20 summers ago Dara was assigned to go undercover in a cult enclave in Mordhollow, a small Abbhen town a few days’ ride west of Coal Valley known for its hunters and trappers. Her superiors got wind of the tell-tale signs of cult activity, including disappearances and mutilated animal corpses. There were also reports of strangers flocking to Mordhollow at the unheard of rate of one new face every month, all hired at the same small farm at the edge of town. This was characteristic of people answering the call of the Raven. Dara was developing some expertise in the Cult of Raven under Roland’s direction and they jointly decided she should investigate. Her orders were to observe and report, but not intervene herself unless violence or another catastrophe was imminent.
Dara arrived a few weeks before Midsummer’s Day, when it was starting to be light out most of the time. She found a deceptively large compound that appeared to be a simple, functional farmstead on the surface. A hidden entrance built into the side of the hill below the farmhouse led to an extensive basement where rituals were conducted out of earshot of the townsfolk.
She gave the name Thora Diamondbreaker. When asked what the Raven had shown her to lead her there, she told the cultists she'd been repressed by her family. Her voice had been silenced and her talents ignored. She would make them listen. The cultists began to fill in the details, drawn from their own twisted wishes. Mind control, slavery, other domination over their lives. She agreed, and they welcomed her.
Dara took meals together with the cultists and trained in their ways along with the other newcomers under the direction of the enclave lore master, Gareth Onyxspear, a dwarf ten years older than Dara with a disarming smile. Dara participated in some minor rituals, which were harmless as far as she could tell.
Gareth quickly took particular interest in Dara’s education. After a week, he started to get close during lessons and meals. He began casually wrapping an arm around her, or resting his hand on her arm, then her leg. She caught him looking at her possessively. She noticed he would find excuses to spend time with her, sometimes insisting she needed more guidance listening for the Raven’s call.
Soon after, Dara overheard a conversation between him and his frequent companions. She noted they didn’t take particular trouble to keep quiet.
“I think Thora’s avoiding me,” Gareth complained.
“After all the time you’ve spent on her?” said one of his companions. “Ungrateful b!tch.”
“Have you seen anyone else with her?” Gareth asked before they passed into another room and out of earshot.
Gareth became increasingly agitated when Dara didn’t show as much affection as he’d like. She realized she and the mission were in much less danger if she smiled, said sweet things, and tolerated his hands.
The night she left, she was a half mile away into the darkness when she heard a distant howl of “THORA!” echo down the valley, filled with bitter rage.
The night of the raid on the cult, the enclave at first seems deserted and cleaned out. As she sweeps the place with her partner Korgan, she hears a voice that might be her imagination whisper, “I’ve been waiting for you, Thora…”
Korgan doesn’t hear it, but the voice guides Dara to one of the holding rooms near the basement exit. “I knew you’d come…”
Then they hear the moaning of several starving people locked inside. Dara can’t help but free them. Just as she gets an uneasy, creeping feeling that the holding room is a trap designed for her, they explode.
Dara is pinned under debris, falling into darkness. She hears a familiar voice. There’s a sharp, wet sound, and Korgan screams. Her face is flecked with something warm and wet.
A hand slides over her spattered face. She feels something brush over her lips. “Thora,” the voice whispers. “I forgive you.”
Echoing shouts grow nearer. She feels pressure near a sharp pain in her arm, then everything fades to black.
She wakes up with a mysterious bruise in the shape of a semicircle near her arm wound. It seems insignificant in the wake of Korgan’s death.
Personal Journal of Dara ShadeshardFortnight after midsummer,
It's been a week since we were a part of the raid to clear out the latest Raven Enclave. I don't know how, but they were ready for us. We suffered heavy losses and still couldn't find the Enclave leader.
I still can't believe Korgan's gone. The two of us were clearing rooms and came across one of their holding rooms. Those poor people looked like they hadn't been fed in days. Korgan wanted to continue sweeping before releasing them. But I couldn't just leave them there. I convinced him we should get them out of there. I wish I hadn't. The lock was beyond my skill, so Korgan had to do it while I stood watch at the door. Oh Gods, the screams of our comrades while he worked, but I just couldn't leave these people. Korgan got the lock open, but as the prisoners started exiting, they.....
They exploded. All I saw was a flash, heard the thundering boom, then nothing. I awoke to Private Dawson pulling me out of the debris. When I asked about Korgan, he simply shook his head.
I miss him. Both as a friend, and a lover.
-- Alaina (Fallen_Mage) and Mikkel
==== Arc II Prolouge ====
He sits in his usual place in the dark to let the voices wash over him. To guide him. Victory is close, they whisper. He feels the glow of their praise like the warmth of a winter fire on his skin. He has ascended above all others, the vessel of the true gods. The old gods.
It is time.
”Indeed… it is time for many conquests,” he agrees, rolling a vial of a dark red substance lovingly, reverently between his fingers.
A lone raven caws above him, announcing its approval. He smiles in the dark.
On the sixth day after Silo Fairhurst was rescued from Mount Oranis, the sun rises in a cloudless sky. Winter is taking hold in Southtown, and a thick layer of frost covers most surfaces in town.
To the south, a hawk begins its daily hunt for prey, flying north from the Abbhen Pass. It soars over trampled snow fields recently vacated by the Kinghaven soldiers, looking for mice skittering over the well-packed snow.
Feel free to insert any desired description of waking up and/or getting ready here. PC positions at dawn of the sixth day in the GM-world-matrix: Alaina, Cel, and Xizoh at the Wolf and Bear; Dara, Henri, and Dulae in the military building. Please correct if/as needed.
A few hours after dawn, Alaina and Silo shrug off their coats inside Silo’s office. “You’ve certainly come a long way very quickly,” Silo beams at Alaina, referring to her demonstration of consistently and precisely using her ectoplasm power to strike a quickly moving target on the roof a few minutes ago.
”You are prepared, I think, to venture forth into the world in command of your newfound magical talents. Very good.” Silo folds his coat over his office chair before producing Greenwall from behind his desk. The shield looks good as new, and when Alaina touches it she can feel a spark of power. It feels deadlier in her hands.
”Now we have one last item of business.” Silo adjusts his glasses. "When you first came here, I'd promised you I'd help find your father."
Dara wakes up refreshed this morning. She doesn’t remember dreaming, but as she rises she notices a thin piece of paper fall from the top of her bed that she doesn’t remember being there last night.
If she picks it up, it reads:
A little bird told me Silo plans to use your cousin to find her father this morning. In his office.
Henri wakes to the soft creak of the practice room doors opening.
“Morning, sunshine,” Blaine calls, carrying a plate of steaming food and a mug of water Henri knows is meant for her. “I think I might know of a ticket out of here, if you want to take it.”
|Alaina 'Iron Wolf' Steele|
At the mention of Marcus, she was still a bit venomous, but made sure her tone was not, "I believe so."
She had certainly learned a lot from Blaine, and felt as though she needed more experience in actual situations before continuing her training to be sure - but her exit from this village would have to be... graceful to avoid Ezikiel's pursuit.
Assumes Cel tags along - Cel should please also read Alaina's spoiler in #3.
“Well, the thing is… I have been trying to locate him you see,” Silo shifts his on feet uncomfortably. “My usual location magic methods have not proven… let's say, effective. Meanwhile, my contacts have been cagey about his last known location other than it was somewhere in the north, and I’m, er… a tad reluctant to involve Captain Vazquez in this matter.”
“But,” he looks at Alaina hopefully, “there are perhaps other things we could try. If you would be so good as to give me a strand of hair or drop of blood, that might be just the thing.”
"Silo's set on reuniting your friend Alaina Steele with her long-lost father, Marcus Steele. Upholding a bargain of some kind, although with whom I'm not sure. The poor son of a b!tch is dead anyway, from what I hear," Blaine says, with a short sigh. "My guess is that Silo will offer to teleport her to wherever he or his body are, along with whoever wants to accompany her," Blaine looks at her meaningfully. "I'm told he was last heard from further north, which may not appeal to you given your situation, but the other alternatives are to walk or ride."
"And there is one other reason I'd like you to consider it," Blaine studies Henri. "I have a small favor to ask."
|Alaina 'Iron Wolf' Steele|
"Ah, Ms. Shadeshard," Silo says with mild surprise. "Yes, er, do come in then. And shut the door behind you please."
"I asked Ms. Steele for a strand of hair or drop of blood, but worry not, I intend to use it up in its entirety in this very room, under your supervision," Silo says in a reassuring tone, gesturing to the three of them.
"I think I remember Ms. Shadeshard was not witness to a new experimental technique of mine we used to successfully locate Todd Laverty's, er, reanimated corpse. But it's a straightforward location spell made much more powerful with a physical link to the target, which in this case," Silo's face grows red and he avoids Dara's eyes, "is Marcus Steele."
Silo turns to Alaina and says, "And we might observe the drop of blood would work better for our purposes, but it would also make a stronger link to you were I to use it for whatever unsavory business your cousin fears, so I'd understand if you are hesitant, my dear."
Xizoh walks toward Southtown from the Abbhen Pass, making good time from Mount Oranis. The day is cold and clear; the sun sparkles off of the snow fields on the either side of the road and makes his breath look like bright, white clouds behind him.
As he gets closer, Xizoh spots a hawk circling high above Southtown, searching for prey. He thinks he sees Alaina and Cel walk together to the military building, which seems unusual since he'd thought Alaina was meant to be training her newfound magic with Silo. Xizoh gets the feeling something is up.
Cel sits back and listens to the other two in the room. The talk of Alaina's father reminds him, Oh right! I need to find Henri and tell her about the hawk! She'll want to.... Dara's entrance takes him by complete surprise, interrupting his thought and causing him to visibly jump. As soon as Dara asks her question Cel's face turns to confusion. He says softly more to himself than to Dara, "How did you know he asked Alaina for something?!"
There came a slight throbbing on her arm, which she knew full well was in her head. It always did when memories of that night resurfaced in the back of her mind.
|Alaina 'Iron Wolf' Steele|
Turning to Silo, "Let's try the hair first."
|Anathema the Shadow|
Regardless, he had missed his friends, and his curiosity was peaked. Xizoh makes to catch up to Alaina and Cel.
"Well that is certainly appealing..." Henri nods. Even if I wasn't being hunted by Ez, I'd want to join her. She could use an ace wizard like myself. Henri smiles at her own progress from the past few days, but her smile falters a bit at the mention of a favor. "...Oh, really?" she raises an eyebrow. "And what would that be, exactly?"
With a glance at the open door, Silo says in a lower voice, "As you wish, my dear." He unrolls a detailed map of Altiendel and Abhhen and lays it carefully out on his desk. He props up a book next to the map and opens it to a well-worn page.
"The spell is ready for a strand of hair," Silo says softly, looking expectantly at Alaina.
Shadow Anathema is going to be very fun. Also, for the record I assumed Xizoh is wearing his cloak.
Xizoh reaches the military building a few minutes after Alaina and Cel enter. As he opens the door, Dulae is walking up the stairs just inside. "Mr Shadelock," she greets him warmly. "Just the doctor I was hoping to see. Do you have a minute?"
Blaine settles down next to Henri. "Your friend's father, Marcus, was deported from Abbhen into the custody of the Altiendel military for the innate strength of his magic. He can do some pretty nasty things. Weird things."
"Word is," he says carefully, "Some of the Abbhen higher ups were worried Alaina might start sprouting similar magic powers. And now that she's showing signs, I figure people are going to be interested in her. All kinds of people."
Blaine looks hesitant, then says, "I'm hoping you'll go with her to keep a steady eye out for trouble. From anywhere," he meets Henri's eye. "And that if you notice something, you'll send word to me first."
"I would help, of course," Blaine smiles, not answering further.
"Here," he pulls a dozen small bird feathers from the inside of his jacket. Henri notices they're handsomely trimmed and neatly tied together with string. "You can use one of these to send a short written message. It'll know where to find me, just say Blaine," he winks.
If Henri looks closer at the feathers, she notices they're all stamped with the coat of arms of the Free Kingdom of Abbhen. Henri thinks she's heard a rumor that Abbhen military espionage uses bird feather tokens for communication, and that recruited assets are given tokens that can fly only to their Abbhen contact.
Sorry for the delay Xizoh - just got myself sorted in Massachusetts.
Dulae motions for Xizoh to follow her up the stairs away from the busy entrance and to a quiet corner of the waiting room outside Captain Vazquez and Silo's office. The door to the office is open and Xizoh can see the captain, Lieutenants Buhari and Narwita, and some of Silo's apprentices at work inside. He doesn't see Alaina or Cel, but he spots Dara's stocky frame standing in the doorway to Silo's office, blocking his view of who else might be inside.
Dulae looks around to make sure they won't be easily overheard and says, "I've gotten word that my old unit mentor is leading a campaign in the Green Mountains near Efacila. He leaves in two days time and wants me to go with him. I'm re-enlisting," she says, with a spark of eagerness in her eyes.
Xizoh notices Dulae doesn't meet his eyes when she says she is re-enlisting. He remembers he's heard rumors about trouble in the north of Altiendel.
"I am not glad to have to go where you all can't follow, however. I've grown pretty fond of you all." She looks melancholy for a moment before coughing and returning her face to its usual stoic scowl. "I expect Ms. Steele will continue on her journey, and naturally her cousin and Rabbit will follow. I hope you'll consider going with them, and Fireball, er, Ms. Marchand too."
"You've got a thoughtful head on your shoulders, Doc," Dulae claps Xizoh on the shoulder. "The others are going to need that if they're going to find their way. I'm counting on you to be the voice of reason when I'm gone."
"I suppose that's better than hurting." She takes the feathers and gently sets them into her bag of holding, nodding at his instruction. "Write the message, say 'Blaine'. Got it." She awkwardly glances toward her pack, already put together and barely rifled through - it had been a hard few days, but hopefully the results would speak for themselves. "Do you know where she's at?"
Absently rubbing his throat scar, Xizoh contemplates his course. "I've just been running away from my magic, but it's hard to imagine continuing without you all. I can't say I find the idea of exploring with them distasteful. "
Taking a breath, he nods his head. "I just let my heart lead my body. I'm not cunning like Henri, determined like you, curious like Cel, or resolute like Alaina, but I promise to do my best for you and them."
Patting her shoulder in return, a small smirk finds its way onto his face. "Does Anathema balance out my good sense?" The tone is joking, and light, but the joviality doesn't quite reach Xizoh's eyes.
"Mm," Blaine murmurs his agreement. "Listen," he looks at Henri's hand resting on her pistol. "No matter what happens, that gun is yours, and so is whatever you've learned from me." He steps closer. "But if you keep me updated on your friend and her father, there's more where that came from," he smiles smoothly.
Henri is charmed, but she gets the feeling Blaine has plans for her that he hasn't told her yet.
"I have another meeting," he says. "Why don't you go on ahead to Silo's office and tell me if you hear anything interesting."
Henri gets the strong impression that her reporting back on what she hears in Silo's office is a test of some kind.
The captain looks well to Xizoh, although she still walks with a limp.
Dulae chuckles wryly at the joke. "I've never seen you let Anathema make your choices for you," she says seriously.
"One more thing, doctor," she says with a glint of humor. "Promise me you'll stop throwing yourself headfirst into battle at the first chance you get. You have a smart team. Use that."
==== Autobot sequence GM002 ====
Posted on behalf of Alaina
Alaina offers Silo a single hair. Feel free to RP this if you like.
Silo takes it gingerly and holds Alaina's hair above the map. With his eyes on his spellbook, he starts speaking an incantation and flicking his hands into precise symbolic gestures.
After a minute, the hair dissolves into a fine, sparkling light that spreads over the map. The light swirls evenly over the map's surface until it dissipates, leaving nothing behind.
"Not even a glimmer," Silo says in a tone that could be frustration or concern.
Alaina and Cel remember that hair worked well enough to locate Todd Laverty's corpse with a finer scale map.
Silo frowns. "We could try a drop of blood. Or..." He hesitates, then says in a low voice, "Or there may be another way."
She sighs and nods at his desire to go to another meeting. "Yeah, yeah. I'll give you an update on what I hear. Don't worry." Pulling on her boots, Henri quickly makes sure she has what gear she feels is necessary and moves towards Silo's office.
Blaine shrugs. "I meant money, treasure, and training, but hey, if you'll be satisfied otherwise, all the better for me," he grins as he waves a quick goodbye.
Henri pulls open the heavy training room doors for the first time in five days. On the other side, a guard who looks familiar says, "There she is. Welcome back."
The lower level seems much less busy than five days prior. Henri notices she doesn't see any uniforms from the City of Iron or Kinghaven.
As she walks up the stairs someone opens the entrance to the military building, admitting a stripe of blindingly bright daylight and a gust of cold. Two Southtown privates she doesn't recognize glance her way, then head downstairs like they have somewhere to be.
Henri passes through the waiting room, spotting Dulae and Xizoh talking in a quiet corner. If she walks through the open doors to Silo and Captain Vazquez's office, she hears Cel shout "WHAT OTHER WAY?!" from inside of Silo's smaller, private office. She notices Captain Vazquez glances up from her work at this outburst.
If Henri proceeds to Silo's private office, she sees Silo behind his desk and Alaina, Cel, and Dara in front of it. Silo is frowning deeply at a detailed map of the three kingdoms rolled out on his desk, with his hand resting on the pages of a propped up spellbook.
Sorry for the delay, Henri - feel free to respond to any of this if you like.
Suddenly, Xizoh and Dulae hear Cel shout "WHAT OTHER WAY?!" from what sounds like the inside of Silo's smaller, private office. They notice Captain Vazquez glances up from her work at this outburst.
"That's our Rabbit," Dulae sighs with equal parts exasperation and fondness. "I guess we should go see what's up."
"Oh, one more thing," Dulae pulls two vials of golden oil from her pack and hands them to Xizoh. "For your chain," she says, before heading toward Silo's private office.
If Xizoh proceeds to Silo's private office, he sees Silo behind his desk and Alaina, Cel, and Dara in front of it. Silo is frowning deeply at a detailed map of the three kingdoms rolled out on his desk, with his hand resting on the pages of a propped up spellbook.
Xizoh has gained two bottles of Oil of Bless Weapon.
Assuming Henri and Xizoh followed the sounds of Cel's shout, the party is now all back on the same timeline, including special NPC guest Dulae.
"Please keep your voice down, my dear boy," Silo says to Cel. "I see we are attracting guests."
Silo sighs in frustration, then says, "Alright, come in. We all may fit in here. I would thank someone to please close the door."
He looks at Alaina and continues in a whisper, "We might also try a sending. I expect that should reach your father. Can you think of a message you'd like to say in 25 or fewer words?"
|Alaina 'Iron Wolf' Steele|
Alaina thought for a moment. A long moment. She didn't know what to say, there was still venomous thoughts coursing through her mind.
Turning to Cel, and taking his hand, "What would you say?"
"Well, maybe short and simple would be best? I mean, if you're still angry maybe it wouldn't be a good idea to make that known in a small message. I think something like, 'Hey, I looking for you. Meet me at blank location on blank,' and let him stew on it for a bit. I know it would definitely make me more than curious enough to go find out what's going on!"
|Alaina 'Iron Wolf' Steele|
Turning to Silo, "If you could send it for me please, I don't think I could convey any message right now without sounding angry. Tell him that I'm here in Altiendel and like to see him. Is there some way he can respond?"
“As you wish, my dear,” Silo nods, clearly pleased. “It will take me about ten minutes to set up and cast, and yes, he should be able to respond.” To himself, Silo mutters, “Let’s hope he does.”
Silo searches around stacks of papers behind his desk until he finds a long piece of fine copper wire, which he arranges into a pleasing geometric pattern and sets on his desk. He appears to lose himself in his spellbook, occasionally muttering unfamiliar words and making gestures. After a few minutes, the fine wire begins to glow.
The party should feel free to interact in the downtime here. The others have not seen Dulae, Henri, or Xizoh in about five days.
About ten minutes later, Lieutenant Narwita looks over the heads of Dulae, Henri, Xizoh, and Dara and sees the map spread out over Silo’s desk. Her eyes widen a bit and she turns to walk quickly toward Captain Vazquez.
Silo frowns in deep concentration and casts the finals parts of the spell, whispering an incantation and using his hands to trace a series of complex geometric shapes. A faint light appears in front of him, over the glowing wire. Silo says carefully, “Marcus, this is Silo. Your daughter, Alaina, is here in Altiendel and she would like to see you. Can you tell us where you are?”
The light quickly fades and a tense silence hangs in the air. Silo wrings his hands with anxiety, waiting for something to happen. Moments later, a faint glow appears and Silo looks elated.
“Alaina… gods. My little girl,” Marcus says through the glow. To Alaina, his familiar voice sounds sweet and rough with emotion. There is a long pause, then his voice grows harder, laced with fear. “Silo, tell her she must not come looking for me. Promise me.” Another pause, and he says softly with a tone of farewell, “Please tell her that I love her and...” The message cuts abruptly short.
Hearing Cel, Xizoh makes his way towards the noise, closing the door gently behind him at Silo's request. Rather confused at the situation before him, the half elf waits for silo to begin his buisness before meekly waving his hand. "It's good to see you all again."
At the sudden end of Alaina's father's voice, the young doctor glances at his friend in concern.
|Alaina 'Iron Wolf' Steele|
Alaina's grip on her shield tightened, as did her jaw. The woman was beyond frustrated and she felt like ripping someone's throat out like the Wolf she was, and she didn't know why. Only one of two things was going to calm her down. Turning, she stormed out of the office.
Dara was torn between following her Cousin and staying behind to talk to Silo. But knowing how Alaina copes in these situations, it would be best for her not to.
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Henri, split between being excited to see her friends after such a time and not wanting to disrupt the proceedings, smiles at everyone as she arrives. She leans against the wall during the proceedings, listening but not offering anything other than a wave to everyone - mostly just trying to piece together the situation. As she is waiting for Silo to cast his spell, the elf grins. "It's good to see y'all. Feels like it's been months."
As Silo casts the spell, Henri looks at the spell intensely, finding it interesting to examine it with new eyes. But as the message comes through, her gaze flickers from the light, to Alaina, to the light again - concern growing by the word. As Alaina storms out of the office, Henri hesitates - the elf doubts that she can do much to assist her friend, but shouldn't she try? She certainly wouldn't be the best person for the job (and she might need to stay and catch up what's going on with Silo). She looked at Dara and Cel. Not seeing Dara follow Alaina, Henri decided that she should at least go and make sure that Alaina didn't do anything too rash.
Henri followed Alaina to the practice area, and stood back a bit, lighting a cigarette and taking a drag from it, trying to think of what to say. At least she wasn't hurting anything that could feel it.
Silo watches Alaina leave with concern and alarm. "Maybe we can just try another," he calls after her.
Dulae scowls sympathetically, but makes no move to follow Alaina.
Moments after Alaina and Henri leave, Captain Vazquez barges in with fury in her eyes. She shuts the door forcefully behind her. “You cast a sending.” It isn’t a question. “I thought I told you not to do this, Silo.”
“You advised me, Captain,” Silo says, still looking triumphant.
“Mine is the only advice we should consider on tactics, sir.”
Silo waves this objection off. “You insisted it wasn’t working because Marcus was dead, and I told you that he wasn’t. And he isn’t,” he grins.
The captain grits her teeth. “You have no idea where he could be right now. What if he and whatever remains of his unit were a breath away from being discovered by an enemy?”
Silo opens his mouth to retort, then stops, sobered. “I suppose you are right Captain,” he says quietly.
Captain Vazquez crosses her arms. “We got word Marcus Steele and his team were reported dead a day after Silo started his latest tracking experiment,” she says looking at Dara and Dulae. “Wherever he is, he’s in deep sh!t.” She turns to Silo. “You will not risk exposing an asset again. Do we understand each other?”
“Loud and clear, Captain.” Silo says earnestly, with some chagrin. He waits a beat, then asks, “You’ll help find him?”
“Of course I will,” she says tiredly. “Something about this isn’t right.”
As they leave, Alaina and Henri see Captain Vazquez storming toward Silo’s private office looking murderous.