Classic Fantasy The Fourth Charm
#11
Lore with Taok 2: Shadowfire

But a week ago, Taok kneels at their low desk scratching out a plan to discover the relics. It’s a Sunday, and they’re expected at work tomorrow, but that doesn’t stop them staying up till the early hours of the morning - through a storm no less - to record their findings. They’re excited; for once, they feel useful.

A lone candle casts dim light throughout the study and shadows dance across the walls. The rainstorm batters the house and the weak foundations shake. The house shudders. 

Taok is wrapped up in a beige threadbare blanket, engrossed in their work. A cold meal lays forgotten on the floor beside them and various other ornaments dot the room: an elegant swan figurine that Taok took a liking to, a forgotten shell hairpiece focus for their mum - rejected - ,an old mind-controlling crown that was the subject of one of their past investigations. This is their life, really. 

Their quill dips into the ever-dwindling ink pot as they pull out another sheet of paper. It was time for something more coherent, something they would look over as an account on their findings. Their plan, their experience, their knowledge.

The shutters bang as they struggle to keep the wind at bay.

7/12/09

Today, in the Dangerous Hillside, two elder spirits from the Audathan Empire/Undead Crown Clan + others war - that really needs a name - came to me from a book. The book was titled ‘Thieves of Dread’ by Shetv Truthsnow which I don’t remember buying. 

They gave their accounts on their sides of the war and one - Muenchw? - informed me that 3 relics of Ozmatar exist in this world and that if they are offered to the god, Ozmatar will be at peace! I’m not sure how true that is or if this Ozmatar even exists but it’s too exciting to ignore! This could actually really be something. 

Before I forget - though I’ve written it on 5 pieces of paper, I need to stop using so much of it - the relics are named [pause, shuffling papers] Bravemark, Nightblood and Oathkeeper. Oathkeeper’s a whip, Nightblood’s a bowl and Bravemark’s a ring. I’ll write the full spirit’s account as I remember it on the back.

I’ve never heard of these ‘relics’ before but I feel like they must be in the Mehlens. Everything is, basically. Zlas is barren of everything but people. I think they must be in some old ruins or something. Maybe I’ll hire [ pause ] rangers. That might be expensive though. Alright, down to business.

Plan
Bring a book and pen to work every day and as soon as work’s finished head to every ranger station nearby and gather their accounts. No. o beasts, beast species, plant species, concentration of animals, no. o scavengers, no. o ruins, etc. Find a center of activity if possible. 

Won’t be able to go to every station but maybe the big ones with most info.

Maybe ask Bonnie to get off work early - probably won’t let me though.
                                           ---------------------------
I feel like I should have more of a plan than this. I really hope I can do these spirits justice. Well, I should probably get to bed at some point...and stop writing this down...

Taok rises from the kneeling desk, sorting the papers to the side. After a long night of researching, they really better some sleep.

The candle goes out.

Taok pauses. They were going to bed anyway they suppose. 

The shutters rattle and creak.

Taok heads to the door. They’re being silly.

Behind them, the candle relights, and as they turn to face it there scorched into the wall is simple, jagged human script:

                      h U r r Y

The shutters break and wind rushes into the room, scattering everything on the desk but the candle stays lit, its taunting flame bobbing up and down threateningly. 

                                           h U r r Y


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Bit of a short one this time. For a lore w/taok there wasn't actually that much to learn - I might rename it. It's more on how Taok found Oathkeeper to begin with, so I suppose it's more of a flashback. Also, crazily, almost all the events so far have taken place on just one day. ONE DAY. That's insane. But it's practically Monday for them now anyway, past midnight. But yeah, not much else to say.
Hope you enjoy! Let me know if anyone wants rolls, random names, rule stuff, etc. I've just kinda been writing it so far.
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#12
Scene 12: Volro's Base

Leaning against Chi-Chi’s side, Taok stares as the sword on Volro’s back sparks and shimmers. It’s the most magical object Taok has ever seen, which isn’t surprising seeing as it shares its origin with its wielder. It’s the only thing they can focus on as they make the crawling journey to Volro’s base. Their wounds burn as if flame is licking up their chest and they’re devastatingly tired. The unnamed sword is comforting, akin to a carrot on a stick, egging them on. It’s probably just their fervoured imagination.

“How far is it?” Chi-Chi speaks in a hushed voice, careful not to attract too much attention. Agles’ tail twitches and flicks, reminded of his presence.

Volro doesn’t look back. “Just ten minutes longer.” The voice of a man used to being quiet. 

They walk onward some more minutes. The sword seems to glow in Taok’s vision. Strangely, they feel more in control of themselves now. The pain seems bearable and once more they’re excited. This is an adventure after all, right? They immediately feel guilty, imagining how many Zlas soldiers would have died in the attack. This will help, they console themselves, I didn’t cause this just because I wanted some excitement. They don’t feel much better.

“How-” Chi-Chi pauses, trying not to sound whiny, “Are we...approachin’ the base yet?”

“Hush, nearly.” Agles’ tail whacks him lightly.

Some time later, there’s a break in the canopy and a beautiful domed building rises into view.

It’s small but, even in the nearly pitch blackness of the Mehlens, Taok can make out a series of masterful carvings engraved into the exterior and rivers of gemstones and metals winding in grooves in a twisting pattern around it. It’s crafted from wood and Taok marvels at the craftsmanship of such a building. For a mine, no less. They really should have gone sightseeing the old UCC buildings before this; drawings don’t really do them justice.

Maybe their god was real. The eyes, the spirits, the storms...It might really be...Taok mulls this over as they step into the clearing, following Volro. 

“WAIT!” Chi-Chi yanks Taok back and they cry out as the motion jolts their arm. Volro quickly backs up as well where he had been manoeuvring around what seems to be quicksand to join them. 

“What is it?” Volro responds sharply.

There’s a powerful WHOOSH as a massive bird swoops into the clearing, talons extended, it’s wings propelling itself back into the night sky as it’s prey scurries out of it’s range. Taok gapes in shock and horror. They’ve never been more thankful for the Mehlen canopy.

“I feel you could have mentioned that to me sooner.” Volro says, surprise etched into the lines on his face. “Seems...important.”

“Yeah.” Chi-Chi replies, catching his breath a little. “Sorry. How are we gonna…get in there?”

The dire owl circles above, silent but clear in the sky. A roaming, black shape. 

Volro clears his throat, “We could try to pass unnoticed, but it is an owl so probably not. We could distract it maybe?”

“Could wait till it goes away?” Taok suggests weakly. 

Volro hums, dubious. “I am...not adept at fighting flying things. I...I don’t know what we can do here.”

“How ‘bout…” Chi-Chi brainstorms, “We make our own canopy?” 

“Eh…” Volro is silent for a while, thinking. “There’s quicksand around here, I was going to say but...owl. This area was strangely preserved  when the Mehlens rose. I could...run for it and you guys could try and make your way to the door? I don’t think it could take me out in one, but if it picks me up I’d be in the air. Yeah, I dunno.”

Taok fights through the fiery haze of their brain, searching for a plan. “I think we should distract it, noise and fire maybe, but it would draw people to the area. Also this is a base right? Call and see if anyone’s inside.”

“You know, that makes sense. HEY!” Volro yells into the clearing at the wooden building and, after a moment or two, a figure appears at the door. Volro quickly follows up with, “DON’T COME OUT!”

The figure pauses.

“THERE’S A THING IN THE SKY!”

Chi-Chi leans over, “S’an owl.”

“I know- IT’S A BIG OWL!”

The figure retreats and closes the door slowly behind them.

“NO, WE NEED YOUR HELP!” Volro continues to yell. 

The door creaks open slightly, releasing a modicum of light to spill across the ground.

“CAN YOU- “ Volro pauses, “GOT ANY IDEAS?!”

Listening intently, Taok can hear a murmur of sound across the clearing. Whoever is at the door is speaking, but aggravatingly quietly. 

“Speak up!” Chi-Chi calls.

A poised, cold voice returns, “No! Figure it out.”

Volro splutters, “I’M YOUR SUPERIOR!”

The door closes again. 

Chi-Chi and Taok look to Volro for his reaction.

“I-” He pauses, “That’s never happened before.”

There’s a brief silence before Chi-Chi says, “Well, what’re we doin’ then?”

Volro groans, “I don’t know. Maybe we make it think there’s a creature and when it’s swooping and pulling up, we run? Trail a mouse on a string?” He collapses on a rock, “I don’t like this.”

Taok smiles a little, amused. “Maybe we do what Chi-Chi said. Hollow out a log or something and hold it above our heads.”

“Sure.” Volro grabs a large log, “I don’t want to blunt my sword.”

Taok hands him their sword. 

He looks surprised, “Really?”

“Yeah. It’s a little blunt already.”

“Why do none of us have a dagger or an axe?” Volro inquires, “Oh wait.”

Chi-Chi looks caught out, “I- I actually use this. I don’ know if that makes a difference.”

“I-” Taok starts, “I use- Nevermind.”

“Look you can ‘ave it if you want, I’m jus’ sayin’...”

Twenty minutes later, the group is in possession of a hollowed out log, a half-cylinder of heavy bark, and a mangled, useless sword. Volro hands Taok his second, non-magical sword in exchange. It’s similar to their previous one but of a darker metal with a better grip.

“T-Thank you.” Taok stutters.

“I don’t really know why I carry two anyway.” Volro winks at them, turning to heft the bark-log over their head. He squints at Chi-Chi, “Do I know your name?”

“Dunno. I’m Chi-Chi.”

All three of them are strong, to some degree (Volro: 4, Chi-Chi: 3, Taok: 2) and together they have no problem carrying the log out into the clearing. The real question is whether the owl will immediately break it. 

Inching out beyond the canopy, the trio crouch low to the ground and stay silent. The owl is hardly going to hear them but not being able to see the creature makes them all uncomfortable and endeavour to make as little noise as possible.

Slowly, they make their way towards the dome. It’s completely quiet, apart from the sound of their feet scuffing the grass. Taok feels the pain burn up their arm. They really need that treated soon.

A huge force barrels into the logs and huge, sharp talons rake against the strong wood. The log splinters and cracks above them as they battle and yell to keep the bark between them. It’s a heavy weight and it feels as if the log will split in two but, just as soon as the presence arrived, it takes off silently once more.

This time, they use the owl’s retreat to their advantage and sprint across the clearing, Chi-Chi still yelling.

“AAAAAAAAH!” 

Volro slams the intricate wooden door open and the group rush into the interior of this undead crown clan marvel. 

There is only one room to the building, but a hatch in the floor reveals the true entrance to the mines. Old hammocks are strung across the curved walls from long ago and opposite the entrance there’s a massive reflective surface - not unlike a mirror, but instead polished metal - layered on top of the wooden wall. It stretches from floor to ceiling and, unfortunately, makes the scene appear a thousand times worse.

Bodies of hobgoblins and rangers alike are strewn across the floor in such a number that the floorboards and threaded rugs stain red with blood; there are a considerable number of rangers and Zlas citizens in comparison to the goblins.

Most of the rangers look to have been killed with weapons - predominantly arrows - however some have been strung up by the vines that dangle from the ceiling, either around their neck or torso. Their number increased by the mirror, they appear like grotesque, dangling puppets. 

In the middle of it all stands one man. Of average build, black skin and green eyes, he observes the group coolly. He’s bald and his lidded eyes remind Taok of Damven, except where Damven’s are friendly and unassuming, his are arrogant and proud. 

“You’re the one who didn’t open the door.” Volro says, not having yet noticed the massacre, closing the door.

“I opened the door just fine, it was you who were unsure on how to proceed.” He tips his head up slightly.

Taok and Chi-Chi are too busy taking in the slaughter to notice, Taok wordless in their horror, Chi-Chi pale and faint.

The look on Volro’s face as he turns around is indecipherable. The best way to describe it is perhaps ‘surface calm’. It’s disturbing. His eyes rove over the bodies of his dead companions, those who he so diligently learned the names of, those he led, relied on and learned to protect. It’s the destruction of everything he has built over the years, people he’s trained and fought with as they grew older, who now lay massacred in a place he’d deemed safe. 

He moves on.

“Alalu. How are you alive?” Each word, every syllable, is intense and laden with emotional meaning and power. It’s slow and practiced. He’s experienced this before, Taok surmises impressively. 

“I hid well. Alone. Unlike the rest of them.” He casts a disproving eye around the rest of the solemn room, the swinging dead. He tilts his head back to Volro, “There’s one more.”

The hatch swings open behind Alalu and a tall, well-built man climbs up. He’s older, probably in his early forties, with shoulder-length, curly blonde hair and light brown eyes. As you should probably assume by now unless I state otherwise, he’s dark-skinned. He has rounded features and it’s not hard to tell he’s been crying, but he wears it well as he scans the room, heavy armour shifting as he stands. He has an awesome wolf fur mantle lying on his shoulders that shimmers a little with the candlelight - also, yeah, there’s candles. This is a lot of describing for me. 

“Guests, huh?” He says in a very gravelly, deep voice. He sniffs. “Little late."

Volro somehow appears to be taking it all in his stride, “Anyone else?”

“No. As Brildulm said, you were a little late.” Alalu replies, his voice slipping around the room like mercury or silk - that doesn’t make sense, does it? 

“I…” Volro closes his eyes briefly before replying.

Taok still hears the conversation - You told us we were safe here - I’m sorry, I thought - but it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Their vision swims with images of the...disaster, slaughter, massacre, battle, whatever you’d call it. Their wounds burn and their heart burns with it.

You were a little late-
-I don’t believe she’s there either. Neither of them.

Crushing guilt - there’s nothing I could have done - and crushing relief - they weren’t here.

So where are they?
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#13
Video 
Backlog 1: A Life Outside
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I had great fun writing these bloodthirsty little demons! Very much a change of pace from Taok & co, probably should have gone harsher on their language but idk. I don't enjoy writing 'mean' dialogue, didn't skimp on the combat descriptions tho...eesh. So yeah! Learnt this too. Can't believe they ------ (that's for after) before a n y b o d y I've been writing so far - Ris, Taok, Chi-Chi, etc. Those guys have been dodging around it for e v e r. Seriously, it's so annoying. I never feel like I'm making progress in this game! But I'm having a great time so. Hey.

This is the most full thread I've ever done - yay! I've been looking a little at Ironsworn recently so might play some of that. Probably not here though for first times. Also a lot rulesier than what I'm used to, barring dnd which is awesome. Anyway, just feeling conversational. 

Onto the story! 

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Six days prior to the battle at Zlas, two female hobgoblins stumbled across a hidden, overgrown tunnel on the outskirts of the Mountain Covert. They’d been walking nearly all day under the pretence of hunting for game and had decided to make an attempt at a wolf eight hours in. In truth, they were bored and looking for anything exciting - treasure, battle, food. Things had grown lax at camp recently after Zanreran had walked away with the mage’s crown, marking another victory for their raiding party. There were no civilisations near enough to attack and they were mostly operating on autopilot. 

Grokrag and Zanreran had tracked the wolf for miles, hoping it would lead them to its pack or kin, before it lost them.

“Ugh.” Grokrag garbles in her harsh language, flopping down onto a rock in frustration. She’s better dressed than her companion, almost stylish, and her reddish-brown hair is well cared for and sleek; Zanreran sheared her’s off a few years ago on a whim when it bugged her in battle. 

Zanreran backs up a few paces to inspect the last visible tracks and hums in response before shaking her head and standing. “Gone.”

The two aren’t close, their relationship is one of gain and climbing the ladder, but for hobgoblins they get on better than most. Which is why in moments of frustration, they don’t devolve into violent, bloody mass on the forest floor. 

“HOW is it gone?!”

That isn't to say they don’t fight. 

Zanreran scowls, brown eyes narrowing, as they stalk over to the rock, “Don’t fucking ask me, you’re the woodswoman.”

Grokrag waves their hand as their companion drops to the ground below them, taking a break in the midday heat. “Use your fucking sight-shit or something. I can’t track if there aren’t any tracks, dumbass.”

Zanreran turns and thrusts Grokrag off the rock, clambering up with their little hobgoblin legs to sit cross-legged in her space. “King of the Hill, I’m concentrating, don’t shove me.” She murmurs quickly as Grokrag fumes beside her.

The sun beats down on them - it’s one of the warmest days they’ve had so far despite it being Autumn - as Grokrag fans themselves, waiting for Zanreran to finish.

Thin trees litter the landscape before them and from here she can see the far-off buildings of Millwharf and the shimmering bay beyond it. They’d taken over the village over half a year ago and it didn’t look like there was much else to go. Villages were easy game for a band as large as theirs and it wasn’t long before they’d ransacked most of the surrounding settlements. They were now penned in by the Deep Chelmsson Expanse and the larger cities to the west. There wasn’t much point in being a commander if there were no battles to command in. They needed something to break the tension; a new challenge that wouldn’t immediately squash them because, at this point, Grokrag was ready to wage war on Kamry for five seconds of bliss. 

“I found it.” Zanreran’s voice thrums with magic and power, a river of calm and force. It’s pretty cool but Grokrag will never admit it.
She springs to her feet, “Well fucking great! Where is it?”

Zanreran unfolds their legs and points a long arm at a patch of dense shrubbery some paces away. The greenery looks out of place among the sparse woodland. “There. Alone.”

Grokrag cracks their bones and settles into a smooth stance - lower to the ground and defensive. She unsheathes her sword. “Shut up. I’ll go first so you don’t screw it up.” She reaches out a small, orange hand to part the draping vines and peer into the dark tunnel. 

Too late, she realises that letting light in will alert whatever lies inside and she is immediately sprung upon by a small, sickly grey wolf that ravages her shoulder for 2 END. The two hobgoblins enter a concise blood frenzy and beat the near-pup to a bloody pulp, forgetting to preserve it for food. 

Grokrag finishes up mashing the thing and bends down to inspect its remains, barely noticing their wounds - would that I played her instead of Taok (jk, love them but, still, the stress).

“Not a great meal.” She grumbles, prodding at it a little whilst Zanreran pushes forwards into the tunnel. 

“Goes quite a way.”, the bald hobgoblin comments, “Might be worth our while to check it out.” The unspoken word of “treasure” floats between them. “Just for us”; the silent threat: “just for me.”

Unsurprisingly, the tunnel leads them to the outskirts of the Mehlens - the deadly, shunned forests of the South - and right on track to becoming soldiers of Ozmatar, as per the current timeline. However, their pathway offers more than just a war; it also satiates their only remaining need: treasure. (cool italics, cool italics)

In the form of a relic. A small, sparking ring buried in the rock, uncovered by Zanreran’s magical, investigative power. One of the keys to unlocking peace in Zlas and the Mehlens.

It’s Bravemark.

For courage.
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#14
Scene 13: The Long Haul

The atmosphere inside the dome is solemn, tense and inescapable; the air thick with loss, laden with the foul stench of death and blood. The once beautiful building, a resting place for clan miners oh so long ago, has been marred by its own god’s war, a strange kind of irony. Everyone inside, whether they show it or no, is repulsed and unsettled by the brutality of the hobgoblin soldiers and the destruction they have caused in this once holy place. Taok doesn’t know if they can stand it any longer.

“What exactly happened here?” Volro asks heavily. The intensity from before marking his words.

Brildulm moves up, standing tall and silent beside Alalu who waves their hand dismissively. “Ambush, obviously. They couldn’t take them out otherwise.”

Volro grits his teeth, “Details, Alalu.”

“Don’t call me that.” He retorts smoothly, arms folded with an indifferent and slightly snooty expression on his face. 

“They snuck in,” Brildulm’s rough voice cuts in, “From the roof.” 

Taok instinctively glances upwards to see an empty rounded circle in the center of the ceiling. It looks like it was constructed that way and far off in the distance they can see the silhouette of a dire owl framed against the night sky. He thought that was safe? 

“Were there not-” Volro looks pained, “What happened to the rangers we posted…?”

“Killed.” Brildulm replies shortly. “Also came from the mines below.” He points this time to the trapdoor.

“Where you told us to hide.” Alalu drawls accusingly. 

There’s a pause as Volro to appear less affected than he is. “I’m sorry.” He says genuinely.

Brildulm nods in acceptance but Alalu looks on, unmoved.

“What do we do now?” Taok says quietly, not wanting to intrude but also in a lot of pain. Chi-Chi places his hand on their back.

“O-Oh, right.” Volro shakes his head in an attempt to clear the air. “You’re wounded, of course, I’m-” He clears his throat. “We better...rest for the night, all of us. It’s been a long day…”

He trails off a little awkwardly and starts again. “We should head down to the mines. No-one could...sleep here and there may be more survivors-” 

Brildulm shakes his head tersely. 

Volro soldiers on, “There are some old UCC buildings down there, most are in ruin but there are some metal structures we could secure. A lot of the tunnels are blocked but I’m sure we can find somewhere.”

Chi-Chi speaks up cautiously, looking around the room, “Sounds good. We’ll follow your lead then.” He hovers around Taok, both feeling a little out of place. 

Brildulm holds himself to attention and strides over to the other end of the room to retrieve his greatsword which has become strangely tangled up in the vines. He rips them away impatiently. “Crawlers.”

Alalu’s hand stretches out to swipe something from a nearby altar which Taok just spies as a gnarled wand. The eyes of a large, wooden figurine atop the altar seem to glare down at him in irritation. It depicts an older, well-built and muscular man with long hair and narrowed eyes. Alalu carries on, indifferent. 

Geared up, the tense group make their way single file through the wooden trapdoor and down to the cavernous mines underneath the building. The space is wider than Taok expected, jagged and rocky, branching off in all directions. It’s difficult to imagine how one would ever find their way around. The main cavern is dimly lit, holstered torches dotting the walls, but even the bigger tunnels fade into darkness as they continue. Taok watches their feet very carefully as they follow after Volro and the lioness I forgot was there. Agles disappears all of a sudden - it’s pretty crazy.

“This way.” Volro directs quietly, turning them down a series of quite well-maintained tunnels. Here, there are lights - almost more than in the previous chamber - and the rock appears carved and even. Dust hangs heavy in the air, clogging Taok’s lungs. They can feel the past in these mines; it follows them like a shadow.

At the back of the line, Brildulm knocks down small rocks with his head. “Fuck.” He mumbles, wincing. The sound condenses weirdly, crowding around Taok’s ears uncomfortably. 

“Know where we’re going?” Alalu calls from the back, voice high and ringing. 

“There’s an...iron temple to Ozmatar up ahead,” Volro responds, apparently having no problem with the dubious lighting. “Mostly intact.”

“Ozma-who?”

Where the sound of falling rocks confused Taok’s ears, Alalu’s voice needles them. Irritating and oddly feminine, his voice bounces through the passageway, the ‘who?’ elongating as it travels.

Taok hastily looks back over their shoulder to respond before Volro in a hushed, subdued and - let’s face it - awkward voice. “O-Ozmatar.” 

Alalu arches an eyebrow. “Who are you?” He’s flipped from overbearing and loud to muted and conspiratorial in a second. 

Taok flushes, looking at Volro and Chi-Chi in front of them. Why did I have to walk here? 

“M-My name’s Taok. I came...with Chi-Chi, he-he’s a ranger. We were...here and - well, no, we were somewhere else. I-In the Mehlens, and-” They shut up.

Alalu’s lip curls a little in amusement but lapses into silence with them.

Taok’s shoulders slump in relief. They just want to sleep now. And not deal with Alalu. Stress.

By far the tallest of the lot, they wack their head against a jutting slab of rock and fall, startled, to the ground.

“Oh-!”, “Tae!”, “What-?”

Taok slowly reaches a hand up to their forehead, dazed, as people crowd around them, and then slowly lower their face to their hands and take a deep, shaky breath, pressing the heels of their palms into their eyes.

Sleep would be really nice right now as they try to stabilise themselves.

The party continues for some time through the dusty, winding corridors and it becomes apparent that any metal once lurking in the walls has been (quick month break, what was I doing again?) long since removed, utilised for UCC arrowheads, spears, utensils and the like; all the metal Zlas now scavenges for out in the Mehlens. It was never known how the clan knew to construct such objects and hypothesised that they were perhaps in cahoots with an Audathan citizen. How else could they have stumbled upon such similar, well-designed tools? Taok recalls the looming wooden statue in the main dome and shudders. 


The journey is a long one but, in comparison to Taok and Chi-Chi’s earlier hours-long trek through the Mehlens, it’s child’s play. They’ve only been going for fifteen minutes or so when the majority of the group - barring Volro in front - pick up a strange thumping noise from up ahead. Ahead of them, Chi-Chi begins to slow and the rest of the line trails off in tow as he scans the passage ahead, frowning.

“Don’ know ‘bout that. Kinda seems like...We don’t really wanna take our chances wi’ these rocks, s’all I’m sayin’.” 

The group progresses, silent and exhausted, until Chi-Chi stops again. 

Alalu groans at Taok’s back, “Never have I been so incorrect as to assume, before tonight clearly, that the rangers have ever possessed a single modicum of competence. We Zlas citizens must have been fools to charge your petty, hesitant organisation with the protection of our city and people and, truly, we’ve paid for it dearly.”

Chi-Chi doesn’t flinch, staring ahead into the passage, and calls slowly after Volro who has progressed further despite the group now being at a standstill.

Alalu grows truly angry now with real emotion, “So many people died here tonight - at your command!” He focuses on Volro, “So many undead are upon the city right now - my home, all of our homes - and you have done nothing of significance to protect it! I don’t know what we were thinking!” Incredulity colours his tone. 

“To think we have depended so long and so devoutly upon the protection of an organisation that has immediately collapsed under the slightest of pressure-”

Brildulm’s rumbly voice quietly cuts in, “Lot of pressure.”

Alalu rounds on him, “What did you say?!”

Brildulm pulls himself up to his full height, “They did alright; better than us. There was a lot of pressure.”

“THE ORGANIsATION IS BUILT TO WITHSTAND PRESSURE! OUR PRESSURE! THE MEHLENS’ FUCKING PRESSURE!”

There’s a loud crack as further into the tunnel by Volro, a heavy branch that was supporting a heavy amount of stone snaps under some kind of ominous pressure and a section of rocky wall tumbles down onto Volro.

Chi-Chi - with impressive double sixes - leaps forward and barrels into Volro, propelling both of them through the air and out of the way of the collapsing tunnel. Dust billows out amidst the shrieks, yells and gasps of the group out of the danger zone and from across the gulf of rock and stone Taok hears groans and frantic talking - some of which they can identify as Chi-Chi. 

They open their mouth to respond to the chaos as Brildulm moves forward but the rockslide has weakened the walls, despite them being deep underground with no apparent rivers or caves, and the sound of pebbles thudding to the earthen ground is quickly replaced by the growing threat of slab-like stone crumbling into itself. Taok and Brildulm yell for the boys and hear some replies but are forced hastily back into the tunnel behind them as they pray for the earth to settle. 

A nail-biting couple of minutes pass as the eclectic group linger uncomfortably in the clouded gloom, coughing tersely and blinking dust out of their eyes. Taok peers desperately into the tunnel ahead but their view is blocked by the rockfall. Slowly, the shaking stops and Brildulm takes a hesitant step forward. 

Everything is still, but unstable. Taok calls out, careful not to disrupt the settling tunnel, “Ch-Chi-Chi?! Volro? Are…?” They trail off but the silence doesn’t yield a response. Panic makes their heart thump faster in their chest and they struggle not to inhale too much dust. In an instant, they steel themselves with a successful check; this isn’t the time for panic. 

Brildulm examines the rock, shifting it slightly and watching it give. “I don’t...We can’t move this.”

“Well, great.” Alalu scoffs, “What now then? Shall we go find another building to camp out because at this rate we’d be better off in the dust.” 

“We can’t leave them!” Taok exclaims, turning to Brildulm. “Is there another way to the temple where they were going?” 

“Depends.” He scratches his jaw, stepping back to the group. He doesn’t elaborate. 

“On…?” Alalu arches an eyebrow. 

“Uh, the rocks. There are small tunnels everywhere but they would crumble easier.” Brildulm starts walking back the way they came. 

“Can we not just settle in some alcove - Nevermind, that does sound awful. Although an iron temple? Not ideal.” 

Alalu’s voice carries the group as they maneuver through the winding tunnels of the mines. Some indeed have fallen through but there are plenty more to choose from. The problem comes with finding the right path for where they want to go. It’s been a long night and it will be a long night still: Taok’s wounds burn, they’re missing Chi-Chi comfort, missing Volro’s guidance, missing the precious silence they’d revelled in before. The world - Taok’s world - is crumbling just like the walls: Zlas is in peril, the relics are still scattered, the Mehlens are infested with the hostile. It’s a nightmare, but in a strange way a dream. How do you adventure if there’s nothing wrong in the world? When there’s no problem in need of some heroics?

It’s quickly becoming a strong source of Taok’s guilt, because it is an adventure if nothing else. They just wish they’d have at least a Chi-Chi along with them to continue. And perhaps some medical assistance - god knows they need it. 

So, mayhaps we’ve lost at least my favourite character; mayhaps we’ve lost people along the way; mayhaps I’m on the verge of destroying everything I’ve randomly built - that’s pretty depressing. But, hey, at least I’m writing this again. There’s a story still to be had. 

Also, Ris is dead.
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#15
Hello and Welcome!
My name is Alex and this is my entire playthrough of Adventurers!, or at least the revised version. I'll talk on how I generate my scenes and all the statistical sides of things later - and of course our lovely characters - but first of all I'd like to introduce you to the world of Riona and our the setting in which our story beings. I promise you it'll be brief. 

Setting
  • We begin in the Mehlens, the temperate forest surrounding the city of Zlas. 

  • Zlas is sectioned off from the world by these Mehlens which are nearly impenetrable. 
  • It has been this way for hundreds of years ever since the war between the old Audathan Empire and tribes people named, in short, the UCC. 
  • It's a fantasy setting, gods are looked down upon, magic exists in the world and occasionally in people and that pretty much covers the basics.
Characters
  • Our main character is named Nhu-Taok Pesemugloz, or Taok for short. 
  • They're an awkward, gender-neutral accountant with a fascination for history, finance and - specifically - old UCC relics.
  • Other characters move in and out of the narrative depending on the circumstances and there are some scenes that even Taok isn't in. This is largely because I roll a dice to see which PC I will 'follow' and because the dice are in great favour of Taok nearly all of the time. Truly quite insane, at this point.
Contents

Scene 1: Oathkeeper and the Goblin Ambush
Scene 2: The Deal
Scene 3: Zadi and Chi-Chi
Scene 4: Makin' Waves
Scene 5: I'm going to preface this with a horror warning...
Scene 6: Ozmatar's Rage     
Scene 7: The Tempting Passion
Scene 8: An Oddball Noble
Scene 9: A Quick Escape
Scene 10: Moonlit Conversations
Scene 11: A Helping Hand
Scene 12: Volro's Base
Scene 13: The Long Haul
Scene 14: No Rest for the Dead
Scene 15: Behemoth Luve

Lore with Taok 1: MasterDebaters
Lore with Taok 2: Shadowfire

Backlog 1: A Life Outside 

I will be adding to this in time so please let me know if more or less detail is wanted/required. It's just that I, personally, usually scroll past extensive paragraphs of starting lore. 
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#16
Heart 
Scene 14: No Rest for the Dead

As Taok rounds the final agonising corner, the temple to Ozmatar rises tall and imposing out of the gloom. With harsh, slanted iron pillars and geometry, the building has a strange neo-classical appearance that appears almost otherworldly to the group below. The roofing, laboriously carved and ornamented, seems to tower above them despite the temple’s small size. Perception is difficult and perplexing; sections of the metal look zoomed in, as if under a looking glass, whilst others appear as if from a great distance. It’s hard to get a read on the place. Taok’s mind rationally knows that it is of no great size but finds themselves craning their neck half the time to look at it. It’s mind boggling and a little frustrating.

The opened cavern around it is mostly devoid of interest and the only objects of real interest outside of the temple are a series of iron metal cages melded into the left wall of the building. All are empty and open but, in some, Taok spots small sleeping blankets and rations. It looks like forces must have been staying here until recently. Most concerning, perhaps, is the large brown bear posturing in front of them however the innate spike of fear that lances through the trio is dulled somewhat by the flouncy pink and purple ribbons tied into its hair and the dark elf proudly perched on top. Volro seems to have acquired another Mehlen beast to ride. 

Chi-Chi stands, toeing the ground, besides him and Taok feels a grin stretch across their face. Their shoulder slump in relief; the fifteen-twenty minutes the two were apart were the only minutes they have been since they met at the boat. They’ve been together through all the scary stuff - barring the first goblin attack - and they’re now a real form of comfort for one another. Remember, they straight up travelled like five hours in the dark and another in a suffocating tunnel. Saying that, it’s only been less than a day - god, that’s crazy. 

Chi-Chi looks up upon their arrival and has a similar reaction. The trio hustle over, giving the poofed up bear a wide berth as they do so. There’s a while where nobody says anything as the groups merge and become whole once more. Taok shifts over to Chi-Chi and they smile at one another; everyone repositions themselves for conversation. 

Surprising, Taok speaks up first, “We should be careful where we stand.” They point over to the cages, “The undead were here, they probably laid traps.”

Chi-Chi nods at the ground, “Sounds good.” 

There’s the sound of shifting feet. A few beats pass.

Alalu speaks up, “Really?”

“What?” Chi-Chi retorts. 

Alalu gestures hopelessly for aid from Brildulm and Volro, “We’re- Nobody’s going to say anything here?” 

Volro looks blissed out, lying horizontal on his new pet. Brildulm has become a statue. 

“W-What’s wrong?” Taok inquires. 

Alalu barks a disbelieving laugh, “The- the fucking sleeping rolls are tiny! And in what world do the undead have the intelligence to lay traps?!” 

Taok nods deeply and slowly, “Of course.” They look contemplative, “Have you ever heard of a...baby zombie?”

“What?” Alalu appears truly thrown off. 

Oh, f’course, the bags.” Chi-Chi finally catches up, “Tae jus’ said it so...confidently. We’re ‘alf-way there.” He chuckles and pats them on the back. 

“What the fuck is a b-?”

“People, please.” Volro cuts in and, with great reluctance, sits up from burrowing himself in his bear’s fur to address the group. “The...last...creatures that passed through here were hobgoblins. I...I fucked up. A lot. But...it’s done now. I’m sorry, Alalu, Brildulm, you too Taok and Chi-Chi. I thought this place was safe, I was obviously wrong.”

He lets his words rest with various degrees of acceptance in the space. 

“Now: Taok, I need to tend to your wounds and we all need to rest for the night. I’ve scouted the building and have seen no signs of life but Chi-Chi and I have yet to enter. We should do so together. Hopefully, this day is nearly over.” He presents a broken smile and straightens his back, leading the bear over to the small front steps with everyone in tow.

“Also, the bear is named Bitsy. She’s a girl.”

Alalu, trailing behind, cocks his head, “You checked?”

Volro turns in his seat, frowning confusedly, “Well, yes. How else would I know how to name her?”

Brildulm’s lip quirks upwards and Chi-Chi catches it, grinning lazily back. 

“Oh, don’t be immature.” Volro responds disapprovingly. 

“He was smilin’.” Chi-Chi nudges a much larger Brildulm. “Wasn’ me.”

Brildulm shoves him and Taok moves hastily out of the way. Unfortunately, this drives them closer to Alalu and, as Volro thoroughly and painstakingly checks out every one of the temple rooms, they devolve into a stuttering mess. It’s a great relief when Volro finally settles on a room to bed down in.

After Brildulm departs to collect the hobgoblin’s blankets and sleeping rolls, Taok takes some time to look around the room. It’s fairly small in a way that’s almost cosy, but out of shape and scraped up - the good thing about iron is that it doesn’t crack. There’s the remnants of a wooden chair in a corner and a couple wayward shelves but by far the most interesting objects in the old library are the books. Most of them are falling apart and rotten, or at least yellowed, but they’re enough to stir up a scholar’s excitement in Taok, and for good reason. First hand knowledge of the undead crown clan from the undead crown clan is unheard of. No-one in Zlas was even under the impression they were literate. 

There are three, in particular, in which the writing is decipherable and Taok squirrels them away to their strangely plush purple blanket. Perhaps they should have paid more attention walking through the temple to the layout of the space or even who all is even in the room but they’re tired. In truth, it’s been too long since they’ve escaped the world for a little while and what an opportunity to do so. Taok giddily settles down amid their blankets and pulls out the first old book. This one has a missing cover and, strangely, the pages are all folded into napkin triangles. Taok has just set it down in front of them and began, ever so gently, to unfold the beginning pages when they hear a pointed cough from above them. They look up. 

Volro is standing above them with a healer’s kit and a raised eyebrow.

“Oh, right.” Taok glances ruefully at the pile of books besides them before returning his gaze. “U-Um...this is- can we do this later?” 

Volro’s eyebrow practically lifts off his head. 

“Highly inadvisable.”

“Alright.” 

Over the course of the next ten minutes, Volro - with surgical precision - examines, cleans, examines further and then binds up Taok’s wounds. Their navy top is bulging with bandages by the end of it but, immediately, Taok feels a lot better. 

“All done.” Volro says with a smile, collecting his supplies. “You’ll be sore for a long while but they shouldn’t hinder you too badly. Miraculously, your wounds don’t appear to be at risk of infection which I…” He shakes his head, “I can’t even explain.” 

“T-Thank you, Volro.” 

“Of course.” Volro replies and pauses for a second. “I...I’m sorry, for pulling you out of your journey to come here. I...truly thought this place was secure and that it would be in your best interests. It’s...You both...,” He gestures to Chi-Chi who’s starting up a conversation with Brildulm, “You’ve been great. Really some of the nicest, most cooperative folks I’ve had the honour of working with in a long time.” 

Taok flushes and picks at their bandages. A small smile passes over their lips. “Thanks.” 

“Like any company going through those books? I assume they’re UCC.”

Taok nods. “I think so - I hope so.”

“I can actually read their old language if that’s useful.”

Taok lights up, “That’s great! I didn’t even know they could write at all, that’d be super helpful.”

“Happy to help.” Volro retrieves his woollen, fraying blanket and hauls it over to Taok’s. It’s in notably worse condition than Taok’s blankets. 

By the time he returns, Taok has mustered up enough courage to say, “Thank you, too. You’ve...helped me a lot. With, you know, um my wounds and stuff. And also...I think you’re really competent. I...don’t think this was your fault.” 

In the smallest voice Taok’s ever heard him speak in, Volro replies. “Thanks.” For one moment only he’s vulnerable and then he draws himself up to read over Taok’s shoulder. The silence remains, companionable and charged - perhaps that’s the iron in the air - but Taok can feel Volro’s sincere gratitude melting off him and understands how hard it can be to express feelings with words. How painful it can be to let brave words pass by uncredited. 

Taok remembers Chi-Chi baring his heart in the midnight of the Mehlens and a pang shoots through their heart, but this time it’s dulled. Other people find this hard too. They’re not alone - truly not alone this time - and they’ve met wonderful, genuine people. This will all be worth it in the end - has to be all worth it in the end. They can stop this, they can end the fighting, they can find the relics. But first off, they have to find the girls. They have to find Zadi, have to find Ris.

It’s a lot of pressure for one person - with two, even, it’s hard - so for right now Taok lets the tension in their shoulders ease. They listen to Volro’s voice humming in the background, translating passage after passage of old lore and history. They look over to Chi-Chi who returns their gaze from where he sits, exchanging jokes and barbs with Brildulm, and smiles. 

It has to be worth it in the end. But maybe it’s already enough. 
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#17
Scene 15: Behemoth Luve

Morning comes far too soon and the group quickly makes their way out of the temple and to the surface. Taok is intensely aware of the ancient books carefully wrapped and tucked under their arm but there isn’t yet enough time to go through them. Volro and them had read a portion of the coverless one last night but so far it was mostly about the old beasts of the Raingarden; interesting, sure, but not particularly useful and many scholars before have hypothesised the same. Taok longs to scan through the book still but apparently it’s hard to learn an entire language in a night - or hour - and they’re departing with Chi-Chi to the East ranger station without Volro. 

Goodbyes are touching; Volro mentions once more how grateful he’s been for their presence and how he’d love to meet up again when things calm down, Brildulm grunts a lot and exchanges an impressively intricate handshake with Chi-Chi, and Alalu...is kind of the same. Taok has really grown to like Volro and it’s a shame to leave him behind - there’s so many questions you can ask a five hundred year old man - what were they thinking to have wasted so much time? - but he regards it as his duty to escort Alalu and Brildulm to a truly safe this time ranger station. Apparently it’s some kind of field? It’s not too far anyway. If only Taok and Chi-Chi could say the same about the boat. 

The pair set off at mid-morning and, thanks to Chi-Chi, make incredibly good time, entering into the East quadrant just before noon. Miraculously, they manage to weave around any opposition lurking in the forest - hobgoblins, undead, beasts, and the like - and the ranger station comes into view approximately an hour and a hour later. 

It’s a crushing sight.

The station lies scattered across the dark clearing, a pile of broken wood. It looks to have been swung back and forth frantically and smashed into the surrounding foliage and tree trunks and then crushed into the ground. Whatever happened, there’s practically nothing left of the group’s meet-up zone and, worse, in the centre of the chaos sits a massive...creature. 

It’s some kind of humanoid, wearing a dirty loincloth and stretching as tall as the surrounding Mehlen trees. A battered club lies between its splayed legs as it sits in its rubble, fingers in mouth, gazing up at the clouds above it. It mumbles mindlessly around its hand and its foot bounces childishly as Taok watches. It leans back and settles down in the clearing - that’s clearly way too small for it - like a 7-year-old to a cradle. Wood crunches beneath its fleshy back as it wriggles into place, slobbering all the while. 

Chi-Chi and Taok back up hastily into the treeline, succeeding on their respective stealth checks with the use of Luck + Heroism - a classic combo move right there - but before they get a chance to confer with one another they both spot a flicker of movement in the trees opposite the clearing. They freeze. 

“D’you see that?” Chi-Chi whispers in a hoarse voice, keeping his voice low so as not to be picked up by the giant. 

Taok nods gently in response and tilts their head in the direction of the movement. They sneak around the clearing, make a few more stealth checks and crouch behind a thick thicket of thistle, for some reason. They wait a moment but, slowly, the object of their attention moves into view. 

A girl crouches in the boughs of a tall tree up ahead, picking at and examining some red berries in a bush adjacent. She’s almost invisible and two daggers peek out from her belt, a crossbow strapped to her back. Despite the obvious wear and tear of her clothing, she appears graceful and at home with her surroundings. As if there’s nowhere else she could fit in better than a tree some twenty feet from a slumbering monstrosity.

Chi-Chi lets out a strangled gasp from beside them and tears forward into the clearing. Taok’s hand darts out, sure and impressively precise, and grabs a hold of him, yanking him back into the bush. The woman’s head snaps over to them and she disappears back into the shrubbery. 

“The fuck are yout doin’?” Chi-Chi whisper-shouts emotionally, “Tha’s her, she’s ‘ere!” 

Taok raises a finger to their lips and points back towards the giant. Chi-Chi in turn inclines his head but sets off after Zadi. After a tense ten minutes, a crit success from Zadi totalling a 16 and a crit fail from Chi-Chi totalling a 5, it becomes apparent that Zadi is gone. 

Chi-Chi rounds on Taok out of earshot of the creature, “What the fuck, Tae?!” He looks wrecked, his hope has been snatched away from him at the last, agonising second. 

“S-She’s...okay at least-”

“I KNOW she’s fuckin’ okay! She’s always fuckin’ okay! I’M not! I’M the one who’s never-!” He turns away abruptly, pacing a little.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Tae. We were just so close.” His words come out strained and hoarse. 

Taok stands there awkwardly in the forest. 

(I’m going to make a roll right now, no modifiers, DC 7. Result: 5 ( 4 and a 1) with orange on my personalised ‘flavour’ die meaning incohesive, spatial and confused, halfhearted. Not good, in short.)

Time stretches on in suffocating silence as Chi-Chi pulls himself together. When he turns to face Taok again his eyes are red-rimmed and determined.

“What are we doing next?” 

“Uh-”

“Taok, please. What’s our plan? You need to tell me what’s a good idea right now.” The words are torn from him and they come out strange: proper and articulated but stumbling all the same. 

Taok pauses for a second, sweating lightly. “We...should look for Zadi. She’s important and has-has been out here for a while. Plus, we sent her after Oathkeeper and she could know where Ris is. She’ll be difficult to find but it’s worth it. Messing about around that giant probably isn’t...advisable.”

Taok takes a deep breath and closes their eyes. “I’m...sorry t-too. I...held you back, I thought the...that the giant would hear.”

Chi-Chi nods and looks to follow Taok’s lead. They set off into the Mehlens searching for a near impossible to track girl in a near impossible to traverse forest. Their odds are remarkably low. But with the Chi-Chi-Taok power pair on the job? Well, there have been worse ideas. 

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