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 The Earthheart - IC

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Szemetlada
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PostSubject: The Earthheart - IC   Wed 25 Mar 2015, 1:10 am

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The Earthheart

Chapter One: Dark Code

Somewhere deep within a mother’s basement…

   Boras von Bennford smiled wickedly to himself as his future scrolled by before his eyes; forty-seven pages of mind-numbing prose. Boras sighed and clicked to the end. “I accept,” he cackled to himself (Boras nearly choked on his gum and made a mental note to work on the cackle).

   Feet on the desk, Boras closed his laptop and sucked in a mighty breath of chill night air from the slit of a window in the ceiling. His first deal with a Shade. Truth be told, Lutin du Perverse gave Boras the creeps, but he'd offered a reward that Boras couldn't refuse. Yep, the Bennfords were really moving up in the world. Money, power, a proper retirement for dear old Mom, who had always longed to see Casteria… Boras was going to get it all. And what did he have to do for it? End six nobodies in the woods? Child’s play! Boras knew just the thing for the job.

   A quick rummage through Mom’s old bookshelves in the attic library and Boras was dusting off the old Necrology textbook. She’d studied back before Dad left, but hadn’t touched the thing in years. No matter; everything was about to change. Boras had spent years teaching himself all there was to the art of raising the dead, or at least, all that could be learned off the internet. He’d started by taking odd jobs – a party scare here, a resurrected lover there – until Lutin du Perverse’s offer, three days ago. A real life assassination! Boras had hardly slept. Don’t fret, Boras boyo, you GOT this. There’s NO WAY you don’t got this.

   Boras stomped his way up the stairs, flicking through the old textbook. At the top of the staircase he lingered in the light of a magic lamp until finally arriving at a page entitled Reanimation: Specializing in the Lupine, and Applicable Methods of Binding. Illustrated.. Boras grinned in the lime green light. “I’m going out, mom,” he mumbled to a dark armchair by the fireplace, and in a blink he had shoved through the creaky old door and out into the night.

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PostSubject: In a crumbling shack in an ancient Huginnese wood...   Wed 25 Mar 2015, 1:11 am

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In a crumbling shack in an ancient Huginnese wood…

   Mrorgain the Rock let out a deep sigh; the recruits should have arrived by now. She raised a wrist to check her watch, but the device was likely still somewhere at the bottom of the Muninn Sea, so Mrorgain had to be content with tapping her feet on the cold stone floor and counting down the hours by the drop in degree as day slipped into night. She closed her eyes and slowly nodded off…

   At twenty degrees above freezing Mrorgain awoke with a start; she could suddenly bear the wait no longer. She stormed out of the sitting-room and into the foyer, where the gnomes Hennip and Drinnip sat with the human Balvadere over cups of instant coffee. All three started violently at Mrorgain’s entrance.

   “Well?” the dwarf roared, plopping herself down at the table. “Something is wrong. The night air is chilled to the bone; it’s been many a century since it was this cold in the bosom of Summer. Have you found anything on your graphs, or whatever that system is?”

   Hennip and Drinnip exchanged glasses, the latter adjusting his spectacles. “We don’t rightfully know, Mrorgain ma’am,” they mumbled in unison, turning their attention to the small silver laptop in front of them. Balvadere leaned in attentively, his coffee for the moment forgotten.

   Biting his lip, Drinnip looked back at Mrorgain. “We noticed it just before you blambered in. Something powerful’s moved in, and it’s coming straight on the tail of the recruits. Could be magic. Could be tech. Not sure…” Drinnip scratched his shock of wild brown hair. “We think… Well, we think it could be that Seraph fellow, what showed up in the valley the other night.“

   Mrorgain frowned and leaned in close. The gnomes’ security network was far too advanced for the circles she moved in, but she wasn’t about to let her ignorance show – or, for that matter, to doubt the pair’s abilities. She believed Drinnip’s hunch was right, and that meant big trouble for the recruits. This war was about to end before it even started. “How could a Seraph find us?”

   Hennip spoke this time, never taking his eyes off the screen. “Dunno. Maybe one of the recruits turned traitor on us, ratted us out? You took some nasty risks having the human send out those letters, Mror.”

   “Yes.” Mrorgain sighed and mushed her brow with one hand. “Or… is it possible they’re being followed?”

   “Hennip tapped something into the keyboard. “I don’t see how. But…”

   “But?”

   The gnome sat back with a frown as their pair took over the keyboard. “Now that we look real close, there’s something else. Our equipment would have to be closer to be sure, but… It could be a blip, or it could be… Something, I dunno, something that’s real good at staying hid.”

   Mrorgain stood up and set to pacing the room, grunting to herself. “Hrrrm. Okay. Alright.

   “This is a time for swift decisions. Hennip, Drinnip, tell me all you know of this Seraph, if that’s what the energy signature is.”

   The gnomes tapped away at the laptop. “From what we see here? We can’t say much. From what we saw in the valley that night? Thing’s a proper jabberwocky. More limbs to it than a Spring willow – and less of a face it’s got, too. White as milk. We didn’t spy it do much of anything but float about on its way, but I never seen a Seraph what couldn’t give a good fight and then some. If it finds us, I’d reckon we’re whipped good.”

   Balvadere blew on his coffee. “Maybe it’s friendly, and come to sign up with us?”

   As she passed by, Mrorgain swiped the mug from Balvadere’s hands and downed it in one gulp. “Yes, and - aaack - maybe it’s come with some cream and sugar for your dreadful palate, dear human. Hennip, Drinnip, how far away is it?”

   “It’s at a steady pace; We’d estimate a good half hour before it reaches the recruits, give or take some.”

   Mrorgain cursed. “Keep an eye on it, and on that other blip as well, if it turns out to be something.”

   Hennip rubbed his chin in thought. “No, other one’s gone. Must’ve been nothing.”

   “Hrrrm. Watch for it all the same.” Mrorgain paused suddenly in her pacing. “Balvadere, you’re the one that scouted out this batch of recruits. Remind me of their number, and of what sort they are.”

   Balvadere licked his lips, eyeing the coffeepot in the next room. “Six. Six, ma’am, and I could find no more. This company may be our last hope.”

   “Describe them, dear Balvadere, and do hurry, for time is short!”

   The human sat back and tapped at his armored knees. “The first’s an orc. Rough fighter. Bumped into the chap once in… In, ah…”

   “I know all there is to know of your back-alley fighting habits, Balvadere. Our current situation is too perilous for modesty.”

   “Yes. Yes. Well, the name is Gopunk, Glenn Gopunk, and the orc hits like a freight train.” Balvadere pawed at a spot on his cheek, dark like the bruise on an apple. “Word is he’s a learned mage, packs some juice into his blows. I’ll vouch for that. Spoke with him at one of his family’s services, and handed over the letter soon after. Cooks a mean prime rib.”

   “Ahh. Not a useless skill to have, though pardon me if I’m more intrigued by the biomancy.”

   Balvadere grinned. “Next is a goblin. Caught him trying to make off with my pack; found he’d already managed to swipe everything in my pockets, not to mention the sword off my belt.”

   “Ha!”

   “Urvad he called himself, and has something of a reputation in his homeland. I figured any creature that so skillfully evades the senses of a Man of Arlean is worth a place in our party. I gave him gold and a map; that’s all he needed to see.”

   Mrorgain grunted. “How can you be sure this… goblin thief will show up?”

   “Hrrrrn, well… At the inn that night I found my rings to be no longer on my fingers.” Balvadere wrinkled his face. “Those were wrought in pure gold, with fine gems; Urvad knows we have money. He’ll come.”

   “And perhaps you’ll learn a lesson in watchfulness, dear Balvadere. Who else have you gathered?”

   Balvadere brightened. “Two Vrana. I… Sisters, I do believe, though I did not take them together, but rather sought each separately and came on my own to the conclusion. You’re familiar with Ekster, of the Huginnese house Kovarnis?”

   “Hrrrm. Yes, I’ve heard something of that story. That Goblinoid confederation of a few years back, and an assassination?”

   “The same. The two I speak of are her daughters. Rhaokin, the eldest, still leads her mother’s company, which is how I found her. Business background. Military experience. A fine engineer. She had settled down, but I think I made an enticing offer. If I’m not wrong, there’s something of an adventurer in her, and that kind of spirit does not easily wither away.”

   “We shall see. And the other?”

   “Tythirr, her younger sister. Rather… More difficult to track down, this one was. Works as something of a mercenary, near as I can tell, and her name always came up when I asked the right people who could get a job done, when money was no object.”

   “Ha-ha! At this rate, Balvadere, you’ll run our coffers dry.”

   “Don’t worry,” the human grinned, “I made her a different offer. See, word is she’s been looking for vengeance.”

   Mrorgain froze. “Balvadere, we don’t deal in dishonesty. I won’t stand for it. You truly know something about her mother's death?”

   “That, no. But she spoke of... something else, something that I suspect might have to do with our friend, Byüligítznuk. Come now! The situation is dire, and what Tythirr doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

   “No, but she may very well hurt us. Bah! I’ll deal with your insolence later. So far I’ve counted four of the six.”

   “Yes,” Balvadere grinned, “and you won’t like number five. One of the Lizardfolk, a High-Caste of noble heritage.”

   “Indeed?”

   “Arj-atyn, she is called, or maybe… Arj-otin? I can never manage their tongue. At any rate, she’s a golemmancer of impeccable skill. I wouldn’t think it possible to do the things this one does. She’s learned in other magics, as well.”

   “Hrrrm. And why won’t I like her?”

   Balvadere twisted his mustache around a finger. “There are odd rumors about this one.  I can confirm nothing, but I spoke with some former tutors of hers… She has odd abilities, ma’am, abilities beyond the scope of mortal magic. Were it not for that I might’n’t have risked the offer. Be it said truly, Mrorgain, I’m not sure we can trust this one. Has something of a pot-marked history, you might say. But Arj’atee… Archa-tay… This lizard has survived a lot, and no one knows how. She could be just the edge we need in matters as dark as the ones we’ve found ourselves in.”

   “Very well, Balvadere. For all your flaws, I trust your judgment in this. And the last?”

   “Kyra, her name was, Kyra Sv-”

   “Svera?” Mrorgain froze and spun to face Balvadere in his sunken chair. “Princess Kyra Svera, you mean to say, of the Larocian throne?”

   Balvadere blinked. “The same. Is there a problem?”

   Mrorgain did not speak for a moment. Then, “No, dear Balvadere, only that now the whole of Mindennauer will hear of our quest, no matter where we go, and if we fail, then nothing will save us from the wrath of the Great Kingdoms for leading one of their monarchs to a grim death. Bah! Would that I’d set the blasted gnomes to gathering our company, and sent you to watch the gate instead–”

   Hennip and Drinnip, with a brief glance at eachother, rose and bowed deeply to Mrorgain. “Let it be known, fair dwarf, that we would have done the same! Ha-ha! Imagine, the chance to meet a real life human princess…”

   Balvadere chuckled. “Back on your rears, comrade gnomes. And before you grow too angry with me, Mrorgain, allow me to speak my piece. I would never have intentionally sought out one of such high birth. The thing is, errr… It so happened, see, that I did not do the seeking-out so much as she did, ma’am. This Svera is no mere pretty face. She has surprising resources, else she would not have known of my movements, and in any case is a being of honor, for she told none of my business in Larocia at the time. Let it also be known that the princess is no stranger to a fight; before negotiation, you see, I first attempted escape from her guards, and the guards I did best, but…” Balvadere winced as he scratched a spot on his side. “I shan’t ever lay a finger on a citizen of Larocia again, I believe.”

   Mrorgain harummphed but said nothing. In time one of the gnomes looked up anxiously. “Twenty minutes, ma’am! And – wait, there’s something else. If our eyes don’t deceive us, someone’s been practicing necromancy in the woods.”

   “Right.” Mrorgain clapped her hands together. “How much time until these six make it to our hideout?”

   Drinnip blanched. “They’ve… Err, they’ve stopped. To make camp for the night, I reckon. It is growing quite dark!”

   Mrorgain grunted in frustration. “Well, Balvadere, I suppose that’s enough talk; now is the time for action. Whatever quality our recruits prove to be of, I suppose we must take some manner of responsibility over the lot. Hurry now down the old path, and bring them swiftly to our hideout! Seraphs and the undead… I shudder to think what else might prowl these woods tonight. Make haste, make haste!”

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PostSubject: Elsewhere in the darkness of the wood…   Wed 25 Mar 2015, 1:11 am

Elsewhere in the darkness of the wood…

   Twelve was their number – twelve beasts wrought of magic and bone, twelve howling, snapping, unliving golems. They ran in a wild circle around their master in the wood and scuffled at eachother’s heels in a mad frenzy. One dozen wolfish skeletons surrounded one human, barely a head taller than their largest.

   Boras von Bennford was too stunned to laugh; instead his eyes twinkled like stars. His first reanimation! He flipped madly through the Necrology text, and, coming to the right page, began to chant a simple incantation:

Come, fair creature, blessed soul,
Sacred child of Capitol,
Heed my word, and come alive,
Import program from this drive…!

   Brandishing the USB, Boras tossed it into the whirling mass of bone, where it vanished with a puff of smoke. Suddenly the wolves ceased their thrashings. The tallest one, their leader, sat back against the wind and lifted its head to the moon in a silent howl. A moment later and the undead beasts had vanished into the night, scuffling noisily away through the trees.

   It had worked! They’d accepted the code! Overcome with delight, Boras collapsed with a dull thud into the grass.

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PostSubject: In a clearing not far away…   Wed 25 Mar 2015, 1:11 am

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In a clearing not far away…

   Six beings sat where they had chosen to camp for the night, intending to reach their common destination early tomorrow morning; several fallen logs and the ashes from many campfires were all that marked the clearing in the woods. Some of the six travelers had come from near lands, and some from far, but all had gone a great distance that day, and sleep was a welcome proposition. Most of the travelers had only just met a few hours earlier, and so not all trusted eachother; because of this they swept warily, and that worked in their favor, for they heard the approach of the wolf-pack from afar.

   Twelve skeletal monsters, each three feet in height – though their leader stood at five – circled the clearing, crashing noisily through the brush but making no growls. They saw an orc, a goblin, two vrana, a lizardfolk, and a human, but their unliving minds had only one thought – kill.

   The leader of the pack leapt for the orc, and several of the braver wolves charged at other members of the company, the rest baying and leaping on their heels. With barely a moment to wake, the companions' first challenge had begun.

Elsewhere the eyes of a Shade watched from the darkness while a Seraph drew ever closer, and one even stranger thing prowled the wood that night...


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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Wed 25 Mar 2015, 11:57 pm

The several seconds' warning sufficed for the lizardfolk mage to wake and center herself, molding the pesky adrenaline rush that'd suffused her vital organs into a form in which it could do some good.

She produced a particularly impolite Reptilian curse, largely indistinguishable from any other screech, except perhaps for the stereotypy born of many repetitions.

Seeking an overview of the situation, she scrabbled up onto one of the stabler logs, her claws digging into the bark, which tore at the cloth wrappings on her feet. Simultaneously, she-as-her-dog emerged from the leaf liter, pushing off against the ground and slamming into the side of the wolf that'd gone for her.

The two skeletal canids - one held together by grey fibre bundles, and the other by invisible and intangible ones - each scrabbled to pin the other and crush its technically nonexistent throat. And as she grappled, Arj'atyn the lizard felt around for a signal to hijack, but found only that the wolves were operating autonomously.

Their smarts, frankly, were at odds with their lacklustre construction.

Resigned to doing this the hard way, Arj'atyn awakened again as her other dog, and in this form entered the fray. Some distance away, a pinned wolf lost one of its cervical vertebrae, freeing up the first dog.

But by now, another wolf was angling for the perched lizardfolk, where for the moment no-one was home.

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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Thu 26 Mar 2015, 1:34 am

Kyra was always one to analyze first and form a game plan. This situation was no different. She was quickly on her feet with lance in hand. She had about 3 seconds to figure out how many attackers there were, where they were, and where the rest of her party was. The reason for such a short timing was due to the skeletal wolf that was on her had just lept off the ground.

With the allotted time Kyra was able to duck under the first wolf. She pivoted on her feet to face the wolf again. She was given another few seconds to analyze. At this point she noticed the wolf eyeing the lizard mage.

The wolf charged again. This time instead of ducking Kyra kicked the wolf towards the one heading towards Arj'atyn's currently unoccupied body.

"These things are surprisingly light aren't they. I suppose that's what happens when you loose all your flesh and muscles," Kyra laughed, "You'd think whoever rose these things would have tried a little harder to retain the important parts."

A second wolf approached and Kyra lept. The wolf wasn't really expecting this and was taken quite aback. This being taken aback only lasted about a second though, as Kyra's heavy metal boots came down full force on its skull.

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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Thu 26 Mar 2015, 1:54 am

Rhaokin had been alone, not yet able to sleep when the warning came. Light movement passed through her sensor net. It could have been many things, any sort of wildlife. Though the concerted movement of so many creatures was hard to miss, even through the trees, and it put her on edge. But it meant most of all that, despite nursing a cheap wine, Rhaokin was already armed as the wolves barreled into the clearing. Laughing to herself, she steadied her powerful firearm in but a single hand, taking careful, but rough aim at the last wolf to enter the clearing.

The mighty thunder of hammer meeting round cascaded through the clearing, as lead pellets erupted out the narrow choke, the cluster flying headlong into a leaping wolf's skeleton. While some, understandably, would miss, the remaining metal splintered bone, rupturing connections at the wolf fell to the forest floor, hardly given the chance to influence the night's events.

Finishing her drink in a mighty gulp, Rhaokin stood, hand twitching nearly imperceptibly, as her combat drone took to the skies from within her tent. The fight was on, and she was ready to unleash vengeance from on high.
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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Thu 26 Mar 2015, 5:09 am

The skeletal wolves' ungraceful clomping through the woods gave Tythirr plenty of warning to be awake and with a gun in her hand before the first wolf leapt at her. As the meatless thing came into view, she activated her usual aim assist spell; the ghostly tracers emanated from the charging wolf, showing when and where it would be if it continued to run towards her as it had been; she aimed accordingly and fired her first shot, but at that moment, the wolf jumped. The tracers vanished, and her bullet harmlessly glanced along the wolf's pelvis. But by the time the bullet had completed its course, the tracers had reappeared, showing the wolf's trajectory in midair, coming for Tythirr's throat. The wolf didn't know it, but without a way to change direction, it was already dead. She lifted the tip of her weapon, firing from the hip and aiming with the trajectory marker coming from her own barrel. Her gun lacked her sister's raw stopping power, at least on the first shot, and most definitely against a target with fleshy parts to disrupt... but the several bullets that followed in the ensuing second made up the difference. The loud drone of a machine pistol drowned out the wolves as tungsten slugs cracked and glanced off, then split in half the skull of the necrotic wolf, as well as one or two of the upper vertebrae before the remaining bones crashed into their target and knocked her over.

Winded, but unharmed, Tythirr released her legs from the sleeping bag and cast the weakly twitching pile of bones aside. Another wolf peered out from behind a tree, crouching its way towards her; a couple of rounds blowing away one of its ribs caused it to back off and consider a different approach. This gave her a bit of time to grab her second pistol and take a quick glance around her companions; the others seemed mostly okay for the moment, drawing strength in numbers. Rhaokin was a few yards off, she could see, keeping her distance to enjoy a drink - and of course, be far enough away to avoid conversation. Finding out that they had both been invited on this godsforsaken mission had put some strain on their already uneasy relationship. At least for now, Rhaokin had her drone up and running. That would keep her safe until she chose to rejoin the group, but that knowledge didn't keep Tythirr from keeping particular watch in her direction.

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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Thu 26 Mar 2015, 10:55 am

The approach of the pack of wolves picked-clean of any and all flesh, the fact of the latter a real let-down for Glenn Gopunk, was anything but subtle, and one would think that a pack of wolves - dead or not - would at least retain the habits that they had in life, or at least the habits that was the precursor to a hunt. This is to say, God damn, these skeleton dogs didn't even try to sneak up on them! Easily everyone squatting around the fire heard it coming. Standing straight up, he stretched his arms as he grinned from ear to ear staring dead on at the undead pack that sought to ravage them.

"Bwah-ha haa!" Glenn laughed jovially, perhaps a little too loud for the comfort of the others at this time of night. Finally some action! "Don't know what kind of sorcery brought these walkin' wind-chimes here, but this is going tibia blast!"

Looking at the others for a reaction brought him nothing, as they were already focused on trying to defend themselves or probably wanted him dead for making puns while they were under attack. This did give the pack alpha an opportunity which it had seized and immediately pounced onto Glenn. Among the whirlwind of thoughts he had at the moment, perhaps what was the most pronounced was that maybe it wasn't such a great idea after all.

The wolf skeleton dug its claws into his shoulders and tried to fit its maws around Glenn's throat, however, the orc kept his hands up and gripped at its neck to keep it from getting closer. Between the pain in his shoulders and under the pressure of something trying to eat him alive, he could just get a few thoughts in between each bout of struggle. Among one of those sober moments, Glenn took advantage of the skeleton weighing virtually nothing and used his superior strength to throw the wolf off to his side, and jumped on top of it, reversing the roles, with his back to the fire. The skeleton's back legs flailed wildly, and as Glenn pinned it by its shoulders, he heard cracking. Looking down, both scapulas were crushed beneath Glenn's knees.

Ah, now his life of a mortician came back to him. Now in 100% control of the struggle, Glenn had time to think about how to best get rid of this pest. His hands were around the neck. Which means if one hand was at the axis and his other at the cervical vertebrate, then he could--

Ugh, screw it!

Glenn threw one of his arms back, and his arm was charged with magic, his musculature and bone density increased in strength, and swung his fist back down to hammer against the alpha skeleton's skull.

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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Thu 26 Mar 2015, 4:24 pm

A dozen undead beasts had entered the clearing, but now only seven remained, three of which suffered from broken ribs or crumped limbs and could only scrabble feebly in the dirt. The remaining four wolves - wary now that their leader lay with a shattered skull among the fallen - hung back in the shadows of the trees, teeth bared in silent growls. But they had been commanded to kill, and would not back down until their bones fell apart.

The remainder of the pack leaped forward as one, as if in response to some unseen signal. Two wolves charged straight for the warriors who had slain their comrades, while another, fearful of the larger beings, chose the goblin instead. The fourth had chanced to look up and pounced for the strange mechanical bird that had whirred into the air. The wolf's old leg-bones, deprived of their muscles, were not quite springy enough to reach its target, but it leaped a second time and a third, snapping its jaws just under the thing's metallic body.

~~~

Balvadere cursed as the rickety old jeep bounced over a root in the road (though "road" was a liberal term for the old game trail). He only hoped he would make it in time to save the team's new recruits from what was sure to be a grim end. Will I fool myself? They'll be dead before I get there, the lot of them, like all the others. If that necromancer hasn't got them, the Seraph - or whatever it is - shall soon arrive, and set upon them as they sleep. Curse Mrorgain and her plans! If she tells me to round up another batch from the far corners of Mindennauer, I shan't be doing it, not if all of Byüligítznuk's minions storm forth to devour the planet. Too many have died without need these last few decades.

Balvadere ducked a low branch and spat leaves from his mouth as the jeep coughed and spluttered its way through the wood. Try as he might, the stout human could not shake the feeling that he was being watched, and by more than one pair of eyes...

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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Fri 27 Mar 2015, 12:22 pm

Kyra slashed her lance at the wolf jumping through the air at her. It slammed into the wolf's side breaking several of it's ribs. It hobbled slightly and charged again seeminglyunfazed by it's newfound lack of ribs. Kyra swung again, this time downwards. The weapon hit with a crack as the beasts spine was broken.

If it hadn't been dark, Kyra would have just used her light magic. She cursed the fact that humans we're so magicless.

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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Fri 27 Mar 2015, 6:45 pm

Urvad's shaking cries nearly pierced the skies as he scrambled behind rocks, foliage, and occasionally the odd compatriot, all for cover. Having not slept at all (with the risk of someone nabbing his pouches of stolen gold, why should he?), he was all too awake when the graceless baying of the skeleton-wolves descended upon the camp. The ensuing havoc left him scrambling for escape.

He was wary of the brush beyond the clearing. Where the light of the moon and stars were not present, the forest was entirely opaque, and anything could be inside. The goblin was hoping to avoid accidentally running head-first into the jaws of a stalking skeleton-wolf. He ducked beneath brambles and around bushes as the others slew most of the creatures, keeping his profile low; he was trying to avoid being spotted.

Unfortunately, the undead are not easy to mislead. One of the skeleton-wolves was now heading right towards him. Urvad drew one of his knives and glared at the thing as it barreled towards him. His hands were shaking, his pupils were wide, and his mouth was absolutely dry. The wind almost threatened to knock him over as the creature barreled passed him. He had dodged to his left, jumping out of the way of the beast. The clatter of its bones rang in his ears, and he was sure it was soon to attack again.

The skeleton-wolf spun around quickly, using its light, rigid anatomy to its advantage. Its mouth opened, teeth clacking together in a silent growl. Urvad stepped back cautiously, looking for an escape. He saw several low-hanging branches on a tree nearby him.

Ignoring the plight of his bedfellows, he backpedaled quickly, the skeleton-wolf prowling closer to him. He pocketed the knife in his hand as he came up to the tree, and grabbed hold of the lowest-hanging branch.

The skeleton-wolf was quick to react, leaping to bite him. Urvad pulled with all his tiny might, raising himself off the ground. The tooth of the skeleton-wolf snagged his pants and tore a binding, but it did not pierce his flesh. Adrenaline pumping through his veins, Urvad grabbed the next highest branches and pulled himself up, out of the immediate reach of the skeleton-wolf. The goblin panted, climbing another branch up, the claws of the skeleton-wolf digging into the bark. However, for now, the goblin was safe.
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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Fri 27 Mar 2015, 8:09 pm

Rhaokin's drone simply flew ever higher to avoid the wolf, where it could avoid any confrontation by foolish ground based melee attackers. It flew backwards, away from the wolf, as the gun shifted in its mounting, and predictive algorithms displayed potential dodging points of the wolf. As it reached an optimal distance away, it came to a halt, unleashing a cacophony of suppressing fire upon the wolf.

Of course, the undead need not fear death as the living do, and the stream of small caliber, inaccurate rounds merely dissuaded the wolf, who limp-ran away to engage a different, nearer, and more importantly accessible target. That this target was Tythirr only prompted the drone to follow, firing short bursts aimed for the beast's skull. It'd just about gotten in reach to fight her, as the last few bullets reminded it of its own passed mortality, ripping several holes in the skull as it came to a truly dead stop.

Rhaokin had, of course, already started running in her sister's direction, waiting for another optimal chance to deploy her shotgun, on account of the increasing proximity of her... allies, she supposed, she hardly knew most of them, and their enemies.
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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Sat 28 Mar 2015, 1:01 am

When a screaming goblin ducked past her legs, Tythirr's first, and shamefully cynical, response was to pat her back pocket and make sure her wallet was where she left it. If that coward was here for the same purpose as everyone else (and why would he not be, this would be an odd place to coincidentally be out in the middle of nowhere), she had to wonder why. But she sighed, feeling guilty as she watched the goblin get treed by one of the wolves. A short barrage heavily damaged the wolf's shoulderblade and spine, slumping the inanimate pile to the ground.

She was about to get a bit closer to the goblin and at least keep him from dying, when she heard a very close set of gunshots to her left. She looked up just in time to see a wolf lunging for her, ready to tear out her throat, before her sister's combat drone dropped it unceremoniously. Her feathers shrouded her beak in her species' equivalent of a strong blush as she cursed and reminded herself to stay focused. "Don't forget to protect yourself, sis!" she shouted over the commotion.

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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Sat 28 Mar 2015, 5:16 am

Two of the wolves had preoccupied themselves with things they could not reach, as it would turn out, and one was feeding itself to the human valkyrie's rampage. There was only one more. It evaded the lunge of one of Arj'atyn's dogs, imperfectly, having committed too fully to its charge, which set it up for the other's jaws to catch.

Oh yes. Go for us all and not at once, thank you very much.

Arj'atyn and herself finished off the beast together, allocating only a moment to check on her other body. Not far from her log laid an awkward tangle of bony limbs, all straining against each other. None had an adequate source of leverage, as various detachments had occurred.

The sound of weaponsfire had picked up again and died out. Below it, the sounds of grass and bones crunching seemed to relent, though the thrum of animal life remained at least as strong as it'd been when the party stirred from its attempted rest. The faint rise-and-fall of chests, the perfuming of the air with obtuse chemical signals and the byproducts of bacterial metabolism.

(The golemmancer wondered whether the automaton-wolves had attained at least the strength-to-weight ratio of the original design, or if their magical bindings really were novitiate work. Her thoughts strayed from dismantling the skeleton to noting the party's easy victory. The scope of herself receded.)

"Is this a setup? Not a good one, is clear," she hissed, butchering the affricates most of all. She climbed down from her log and looked from orc to human to vrana. "Not unless we were watched." Her golems were sat by their kill, inert as the fallen wolves, utterly unlike their demeanor moments ago.

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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Sat 28 Mar 2015, 9:25 am

All the while with his fists a swinging, Glenn's rampage was bloodless, and not just because they were fighting skeletons. Having entered the fray and fighting back with quick jabs to compensate for their numbers, magic toughened his skin as though it were wood. Between the lack of damage they were inflicting and the light, but swift blows dealt by Glenn - none outright destroying the skeletons - did encourage their retreat for easier prey, and by one by one. If there was one thing these dogs had over Glenn was unassisted speed - the orc couldn't keep up with them on a whim, especially if they ran the other way towards the others.

Despite his frustrations at not being able to take out as many as, say, that flying tin can, which had woefully shown him up and inspired the orc to use it as a smoker for the next night's dinner, he could find accomplishment in the battle being won... he would just have to swallow his pride and accept that the drone was a useful tool. He channeled the energy generated by his frustration into squeezing his fist, and kept it clenched until it was worn and drained.

The lizard was pondering aloud about the motives of this supposed organization that requested them here. Glenn was honestly not that concerned about it, and kept a disinterested look locked on the subtle twitching of a skeleton that lie crippled on the ground. He paced over next to it and nudged it with his boot.

"Well, I don't know about that..." he said in a gruff voice, slowly adding force to the top of the corpse's neck. It was squirming a lot more visibly when given the encouragement. "...but I hope they enjoyed th' show, eh?"

The vertebrate of the crippled wolf's made an audible snapping sound on cue with Glenn's last word, and was crushed into fragments beneath his weight. He bent over and picked up the skull to take a curious look at it. From the sides, the bottom, head-on - and the lower jaw fell off at a dime, promptly a frown from the orc. Perhaps he could bolt that on? Surely can't be any different from fixing trains...

He turned around back at the group, tossing the skull up and catching it with his hand as though it were a ball. With a big grin from ear to ear, he said simply, "souvenir."

This was of course just a distraction for himself. He didn't want to admit that Arj'atyn might be right, because - like she said - he couldn't shake the feeling he was being watched.

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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Sat 28 Mar 2015, 7:05 pm

In the wake of the din of battle a distant rumbling grew ever nearer, and a pair of bright yellow eyes ducked and wove through the trees. After a few moments the offending object clambered slowly into the clearing: an old black jeep, paint chipped and bumper smashed in, parked there in a cloud of dust.

The engine cut, the lights went out, and the jeep lay quiet. With a grunt, the dark silhouette of a figure shoved itself out the driver-side door and stood silently in the dark. A moment of uncertainty passed.

"You're alive," mused the figure in a low voice. "Fantastic!"

The man - for without the blinding headlights, the figure was visibly a human - bowed low to the group before him. He was tall and well-built, but none too handsome; meaty was his face, and his long grey hair fell past the shoulders of his molded armor. "Balvadere is my name!" - this he shouted - "...Though some of you may know me already..." - this he muttered - "...and I welcome you with warmth to the service of Mrorgain the Rock."

Balvadere raised his head with a grin. "Lucky are you lot that I came with such haste. Undead beasts prowl the woods tonight, and worse things, perhaps, prowl with them. But..." Frowning, Balvadere tapped a finger at each of the assembled company. One, three, five... "Did any of you happen to spy a goblin on the way here? I was sure a sixth would join us tonight."

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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Tue 31 Mar 2015, 2:04 am

Tythirr pointed to the tree Urvad had climbed, engaging the safety on her gun and returning to her traveling gear. She hastily tied her sleeping bag onto her backpack, the contents of which were admittedly mostly bullets, but also some traveling food and some essentials. She hadn't been wearing her tactical vest while asleep, but she put that on, stowed her weapons on it, and donned her pack. "Got room for everyone on that thing? Unless we're being harassed by a complete novice, I doubt a few reanimated mutts are going to be all we get hit with tonight."

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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Tue 31 Mar 2015, 4:23 am

Rhaokin reflexively nodded as her sister pointed, before leaving the man's immediate presence to acquire her things as well. Her own collection of things were relatively small, emergency provisions, basic survival equipment, a kit to keep her gun in shape, and a few change of civilian clothes. Folding her drone-holster into its compact form, she threw it on after the backpack, hardly taking up and more space. Finally shouldering her weapon, and strapping her own bedroll into place, she exited the tent she'd have to leave behind, as she mused at the wasted money.

As she returned to the formation before their new companion, she seemed to stare off into space, arm still twitching as she began to scan the surrounding area via her smaller surveillance drone, with her combat one forming up above her, rotors still whirring. "Indeed, we've killed several." she finally offers to the man's statement of beasts and menaces this night. She faced him, though her eyes appeared to trail off above him. Coughing as she remembered her manners, she followed with, "Kovarnis Rhaokin, pleased to make your acquaintance, Balvadere was it?"
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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Tue 31 Mar 2015, 10:29 am

"Aye, lucky are we..." Glenn mumbled in thought as he stroked either side of his thin beard with his hand. Finally, he pointed a finger at dear Balvadere and finally said with a twinkle in his eye, "say... aren't ya the poor sap that gave me my letter? Di'nt I clobber ya?"

Even if only by the fire's illumination, there was no mistaking the purple and yellow bruising on the side of the man's face. Glenn's memory with names might not be the greatest, but the name Balvadere sure sounded familiar. A prideful grin lit up the orc's face as he went to pack up his stuff. Ha, lucky are we, yeah right. Some brave hero! From what he saw, they all could handle themselves just fine!

"Lucky are we... pfft!" Glenn began humoring to himself. "Bahaha-aah, ow..."

There was still that spot, however, where the skeleton wolf had dug its claw into his shoulder after he had mistakenly took his eyes off of it.

While others had opted for a sleeping bag, Glenn had a small tent. Not terribly old fashioned, it had one of those newer contraptions that made it easier to carry and what not - but it had genuine canvas! Unlike the newer micro-polyester bullcrap they're selling these days. Digging the poles out from the ground, Glenn took the legs, pulled on them slightly and folded them over in half and aiming them at the center. Even the tent's spine could be folded. The poles now no more than three feet in length were rolled up in the canvas and was secured with straps and tied up to his backpack.

He bent back over to pick up the wolf skull and lower jaw, pressing the two together.

"We don't need him, do we?" He muttered quietly with pouty lips at the skull. He shook the skull side to side. "No, no... didn't think so..."

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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Tue 31 Mar 2015, 4:20 pm

Boras von Bennford opened a pair of bleary eyes. Like a drunken infant he staggered to his feet, blinking dumbly in the darkness. For the moment he recalled nothing of the twelve wolves or of his plan; he merely squinted into the distance. Was he seeing things, or was that a white light - like the soft glow of an old filament bulb - flickering quickly through the forest?

Boras stumbled into the treeline, drawn like a moth to a flame.

~~~

"There you are, Urvad, you old scoundrel! Come down as quickly as you may; we have little time."

Balvadere stood to the side as the party packed up, shooting occasional glances over his shoulder. "Reanimated mutts?" he muttered distractedly to Tythirr, before noticing that he had crunched a few stray bones underfoot. "Oh. Oh! I see my counsel has arrived somewhat tardily. Well, then." Balvadere kicked a femur off into the woods. "Yes, the jeep will hold all of our cargo, but would then be at pains to store more than four passengers. I shall trek quickly behind with the two quickest of you, if as many are willing. Make haste, now!"

The sturdy human glanced up into the night sky. The stars were subdued tonight, and only the faint suggestion of a full moon glowed from behind a thick cloud layer.

"Eh?" Balvadere turned as Rhaokin spoke. "Yes, Balvadere Hulf am I, Kovarnis Rhaokin!" He extended a hand. "Would that we had formally met earlier, but our situation calls for great secrecy. Mrorgain will explain all at the hideout, which is but twenty minutes down the road, as the jeep rumbles."

Balvadere then turned - somewhat reluctantly - to the orc Glenn, doing his best to face only to the right. Eurgh... I'd hoped he wouldn't remember that.

"There'll be much more for you to clobber," Balvadere managed flatly, "if all goes well. Now, if you've all finished packing, we really must move!" Saying this, the human fumbled for his key fob and the engine sputtered quickly into life. "So! If one would volunteer to drive - you need only follow the path, there, until an old shack on the other side of the river crossing - and if some would offer to give up their seats and run with me, or barring that, pile on top of eachother in the back." He sniffed the air. "If all goes well, we shall rendezvous with Mrorgain and the rest of our company, who will outline the job we have hired you for, as well as all offered compensation, benefits, and insurances."

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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Tue 31 Mar 2015, 10:13 pm

In the manner of forest creatures', Arj'atyn's eyes caught the headlights' momentary direct glare and reflected it as silver points.

She was far more impressed by the orc bruiser's powers of intimidation than by their shabby and overly bombastic handler. She supposed the light utility vehicle was impressive in its own way - one that had nothing to do with either its state of repair nor its passenger capacity.

Having taken their measure, she stashed her bedroll and slung her bag - containing also her mealkit, medkit, wire cutters, rolls of pre-wired contractile fiber, insertion nodes, and bone drill - carelessly over one bare shoulder. At her mental touch, her dogs got up from the dead patch of grass; she took them ahead to also be loaded into cargo.

"The goblin is half-sized, and will fit. Two of us will hang onto the sides... without falling. It will be less dangerous than parting." She looked about present company for approval and volunteers, lingering on the blue-crested Kovarnis, seeking some particular recognition.

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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Tue 31 Mar 2015, 11:51 pm

Urvad reflexively grasped his coinpurse, his gempurse, his assorted-rings-and-things purse, and a couple other leather bags holding miscellaneous objects that were attached to his dusty old trousers. He now both had heard and seen a person he had stolen from before. This was not good - he had not expected to encounter them again so soon. They might try to beat the crap out of him! He judged his options. He was currently in a tree, and would make quite a ruckus getting down. It was unlikely all of the others had not seen him escape up it, so he would be pointed out soon enough.

He had only one option, to climb back down and hope to not be recognized; alternatively, to hope that this fellow was not one much for revenge. Urvad's goblin feet found purchase along the branches as he pulled, climbed, and hopped his way down. Being so small was nice when it came to climbing things.

"Blecht." he said, spitting away a bit of webbing that had gotten caught on his face. He scampered after the party, joining them amid the clearing.
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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Wed 01 Apr 2015, 12:54 pm

More clobbering? Oh boy, this was going to be one exciting adventure! Granted, there was more to life than a good ol' fist fight, but there was nary a thing more fun! Indeed, it did enrich the soul some and brought energy to a man's life. A method of livening up a world filled with the arts and sciences, and one could even argue a fight was like an art or science of its own!

Glenn's mental soliloquy was intruded upon at the offer of opportunities. The goblin (had he always been there?) had rejoined the group and the human, Balvadere, asked who would be swift enough to follow behind and who had the aptitude to operate the vehicle. His pride swelled at either of these prospects. Surely, with both his body and magic, he could keep pace with the vehicle all the while carrying one of his comrades! Alternatively, his unparalleled knowledge of train trivia would no doubt carry over well to the usage of a passenger car. There was no doubt about his value to the team!

"Well, I'm a pretty strong runner if I do say so myself!" Glenn asserted proudly. "But I also got a bit of a... magic touch with old-school mechanics. I guess you could say I'm not too shabby a mechanic and/or operator!"

Surely there was a zero percent chance of disaster with his well and capable hands taking hold of the situation.

"I'm all yours, mister- uh... Ball... of-dare."

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PostSubject: Re: The Earthheart - IC   Wed 01 Apr 2015, 5:04 pm

"Yes, indeed," Balvadere sighed to Arj-atyn, rubbing his mustache in thought. "I suppose it would be safer if we remained in one group. Very well, the six of you can fit in the jeep, if two hang off either side. And you!" He squinted at the form of a goblin who had just scampered into the clearing. Tugging hard on his beard, Balvadere grumbled something under his breathe. "You, I'll deal with later. The main thing is to get going! I've been told-"

At that moment the human started, as if he had heard something far in the distance, or perhaps been bitten on the toe. Balvadere sniffed the air and looked about. Scarcely a cricket could be heard in the dark of the night, and the moon and stars shone as brightly as ever.

"Haste, I say, haste!" Balvadere threw whatever luggage had gone unpacked into the back of the jeep. "Orc," he shouted, handing Glenn the key fob, "You say you know your way around a bit of mechanics? Splendid, you shall drive! As I say, simply follow the trail, cross the bridge, left at the fork, and you shall come to the hideout." Saying this Balvadere threw open a door of the jeep and beckoned the company to pile inside.

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