Thursday, February 20, 2020

200 - “Arrival” - Korr - A Tale of Heroes

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“There’s something different on the mountain today,” Karendle wondered.

Korr looked up into the clear mid-morning sky. The sun was rising slowly higher, reflecting off the snowy mountainside as they trudged slowly up the winding path. He turned around to her. The others followed the trail behind them in a line. “I believe it seems a little warmer.”

Karendle paused her steps and sniffed with her nose in the air. “Something smells a bit odd, too.” Korr pulled down the scarf that he had wrapped across his sunburned face. He breathed in the air, trying to determine what he was also smelling. It had a slightly acidic edge, unlike the sweet clearness that had so far surrounded them from day to day in the mountain.

“That’s probably just Eddiwarth’s breakfast coming back to haunt him.” Parith called out from a little farther back on the trail.

“That’s not me!” Eddiwarth protested. Thissraelle laughed.

“That’s it!” Karendle exclaimed. “You’re limited to only three pieces of jerky tonight.”

While they stood resting for a moment, Korr surveyed the path ahead. He looked up the steady slope of the snowy rock above them. Just a bit beyond where they stood was a turn, inward, into a large crevice in the mountainside. It looked to Korr as if some long forgotten half-god had grabbed the peak and split it in half all the way down to the foothills. He adjusted his pack and moved forward again.

"Is that what I think it is?" Thissraelle's voice drifted forward.

Korr turned around to explain the canyon and the path up ahead and saw Thissraelle and Eddiwarth looking high up the side of the mountain, pointing. "I think it is..." she murmured.

"We might want to get to cover, quick." Eddiwarth added. The drakeling hissed.

Korr followed their eyes. Way up in the cloudless sky, not too far from the peak of the mountain, a large dark bird circled. No, that’s too big for a bird, isn’t it? He squinted and shaded his eyes with his hand. No! It’s..

“A dragon!” Karendle shouted. “See? I told you!”

“This way!” Korr balanced his pack and lifted his snowshoed feet in a vain attempt to run. It momentarily threw him off balance, so he paused and centered himself low, then began lurching forward more methodically. He could hear the others hurrying behind him.

“Do dragons have good eyesight?” Eddiwarth wondered between his heavy breaths. It didn’t take them long to get to the canyon and follow the path inward. The mountain slopes up to the peaks on either side of the canyon were much steeper, almost like walls, and there were a lot of jagged outcroppings overhead. They all pressed against the canyon wall beside the path to take advantage of the cover and the shade.

Korr felt an odd breeze blowing across his face. Why is it warm? No—it’s not really warm. It’s just less cold.  He sniffed. And this is where that smell is coming from. 

The canyon crevice was not too wide, maybe only an arrow shot across at its narrowest. The sunshine illuminated the rocks on both sides, but not directly, instead reflecting down off of craggy outcroppings of stone frosted in snow. He stepped to the side of the path and leaned over the drop. It wasn’t as deep as he’d expected. At least, it seemed that way. A dozen or so yards down there was a dense haze of fog. He could hear running water a little farther below that.

Suddenly remembering the dragon, he glanced up and saw only sky above the crack. He nodded to the others and they all continued down the path.

The canyon and the path zigzagged several times as they moved onward, inward, and slightly upward. The snowpack on the ledge became gradually thinner and more dense as the air around them continued to warm slightly. The sound of running water became steadily louder as well. Parith kept an uneasy eye upward, but each time he looked saw only rocks, snow, and sky.

After a time, Korr, still in the lead, came to yet another bending zag in the canyon wall and turned the corner.  He froze for a moment, unable to speak or even think clearly.  Finally, he gathered his wits and stepped aside. “I think we have arrived.” He gestured for his friends to pass him.

The canyon opened up into a wider hollow. Ahead of them the far side was layered with many flat pools of hot, bubbling, steaming, blue and green water. Each pool overflowed in a sparkling waterfall down onto the staggered terraces of pools below it. Along the side of each waterfall was a cascade of long crystalline icicles where droplets had splashed to the side and been frozen to the rocks. Next to one of the larger pools just slightly below their level was a large and ornate stone porch protruding from the mountain. It jutted out a good twenty feet and was at least that wide. The ornate shaping of the pillars and the roof showed that it was obviously not naturally formed. It’s farthest edge was the steaming and burping pool itself, and the other faces were protected by a silver railing between the stone posts at each corner.

From the longest side of the porch a wide and gently sloping stonework bridge crossed the canyon gap over a latticework of stone arches whose feet stretched down into the fog. The bridge was wide enough for many people to walk side by side, and edged by a railing with tall columns every twenty feet or so, pointing up into the air. The bridge reached a similar, but smaller terrace on the near side of the canyon, and the path they were all on led up to it.

“I believe,” Korr said to his awestruck companions, “that we have found the shrine.”


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This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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Monday, February 17, 2020

199 - “Sorry Enough” - Thissraelle - A Tale of Heroes

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The moon was much lower in the western sky as Thissraelle fought sleep. She had long since left the ledge path and returned to sitting by the fading warmth of the stone near her sleeping friends. The little drake had climbed up in her lap, and curled itself under her blanket. Only its head and one claw stuck out of the gap and draped on her knee. Occasionally, between sips of brew, she scratched its head and ears.

“I guess you two are friends, now.” Parith said quietly, but still surprising her.

“Oh! I didn’t hear you get up. Is it your watch already?”

Parith poured himself a cup from the bowl. “Pffah! That was a lot better when it was warmer.”

“Marginally.” Thissraelle laughed. “Let’s have Eddiwarth take the middle watch tomorrow night so he can reheat the rock.”

Parith sat down. “Good idea.” He sipped. “Anything happen?”

“Yeah. I was attacked by humongous slobbering mountain goat bear devil monsters.”

“I hate it when that happens.” He groaned with ache as he sat down.

“But don’t worry. Drakie protected us.” It raised its head, hearing its name. “Didn’t you?” Thissraelle crooned, scratching him.

They sat quietly in the breezeless dark of the predawn. Parith slurped his brew. “You know, your watch is over. You can go back to sleep.”

She sat, silent, staring into the dark around them. From behind, Eddiwarth started snoring again. Parith turned to look for a moment, then returned his gaze forward. He breathed in to speak when Thissraelle interrupted.

“When I was a little girl, in the Guild Hall, I had school, of a sort. My dad taught me magic. My mom was very traditional and proper and taught me social interactions. My tutors taught me to read, and to add, and all about history and the world and things.”

Parith looked at her with his eyebrows raised. She shifted, raising her knees up to her chest. The drake tumbled off her lap onto the snow and hissed a complaint before it crept over to Parith.

“There was a time in our history when the world of Wynne was ruled by the Great Mage Kings of Emberfire. Our great sages and kings and generals made tales and songs of noble deeds and heroic exploration and conquest. I can still sing some of them. There was a great era of study and learning. Peace flourished throughout the world and civilization bloomed.” Her voice was as a proclamation, but with an edge of sadness.

Parith didn’t react just yet.

“Or so I was taught.” She shook her hair out of her eyes. “Then, a few days ago, I had the chance to meet with the wood elf sages and scholars in TreeHaven. They were wonderful, helpful, and very friendly, especially considering I’m a high elf. They told me some about Giatrice - Heathrax - and how to go looking for this shrine. I showed them his poems, and they were excited to see them.

“They also told me about the rule of the Kings of Emberfire from the perspective of the wood elves of Umbrawood. It was a very different story. They told tales of conquest and oppression. They sang songs of slavery, of bravery in resistance and of warriors fighting for freedom. I was always taught that wood elves hated us, but nobody had ever explained why. Nobody ever needed to.”

Thissraelle wanted to look at him, but she couldn’t bring herself to make eye contact. She could feel him staring into her, though, and wondered what he was thinking. From behind, Eddiwarth grunted and snorted. That at least helped her to smile for a moment.

“Things have changed a lot for me this last year. I’ve been places I didn’t know existed, and I’ve seen people and things that I couldn’t have ever imagined. One thing I know for certain now is that there is a lot in this world that I don’t know.” She sniffed. “I don’t know what to do with this new understanding, either. Should I apologize? I never enslaved anyone. I never conquered anyone. But my people did. And I see now how that has shaped my view.”

She leaned back and wiped her eyes. Finally, she glanced over at Parith, and saw him nodding with a slight frown.

He looked down for a moment, then back up at her. “There are a lot of things going on that neither of us really like. Things inside us both. I guess we should each apologize, just for ourselves, for our own thoughts. We have no control beyond that, right?”

She nodded, and smiled. “So, are WE friends, now?”

“Yes. We are.” He smiled back. She stood up.

Parith said, in a reassuring tone, “Now get to sleep.”



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This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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Thursday, February 13, 2020

198 - “Blessed Steps” - Thissraelle - A Tale of Heroes

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“Thissraelle...”

“Thissraelle,” the voice whispered again. Someone shook her gently. She felt the cold air of the night on her face and opened her eyes. Karendle hovered over her. “Sorry, sis. It’s your turn for watch.”

Thissraelle nodded and yawned. Her cheeks were warm and a bit painful. She reached up out of her blanket and touched them gingerly. Karendle leaned back. “Yeah. Sunburn. Funny, huh? In the dead of winter, even.”

Karendle unwrapped her blanket from her shoulders and spread it on the snowpad in the space next to Thissraelle. “There’s some brew in the bowl on the stone. It’s not as hot as it was earlier, but it’s still good.” She sat down on the blanket then lay flat and pulled the other half over her. She shifted a few times underneath before lying still.

Thissraelle got up and wrapped herself in her own blanket. She stood by the warm rock for a few minutes, trying to encourage her mind to become alert. The night seemed very bright, even as late as it was. She shook out her cup and poured some brew from the bowl. She sipped and made a face. Ukhgh! Still good? Ow! Making faces hurt. OK, I’m awake, now.

She stood for a moment, sipping from the cup. The moonlight seemed to draw her away and she stepped carefully over the trampled snow to the edge of the rock overhang. She followed a little of yesterday’s path and came out onto a ledge, catching her breath. The full moon hung bright in the sky, illuminating the snow all around with a ghostly silver glow. Far below, she saw the deep expanse of the Umbrawood Forest, a lumpy sea of brown and white. They were not even a third of the way up the side of the mountain, but she could see mile after beautiful mile away. Above her was a clear sky of stars. Many were overpowered by the brightness of the moon, but there were still innumerable others that shone brilliantly through. The expansive void above her reminded her of The Vast. She smiled and sighed.

...Vast are the works of His creation. The words Korr had cited rolled through her mind.

In moments like this, I feel lucky. 

She felt something twist tightly around her leg and boot. Surprised, she jumped and flipped her blanket open. Parith’s little drake had wrapped its tail and body around her right leg. It squawked twice and looked up at her with big, expectant eyes. Then, it rubbed its head softly against her knee and trilled.

Thissraelle blew out a misty breath of relief and squatted down to skritch its head. It closed its eyes and pressed back against her hand with a contented thrumm. It looked back up at her and turned its head one way, then the other.

“Sorry, I don’t have anything...” she paused, remembering, “Oh, wait.” She stood so she could reach the pocket in her leggings. She fumbled for a moment and pulled out a piece of jerky. “Here you go!” She stooped again and held it out for him, and he gobbled it immediately.

So, why do I feel lucky? This has been a very hard time for me. I’ve got people chasing me, wanting to kill me, capture me, or use me, and I’m not even sure where I’m going. She stood.

But what did I expect? I left a nice, comfortable home because, well, I wanted to see things. I wanted to get out. And here I am. Out. If I had stayed, I would have never seen this beauty that’s before me now. I would never have found friends like these, like DeFrantis or Granthurg. I would have never found Eddiwarth.

I’m a much better wizard, now. I can do more things, and I know more of when and how to use it, not just what tricks I can do. It’s a big world, with big players, and I’m just starting to see a place in it.

She took another drink of the horrid brew.

I’m not lucky. I’m blessed.

The Creator has blessed my steps.



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This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

Previous Scene, Next Scene
Start the whole story from the beginningStart from where this current story arc begins. Start from where the current story part begins