Open Chronicles Why did it have to be snakes?

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Raigryn Vayd

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"And everything is as I've dictated?"

It was hard for Raigryn not to roll his eyes. If he was deliberately tampering with the merchant's letters then he was hardly going to admit to it. People so concerned about putting their affairs in writing should spend the time to learn to do it themselves as far as Raigryn was concerned.

"Would you like me to read it back to you?" Raigryn asked, setting the quill aside.

"Yes, yes that seems a good idea."

Raigryn proceeded to repeat the letter from the start. A very tedious ownership dispute. He was out of his travelling clothes. Back posing as a scholar to earn coin for his food and board.

Writing was becoming much more popular, but it was still a rare talent. Even the wealthy still hired scholars for the job and many couldn't afford full time staff who were literate.

Typically Raigryn would spend more time in the city. It was a good place to carefully renew his store of emotional aspects without attracting attention.

This time he didn't plan to stay long. One of the merchants guilds was fed up of losing caravans heading east towards the spine. Captain Duard from the Rangers was being paid by the merchants to hire a party to travel out close to the homeland of the Naga to investigate their recent incursions. A large force was sent out to try and deal with naga raids a few years ago, but the reptiles refused to meet an Allirian force on the battlefield.

After being shocked by how far west he had encountered the naga, Raigryn was determined to investigate matters with his own eyes. Being paid for it was a welcome bonus.

"Is that as you would like?" Raigryn asked when he had finished recounting the letter.

"Well, I'm not sure you quite captured the tone but I think it will do. Yes, drop it with my boy to have it delivered. See what he has to say about this!"

"Of course." Raigryn gathered his things and took the letter to a desk on the ground floor. He was paid a small stack of coins and went on his way. A few years and he might consider settling down and doing this for a living.



Raigryn was dressed very differently the next day. One couldn't wear a sword openly on the streets, but the bastard sword was easily visible wrapped up amongst his travelling gear.

He found the group waiting by the ranger's stables. A few representatives from the merchant's guild in question as well as Captain Duard and a few of his men. A sellsword who must have stood over six feet in height sat on the fence, chewing on something.

"This is the expedition east?" Raigryn asked politely.

Captain Duard raised an eyebrow. "We're keeping a good pace on horseback. Won't be slowed down."

"I'm not quite that old yet," Raigryn said with a chuckle. "A few recommendations," he said as he pulled a few coins from his pouch.

Few could read, especially within the army. For mercenaries in the region they printed coins with particular stamps for service. Raigryn had plenty, the smartest amongst them for dealing with a hill giant that had been raiding a settlement miles west of Allir. That had been over a decade ago.

"Fine, you're in."
 
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Theoderic eyed the company as they readied themselves. He had been having second breakfast at a nearby establishment and decided to duckout for a puff of his pipe when he noticed the line of horse and a group of what looked like warriors loading them up. Another man, dressed differently to the rest was discussing matters with one of the soldiers and Theo caught the telltale glimmer of gold in the sun during the interaction.

Hmm...an expedition...He thought, as he hopped down from the oversized human chair and walked over to the two individuals. "I say, off an an adventure are we? Where would you say you are headed?"

One of the men walked up and stared down at the halfling, an amused smile on his face. "Nowhere suitable for your kind dwarf, we don't have time for the likes of you."

Dwarf? DWARF? Was this man soft in the head? Any idiot could spot the difference between dwarf and a halfling, gods, he didn't even have a beard! "My dear sir I'll have you know I am a Halfling of Hillbank! Not some braggart dwarf. I am also well travelled, having been on many an expedition myself, I even come with my own pony. Now, what is the nature of this company?"

Another man piped up "Alright 'alfling keep yer pants on. We're off to find and flush out some Naga oo've been raidin towns up near the spine. Not a place for your kind I'd say."

"On the contrary, I have made many an expedition towards The Spine, never made it the whole way though, I am also born and raised in the Reach and know the land like the back of my...hand. Naga I have not met, however I am told they can be hoarders of some...interesting artefacts. Of which I am a collector." He replied.

Turning to the leader of the company he bowed, "Theoderic Wanderfoot, Adventurer, Collector and Scholar at your service! I request to be a part of this expedition."
 

Raigryn Vayd

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"Fine," Duarde said sternly. "You get five more for having your own pony. If you die or don't keep up there's no payment. This isn't a job for try hards. Head down to infantry for that."

Raigryn shook his head at the thought of someone being so desperate they'd take a risky job just as long as their family got the money if they didn't return.

"Where did you hear that Theoderic?" Raigryn asked. He'd seen first hand the Naga stealing people and equipment. He'd never heard of them going after artefacts specifically. It would be interesting if true.
 
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Haelen Blacklocks

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The throaty bleating of giant rams stirred the otherwise quiet atmosphere. An annoyance to some but Haelen had grown quite fond of the noises of his steed. A company of dwarves were approaching the expedition party and at their head was an aging dwarf. His left eye was covered by a patch and a heavy ring hung from his nostrils. His hair was white and wild, bushy eyebrows surveyed the humans and halfling ahead. "Ah come un behalf o' Eobe of Tholbor."

Haelen pulled at his reigns and the giant ram shuffled, bleated and halted. The other giant rams followed suit, accompanied by their own dwarven riders. Haelen was garbed in royal black steel plate and chain but the others were in simple leathers with wooden shields. Paintings and markings on such shields told tales of their respective clan. Haelen spoke up, "Eh am Haelen o' Clan Blacklocks o' Khazar, an' wit' meh is ah small throng oh kin from Clan Tholbor. Weh 'ave come tah ah'sist."

To many races the names of the clans and cities of the Spine were unknown, many villages and fortresses isolated from the outside world, except Khazar was unique. A mystery. The city had closed its gates a decade past and never opened them again. It is believed the dead had risen and taken the city, the dwarves locking themselves in to prevent the dead from getting out. The only ones to survive such a disaster were those who were not in the city when the gates closed, sealed shut by primordial dwarven runes.
 
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Raigryn Vayd

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Now that is a dwarf, Raigryn thought to himself. He watched the scene with interest. Whilst he had seen dwarven rams before, he'd never seen one in barding before. They weren't a people known for cavalry charges towards archers.

Whilst he had been disparaging of the halfling, the ranger Duarde could hardly turn down an armed cohort of dwarves.

"We'd be glad of it," he called out. "How many scouts and rangers do you count among your number?"

Raigryn tried to conceal a smile. The question was a more positively worded way of asking how many were more suited to clanging about in armour than sneaking up on a naga raiding party from downwind.
 
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Haelen Blacklocks

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Haelen studied the ranger and then turned to survey his company, a meaty hand reached to the back of his head and he scratched vigorously, "T'at beh ah mighty g'ud questchion." The throng seemed to look about one another, unsure of who could be classified as such until one young Dwarf raised a hand. He looked to be both the youngest and shortest of the Dwarves present. He wasn't as burly as the rest and his beard was relatively short. The shield looked twice too big for him and he only had a crossbow for defense. "Aye!" he said as he trotted forward on the giant ram, "Eh am ah hunt'ah an' rang'ah fer Tholbor."

"Aye," Haelen said and looked back to Duarde, "He's tah only one o' us." While the ranger among their number was the shortest and youngest the others were not elderly like Haelen either. Many had just reached adulthood and were tasked by their clan to join Haelen to gain worldly experience and to better understand the connection of clan loyalty in Dwarf society. Haelen rested on the rams head, folding an arm as if to wait for further instruction. A wiry and grey eyebrow rose in wait.
 
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Gwythiel Faenwe

Elves outside of Fal'Addas were not a common sight, but out of the crowd passing by on a crosswise street, Gwythiel strode towards the group. Her clothing was all forest colors, well made, but simple in ornamentation. Around her neck was wrapped a scarf with Elven embroidery, and any familiar with Fal'Addan culture would know it to be a sign of a Singer, a practitioner of a decidedly Elven form of magic. Aside from the clothing she wore, she was also carrying a small pack with a sleeping roll tied to the underside, a well made Elven bow unstrung atop it, and a wrapped form that looked like a slender, curved Elven blade. At her hip was a foot long sheath with what looked like a flute that had been grown from a smooth wood rather than carved inside it.

She strode up to the group, and offered a polite nod to those present. She had heard the tail end of the conversation thus far, and offered a simple smile before she answered.

"I, as well, can act as a scout, particularly in natural terrain." She replied by way of introduction. "I would like to join this expedition as well." Her voice was soft, but easily heard over the sounds of the street behind her. The skill of trained voices allowed her to do so with ease.
 
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"Where did you hear that Theoderic?"

The halfling turned and regarded the large man with a neutral, vaguely curious expression. He then pulled out his pipe, tapped some OldBob pipeweed into it, ignited it with a small contraption from his pocket and puffed on it thoughtfully for a moment. "An associate of mine was on a similar expedition near Crobhear Lake when they were set upon by a party of those beasts, they were easily dispatched due to his habit of hiring a large guard when travelling near The Spine. After they tracked them back to their lair, they located a small trove of artefacts, stolen it would seem, from the great ruined temples that dot that mountain range. They had either been raiding these sites and ransacking them, an idea I personally consider preposterous, or they had come across another intrepid explorer and simply killed them and taken their haul." The halfling had another puff on his pipe and leaned in his pony which had wandered over to him and started nuzzling his hand. "Either way, they seem to like shiny things, and many magical artefacts are infact very valuable, thus the Naga, disgusting as they are, are a good source of these items."

The halfling then walked over to the expedition leader and tapped his thigh, not being tall enough to reach the man's shoulder. "I request to forgo my share in the payment for first rights to any magical items we come across on this journey."
 
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Raigryn Vayd

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Raigryn nodded, considering what had just been described. They hadn't seemed particularly interested in looking for gold when he had followed some of the destruction they has caused on the Reach recently.

No one knew what they wanted. They raided and took things. Was that just their nature? Another species similar to orcs but with less common ground? Or was there a purpose. Specific instructions to parties sent out onto the mainland. He was more interested in that than any immediate threat they posed.

Duarde could be watched thinking through the proposition from the dwarves. Only one scout and a very noisy troop of dwarves. That was weighed up against the advantages. If they were discovered the naga were fierce fighters. Hardened dwarven soldiers on rams or forming a shield wall was something he doubted even the naga would want to deal with.

"You're in, you're definitely in and that's a deal," the ranger said to the dwarves, elf and halfling in turn. "Any supplies you need, see my quartermaster. Get some good sleep tonight as we leave at first light. Any other questions?"

Raigryn didnt have any. Other than to ask the halfling if he had any spare pipeweed later. Trust a halfling to bring the good stuff.

Gwythiel Faenwe Theoderic Wanderfoot Haelen Blacklocks
 
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She was often underestimated in many places she’s visit and to even her surprise, Marcelina often enjoyed it.


Allir could be considered one of her favorite regions to visit and that could possibly be in part to the multiple birdies she’s stationed there. Including lovely palominians scholars. By now, it was no secret that the women were much smarter than most races and ahead of their time. They were often tasked with important jobs by other kingdoms and cities. However, their loyalty will always lie with The Nyndalls and their own kind.


Word travelled fast about the Naga and the reach’s plan. Marcelina has business with the council but she knew that could wait another day. This knew and exciting bunch of creature for the most part could not though. So once word reached her about a band of men traveling to meet the naga head on, the Dauphina grew excited. She hardly changed out her royal garb before jumping into her carriage the night before and taking a days worth of traveling to meet group just before they took off.


A group of eighty to maybe hundred women accompanied her and their approach toward the group may have looked aggressive. But if you knew their kind, you knew it was anything less than an aggressive approach. The carriage made waves through the crowd and purposefully stopped in front of the group.


“Now announcing her grace, Marcelina Antonia-Mariette! Dauphina of The Nyndalls!” A women yelled before opening the doors to the carriage and revealing a well-groomed woman.


”Good day to you all.” Marcelina’s lips curled into a smile. I am here to attend your travels. I bring with me, nearly a hundred foot soldiers. I suggest you use some for the frontline. I do not prefer my women to fight, but if it is necessary...I believe you should all know what they are capable of.”
 

Raigryn Vayd

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Raigryn let his gaze very slowly pan towards the ranger. This was fascinating. The old man could barely keep the grin from his face. What a fucking arrival.

It was to his credit that the ranger Duarde took this in his stride. He was a practical man. Living mostly on the road, scouting the lands around Allir. There wasn't much that would faze him.

"Six. You can bring six." Duarde nodded to himself as he cast his eyes over the assembled host. "Obviously not the carriage," he added, canting his head sharply to the left. Could never tell with royalty.
 

Haelen Blacklocks

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The company of seven accepted their instructions to get rest. They had just begun dismounting and leading their giant rams away to be tied up for the night when they noticed the arrival of the large host. A murmur swept through the company of dwarves and Haelen remarked to his kin with a snarky grin, "Farkin' show-offs." Eobe, a middle-aged dwarven armourer in the group pointed to the droppings left by the rams and said, "Aye kin, ye best beh pickin' up yeh shite fer 'er grace." There was a bustle and some laughter as they took their sleeping rolls from the rams and began to set up their small beds for the night.

Haelen waved a hand and quieted his company, "Naw naw, let's nat ge' too feisty." His kin respected his command, authority and age and quickly adhered to his words. In their eyes he was not just nobility, he was a seasoned adventurer. He had never been Prince Haelen, the Kings son, he had been Haelen Blacklocks, the madman. Drinking, brawling and fighting his way across the lands. He had gained something so few dwarven lords had - worldly experience and wisdom. Whether or not he learnt such lessons with a black eye and a cracked tooth outside a tavern was of no concern to his kin. A lesson learned is a lesson learned no matter the class.

The venerable dwarf unpacked his own giant ram. Sleeping with the rams at the stables was as good as any place to sleep. The idea of wasting good coin to sleep in a room on a clear night was unthinkable. Best to save the coin.
 
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The dauphina’s phase appeared to be unphased by the command. However, deep inside she could not help but think, six? Are you out your damn mind? Other men would kill for this sort of help! A hundred palominians do not just knock on one’s door for aid. Hell, they’d hardly showed up. Hmm, six? Well, that just leaves me with my best warriors. I cannot say the same for the rest of you.” The princess joked, giving a slight wink as she began barking orders. In little to no time, six strong looking women appeared behind Marcelina while the rest began to gather their things and move on.


”Send word to the merchant council. You will all rest here in case I am in need.”


One of her six padded off and returned shortly with a large warhorse. A beautiful blue roan colored horse too with the prettiest white spots. The tail and mane were perfectly braided and it was obvious that the horse belonged to royalty. Marcelina kisses the horses nose before looking at her companions. ”While I prefer a carriage for privacy, I am not oppose to riding a horse. Especially if I have the prettiest one here.” She laughed. Marcelina can be a bit cocky at times but most of what she says is for nothing but gags. ”Be so kind to a lady and have your best man look after her for me?” She took the lead of the horse and passed it to the captain, a sly smile on her face as she gave the horse a slight pat on the bum. ”I would like to meet the others. A good leader should always know who surrounds ‘em, do you not agree?”


She gave the captain no time to answer as she began to move on. Marcelina could hear the group of dwarves laughing and she could not help it but to join in on the ‘fun’.


Approaching Haelen, she greeted him first with a curtsy. ”M’lord. What brings you in such a journey?”
 

Haelen Blacklocks

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The dwarven throng had just finished setting out their sleeping mats and heavy woolen blankets when Marcelina approached them. They all stood behind Haelen, the younger ones were gawking, the older kin were less impressed. They had seen how she had behaved just moments ago and surmised it was some bratty noblemans daughter. Haelen was as calm as the mountains and folded his arms across his chest. Despite his small stature he was incredibly thick in muscle. His wiry hair was mopped back with a meaty swipe of his hand. "Plenty o' t'ings," Haelen said, "Tha Naga may threat'en Clan Tholbor if weh don' in-ta-vene." There was a resounding confirmation from the other dwarves, nodding their heads and speaking in agreement. Haelen was of Clan Blacklocks, but all his men were of Clan Tholbor. Dwarven clan politics - a complicated matter.
 

Raigryn Vayd

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Without even thinking about it, Raigryn syphoned some Joy from the men around them. A few laughs were more muted, some amused glances quickly faded. Raigryn knew there wouldn't be much to spare of that emotion for him to use once they set out. He managed to draw just a touch of Disgust from Duarde when he was given the horse. The names of the aspects were not always literally. The darker nature of the ranger's confusion was enough to draw from. Unfortunately vapid was not an emotion.

All Empaths lived by the truth that small changes could alter the balance of life in great ways. A little more Joy to draw from in battle could be the difference between death and a flesh wound.

Another truth he held to was that the potential for amusement was not to be wasted when it arrived. He raised an eyebrow at Duarde as he walked away with the horse. Raigryn made for the dwarves too. Justin VII (or Jocelyn) emerged from a pack and pulled himself (herself) up towards his should excruciatingly slowly so that the lunasloth could get a view.

"Im curious," Raigryn said to Marcelina Celestial "Do you know why Duarde asked only for six?" The ageing battle mage couldn't have looked like much. There were no signs of his craft. Just a fading travel coat and an odd pet. He set a mental bet with himself that she was playing up to perceptions. Had to be.
 

Scabhair

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Every blade of grass was gilded as far as the eye could see, giving way to the glinting domes of Alliria in the orange distance. The sun was slowly sinking behind the spires of the great city, and in its absence the chill would soon roll down the slopes of the Spine.

The wind rushed loud in her ears, whipping unruly strands of hair from her braids. She spat a red curl from her mouth with a grin, straining to hear the heavy beat of Inodeirr on her left. In a few long strides she’d draw abreast, and then—

Scabhair pulled herself onto her back with a whoop, hands buried securely in the maned scruff of a broad neck. Founts of dirt rose where paws dug into the ground, but the orc didn’t see any of it. She was riding with her eyes closed, acclimatising to the sinuous rhythm of her mount after months spent cooped up in Elbion.

You couldn’t exactly knock on the door astride a looming lioness and expect to be greeted by anything other than arrows.

Duarde, though, he was used to it. The ranger had already been a weathered man when Scabhair had first met him, well over a decade ago now. It wasn’t unusual to meet a ranger party when her tribe was in their southern pastures of the Taagi Baara, and over time the captain would learn to ask them for assistance when some trouble from the steppes began encroaching on the good people of the reach.

This expedition wasn’t like that, though. He’d said as much when he’d asked her to act as their lead scout for the trek to the Spine. Whether she’d cross over into the wilds with them was another matter.

Honestly, Scabhair wasn’t sure herself. Suppose it depended on the quality of the company.

As they drew closer to the lively fire, the orc slowed down the pace to trot so gentle she could simply step off Inodeirr. She did exactly so, bare feet touching lightly down on the soft soil. Her hand lingered for a quick scratch behind the ears before she sent her on her way. “Gabh. Sa mhedinn.”

The beast nuzzled her side for a moment, then loped off into the darkness. Scabhair announced herself with a whistle and stepped into the circle of light next to the knot of rangers.

“Top of the evening to you, Captain.” She nodded to the others, resting her tack against a nearby log. “The roads are clear a day’s ride ahead. No evidence of any brigands, though it’s worth noting that it’s hunting season for the Warghil tribe. We best keep a league or so to the south, just to be safe. The weather should hold for a few more days. After that though... hope you brought a good cloak.”

Raigryn Vayd | Marcelina Celestial | Haelen Blacklocks | Gwythiel Faenwe | Theoderic Wanderfoot
 
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Gwythiel Faenwe

Learning to ride in Fal'addas consisted of riding things a fair bit more magical in nature than the standard horse, at least for the elves of that region. Luckily for Gwythiel, and any other Fal'addan Elf who ventured from the shaded glens of the heart of the forest, riding translated fairly well from one creature to another. It only took about an hour of riding on the purchased mare she now rode for them to come to an understanding. She wasn't the best at speaking to animals, but she felt that they had a good understanding.

During that time it would have seemed like she went from being an average skilled rider, to being completely at home in the saddle. It was around then that they came across Scabhair they'd been warned that they would be meeting their lead scout soon. That the Orcess had gotten so close before either her or her mare had seen or sensed her spoke volumes of her skill.

Gwythiel was about to whistle a greeting, but stopped herself with a bit of a flush. Instead she nodded to the Orcess as she gave her report. She rode a few steps forward, toward the Orcess.

"I am Gwythiel Faenwe, I've been hired on as a scout as well. I believe I am in your charge." She introduced herself with a nod. Scabhair would see her dressed in well made, Elven clothing of earth tones, with a soft white scarf that held Elven script embroidery.

 
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She gave nothing but a solid nod to her comrade. Marcelina could say she was there for the same reason, but she was never one to have such a negative mindset. She’s heard the stories of the naga but Marcelina did not give up hope on the barbaric creatures. She was sure she could reason with them.


”Your clan should be ever so grateful than.” She smiled softly before scanning the dwarve’s campout. ”If you are in need of anything, do not hesitate to ask me. The Nyndalls is willing to grant you any assistance you are in need of.” Her gaze fell back on Haelan. ”I truly mean it. Your kind are and forever will be fine craftsmen. The Nyndalls will always welcome you with open arms.” Marcelina slightly bowed her head as a sign of respect.



”There could be many reasons.” Marcelina shrugged before to facing the man. ”Intimidation for instance. I am unfamiliar with the captain and he knows nothing of me either.” She paused to grab a strand of hair in her face and gently tuck it behind her ear. ”My mother once told me, ‘never trust an army and it’s general if your coins do not fill their pocket.’ Yes, six is not enough and I do believe if these naga are warmongering bigots like the tales foretold, my women are more capable than half the men here.” Marcelina nodded her head toward the men in the other direction of the dwarves. ”See that? The men here are not capable of protecting themselves with a weapon. Many are in need of armor and shields as well while my women are agile and fast.”


Marcelina hiked her dress up to reveal not only a smooth, coffee colored thigh but a weapon attached to it. It was her dart-rope. Something she believed was far much stronger than any other weapon. ”See here.” She took the rope and began waving it. The blade attached made a noise as it cut through the air with every swing. ”This is all a woman needs in my army. This and her mind, which could be considered a lot sharper than the blade itself.”
 

Raigryn Vayd

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Raigryn gave a nod and smile. "It's much more simple than that. Nothing to do with trust. Allir sent a host of thousands into the reach to deal with naga raiders. The reptiles have no interest in meeting a full force in the open. The mercenary force eventually had its supply lines ravaged and had to fall back without meeting battle. We're a small group because we're going for a closer look. Where they're landing, have they established any settlements.

"But I do like your rope."

Moving on towards a bit of action for a change in pace. Feel free to cover off anything that needs finishing off before.

Two Days Later

Marcelina Celestial Gwythiel Faenwe

"Those aren't orcs," Raigryn said as more of the shapes appeared on the horizon. He did recognise their silhouettes from here. Broad shoulders, large heads and elongated arms. "Those are reach trolls."

It was easy to know when their scouts had reported as much just a few minutes ago. The trolls would test them, carry any of them off that they could. It almost seemed counter intuitive that the snarling creatures would gather and attacked an armed party instead of taking easier prey. It just seemed to be their nature. At least it was for reach trolls.

Some said there were as many types of troll as there were other species on arethil.

"Tough hide, they don't stop fighting into they're down so go for the neck, head and chest."

Duarde was gathering his rangers on horseback. The trolls would go for any horses left without riders if they could. Seemed to be one of their favourite meats. Raigryn had never been one for mounted combat so he stood with the dwarves. He would have liked to draw a little fear from the group with Empathy but there was nothing but stoic resolve coming from the seasoned fighters.

The problem was that they were in the open. Nothing to defend. A troll needed no weapons. Reach trolls stood around seven feet in height, with black skin and white hair across the head and down the back. They had long claws, long arms and the strength of two men.

They didn't need this.
 
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Haelen Blacklocks

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Haelen stood at the forefront of his kin. The small throng of seven Tholbor Militia mulled around, discussing what could be happening back home and what they may see in the coming days. They were relaxed, far more than some others in the group. When one of the humans asked them why they weren't readying themselves Haelen chirped up, "W'at?" he looked confused, "Weh arh ready." He gazed over his fellow kin who leaned on wooden sledgehammers and others leaned against huge shields that had been shoved into the soil for sturdiness.

"Reminds meh o' Kal'Bryst," Haelen remarked to Eobe, the younger dwarf smiled, "Aye, I 'eard tha tales." The Fall of Kal'Bryst was a local legend in the township of Tholbor and the former city of Khazar. The kings sons Haelen and Dolgan had been decisive warriors in the conflict. "Naw, 'ought weh take bets?" Haelen asked his kin, they scratched and stroked at beards, one of them was even drinking from an iron bucket helm he had filled with water some miles back. There was a resounding 'aye' from the company. "Hrm, 'ow 'bout ye, long-legs?" Haelen asked Raigryn Vayd.
 

Scabhair

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It was easy to know when their scouts had reported as much just a few minutes ago – it was even easier to know when you were that scout.

Inodeirr twisted her ears and whiskers and body towards the cresting hills to the west. The pair of hunters fell dead quiet, tasting air, feeling the soil, listening to the world eclipse their silence with mortal fear.

Legs like young beech trees rippled the ground like a distant earthquake; the smell was next to hit her nostrils. It was a fallow field broken for the first time in years and a mossy woodland all in one, setting her hairs on end.

With a sharp order Scabhair sent the dwarf and his short-legged mount to warn the party. She was astride her beast in the next breath, pressed high up against the withers as the gathamhr loped towards the incoming thunder.

The local trolls were tall and strong, but they weren’t particularly clever. A whiff of meat, dangled just out of their reach, and they’d start stumbling after Inodeirr’s whipping tail like young cats with a string.

She could only hope the main party would organise in time to receive the brunt of the raiders as she led them around in a circle towards the lowland marshes.
 

Raigryn Vayd

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Haelen Blacklocks Scabhair Marcelina Celestial Gwythiel Faenwe

"Betting against a dwarf in a troll killing contest?" Raigryn laughed. "Game, but two pieces is all you'll be getting out of me."

The dwarves had to contend with all manner of beasts to keep their underground homes safe. Trolls were definitely among that list. Even the least martial dwarf could hold his place in a line and swing a heaxy axe for a long spell. Still, it would have been rude to turn them down.

Raigryn could see the bright streak of the oversized lion bounding across open ground. Dust kicked up by the vicious reach trolls scrambled in pursuit.

His sword had no name. No magical properties or runes etched into the blade. It was quality steel. That was all Raigryn needed. Drawing on his Fury he felt the energy course through his veins. The bastard sword became lighter and the Empath stood tall to meet the approaching danger.
 
G

Gwythiel Faenwe

Gwythiel paused for a moment as she saw the trolls barreling towards them. She'd been trained for such situations, but practice and real life were decidedly different.

After the moment, in which the trolls covered yards more towards them, Gwythiel took a deep, steadying breath. Then, she began to sing. At first, it was softly, as if she was singing to herself. Then, as time drew on, her voice became louder and louder, carrying over the plains as if it were one with the wind.

"Coe, vedui-na nin nall. Cuilo thár, gal, gal tond. See nin adversarui thar i talath, garhain ennas an im ped."

She sang the line over and over, changing the stresses slightly. As she sang, the grass around her grew up around her, and she held her hands out to the grass. The grass twined loosely around her hand, before sliding into her skin.

The Price.

When a singer asked something of the world, they would have to pay the price. This one, direct control over the plants of the plain, was being taken out of her own personal life force.

Moments later, as the trolls continued their charge, the prairie plants around them began to twine around their legs, and grow up their bodies, attempting to slow them down and bind them to the earth. To truly stop the trolls progress, much of the grasses and prairie flowers were pulled up from the ground. Each plant pulled inflicted pain upon Gwythiel, and she had several moments where her breath stopped short. She closed her eyes, and bit down on the pain, focusing past the pain to continue her song to strengthen the plants around the trolls, hoping her companions would take them down before they closed completely.

 
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Elegance and patience prompted her to sit on her horse with both feet just dangling off one side. She held her head high as her eyes darted the area. Marcelina didn’t exactly have to do it, her six ladies surrounded the horse and would risk their life for the princess. But she was a person who liked to keep track of her own surroundings as well.


She spot the trolls like anyone else and like a fool, she stared at them for a moment.


“Your grace, what should we do?” A soldier had asked her as she jumped off her horse and strained her eyes to see the hideous creatures.


”We protect ourselves. Hold your weapons close but don’t use ‘em less I say so. When the trolls are close, we must shield ourselves.” A human looked her way as she talked of only shielding her people and when she sensed it, Marcelina cocked her head to one side and shrugged. ”My women come first.”


The human’s shaking body made her change her mind and as the trolls grew closer, she wrapped her arms around him and brought him close before shutting her eyes and chanting. Her women would silently chant too and it would seem meaningless to others but Marcelina would have this feeling as if her soul were to leave her body and spread around her until creating a complete circle which would protect her from danger.

Raigryn Vayd | Haelen Blacklocks | Scabhair | Theoderic Wanderfoot | Gwythiel Faenwe
 
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Scabhair

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Like any self-respecting mounted archer, Scabhair, too, could riddle pursuing enemies with arrows as the lion underneath her bounded across the field. No sooner that she’d passed a stretch of deep grass, the green stalks began to writhe and move with a distant song.

She let loose another arrow and grunted her frustration as it left a harmless scratch on the thick hide of the nearest troll. At any rate her baiting work was done – the raiding band was now well on its way to stumbling and roaring straight into a forest of naked blades and readied soldiers.

Before any of the men got spooked by her mount, Scabhair directed her hard to the left, doubling back along the flank of the charging trolls. Her bow was holstered, her axe came free, and then Inodeirr was leaping onto the back of a trailing troll, teeth and claws and an axe-spike besides.

That went through.

Raigryn Vayd | Haelen Blacklocks | Marcelina Celestial | Theoderic Wanderfoot | Gwythiel Faenwe
 
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