I sit now in the Wavecrest. Other’s may speak of what has happened. For me I take this moment to consider.
Xen’Drik they say is not like the rest of the world. And so I have began to think that while the dangers of the wilds may seem extreme they are but a triffle to the dangers from the common folk of Stormreach. Here the people are the most dangerous enemy of all.
If I am to listen to my father “caution” would be my mandate. Yet he was not a cautious man. If I am to listen to my Warden leaders then guarded boundaries and diligence will keep us safe. If I am to listen to the gate keepers the triviality of our existance is like the sand. Blowing here and there and of no real consequence only our role in the epic struggles matter. If I am to listen to Fane then obedience, honor, and dedication would be my guide.
The problem is that my father belonged to a world that he doesn’t believe in. Our people cannot accept me. He knew it then. His caution was not a mandate for me but a warning that his own desires and attempts to change my people had failed and while i was raised to believe that Jhorgun’taal are equals the people do not believe so. As I stare across the room to Fane I know that caution is not my way. The Wardens would live forever in their woods. Feeling content to maintain the peace they have carved from the world. I cannot grow old watching children grow from youth to manhood. The Gatekeepers are a guide for training. Their intensity is admirable and I will long honor the traditions they have tought me in this regard. But they are to consumed by the past and worried about the future. Their lives are lost in such dreaming. Fane, my current leader has the courage. Yet his failings haunt him. He cannot see failure as the path to success. He doesn’t understand the nature of the learner. He is plaugued by his feelings of inadequacy.
As I raise my cup in silent prayer to Elrick I pray,
Mother earth and father sky grant me, The audacity of Elrick and the courage of Fane tempered by the caution in my father’s words. Strengthen my arm for the draw and fan by bloodfire for the fight.
Wir, Vult 11 The Birdmen
As we moved along the shore I spotted a bird-man lighting high up in a tree. Stalking us like but trying to remain hidden. My suspicion of these creatures is high. My cackles are up. Fane indicates that we should once again proceed with hope and trust. However, as I awaken from wounds to my legs and body from the foul bird-men I look upon our trusting leader with my first thoughts of doubt.
My father’s words of caution come to me now, “Trust only in yourself and then in your gods for all else is but illusion.” I do not remember the cause of his statement but i knew then even as a child that he meant for me to walk cautiously amongst even our own people.a
Zol, Vult 10 The escape
Once again the courage of my compatriots encourages me. Fane and Elrick are nearly insane in their courage. As we ran from the collapsing Ant Hill Elrick took to blasting the supports just as we fled. By quick movements we dashed just ahead of the collapse. Fear, was once again with me but Elrick danced in joy and Fane patted him on the back as we escaped.
I stand in awe of these men. Warriors of courage and audacity. I will strive to be more like them.
Zol, Vult 10 Our trip into the Ant Hill
I sense my ancestors with me as we pushed on, following the ants. The continued effort without sleep bringing me further thankfulness for my training. I can tell I’m tapping into stored energy reserves. As we treked onward towards the habitat of the giant mutated ants my senses kicked into over drive. Everything in the forest came into sharp detail. As our small party moved we soon could make out the abode of the ant colony.
A giant ant hill some hundred feet tall. As I looked upon the hill I turned to Naali. She commented with a grunt. I turned to Fane and said, “Are we to push on or find a place to rest.”
Fane turned to me and sighed, “As long as there is a chance that they are alive we’ll continue.”
With a prayer to the fates I turned to scanned the Ant’s hill. Following my prayer I muttered an incantation to the trees and woodland creatures.
With some insight born more likely from desperation than skill we spotted an unused and dilapidated entrance. However, between us and the opening was a sharp climb in open terrain. As Fane, Naali, and I discussed our plight and determined a course of action I realized that once in we had no plan for finding our allies and even still no plan for getting out.
The simple words of an Orc Shaman from The Gate Keepers came to me, “It is at times when we have no plan and no hope for a plan that we may achieve our greatest efforts.”
“When you fail to plan you plan to fail,” were the words of my father that always came back to me. I cannot reconcile the statements of such wise men as both being true.”Aureon show me the flaws in my mind.”
With a final look around we began our search for a way up and then noted a great tree growing along the edge of the hill. From a limb jutting out we could manage to move through cover up the hill. So to the tree we went. From here we gained access to the cave entrance and into the hive of the corrupted giants.
Here however, Fane and Naali both realized the value of stealth and finally we began to measure our progress by the sound we made with the desire to not attract the enemy. The tension on my heart loosened.
As we moved through the Ant’s hill Naali’s courage was like a beacon providing the direction we needed. We progressed well finally coming upon a chamber with a pile of what must have been a hundred Ant bodies. From the bodies oozed a tricklying flow of slow moving green sludge. The stuff pooled along the lower part of the large chamber.
As we stood there aghast at the scene we noted a living green ooze creature sneaking along the ceiling. As we looked up it dropped from the ceiling its ally, hidden under an ant corpse revealed itself and charged our way. Naali charged up to greet the foul thing, Fane charged it to knock it prone and I started shooting. In a matter of seconds the two oozes were dead.
As move forward clearing out the babies of the two foul beasts we here from up above a loud blasting sound. I turned to Fane, ‘That’s not a sound the Ants would make.” Naali takes the lead and we ascend a slopping ramp out of the room. I think she is tired of hiding and sneaking about. She presses hard but with only the light of Fane’s shield she yields at the edge of the light waiting for us to catch up.
Up we travel into a narrow tunnel that seems to be mostly unused. Into a great chamber we emerge to find Elrick the Orange fighting for his life against a host of tiny ants. Just as we emerge two of the larger warrior ants enter the chamber. Fane charges and I begin to shoot.
As Elrick finishes off the swarms of tiny ants with Naali’s support we drop the larger brothers.
Here is a room of dead bodies fouled by the ants and dropped into the chamber like a meat locker. I enter the chamber and search for the remains of our allies. Im’ driven into such a room more out of a sense of desire to end our quest than any fear of finding them here. As I search the feed room its clear that at least here the bodies of our allies are not to be found.
Further down we must go. Its not a long trek before we come upon the large oval room of the queen. I smile, we have the high ground here and she doesn’t know we are here yet. The slope down creating a perfect defensible position. This queen and her host of minions will surely crash against the wall of Naali and Fane.
Just then we site the lone figure of Fang across the chamber. The foul queen reaches out and smacks him into a wall and he is buried beneath the collapsing sand.
As we take stock of the enemy Fane’s eyes light up with a sense of duty. As Naali engages the ants at the bottom of the ramp Elrick and I hear some coming from behind us as well.
Fane rapidly descends the the slope and charges across the chamber. Duragilis can hear his father yelling and screaming at the audacity of the move. Fane’s disregard for the tactical advantage is either born of courage or stupidity. There is no time to consider it either way as fighting starts. Fane’s actions seem born more from the current emotional state than that of a tactical leader. I realize from here on that fate and her uncaring luck will determine if I live or die.
As the battle begins the queen is bloodied and instead of turning to run she erupts a foul cloud fed by the life force of her giant Ant children. Gagging in this zone we are desperate. Elrick’s able to blast the workers coming from behind and Naali engages the warriors to our front. Fane now across the great chamber attacks the ants near the down and buried body of Fang. As let fly my arrows hunting this queen’s death in hopes of saving my won. As I near unconsciousness I remembers the potion the followers of the Silver Flame gave me. Quickly quaffing the drink I turns once again to lay into the queen. She must be dropped.
As Fane and Naali stand toe to toe with their own set of enemy warriors each taking brutal attacks they let lose with their respective full effort. The giantess unleashes the fury of the mountains and the lightning sparks from her sword. Fane in contrast turns from his enemy to dig free the burried body of the Half-Orc range Fang.
Just as these two great warriors head towards the end of their vigor the queen charges the slope enraged by the bloody arrows that stick from her huge double headed body. As she easily climbs the steep edge of the slop passing by Naali and launches her attacks with a bite and a kick I’m sure I’m going to die. Just as she readies to strike out her many feat unused to such action slip and she slides first and then grasping for footing she faulters.
It is enough, As Elrick opens up on her with blast after blast of his force blows. His missiles of arcane magics blast rent after rent into ther thick hide. Her soft inner flesh is exposed as together we slay just as she regains her footing and prepares to climb again.
If indeed the fates are with me they have not prepared me well enough for the courage, audacity, and capability of my new friends. My own courage is racked as I move to help Naali who has fallen but then its over. Fang has joined in with the fight and the remaining Ants in the chamber are reduced to still forms.
Zol, Vult 10 Our First Battle In Xen’Drik
Of the survivors we find none. Only soaked food and a lonely cask of wine. Elrick eyes the cask but we keep it as a symbol of our hope.
The place is strange. Naali feels it and she’s out of sorts. I give her a ribbing from time to time and take her’s in stride. The bickering helps hold me in place. Xen’Drik is unknown to me and I feel out of sorts. Even the sand is strange.
There is acid left on a board that is scratched. It doesn’t seam right. This was done after the wreckage came ashore. Looking around I see divots in the sand. Little foot prints from creatures I don’t recognize.
“Fane these are tracks and that plank has some acidic residue from a creature on it,” I report.
Soon we are searching the forest edge looking for more of these tracks. Naali is a wonder she gives off a sense of rigidity but she has such softness for the forest. We find the trail of these creatures.
Fane worries that we are too late as we head off our weary minds racing into the past and future. Worried about what may have happened and striken by the potential that we may be too late even now.
I feel a loss of balance my center is disrupted. I can hear my master’s teaching, “Be present the forest doesn’t have a future or a past. It works in the now. Your hunger and theirs is now or not at all. Do not let the distractions of your mind push you into a world of your own making.”
But I am lost to it just now. We charge ahead quickly looking for our enemy. Naali is a treasure in times like this. Her tireless will and forceful attitude pushes me ahead. I will not let her or anyone show me up.
As we approach a river I sense danger and we hear the cry of some fellow off in the distance. I tell our leader, “This isn’t right there are critters here.” From just to the north of us we hear them. I slip into the river to hide. Its a powerful current and I’m carried for a moment along. Then as I see our enemy I climb from the river into the brush. Pulling back on the string I let lose. The arrow is true. The creature doesn’t even see it coming and it is down slain. My first kill in this new world. I wish to rush to the creature to perform the rituals but there are more. Fane and Naali charge into battle. As they rush through the woods I hear Naali already complaining. Again its a refreshing ring in my ears pulling me back into the moment. My spirit is lifted my training returns. I can feel the trees once again. As I move through the brush I pull my bow again and slay another.
Then for a moment there is nothing. The air is still and once again the cry from aways off. We turn towards the water. Fane our leader charges at almost a gallop. Leaping from rock to rock as he crosses the water. He’s rushed by more of the ants. This time though, they are obviously Warriors themselves.
Just as I rush to the edge of the water and let fly an arrow into the meaty flesh of the armored critter Naali lets out a battle cry and in a running leap crosses the river and charges the creatures.
Alone on the side of the river my doubts return. Determined to overcome them I step away from the shore and make a running leap. But my spirit is not true and I flounder at the leap landing mid way in the river and am swept down stream hard and fast into the rocks.
Meanwhile Naali and Fane stand shoulder to shoulder and back to back facing the enemy. I struggle to regain myself. Carried further down stream and into the rocks again and my mind isn’t focused.
Then as the battle rings out on the shore and Fane draws courage against the enemy I hear the voice of my father, “Son, the soul of our people are stronger for each of us. Alone we are fearful and loathsome together we are proud and strong.” With that memory I grab a rock and climb onto it. My hand instantly to my arrows and another is loosed slaying one of the warrior Ants.
As I climb to the shore we can see the remains of the bow of the Airship and helpless men a top it calling to us. Fane, and I head to their aid as Naali stands beating on the dead carcass in her frustration and anger. What is the cause of her wrath I cannot say but the ants were the ones to pay for it.
Zol, Vult 10 (continued)
The Mercenary Airship was amazing. My people have no such contraption or even the concept of one. I must study these humans and their powerful houses. If I am able to bring such power to my people I will surely not only be accepted but glorified.
As the Giant Airship pulled away our ship (a skiff in comparison) rocked from an explosion apparently internally generated. Just then the deck was swarmed with crew members who turned upon the captain and The Torchbearers.
A witch was amongst them. As she hid amongst her compatriots she cast powerful spells upon the crew.
Fane our leader directed me to the deck above to use my bow and rain arrows upon our discovered enemies. I sought to kill the witch but her magics swirled around her and only one of my arrows found its target.
When Fane was pulled into her webs andNaali was under sever attack my father’s training came back to me. I rallied with Naali and used one of my father’s encouraging battle cries to inspire her. If it were not for Elrick I surely would have lost hope during the battle. The Witch was powerful but Elrick’s thunder and flames licked at the enemies and pushed them around the deck.
But even as her allies fell the Witch was not done. From within her robes she produced a magical bomb and then opened a portal, most likely to the pit of hell, and escaped the ship.
As the ship blew apart and came crashing into the see I again felt gratitude. This time gratitude at my masters in the Gate Keepers. They warned me of the power of my enemies. As a child I could barely believe their stories but they had been right. Now came back to me the training. The forced 8 hours swims and the days upon days of forced wakefulness.
Now we find ourselves on the beach. Safe for the moment on the edge of a great unknown. We gather the wreckage and search for survivors. Nature is strong here and even in my weakened emotional state I hear her call.
Zol, Vult 10
Duragilis’ young life has not been without a weary mind and a weary eye. As Captain Jan dismisses Elrick’s question with a laugh. The young Ranger pears towards the coming airship with his normal expectant attitude.
As the young Warden strings his bow he whistles a soft and careful family toon. A war chant from his tribe… As he looks into the sky he thinks to himself. Perhaps they will be friendly perhaps not. But in any case they are unexpected.
Living amongst the tribe and The Gatekeepers did teach him to question the unexpected.
Duragilis understood all to well the dangers of the world. The Gatekeeper’s had taught him the signs and the ways of the evil. With bow and sword he longed to face the battle hardened enemies to show his clan that he was a mighty warrior.
But there is something else stirring in the heart of the young Half-Orc. Below the conscious a desire to belong. A desire to be welcomed and included. His home was the last place he felt this way. He longed for the comfort of his home now lost to him.
The Gatekeepers offered a home and a meal but they were too consumed by their pursuits and interests to care for the emotional needs of a young man. Instead they considered him a soldier for the cause and they trained him.
The Wardens of the Wood promised a more congenial group and while they were much more inviting on the surface they were consumed by their appearance and stature. A young man was simply a member another to carry the message to the folks and in rare occasion hunt out some enemy.
Duragilis found strangely in his friend Naali a person who offered no such exchange. She didn’t require his participation in her plots. Her friendship, however gruff and course, was earned not by participation but by good will and acceptance.
Still Fane of Aruldusk and Elrick the Orange seemed to be of similiar nature. Time will tell for Duragilis if this member ship in The Torchbearers would be another excuse for people to use him or would offer a true place to be accepted and welcomed.
For now Duragilis will keep up his gruff guard and ask for excuse only when he is his most bitter.