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And so, we continue the story of Merith and Kylee, retracing Dugal's steps... "The tongue of a bandit? Gross! This quest is getting weirder and weirder," exclaimed Kylee with a shiver. "Oh, please, Kylee," responded Merith with a smirk, "an experienced Cedrica girl like yourself shouldn't fazed by anything!" Kylee just smiled back at her. "Let's take a look at Dugal's journal, and see what this is all about," said Merith. Turning to the journal, she paged through it until she found the section where he had been captured by bandits. On the third day since my capture by the bandits, I managed to hide away a small chicken bone, which I used to pick the lock on my cuffs. However, I didn't take them off, as I didn't see any immediate way to escape the bandits' camp by Skoll Lake without attracting notice. Later that day, there was a tremendous shouting, and all the bandits went running this way and that, picking up their weapons. Clearly they were under attack. My guard shifted uneasily, and rightly so, as I thought this might be my opportunity. The bandit known as Wadal Sandshifter, who appeared to also be a shaman-mage of some sort, approached us. "Go help defend the camp!" he roared at my guard. "I'll take care of MacLean!" He began waving around some sort of amulet, and muttering in a strange language. It was clear that he was casting a spell on me. Well, I couldn't let that happen. Unfastening my unlocked cuffs, I grabbed his dagger out of his belt before he realized I was free. I then lunged forward, attempting to slash his throat and stop the spell. Sandshifter however had tilted his head downwards, rolled his eyes up, and stuck out his tongue for the last words of the spell. I don't know why, but I suppose it was part of the enchantment. The dagger struck his outstretched tongue and sliced it clean off. He screamed in pain, and ran off in a frenzy. Dugal vs Sandshifter, by nice.marmot, on Flickr Moments later, before I could start running away, a strange large man, not one of the bandits, came up to me, blood glistening from his sword. "Dugal MacLean?" he asked hurriedly, "We're from Everlast. Watts Gorgon is the name. Let's get you out of here!" Dugal meets Watts, by nice.marmot, on Flickr Well, I certainly was happy to see those guys. Watts and I ended up becoming great friends; he's a captain in the IAMS. Later he presented me with Sandshifter's tongue, which he had picked up that day, as a gruesome memento. "Dugal sure lived an adventurous life!" remarked Kylee. "I suppose we should check out the Skoll Lake campsite, and see if we can figure out where those bandits ended up. Although I'm still not sure how we would get one of their tongues!" After a short journey, Kylee and Merith arrived on the shores of Skoll Lake, a turquoise body of water in the Rakath Mtns that has the shape of a deaths-head. They easily found the old bandits' camp, but it had clearly been deserted for a long time. There weren't any clues to where the bandits had gone, until Merith noticed a white marble historical marker. Merith and Kylee at Skoll Lake, by nice.marmot, on Flickr She read it out loud: "Historical Site - In memory of the Razcari's Rakath Rascals, whose banditry achieved great heights and fame, until their untimely demise at this site at the hands of the dreaded IAMS - placed by the Kaliphlin Thieves Guild Hall of Fame, Messahmuk" "Hah!" snorted Kylee, "How's that for historical revisionism?" "I'm amazed they put up a historical marker so quickly," smiled Merith, "This guild must be on top of things. Perhaps we should pay them a visit, and see if they have any more information on these bandits." So our intrepid heroines traveled to Messahmuk, halfway across the Siccus, via the Lick of Salt river and canyons, and thence overland through the Dune Sea. A week later, they walked up to the imposing entrance to the Thieves Guild Hall of Fame on Lizzard Lane. It's quite grand, although effect was somewhat diminished by large banners in the plaza advertising auditions for a new amusement park just outside the city, WadiWorld. Thieves Guild Hall of Fame, Messahmuk, by nice.marmot, on Flickr "Think they're compensating for something?" giggled Kylee. "Now, now," said Merith, "Although they do seem eager to impress." "What's that motto over the doorway mean?" "It's in ancient Erduwan. It means 'Respectability at last!'" answered Merith. "Hah! The closest the thieves are going to get to respectability is when they rob some rich politician!" chortled Kylee. Merith chuckled, and then asked the nice young Serpentine receptionist how to find information on Razcari's Rascals. "Oh, pleassse go to the ressssearch library," he hissed. "Assssk for Sssylvessster. Down the hall, to your left, and up the sssstairsss. And watch your pursssse around him!" "The Thieves Guild has a research library?" asked Kylee wonderingly, but Merith hurried her down the hall. In the musty old research library, they quickly found the librarian Sylvester hunched over some old scrolls, intently reading. They introduced themselves, and asked about the bandits. In the Research Library, by nice.marmot, on Flickr "Oh yes! Razcari's Rakath Rascals!" exclaimed Sylvester excitedly, quickly pulling some scrolls off the shelves and perusing them as he talked. "One of our bigger success stories of the past few decades! A fascinating bunch, and they had tremendous success. Did quite well with a multi-pronged strategy: banditry, kidnapping, extortion, smuggling, and protection rackets. Pioneered the use of the threat-evacuate-pounce technique, the theory of which is only now being fully developed. We're also doing a statistical analysis of the impact of their extortion racket on the north Rakath caravan economy." "Um, yes, they were quite the crew, weren't they?" answered Merith, "But we're really more interested in what happened to them all." "Ah! A biographical sketch! I get it, sort of a where-are-they-now? Razcari's Rascals Revisited!" "Yes, kind of like that…" "Well, unfortunately, that will be a bit of a short work," the old researcher said gloomily, "They were mostly wiped out by Everlast's IAMS in the battle of Skoll Lake. Terrible to lose such a promising group so early in their careers. Razcari could have taken them all the way; he was brilliant. They shot to stardom, and then burned out just as quickly." "Oh, how awful!" said Merith, not very convincingly (but Sylvester didn't notice). "Aren't there any of them left at all?" "Only two survived the battle. One was Wadal Sandshifter, their mage. No one knows where he is now, but there are rumors that he's in Nocturnus, and is now mute. The other was Herbius van Slyck, Razcari's right-hand-man, and the one responsible for the kidnapping side of the business." "Where's Van Slyck?" asked Kylee quickly. "He's dead; killed recently by a disgruntled investor." responded Sylvester. The women's faces fell at this news. "But you can visit his remains at the Shrine of Noble Elocution here at the Hall of Fame. His specialty was as a con-man, and all great con-men's gifted tongues are enshrined there for safekeeping." Merith and Kylee had to suppress their glee at this. They asked the researcher for directions to the shrine, and thanked him for all his help. Arriving shortly thereafter at the Shrine, they were greeted by a strange man dressed in a bunny suit. Behind him were many rows of small drawers set into the wall, each presumably with a dead superstar con-man's preserved tongue. The Shrine of Noble Elocution, by nice.marmot, on Flickr "Welcome to the Shrine of Noble Elocution! I'm Yephet Tolmet, the guardian today. How can I help you?" said bunny-suiter enthusiastically. "Hello. You're the guardian?" asked Kylee incredulously. "Yup. The cat is on holiday for five weeks. Union rules. I'm just a temp." answered Yephet, in all seriousness. "OK…" said Merith, wondering why things like this always happened to her. "I see, the cat has the tongues…" Kylee, covering her face with her hands, suppressed a huge giggle. Merith wondered how they were going to get past the guardian. "We're here to pay our respects to Herbius van Slyck." "Great!" exclaimed Yephet, his ears perking up. "One of our newest inductees, but a fabulous con-man apparently! His tongue is in drawer 487, right over there. But of course, you're not allowed to open it." "Oh no, of course not. It's just a privilege to stand here and look at!" responded Merith winningly. After they stood dutifully admiring the closed drawer and trying to think of a plan for several minutes, Merith, dropping seamlessly into an imitation of Yephet's accent, said, "You're from Mophet, right? Wasn't your mother Nala Tolmet?" "Oh yes! We lived on Tarpit Lane! Are you from Mophet?" answered the surprised bunny-suiter. "No, I'm from Mazbit next door. I used to buy date tamales from your mother at the Oil Road Market, where my family sold hand-woven prayer rugs. I think I remember playing with you in the tarpits as a kid," Merith continued. Kylee watched wondrously as the two of them chatted away like old friends. Soon, Merith was scratching the bunny suit ears as she talked, and was practically cooing at him. The young Yephet was eating it up. Kylee sidled over to Merith, and surreptitiously slipped something into her hand. Looking down at it, Merith saw that it was an authentic gold-level Thieves Guild membership badge. "So were you at the amusement park auditions earlier today?" Merith asked, guessing the truth behind the bunny costume. "No," groaned Yephet. "I got all dressed to go, and then found out I had to work here today. It's awful; it's my life's dream to be the bunny at a theme park, not guard a bunch of desiccated tongues." "Oh that's terrible," said Merith sympathetically, while nonchalantly pinning the membership badge on her dress in a prominent location. "I was just over there auditioning for a princess role, and they mentioned they're desperately short of bunnies and marmots." Yephet's face brightened at this news, and then fell again. "You know what, Yephet, dear?" Merith continued soothingly, "Why don't you run over and audition really quickly? I'll watch the shrine for you. It'll only take a few minutes." "Really? You'd do that for me?" asked Yephet, gazing at the membership badge on her breast, and then back up to her eyes. "Oh yes, us ol' Mophet folks have got to take care of each other! It's the least I could do. My mum would whup me if she found out I didn't help out Nala Tolmet's son!" "Oh thank you so much! Thank you, thank you! This is a dream come true!" gushed Yephet, as he rushed off. The Tongue of a Bandit!, by nice.marmot, on Flickr "How did you ever think of that?" asked Kylee. "Well, you know, to get people to do what you want, you've just got to hold out the right, er, carrot!" answered Merith with a snicker. "Oh, jeez," groaned Kylee. Merith grinned. "Now let's get that tongue out of drawer 487, and get out of here before Mr Bunny gets back!" "OK," said Kylee, looking for the correct drawer. Continuing in a terrible imitation of a Mophet accent, she chuckled, "I declare, you're lil' Miss Mophet! Where did all that come from?" "I've always been good at imitating accents," answered Merith with a smile, "and I've been to Mophet once. It's a small town, and produces only oil, dates, and rugs, and all the women seem to be named Nala or Yasmin, so I just put together a few educated guesses… And what about you? Where did you get that membership badge?" "Oh well, I've got some skills of my own," said Kylee mysteriously, "and the research librarian won't miss it until later today." "Oh poor old Sylvester! We'll leave it right here on the desk for him." They opened the drawer, and took out the desiccated, grotesque tongue, wrapped in silk, and deposited it in Merith's bag. Then they hurried through the Hall of Fame, and walked quickly out, trying to look as nonchalant as possible. At the entrance portico, they were suddenly accosted by a ghost. The Ghost of Herbius van Slyck, by nice.marmot, on Flickr "Congratulations!" moaned the ghost, as the women tried to evade him and flee. "You have obtained my tongue; now I can speak to you!" "Your tongue?" asked Merith. "I am Herbius van Slyck, and that was a very worthy con." "What do you want of us?" demanded Kylee. "I come with a message from Dugal's ghost," the spirit answered, "For your next task, you must obtain the still-burning blue flame of an ice dragon's fiery breath!" Well, this ended up being a much longer build than I thought it would be. But I got carried away with the story, and really wanted to illustrate it well. I apologize for keeping Ska and Damaximus waiting for several weeks! I'm probably happiest with the mountain backdrop for the Skoll Lake shots. It really looks nice, even up close and in focus. Here's a wider angle shot of the Skoll Lake camp; you can see the shore and mountains more clearly. Skoll Lake shore, by nice.marmot, on Flickr
Previous part: Into the Valley of the Warlocks by SkaForHire "How the Nocturnus will we find a Warriors Heart?" Kylee wondered... "There must be something about it in the Journal" Merith replied. "Everything in our quest is related to the journal, so probably this as well! Let's see" And after some searching they found a story written by Dugal: ~~~~ Right before Lord Dugal Maclean finally would be able to leave the Outpost of Everlast, Lord Max Samu said he wanted to show his good friend one more thing. So it was that our 2 heroes walked in the middle of the night out of the Gates, into the darkness of the Rakath Mountains. They were accompanied by some Samurai's to guard them and also a girl, known as 'The Red Lady'. "It is a full moon" Lord Dugal said. "Yes indeed, time for you to see how a Undead Rider is recruited" Lord Max smiled "Where are we going to???" "Let me tell you a legend. Not that old as it happened in the beginning of the Drow Rebellion" "Everlast was supporting the Drow by financing their war campaign and trading weapons and armor to them. Ofcourse the enemies of the Drow weren't happy with this, so a mighty Avalonian Warlord decided to lead an army of hundreds of Avalonian Warriors to capture Everlast. In an excellent mood they started their journey and thanks to the information of the Avalonian Assassins Guild they found theirself very quickly deep inside the Rakath Mountains. Not far from Everlast, but they just could not find it. The warriors started to become restless as they all started believing that the Legend of Everlast would be true: 'You don't find Everlast, it finds you'. But right before they would decide to just return home, they saw a black gate in the rays of the full moon. They only had to cross a dall and then they would finally be able to siege it! They started running towards it and it was then, when they were located at the deepest point of the dall that out of nowhere water started flooding out of the mountains. The water was faster than a Tsunami and within seconds they all started drowning. The last thing they saw before sinking was a lady in red laughing really loud. Even the newly created Lake is not that deep, their feets would never touch the ground, just like somehow they never will die. They were trapped for ever! Every full moon, the Red Lady comes back with an Undead Rider (mostly their leader) and she will choose one Trapped Warrior who can fight for his death. If he wins, he will finally be able to die, if he loses his heart will be given to the Red Lady and he will become an Undead Rider..." A while later, they arrived at the Lake of the Trapped Warriors. He saw hundreds trapped Avalonians trying to rescue themself and he started feeling bad. Suddenly he feeled someone pulling his arm so he and Lord Max Samu stepped back and the Red Lady stepped forwards, raising her staff and pointing to one of the Trapped Warriors. The choosen Warrior stepped out of the water, heading to Dugal while suddenly the Undead Rider stopped him. The two undeads started fighting for almost half an hour and just when the fight started to look boring for Dugal, the Undead Rider jumped under the Trapped Warrior and ripped his Heart out with his hands. He gave it to the Red Lady who pointed her staff once again to the chosen Trapped Warrior who bowed now for his new master. "Quite a bit of a shock the first time, isn't it?" "Wow, indeed Max!" Lord Dugal responded. "Am I the only one who finds this cruel?" "No, but don't think they would have had mercy with us if they found Everlast. We never have been popular in Avalonia so we needed something to avoid a second warcampaign against us" Just after we left the Lake of the Trapped Warriors, Dugal turned around. To his big surprise the Lake was completely gone and he was looking to a dark forest... ~~~~ "Great, now we only have to find a Lake that can hide itself" said Kylee a bit sarcastic. "Don't worry my dear, I got the feeling that we will find it ourself" And indeed, 2 weeks later they found the Lake together with a really dark atmosphere and a full moon. Silently Lady Merith started praying for some guidance when suddenly they saw a Trapped Warrior coming out of the water! Merith was completely surprised as normally they could only come out of the Lake if they were chosen by the Red Lady! The 2 girls stepped back foot by foot. When out of nowhere... A dark shadow stood between them and the Trapped Warrior. He challenged him and they started fighting. Again the fight lasted for an eternity in the eyes of Lady Kylee and once again just when they started losing their concentration, the dark shadow ripped the Heart of the Warrior out of its body! With the heart in his hands, he turned around and gave it to Merith. Merith was still looking for the right words when a loud laugh interrupted her thoughts. "Congratulations Lady Merith, you got yourself an Undead Rider. He will accompany you in your Quest for Reviving Dugal! You only have to give him a name and yells his name when you need him!" said a voice behind the back of Merith. When she turned around, she saw the Red Lady. "You must be the notorious Red Lady?" "Some call me the Red Lady, some others call me a Seer, a Witch, a Demon, ... . In fact, I am just a server of the Virgin Godess!" "We had to meet you in front of Everlast with the Heart of a Warrior. But we can't find Everlast itself!" "Look to the other side of the Lake my dear... We will meet there again in one month. But if you want to coninue retracing the steps of Dugal, you will need a Tongue of a Bandit first before we will enter Everlast!" Lady Merith looked to the opposite side of the Lake and clearly saw a black gate. She could have sworn that wasn't there when they arrived at the Lake... And so the Story continues... (it is up to NiceMarmot now to find a Tongue of a Bandit)
SkaForHire posted a topic in Guilds of HistoricaSo Merith and Kylee set forth from Valryrio to pick up where Dugal’s Journal left off. After reading through the journal all night, Merith learned that Dugal had gone on many quests over the two year period, each leading him to a new person or place that could point him in the right direction towards obtaining the Angel’s Tear. It seemed to Merith that it was one task after another, each one more ridiculous, and none had been a sure thing in acquiring the spear. So that is why she was on a boat now. Apparently Dugal had traveled to Nocturnus in order to obtain a Warlock’s eye. It was said with this ingredient, he could have a spell of direction cast, which would help him locate the next phase of his quest for the Angel’s Tear. Merith knew that she would have to get a Warlock’s eye for her own spell of direction, since Dugal had left off in the journal at this point. Dugal had been smart, where else would one find a warlock, other than the Valley of the Warlocks? This location was a sacred grove where those of the Warlock order came to fight for power amongst themselves. She had heard rumors of this terrible place, and the evil it spawned, and now she didn’t quite know what she was walking into. Perhaps she should have brought some guards? After landing in Nocturnus, the two ventured into the interior, despite curious gazes directed towards two ladies entering the swamp. After 3 days of following a crudely drawn map Dugal left, they came upon a valley. In the valley odd stone formations jutted from the ground all over the landscape. The two women journeyed towards the center of the valley. At one point, where many of the jagged rock formations thrust themselves through the earth, they heard a voice. “You have made a terrible mistake my dear.” Said a raspy voice. At that point a small men came out from between to rock spires. “Do you even know where you are?” intro by skaforhire, on Flickr “Yes” Merith replied coolly. “The Valley of the Warlocks.” “I sense no power within you child, therefore you two must have a death wish.” The man grumbled. Merith saw another figure farther back in the valley coming towards them. “I have no such wish, I come to obtain a Warlock’s eye.” She slightly smiled at this. The person further back in the valley hissed, but it was the short man that replied. “A regent for a spell, I assume. Well, you will have a hard time prying an out of one of our skulls.” He began to move towards her. “I don’t know, my fiancé didn’t have much of a problem a few years back.” Merith said, Kylee looked uneasy. “Tsssssk…. Your fiancé is dead!” came a voice from behind the rocks. DSC_0385 by skaforhire, on Flickr “Yes, but you didn’t kill him. Nor will you kill me.” Merith said. “We killed Dugal, we drank his blood, we took his power.” The short warlock said. “Funny I heard the story went more like this:" Dugal, along with his brother Paulos, Florbad the Mighty, Lord Goodwyn, and Hex Mantooth – A new Alleenridder, ventured to the Valley of the Warlocks. They had heard of a gathering of some of the more powerful warlocks from Avalonia. DSC_0389 by skaforhire, on Flickr The group had travelled to the sacred valley to determine who should lead their order in Avalonia. You see, the Ever Sacred and Unholy Order long ago made their personal battleground in the valley. Whenever a warlock fell in the Valley, because of a spell, they were turned to a rock spire – the strongest being the largest rock formations. It was said that overtime, the warlocks would regenerate and break free of the earth and rock to live again. This is why all disputes were settled in the Valley – the Warlocks could be reborn. Dugal and company planned to wait until the warlocks began battling and then they would move in for the kill. Unfortunately, the Warlocks had discovered the plot through scrying the day before. They laid in wait, and set off a dummy explosion to lure the intrueders. The Kaliphlinites were a bit surprised, but they recovered quickly. Dugal took on Malface Orion – probably the most famous of the batch that were currently present. DSC_0394 by skaforhire, on Flickr Paulos took on the man known as “Kinglock” The self-titled king of the warlocks. DSC_0398 by skaforhire, on Flickr The other three men faced off against others of lesser title. However, the Kaliphlinites were outnumbered. DSC_0396 by skaforhire, on Flickr Soon Mantooth was captured by a web spell, and Goodwyn had succumbed to a wall of air. DSC_0400 by skaforhire, on Flickr DSC_0405 by skaforhire, on Flickr Only Dugal’s magic inlaid axe – the Golden Axe of Eastgate – saved him from a vicious fireball. DSC_0402 by skaforhire, on Flickr Paulos had better luck though, after running Kinglock through, and dislodging his sword from the stone pillar that appeared in place, he went and dispatched one of the warlocks that were holding Mantooth. Some of the other warlocks fled. DSC_0408 by skaforhire, on Flickr Finally, Dugal out maneuvered Malface, and slid his golden blade across the warlock’s chest. Malface did not become a pillar though. Killing a warlock with a magical blade ends his ability to regenerate, DSC_0412 by skaforhire, on Flickr Thus the Kaliphlinites had a corpse to take an eyeball from. DSC_0414 by skaforhire, on Flickr “I believe that is how it went” Merith said. The anger and hurt in the short Warlock’s eyes was evident. “Well, I suppose I will avenge my brothers by taking Dugal’s Fiance.” The small man said. “I was there, we lost a great warlock that day.” “Revenge? You wanted to kill him and become the leader of your order! No, I think not. We can give you something you desire, and there is no need for anyone to die.” Merith said. “What could you possibly have, that I could not obtain?” The warlock said. “A maiden’s kiss.” Merith said. “You would let me corrupt your soul?” The warlock smiled. He knew that corrupting Merith would end her quest for Dugal, for her soul would no longer be pure. “But, I am not going to give you my eye.” “Yes.” Merith said as Kylee gasped. “and I reckon that your seeing glass would meet the requirements of the spell just the same as your actual eye. So that is the trade – the kiss for the monocle.” “Deal!” The Warlock hissed. Kylee rush up to Merith and whispered “You can’t do this, he will corrupt you!” Merith began to reply, but Kylee smiled. “I will do it.” She turned to the warlock. “Pucker up shorty, I will have this honor.” Before Merith knew it, Kylee had taken the little man in her arms, dipped him, kissed him deeply, and then snatched his monocle from his face. Kiss by skaforhire, on Flickr As they walked away Merith protested. “How dare you! You can’t sacrifice your innocence like that.” Kylee laughed, “Oh honey, I am a Lady of Cedrica, there isn’t much innocence left in me.” She smiled. “Besides, I caught him so off-guard, he couldn’t cast his spell. Then, when I took the looking glass, he couldn’t see us to retaliate. So, there was no real reason for you to risk it – leave it to the professional.” Merith turned and said, “I was just going to let him move in for the kiss, and then jab him in the ribs with this.” She flashed a knife. “I just needed the monocle.” They spent the night in a small Nocturnun town, where they found the local witch to cast the Spell of Direction. Apparently the next step was to find a lady outside of Everlast, she would know more about the Tear. The witch warned them though, if they wanted to talk to the Lady Elsbeth – a grand seer – then they would have to bring her the heart of a warrior. “Looks like we are going to need Lord DaMaximus’ help with this one.” TO BE CONTINUED BY DaMaximus!