I wondered.

A scaly, clawed hand rose to push back its dark cowl. Beneath the velvet cloth lay a head straight from some twisted myth. Thick, scaly skin, like that of a snake. Hairless. Yet it had whiskers, like some sort of rodent, and teeth to match. Strangest of all, in that face, it had the pink eyes of the albino, though cloudy with obvious great age. Aside from the odd color, its eyes were of a disturbingly human appearance.

I know my words sound contradictory, yet I have no better way to describe what stood before me. It was both completely inhuman, in ways I had not yet before seen, and yet it had just enough humanity to make my skin crawl. My mind began to cringe at the dichotomy.

"What are you?" I finally asked.

Ignoring my question, it regarded me for a few uncomfortable moments before asking one of its own.

"You are the one Franz helped a few years ago, are you not? The one who disturbed the forbidden bones?"

"You know Franz?"

"I do. He would be... less than amused that you are here, no doubt. As to how you ended up here... I have no idea. Franz gave us all very strict instructions. The Necromancer is to be your one and only contact among all Collectors. I should not be talking to you now."

"Could Irena have caused this? I dreamed of her just prior to waking up and being driven here."

"It is possible," it said. "She has ever been willful, even as a child. Now... the gods only know how Franz manages."

I shook my head, uncertain in what riddles the thing spoke. We both stood there in an awkward silence.

"Tell me," the thing said, finally, "what did Irena tell you in this dream?"

"It was nonsense. She bade me seek the flowers first. Something about shopping for flowers rather than doing whatever somebody else suggested. The Necromancer, perhaps? He was to give me a list of objects to seek out."

The thing chuckled. The sound sent chills down my spine.

"Oh, she is a wily one. Yet... yet, there is wisdom in what she says."

Uncertain of how to respond, I waited. I could see the wheels spinning behind those strange eyes, could tell that outcomes were being weighed out in a manner which thoroughly disturbed me. Yet, what else could I do but go along with whatever the thing told me. As usual, I was much too far out of my depth.

"Well, no doubt she had a hand in sending you here, my foolish friend. I am likely one of the few who would understand what she has in mind. And agree with it.

"Now, come, have some tea with me. No, do not worry. This tea shall send you upon your journey in a much less rude way than Irena, or even Franz for that matter, would choose. Also, it is, in a very real sense, your best bet of getting out of this lovely neighborhood in one piece."

I would do it, of course. For, as I had already mentioned, I had few choices and very little understanding of my circumstances.

Still, of all the things I saw on this quest, and all the strange creatures I met along the way, this one encounter was likely the most straightforward and the least damaging to my person. In that sense, I was correct to put my trust in those scaly hands.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
Might: 2 | Agility: 3 | Wits: 4 | Charm: 3 | Spirit: 4 | Power: 2

The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

Offline MysticMoon

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2015, 10:08:51 AM »
Through The Mirror

As teas go, the one I drank that night was both terrible and easily forgotten. I only vaguely remember the retching and a hint of rotten flowers. To this day, I do not know if my host thought it a delicious-tasting variety of tea, or if that flavor was a necessity for whatever magic it performed upon me.

I *do* know it confirmed my life-long decision to avoid hallucinogens as a well-considered notion, and that I hope to never experience such things ever again.

My strange host and I talked for a bit before I was served the tea. As the Necromancer had conferred with him regarding a number of the items needed for the ritual, he was well acquainted with the flowers Irena had hinted at in my dream. He was, in fact, an expert in the field of herbology and something of an alchemist; famous in certain circles, if he was to be believed. His talk of reagents and concoctions were dizzying to my uninformed mind, and I could truly believe that his studies had spanned numerous centuries.

It took very little time for the effects of the tea to present themselves. After the first sip confirmed what the smell of it had suggested, I downed the rest in one supremely uncomfortable gulp. The joys of normal food may have been lost upon my undead constitution, yet tinctures such as these still had full effect upon my senses. But then, perhaps it was a wonderfully flavored beverage which my undead nose was unable to appreciate. I expect, and hope!, to never find out.

I shall skip over most of my experiences under the influence of that strange tea. I will say that I recognized its effects shortly after my host's whiskers turned into snakes and began weaving about in a mesmerizing rhythm. Between that and fighting with the very rabbit-shaped tar baby were a number of experiences I would prefer to forget; I am certainly disinclined to unravel them enough to explain here. Suffice it to say, I did not know it was possible for the world to twist and spin quite so much, nor that it was possible for my mind to perceive it.

At the end, however, the wall-length mirror turned into that very tar baby and dragged me, fist by fist and foot by foot, into itself and through the doorway behind it. A doorway of round rock extending into the blackness of Hell itself. Or so I feared at the time.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2015, 10:43:55 AM by MysticMoon »
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
Might: 2 | Agility: 3 | Wits: 4 | Charm: 3 | Spirit: 4 | Power: 2

The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

Offline MysticMoon

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2015, 10:45:25 AM »
For The Flower

According to my strange informant, while the type of flower I sought was common enough, relatively speaking, the particular specimen necessary for the ritual was anything but. It was the prize piece in a garden full of wondrous plants, a place of beauty without equal.

When informed of these things, I had assumed that someone so interested in plants would see a beauty that I could not, being mostly ignorant of such things. I fully admit, however, that despite the difficulties of this ordeal, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to encounter such a place of deep beauty.

Those were not my feelings upon being drawn into that deep, black portal, however. I do not exaggerate when I state that, had I been alive, my heart would have seized up and stopped from the panic which gripped it. The animal portion of my mind believed I had been betrayed and that I was once again blind and on my way to hell, about to be shown to the great God-King's mercies.

I fell and was swallowed by the blackness. The sensation of falling was rendered supremely uncomfortable by the vertigo still visited upon my senses by that d**ned tea. I am sure that I tumbled, that "down" was a fluid concept which changed direction as often as a deflating balloon.

As much as the falling terrified me, I feared what would happen after it stopped. Would I be dashed upon some infernal, subterranean rock? Would my undead body be able to function after such a collision as I must soon endure? Would I be a soul trapped forever in a pile of broken bones?

At the last instant, I experienced a very curious sensation: It felt as though I had been submerged in a lake or a pool of water; similar in effect to performing a clumsy dive. Instead of falling into water, however, I fell into air. A cushion of some kind, which slowed my descent. On instinct, I closed my eyes, felt myself float softly, and then opened them to a stranger sight still.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
Might: 2 | Agility: 3 | Wits: 4 | Charm: 3 | Spirit: 4 | Power: 2

The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

Offline MysticMoon

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2015, 08:22:43 AM »
In Search Of A Garden

In contrast to the darkness I had just inhabited, the brightness of this world struck my eyes a painful blow.

In addition to becoming momentarily blind, I still suffered from the effects of the tea, making me question exactly which direction was "up" and causing me to stumble immediately and fall directly onto my face.

I blinked rapidly, hoping to clear away the blindness so I could face whatever horror I may have ended up in. Nothing mauled me in those frantic moments, for which I am supremely grateful. This was but the beginning of what looked to be a long quest and I preferred to accomplish it as intact as was humanly possible.

The familiar scent of pine needles under my nose reminded me of pleasant childhood memories spent in the Sierras. The air had that familiar mountain crispness to it.

I relaxed, sat up, and looked around.

At first, the images which revealed themselves to my eyes were similar enough to those childhood memories that I wondered if I had simply been transported, efficiently, if roughly, to those very same Sierras, hundreds of miles away. The trees and the land, even the odd patch of snow, looked very close to scenes I had witnessed a few decades back.

Yet, it dawned upon me in the next moment that this was indeed a most alien place and likely not one which existed on the mortal plane. For, looking down upon me from less than a score of feet away, were three beings of a distinctly odd nature. Each had a body that looked to be made up of twisted roots, decorated with the odd thorn or tuft of filaments. They were roughly humanoid in form, with a circle of broad leaves wreathing their necks, and heads of a soft, doughy material reminiscent of velvet. Their faces had the appearance of permanent marker as applied by a toddler.

Two of these creatures would have towered above me, even if I had been standing, and must have been at least seven feet in height. The third, who stood in the middle, was either a child or person of importance, for the other two stood protectively near its shorter, five-foot frame.

The two held spears pointedly in my direction, stances clearly indicating that they were quite familiar with the use of that effective weapon.

The last vestiges of the vertigo still held me and I dared not attempt to stand. I did cast my glance around in a quick circle, but it appeared that these three were alone.

Heedless of my pride, I crawled back a little ways, until I could sit better, with my back placed against a tree. The others had neither advanced nor retreated, but watched my movements closely.

"I don't suppose any of you speak English," I asked.

The middle one jumped at my words. The other two tightened grips upon their weapons.

"Too much to expect, I suppose," I continued after receiving no response. "That old lizard could at least have outfitted me with a phrasebook."

If any communication passed between the strange plant-people, I did not witness it. As one, the two guardians whistled in a sudden, high pitched tone that must have carried for miles. I winced.

After that, no one moved, for which I was extremely grateful. If there was to be battle, I preferred it to be after I could stand without trouble.

I am often accused of being overly optimistic.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
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The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2015, 10:27:50 AM »
Prisoner Of The Plant People

In keeping with my sense of unfairness in the world, I had just about recovered my balance when I received yet another setback.

Feeling that I could, indeed, arise and flee whatever assistance the two plant people had attempted to summon, I made my way clumsily to my feet and turned to take my first step. A stinging sensation pricked the side of my neck at that moment and a tingling numbness immediately began to spread from that point. Why I was not immune to such things in my current undead state seemed profoundly unfair, as did the speed with which the ground rushed up to meet my suddenly paralyzed face.

Thank the gods for a lack of feeling.

I know not how many of the things arrived shortly after, nor how many rough, root-like hands grabbed me up and hauled at my unmoving body, but it was certainly more than the original three I had seen. I was allowed only the uninteresting sight of needle and rock strewn ground beneath me as I was carried along.

The next couple of days contained no interesting anecdotes for me to relate to you, dear reader. It was an intensely boring time, for I was grabbed up and carried each day and spent each night dumped upon the rocky ground and mostly forgotten. They were a quiet bunch, and seemed to have no form of outward speech as far as I could ascertain. Perhaps their speech occurred at a pitch which my ears were unable to perceive. Or, mayhap they were all psychic and spent each day in a constant chatter to which I was unaware.

Whatever the case, it was a most trying and demoralizing time for me. I have heard it said that the worst punishment one can visit upon a man is to give him nothing to do and plenty of time to think. While my experiences in Hell contradict the notion that silence is the worst punishment, it is certainly quite high on the list, especially for someone whose imagination knows what real torture can bring.

At the culmination of these days of boredom, I was hand-delivered to some plant person of great importance, at least as I interpreted things.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
Might: 2 | Agility: 3 | Wits: 4 | Charm: 3 | Spirit: 4 | Power: 2

The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2015, 10:30:59 AM »
Rough Treatment

I was stripped naked and thoroughly scrubbed down. Seeing the rough stitching keeping body together, viewing it in the full light of day, along with the slow state of decay in which my body continued upon regardless of my many efforts, filled me with shame. The roughness of the root-like hands pushing, pulling, and abrading, did not help those feelings.

I had been hauled into a maze of stone walls with no ceiling. The many hands which held me had begun tossing me about, most likely as a manner of passing me along a line of the strange men. I saw sky, stone, ground, and the occasional plant-being face pass by me in a whirlwind of motion. My instincts to flail my limbs against the odd motion were kept in check by my tight bindings.

After this oddness, including the humiliating cleansing, I was clothed in a long tunic of a rough fiber which put me in mind of a burlap dress. My arms were unbound for as long as it took to dress me. Despite supreme effort, I could not fight the immovable strength of those strange limbs of theirs. Easier to wrestle a Redwood.

In a strange land, amongst hostile creatures so alien to me, a prisoner without allies, it was no wonder that I wept as they, once again, picked me up en masse and hauled me off.

Somewhere in the center of that great maze (I have no direct knowledge that it was so, yet it felt very much like it must be in the absolute middle of their strange metropolis; I apologize, for I have no evidence to give of this, only my perception) was a very large space which contained a small grove of oaks amidst a wide swath of grass. Wildflowers blossomed through much of the space in a profusion of blues, yellows, reds, and an endless combination of those three colors.

My bindings were tied to a post less than ten feet from the nearest oak. A sea of plant people were behind and to either side of me, covering the grass and facing the stand of trees. The entire lot of them began a low whistling which flowed between three close notes and seemed to neither ebb nor flow in volume but remain at a constant level.

Two of the taller, spear-wielding plant men exited the grove, coming to within a few feet of me before planting their feet and bringing the spear points to complete stillness mere inches from my body. After them, walking quite slowly, came a much shorter being, a plant man much browned and withered at leaf and fiber. Each step appeared to pain it, and so it took several minutes for it to make the trek from the trees to the post which held my reins.

Once the old plant stopped his slow procession, the whistling stopped and a strange silence ensued.

I became even more certain that their method of communication was outside of my ability to perceive it, for only silence reached my ears for what must have been at least four or five hours. Those odd faces, which, as I mentioned before, looked the work of a child who has just learned to make smiley faces and so goes on a rampage of drawing them upon every available surface, turned constantly, each looking at others in a way which I found maddening. It was, perhaps, the closest I have come to understanding what it must be like for those who have no sense of hearing in our own culture of language by sound.

It did not help that my fate likely lay in the hands of beings likely too alien for me to comprehend their motivations. Likewise, they performed no familiar physical cues with which I could have a hope of determining which way the proceedings went.

At the end, the elder plant walked up very close to me and put its odd face very close to mine, turning in minute movements in an unsettling way. Was I being observed? Smelled? Shouted at? I had no way of knowing. After a few moments of this unsettling behavior, it reached up a tendril and lightly touched the undead flesh of my face. Here, in the brightness of daylight, my undeath was obvious. At the touch, the thing recoiled and then turned to go.

It was then that they took me to the arena.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
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The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2015, 09:13:09 AM »
An Arena Of Flowers

The grand convention of plant people broke up immediately after the old one left. They streamed from the field in quick efficiency, leaving me alone with a half dozen of the spear-carriers.

In short order, I was marched from the field and back to a roofless room with stacked rock walls, where I was once again tied to a post. I was left there for the remainder of the day and over night. In spite of having so much uninterrupted time, I was able to make no headway upon my bonds, and remained just as securely fastened the next morning when they came for me.

I was stripped once again, scrubbed down again, and then anointed with some sort of foul-smelling spray which clogged my nostrils and made me glad that I no longer required food. I was doubly happy for this fact, for they made no attempts to feed me. Surely they must be aware that mammals, such as myself, would require sustenance. That they made no attempts to keep me fed told me that they were either aware of my state or that they did not expect me to live much longer.

Whatever their thoughts on the first possibility I do not know, for the second became quite real to me very quickly.

I was led, prodded and pulled in fact, to something resembling the old Roman Colosseum, a thing I had witnessed only in pictures, though this edifice was in much better repair. The sun had barely cleared the horizon, yet a full crowd already occupied the ringing seats with combatants hard at work spilling each others' blood upon the sands within.

From my vantage point, another stake, I was able to observe just how fierce these plant warriors were. One rather large specimen had already dispatched two bears; something resembling a cross between a lion and a tiger, with green and black stripes; and at least a half-dozen of his own species. After displaying such prowess, he was given a row of nearly a score of plant men, all tied, to execute. He did so one at a time and with great aplomb, swinging a great obsidian axe as he went. In the end, the men had been reduced to what looked like kindling and a pile of leaves. Their heads were all placed in wicker boxes and taken I know not where.

I watched this spectacle for the entire morning and into the early afternoon before it became my turn. They must have had little confidence in my ability to defend myself, for they pitted me against a lone adversary who had little obvious skill with the short obsidian dagger he possessed.

I took great advantage of his lack of confidence. A simple feint threw him off balance and allowed me to snap a punch directly into his face. I was surprised at the hardness of it, beneath that soft exterior. And though their limbs did not bend the same as ours, and thus my joint manipulation techniques were practically worthless, I was able to retrieve his weapon with little force. After that, the fight ended quickly. Having witnessed the great warrior in earlier battles, I had learned much of the weaknesses of these men, and I took full advantage of that knowledge.

After I had severed the key fibers of his neck and body, and his green life-fluid spilled upon the sands, I stepped back and looked around me, wondering whom next I should be forced to fight.

I would succeed in my quest. I would return home and to life, no matter the cost, as I had already sworn.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
Might: 2 | Agility: 3 | Wits: 4 | Charm: 3 | Spirit: 4 | Power: 2

The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2015, 09:58:30 AM »
More Combatants In The Arena

From the silence which reigned in the moments after my victory, I could not tell whether they were shocked at my skill or bored at seeing only the expected outcome. My opponent's fighting ability had been laughable, by any standards.

Next they sent two spearmen with a modicum of ability. No one had attempted to retrieve the knife, possibly because they considered it a weak weapon against dual spear wielders in a large, open space.

Being so wide and open, I could not use my surroundings to good effect, as I had the gargoyles on that phantom street earlier. Both plant men approached me, a few paces from each other and looking as though they would attack in well-practiced unison.

When I saw that they were within a step of lunging for me, I reversed the knife, keeping it in my right hand, and waited for them to make their move.

When they stepped forward and lunged, I responded with a cross-step to my right, left foot in front, and a downward thrust with the knife. Though a much shorter weapon than the saber I used to practice this move at home, the knife worked well enough, pushing one of the spears off point (the other missed due to my sidestep) and allowing me to reach in with my left hand to grasp the shaft of the one nearest to me. I stepped forward, yanked on the shaft, bringing the plant man off balance, and swung the knife back around to be plunged into its neck.

Relinquishing the knife in the fallen body of my foe, I took great glee in seizing the suddenly freed weapon.

I lost no time in dispatching my other opponent, using the small circular twists and advancing step I had spent many an hour practicing to bind and throw off its spear before plunging my own through its neck.

This time, their maddening silence was punctuated by what I took to be surprising glances cast this way and that. Perhaps they had underestimated me after all.

They would not do so again.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
Might: 2 | Agility: 3 | Wits: 4 | Charm: 3 | Spirit: 4 | Power: 2

The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2015, 10:00:46 AM »
Wearing Down the Bear

The next group of combatants they unleashed upon me numbered at least a dozen. I thought they were unarmed, at first, until one of them whipped its arm in my direction. I saw something heading for my face and caught it in my right hand (my left was occupied with the spear). I say caught, but that is not quite correct, for it was a thorn which became embedded in the palm of that hand.

Annoyance crossed my mind, followed by fear as paralysis began to grip my arm. Dropping the spear, I quickly pulled the thorn from my hand and tossed it aside. In moments, that hand, along with my forearm and elbow, had ceased to respond to my will and hung lifeless at my side. The paralysis did not spread further, thankfully, yet I had become severely disadvantaged.

A few more thorns were flung in my direction, yet I avoided them as I would a ravening beast, for they could easily doom me. That form of assault depleted, my opponents circled me. Recognizing that I would not be able to make the best use of the spear, I traded it for the dagger which I had previously left in a foe's neck.

When they rushed me, I gave a good accounting of myself, though not as strongly as I could have wished. I am certain that I killed at least three of my opponents, and wounded yet more, but I paid dearly for my successes as they rained many blows upon my person. I made the most of my fleetness of foot, dodging and weaving so that they were hard-pressed to make the best use of their superior numbers, but I was hampered by my non-functioning arm when it came to blocking many of their attacks.

Somewhere in the scuffle, I lost the dagger, though it had become chipped during the fighting and was not as razor-sharp as it had been when I took it from that first clumsy opponent.

At the end of that fight, I was limping and certain that a number of my bones had been broken. I would not have to worry about the internal bleeding I likely would have suffered from had my heart continued to beat, but the broken bones worried me, for they were incapable of healing in my undead state.

Some signal, unheard by me, passed amongst my remaining opponents and, as one, they turned to leave the field.

When my next opponent took the field, the certainty of my fate amidst these savage flowers finally impressed itself upon my psyche. The other combatants had merely served to test my skill as well as wear me down. This was now my final fight, likely in a most permanent way.

It was the brute I had earlier witnessed who had defeated both beasts and his fellow plant men, the one whose skill I had admired.

I do not feel shame in admitting that I felt well and truly doomed.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
Might: 2 | Agility: 3 | Wits: 4 | Charm: 3 | Spirit: 4 | Power: 2

The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2015, 06:00:53 PM »
Escaping The Arena

Terror gripped my unbeating heart as he slowly strutted onto the field.

"You will be kindling for my fire! Or should I say mold for my compost pile, fleshbag!"

Can I truly convey just how those words saved my life? At first I was shocked to hear language come from any of these strange plant men who communicated in ways I could not sense, not to mention that he addressed me in English.

And then the terror gave way to laughter.

By all the gods, I was being threatened by a thrice-bed**ned plant! And the threat was so ludicrous, it grabbed hold of my funny bone and shook me to my knees.

The spell of terror had broken and I no longer believed that I faced my doom. My laughter seemed to have shaken his confidence in no small measure as well. He looked uncertainly between me and the spectators.

Then he gripped his axe and ran straight at me.

The fight was in no way easy. Despite my restored confidence, he truly was a skilled warrior and I had suffered numerous wounds which slowed me. My right arm had begun to function once again, though it still lagged behind my will.

I nearly lost to him when he caught me full in the right side of my chest with a powerful swing. He sliced through dead skin and split more than a few ribs. Pus and ichor dripped freely from the wound. Had I been living, that blow would surely have felled me.

Relying once again upon the weakness inherent in their necks, I took advantage of his closeness, managing to drive my fingers into a particularly sensitive spot, turning my spear hand into a tiger's claw on the return stroke, rending a hole in that thick tissue. It peeled skin from my fingertips to do so, yet I was satisfied to see the spray of green fluid from the wound.

He attempted to pull away from me but I held on with my other hand in desperation. I was in no shape to avoid any further blows from the axe which he had not yet loosened from my side.

His elbow struck out, cuffing my ear, yet having no effect upon my grip. In retaliation, I struck again at that open wound in his neck and managed to come away with a chunk of barklike skin for my troubles.

I could feel the strength ebbing from his powerful frame. When he dropped to his knees, ineffectually holding his hands up to stem the flow of life-fluid from his ruined neck, I pulled the axe from my side and wasted no time in laying to with it.

I held his head high by that velvety skin and bravely showed my prize.

"You will not defeat me! Xbalanque shall never have me for a plaything!"

Gates opened and I peered, trembling within at what they would send for me next.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
Might: 2 | Agility: 3 | Wits: 4 | Charm: 3 | Spirit: 4 | Power: 2

The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2015, 09:45:58 AM »
A Guest In The House Of Flowers

I could feel the wetness leaking down my side as I waited for what they would next send after me. Despite my brave words, I knew that I had little fight left in me. But what I had, I would expend until they dragged my dismembered body from the field of battle.

A number of extremely tall and slender plant men entered the gate, each wreathed in living flowers which seemed to grow straight from their skin. The shortest of these newcomers must have easily reached eight feet in height.

They approached until they were within a score of feet from me. I waited, axe in one hand and head in the other.

One stepped forth.

"You have won the field this day, Earth human. You will come with us so that we may properly reward your efforts."

I could see no movement of mouth, nor could I discern any orifice which looked capable of speech. Yet I clearly heard the words, delivered without accent but with a whistling sort of quality.

A hundred questions flashed through my mind in an instant but I discarded them all. They could wait and I was ready to leave this place of death.

I merely nodded in response.

One of their number approached, with great caution, and proffered a wicker box. Doing as I had seen done before, I placed the head of my adversary into the cushioned interior. The black-marker face leered up at me with a child's expression from within.

Another gingerly took up the axe. I struggled for half a moment, but then relinquished it, though it made me feel more naked than I already was.

"You will need no weapons, Earth human, for you are now an honored guest."

"Will this honored guest have his wounds seen to," I said, motioning toward the gaping wound in my side.

"He will."

A bow and a gesture indicated that I was to walk in the midst of this strange group. I admit to chuckling in amusement at the image of the blood and gore spattered man walking in the middle of what looked like a hippy's dream of flower people as they escorted me from the arena.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
Might: 2 | Agility: 3 | Wits: 4 | Charm: 3 | Spirit: 4 | Power: 2

The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2015, 09:54:32 AM »
Tea And A Garden

These men of flowers escorted me back to the main maze of what I gathered to be their city. Yet I was surprised to find that the building which they took me to was fully enclosed, the only one I had come across with a roof. Once inside, I was greeted by yet another surprise, for some sort of intelligent primate sat within. He looked the caricature of a doctor, with his wire-rimmed glasses and white lab coat. He had the coloring and form of an orangutan, though a bit less stooped and thereby taller seeming.

Whatever my initial impression of him, he was no fool and quickly set to stitching up my wounds with the speed and self-assurance of one who has done this often. I noticed his brow furrow upon his initial examination.

"You are already dead," he said, quietly, mostly to himself I gathered. "Well, that should make my job easier, since I can't exactly muck anything up."

That is all he said. The rest of the time was spent in silence, broken only by the tug and scrape of needle and thread on tissue, performed by the light of a simple oil lamp.

After the doctor, I was led to another building where smaller monkey-men (these resembling chimpanzees) gently bathed me before clothing me in a long, belted tunic of soft, silky cloth and sandals of wound leather.

Any attempts on my part to start up conversation or inquire as to my final destination were rebuffed. Mostly they ignored me. Occasionally they shushed me. My escort simply observed, waiting with a stillness and a patience I did not share.

Next came tea, and an attempt to destroy me with fire.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
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The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #17 on: February 03, 2015, 08:42:28 AM »
There is some part of me which maintains still a certain curiosity about those alien plant men. Despite my treatment at their hands, I find myself utterly intrigued that such creatures could exist and I wish that I had been able to befriend at least one and learn more about their culture and physiology. I am no scientist, yet I still tend toward a fascination with the strange things I come across.

I saw no more of the orangutan doctor, nor of the servant chimpanzees who cleaned my battered, splinted, and stitched-up body with such fastidiousness.

From that cleansing, I was led to yet another set of roofless buildings. They seated me at a long, oval table which reminded me of the redwoods I so often walked amongst at home. My eye teared reflexively at the thought of home. I quickly pushed such things from my mind, however, for I had a very specific task I must accomplish during my limited time here.

The other flower men sat around me. Tea was brought out in little porcelain cups. I waited upon their silent signal to drink, tasting mine shortly after they did. They had dispensed with English; I assume that they had returned to whatever communication they used amongst themselves that I was not privy to. The tea itself tasted very flowery, like jasmine, and a hint of something earthier, such as cardamom or cinnamon.

Silence reigned for a time after we imbibed the tea. Likely the silence only existed for me and the rest were taking part in some riveting discussion.

My eyes wandered about. I could see bright blue sky above me, and just at the edge of my vision that great fiery ball in the sky which so resembled my own sun. A white, puffy cloud or two drifted lazily by. I imagined the air was both sweet and warm, yet my current undead state seemed oblivious to such things; thing which I missed terribly, for those simple pleasures often sustained me in my living days.

Thoughts of home once again crowded my thoughts. This time they nearly destroyed me, for I missed the sudden motion of the plant men on either side of me.

They each grabbed an arm and held on as another entered from the adjacent hallway carrying a slim torch. The torch was flung upon me, flipping through the air until it struck me full on the chest. Pitch from the torch stuck to my tunic long enough prevent the thing from simply bouncing off and my clothing burst into flame.

My captors attempted to pull against my arms, trying to keep them stretched out and thereby prevent me from gaining any leverage against them. I dropped low, turning my torso in a way that prevented their efforts from succeeding and I was able to both extract myself from their grasp and cause them to stumble into each other. I was triply rewarded, for their flowers came into contact with the flames spreading across me and caught fire themselves. They could not get away from me fast enough.

I shed the tunic and patted out the small flames which had started in some stitches.

Chaos reigned in that room. Despite being grossly outnumbered, it became obvious to me that these were not warriors and that they were more likely to trip over each other than successfully accost me. Still, I chose the better part of valor and removed myself from their presence as quickly as I was able.

I looked back as I leapt onto a wall, seeing that at least three others had caught fire in the frantic scramblings of the others.

I dropped down on the other side, expecting to be lost in a maze of other walls but wanting to disappear as quickly as I was able.

Instead, I found myself in the Garden. A more beautiful collection of flora I will never see, though that is not what I first noticed.

It was the ancient plant man, whose bark-like skin was severely browned and withered and whose posture was stooped with obvious age. Him and the rather human-looking man in the cage before him.
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The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #18 on: February 19, 2015, 11:23:28 AM »
For a moment, I was paralyzed with indecision. Was I not in danger here? Should I not flee before the others caught up to me? Yet my curiosity got the better of me. No doubt this man was a key to the riddle of the plant men and their perfect English. In addition, I could not forget that I had come in search of a particular flower, and this garden appeared be teeming with many, many varieties of flowering plant life. It seemed as likely a place as any to search.

The man in the cage had turned to study me. His haggard face, decorated in wrinkled skin accentuated by the dark circles under his eyes, observed me with great interest.

"What do you here?" He asked me finally.

Looking back momentarily to be certain no one had followed me over the wall, I responded with, "A lost traveler, much like yourself, I expect; I came for a flower but have spent the last several days wondering if I would instead find an end as kindling."

He chuckled, a dry sound.

The elderly plant man swiveled his head between the two of us, observing silently for a moment.

"He speaks your tongue. And yet he is also one of the Cursed. How can this be?" The plant man's voice rasped and whistled as he spoke.

"I have no idea," the man in the cage said. "Perhaps you should ask him?"

I looked down at my body, fully exposed in its undead state, with its many stitched wounds, unhealthy pallor, and leaking fluids of decay.

"That is a long tale, and one that has brought me here, to this place, in the hope that I would be able to undo my... curse."

"Tell us, then." The elder plant man said. "You will not be disturbed here."

I relayed my full tale then, in a beautiful garden beneath an alien sun, with an elderly plant man and a human trapped in a cage as my audience. Both listened intently, though I could see the man in the cage wince at times. I wondered at his story and if he understood what it was to be tortured and separated from loved ones.

Silence reigned as I finished my story. Both man and plant appeared to be lost in thought for a time, though it was the plant who spoke first.

"Normally it is anathema for any of us Thurians to assist a Necromancer in his impure tasks, yet I find myself moved by your story and this promise of achieving life once again. Therefore, I will provide that which you seek. It is just that it be so, for I am the High Gardener, and this place you see before you is my life's work."

I looked about me, at the array of beautiful flowers and other assorted plants. There seemed a pattern to it all that my mind could not fully grasp.

"It is a lovely garden," I said. "I have never seen its like."

"And you never shall again," he said with simple conviction. "Each plant here has been bred to be the pinnacle of its species in beauty and efficacy. I alone understand the interweaving of geomantic lines and roots, of what each plant needs to meet its own potential and how it interacts with all other life here, in this place. It is sacred, it is the express will of our silent gods."

"And him?" I asked, pointing at the man in the cage.

I received a chuckle in response.

"A friend, sworn to a course of action he must never complete. If you ever meet him again, it will be because I am dead and this garden a shambles."

I asked no more questions.

"Now, let us get this flower you require, this prunella vulgaris."
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The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #19 on: February 23, 2015, 10:56:03 AM »
I wonder how things would have gone if the old plant had done as he first intended, and simply handed over the flower. Pointless speculation, for certain, but I cringe inside to think of the beauty I was ultimately a part of destroying.

He had turned away from me and taken a couple of steps toward another part of the garden when he stopped and turned back to me.

"It occurs to me," he said, "that this flower is worth a great deal to you. And I fully understand what you have suffered through already to come even this far, with much of your journey still ahead of you. But... I must ask you for a great favor before I bestow this one upon you."

I could feel my fists clenching in frustration. I am certain that my eyes narrowed and a part of me considered using force upon the old man to get what I had come through so much to acquire.

"You wonder why my people have been so... unaccepting of you. Let me tell you why, and then you will understand why I ask this thing of you. A thing, you must understand, that only someone of your nature is in a position to accomplish."

I forced myself to relax. At least I had not been accosted since entering this garden, and it was a pleasant enough place to hear a tale told by someone from whom I was asking a favor of my own.

"My people have ever been blessed by the gods of Sky and Sun, Earth and Rain. We are a chosen people upon this world, and have been for many millennia. We live in harmony with the natural world around us, having, as we do, the innate ability to touch the minds of each other and those of the lesser animals around us."

Aside from the mythological mumbo jumbo, this was the first admission I had had of their psychic powers.

"However, a generation ago, when I was a much younger soul, we were invaded by men, most likely from your world. These were not normal men, but a cabal of sorcerers, what we call the Cursed ones. They were no longer living, yet they were still animate, as you are, and would not follow the natural order of decay.

"These men entered our world and destroyed several of our cities, burning and defiling the ground wherever they went. Our warriors fought as bravely as they could, yet these Cursed ones used their infernal powers to attack our great strength, our Mind Talk. Any who opposed them directly found their souls pulled apart by a great mental wailing. The few who escaped the reaping which followed were never the same and constantly talked of a great screaming which would ever echo within their minds. None of those unlucky few... survived... for long.

"We have lived in fear ever since. For though the Cursed ones do not follow us, and seem happy enough to have taken up residence in those lost cities, they also seem to never age or die. We live in fear that they will one day find become restless and descend upon us once again to take more of our land, and our sanity.

I had a terrible sense of where this was going. Aside from my one experience with a sorcerous neighbor, and he was but one person and far from a powerful group of undead who could wipe out whole cities with impunity, I knew very little of how to defeat such beings.

"I don't see what I can do...," I began but he held up a branch to quiet me.

"Of course I do not expect you to wade into their midst with a spear and dagger and wipe out a menace which has stymied a whole race for a generation."

Had I breath, I would have exhaled in relief.

"Yet... there is a thing which you can do. A task you are uniquely suited for, for you do not have our weakness of Mind Talk for them to exploit. You alone may be able to infiltrate their midst, for they have many servants from the ranks of the dead, and perform a simple task which will give us the advantage. With this advantage, our own brave warriors will be strong enough to wipe their scourge from our beautiful world and return the balance to normal.

"If you do this simple thing, I will provide you not only with the healing flower you need, but will also provide another boon which I may not speak of before my friend here."

I had forgotten about the man in the cage and looked over at him now. He looked to be observing the both of us keenly, though quietly.

"What say you?"

I hesitated briefly.

"What choice have I, really?"

I looked upon that false, smiling Sharpie face and wondered how these plant men truly showed their emotions. I could not read this being, though I felt I could trust him. Indeed, I may even have liked him if I had had time to get to know him and was not in the very early stages of the most desperate quest of my life.

"What do you need me to do?"
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The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

Offline MysticMoon

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #20 on: February 24, 2015, 11:20:03 AM »
The Dead Sorcerers

I was clothed once again. It was a very rough cloth, much worn and ragged, yet the majority of the damage to my body was covered, to my great relief. I detested my undead state and the many times in my short trek in which it had been bared to the world made me feel hideous and less than human.

The thought had occurred to me on numerous occasions that I might begin to doubt my own humanity after experiencing years of undeath. What might I become? If I should fail in my quest, perhaps I should live out my eternity as a hermit. But then, if recent events proved anything, it was that if I failed in my quest I would likely be back in the clutches of Xbalanque. I steeled my resolve and continued on.

It pained me, as I walked the distance between the city of the plant man and the city of the dead sorcerers, that I traveled away from the very thing I sought. I had had quite enough of these plant men and their ways, and every step made me more and more impatient to be done with this and on the way to my next destination.

Still, there were moments where beauty surrounded me. I appeared to have arrived during the early summer, when the sun shines brightly from high above, yet has not had an opportunity to bake the greenery from the land. Though I could not feel it, the air looked warm while a light breeze stirred the branches about me. Wild flowers were scattered amid the broad stretches of grass and stands of oak. In the distance, I could see peaks covered in pine.

Though I had not been gone long, I felt a sense of nostalgia for my home. This land seemed very much like my native Northern California, albeit without signs of human habitation.

My heart felt both heavy and light at once. During the days and nights of my trek, I felt sadness at what I had lost and what I was separated from, pain at the harshness of my plight, and a kernel of joy at the simple beauty of that which surrounded me.

I did not waste time with sleep, and I had no need of food, and so was able to make speedy progress. I had been provided with detailed maps, which I was to bury outside the Sorcerers' abode for the return trip, and they held me in good stead.

What little peace I felt fled when I crested that final ridge and stood looking down upon the valley containing my destination.
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The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.

Offline MysticMoon

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Re: From Decaying Corpse to Living Flesh... What Cost Could Be Too High?
« Reply #21 on: February 26, 2015, 05:23:28 PM »
Below me lay a long, shallow valley. My first glimpse did not reveal the extensive, mazelike walls of the lost city; nor did it catch the surrounding beauty of the natural world.

The old plant had been wrong. The Sorcerers had not slaughtered those left behind. I saw them now, those survivors, before me, hundreds of plant men freely roaming upon the fields before their own city. Each twisted and turned in endless agony. Branch-like limbs clawed at dirt or their own bark-like skin. It was a scene of silent madness. Not a whistle or voice broke that scene. For the first time, I counted myself lucky that I could not hear the Mind Talk of these plant men. I did not doubt that their world was anything but quiet.

My walk through that field was a small trip to hell in itself. I strode past limbs raised to me in supplication, a horror show of self-injury and quiet suffering. More than a few grasped my ankle in desperation and I was forced to shake loose from the desperate grip. Thoughts and images of my time in hell awoke and I quite nearly did not make it. Part of me wished to save these creatures from their misery, either by a quick death or leading them beyond the edge of the vale and the source of their agony.

Yet I knew such a move would ultimately be fruitless and likely ruin the chances of my mission's success. Aside from the hopelessness of seeing to the sheer numbers of plant folk, no doubt the Sorcerers would quickly become aware of my meddling. If I were to save these unfortunate souls, it was essential that I continue on as planned. Still, it felt as though a piece of my soul shriveled away as I made that long trek.

At long last, I made my way beyond the field of sufferers and to the walls of the lost city. The Sorcerers, and my mission, awaited somewhere inside.
Chosen of Aktagarti – Divine Synod Guild – Level 1
Might: 2 | Agility: 3 | Wits: 4 | Charm: 3 | Spirit: 4 | Power: 2

The old man, grey-haired, braid hanging down.
He is clothed in faded brown robes.
His craggy face is turned up, bathed in moonlight;
He looks for his goddess to smile upon him.