Desolation

ItSotF - Session 5- Maral's Thoughts
Will this tunnel never end?

Will this tunnel never end, Maral thought as he crawled his way along the never ending path of stone. A normal man would have given up hours ago, however Maral was no normal man. He might not be fast and agile or the smartest person, but Maral was steady, very steady. He was going to make it though this tunnel if it killed him, and one of these days thinking like that was going to get him killed, or so his mother would have told him. She was always the type to go with the flow, follow the wind, and adapt with ease. Not Maral though, he just didn’t flow all that well; sinking was more his style.

The others said that this place must have been made by gnomes. Maral had never seen a gnome before. What ever they were they must have been very small, as Maral could hardly even crawl at times in this dark place. As he slowly made his way Maral imagined what gnomes must be like. He thought of small rat like creatures with sharp teeth, laughing, and mocking him as he pulled himself along. Maral tried to entertain himself by imagining the sound there heads would make when he used his trusty hoe on there rat like faces, however it just wasn’t the same. Hopefully the little vermin would show themselves soon, so Maral would have something more interesting to do.

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ItSotF - Episode 5
Choosing a Course

A week of travel and a week of rest and recover, plus endless deliberations among the Elders had the group thinking of things in a new light.

Without the Mongrels to protect them the residents in the Community of the Faithful were at risk from predators and other dangers, and worse than that the two communities could not be expected to survive divided in this way.

Eventually surrendering the idea of forcing some sort of social mixing, the three began to debate the merits of dealing with the lingering undead problem of the forest community… without upsetting the locals whose dead these were.

Before these talks could be acted upon, a child – the only child in the settlement – came to Trevor asking him to fix a toy. Having heard that Trevor had skill as a smith, the boy brought him a tiny metal boat with many intricate and elaborate mechanisms which baffled everyone. Reluctantly, the boy led them to where he had found it… in the underground river which empties out into the ravine on the North edge of town.

Investigation determined that the river was acutally a stone culvert or sewer that went strait under the road… clean, spotless, and bearing perfectly clean water.

Gearing up for a day excursion, the trio headed into the cramped tunnel and with Maral literally crawling for hours determined that the only source for this tunnel could be the temple from which they had escaped – more than 2 days to the North. They decided to soldier on.

Discovering a delicate telescope floating in the tunnel, which let them see through darkness as though it were day, they pressed onward with some urgency until they encountered a mystical fire effect which cleanesed the tunnels. Although they soon discovered that it would not harm them, the scare gave them more caution.

Eventually they found an egress point which led them out to the base of the stairs leading down from the plateau on which the tent city of the community of the faithful is built. Foregoing another run through that place, they returned to the tunnel and found their way first to an underground lake of pure water and mystical illumination, and then to a store room of small tools and items that they feel certain are the magical workings of gnomes.

Focused now on the Leader of the Faitful, despite the treasure trove in which they found themselves, they snuck from the storeroom, and into the lower levels of the temple, intending to make their up to the tower to face the architecht of the social evils all about them.

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ItSotF - Episode 4
What might makes right~

The silver-tongued Priest of the Faithful was backed by more than just words, but his words were like hammers changing the tide of public sentiment, twisting ideas and actions into falsehood. His guards, the three Mongrel scavengers, looters of the dead and hunters of the weak and lost, stepped up immediately to defend him and their ego-bolstered honor at Maral’s slights and threats.

Wielding two-handed scythes, and seemingly little concerned about the milling crowd, they waded forward in a wedge toward Maral, little realizing that hidden in the crowd were Grantur and Trevor. Attacking from behind, the two hard-bitten fighters were soon able to even the odds for Maral, then end the brief battle. In a true fight for their lives, the survivors of the dungeons of the Faithful saw what measure of fighting man fate had conspired to mix them with, and the speed and finality of their dance with the Mongrels revealed much about their skill and bravery in the face of steel and soulless willingness to kill.

The town elders decided to deliberate on what they had seen, packing the surviving Mongrels and the Priest into seperate rooms to be held until further notice. The Mongrels were left to stew in their own bile, but repeated attempts were made to discern something of the truth from the Priest. These conversations left them feeling guilty, in the wrong, and in the need of an investigative mission to the Community. Their experience of the small group of survivors suggested that they were not the thieves and rapists the Priest painted them as, yet… they did keep violence about them as an ever-present tool…

The youngest and fittest of the Elders was elected to travel North with Grantur, Maral, and Trevor, and the family of lumberjacks with whom they had first made contact. The Gardener was to be held for ransom to ensure they returned.

While they travelled through the woods and planned their approach, it was decided to let the Forest-Dwellers enter and examine the Community for themselves, while the three survivors remained out on the plains with one of the lumberjacks to watch them. None of these plans came to fruition as not longer after making camp for the first night on hte plains, they were attacked by a pack of 4 broken wolves… massive and driven to attack without fear. The Elder lost his arm, and the Lumberjack’s eldest son was gutted horribly before the wolves were slain, and then methodically reduced to meat, sinew, and hides for the next market day.

Having seen for himself the bravery and altruism of Maral and Grantur, and the team work and loyalty of Trevor, the Elder elected to return to the forest to deal with the priest’s lies.

With their honor and reputation restored, (I can hear Trevor chuckling, can’t you?) the tale of escape and survival came to an end, and a new tale’s dawn was hinted at upon the horizon.

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ItSotF ~ Session 2 - Maral's Thoughts
Maral wasn't ready for this

Maral wasn’t ready for this. He had spent weeks preparing himself and the other villagers for today, but now it was all falling apart, right before his eyes. Of corse he knew there would be some talking involved with the confrontation, but he really didn’t think it would matter. Maral had been jailed by these people for over a year, and they had planned to burn him alive, just for the fun of it! To tell the truth Maral had not really cared at all what they would have to say. What ever it was he had only been thinking about how good it would be to work off some of his anger on there heads with his large medal bar.

However when the Priests entered the village, they had not come to fight, as Maral had imagined in his mind, instead they wonted to talk. And talk they did. The Priests used big words, many of witch Maral had never heard. They all sounded good too, they had all the right answers. They painted Maral as a bandit, and a thief, saying nothing of how there cult had planned to use him as a sacrifice.

Maral wasn’t slow, (except physically that is) but he did tend to be rather simple. It was hard to develop much complexity in the waste lands. To tell the truth, if he had not himself spent so long in there dungeon, Maral would have believed the Priests too! This was a duel of words and in it Maral found himself completely un-armed.

He could see now, the silver tongued words starting to sink into the heads of the village people. Suddenly there opinion of Maral was shifting, and he didn’t know what to do. Maral panicked, and he did what he always dose when he panics, he swung his arms as hard and as fast as he could…

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ItSotF - Episode 3 - Discoveries
Chaos is just a lack of discernment

Resting a day before setting off, the healing skill of the Gardener revealed itself and it was with a much better sense of self and health that the group chose to head upstream to see where it could take them. Ultimately intending to make their way South into Ascondea, the river’s south westerly course seemed a good starting point. Once again free men, in a free world, the plan of their former captors to sacrifice them to the End Father began to seem a little surreal.

As they travelled, they became separated from Karnak while he ranged ahead to scout, and paused to wait for him in an idyllic clearing in what were becoming ever more cramped and shattered woods, with every path clogged by roots, fallen trees, and fragments of sharp stone. The clearing by contrast, was a ring of nothing but low grasses, with a single enormous stone more than the height of a man, sitting just off-center. The rock held a metallic sheen which made it glitter in the sunlight, but this spectacle was dwarfed by the still forms of 4 deer on the far edge of the clearing.

Thinking to hunt them, the group was surprised by the sudden charge and carnivorous leanings of the doe, which snarled at them hungrily and closed the distance in a flash intending to feast on Grantur. Putting the doe down, the group moved on to stalk the others, losing one, but killing the other two, one by Grantur’s sling, and one by Trevor’s sword.

While most took their time to rest after preparing a feast and taking everything of use that they could from the deer carcasses, the Gardener headed into the woods without comment. He eventually traced down a sound of lumberjacks he had heard and established contact with a small family of woodsmen. The two sons were sent to retrieve the others and once rejoined, the group was taken into the village, a former fortification used by the Wayfarers.

The group members ingratiated themselves with the community, and were set up comfortably in exchange for martial and agricultural training. They explored the region and learned that many dangers, the least of which were the carnivorous deer, were present… such as the oddly intangible and hypnotic tentacle beast lurking under the loamy earth of the forest, and the dead who refused to lie in the graves so lovingly prepared for them.

As they worked with the village, they began to integrate, and learned that a market day would be held near the end of the month and that priests from the community of the faithful were expected, with their three top hunters, a trio of mongrels with wicked scythes and foul dispositions.

The group mobilized the town to resist and capture the priests, but when the priest actually arrived, his silver tongue turned the tables on the group, leaving them feeling they would be branded as thieves and villains, if he spoke much longer.

Maral attacked, and the fight was on!

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ItSotF ~ Session 1 - Grantur's thoughts
It's a whole new world out there

The long, cold months of almost witless wandering in the Long Winter finally ended with my imprisonment in that strange community in the mountains, but at least I was fed and watered. As I look back on those endless nights it is all I can do to fight down the rage and the despair that threaten to overwhelm me. I have failed at my task and my life no longer has purpose or meaning. Well, that is not really true; I have one task still to perform. I must rid this world of magic and its evil.

When those of us imprisoned by that cult of madmen finally realized that we were not to be freed and integrated but instead to be sacrificed to their non-existent gods, it was time to leave. And we did. For that I am grateful to Maral for getting free of his cell and not abandoning us, although it shames me to admit that I might not have done the same for him; Peaks Above! that Mongrel drones on and on about farming, and hoes, and farming, and hoes… It is enough to make one want to tear off your own ears! He is simple people, but good at heart I believe. I, however, am no one to judge a Mongrel; we met so few in the village…

We make an odd group indeed, but it is only in numbers that we will survive this endless nightmare and to that end I must find my place within this group and keep it safe and healthy, for that is all I know how to do. That giant, (and hideous, I must admit) Mongrel, Karnak, seems to me to be a noble’s son, possibly a tribal chieftain in his own right… or at least he was. He wants to take charge, and to that role he is welcome; although, his tales of looting villages and such ring strange and alien to my ears. He seems to think that he can go back to his old life in the Warlands, and it pains me to have to correct him in this: his old life, all our old lives are gone, destroyed in that godsforsaken Apocalypse. The damned Empire and its meddling mages… they did this to us! To me and all those gentle, peaceful women of the Barren! To everyone! To even think of it now… I can feel the rage building up inside… a rage so potent it threatens to burn me away… kill… kill them… kill them all!!!

But no… no… I must regain my balance. Meditate. Remember what was, not dwell on what is. That, of course, would be simpler if that crazy old man who calls himself The Gardener (what is that, anyway?) would stop prattling on with his nonsense about the Night of Fire being a blessing. It is nearly all I can do to not throttle him into silence when he starts on with that. He has skills, clearly, and is a valued member of our little fellowship to be sure, but clearly he is insane. I will try to remain calm and learn what skills of survival and medicine I can from him, for he knows more than me and I am not ashamed to admit that!

The one who fascinates me though, is Trevor, a mercenary from Cushulain if I am placing his accent correctly. A callous, hard man, and no stranger to killing to be sure. I was shaken at first by the appearance of those women in the kitchen… so like in my old life, but I don’t think they needed to be killed. In that, though, he reminds me of my brothers, but I am not sure if he would have survived the Shattering, as so few of them did. He is strong, but I fear not that bright, and he will need someone to watch his back. Can I trust him to watch mine? He seems to be one who will work for whomever will pay him, and that can indeed be a noble calling, if one is doing noble deeds. As I no longer have the Barren for whom I was to be a Guardian, his way of life is most likely what I will have to adopt. Obviously he knows how to read people and their ways better than I do, for I have spent but a little time away from the village.

The village. The only troubles there were the small gossippings and ramblings of women. Such beautiful, kind, and magnificent women, but sad too. The Barren were mine to keep safe and I failed them. I failed. What is there left to live for when one has failed as utterly as I have. At times, I think there is nothing to live for… nothing.. only the emptiness that battles the rage within me. There must be some way to redeem myself from that failure. Some way. Maybe the mercenary path holds the key to that… working for others to help, save, and secure their future. And my own.

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ItSotF ~ Session 1 - The Gardener's thoughts
A Pleasing Evening

OldmanHad I wished it, I could have departed whenever I desired. A shackle is by no means an impediment to one such as I. But as it was, at the time, I had felt that my efforts were best spent converting the poor misguided souls that inhabited the plateau. Whilst the woman charged with being my captor believed herself to be my eternal tormenter, I in truth pitied her greatly and merely played the role of a humble servant to ingratiate myself with the community, so as to better facilitate their eventual conversion to the true path.

Before I had entered the community, they were no better than debased cannibals, ignorant of all things Natural and subsiding on rotting food stores, spoiled meats and the occasional traveler. Had not my skill and benevolence put them straight on the Correct path and guided them to a feast of Natural Bounty? Had I not been responsible, although perhaps subtly and with humility so as to not aggravate their initial close-mindedness and hostility, for imbuing them with precious knowledge regarding Nature and her gifts and how to survive in this blessed New World?

Yes. And so it was. And I truly felt my work was progressing rather splendidly, although perhaps a fraction more slowly than I would have deemed optimal. Nevertheless, my heart knew at once upon glimpsing the motley, hopeless, bewildered and rather unkempt group that crossed the bridge that night, that I was indeed neglecting my true vocation by selfishly focusing my energies on the obstinate villagers.

Here before me were those in need of true succour. This group of four hopeless creatures quickly became ingratiate to my heart. For I knew that without me they were no better off than mindless worms trapped upon unforgiving stone, pinned beneath an emblazoned sun. Yes, no doubt without my guidance they would be very short for this Earth.

So as they pleasingly, and without my own initiation, approached me of their own accord and withdrew me from my chains, it was with great happiness that I guided them down the steps into darkness and the wilderness below. For the village above, as it burned and hopeless women and children screamed pitiably, I felt only little remorse. As I mentioned, I felt I had done all I truly could to enlighten them to the ways of Nature. Mine is not to prevent Fate but to share knowledge and to clean up the wreckage of Man. Had they been worthy pupils, my teachings should have provided them with adequate skill to bandage and poultice the charred appendages that no doubt resulted from the violence of the unforgiving fire.

Of my new companions, the one who is like a giant in stature is perhaps the most receptive towards Nature’s Knowledge and the gifts it imbues. The one who is like a dog in appearance is yet a mystery to me. The one who is like a dullard and deviant in manner and action may yet have potential despite his obviously limited mental faculties. The one who is silent and filled with anger and whose eyes hide despair, is perhaps the most in need of saving, and yet perhaps as well, my greatest rival.

Seeing as it has been some time since I have been in the forest, I am looking forward to feeling the grass between my toes and the sharp rocks against my calloused heels, and tasting the sweet dirt of fresh roots. Yes, every day I feel younger and younger and my bones and muscles grow in strength and resilience. Soon I have no doubt that I will achieve my former strength, as followers come to follow the true path and worship me as the God I once was, aeons ago. I feel the centuries flow off me daily. My rebirth from the roots of the Earth hastened by the blessing mortals fearfully call the Night of Fire will surely lead to the vindication of Man.

Yes. But for now it is pleasing to me to play the mortal with humility and taste sweet pain and hunger and agony and witness the trials and sufferings of the intriguing creatures around me. Yes, I will play the simple Old Man, for now.Oldmantree

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ItSotF ~ Session 1 - Maral's Thoughts
Why didn't we do this sooner?

After spending god knows how long in that cell, I decided I had had enough and broke out. I was a lot easier than I thought it would be. The wall to the next cell came down softly enough and as it turns out the cell next to me was unlocked!

I released the other captives and we decided to make a brake for it. A strange group if I ever saw one. I am really the only normal one. There is an other mongrel about my size, but his mother must have been a real bitch, because he looks like he has dog in his blood. Some monk, rather quiet, but seems to be good with his hands. Also a mercenary, who seems to really enjoy killing people. They all seem very hostel and quickly set about attacking everyone in sight. I didn’t wont to end up back in my cell, but at least I put the women down gently with a soft thud to the head. I guess it’s no wonder they had us all locked up. After what we did to get out maybe we deserved it…

By the end of the night we had burned down most of there nice little village, likely killed a lot too. Well at least i’m out of there, and the outside world is not as cold as I remember it, I guess things can only get better from here.

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ItSotF - Episode 2
Hell Bent for Leather

While torn between escape, exploration, and scavenging for the gear they would need to survive on their own, the group is noticed by a trio of Guards of the Faithful, bearing spears and clubs, and armoured with uncomfortable looking breastplates emblazoned with the Community’s handcrafted wooden sunburst symbol on the upper left side.

After a brief scuffle where an oddly flat-footed Karnak was aided by the quick efficiency of Grantur, and the deadly cat and mouse antics of Trevorwere interrupted by the blunt simplicity of Maral, the guards were looted of their useful weapons (slings and stones, spears) and 2 of their breast plates, and the group went to put the scare into the youths setting up for the evening meal.

Sending them screaming into the monastery, all but Grantur oblvious to the fact that the stone religious haven was not quite deserted, the group headed down the bridge toward the village below.

Once in the village, the group split up to rescue an old man being held slave by a cruel vegetable sorting woman with a riding crop, loot shoes and consumables, and set the place on fire. The Old Man, soon recognizeably not all there, lead them out of the confusion of tents and supplies, down a tunnel of stone steps, and out onto the moon and ring lit plains.

Not stopping to rest, the group made for the forest, camping only when exhaustion began to take hold. Choosing a defensible spot by a stream, the escapees set watches and passed the night without trouble.

The next morning, while hunting Grantur gave chase to a Broken Rabbit, but was himself hunted by Dirk Wasps which spread their ire to the whole camp, ultimately choosing to savage Trevor unto the point of semi-consciousness before they could be eluded by diving into the stream.

The Old Man, who refers to himself in the third person as ‘The Gardener’took care of their ills with Grantur and Maral’s assistance, and while seeking ingredients for a suitable poultice for the stings, discovered a strange edible plant which was alien to his experience. Its taste was surprisingly tangy and not unlike a citrus fruit, but it resembled a long blade of grass. Everyone enjoyed the new taste and the relief from prison soup.

While resting and allowing the poultices to work their wonders, the group fell to talking, and soon decided that heading south, into Cushulain, and the Empire beyond was the best choice for now.

Late in the day, they set out to put more distance between them and the Community of the Faithful, deciding to follow the banks of the stream.

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ItSotF ~ Session 1: Escape!
It's better to die on your feet, than burn at the stake

The Characters, upon learning of their intended fates, band together and through prison whispers and desperate ingenuity, succeed in escaping from their stone cells. Maral, a Mongrel dirt-farmer from Rangon Bay in the Wastes of the Far East, is first to free himself from his cell, working a few stone blocks loose and slipping into the empty and unlocked cell next to his, and from there, freeing the others. The group, Maral, a Jherlindian warrior of the Unshattered named Grantur, a Cushu Mercenary, and a ferally disfigured mongrel tribal leader from the Warlands cautiously sought a way out of the ancient and strangely deserted monastery in which they had been imprisoned for months, kept weak, but alive on a thin vegetable broth.

Finding a flight of stairs down to the ground floor, and from there to the huge kitchens, two members of the group brutally butchered the hapless cooks, and led the others in looting drying laundry and fresh-baked supplies of unleavened bread and scavenged vegetables before creeping out into the evening gloom of the courtyard.

They found themselves in a deep canyon, in which the crumbling and broken-domed monastery huddles like a fearful child in the darkness. The lip of the high stone walls, painted with imagery of the evening sky, is capped with the shattered remnants of two enormous statues, a man and a woman facing each other across the top of the monastery. The woman’s massive head now lies against the canyon wall in front of the building, while the man’s hand and thigh lie on either side of it. A few roughly made buildings, animal stalls and a smithy, line edge of the courtyard.

Raiding the smithy, they found three serviceable short swords, needing proper wraps for the handle, and some hammers fit for smashing a variety of hard and soft things. They also discovered that a quintet of youths are preparing tables for the community’s evening meal, and that soon, people will come pouring across the bridge into the courtyard to feast. Escape must be now, or never!

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