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A Cold Wind Blows


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#1 Mercutio

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 03:40 AM

It’s finally here! I’ve spent a lot of time deciding on characters, so I’m pretty confident in my final roster for the RP. I’m happy with the diversity between the party (and, for that matter, partners), so without further ado here we have it:

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
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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?”

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#2 El Taco

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 07:19 AM

“how long has it been?” The response to this came from the doorway, in which a hooded Eogan had been watching his partner attempt to heal their two comrades. Relieved to see Iskander conscious, he was also concerned for the mans condition. Never the less, he answered the question.

"Ye arrived last night, 'an it's nearly dusk." He stepped further into the room, approaching the two while still giving him the necessary space he'd need. "Yer badly hurt, it's only thanks t' Finch here ye've survived this long."

Edited by El Taco, 16 February 2011 - 07:26 AM.

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#3 Mercutio

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 11:56 AM

Iskander looked puzzled as he struggled to recount the past few days. Preceding that was still blurry, murky details fished out of the recesses of his mind, with seemingly no rhyme nor reason to their placement in the chronological order of things. He would need time to clear his head. He looked over to Baruch, still unconscious, on the bed beside him and winced slightly.
"I am struggling to recall what has occured," he said, voice tinged with regret at his shortcoming, "perhaps if you were to provoke my memory I would be more help."
He stood, with a little trouble, and half-shuffled half-walked to the embrasure that looked out over Asrumel and the mountain range below them.

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#4 Maverick-Werewolf

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 04:01 AM

Geron's gaze flitted over the faces of the other Venatori present, his deep and unvoiced thoughts were at last broken now that Iskander was conscious again. Part of him was silently and grimly contemplating if this was the last conversation that Iskander would live to see.

With that in mind, he finally stepped forward and offered a few words of his own.

"We know little," he said, his tone low but respectful, and his pale green eyes upon Iskander. "Gawain saw you and Baruch approaching on horseback. Your wounds - particularly Baruch's - indicate that a clawed monster of considerable strength attacked you."

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#5 Hawk

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 06:31 AM

Raphael had worked throughout the night to try and save his two wounded comrades. He was awake when they arrived, working on an experiment in his personal alchemy lab. He had been trying to perfect a potion that would strengthen a user's senses, allowing them to hear things from far away that they would not normally be able to detect, and to temporarily gift them with the eyesight of a falcon. Unfortunately, that experiment had to wait as he busily attended to his two patients. Raph was no doctor, but as the most skilled alchemist in the group it was assumed that he was the most capable member of the Venatori for dealing with wounds. Besides, shadow elves don't sleep at night anyway.

Speaking of wounds, they were long and deep on both of the Venatoris' bodies. The creature that they had fought seemed like it had the upper-hand throughout the battle. If this monster could give Baruch and Iskander trouble, then they may have a very big problem on their hands. After what felt like ages, Iskander finally began to move. Perhaps one of the healing potions actually managed to do something. As pleased as he was with the results of his work, Iskander was far too wounded to start moving around.

"You should keep off your feet for awhile. Do you have any idea how much blood I needed to wipe off you?" Raphael asked. Iskander seemingly ignored him however and began to walk around. Raph twirled his long purple hair in frustration. Iskander mentioned how he couldn't remember what had happened. Fantastic. Now he had head trauma.

"I don't think there is much we can really do to jog your memory Iskander. Chances are that during one of the attacks that gave you those cuts your head hit something thicker than a dwarf's skull. Do you remember anything at all? Perhaps we should start with where you and Baruch were."

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#6 Mercutio

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 07:17 AM

He paced haphazardly around the room, as best his wounds would allow him - much to the dismay of Raphael, who had bade him to rest until they were at least sealed. True, there was much heal, but Iskander was always a mobile man, active, prone to thinking in motion. Stroking the knotted mess of his beard in contemplation, he mused on what they had said.

"I don't think there is much we can really do to jog your memory Iskander. Chances are that during one of the attacks that gave you those cuts your head hit something thicker than a dwarf's skull. Do you remember anything at all? Perhaps we should start with where you and Baruch were." He turned first back to the group, taking a seat on the bed beside his wounded partner.

"As good a place as any," he murmured, "we were riding due north and east, following word of monsters .. Midshire .. we were near Midshire."
He said this with some certainty; the last word you heard from the pair was by pigeon several weeks past telling of their intent to scout around the farmlands there. Whispers had been afoot, but little had come in the way of confirmation from the region.

"Yes, Midshire. We had passed through .. I do not recall for how long .. curse my confounded memory," he looked to Geron, who spoke of the monsters that attacked them, "we had gone into the foothills to scout the best approach for our horses, I think. One of them took fright in the dark and fled, and as we followed its track we noticed a change in the air .. sulphur .. or perhaps the smell of the dead."

The very possibility of necromantic beasts stirred murmurs of discontent among the Venatori, aware of the danger the dead posed. Could that be what had caused such grievous wounds on the pair?

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#7 Horatius

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 08:02 AM

Tracer watched his fellow Venatori being cared for by Raphael. He knew that there was little he could do to help their wounds, and his presence would only crowd the room. Still, he approached it out of a desire to learn more of what had done this to Iskander and Baruch. Anything that could defeat a pair of Venatori was a serious threat and demanded the full attention of the society.

The shadow elf was now close enough to hear part of Iskander's conversation to Raphael. "We were riding due north and east, following word of monsters .. Midshire .. we were near Midshire." Tracer immediately began forming a trail in his mind that would lead him to Midshire. It was likely that they would travel there to discover what monsters had done this to the pair of Venatori, and as one of the most skilled trackers, he would be called for to trace Iskander and Baruch's route.

Tracer caught another part of Iskander's speech. "We noticed a change in the air .. sulphur .. or perhaps the smell of the dead." A shiver went through the elf's spine. While he was adept at hunting living prey, his knowledge of the dead was poor. Such terrible foes could only be the work of a powerful force, unnaturally bending the paths of life. Tracer breathed deeply and assured himself that the force behind the undead must be living, and could therefore be killed with an arrow as easily as any other mortal being. He moved his right hand closer to his left sleeve, an unconcious gesture that brought his hand closer to his concealed dagger. This hunt, he knew, would not be an easy one.

Then out spake brave Horatius,

The Captain of the Gate:

"To every man upon this earth Death cometh soon or late.

And how can man die better

Than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers,

And the temples of his gods."

 


#8 broons

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 10:02 PM

Cuthbert looked at the man that still lay unconscious, ignoring the rest of the Venatori. What had happened to this man? There were wicked slashes covering his body, and he had lost a fair amount of blood. Cuthbert wasn't sure if the man would even survive long enough for his mind to come out of the murky lake from which it had sunk.

If Cuthbert worshiped any god, he would have prayed for the man. But he didn't; not since the fateful day so long ago. But if this brother of his died from his wounds, Cuthbert would etch his name onto the paper he carried. The paper that listed every man, woman, or child that had been close to Cuthbert, and had been slain by a monster. The list had grown long over the years, and Cuthbert had changed his name many times since he had started it. He could barely recall the name he'd been born with.

But he could recall her face. Her body sprawled across the road to town. And the creature crouched over her, murdering her and tearing her flesh from her bones. He pushed the memory away, but it resurfaced. It always did. Just when he thought it was gone, it returned. Always.

Cuthbert would never be rid of it. He would never be able to stand straight and proud, knowing he'd done his duty. Because he hadn't. He'd let her die when he should have protected her. He'd promised her that the creature wouldn't get to her. And it had.

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#9 Ascalon

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 01:06 AM

The ringing of the bell roused Timur from his nightly fasting of the sense. He had arrayed himself quickly in simple clothes and headed out with what equipment he could grab in haste. Like a diving bird he hurried to the gate; slipping on his coat of mail, securing his cape and strapping his long blade’s scabbard as his flying feet carried him avaunt. It was when he saw Gawain’s unarmed form that he was filled with some ill relief; he rushed up the ramparts and peered over the crenellated parapets and spotted some shape amongst the snow, slowly pressing closer. Though no words passed between them, Gawain’s expression conveyed that his better sight had seen something that made him conjecture of grim and fearful things. From the language of Gawain’s eyes Timur could tell that it was nothing dangerous, but no less horrible. He gave a curt nod, clapped his hand to his comrade’s shoulder and hurried with him to open the gate. With the oaken port opened, Timur sprinted down the snowy path and set upon the pale horse, seeing the familiar forms of Baruch and Iskander with unsettling pallor and injury. He gripped firm the horse’s bridle, patting and petting its head for reassurance, and guided it to the sanctuary of the keep. By way of his free hand he freed his cape and draped it over the chilled bodies of his senior comrades, fearing all the time for their health.

*****

The room was quiet, save for the sound of pushing sand, as grain chafed against grain a thousand times over. Timur stood at the center, tall and statuesque, immobile save for the slight swaying of his arm, and the swift and fluid flicking of his wrist. With a long, pointed rod he drew sounds on the quantity of sand held in a wide box that sat upon the floor. Flowing scripts detailed the surface; curved and contiguous, and pleasing to his eyes. Though he did wish he used parchment and ink instead to preserve the scripts and see his progress, but with the quantity of calligraphy he produced, no storeroom could be large enough. As he took up the last empty spaces, he hooked the rod onto a block of wood and pushed it across the surface of the sand. It erased his scratchings like a desert gale.

“A black wind howls.” He spoke to his empty cell, which was appointed sparsely with spartan furniture, “Perhaps he will die this time.”

He breathed deeply for a moment and then continued on his work. But his countenance was contorted in perturbation. This grave reminder of the keeper of corpses was unwelcome, but there was no recourse to be found except to busy himself with scribblings. There would be a hunt soon, and it did not bode well that Baruch and Iskander seemed so readily felled. He considered them his betters. For now, all he could do was content himself with practice and contemplation, as the lives of his comrades were in superior hands. It was beyond his ability to do more to aid Baruch and Iskander, and it was with great lamentation that his hands, no matter how powerful or deft in arms, were useless for that noble bent. Always it seemed his mind was too simple, too ignoble, too mean for the things of medicine. With a sigh, he finished another set of scripts and pushed the bar across and began anew.

To mend as easily as he could rend would have eased his heavy spirit. But he was an old dog versed only in blood.

“But who is he to say for whom the black wind howls? Perhaps it is not for men, but for monsters.” He grinned wanly to himself

*****

He spent some more hours writing. Then for a final time ran the block across again and with deftness pulled a hinged lid over the box and fastened its lock, all without manipulation of his digits or the shifting of his body. He packed away the rod and box under his bed, and took a moment to stretch the entirety of his body that had been still for so long. He then retrieved his robe from his chest of clothes, and exited his room upon arraying himself properly. It was near sunset, so he determined to pass by the hospice once more before his evening meditations. He walked quietly in the stone halls, contemplating about the construction of Asrumel. It was such a wonder to him, that even after having been here many times already, it never ceased to amaze. He could not fathom how any mortal could ever dispose themselves to such an undertaking. How could they conjecture to create such an artifact in this hazardous mount?

As he closed on his destination, he heard faint voices in discourse and saw that at least Iskander had stirred. A good sign, so long as he did not exert himself unduly and aggravate his condition. Most of the Venatori of Asrumel were gathered in that room, listening to Iskander’s words. That voice relieved Timur’s heart. It was not whole yet, but hearty enough that it seemed unlikely for an unwelcome visitation. Thus Timur saw it fit to depart quietly, not fearing for his comrade’s health. For the moment. He gave a curt nod of acknowledgment to any who met eyes, and moved on his way to the courtyard where he would think. In truth he wished to stand by to wait a while and see if Baruch would rouse at least, but his presence would have done nothing and at that moment there were many hands and ears present to aid and listen as was necessary. No. For now the best way to serve was to better himself. He designed to find out what transpired from his partner later, but for now, he would take advantage of the evening’s quiet.

He kneeled in a corner, resting his hands on his lap, and rested his eyes.

#10 Fenris

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 03:22 AM

Shieldmaiden, the only female Venatori present, examined Baruch's wounds with a most troubled look on her face. Long, jagged cuts twisted around the aging man's limbs, indicating that a creature of great power had assaulted him. Astrid sighed; Baruch had been an important teacher to her during her first years of service, and it pained her deeply to see him in such a state.

But now was not the time to grieve for the injured, and Astrid turned her attention to Iskander once again. "we had gone into the foothills to scout the best approach for our horses, I think. One of them took fright in the dark and fled, and as we followed its track we noticed a change in the air .. sulphur .. or perhaps the smell of the dead."

"Tis very unlikely that a walking dauding could inflict wounds such as these. I have seen one or two of their ilk, and whilst they posess impressive strenght, 'tis not enough to render the flesh of men like this." She pointed at Baruch's wounds, and as she did, her brow furrowed.

"Although," Astrid gave an almost absent look, "I have heard tales, or rather rumors, of huge man-shaped creatures bound together from dead flesh and bone, with tremendous power..."

#11 Mercutio

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 03:39 AM

"If it were the dead then .. we were walking the trail .. I remember the sounds, the noises but-" Iskander struggled with the simplest of syllables as he tried to recount what had happened. You can tell by the mounting confusion he shows that the wounds are catching up with him. Raphael soothes him and lays him back to the infirmary bed, where he is quickly asleep - or unconscious - again. In time he would heal, but for now there is little else to be done. You may only hope that he recovers swiftly, or that he will recover at all. Baruch still had not stirred, which you all knew did not bode well. One by one, the Venatori file from the room, leaving the wounded to their peace.

AT NOON, TWO DAYS LATER


Baruch had died in the night. It was a quiet, dignified death, slipping from the realm of the living to those that had passed in silence, but not one any had expected of the old Venator. It had always been his opinion that he would die with his boots on and blade in hand. Alas, it was not to be. The reaction was muted from the rest of the hunters in Asrumel. Of course it was emotionally trying, but the spirit of the Venatori - and their pledge to the people - meant that there was no time for rest or mourning. He was buried with a simple headstone, dressed in his mail and sword on his chest, among a collection of a half dozen other headstones in the north western corner of the compound. A few of the Venatori spoke of his courage and leadership over the grave, as was their custom. Then they buried their friend and comrade and began the preparations for the hunt.

Whatever had slain Baruch and wounded Iskander was still out there, and though it may have stopped two, whatever the beast was would not harm another. In the courtyard the pairs practised their swordplay and loaded their mounts with all the provisions the six would need for the coming ride. A few rested, waited and thought of Baruch, Iskander, and what they could possibly be facing in the coming days. They still had to plot a course, although if what Iskander said was true the most logical approach would be through Midshire and from there up into the Blackrock Foothills. It had been many years - more than any present could remember - since the Venatori had been called to such the otherwise peaceful region. Some spoke among themselves as they waited for the readiness of others.

There was the sound of footsteps from the keep, and to their surprise - or perhaps some of their expectations - Iskander limped his way down towards the assembled hunters. He is stony faced, his satchel packed, sword at his waist and bow unstrung over his shoulder. If it wasn't for the limp he would seem in perfect health, although it's apparent he is putting on a front to avoid questions from his comrades. Finding his horse, the same one that carried him from death, and now may carry him back to it, he led it to the others saddled and ready to ride.

"I'm joining the hunt, and there isn't a word you can say otherwise," he said forcefully. He looked around the group who seemed to understand his position, "If we are to ride, let us do it soon; I'd at least like to make the Tired Traveller's by sundown. That is, if we are to take that route."

The Tired Traveller's Inn was the halfway point between Asrumel and Midshire, a natural stopover on their journey. From there they would head north, down the low inclines of the ranges, and then following the highways to Midshire. However, they could take the more direct, mountainous route, leading them down the hidden paths of the Shield Mountains and to the west, crossing the lush, flat farmland that lay around there. That way the hunt could make Midshire by nightfall and onto the foothills the next day. Since no decision had been made, now would be the best time to make it - as well as securing any other last minute equipment the hunters would need for the journey.

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#12 Hawk

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 05:44 AM

Raphael was there when Baruch had died. He was a brave and straight-forward man, the ideal warrior and one of the best hunters the Venatori ever had. His body had been weakened considerably by how much blood had been lost. Despite all of Raphael's many attempts to find a way to save his comrade, it was not to be. While he did not consider himself a believer in any specific religion, Raphael did believe that there was a judge who meets all men upon their deaths. This judge had the ability to see the world in black and white, and could decide whether or not a man was good or evil. This judge would decide when it was time for a man to die. Baruch's time had come.

It was a death with dignity, but a death nonetheless. There was no struggle from Baruch's body. He did not flinch in agony or break into a sweat. Calmly, as though he were asleep, Baruch's body lost all color. When Raphael checked his wrist he could not feel a pulse. Baruch was comfortable enough with dying to not try and fight it. He had died a warrior's death. Still, Raphael couldn't help but wonder if this was the type of death Baruch imagined for himself. It seemed more fitting for the Venatori to die in battle rather than slowly die in an infirmary. Baruch deserved a more gallant death than this, but it was not to be.

The funeral was a quiet and quick affair, and Baruch was buried in the same graveyard as his numerous fallen brethren. Raphael felt sad at watching his ally being buried beneath the ground. All he could do was anticipate the day when he could kill the monster that had done this to Baruch. Perhaps more than any other members of the Venatori, Raphael had a deep-routed hatred of all manners of beasts. His own life had been systematically ruined by a servant of Baal, and Raphael always hoped that if he killed enough monsters he could finally find the demon that had killed his father. For him, the monster that killed Baruch was just a stepping stone on his way to his ultimate goal. The demon of greed was his true enemy, everything else was just a nuisance that had to be dealt with.

Raphael gathered his weapons. A large crossbow was slung on his back along with a large satchel full of various alchemy supplies. Poisons, explosive powers, smoke pellets, healing potions, and various other playthings were what he filled it with. Strapped to his belt was a pair of deadly looking tomahawks. He made his way to the stable to grab his horse when he spotted Iskander making his way to his own horse. The man limped the whole way, and his body was clearly not ready for the coming battle. Raphael understood why he wanted to avenge Baruch, but it would be foolhardy to let the wounded man go back into battle against the same forces that had come so close to killing him.

"What are you going to do Iskander, bleed on the enemy?" Finch said rudely. He meant no disrespect to his friend, but after slaving over the two wounded Venatori for days, Raphael did not want to see the old wounds reopened or new ones gained in battle. "Your wounds are not fully healed and could reopen at any second. That, and your limping clearly suggests that you are not ready for this mission. As your untrained doctor, I think you should stay." Raphael said while crossing his arms.

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#13 broons

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 09:40 PM

Cuthbert hefted his longsword, Argentdente, in his right hand, and examined the blade for pits and nicks. Satisfied that it was in good condition, he slid the longsword into its plain sheath.

Unlike the other Venatori, Cuthbert had not been given his silver longsword upon joining. He had carried it for many years before, since finding it in the ruins of his home village. It was antique, but served him well. He'd taken the blade on many hunts, and had slain all number of beasts with it. And he had slain men.

Their deaths left no lasting pain on his soul. They had been wicked men, not more than beasts themselves. Cuthbert had tracked them, and slain them. He recalled fondly the time he had stumbled across a small camp of men while he was tracking a party of Lizardmen, before he had joined the Venatori. The men had two innocent, if overweight, children in a cage. Roasting on the fire was the female child's leg. Cuthbert had saved the children from any further tortures.

Next, he examined his knife. It was long, and single edged; like a hunting knife. Cuthbert slid it into its sheath behind his back, and adjusted his belt until it was comfortable. He donned his mail haubergeon and then his cloak, before pulling on his pack and quiver, and fastening both tightly so they would not jounce during his travels. Lastly he slung his round-shield over his body, and let it rest on his back.

Cuthbert then left his quarters, and joined the other Hunters.

He gazed at them, and heard them mention an Inn.

"I would rather not rest for the night at an inn," Cuthbert the Tracker said. "The trail grows colder every moment we wait. We need not rest tonight for more than four hours."

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#14 Ascalon

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 10:00 PM

Timur genuflected in front of the headstone and bowed his head respectfully in somber reverence for the dead. He was not too close with Baruch, but he was a respected fellow. A brother in arms. A person he trusted to stand by his side. He felt some sorrow that his death was not nobler, but he was certain that the battle that caused Baruch’s mortal injury was trying enough to be worth singing high praises. He curled his hand into a loose fist, kissed his thumb and forefinger, then touched them to his forehead and over his heart. He did not trust the power of haunting spirits or gods, but he felt that the sentiment behind prayers was well enough. So he spoke a brief valediction in the manner of a humble orison - though he addressed only the departed Baruch. Once finished, he kowtowed thrice before the headstone, pressing his forehead against the soil and feeling the grit between his fingers and under his nails, then stood slowly and bowed deeply once more before leaving for his cell.

By Magthar’s hammer. By the sons of Horvan. You shall be avenged.

It was to arms once more. No word needed to be said that this fraternity was going to the hunt with all speed. Once he entered his room, he went about equipping himself as if in ritual or ceremony. He conducted himself slowly and with deliberation. It was his custom to prepare for anything without haste, as it was his superstition that how one carries his instruments outside of their use affects how they carry themselves in battle. To harry one’s tools would tarnish their efficacy, so always he took great care and treated them as if a prized horse. In their keeping he was like a mother nursing her child or a miser hoarding his treasure, for he saw that they had souls of their own that begged ministration. Always did he keep his blades in good condition, and always did they serve him well. Flesh was mighty, though only so strong. Steel owned a power beyond the arm that wielded it. But he buried his thoughts and equipped himself thus:

First he made a change of fresh clothes and once arrayed, took his chest of arms to his bed. He made to retrieve and lay out all the pieces of armature and armour, as well as other sundries over his bed. He then fitted all his pieces of armour save for his rondelled gauntlet, starting when he slipped on the coat of mail and ending when he fastened the ties to his cuirass. In truth it was not difficult to adjust to the added weight1 of his accoutrements as he found it more strange when he took it off - which was at the same time relieving and comforting both. Afterwards he buckled his belt and harness, and fixed all the paraphernalia he was accustomed to bring. Then he tied his many sheathes and scabbards to their proper places, and slid the blades to their resting places. He tugged at each one with all his might, and ensured that they would not slip away without intention, and that they did not shift overmuch.

Satisfied, he picked up a bow-shaft that lent against a corner and was bundled with arrows and bound by the bowstring. He did not practice archery too much, though gained a greater respect for the art when he was partnered with his Myrkalfarian friend. Though he would never reach the skill that Tracer possessed, he could kill well enough. He had steadiness and he could bend the bow readily despite how rigid (though pliant) the shaft was. He lacked the elf’s finesse and mastery, but he was confident he could match, if not exceed, the power of his draw. He could sink an arrow deep into the heartwood of an ancient tree, if he was so disposed. Timur unfastened the old string that bound the bundle, putting it in one of his pouches, and took a new one from the chest. He then strung the bow and marked the new string to give him a proper draw length suitable for his stature, and when he was satisfied with his work, he unstrung the bow and bundled it all together and secured it to the back of his harness.

Finally he fitted his gauntlet over his sinistral hand, slipped a white jade ring over his right thumb, furnished his saddle pack with a quantity of supplies (some salted meats and a sack of nuts mixed with raisins and seeds that he had taken from the pantry earlier, as well as extra tools and thick blankets), and packed the rest away. He noted that he was low on potions and tonics, and made note to ask of Raphael to produce his better mixtures later. For this venture what he had should have been sufficient. Now he was caparisoned for the hunt, or rather, the kill. With his saddle at hand, he made his way to the courtyard and joined his comrades. It pleased him to find that despite taking his time, he was not one of the last. He set his saddle and bridle near his horse, choosing not to fetter it yet, and went off to find a quiet space. Upon doing so, he practiced aggressively against an imaginary foe for a while. His motions became full and natural again and he refreshed his body’s memory anew and took pleasure in the exercise.

Though he was too preoccupied to hear Iskander’s approach, he was not too preoccupied to hear the sudden silence as his tread announced his presence.2 The man was suitably armed, though obviously ailing from his injuries still. He seemed well enough, but the amount of damage he sustained warranted more recuperation. It was an admirable display, but he doubted that it would be wise to let it be more than that. But he would not be one to stop a man from pursuing what was in his heart. He understood the desire to chase a quarry as long as your two feet could carry you, for that doggedness was in Timur’s soul as well. However, he frowned at Iskander’s remark. True enough, he could not begrudge the man his desire, but he would be an encumbrance. He would not be as durable as he should, and the group would tardy in their efforts at preserving his condition. But what was more, Iskander seemed to offer no interest in holding the reins of this company, deigning instead to offering a piece of egality. A welcome thing in most circumstances, but not in the execution of feats of pursuit and arms.

Timur approached the others, then spoke, “This one’s sentiment is to arrive at Midshire post haste so that this aberration may be corrected with celerity. However,” He nodded at Iskander, “He fears that you are not hale enough to conduct a venture through the mountain path. By nature it may be more treacherous and he thinks it better that you spend an extra day or so in healing if possible. However, this one considers you senior among this fellowship, perhaps not in age, but in respect, and this fellowship would benefit from speaking with a single voice. So he asks if you, lest another wishes to seize the head man’s mantle, ‘What would your word be?’ Which route shall be best, if this company is to, in its entirety, take the same road?”

1.In reality, his equipment is relatively light, no more than 30lbs in all and distributed evenly so the weight was of no matter. His weapons are 10 pounds in all, and his suit of mail and the cuirass over it total no more than 20lbs.
2. He has taken a particular wariness at silence. The chattering and sonor he takes a sign that all is well as animals are want to make noise. It seems unnatural to him that it should be too quiet, for even the night has its own loudness to it.


#15 El Taco

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 06:45 AM

Eogan was unsurprised at Baruch's passing. He had been the first to examine his wounds, and he knew as well as his partner the extent of the veterans injuries. He had great faith in Raphael's skill in alchemy, but he knew even the night elf could not conjure a balm strong enough to prevent the veterans wounds. The creature that had done this had been ferocious, and strong in it's combat prowess to have defeated the two Venators. Eogan pond erred what a beast could have done this to them, though there were any number of monsters that could have opened these wounds in the men.

Back in his quarters, preparation was easy for Eogan. He slipped on his chain shirt, with his greaves and bracers as well. Over-top he put on his camouflaged tunic, and his belt full of supplies, which he quickly loaded. He retrieved the newest batch of potions from Raphael, the highest in quality from his partner. He slipped his fire-filled vial into a heavily padded pouch on his belt, to keep it safe at all costs. Over top he threw his cloak, sheathed his gladius on his belt, slung his shield over his back and grabbed his single javelin.

He readied his mount in the yard with the others, alongside Raphael. When Iskander came out, Raphael was quick to dismiss him, but Eogan raised his hand and placed it on the elfs arm, grabbing Raphael's attention. He was right of course, the wisest thing would be for Iskander to stay behind. However, one also had to understand Iskander.

"It's indeed a foolhardy decision to accompany us in such bad condition, but understand that he's doin as any other Venator would do. You can be assured that were you to die, though gods forbid that ever happenin', I wouldn't merely sit back and allow others to take the beasts life in return. It's not merely a matter of revenge, though it would be foolish t' say it wasn't partially. It's also a matter makin' peace within yerself, and bringing closure for yer own mind." Eogan turned his attention from Raphael to Iskander, and let a small smile curl on his lips.

"Besides, it appears our friend has made up his own mind as it is." He gave Raphael a quick pat on the arm before stepping back to look at all the Venators. "In regards to our route, I agree with Cuthbert. We got little time fer stops along the way."

Edited by El Taco, 19 February 2011 - 06:45 AM.

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#16 Hawk

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 08:27 AM

Eogan and Raphael were an odd couple to be made into partners. They had completely different personalities and skills that somehow complimented each other nicely. Eogan was a front line monster able to take a licking and keep on swinging. Raphael on the other hand was a back of the lines fighter who preferred to pelt an enemy with all manner of sharp objects until they stopped twitching. In battle the pair worked well, even if their differences often lead to disagreements like how to deal with Iskander. Raphael had every intention of telling Iskander and Eogan to shut it, but he felt enough respect for his partner to keep his mouth firmly closed. Without a word Raphael grabbed his supplies and walked over to his horse. He wasn't happy about it, but there was nothing he could do to stop Iskander from coming.

Raphael's horse was a black stallion tall enough to crush the shadow elf with one swing of his hoof. His name was Fargus. Raphael never knew why he called his prized horse that. Something about the horse's rough demeanor and massive frame just made Fargus seem fitting. Raphael had taken Fargus from a band of thieves who tried to rob him a long time ago. The team had clearly stolen the horse themselves because Fargus wasn't exactly loyal. As soon as he got the chance the stallion had run over his own fallen rider. Fargus had an attitude problem that made him seem haughty around the other horses. He clearly thought that he was the best of the breeds kept by the Venatori, and loved to show off. He still heeded Raphael's commands, but he often did them begrudgingly and Raphael had to practically force Fargus to follow his orders. Still, the two had been together a long time, and in battle there was no horse that Raphael trusted more. Fargus was an absolute goliath of a horse who could take a few hits and wasn't afraid to personally attack his enemies. Oftentimes, Fargus was a bigger threat than his rider.

The elf hoisted himself onto his horse's massive frame and unhooked him from the stable. Fargus shook his head arrogantly as Raphael quickly tied the reins. Clearly Fargus did not approve of how dirty his reins were, but there was no time to put up with Fargus's attitude. With a rough kick the black horse began to walk out of the stable.

Edited by Hawk, 19 February 2011 - 08:29 AM.

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