We commence our story when you have become refugees, three days after a storm of magic, fury, and shadow ravaged the once-prideful city of Asterion and killed all life within its walls. You are dirty from the long walk, and you're holding on tight to your loved ones, and to the few belongings that you could save from the growing dark.
You are almost helpless, weakened, hungry, and so endlessly tired. Yet, you have come further than many others that you knew.
Tell me who you are, and who those are that you have taken with you.
Agnarr the butcher, his wife, Hildigard, and their three children are walking away from Asterion. Each of them is carrying a bundle of personal belongings. Agnarr is wearing his old chainmail shirt and has his sword, shield and bow in addition to his bundle. Their home/butcher's shop was outside of the city walls, so they were spared from the destruction of the city.
The story goes that Agnarr and Hildigard were taken captive by a rival clan during a raid on their family's estate in Barr and transported to the south by ship to be sold as slaves. Near the end of the voyage, while the ship’s crew was gathering supplies along the coast, he managed to break free of his bonds and escape. Later that night he was able to sneak back into the camp to rescue his future wife. Together, they fled the camp and wandered the southern lands. They were able to feed themselves thru Agnarr’s hunting skills and they bartered the pelts and excess meat for other supplies. They were looking to find a place for themselves and settled near Asterion. He experience in handling animal flesh and his existing clientele made it easy for him to start up a business as a butcher.
Recognizing the danger to their family, Agnarr and Hildigard decided that it was time to search for a new home.
Last Edit: Oct 4, 2015 12:24:56 GMT -6 by gsvenson
Greg Svenson, aka "The Great Svenny" Original Blackmoor Participant
Draven stared again at the page, full of the cribbed, angular runics and formulae, yet none of those past the first three lines would unwind and slither down through the back of his head, waiting for his tongue to release their Power into the World.
A small hand reached over his shoulder, pointing to a string of runics.
"Ata. Rom. Ethahm. Loc."
Draven snatched the wrist, lifting the finger as it moved to touch the last rune.
"Stop! You can't just-- Those are at least 4th Circle! Do you want to conjure another Tempest?"
The wrist was attached to equally small, thin arm, which ended at bony shoulder, from which hung a smock only slightly less dirty than the rest of the girl it covered. Draven almost wished for more rain. Girls were supposed to smell like flowers, or sweetcakes. Maybe under the sweat and grime and without the twigs and leaves in her hair, this one would, too.
The girl twisted her wrist, slipping from Draven's grip. No doubt the mud helped. She skipped back, out of his reach. Green eyes -- brighter than the jade trinkets he'd seen hanging from the belts of the traders who came through the Great City -- stared back, into his own, not nearly as exotic, a plain brown. There was no fear there. He hadn't seen a trace of that since the Tempest passed. And she hadn't made a peep since then, either. In fact, the Runic Speech had been the first actual words to pass her lips in the entirety of the five days he'd known her.
"You," he breathed. "You're not hiding the key to this book. You are the key!"
A small finger reached out, and tapped the boy on the nose. The lips that had spoken Runics he'd yet to even begin to puzzle out curled into a smile.
Hrothgir trudged along the column of city folk. "Ha, more like refugees now." he thought to himself. Some carried themselves proudly, but most were bowed under the weight of their burdens. As a hunter he was used to carrying enough supplies for a long hunt on his back, but even though his pack was full with his usual equipment and a few odds and ends he'd been able to scavenge, it seemed precious little considering the immensity of the task before them.
He scanned for familiar faces among the column ... well, disorganised rabble, really. He was a loner, and had few real friends, but he nodded to one or two as he passed, struggling under the burden of carrying their belongings while caring for the little ones.
Suddenly his ears pricked up at the sound of a familiar voice. "Unca! Unca 'gir!" He spotted her immediately, little Dorothea, the 3 year old daughter of his best friend Stollen. He wasn't really her uncle, but he accepted the label with pride. "Hey little Dot!" he called out, then steadied himself as the toddler launched herself at him for a hug. He gathered her in his arms, and then turned to look for the rest of her family. There was Anna her mother, looking beautiful but more careworn than he had ever seen her. Agnetta the 8 year old had a tiny pack on her back and Cullen, Stollen's 12 year old son, looked dwarfed by the pack of supplies he was carrying.
"I'm so glad to see you all, Anna. Where's Stollen?" Her face, which had lit up at the sight of him, faded again. "Oh no, not Stollen!" he thought. Anna confirmed his fears with her next words. "He was salvaging supplies for the journey when the roof caved in on him." Her voice was choked, and he could see the only reason she wasn't crying was because there were no tears left. He looked to Cullen, and recognised some of Stollen's woodworking tools hanging from the boy's oversized pack.
"Oh hells, Anna. I'm so sorry. You know Stollen was the best friend I ever had. Why don't I tag along with you for a while? I know Cullen's been learning the carpentry, but maybe I can teach him something about hunting and foraging too, so we can make sure you all have enough to eat."
He looked to the boy ... no, to the man of the family.
Cullen's eyes shone with gratitude, as he saw how his baby sister clung to Hrothgir, her arms wrapped round his neck. "I think that would be a very good idea, uncle. We'll be glad to have you with us."
Pithis, a lonely man, trudged along with the other survivors. Not caring where he was going, he simply melded in with crowd and became one of them. A priest of the Lonely god, his only possessions where a loaf of bread and lantern. He cared not where he was going or how long it would take to get there. All he knew is that his god must of put him here for these people and so he was. Just simply was. He would do what he could when it was needed and offer consolations as needed, but mostly would keep to himself and wait and watch for what was needed of him next. Pithis was here for them and his god. Not himself.
Thomas is a 19 year old half elf male. He has light brown hair and brown eyes. He is about 5'6" and thin yet muscular due to his time as the blacksmiths apprentice. Thomas' birth was the result of a raid upon his family's farm near the outskirts of Asterion's borders. His father was killed and his mother wished she had after being tortured and raped. To this day she is not sure why they left her alive. After the raid, Reynard was too frightened to remain on the farm so she moved to Asterion to find work. A few months later she discovered she was pregnant with Thomas. She was devastated when she learned of the pregnancy and when Thomas was born she reluctantly raised him. Upon his tenth birthday, his mother had begged the local blacksmith to take Thomas on as his apprentice. Reginald was not too thrilled with the idea of taking on a half elf bastard, but yielded under Reyna's desperation. Regional was quickly glad he had. Not only was Thomas skilled at the tasks assigned to him but he was also very charismatic. No matter the situation or racism he received, it seems Thomas could bring a smile to the faces to those around him and those that were initially turned off by his elven heritage would come to accept him if not fully embrace him. Of all the people Thomas interacted with, he perhaps had the most impact on Celia, Reginald's daughter. It was no surprise that when Thomas turned 18 he had asked Reginald and his wife Natasha for permission to court Celia. Reginald and Natasha were thrilled about the courtship and a 2 years later they were set to be married.
Thomas was nervous and excited that it was finally the day of his wedding. He couldn't believe that he was about to marry Celia, the most beautiful and wonderful girl in all of Asterion (at least to him, though you would be hard pressed to find many to disagree). The wedding was small, only about 20 people. In addition to Reginald and Natasha, most of Thomas and Celia's friends were in attendance. Though he doubted she would show up, even his mother had come with her new husband and 3 young children. He was glad she had been able to start a new life after he left for his apprenticeship. She seemed happy with her new family. Thomas never had much interaction with his family, but he loved them just the same.
As the wedding began, Thomas looked out over the crowd of people gathered. Thomas and Celia had decided to have the wedding outside of the city next to a tall oak tree that they often retreated to to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was their favorite spot in all the world, how could they not have their wedding here.
The wedding was wonderful, but just as the ceremony had concluded, storm clouds started to form over the city. Those gathered could tell the storm was not natural even with no knowledge of magical things. The crowd could only look on in horror as the magical storm rained destruction upon their homes. When the storm ended, they made their way to the city to survey the damage. It was worse than they had feared. Few people remained alive from the thriving city. Those at the wedding gathered what supplies they could. Much of Reginald' s shop was destroyed and they were only able to salvage a few tools and anvils. They were lucky they had taken their horse and wagon outside of the city. They now loaded up what they could. The next day, Thomas, his new wife, and their friends and family began traveling along the road with the rest of the refugees, unsure what they would find elsewhere in the world. Thomas couldn't help but wonder if his marriage were somehow related due to the timing. He quickly shook off the idea as nonsense, who was he but a half elven bastard?
Let's assume the storm arrived in the great city of Asterion on the night of summer solstice. Let's assume that the city would burn, and burn for three days.
Let's assume that you made it out of the city, uninjured. The things you lost in the fire, and the horrors you witnessed, only you know.
Let's assume that, two days after leaving Asterion, and five days after summer solstice, you arrive at Atheras. Atheras is the kingly hunting lodge, away from the stately highways, in remote Ryer's Meadow. An empty white castle, within a field of blue flax flowers, against a coal-red sky.
Do your characters know each other? If so, how, and what is their relation?
Agnarr looks around and says "This seems to be a good resting place. Everyone needs to find some food. The women and children can take shelter and rest in this castle while the men forage. Hildigard, why don't you look after that poor young woman with Kreeg?"
Hildigard leads their children, a girl of about 9 years and two boys about 7 and 4 years of age, over to the girl and comforts her briefly before she heads over toward the castle to find a safe place for the children to rest.
Looking around at the other refugees Agnarr says "We all need food and rest. Who will join us in a hunting party? We should probably break up into smaller groups so we can cover more ground and increase our chances of finding any game or edible plants that might be out there..."
Greg Svenson, aka "The Great Svenny" Original Blackmoor Participant
Agnarr brightens up when he recognizes Thomas and his bride. Reginald the blacksmith was his friend. They also did business together, trading tools and lame animals for meats and swapped tales from their youth over a mug of ale. He is pleased to see that they got out.
He is also pleased to recognize Hrothgir, an acquaintance from whom he had purchased game from time to time.
Greg Svenson, aka "The Great Svenny" Original Blackmoor Participant
"No," Draven said, swatting the girl's hand as she tried to work at the knots in the sack she was holding.
Swatting at her hand was somewhat difficult, as he had to shift his balance -- and hers -- to one hand while he lifted the other to smack her hand. Those held a large sack of nuts and berries against his chest, as he'd been carrying the girl pig-a-back for the past three leagues.
This caused her to scoot further down his back, nearly choking him until he could hitch the girl higher and secure his arm back under her other leg.
She wasn't all that heavy -- at least, he didn't think she was. Most of the weight was from the great leather-bound book -- Elder Lathan's tome -- which was wrapped in a square of sailcloth. He'd fashioned the top of the wrapping into a sling, so that the girl could carry the book across her back. She was no good at foraging -- she'd eaten half a berry bush's yield before he'd caught up to her with the sack. When she tried to "help" find mushrooms, she brought violet-cap and hag's wort. The water she'd found was brackish and choked with ash and dead fish. So she carried the book.
She'd even found a hunter's snare -- the hard way, and sported a nasty cord-burn around her ankle -- which she'd also managed to wrench trying to free herself from the knots before Draven could slip his knife under the loops.
So he carried her. It was worth the ache in his shoulders rather than the ache in his head that he'd had trying to keep an eye on her all morning. He knew where she was, she was out of trouble, and she couldn't filch berries or nuts from the sack as long as she had to hold it across his chest.
He'd wanted to make it past the far side of the Ryers Meadow and into the woods on the other side, but it looked as though they would have to stay the night in the stables of the Great House that the Lords used for their hunting expeditions.
It never occurred to him that most -- if not all -- of those lords were drowned, burned, or both, along with the rest who hadn't had the sense to flee the city at the first sign of the burning rains.
Draven stopped short halfway across the meadow. He was no the only one to think to shelter at the Lords' Great House.
------------------- A boy of perhaps 12 or 13 winters, Draven Thornwalker is perhaps a bit taller than most boys his age, standing 5'6" -- or at least he would if he weren't carrying a girl maybe two thirds of his age on his back. They definitely aren't siblings -- Draven's hair is a chestnut brown, the eyes peering from bangs in need of a barber's trimming a hazel touched with more gold than green. The girl's hair is probably auburn, or maybe even a richer red -- but it would need a good long soak in a hot bath to be sure. The large eyes peering from a pale-beneath-all-the-dirt face are a brilliant emerald green, and dart from face to face with an un-childlike swiftness and purpose, as if sizing up each of the strangers gathered in the Great House's yard.
Draven recognizes Agnarr by sight but not name, having seen him while in and about the city delivering messages for the Grove's Elder Lathan. He also recognizes Hrothgir, having watched him hunt in the Grove many times, even though it was not allowed, by the filid's or nobles' law.
Hrothgir recognises the potential of the castle for supplies, and is glad others do too. He isn't sure if they have any of the nobles with them, but with all of these hungry people to feed it would take a brave man to object to them taking what they need to survive.
Gently removing little Dot's arms from around his neck, he hands her to Anna. "I think you ladies will be safe enough here with the others, while the men go and search that place. Just in case though ..." As a hunter he has his bow and a quiver of good arrows, a very good skinning knife and a couple of other knives along with a woodchopping hatchet. He hands a scabbarded knife to Anna, and another one to Cullen. "Hopefully you won't need that Anna, but Stollen would never forgive me if I didn't look after you properly."
With his bow in hand, he and Cullen head towards where the foraging party are gathering. Recognising Agnarr he raises a hand in salute. "Good to see you made it out, Agnarr. With all the good people left behind, I'm glad to see you." Putting his arm round Cullen's shoulders he introduces him. "This is Cullen, son of my best friend. He's one who didn't make it, and Cullen here is ready to learn how to provide for his family."
As he looks around he vaguely recognises one or two of them. The sight of Draven carrying a little girl on his back is odd enough to warrant a second glance, and he realises the boy looks a bit familiar. No adult in sight though, and he sighs. "I've no idea who's in charge here Agnarr, but we might need to think about pairing some of the orphans with families, at least until we get somewhere safe."
Draven looks back and forth between the two groups -- those readying to go foraging, and the woman herding the children towards the Great House. He hitches the girl a bit higher on his back and makes his way over to the woman.
"Hullo, ma'am," he says, quietly. "I am called Draven. Um.. I guess I'm the last of the filid from the Asterion Groves. And this is..." He pauses. He realizes he has no idea what the strange girl's name was, or even if she had one. He'd just thought of her as 'the girl.' "Well, I don't rightly know her name, so I guess I'll just have to call her Leabhar. I see the butcher is putting together a foraging party, and I think I can help. While I don't know the woods around here all that well, one is very much like another, and I know plenty of woods lore. It's sort of hard to help carrying around this." He gives the girl another hitch, and her hands tighten around the neck of the sack she holds, her arms draped across the boy's shoulders.
"She stumbled into a rabbit run, and doesn't walk too well right now, so I had to carry her. So I can't take her with me if I go with the men. Plus, she'd probably eat half of anything we managed to find by the time we got back. So... um... seeing as you are sort of minding the herd, do you think you could look after one more? We foraged a bit on our way here, and you and the little ones are welcome to take your fill of what we managed to find, though it isn't much."
He squats down, and disentangles himself from the girl, who just stands still, clutching the sack to her own chest.
"Go on," Draven tells her. "This nice woman will take care of you while I'm off helping the men in the forest. Show them what we found, and let the others have some. Don't eat it all yourself."
The girl looks up at Draven, then over at the group of children. She takes a hesitant step towards them, then turns to look back at the boy, who motions for her to keep going. She takes a step closer to the group, and then another.
"Wait a minute," Draven says, eyes narrowing, crossing his arms. "What happened to your limp?"
Thomas looks at the gathering men and worries what will happen with all of the women out here unprotected. He looks to Reginald. Reading his mind, Reginald responds, "I will stay here with Jameson (step father) and watch over the women and children."
With that, Thomas picks through his pack to remove a large, well worn and slightly burned hammer. He makes his way over to the group of men and shakes Agnarshand, "it is good to see you made it out of the city." He turns to Hrothgir and repeats the greeting. "Shall we?" Thomas starts heading g towards the castle and has an excitement he has not experienced before and the thought arises that he hopes there is a fight inside. He quickly shakes off the thoughts as disturbing.
In the white halls of Atheras; more are with the trek.
Some stay outside, out of fear that the king's curse might reach out to all the places that belong to him. Some decide to push onward, despite their hunger and their fatigue. Atheras might have been difficult to reach, within all the chaos and all the despair, but it is still close to the fallen city.
And the skies are still dark.
You manage to feed, to dry, and to clean all those in your company that need assistance; and, if you're smart, you will count around thirty-five women and children, against around about twenty-five able-bodied men who might be fit to defend them. (And that counts in the boy Draven.) You manage to collect what was stored in the castle for some royal's unexpected visit - and had not been taken away when the castle's staff decided to leave -, and even hunt down some smaller game, out in the fields. It's enough food to feed your group, and even more people, for a period of four to five days.
Water might be a problem, though. Didn't wells in Asterion... Burn out, when the Tempest appeared?
Your main concern has to be, stay here, and wait, or go further west. To the north, there's Aram, a fortified city, and the home base of three royal legions. - Legions, that you know might already be on their way to the Great City, so who knows what happens in Starkwall itself? To the southwest, there's old Janina, an important trade port for river ships. The way there is longer, but bringing more distance between yourselves and Asterion might not be a bad idea... If you can protect your people along the way.
Then, night falls heavily on the blue fields, and black clouds wash away the stars.
If new refugees arrive, will you let them join you, or will you send them away? - Not everyone might want to leave peacefully...
Having collected what supplies are available and any tools he can find, Agnarr will plan to get some rest during the night, but he will take a turn on guard duty. At this point he sees no reason to turn other refugees away, but would listen to other's opinions when the situation arises. As to where we go tomorrow, Agnarr would prefer to head for Janina and the river. If we travel along the river we will have an ample supply of water and game, assuming that the river goes away from the cursed city of Asterion.
Agnarr and Hildigard have three children, their daughter, Saldis, is age 9 and their two sons, Imvaldr age 7 and Skjaldi age 4. All have blond hair, blue eyes and are very active, but they are not spoiled, they obey their parents without hesitation. They find a quiet corner in the building to make their resting place.
Greg Svenson, aka "The Great Svenny" Original Blackmoor Participant
Thomas gathers supplies with the others and secures a room for him and Celia. It will be their first time being able to share a real bed.
After a room is set up, Thomas returns to the others. Where shall we go? We could move on and hope that the other cities have not suffered the same fate as ours or we have a nice place we could establish our own town around.
Draven was pleasantly surprised, when he returned to the Great House -- a day's worth of berries, roots, and mushrooms in tow -- to find that one or another of the women managed to wrestle Leabhar into a tub. Clean, gowned in a simple homespun dress of pale gray, with low boots she looked almost.... normal. Her hair hung in a damp wave halfway down her back, a deep red, showing more than a few glints of copper as it dried. She'd jumped up on the boy's return to the castle, color rising in her pale cheeks, green eyes shining, arms outstretched. Draven knelt, and held his arms out -- he had missed her company during the day, maybe just a bit -- and the girl immediately reached for the sack of foodstuffs Draven had managed to find. He sighed.
It was odd, sharing a meal around a fire with so many others. The men talked, and some laughed as they shared stories. Others spoke in low voices, an occasional hand raised to a companion's shoulder in reassurance. Families gathered together, found corners and nooks in which to settle. Draven and Leabhar explored the hall, the gallery above it, poked into rooms, to find most of them filling with refugees. He finally chose a balcony, from which he could still hear the goings on in the great hall, but also see down into the Great House's yard, dotted with more makeshift camps. Twice he'd had to pull Leabhar away from the edge of the balcony -- once when she was leaning much too far than was wise, and again when she'd been sitting at the very edge, kicking her feet. After dashing downstairs to retrieve one of her boots from the courtyard (and apologizing profusely to the man in who's soup it had landed), he dragged the girl closer to the wall of the Great House. There they huddled, and for once he didn't mind sharing the blankets. She smelled of the meadows around the Great House, rather than the muddy stream bank and hog wallow.....
Hrothgir allowed Cullen to present their share of the food to Anna and the girls. He had rejected most of the trinkets scattered around Atheras as just unnecessary extra weight, but he'd kept an elaborately carved comb which he presented to Agnetta. For the night they stayed in their little group, although Anna had spent time earlier getting to know some of the other women. She and the children were still very much in the grieving process, coming to terms with the loss of Stollen.
Although he wrapped himself in his blankets a few paces away from Anna and the children, he was surprised during the night to find a small body worming its way in beside him. Little Dot cuddled into him, and he didn't have to heart to turn the poor mite away.
As he later took his turn on guard, he carefully laid the little girl back in her own blankets, and was again surprised to see that Anna was half-awake and watching them. Well, mothers have a sixth sense about their children, don't they?
In the morning they will have to address the need for water, but for now it's time for the still shocked citizens of Asterion to get some badly needed rest.
And with it, a group of twenty-, twenty-something refugees.
Exhausted, they look, but also heavily loaded with things the people that made it out fallen Asterion with your group mostly decided to leave behind:
Gold, and precious stones that hang from their necks on heavy chains. Silk, and flamboyantly colorful clothing, even if withered from the time on the road. Most of the new arrivals are men, and their faces and plump hands betray that the items they care are likely not their own.
Those people have stayed back, and fought the horrors that the Tempest summoned - and looted what might remain of the Great City.
They look tired and hurt, but can you trust them?
If you open the castle's gates for them, your group might grow into a small army.
But if they are they are of ill intent, they might be able to overwhelm you.
At the same time, you still need water, urgently, if not yet desperately. To let the looters block the road outside, even briefly, might become a greater disadvantage than you yourselves are able to foresee right now.
"I have no use for these looters on the road and am ready to move on. They will only slow us down and who knows what their character is like. We need to find water and reach a place suitable to settle in as quickly as possible. What say the rest of you?"
Greg Svenson, aka "The Great Svenny" Original Blackmoor Participant
"We have no knowledge of what they have been through or seen, master Agnarr..." says Ortega, the artisan. Migrating from Tizona the old man established himself in Asterion some twenty years ago, originally founding a smithy which was expanded into a large workshop-school as the remarkable quality of his work made his fame spread quickly. When his sons took over business he turned his attention to other artistic endeavours such as poetry and painting. All was lost to the madness and fire that brought down marvelous Asterion. The old man saved his greatest treasure, his granddaughther, who escaped the doom of Asterion with Ortega and her father, Ortega's youngest son.
"These men have commited no sin that we know of, and might come to help us improve our current situation. Does anyone here know any of these men from Asterio or elsewhere? If these are clearly fellow citizens who shared our suffering we should welcome them and hope they more knowledge than we do about what passed in the great city, or perhaps salvaged goods that might aid us. Caution, on the other hand, is ever advisable, so if these are strangers or if any among us knows of reasons not to trust them I believe we should at least ask them for a token of trust."
Master Kreeg has a point," Draven says. "We need water whether we stay or go. But... Wouldn't Kreeg and his club be better off here, in case of trouble, Master Agnarr?
"I know this land a little bit. And I know how to find water that is safe to drink. Those men outside wont make trouble for a lone boy, especially if I use one if the sally ports. Maybe Cullen or some of the other older kids could come. I can teach them what to look for. After all, we'll always need to find fresh water, and the more eyes that know what to look for the better, right?"
Thomas sees the men outside and comments, "I find it difficult to trust men who in desperate times seek out gold and riches instead of the necessities."
As he is saying that, a thought crosses hi mind that the wiser man waits till the loot is gathered and then take it from him. If they resist take it by force. Thomas then quickly shakes his head as if to shake the thoughts out. It seems that ever since the tempest he has had to resist these dark thoughts.
A tug at Draven's sleeve pulls his attention from the cloud of dust on the horizon. He glances down, scowling. Leabhar crowds close, the corner of the great book secured in its sailcloth sling digging into the boy's side.
"I told you to stay with the others," he said. He grabs her arm, to turn her back towards the stairs down to the courtyard, but she refuses to budge. She points at the cloud of the approaching riders.
"Yes, I know," he says. "We don't know who they are. Are they friends? Foes? Are they with the men below, or are they soldiers from the garrison? Now go back down to the others, and put that book back in our hiding spot."
The girl shakes her head, red braids whipping. She hitches the book into a more comfortable spot across her back, and then slips a small hand into Draven's, giving it a squeeze and a tug.
"It's not safe to just go running off alone. I think if we stay here, with the gates barred, we might be able to weather whatever comes of those riders. At the very least, maybe they'll chase off those unsavory fellows outside."
Leabhar gives him a long, steady look that is entirely too old for the rest of her.