Gawain (Osolis Mantis) and Cuthbert (Vorgain)
Tracer (Horatius) and Timur (Ascalon)
Geron (Maverick-Werewolf) and Astrid (Fenris)
Eogan (El Taco) and Raphael (Hawk)
There are only eight of you, so it’s important you remain committed throughout – not that I doubt in your ability to, of course. Unfortunately I couldn't include two other characters that I wished to, but alas, for now there simply isn't space. Now, the business of the day; the RP will be broken up into various chapters. Each chapter will have a prologue to flesh out the current position of the party and the setting relevant to the chapter. This will make the first post a bit wordy, but make sure you take it all in – it’s important information. I also apologise that it may be slow as we establish the exposition that will lead us to Midshire. And, as always, this is about HAVING FUN! So you better, or I'll gut you like fish.
CHAPTER I - THE THREADS WEAVE THEMSELVES
Hidden among the sheer granite cliff faces of the Shield Mountains, a small fortress was nestled, carved into a niche created by thousands of years of shifting stone and erosion. Flanked by thick walls of basalt and an oaken gate mounted to solid iron hinges, the compound was nigh impenetrable, and designed so that a handful of well-trained men could easily hold it for days or even weeks. Angular bulwarks stuck out from the ramparts; they formed a deadly crossfire for any approaching force, guaranteeing any attack to be a costly one. Failing that, the keep itself was carved into the mountains, and a network of caverns and tunnels allowed defenders knowledgeable with the geography of the area to easily slip away without notice.
It was small, but well equipped and prepared for weeks or months without resupply, with a simple layout on the interior. The imposing keep was the majority of this, with a small circular courtyard in front of it converted to a training ground. To the west of that was a small blockhouse within which was all the equipment required for the upkeep of a half dozen horses. The keep itself ran along the entirety of the cliff face and contained the essentials for life in the mountains; barracks, a smith and armourer, supply store, an infirmary with the required tools for alchemy or an apothecary, a well which drew water from the glacial lakes far under the mountain and, at the top levels of the keep, an expansive pigeon coop.
It was known by a strange name, Asrumel, the tongue in which it was spoken was long since forgotten, much like the original builders. The Venatori had occupied the fortress in ages long past, which their oral history describes as “a time when the gods and their children slept”, when the Shifters still walked the earth – an age all men are unaware of. It had been a traditional stronghold ever since, the remarkable construction meaning it rarely needed upkeep – favourable considering the small stipend the Venatori had to fund their mission. It was suspected, but never proven by any measure, to be innately magical, for the buffeting mountain winds rarely touched it, nor did snow rest for long on the dark basalt of the fortifications.
Due to the dwindling numbers of their order, few Venatori were ever together in Asrumel for long, never more than ten, keeping their sword arm strong and their aim sharp. Annually, a group would form to comb the peaks for any monsters that made their homes in the rocky slopes and caverns, ensuring the approaches to their compound were kept clear, but the fortress was mostly a peaceful place, where a Venator could be alone with his thoughts, train, rest, and perfect his alchemy. Its central position made it a perfect waystation for Venatori travelling anywhere in the Kingdoms, while also having the facilities to prepare and equip a greater hunt somewhere in the region.
Yet what transpired on this day proved to be much more; the first footfall of a long and twisting journey that would lead the Venatori all the way to the Blackrock Foothills, to solve the dark mysteries that plagued the region - and from there to the realm of legend.
They had arrived in the night. A lone horse struggled its way up the narrow, winding approach to Asrumel, the hooves echoing mournfully through the snowy passes of the Shield Mountains. Snowflakes danced and swirled in a choreography none of the finest dancers of the Empire could muster around the mount. The steady clop-clop-clop of each ironclad hoof falling grew louder as it made its way towards the only home it had known, the ancient fortress perched high among the rocky inclines of the mountain ranges. And through all of this, despite it being a mere speck among the white mirage and outcroppings of dark stone, Gawain the eagle-eyed saw their approach.
He had came to the ramparts alone, as he often did, to watch the minutiae of the mountain at night time, and to be alone with the enigma that was his memory. He had spotted the rider from far off, but had decided against warning the other Venatori, who either slept or, being friends of the night like Gawain, were buried in practice or contemplation. It would be foolish to rouse them for what may simply be a returning Venator. Pressing up against the cold stone of Asrumel, he tried to make out the rider of the mount. Then he saw the slumped forms, two of them, clearly unconscious atop the horse. Without thinking he ran for the bell to wake the others..
AT THE RISING OF THE SUN, THE NEXT DAY
The riders were indeed who he had feared, but never thought it would be, now laying silent in the infirmary. Gawain had gathered all who rested in Asrumel to help him with the fallen hunters; Raphael, the skilled alchemist, to make salves and solutions to halt their bleeding and seal their torn flesh, while Eogan scurried around their beds, eyeing their wounds and the damage to their equipment.
“Baruch has sustained grievous blows .. slashes like that of a saber to his arms and legs, but more ragged. Hands of a powerful creature did this work,” he paused for a moment, pondering what he spoke of. Baruch was among the eldest of the Venatori, and easily the eldest among the group now. His grey hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail, and his build was stocky, broad shouldered from years of holding a blade to the monsters of the Empire. His face was angular, skin so pale as to almost be grey from blood loss. As Eogan had said, something with mighty strength would have been required to rend his flesh in dozens of places as it had.
“Iskander .. Iskander got the less of it,” murmured the dwarf as he went to the side of the younger of the two, “they’re still deep, deadly wounds .. they’re lucky to have made it as far as they did.” Iskander was the younger, yet still wizened, partner of Baruch. He had been adopted by the elder as a youth and had spent nearly his whole life among the Venatori. His hair was short cropped, dark, matted with the blood and bone of whatever they had fought, like his usually well kept beard, which had become wild and tangled since they last saw him. He was taller, with a thin face, more aloof than the personable Baruch, but still well liked as both a leader and a friend among the Venatori. Few could claim the experience he had among the order.
Raphael wordlessly stepped around his partner to administer some healing balms to the wounds of the pair. Their composition was known to all the Venatori, yet Raphael had mastered their creation to the purest form. He looked to Gawain. Both knew the gravity of the situation at hand, and the danger whatever had felled these two stalwarts of the Venatori presented to the Empire at large. All they could do now was wait and hope that they could be roused to the world of the living.
AT THE SETTING OF THE SUN, LATER THAT EVENING
Only Raphael remained in the infirmary, listening to the ragged, pained breathing of his comrades as he carefully mixed ingredients for more live-saving healing applications. The others came and visited occasionally, knowing not to crowd the wounded in their precarious state, and so they spent the majority of their time training, or tending to the pigeons, or any manner of activities that would keep their mind from wandering back to their friends and brothers that lay so close to the cold grasp of death. It was a fruitless endeavour. Every few hours they would return, only for Raphael to give them a silent shake of the head.
As the sun set over Asrumel little was left to do except tend to the wounded, who despite Raphael’s best efforts, didn’t appear to be recovering any faster, if at all. So the Venatori found themselves in the infirmary, quiet, pensive, waiting for a revival that may never come. The last vestiges of sunlight slipped from the room, and as torches and lamps were lit there was a quiet moan, a mere whisper at first. Eyes darted to Iskander, who stirred with pained noises. Suddenly, his eyes shot open and he let out a cry, a mix of agony and realisation. Raphael rushed to his side as he struggled to get himself up in his confusion. He looked around the room to the gathered faces, slowly calming and righting his body to a sitting position on the infirmary bed.
“How did we .. Baruch ..” his words were confused, understandable given his condition, before turning to those assembled and asking matter-of-factly, “how long has it been?”