Private Tales Of Winds & Wraiths

  • Distant lands call to you, Guest. The next world event coming soon.

    A land once ruled by Dragons and Gods opens, but not every secret of Arethil's past is safe to uncover.

    Titanfall

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Zara

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The bite of the wind was almost cold as the last rays of the setting sun dipped below the horizon. A cloudless starry night shone overhead, the bright light of the moon bathing the world in long dark shadows of deep blues and blacks. At the pristinely arrayed camp of the small Beddoon tribe of Abtati herdsmen the day was coming to an end as lamps were lit and people began to settle into their tents for a night’s rest. The herds were contained and only the tribesmen having night duty stood watch amongst the makeshift mobile village. The soft whiney of a horse or bray of a camel were all that broke the stillness of the night.

Against this backdrop, a solitary figure, no more than a shadow, slipped from the camp. Zara’s work for the day was done and while the sunrise would bring a new day’s labors, a quick exploratory jaunt into the Forbidden City was an excitement that the girl could not pass up. They had just arrived to the area earlier in the day seeking nourishment and refreshment from the long abandoned wells of the city. That would not happen tonight though. Zara had heard tales of the city, of it’s mysteries, and she was too excited to wait.

And so, with the deftness of a cobra, she flitted across the sands leaving nary a trace of her passing. Her dark blue robes helped her blend against the light of the moonlight and their heaviness, a shield against the heat of the day, now held her body warmth within to fight off the cold bite of the cloudless night’s falling temperatures.

Even though the Beddoon camp was almost on the horizon when viewed from the edge of the city, it took Zara only the better part of 15 minutes to traverse the dune-staggered distance between the two. There, at the edge of the crumbling monolithic citadel of a bygone age, Zara paused, leaning against a single crumbling pillar that once marked the demarkation between city and sand. This section of wall had long fell to the ravages of time, leaving the pillar standing as a skeletal sentinel in the sky; the sands having started to consume it already wearing down it’s once brightly decorated surface to a smooth grayed surface.

Zara’s breathing, heavy and rapid, was all that interrupted the world about her until somewhere in the distance a echoing snarl of some unidentified desert cat broke the silence. It was enough to snap Zara out of her contemplation. The girl’s eyes scanned for the source of the sound, not seeing it anywhere nearby; nor had it come from the direction of the camp. surely the night watchers had heard it as well.

Shaking her head as if to cast out any distraction, Zara looked towards the city itself, or what remained of it. Much of it was buried in the ever shifting sands. A smile played across the girl’s face beneath her heavy veil. This was fun. Her knives were safely tucked away in her robes. Zara doubted she would need them, but as a child of such a fierce workd as the Amol-Kaliy, she knew better than to not be prepared. As such, she carried a bladder of water and a small satchel of food, just in case.

Gingerly stepping within the city’s invisible limits, a gust of cool desert air swirled the elf’s robes about her. It did little to persuade her though. Zara pressed inwards cautiously, her footsteps carrying with them an aura of excitement. What excitement would she find there? Danger? Treasure? Friend? Foe? Only the endless night sky knew.
 

Uzama

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"Alright now...lady? Are you a lady? Now I didn't mean to intrude on you, so do you think you'd just...let me go?"

Uzama held out his big hands in a placating gesture towards the large, sand-colored cat snarling at him from atop the slab of ancient stone outside the Forbidden City. Twin, slitted yellow eyes bore into him with pure, animal hostility. Behind the cat, not visible from this distance, was the river. River meant trade. Trade meant boats. Boats meant hitching a ride out of this wasteland and back to a city.

"Okay, so, I'm just going to start backing away," he said, keeping his voice low and calm, "and we're just going to go our separate-"

*mew*

A small, pale cub, eyes closed, tripped over and rolled out of the hidden hollow under the rock. It tumbled head over tail down the dune until it came rest in a sprawl in the depression between the dune Uzama stood on...and its mother.

Oh come on

The cat gave a loud cry and sprang off the rock. A blur, it landed in front of its cub and tore up the dune towards Uzama. Uzama, for his part, turned and sprinted as fast as his legs would carry him down the opposite side.

He had reached the bottom when a weight struck his shoulders and drove him facefirst into the sand. Then the cat, having pinned him, went to work with its claws.

Komodi skin is tough, and can take a blade or two before breaking. Uzama had enough scratches on his hide to prove that it was as tough as any other komodi. That, fortunately, kept his back from being turned into shredded meat by the incredibly irate desert cat.

It did, however, still hurt like hellfire.

With a grunt through clenched teeth and a surge of adrenaline, Uzama pushed himself up, tossing the smaller cat off of him to land in a heap on the sand. In a blur, it was on its feet and leaping at Uzama again. He blocked with his arm, and had to fight from screaming as the animal's fangs dug into scales, even as it sawed its back legs in an attempt to disembowel him like a downed horse.

One, two, and finally on the third openhanded blow to the cat's head it finally let go, circling around for another pounce. Uzama, in desperation, pain, and instinct, opened his mouth and sprayed fire.

The stream of ignited venom lit up the night as it splattered across the sand in front of the cat. The cat responded the way all animals respond to fire. With caution.

Its rage and protective instincts momentarily sidelined, Uzama turned and ran for his life for the ruined walls of the Forbidden City. After a few dozen steps that seemed like an eternity, Uzama risked looking behind him. The cat stood atop the dune, framed in the fading smoke of the now dead fire. Its yellow eyes glittered in the starlight, and it simply watched Uzama go, head ducked down to signal that it would gladly finish the job if Uzama strayed too close again.

When he reached the broken remains of a wall, he collapsed and slumped against it. His back was lines of fire, and his arm felt like someone had driven hot needles clean through it. He felt around, but found no blood. He did grimace when he found a broken scale on his back. If the cat had managed to hook that spot...well, the image of someone peeling an orange came to mind readily enough.

"Guess...I won't be going that way." He peeked around the wall and into the ruined city. "Always did want to see this place anyway."

True he'd meant it as sort of a thing he wanted to do right before he died, but...guess the spirits had other plans.

"Seriously," he muttered to the spirits he was sure surrounded him in a place like this as he stood up, "what did I do to you to earn that?"
 
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Grigog flinched at the sound of a beast roaring somewhere. The trees around him moaned and shook with baseless wind. The black bark, the darkened leaves, the brown mud... he was back in the forests of the Spine and he was readying himself for whatever beast would come charging. Grigog beared his teeth and growled. Let the beasts charge forth. He was unafraid. He was more then any animal. He was Grigog.

"I am Grigog!" the orc shouted and raised his staff in a challenge to the spirits of the woods. The trees shook more, and the ground had joined in. The skies, despite being hidden from his site, boomed with thunder. It was as if Father Ground and Mother Sky were preparing themselves for combat. The world was readying itself to slay the exile. A punishment for his weakness and foolishness?

No... Grigog smiled and growled again, this time with excitement. A trial!

A multitude of eyes opened up beneath the leaves. Glowing orbs of yellow, green and white. Teeth were bared and flashed in anticipation. Claws could be heard digging at the ground. Grigog replied with a roar and charged, his staff raised over his head to deal whatever killing blow he could give. The growl was louder this time. With a booming voice, Grigog brought his weapon down on his unseen foe...

And jerked up, startled.

He wasn't in the forests of his home at the Spine. No. He was on cool, coarse sand, underneath a white tent, with the sun bending down for its evening rest.

"Grah!" the exile exclaimed as he beat his fist into the ground next to him. A dream, and nothing more. "Curse you Geshanak and your rays of madness!"

Grigog had to take a moment to steady his breathing. Once his anger and adrenaline had died down, he picked himself up, packed his gear together and breathed in. The cool air bit into his skin like daggers, yet Grigog didn't mind. The coldness of his home was far worse. And this was much more preferable than the intense sun's rays.

In the short distance, Grigog could see the crumbling form of a long abandoned spire. A remnant of the lost civilization that once called this unbearable place home. In his travels, Grigog had heard a few stories about the place known as Qrste-bhto, or the Forbidden City. Tales had said that once there must have been great and powerful people here, but now are long gone.

These tales, while boring and predictable, held a glimmer of hope for the Orc. Despite how dull the stories were, each tale talked about how the dead walked underneath, about how the ancient gods of old cursed the halls long ago, and how only the strong walked in and returned sane.

"Such a place must hold powerful and useful secrets" Grigog smiled and began to trek forward into the archeological dreamland.

No more then a few steps into the city, did Grigog's skin start to prickle. Something was off... the aura of the place... Grigog's tutor had only given him a marginal smattering of lessons on magical auras, preferring to focus more on utilizing the inner spirits, or raw emotions as the humans called them. But with the few he received, Grigog took to heart. And he knew when his skin prickled, something was off.

Grigog took a few deep sniffs. There! An inner spirit! Grigog took a deeper sniff. It was strong, but distant. The spirit of the Deer was riding someone. Excitement, the younger sibling of Joy.

Grigog sniffed again. There was another scent there too, but it wasn't strong in anything, and still distant. But both of the smells were getting closer. Would these beings be foes? Or friends? A trial, like his dream?

His dream... Grigog gripped his staff tightly and waited, holding his ground on top of a half buried dome. He would meet these people head on, and if they wanted a fight, Grigog would be too pleased to give them one.
 

Zara

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Carefully, Zara crept along the city’s edge. She was not sure what she was supposed to be looking for. She was just excited, and a little nervous, to be exploring as the cool wind picked up, whistling in between the exposed walls and buildings with an ethereal soft howl. Zara paused as she listened, it was almost like there were words carried on the back of the breeze. The girl turned to see nothing. She shoo her head as she crouched in the shadows of the wall as it rose from the sands as she moved forward. Shaking her head, Zara refocused. There was adventure to be had.

Cautiously, Zara moved, her eyes scanning the city. Footstep after footstep, crouched below the waist high wall until, suddenly, it appeared. As if apparatung from the shadows of the night, a great draconic visage of a man, his concrete scales hued in the deep navy of the night’s shadows. Zara’s sucked in her breath in surprise, every muscle tensing. She had no idea there were dragons prowling the city! She had to get back to camp before the monsters discovered the herds and came to devour them.

With an abruptly delicate and intricate wave of her hand, the Abtati vanished from sight, a shimmer of heat hovering where she was standing. The magic of the desert concealed it’s daughter as it drew heat from the air about her to erase her presence in a haze of projection; in this case, nothing. In the cool of the night, the spell drew what little heat there was from the air. When the air had little left to give, the claws of ice began to draw lines at the edge of the illusion. The magic began to draw from the sand, from Zara’s own body heat and even pull at the heat that radiated from the dragon-man’s body as he peered over the wall.

Slowly, one step after another, Zara began to back away.
 

Uzama

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Uzama pulled back, a chill sending him shuddering.

Cold winds, dark spirits

He contemplated going back the way he'd come, and the great cat.

He took another look.

The city was a stark, desolate place, but the shadows that lurked under the arches and columns pooled like ponds of hellish ink. The contrast with the stars and white sand only lent the place an eerier tone that spoke of things long buried and best left there. The city seemed to swim before his eyes...

Wait.

It...was swimming. Not the city, but the smallest patch. Uzama had almost missed it, even though he'd been looking right at it. Only the contrast of the gently rippling air against a nearby shadow caught Uzama's eye enough for it to register. Even now, he wasn't sure if his eyes weren't just playing tricks on him.

A spirit.

He took a deep breath through his nostrils. Something hung on the air, faint, but definite. Something warm.

Not a spirit. A person.

"Who's there?"
 

Zara

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Zara froze as the draconic being called out. Could he be talking to her? There was nobody else here; was there, Zara craned her neck as she took in her surroundings. An abandoned city, at night, in the middle of the desert, aside from the snakes and spirits, what else could be lurking? Wasn’t it happenstance enough for two wanderers to nearly collide here as it is?

And then she saw it. There shadowed against the starry backdrop of the night was another being, a monstrous form cluthing a limb of some matter atop a half exposed dome of some long-forgotten building. Zara drew her breath in sharply. She looked from the shadowed wraith ahead of her and the dragonesque being to her side. Could they see each other? Judging by the tumbled down area betwixt them, Zara doubted it, but then again, what did she know of mythical beasts and demons?

The girl wiggled her gloves fingers as she felt the cool icy pangs of the magic’s draw in them. Mirages were not nearly as natural at night. The heat of the day being a key component to the massive illusions the girl and her people were capable on crafting on the sands of their home.

Diving for a nearby jutting bit of rubble, Zara made to obscure herself from view naturally. Once she was safely in the shadows, she let the illusion of invisibility fall. Her shadowy head wreathed by the shadows of her cover peered outward into the night, watching where she knew both beings to be. She slid her gloves hands into the sands beside her, seeking for some of the residual warmth they still carried from the blazing sun.
 
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Grigog stared into the night, scanning the area for any hint of the beings that were nearby. The one who was being ridden by the deer had suddenly deadened their joy. But another animal was riding them now, though not as fiercely. The weasel? Grigog sniffed again. Yes, the weasel. Fear. Someone was afraid, though not as intensely.

A voice, not too loud, sounded out somewhere. It sounded nearby. Behind some of the other stones and ruins perhaps?

The emotion early became more fearful. More intense now. Grigog could tell they were nearby, but he had no way of pinpointing where they were.

Still, this information provided some insight. Guessing by the sudden change in emotions, Grigog guessed that one person was young at heart, possibly in body as well. Father ground himself knew that Grigog was young in both ways, but trained to be older then he actually was.

But still, the voice and the emotions didn't match up. There was potentially a predator and a prey out their somewhere. A hawk and a snake. The seeking and the hidden. Two separate entities.

If they were related and hunting each other, Grigog would be caught in the middle of it. Still, maybe they could help him.

"It is I, Grigog" the Orc stated loudly and plainly, refusing to leave his perch on the half-broken dome. "A traveler and a seeker of knowledge. But someone else is there too. I do not know who."

Grigog slid down the dome and landed on the cold sand. He made a few strides forward, gripping his staff tightly, ready to swing at whoever might attack him around the corner.

"Come out friend, perhaps we can help each other..."
 

Uzama

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Uzama's eyes jerked away as the the voice (did it say its name was Grigog? And that someone else was here?) called out in the silence of the dead city. His eyes immediately shifted back, but it was too late. He'd lost track of the peculiar blur.

Maybe I did imagine it...

Or maybe this Grigor is right and the city isn't as dead as it looks.


Turning his head towards the new voice, Uzama hesitated for only a second, before shrugging, cupping his hands to his mouth, and calling out.

"HELLO!" His voice rung out, a bit louder than was probably necessary. "Look, I've had a very long day, and it's going to get really, REALLY cold here. Could we maybe discuss...whatever it is we're doing here around a fire? Or in blankets or something?"

As if speaking of it made it a reality, Uzama felt a weight settle in his chest and limbs. Pain and a desire to not get shredded had pushed him earlier, but as the temperature dropped his reptilian blood and the curse it carried reared its head. Komodi were strong, durable, fierce...and almost useless in the cold. Each second as the cool wind of the desert passed over him, Uzama felt the weariness of the day multiply, and his thoughts gel into a sluggish mass. He took a deep breath, but it did nothing to dispel the chill moving through him.

Great. Nothing for it then.

He walked forward, and almost without a care, sat down and leaned against a broken slab of a wall. His breath came deep and slow as he leaned his head back and rested.

Really...really hope these people are friendly. Don't know how much more fight I've got in me, and I'd guess I've only got one good blast left.

"Grigor was it? Do you think you could come over here? I'd come find you but...you know...long day."
 
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Zara

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It was cold. It was getting colder by the second. The desert winds whistles faintly through the clear night carrying the heat of the day away to a nether world of it’s own design. Aside from her self-preserving show of magic, Zara would have been warm enough, in her heavy cloaks. As it were, she could feel the warmth of the sand as it snakes life back into her cool limbs. It was an old desert trick.

“Great. Now they’re talking to each other.” she mumbled under her breath to nobody in particular. Had one of them asked about a fire? Zara shook her head, what was with the desert drumming up all sorts of mad wanderers these days? Did no one respect the power of the sands anymore, to wander it alone, day or night, this far from any semblance of what most considered civilization?

Zara looked up at the sky, one of the world’s two moons glowing righteously above; it’s mate having traversed the border of night and day in it’s season. Time was of the essence if she was going to do any exploring. At this point though, the Abtati pondered the benefit of returning to camp. There were things here. Things that probably were better left alone. The Beddoon tribe had survived for millenia amongst the dunes and it was not because they charged headlong into a fray that was not theirs to be had.

Silently pondering the situation, weighing her options, Zara sat. Curiosity or fidelity? Was it even a question? Zara had been raised to put her family and people first, above all else. So pushing herself iff her buttock into a crouch, Zara listened once more before moving off.

The winds whistled overhead, picking up with speed and intensity as they fell to whistling through the sanded in streets, pushing heartily from the strangers towards Zara and out to the seas of sand. On those winds came a dull moaning “awwwwwooooooooahahwooooooooii” wether this was the wind on the rocks or something more nefarious, Zara did not want to ponder. Given the legends of this place, anything was possible. With each passing moment, the winds intensified, their cool bite raking like teeth across Zara’s exposed eyes. “Awoooooooooooooooo . . . “
 
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Grigog flinched at the loud greetings from the being. Such a loud being! He wasn't that far away.

Slowly Grigog approached where the voice came from, still gripping his staff. The memory of his dream, attacking an unseen beast with a rage he was surprised at, came to mind, but he kept his mind straight. Turning around the corner, Grigog was surprised to find not a human or an elf, but a lizard.

Grigog had to take a moment of confused silence to study this being. Lizard was probably the wrong term. But what was he? Someone with dragon's blood? Oh what the orcs back home would think of it.

"Well, you're an interesting sight..." Grigog finally said. "What exactly...oh dragon's breath, you are freezing! One moment..."

Grigog quickly approached the being and removed one of the animal skins over his back and draped it over the being. The cold bit into his open arms, but he didn't mind. He just wanted an excuse to get closer to this thing. Perhaps a few scales could be his? But if this thing had dragon's blood...

Grigog was about to utter some apology for not having something better, but before he could, the winds changed. An eerie noise in the night, like moanings. A more civilized orc would've laughed, but Grigog remembered how ancestor's long gone could ride the wind like wild horses.

Not to mention, his skin still prickled just as strongly as when he first entered this place.

Grigog looked over the being leaning against the wall, then the area around them and pondered.

"I am Grigog. Who are you? I thought I'd be the only one to come here at night..."
 
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Uzama

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Unama gratefully wrapped the animal skin around him, feeling cold edge of the wind blunted as he did. Still slowed by the chill (and unlikely to get better, even with the skin), it took him a few moments to register the green skin of his new friend.

An...orc?

Huh...


He favored the generous stranger with a full smile.

"Call me Uzama, Grigog. And as for why I'm here...well, if you ever meet a smiling horse trader missing his left eyelid, there are two things you should do. One, don't buy his horses for full price. Two, punch him in the nose for me. Trained...pfff....trained my dusty hide. Had a bit of excitement, and next thing I know I'm on my back in the middle of the desert watching my supplies run off into the sunset." Uzama chuckled, his grin never faltering. "Least I'll have a good story to tell once I'm out a here. And good and drunk." He laughed louder. "Must have pissed some spirit off something fierce this time!" He settled down, heavy body resting against the sands. "Ah well. But, what about you? What in all the hells is an orc with a stick doing way out here? I cant imagine you're a bandit." His grin turned fierce. "Because you're a pretty poor one if you are. No, you seem too nice for that. So you're...what?" Uzama took a deep breath, seemingly at perfect ease, as if he was at some tavern bar and not leaning against a wall in a haunted city.
 
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Grigog chuckled loudly at Uzama's humor. "Stories are the essence of life. So make sure you are drunk enough that the story grows heheh. Maybe then the spirits will be happier with you then"

Grigog stroked his beard, thinking a moment. If this person was truly dragon blood, they wouldn't struggle with the elements this badly. But then again, Grigog had never encountered a dragon this close. But something about them breathing fire and death makes him think that those ancient beasts were invincible

"As for me, I heard stories that the dead walk around here. The spirits where I am from don't exactly do that, so I am curious on how they can do that. Perhaps we can help each other?"

Grigog leaned down and without caring about how uncomfortable he was making Uzama by being this close. "Maybe the spirits would be happier with you if you found a way to let them walk freely like the ones I've heard about?"
 

Zara

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As the winds whistled, Zara felt the cool bite of the night against her exposed brow as her veil whipped in the wind. The rest of her body was safely wrapped within layers of carefully applied clothing that managed to keep off the worst of the chill. Still, she could feel the bite. Zara knew what these winds usually met, odd as they were in the coolness of the night. A storm was brewing beneath the cloudless sky.

Looking towards where she knew the Beddoon camp to be, she silently crossed it off her list of possibilities. She should have known better; but here she was alone against the dark.

The wind whipped between the buildings and ruins, stirring up particulates of sand in their unseen talons; accelerating them into a smoothing millions bites.

With a sigh of guilt, Zara turned back into the ruins as the ethereal howl of the voice carried on the wind about her. She could hide amongst the ruins or she could see if the strangers would join her. Together, perhaps they could survive. Together they would be stronger. Creeping back through the shadows, Zara made her way towards where she had last seen the others, wary of the dragon-beast she had nearly ran headlong into. As she drew closer, she could hear their voices, muted by the wind, but audible yet.

Pausing, Zara took a breath, before stepping from the shadows, wrapped in her swirling robes against the wind. “Perhaps talk of the dead is a little premature. Listen. Do you hear what you cannot see? A storm approaches.” she spoke as she seemingly materialized from the darkness, hoping that her sudden appearance and words might give them pause. She hoped the dragon would not incinerate her either. Time was fleeting. The fact that she was a shadowy being swathed in billowing shadows did not occur to her.
 

Uzama

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If Uzama's veins hadn't congealed into sludge from the cold, he might have jumped up in shock at the sudden appearance of the robed figure. A figure of darkness silhouetted only barely by the starlight around her, she looked like some specter out of 8-year-old Uzama's nightmares, after his parents told him ghost stories. Unfortunately, all Uzama managed was a sudden jerk of his head towards the woman swathed head to toe in cloth.

So quiet. She smells...warm. Not a corpse. But...

An elf? Something else?

"Storm? Great." Uzama slowly stood up to his full height. "If this foul luck is my fault, then you have my sincere apologies ma'am." He turned to Grigog and bowed his head, horns gleaming in the moonlight. "You as well, sir." Then he frowned. "Wait a second friend. You talk about dead spirits as if you came hoping to find them. Do you...do you know about spirits?" Uzama cocked his head, genuine curiousity in his eyes. Then he shook his head. "Sorry, its the night air," he said, the easy grin back on his face. "My thoughts get a little muddled. We should get to shelter." He turned back to the woman. "Don't suppose you know anywhere we can hole up?"
 
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At the appearance of the shadow, Grigog's hands gripped his staff tightly and brought it up as if to strike. The sight of Uzama and the possibilities of whatever he was had distracted Grigog from the fact that he had smelled another being around somewhere. To be caught so unaware was both embarrassing and sinful. Grigog's old master would've burned his apprentice's hands for a solid minute before allowing him to heal.

"You're lucky I don't smash you in right now..." Grigog growled. He then gave a deep sniff. The odors of the two beings were mixing, but the inner spirits were as distinct as wood and stone. Now able to see the two beings and associate the scents with them, Grigog was able to identify which belonged to which. The highly emotional one that Grigog first caught a whiff of obviously belonged to the new stranger. And the other, more stable, albeit confused, emotions, obviously belonged to the dragon-child as Grigog had internally dubbed.

As he sniffed, Grigog chuckled at how he probably looked to these strangers who probably never had seen an orc in their life.

"But perhaps you are correct..." Grigog growled as he lowered his staff slowly, eyes not leaving the newcomer. "I don't know the weather here as well as my home, but my skin prickles. Come dragon-child... I know a place where we may hide from the incoming winds..."

Grigog was referring to the half-buried dome he stood on earlier. Perhaps they could climb inside and start some kind of fire for Uzama. He would be no good to Grigog if he froze to death out here.

Grigog leaned down to help Uzama up, indicating for him to use his shoulder for support. If he permitted, Uzama and Grigog would make their way to the dome, and the stranger would follow..

"I am Grigog... '' Grigog growled at the stranger. "This is Uzama. And know I could still smash you if you try something to us... everyone in my tribe knows how to fight"

Even exiles like me Grigog almost added, but restrained himself. At least his old master's lessons had helped him with that.
 

Zara

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Zara rolled her eyes within the shadows of her own robes. She had seen and dealt with plenty of orcs, mostly the blue variant, but it seemed that their inflated sense of self-worth was a genetic thing.

Turning her attention to the dragon-man, Zara spoke, her voice loud above the ever increasing wind. “Unless you want to bury yourself in the sand, perhaps your friend has a point, only,” she paused, collecting her thoughts as she began to stride towards the dome, the remnant of the structure concealed beneath the sands. She gestured for the two to follow her to the one window that was still above the growing dune and sands.

The Abtati stooped to step into the window, her body ducked down so she could still look at the two larger beings, the inky blackness of the inside behind her. “only,” she continued pulling a dagger free from the sheath in her sleeve and holding it up for the others to see; it’s blade shimmering in the starlight. In a flash, Zara dropped the weapon behind her into inkiness. A silence enveloped them, save for the low howl of the wind before, several moments later, there was a clatter below somewhere. “Sometimes a building exposed to the sands is enshrouded in a moment, lost in time forever.”

Even in the lightless blackness, Zara knew the building. It had been some sort of administrative center, probably for the market and rows of stalls buried ages ago beneath the sands. A light tower or maybe a bell tower perhaps, the dome stood as a testament to the market, older than even the other squareish buildings that jutted through the sands about them. She had seen buildings similar to this one in Annuakat. There was a drop, a long one, that would lead to marbled floors below. If there was any semblance of stairs, they had rotted away long before even in the dry arid environment.

“Still, it is probably better to try and hide here than risk collapsing one of the other buildings.” she mused even as the wind whipped her robes against her frame as they sought anything that their sand borne teeth could claw at.

Below, two stories down, the tower opened out into an ornate room, their scales and statues long since toppled. The marketplace sanctuary had been the administrative headquarters of the trading district. Vaults, stalls for animal and slave alike, rooms, business alcoves all lined the sprawling open space. Hallways jutted off in two opposite directions leading to who knew what. All long abandoned, or was it? In the darkness, deadly asps lay unmoving, hibernated against the night and pending desert maelstrom. Their hearts barely beat as they existed somewhere between life and death waiting to be awakened by rays of light, heat, or the scent of food.

Holding fast to the sand-smoothed pillar that made one side of the windowed portal to the unknown and out of the wind, Zara stepped back, gesturing for her comrades; allowing them to decide their own fates.

The wind continued to rise, filling the air with razored particles of grit and sand.
 

Uzama

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Uzama trudged through the sand, his feet leaving deep furrows as he dragged them underneath. His tail hung limp, and his breathing came heavier and heavier, like a deep bellows.

Looking down through the tower, his eyes could still only pick up the faintest hint of a floor two stories down.

"You want to go down there...whoever you are?" Uzama looked down again, then grinned. "Don't suppose someone brought a rope. I don't know about you, but I certainly can't fly." His eyes now scanned the weathered stone, and he frowned. Pock marks and cracks riddled the circular walls. Enough to get a fingerhold in, but he doubted they were enough to support his weight.

"Maybe we-"

At which point Uzama had it confirmed for certain that he had pissed off some spirit, and it was a spiteful thing.

The crack and grinding of stone-on-stone was brief, quick, and barely registered before Uzama realized he was falling. Sluggishness banished by adrenaline, he flailed, powerful arms and claws scrabbling at the ancient stone as he slid down the shear wall, his stomach rising up into his throat and his mind a blank wash of white noise. Chunks of stone tore from the walls as his hands futilely dug in an effort to slow his drop.

Then he hit the ground. The air was driven from his lungs in a massive whoosh, and after a few moments struggling to draw in a breath, he managed a few gasping wheezes.

He lay there at the bottom, amidst the rubble of the crumbling floor that had deposited him there and the broken bits of wall he'd brought down with him. The fact that he didn't think he had any broken bones either meant he was tougher than he'd ever know, or his mad scramble had managed to slow him down just enough to not...die.

"Hey..." he rasped, "....made it down..."
 
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Grigog shook his head as he looked down the two story drop. He didn't like this. Not one bit. But this place was better then the windy desert, and perhaps at the bottom the three of them could make up some kind of fire to warm Uzama. By the spirits, Grigog had never met a dragon-child before, and he wasn't going to let one die from a little chill.

Grigog let go of Uzama, letting him stand on his own feet for a moment as he did his own looking at the sides of the pit. He didn't see any way for him to just climb down, especially with Uzama. But if the other being had brought some kind of...

Grigog's thoughts were interrupted by the cracking of stone. One moment, Uzama and the strange being were in front of him. The next, Uzama was gone, falling.

Even as benevolent instincts started to kick in, with Grigog reaching a hand in an attempt to catch the dragon child, not even a trained professional could be quick enough.

Before Grigog could even utter a curse, the ground around him cracked as well. Had he been focused, he may have had a chance to call upon the spirit of the deer to help him jump to safety. But as he was focused on the dragon child's descent, he was caught off guard himself.

The fall through the air frightened the orc. However, Grigog teacher had trained the orc for situations like this. During times of his youth, his teacher would take the orc on hikes through the mountains of the Spine. At the peak of their height with joyful cruelty, Grigog's teacher would then smack, punch, or shove Grigog in an attempt to knock him down a deadly cliff. Back then, Grigog thought these were attempts to kill the promising initiate. But looking back on them now, Grigog knew they were lessons on calling the spirits without thought in times of danger.

Grigog called on the spirits of the Rabbit and the Squirrel. These inner spirits, representations of desire, were lively things. They defied the rules of the world by breeding wildly without care. They fell from immense heights and never broke a bone. When these spirits rode people, they made beings give into their basest lusts.

But when Grigog tamed and called upon these inner spirits, they defied gravity itself. Under Grigog's command, they would descend much slower.

There was no incantation. No magical words were needed. But even so, Grigog yelled out their names in his native tongue. The air around the shaman initiate vibrated with a pink glow. If the other being was close enough, she would feel the effect of a slowed descent as well.

A few moments later Grigog landed on his feet. He panted a bit, then adjusted his pants. No need for the others to see the side effect of calling those inner spirits. After this was done, Grigog reached down, plucked his staff, and took a moment to rest.

"Perhaps the spirits are angry with you Uzama. Or maybe they don't want us to leave here, stranger..."
 
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Zara

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Zara jumped back as the sandy ground gave way beneath the party and swept the two wasteland-interlopers downwards into the inky maw.

The wind buffeted the girl’s back. For a mere moment, Zara considered her options. The two strangers were either inside or gone; maybe she could make it back to camp. The Abtati knew how to survive un these wilds. The Beddoon clan were no exception. It was only a moment. Zara had a duty to these strangers if they were in trouble.

Besides, she shot a forlorn glance towards the camp, it was graying against the night sky as the wind licked up, shifting dunes particle by particle.

Grasping the lip of the window, Zara leapt into the dark. She swung using her arm as a fulcrum to direct her momentum inward. With a thud, Zara collided with the opposite wall. She began to slide downwards. Her roughspun gloves and boots flailed for a foothold in the ornate walls. Here, they were not worn from the wind, and after several terrifying seconds, she secured a hold on the wall, dangling from an ornate chain that had been strung along the wall. A cascade of broken bits of stucco and decor tumbled downwards towards the floor below with a clatter leaving Zara hanging with one hand in the air as her feet finally found rest.

Below, the inky blackness was interrupted by a mass of movement, not one that could be seen against the dark, but one that could be felt. It was if a warm surge of air exhaled from somewhere, from above, from the invisible alcoves hidden in the blackness, from below. It was warm, almost, “Wet?” Zara whispered questioningly as she tried to make sense of the warm noisome soft breeze. It did not fit. In this crypt, darkness, dust, and stillness ought to rule; yet the floors were bare, swept clean by an unknown force.

It was then, in the blackness that pressed in on the eyeball itself, on the soul, that movement could not be seen, but heard, felt. A scraping of scales and writhing of bodies as coubtless aspic vipers uncoiled from the shadows; awakened by the disturbance and the odor of fresh prey. Their maws were open as their tongues raked the air between their venomous teeth as they sought their prey with deathly intent.

Hanging above them all, Zara felt that something was off. Even she could bot know the dangers below.
 

Uzama

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Uzama struggled to his feet. He swayed as he stood, his head swimming yet somehow crammed full of cotton balls. His back...his poor, abused back...felt like someone had tanned leather on it, and left it in the sun too long. He rotated at the waist, hoping to loosen the muscles.

It didn't work.

Side-eyeing the orc as he landed effortlessly, he chuckled. "Maybe so. Still, seems like your on better terms with them. So...just put in a good word for me? Also, what the heck? You can fly?"

The room around them was dark, but not blinding to Uzama's reptilian eyes. Faint trickles of starlight and moonlight still reached down here, though likely not enough for one of those half-blind humans. Still, any deeper and Uzama would start to go blind too.

Good thing there's no reason to go deeper then.

A dull pressure drew Uzama's attention to his ankle...and he almost shrieked. As a picture of masculinity, he of course only shouted in surprise. Firmly attached to his ankle by its mouth was a writhing, wiggling viper...that seemed very much stuck. As Uzama's eyes continued to adjust, he realized that there were more of them, moving across the sand like malevolent, black rivulets.

I can't keep getting startled like this. At this point, I've lost so many years off my life I'm not even sure I'll make it out of here.

Raising his other foot, Uzama stomped hard on the viper's head, bringing his heel down again and again until its jaw loosened and it tried to squirm away. Then he stomped again, harder, and with a faint crack the serpent stopped moving.

One of the benefits to living in the desert with skin tough as a leather was the snakes and scorpions hardly posed a threat.

He remembered the caravan five years ago.

Snakes and scorpions of the regular size hardly posed a threat. Other kinds were a bit more dangerous.

"Hey Grigog! Hope you can actually fly or that you've got good boots on! Otherwise...well, I'd start dancing!" Uzama called out, almost good-naturedly. "Cause looks like we fell in a literal viper's nest! Hahaha!" Uzama laughed, genuine amusement suffusing his deep voice.
 
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