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Daughter of Krypta
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TaleSpinner



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 PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 7:45 pm    Post subject: Daughter of Krypta Reply with quote Back to top

Chapter 1

The Wailing Wind Inn preyed solely upon unfortunate travelers who were unable to make it through the Kings Highway by nightfall. The moderate sleeping lodgings and less-than-moderate ale encouraged travelers to sleep early and leave by the first light of morning.

This was fine with the owner, a thin, wry man named Darren who, against all traditional innkeepers throughout history, actually detested strangers and visitors. He had inherited the inn from his father and maintained it as the inn provided a means of living for him and his family. Travelers were dealt with measured politeness and over-measured room-rates. Darren dreamed of the day he would sell his establishment and take up a job which did not quite involve so many people, like money-counting at the Royal Treasury.

He was in the midst of one of these day-dreams when the door of his inn banged open, flooding the taproom with the cold evening air. A small group of dirt-stained travelers entered the tap room. Darren's well-versed eye picked out his newcomers, a burly warrior and a smaller person in a green cloak. The warrior's eyes shifted across the near-empty tap room before proceeding towards the bar. It was only then when Darren noticed a slender, hooded figure in a brown traveling cloak behind the warrior. The figure followed the warrior slowly, gloved hands gripped on a pale staff. A female, he guessed as he tried to see the third person's face under the hood. Probably the warrior's woman. As he regarded the woman, Darren noticed the Inn's resident dog, a mean-tempered mongrel tastefully named "Bread-and-butter", get up from its place-of-honor next to the fireplace and disappear into the kitchen. He thought he heard old Bread whimper as it slunk away.

The warrior reached the bar where Darren was. "Two rooms for the night, friend innkeeper."

Darren's averted his eyes from the strange, unnerving figure and looked at the warrior. He was middle-aged with a touch of gray in his hair. His armour and sword showed signs of wear and constant maintenance. Battle experience emanated from him; Darren could tell by the way he stood, and the way his eyes gazed intently and caught everything.

"Do you have anything to eat?" the green cloaked man queried, making Darren start in surprise. He did not notice the small man coming up to the bar. He regained his composure. "Yes, we have some roast on the spit. I can prepare three meals in half an hour."

"Thank you, friend innkeeper. Could you show us the rooms?"

"Of course, sir. Will you be sharing your room with your lady friend?"

The hooded figure shifted and Darren sensed irritation. The warrior coughed uneasily. "Um, no. The priestess gets one room and we'll take the other."

A priestess!, thought Darren. It was then he saw the tell-tale red-robe under the traveling cloak and matched it with the bone-white staff. That probably explains why I've got hairs standing at the back of my neck. But if she's a priestess, then where is her troupe of walking bones? "My sincere apologies, sister. Follow me, please." The innkeeper led the trio to a short corridor and pointed at two doors.

As the priestess passed, Darren could not control his curiosity. "Pardon me, sister, but being a priestess, where are your um.. skeleton servants? Only, I thought priestesses always had a few.."

A icy glare from the hooded woman stopped Darren mid-sentence. After a moment, she turned away and proceeded down the corridor to the guest room.

The warrior clapped his hand on the innkeeper's shoulder in a comrade fashion. "Trust me, friend innkeeper, she's definitely a priestess. You just wouldn't want to find out the hard way."

In the guest room, the priestess drew back her hood, revealing her midnight-black hair tied in a tight bun of discipline. She was surprisingly young for a priestess, perhaps no more than eighteen years of age. The priestess laid her staff against the corner and sat on the hard bed, not bothering to light up the dark room, and took a deep breath. Weariness threatened to stoop her posture, but even alone, the priestess kept herself seated upright and rigid. She closed her eyes and let her memories sweep her tired mind to a small wood-cutter's village in the not-so distant past.
 
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TaleSpinner



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 PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 7:48 pm    Post subject: Daughter of Krypta Reply with quote Back to top

"The Laws of Dauros bring order and light to the world, fighting back the darkness of chaos which threaten to consume it."
Sunlight glinted off the upraised long sword of the paladin, making it shine with an almost golden aura. Captivated by the paladin's weapon, the circle of young girls stared in admiration, gasps of awe mingled with whispers and giggles.

"Megan, what does Basille, the city of Dauros look like?" "Is the training hard, Meg?" "When do you get to handle your own sword, Meg?"

Megan slid her sword back into its well-kept scabbard and smiled at her fascinated audience. From the corner of her eye, she noticed Father Duncan nodding in amusement. She grinned at her Teacher before turning back to the girls. "My, that was a barrage of questions!" A burst of laughs and giggles. Megan decided to answer the second question. "I suppose you can say that the training is very tough, and I'm not even fully-trained yet myself! But with the grace of Dauros, and a whole lot of determination, you can get by."

Another flood of excited questions, but Megan was only half-listening. She looked around before finally spotting a lone figure walking away some distance off. Megan pursed her lips thoughtfully before returning to the attentions of her audience.

Lydith sat under the shade of a large oak tree and leaned against the warm bark. All her life, the tree had simply been called the Big Oak by the people in her village. Her father, a seasoned wood-cutter, used to tell her about how truly magnificent the tree was. See the size of the base trunk, he would start. This tree must have stood here even before our enterprising forefathers moved into the surrounding lands. It must have seen hundreds of seasons and witnessed thousands of events that have changed the world as we know it. If only the tree could talk, he would muse, then we all would be a whole lot wiser.

Lydith smiled to herself as she fondly remembered her father's 'tree-talks'. With such admiration for a tree, she would say to him, it is ironic that you work as a wood-cutter. As this he would laugh and reply in a lecturing tone, One should always respect the things one works with, even if it involves chopping them down. He would then give her a goodbye peck on the cheek before moving off to join the other wood-cutters as they began their trek into the forest.

"Thought I'd find you here."

Lydith looked up in surprise. Megan was peering around the oak tree with a warm smile on her face.

Lydith managed to smile back. "Oh, hi Megan." She looked behind the paladin-in-training. There was no sign of the other girls. "Where're the rest?"

Megan laughed. "They're now crowding around Father Duncan who's giving them a droning lecture on the enlightening path of Dauros. With any luck, only a few will survive."

Lydith smiled, genuinely this time. "You're always such a brat, Megan. You've not changed since you left for the city of Dauros."

"Am not! Two seasons is loads of time to change and don't you think I'm now more cultured and refined?"

"No, you're still the same, even after two seasons. The only real difference is that you've now got a sword to poke people who don't think so."

"Why you imprudent little harpy! I'll poke you with this big knife of mine to teach you a lesson!"

The paladin-in-training proceeded to rib a squealing Lydith with the end of her scabbard. Lydith tried to grab the offending weapon holster before she gave up and tried to reach for her attacker's ribs, all the while laughing until she was out of breath. They finally pronounced a cease-fire and lay down side-by-side under the tree.

Lydith stared up to the leaves of the great tree. "I'm glad to see you again, Megan. It's been so boring here without you."

Megan sat up and her eyebrows started to notch together. Lydith recognized the expression. Megan's eyebrows always did that when she wanted to say something serious. "I need to talk to you, Lydith."

"About what?"

"About your future. Father Duncan brought me along with him because he knew that I come from this part of the country and would know the people here. We're looking for new recruits to join us in the city. These recruits will be trained as paladins, like me."

A curious mixed feeling of uneasiness and excitement leapt in Lydith's heart. "So what does this have to do with me?"

Megan smacked Lydith's knee playfully. "You know what I'm talking about! I want you to follow us to Basille and become a paladin! I think that's the only way to convert your harpy ways to become more clean and civilized!"

Lydith laughed. "But Megan, I can't! What about my father? He'll be left all alone here with no one to help him."

"The Sovereign compensates the parents of those who enter His service. Your father can finally retire and live off the monthly pension that His Majesty will provide. Imagine, Lydith! We'll become paladins and travel together and have loads of adventures by ourselves, just like how we always dreamed we would!"

Lydith grinned at her excited friend. A chance to go out into the world and do what she pleased. A chance which she continually dreamed about, even more so after her best friend left the village to join the order of Dauros. She finally nodded. "Alright. But I'll have to talk to father first."

"Yes! I knew you would come! A brainless little harpy like you is no match for the clever manipulation of a student of Dauros!"

The cease-fire ended abruptly at that point.
 
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TaleSpinner



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 PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 7:49 pm    Post subject: Daughter of Krypta Reply with quote Back to top

Lydith hurried through the village. Megan had gone to report to Father Duncan and had told her that they would be leaving ThistleWood in a few days. Lydith hoped that her father was in a good mood. She passed the blacksmiths' and took a turn that brought her near the village square.
"Why, if it isn't the ugliest ratling of them all."

Lydith grimaced. She should have taken a longer route along the edge of the forest. Either that or asked to borrow Megan's sword before cutting through the village. She turned to face the speaker.

"Hello Sharielle. I see that you've decided to walk your pets today."

Sharielle tossed her golden curls back. A group of three or four other youths stood near their leader, waiting for the command to lunge and attack. "You're in a rare mood today, Lydith. Seeing Megan must have shed off some of your stodginess."

If anyone had left ThistleWood two seasons ago, Lydith wished it was Sharielle. She was the only daughter of the local tax-collector and lived right in the heart of the village, next to the square. Her father doted on her constantly and gave her whatever her devious little heart desired. Since childhood, she always had an admiring and envious crowd of followers who listened to her every word and became accomplices in her cunning schemes. When Lydith refused to be part of Sharielle's little ring, she became a regular target for the group's amusement.

"Well, Lydith. It seems that Megan has finally changed from an ugly ratling that she used to be. Can't say the same for you, I'm afraid."

Lydith gave an unamused smile. "We'll see. I will be following her to the city of Dauros and when I get back, I'll be able to do more than show off my sword to you."

Sharielle's right eyebrow arched. "Is that so? Since when did the monks of Dauros choose daughters of vile priestesses' to join the holy Order?"

Lydith gritted her teeth. "You will not talk about my mother that way."

Sharielle moved in for the kill. "My father always said that your father was lucky that she never came back. She would have cursed his life and ruined the reputation of the village."

Unable to restrain herself, Lydith swung a slap at Sharielle's face. The tax-collector's daughter was half-expecting this and managed to barely dodge the blow. However, Lydith's fingernails scored a scratch against the lobe of Sharielle's ear, drawing slight blood. Lydith did not have time to gloat as she tore off toward the direction of her home.

Sharielle touched her bleeding ear with a look of shock and outrage. "Get her!" she screeched and the rest of the group ran after the fleeing offender.

Lydith passed the wheat fields with the posse hot on her heels. At this time of the year, the fields had been harvested and clumps of hay mixed with soil littered the ground. Unable to reach her, the members of Sharielle's clique picked up the clumps of hay and threw them after Lydith. Hay cascaded over Lydith's head and got into her hair, but she did not slow down and finally made it to the front gate of her father's residence.

She chanced a backward look and saw that her pursuers had given up and moved off to console their injured leader. Lydith picked the hay out of her hair and dress. One day, she vowed, she would have the opportunity to stuff hay down Sharielle's dress. Preferably ones that had lice in them.
 
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 PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 7:50 pm    Post subject: Daughter of Krypta Reply with quote Back to top

Chapter 2

The sound of a door closing and the tap of a staff against the wooden floor alerted the warrior and his short companion about the priestess's approach. The warrior looked up from his breakfast and watched as the priestess moved towards their table.

"You did not come out to eat dinner last night," said the warrior.

"Save your concern, Gameth. My meditations to Krypta and my rest was all I required last night." She sat down at her prepared place and started to pick through the cold bread and stale meat.

The small green-cloaked man squeaked in a shrill voice, "Oh, Gameth just peppered because Yellow Sky got to eat your meal last night before he did." A mask made out of tree bark was pushed back till it covered the top of his head like a flat hat while the little man ate his breakfast.

Gameth snorted at the green-cloaked cultist. "You eat too much for your size, Yellow Sky. And you snore louder than a Werewolf with flu."

The little cultist named Yellow Sky grinned. "You should see Yellow Sky drink. Too bad the ale here is too bland to fill Yellow Sky's stomach. Perhaps he should give the innkeeper some special ingredients to throw into the brew barrel."

"Not if you want to see this place still standing when we return."

The priestess listened half-heartedly as she ate. The bantering between her two companions had become a normal start to the day.

Gameth finished his bread and blanched. "I can't believe how much I paid for this." He looked at the priestess. "So, Lydith. What next?"

"The roads are too open. I don't want anyone following us to have such an easy time at it."

Gameth reached into his tunic, pulled out an old map and spread it on the table. "Then we get off the Kings Highway and push eastwards to the Morning Star mountains and then north towards the caverns." He nodded to himself thoughtfully. "There're bandits up those mountains, especially at this time of year."

"Yellow Sky knows a better way," sang Yellow Sky in a childish, mocking manner as he stole a piece of bread from Lydith's plate.

"And what might that be?"

"We go west. To the Forest of Dreams. And then we go to caverns."

Gameth covered his eyes with one hand in exasperation. "The Forest of Dreams is an even more dangerous place than the mountains. And you wouldn't even fill a spider's stomach."

"Not so dangerous," came the quick reply. "And spiders won't eat Yellow Sky after he charms them to eat you instead."

"That's enough." The warrior and cultist turned to face Lydith. "I want nobody following us. And the chances are that no one will follow us into the forest."

Gameth grunted as he picked up his map. "Suit yourself. Just stick close to the cultist, he probably thinks it would be amusing to leave us in the forest."
 
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 PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 7:51 pm    Post subject: Daughter of Krypta Reply with quote Back to top

As Lydith made her approached her home, she heard the distinct sound of wood being chopped. Upon reaching the front porch, she went around the side of the house and, as expected, saw her father chopping firewood at an old tree-stump. Her father looked up and wiped sweat off his brow. Gray had begun its descent on his dark hair which was once as dark as Lydith's.
"Disgraceful, I tell you," he said. "Fifteen years as a village woodcutter and I still run out of firewood in my own house!"

Lydith giggled. Her father's dry humor always found its mark in her. "Maybe if you pry your stingy fingers off your purse and buy another axe, I could chop wood too."

Her father grinned. He then nodded towards the house. "Ready for a surprise? There's someone here to see you."

"Really? Megan's here?"

"No, not Megan. Why don't you go in and see for yourself?"

Lydith moved to the front door and entered the small house. She had lived here in this house all her life. The front porch entered into a small living room and kitchen, with two bedrooms towards the back. Apart from the new paint she and her father applied last summer, nothing much ever changed in the house. The inside of the house was slightly dark, the sun never really managed to pry its way into the rooms.

A robed figure sat at the kitchen table. Lydith recognized the person at once and ran to embrace her. "Aunt Daedra!"

The priestess stood up to receive the embrace. Her robes were reddish-maroon, a sign of long-usage for anyone in her profession. "Careful, child! I just came in and you might get dirt all over your lovely blouse."

But Lydith did not care and hugged her aunt. Aunt Daedra was not really related to Lydith, she was her mother's closest friend when her mother was alive. Together, they had traveled to many far places before Lydith's mother decided to settle down with her father. Aunt Daedra continued to serve her profession, visiting every few years to see her friend as well as Lydith who was born within a year of her mother's marriage.

One day, when Lydith was twelve, Aunt Daedra had returned with urgent news and, without even explaining the reason to Lydith or her father, her mother left with Aunt Daedra. Two months passed before they saw Aunt Daedra walking slowly back to the house alone. Even before she heard the news, Lydith knew that her mother would never come back home again.

Since then, Aunt Daedra had visited several times, each visit filled with doting on her goddaughter as she called Lydith. The last visit was a year ago, and as Lydith hugged her aunt, she could feel the years between those visits just vanish.

"I'm so happy to see you, Aunt Daedra! You'll sleep in my room again, won't you? How long are you back for this time?"

Aunt Daedra smiled at the girl she had watched grow up over the years. "Not very long, I'm afraid. A few days, and then I'm off to Krypta's Temple in Necroselleum. Come, child, I have a gift for you."

Lydith released her aunt and watched as she took out a brown pouch from the confines of her robes. Lydith took the pouch and opened it. She delicately reached in with her fingers and drew out a thin, golden necklace with a small pendant shaped like a tear-drop. In the middle of the pendant, a small maroon jewel seemed to glow with its own light.

Lydith stared at the maroon jewel in wonder. "It's beautiful, Aunt Daedra."

"Not as beautiful as it would look on you, child. Try it on."

Lydith put the necklace on and tried to glance downwards to see herself. Aunt Daedra gave a low chuckle. "Silly child, you'll twist your own head off doing that! You can walk to the lake later on when there's still light to see your reflection from there. Meanwhile, it's getting close to dinner time. Who's cooking tonight?"

"Father," replied Lydith, still trying to view herself.

"What? Tomas? Cook? Come, let me rescue ourselves and prepare us a safer meal!"

Both Lydith and her aunt laughed as they moved into the kitchen.

[ 18. February 2004, 07:51 PM: Message edited by: TaleSpinner ]
 
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 PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 7:52 pm    Post subject: Daughter of Krypta Reply with quote Back to top

Tomas closed the kitchen door and sat down in front of Aunt Daedra. Not concerned like many in the presence of a priestess, he proceeded to finish his dinner. Bread and cheese with some left-over gravy. Megan had come around earlier asking for Lydith and both the girls had run off someplace, Tomas giving them a stern warning to stay away from the forest and be back by sundown.
Aunt Daedra observed him as he ate. "Lydia always said that you couldn't care less if the world stopped turning once you've started eating."

Tomas wiped some gravy off the side of his mouth. "She normally said that as an indirect self-praise to her own cooking."

Aunt Daedra smiled. Lips painted black pulled back against a white-powdered face, an unnerving sight for any witness apart from Tomas. "You know her as well as I do." A thought passed in the priestess's eyes. "In many ways, Lydith is a lot like her mother."

Tomas finished his simple meal and leaned back. Aunt Daedra could see that the years of simple living had not dulled the man's mind; focused thought tinged with slight suspicion reflected from his expression. "Alright, Daedra. What do you want?"

"I think you already know what I want. Lydia was one of the greatest among our brethren, one of the most powerful among the followers of Krypta. What took many years for ordinary folk to learn, she mastered within a few months." Daedra leaned forward. "Many say that she was a chosen one of Krypta. A true daughter of the infernal goddess. Born with the power already infused within her bones. There are not many whom the goddess favors."

A slight flicker drifted across Tomas's face. "And so what makes you think Lydith is part of this?"

"Everyone in the Order knows that Krypta is very, very much a woman and a mother. If Lydia was one of Her daughters, that would make Lydith something of a granddaughter to the goddess." She brushed an imaginary crumb off the table. "And grandmothers are known to be very attached to their grandchildren."

Tomas gazed down at his empty plate. "Lydith makes her own decisions. I will not stand in her way or her choices." He looked up. "However, you might find it difficult to get her to follow you. I heard that the Daurosians are here and Megan, the one who called Lydith out just now, is with them. I'm afraid Lydith might have other plans for her own future."

Aunt Daedra stared out the kitchen window. "We'll see about that. The will of Krypta is not so easily thwarted."
 
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 PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 7:53 pm    Post subject: Daughter of Krypta Reply with quote Back to top

"Dauros's Blessings, Father Duncan!"
The saintly old monk of Dauros turned and regarded the two girls. "Ah, Megan! I was looking for you. We might have to leave a bit earlier than expected." He looked at Lydith.

Megan waved a hand extravagantly at Lydith. "This is my good friend Lydith." Lydith was slightly embarrassed as she did a small curtsy. "Good evening, Father Duncan."

Father Duncan nodded in approval. "Dauros bless you, young one. Are you also a friend of Sharielle?"

Lydith froze as if she had heard a demon's name. "I um.. see her around. Now and then."

"Hello, Father Duncan! I see you've met Lydith." Sharielle approached the group, surprisingly without her little horde of followers.

Father Duncan glanced back at Lydith and she thought saw a disturbed look in the monk's eyes. "Oh, yes. Quite right."

Megan ignored the newcomer and patted Lydith on the back. "Father Duncan, I want to put Lydith forward to join us at Basille. She is a great sport and I just know you'll be pleased with her."

"Ah. I've already done some recruiting myself." He gestured at Sharielle. "Sharielle here will be joining us. I've already spoken to her father who is absolutely delighted at his daughter's choice." The same troubled look crossed the monk's face again. "However, for Lydith, I'm afraid we cannot take her with us."

Megan gave Father Duncan a stunned look. "But why not?"

"Lydith's background is slightly.. unique and I'm afraid it is against the regulations of the Order for her to join us."

Why you scheming little.., Lydith took a step forward towards Sharielle who promptly moved behind the monk. Father Duncan frowned at the furious girl.

"I am so sorry, young one. But the law of Dauros is very specific. We cannot compromise, even for one case."

Megan wisely pulled Lydith behind her as she stepped in front of the monk of Dauros. "But Father Duncan, I've known Lydith for years and I can tell you that she'll be the best addition to our Order! She even runs faster than me!"

But the monk only shook his head sadly and sighed. "There is nothing I can do, young Megan." He turned towards the village inn where he was staying. "We leave at first light tomorrow." He moved off so suddenly that Sharielle found herself unprotected from the other two girls. She quickly back-stepped and started towards her own nearby home. "See you tomorrow, Megan. And goodbye, Lydith." There was a gloating tone in her voice.

Megan turned back at her friend and was shocked to see tears streaming down Lydith's face. She put her arm around Lydith's shoulders and tried to soothe her.

"Please don't, Lydith. It'll all be okay. I swear when I get back to Basille to our training grounds, I'll make that spoilt little wretch's life a living hell. There's a pond of mud under the monkey-swings which I promise will have Sharielle's face in it before the week is out."

The thought of Sharielle thrashing in the mud with Megan throttling her made Lydith hiccup slightly. "Too bad I won't be there to see it."

The two friends walked away into the night, back to Lydith's home.
 
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 PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 7:54 pm    Post subject: Daughter of Krypta Reply with quote Back to top

Chapter 3

The Forest of Dreams stretched lazily along the western side of the Kings Highway. Travelers generally avoided the forest, chancing at shortcut through its outskirts only during the day. There were tales of creatures which roamed the forest at night, gory enough to keep normal folk away. Rangers occasionally attempted to explore the deeper parts of the forest, and it was not surprising if a few did not return.

The warrior, cultist and priestess moved cautiously through the dense undergrowth. Yellow Sky kept his spirits up by singing a silly song to himself while Gameth surveyed their surroundings, one hand constantly gripped on the hilt of his sword. The bright sunlight failed to fully penetrate the thick, broad leaves of the forest trees, casting everything around them in a somewhat hazy light. Perhaps this was how the forest gained it's name, thought Lydith. Everything looks like it's in a dream.

Several hours past morning, the little group decided to stop for a rest under a large tree. A slight wind blew, causing the leaves and branches to stir in a whispering rustle. Yellow Sky lay back on the mossy tree trunk, his hands behind his head. "Yellow Sky loves this place," he remarked. "People say that the most wondrous dreams come to he who sleeps in this forest."

"And they'll probably be the last dreams he'll ever have," grunted Gameth as he tore a piece of dried rations. "This forest is infested with colonies of giant spiders. We'll be lucky if we don't run into any of their hunting grounds."

A chitter sounded from the tree branches above and the trio looked up. Yellow Sky laughed when he saw a squirrel peering down at them from the lower branches. He tore a small piece of bread and threw it up. The squirrel ran to retrieve it as it landed somewhere up in the branches. "See? Even the forest creatures love Yellow Sky."

"You don't gain love and respect through bribery," said Gameth as the squirrel scampered back and chittered imploringly at Yellow Sky for another morsel.

Yellow Sky grinned as he tore another piece of bread. "Why not? The Sovereign gives out rewards for actions, yes?"

"Pah! That's different! Those rewards are just incentives to.."

An arrow struck the tree trunk inches above Yellow Sky's head. Gameth leapt up, sword already in his hand. "Take cover!" he yelled as he stood protectively in front of Lydith.

More arrows flew into the small clearing and struck around the group. One grazed Gameth on the arm who ignored it as he scanned the nearby bushes for the offending archers. Yellow Sky dived and rolled on the ground as several arrows landed on his previous resting place. He rolled into a crouch, a small throwing dagger in his hand. "Here, kitty, kitty, kitty," he crooned at his unseen archers.

The arrows stopped and a few figures emerged from the bushes and rushed at the trio. Black leather armour scraped against green skin as the attackers ran towards the warrior and cultist. "Blasted goblins!" bellowed Gameth as he parried a blow from the lead goblin which seemed larger than the rest.

Yellow Sky whooped as he threw his dagger at another goblin, striking it in the chest. The creature gawked at the small blade and started to pull it out. As it looked up, another three daggers joined their compatriot in the goblin's chest and neck. With a gurgling choke, the goblin fell face-forward on the ground.

Lydith looked around at the goblins. There were at least four sword-wielding goblins, excluding the one Yellow Sky just disposed of. And the archers in the bushes would not hesitate to finish the job if their goblin warriors failed to kill them. Gameth and Yellow Sky will never find them in time, unless.. She focused her eyes and started to chant.

The goblin champion leader snarled as it slashed it's wicked blade at the aged warrior. Gameth parried the slash again and struck out with a series of well-executed sword thrusts. Stepping backwards to avoid the blows, the goblin champion's eyes widened as it realised that the human was still very deadly despite his age. It jabbered at the other two goblins which leapt forward to attack Gameth from both sides. The warrior lunged right, directly towards one of the goblins which hastily brought up it's blade to defend itself. Too late. The goblin blade scored a minor scratch on the warrior's shoulder as Gameth ran his sword through the goblin's guts. The creature screamed as it fell on the ground twitching.

Another goblin cornered the cultist at the tree. Yellow Sky shrieked in seeming terror and ran sideways around the trunk of the large tree. The goblin sneered as it raced after him, only to find that the cultist had disappeared. A look of confusion passed the goblin's face. Suddenly, the bark of the tree lunged at the goblin and a dagger appeared through it's chest. The creature gaped and fell as the grinning cultist's skin changed from tree bark texture back to normal.

The two hidden goblin archers glanced at one another as they observed the skirmish turn against their fellow goblins. They raised their bows, ready to correct the situation, when a dark shadow fell over them. Looking up, they saw the first slain goblin standing over them with a red glow emitting from it's eyes. Death magic radiated from the undead creature like a red heat shimmer, rapidly decaying the lifeless flesh and leaving gaunt bone behind. The remaining shreds of facial skin remained expressionless as the skeleton unmercifully slashed it's previous comrades over and over again.

Gameth attacked the goblin champion ferociously as the other goblin suddenly found itself battling another goblin skeleton with guts staining it's trousers. The goblin chopped fearfully at the undead, all intentions on attacking Gameth abandoned.

With another snarl, the goblin champion swung a downward slash that would have split the warrior's arm off if Gameth had not dodged out of the way. The warrior swiftly took advantage of the goblin's open position and chopped at it's neck. A look of surprise remained on the goblin champion's face as the head spun in the air and landed at the foot of the tree. A shriek sounded and Gameth looked to see the last goblin being dismembered by it's undead opponent.

Yellow Sky dropped next to the goblin champion's head. "Good fight," he grinned as he kicked the head into the bushes. He looked around happily. "No dirty goblins in this forest when Yellow Sky is here!"

Gameth grimaced and looked around for Lydith. She was standing some ways back, a look of intense concentration on her face. The two undead goblin skeletons lurched slowly towards her and stood before the priestess. A wordless conversation seemed to pass between them.

Lydith raised her hands. "Thank you, and farewell." The two skeletons toppled to the ground, the red glow from their eyes extinguished. Lydith looked at the warrior. "Gameth, get the shovels."

"Fervus's Mask! Why you do that for?!?" exclaimed the cultist in surprise. "Those skeletons were useful!"

"Here, catch." Gameth threw a portable shovel at the cultist who caught it by reflex.

"What are we supposed to do with this!?" demanded the little cultist, waving the tool as if it offended him.

He thought he saw a slight smile on Lydith's lips. "One should always respect the things one works with, even if it involves chopping them down," the priestess replied mysteriously.

Yellow Sky frowned. "What?"

Gameth gave a huge laugh. "You know, I said the exact same thing to her mother. Come on, let's get this over with - it'll get dark soon."
 
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Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

 PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 7:56 pm    Post subject: Daughter of Krypta Reply with quote Back to top

"Come along, child. It'll be best to make it to Deepen Dale before nightfall."

Lydith struggled to adjust her heavy backpack and followed her aunt who carried a backpack even larger than hers. Despite being a middle-aged woman, Aunt Daedra walked with a tireless stride that occasionally left the younger girl trailing behind. They had been walking for almost a day along the forest road that led to the trading post town of Deepen Dale. From there, Aunt Daedra estimated that it would take another three to four days on foot to get to Necroselleum. Lydith wiped the sweat off her brow. This was just the first day of travelling and she could not imagine how exhausted she would be once they have reached their destination.

Megan had left two weeks ago with the rest of the Daurosians and paladin recruits. Lydith did not see them off; she would not give Sharielle another opportunity to gloat at her. Megan understood and had said her good byes to Lydith the night before.

The days after had been spent with Aunt Daedra. Over the time they spent talking to each other while doing the household chores, Aunt Daedra slowly became her listener and counselor. The recent visit by the Daurosian recruiters had stirred up feelings inside of Lydith, fanning her long-time urge to leave the village and see the world. She found herself asking her aunt more and more questions about her mother and eventually about the Ways of Krypta.

Aunt Daedra had been honest and direct with her. "Child, if your sudden interest in the Ways of Krypta is triggered by your urge to leave this place like Megan and Sharielle, then you will not last long in the Convent of Krypta," she had told her firmly. "Becoming a priestess is not an easy process. It is a difficult ordeal, one which even I almost never got through if it weren't for the encouragement I had from your mother. And being a priestess is not just all travelling and seeing the world; there are heavy responsibilities involved in doing Krypta's work."

Seeing the discouragement in the girl's eyes, Aunt Daedra put an arm over Lydith's shoulders and spoke softly, "Krypta's ways are strange to many, child. I cannot predict Her path for you, but you must think deeply on the choices you make for your own future. Find out what is truly in your heart and follow it."

Lydith pondered over Aunt Daedra's words for the next few days, trying to work out the tangled feelings she had within her. Finally, she made up her mind and told her father about her decision to follow Aunt Daedra to Necroselleum.

Tomas was quiet after her announcement; for some strange reason, Lydith felt that it had not come as a surprise to him. He then just nodded and gave her a hug. "Your mother and I are proud of you, dear one," he had spoken into her ear. "Take care, and be wary of whom you trust."

Lydith wondered at the last few words her father had spoken. She had never known him to be the suspicious type and those words almost sounded like a warning of some danger he already knew.

"Here we are, child. Deepen Dale." Aunt Daedra pointed down at a bustling town that now lay before them.

Lydith stared at the first town she had ever laid her eyes upon. Compared to her small village in the woods, Deepen Dale seemed huge. The trading post town bustled with wagons bearing goods such as leathers and furs, dried meats and casks of sour wine, even logs of wood. Lydith wondered if any of those wagons had come from ThistleWood. "Do you always stop by here when you come visit us, Aunt Daedra?"

Aunt Daedra shook her head. "No, I normally don't stop here. I just keep going and sleep in the forest if need be. But for your sake," she said while eyeing the exhausted girl, "I think it would be wiser to have a hot bath and one night's rest in a comfortable bed."

Lydith almost kissed her aunt's feet at that.

The two travellers entered the town and was almost completely lost in the crowded narrow streets. Eventually, Aunt Daedra spotted a fair-sized inn near the center of town and made for it. A sign bearing a bear's paw mark swung placidly above the inn's door. As they both entered the inn, Lydith saw that the taproom was half-crowded with people. The smell of pipeweed filled the air while the sounds of talking and laughter, although not deafening, required one to raise his voice to be heard.

The innkeeper, a portly man with an apron, smiled broadly at them as they approached him. "Welcome to the Hellbear's Paw-" he began before his eyes suddenly widened upon the recognition of Aunt Daedra's robes.

"A room for two, innkeeper," said Aunt Daedra unperturbed. "With a bathtub of hot water, if possible."

It took several seconds for the innkeeper to regain his composure. "Ahm," he coughed. "Yes, of course, Sister." Lydith noticed that his face had turned slightly paler.

"I think we will have our meals before we adjourn to our room," Aunt Daedra continued. She turned to Lydith. "Are you hungry, child?"

Lydith nodded. "I'm famished."

The innkeeper nodded, a tad too vigorously. "Two meals. Right you are, Sister." The man promptly disappeared into the kitchen, not even showing the two to an empty table.

Aunt Daedra gave an irritated huff. "Appalling service, this place," she declared to no one in particular as they made their way to an empty table.

Lydith sat down and pulled closer to talk to Aunt Daedra under her breath. "Aunt Daedra, I don't think it's such a good idea to be here."

Aunt Daedra glanced around and spotted some of the inn's patrons staring at them, several of them unfriendly. "You may be right, child. Make sure that.."

"We don't like your kind here," growled a rough voice suddenly.

The two looked up to see a gaunt man with a scarred face looming over their table. The inn grew noticeably quieter as the taproom's patrons stopped to observe the spectacle.

"We have no business here, young man," replied Aunt Daedra with a steely gaze. "We're leaving at first light tomorrow."

"Damned priestess scum," sneered the man. "I said, we don't like your kind here. Get your rotting hides out of here before I throw you out."

"That would not be wise, young man," said Aunt Daedra calmly.

The man put his hands on his waist. "What will you do? Drain my life out, you vampire witches? Go on, show everyone what hell-spawned tricks you have."

"She needn't do anything, friend," came another voice behind the scarred man. "Because I most definitely will."

The man spun around. A warrior stood before him with a dark brown travelling cloak that almost hid his sword and armour. Lydith could see that the warrior was rather advanced in his years, streaks of gray touched the sides of his brown hair.

"I would have thought that the men in this town had better manners towards women." The aged warrior stood in an easy stance, but Lydith sensed that the warrior could spring into action in a moment's notice.

"Are you a priestess's dog then, old man?", the scarred man sneered. "Come on, show me how a priestess's dog fights." He swung a fist at the warrior's face. The warrior ducked and grabbed the man's fist with one hand. The scarred man gasped as he was pulled forwards and slammed face-first against the taproom bar-counter. The aged warrior bent down till both their eyes met.

"I have friends who would have smashed your thick skull into a bloody pulp against this counter," he growled. "Be thankful that I'm considerate enough to know that the innkeeper would not appreciate the mess. But try that again, and the innkeeper will be spending the night scraping your scarred face off from here." He let the man go. The scarred man slid down on the floor, scrambled to his feet and made for the door, the crowd parting to let him through.

The warrior watched the man's exit. "He won't be back," he said as he turned to sit down at the table. The rest of the taproom's patrons slowly went back to their own business.

Lydith stared at the warrior as he and Aunt Daedra looked at each other. "What are the chances that we'd bump into each other, Daedra?" the aged warrior spoke as a grin broke out on his face. "It must be a meeting pre-arranged by the gods themselves."

"Hmmph, I must have irked Krypta for Her to arrange me to meet you again, Gameth," replied Aunt Daedra.

The aged warrior's grin did not falter. He looked over at Lydith. "And who is this young lady travelling with you?"

Before Lydith could answer, Aunt Daedra answered, "The child's name is Lydith. She's Lydia's daughter."

At the mention of Lydith's mother, Gameth's expression changed to one of surprise and then intrigue. "Lydia was your mother?" he asked. "Then I am honoured to be in her daughter's presence. Sir Gameth IronEdge at your service, young lady."

"You knew my mother?" Lydith asked in surprise.

Gameth gave a slight nod. "We travelled together for a while, your mother, Daedra and me. Had a couple of adventures together, if I must say."

"Most of which involved us getting you out of trouble, if I must recall," said Aunt Daedra dryly. "For a warrior, you seemed to attract more trouble than a troupe of cultists."

"Ah, the folly of youth," reminisced Gameth. "That was then. Years have stolen much of my brashness. Especially after several years of patrolling the southern borders and skirmishing with the snake spawn." He shook his head at some memory. "Not anymore, however, thank the gods."

"So you've been recalled to the city?"

"Aye. And after a few days of staying in the Warrior's Guild, I felt the urge to travel again and thought I'd head south to visit the forest trading post towns and here I am."

Aunt Daedra narrowed her eyes. "What a coincidence then," she said in an unconvinced tone.

Gameth gave out a loud laugh. "A suspicious woman as always, Daedra." He turned to Lydith. "For your information, despite the resentment Daedra here seems to have for me, your mother and I got along very well back in those days."

"A bit too well, if I wasn't there," cut-in Aunt Daedra sharply.

Gameth coughed and looked slightly embarrassed. "Here now, Daedra - the child doesn't need to know about all that."

Lydith was going to prompt the warrior with a question about her mother when a movement at the Inn's entrance caught her eye. The scarred man had returned, with several other men. The group occupied an empty table at the other end of the taproom and glared malevolently at them. "Aunt Daedra," said Lydith while prompting her to look.

Aunt Daedra spotted the group. "It looks like you're losing your edge, Sir IronEdge. Our unhappy acquaintance is back, with some of his friends."

Gameth turned and spied the group of men. He grunted and then turned back. "I suppose it would be best not to stay over this town and invite more trouble," conceded the warrior. "Come, I know a good, safe place to camp in the forest. Definitely more hospitable than this sewer hole."
 
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 PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 7:57 pm    Post subject: Daughter of Krypta Reply with quote Back to top

The clearing Gameth brought them to was definitely more hospitable than the Hellbear's Paw in Deepen Dell. A fresh-water spring gurgled amidst a small enclosure of trees which partly shaded the sky. The three broke out their bedrolls and settled down for dinner as the day slowly faded into dusk. Aunt Daedra brought out the food that she and Lydith had been carrying - a slab of cured ham with loaves of bread and some fruits. Gameth surveyed their supplies and tut-tutted to himself.

"What's wrong, Gameth?" asked Aunt Daedra as she handed Lydith an apple. "Expected to see some special delicacies from two travelling women?"

"What? No, no - just wondering if you two wanted to share some of my food."

"We're perfectly happy with our own food, thank you very much," replied Aunt Daedra as she turned her attention to slicing up the slab of ham.

Lydith thought she saw a sly twinkle in the warrior's eye as he opened his backpack and brought out more bread and biscuits along with a large package tied with a string.

"What's that?" asked Lydith as she bit into her apple.

Gameth grinned and started to open the package. "This? Oh, it's just something that I've been saving up for a special occasion and I guess this marks such an occasion." He opened the package and took out the most fabulous cheese cake Lydith had ever seen. Aunt Daedra stopped mid-slice, her eyes on the cake as well.

"Cost me quite a bit, but I thought it was worth the money," continued the warrior as he sliced a piece of the cake. "Made exclusively by the elven bakers of Fervus Street. Of course, if your Aunt Daedra insists on sticking to your rations, then I guess I'll have to eat it all by myself." Gameth innocently bit into his slice of cheese cake.

"You are an evil man, Gameth," said Aunt Daedra in a low and dangerous voice. Her eyes did not shift from the cheese cake beside the warrior.

"I come from an evil city," admitted Gameth as he took another bite.

"I will not beg for a measly piece of cake from an old, miserable lout like you," stated the priestess defiantly.

"Suit yourself," said Gameth. He finished his slice of cheese cake and sighed in contentment. "I'd blame the Fervus Street bakers if I were you. Damn elves make the cheese so smooth you can't hardly appreciate the walnut biscuit base."

Lydith watched in amusement as Aunt Daedra shut her eyes and pursed her lips firmly. After a moment, she opened them and looked at Lydith. "Pass me the cake, Lydith," she finally said in a tone that commanded no mirth. "And hit that man if he tries to stop you."

Lydith obediently took the cake and passed it over to her aunt as Gameth stretched himself and lay back with victorious grin on his face.

The next few days passed in a repetitive routine. They walked along the roads during the day and camped in the forest at night. Gameth seemed to know almost every clearing in the area, despite his comments about not having been around the area for several years.

Finally, on the third night, Aunt Daedra told Lydith that they would reach Necroselleum by the next day. Gameth had chosen to set up camp in a small clearing hidden from the road. After a well-cooked dinner, the priestess and girl settled down in their bedrolls.

Lydith found herself unable to sleep. The thoughts of finally seeing the fabled city of Krypta, and that she was going to be initiated into the Convent of Krypta, played in her mind. She turned in her bedroll and spotted the warrior sitting nearby. Gameth had volunteered to take the first watch and sat on a log facing out towards the forest. Lydith got out of her bedrolls and walked towards him. Although she hardly made any noise, the warrior turned slightly at her approach. "What are you doing up, Lydith?" asked Gameth in a friendly but low voice.

"I couldn't sleep," said Lydith as she sat next to the warrior.

Gameth shifted over to make more room for her. "Then you can keep me company for a while."

They both sat next to each other on the log, staring into the shadows of the surrounding trees. "Tell me about my mother," asked Lydith suddenly.

Gameth glanced briefly at the girl. "What do you want to know, Lydith? Aunt Daedra or your father would have told you a lot about her by now."

"Yes," Lydith affirmed. "But I'd still like to hear about her from other people who knew her when she was younger. Like you."

Gameth stretched as he thought back. "Ah, well. Your mother was a rare one. She and your Aunt Daedra were closer than sisters. I found her to be the quiet and careful one, not at all like your Aunt Daedra who was a bit more feisty." The warrior grinned at that reference to Aunt Daedra. "Oh yes, and they were both quite inseparable. I'd imagine that Lydia's passing must have caused a great deal more grief to her than she'd shown."

"How was my mother as a priestess?" queried Lydith.

The aged warrior paused in thought. "As a priestess, I must say that your mother was very much different from the others. Normally, I can't stand priestesses. They'd come out of their Temple with a string of undead following them, ordering them around to do their slightest whim. I suspect it's a game to them, who can control the most undead at any time. However, your mother wasn't like that at all. For one, she never had any undead following her around. Said that the undead would prefer to remain dead. Other priestesses sometimes mocked her beliefs but surprisingly, they'd keep out of her way. Guess they were careful because of your mother's ability to raise impressive numbers of undead."

"But I thought you said she didn't raise any undead."

"No, I said that she didn't have any following her around - but she could raise them. And by Krypta, could she do so. Your Aunt Daedra can do her fair share of raising, but your mother had a talent that I'd never seen before. I remember one time when we went to investigate the lack of caravans coming in from the east and we came across a minatour's stronghold. We were attacked before we could get away and your mother raised so many undead that they were crawling all over the stronghold like ants. And her undead weren't stupid either - I saw several co-ordinate themselves into battalions like veteran soldiers and charge at a group of minatours."

Gameth's eyes gleamed at the memory. "After the battle, it took us two full days to bury them. Another one of your mother's strange habits, she dispelled the undead as soon as she could and insisted that every one of them got a decent burial." The aged warrior grinned as he stared out into the trees. "I can still remember the looks on the guildmasters' faces when we returned from that adventure. Couldn't believe that a minatour's stronghold could have been taken out by a mere threesome. And the priestesses wrote off my account of the matter as a delusion caused by beserking."

"Which is also probably responsible what little brains you have left," came Aunt Daedra's voice from behind them. The warrior looked back at Aunt Daedra who now stood behind them. "Good evening, my dear Daedra," said Gameth with seeming charm. "The girl couldn't sleep so we're having a small chat. I thought recounting a few war-stories would make her drop off straight away."

Aunt Daedra pursed her lips. "How very considerate of you, Gameth." She turned to Lydith. "Come, child. You'd better get as much sleep as you can. Tomorrow, we'll reach Necroselleum and it will be a long day initiating you into the Convent." Lydith nodded obediently and got up to return to her bedroll.

"And Gameth," said Aunt Daedra to the warrior. "I do not appreciate being referred to as 'feisty'."

Gameth winced as the priestess and girl returned to their bed-rolls.
 
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 PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 7:59 pm    Post subject: Daughter of Krypta Reply with quote Back to top

The shadows of the nearby trees grew longer as dusk settled over the small woodcutters' village. Tomas hefted his axe over his shoulder with one hand while his other hand pulled a rope secured around a small log which he dragged over the ground towards his house. Grunting as he strained to pull the log, he made his way to the side of the house where the rest of the wood was stored. After depositing it next to a neatly stacked row of firewood, he untied the rope, coiled and hung it on a nail on the side wall.

Tomas casually gripped his axe in one hand and walked to the front porch of the house. He stepped in front of the door and bent down to push a heavy block of stone away from the foot of the door which was normally wedged there to hinder thieving pests from breaking in. Last summer, a family of weasels had broken in and helped themselves to the larder. After he and Lydith had chased the lot off, Tomas swore that he would skin the next weasel, squirrel or any other woodland creature that came close to the house and nail it's hide on the door as a gruesome warning to other hungry unwanted guests. So far, he had not managed to fulfill this sacred pledge.

That's funny, he thought. The stone was already pushed away to one side. Tomas straightened up and scratched his head. Must be getting old. He pulled the door open and stepped into the house. The interior of the house was dark, the fading sunlight had long left the rooms.

A noise clattered from the kitchen. Damned weasels, swore Tomas as he strode towards the sound. Suddenly, a blow landed on the back of his neck. Tomas dropped his axe and fell face forward on the floor.

"Good one, Krut," came a voice from the kitchen.

"Ach, this was a tough one. I think he almost dented the hilt of my dagger."

Tomas lay on the floor groaning. The back of his head flared with pain, he had almost lost consciousness but he adamantly held on to the waking world. Voices spoken in a twanging accent sounded above him. For some reason, Tomas thought they sounded familiar.

"Who's this, then? Definitely not the girl."

"Maybe her father or her keeper. Let me take a look at him." A shadow passed over Tomas's face. "Ye gods! It's Tomas the Taker!"

"Tomas the wh-.. you mean the Tomas the Taker!?"

"Stop gaping like an idiot, man; he's still awake! Hit him again!"

A sharp kick to side of Tomas's head re-introduced him to the world of pain and darkness more effectively.
 
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 PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 8:01 pm    Post subject: Daughter of Krypta Reply with quote Back to top

Chapter 4

Old Bread-and-Butter was a dog that knew when to avoid trouble. Somewhere along the line of canines between the mongrel and it's wolf ancestors, this instinct had permeated itself as a crucial survival trait particularly when dealing with humans.

This is chiefly the reason why the dog now slunk along the road outside the Windy Wail Inn, having exited via the half-open front door. Some rough humans had come in and were creating havoc in the Inn and the old dog thought it would be wiser to spend the night outside the establishment. After stretching itself thoroughly, Old Bread decided to head to the stables where it was probably quieter and less dangerous when the tops of a few hooded figures appeared over the hill up the Kings Highway. Old Bread observed these newcomers carefully, and then caught a whiff of their scent. The dog then rapidly ran to the stables as if it was chased by a horde of demonic cats.

"THIS ALE TASTES LIKE MONTH-OLD TROLL PISS!"

Another mug smashed against the back wall of the bar as Darren cringed in fright. The barbarian, dressed in animal hides with a brown fur-cloak which he boasted was Hellbear's hide, sat down again at his table. Two other younger barbarians, also clad in furs, laughed raucously and banged the table as they drained their mugs of ale as if it were only water.

"That's the third mug you've thrown away, Thargan," slurred one of the barbarians.

Thargan snorted. "I've had stump-water that tasted better, Krangar!" He turned towards the bar. "HOI, YOU! GET ME ANOTHER MUG! AND THIS TIME MAKE SURE IT'S ALE OR I'LL MAKE SURE THE MUG SMASHES AGAINST YOUR WORTHLESS SKULL!"

Darren nodded fearfully and, with a shaky hand, proceeded to draw another mug of ale from his rapidly depleting barrel. Thankfully, nights like these were not often; the barbarians from the nearby hills rarely came down the Kings Highway to frequent the inns. Normally, they would travel to the elven cities to whet their appetites using whatever coin they had mysteriously come to possess. However, every few years or so, a group of them would take it into their heads pay a visit to the inns and many an inn-keeper along the Highway cringed at the memories of these social calls.

The door of the inn suddenly swung fully open and Darren prayed that whoever it was, they had better sense than to enter an inn being internally wrecked by a bunch of barbarians. Three hooded and cloaked figures entered the inn followed by a woman dressed in a red robe. Darren groaned inwardly, it was a priestess. Outside, Darren could make out another two priestesses accompanied by a few more hooded figures. The barbarians immediately reached for their weapons.

"Inn-keeper," called the priestess, ignoring the barbarians. "I require some information from you."

"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING HERE, YOU CORPSE-LOVING WITCH!?" bellowed Thargan as he and his comrades stood up, their clubs and axes glinting wickedly in the light.

The priestess regarded the barbarians as one might regard an insect. "I have not asked anything from you, filthy one. And I prefer to be referred to as Sister ShadowLife."

"I CAN PREF.. REFER TO YOU ANY WAY I WANT!" shouted the barbarian. "THIS INN IS TAKEN SO GET OUT AND TAKE YOUR MAGGOT-RIDDEN CORPSES WITH YOU!"

It was only then when Darren noticed that the hooded and cloaked figures seemed unnaturally still. He shuddered when he finally saw the bony arms and skeletal hands half-hidden under the cloaks. In the shade of one hood, Darren could almost make out a vacant-eyed skull.

Amazingly, Sister ShadowLife only sniffed in disdain and turned back to Darren. "As I was saying, inn-keeper, I have a few questions for you."

"You're asking for it, witch," growled the barbarian named Krangar as he advanced towards her. Immediately, one of the skeletons moved in front of him. Cursing in the name of Krolm, the barbarian swung his axe, only to be parried awkwardly by the skeleton's scimitar.

What followed was only partially observed by Darren as he hid under his counter and peered out through the small cracks between the planks. The barbarians attacked with a frenzy while the skeletons slashed unmercifully with their dreadful scimitars. Sister Shadowlife chanted a continuos stream of Kryptian verses as she threw balls of life-draining Kryptian magic at her attackers. Most had no effect on Thargan, the legendary magic resistance of barbarians ringing true, but the other two younger barbarians were being steadily drained. And with each successful theft of life-force, the skeletons grew stronger and rebuilt themselves even as pieces of them were hacked off.

Darren closed his eyes, unable to watch. Krriing! Tchiang! A surging sound of Kryptian magic. "YYAARGGH!" The counter he was hiding under shuddered as a heavy body was flung unto it. Whether it was a skeleton or one of the barbarians, he was not sure.

Finally, the noise subsided and Darren opened his eyes. Perhaps they've all killed each other, he thought hopefully as he got on his knees and peered out over the counter and surveyed the scene. Bones littered the ground along with broken tables and chairs. A badly beaten Thargan struggled weakly, pinned down by three skeletons. Of the other two barbarians, Darren thought he saw no sign until he noticed that two of the skeletons holding the barbarian were wearing furs. He gulped when he saw the priestess notice him.

"Hold him," said Sister ShadowLife absently as she made her way to the bar where Darren was, stepping over the wreckage and spilt ale on the floor. "As I was saying," continued the priestess as if nothing of consequence had just happened, "We have a few questions, if you don't mind."

"Any.. anything," stuttered the wide-eyed bar-tender.

"Have you seen a warrior, cultist and a girl come by here recently? The warrior is rather old with gray in his hair and the cultist looks very much like any other of his irritating kind. The girl is about seventeen to eighteen years of age and is about this tall." She held up a hand.

"You.. you mean the young priestess with no skeletons? A group of people just like that came through here two nights ago."

A look of triumph glided over the priestesses face as she smiled. "Yes, I believe that must be the one. Except that the girl isn't a priestess."

"She.. she isn't?", asked Darren in surprise.

The priestess shook her head. "I'm afraid not. She is a runaway from our Convent of Krypta in Necroselleum." Sister ShadowLife paused in thought. "We had better continue on our way as soon as possible. They can travel far on the Kings Highway in two days."

"They're not going on the Kings Highway," blurted Darren nervously. "I heard them say that they are going into the Forest of Dreams."

Sister ShadowLife looked at Darren in surprise, as if she had now discovered that the bar-tender could think. "The Forest of Dreams? Then that is where we must go." The priestess placed a few gold coins on the bar-counter. "For your troubles."

"Come," she intoned to the three skeletons holding the barbarian as she turned to leave. The undead beings unceremoniously dropped Thargan on the floor and started towards the priestess.

Thargan looked up. "What of my brethren?" he demanded to the priestess while motioning his head to the two gaunt cadavers of his former comrades. The look he gave Sister ShadowLife was not without hate.

A thin smile broke out over Sister ShadowLife's lips. "I always believe it is fair that when you break something that belongs to another, you should replace it." With that, the priestess gestured with one hand and the skeletons lurched forwards to follow their new mistress.
 
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TaleSpinner



Joined: 08 Sep 2000
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 PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 8:02 pm    Post subject: Daughter of Krypta Reply with quote Back to top

During the Age of Gods, when all the gods walked the world of Ardania as Avatars, the Avatar of Krypta and her followers, built Necroselleum upon the foothills of the great Barrier Mountains. It is said that the shadows of the mountains cover the city throughout the day, and at night, pitch darkness invades the streets, rendering it almost impossible for anyone to get around without a lantern.

Lydith could not stop staring at the huge city as it stretched out before the three travelers. They had been encountering clumps of cottages and farms in the morning and were now standing at the top of a small hill which gave them a grand view of the city.

"Look there, child." Aunt Daedra pointed to a large, gray building with red roof tiles which dwarfed its surrounding buildings. "That is the Temple of Krypta - the largest in all of Ardania. The Convent of Krypta is next to it."

Lydith spotted another large building in the city, almost the same size as the Temple of Krypta. "What building is that?", she asked as she pointed.

"That's the Sovereign's Resident Palace," replied Gameth.

"The Sovereign lives here?"

"No, the Sovereign stays in the palace only when he visits here. The palace was built over two hundred years ago during the reign of the Sovereign Solvemarin; he governed the city of Necroselleum before his ascendancy to the throne. The palace is now occupied by the current governor of the city."

"I thought the priestesses govern the city," said Lydith with a puzzled frown.

The aged warrior shook his head. "The city is officially run by the governor who is appointed by the Sovereign. Since the Age of Gods, no members of any guilds are allowed to rule a city, so the governors of every city supposedly pledge allegiance only to the Sovereign." Gameth grinned. "However, as you have pointed out, most people know who makes the real decisions in Necroselleum. Let's just say that the priestesses have a very strong influence here."

"Not all priestesses, Gameth," said Aunt Daedra. "If I had any influence here, the first thing I'll do is to tear down the Rogue's Guild. I don't know what the governor or powers-in-charge see in them."

"Ahh, my dear Daedra. You have to understand that there are always things that need to be done which you wouldn't like to be noticeably associated with," said Gameth sagely as they approached the city. "That's what rogues and thieves are for. But really, they're not all a bad lot - maybe just monetarily-inclined."

Aunt Daedra only sniffed in reply.

Despite the tales Lydith had heard about the city of Necroselleum being a priestess's city crawling with undead and other unholy creatures terrorizing the local population, the city showed no signs of supernatural activity, much to her disappointment. Busy merchants and travelers bustled along the streets among farmers and peasants delivering goods or heading off to some errand. Still, it was the first city she had ever been to and she found herself staring everywhere, trying to take in everything at once.

"A lot of gold must have been spent building this city," she said to Gameth as they made their way through the thronged streets. A ringing noise of steel penetrated the background chatter as they passed a large blacksmith's forge.

"Well, the governor should spend some more to build separate Guilds for warriors," grunted Gameth. "Especially after he permitted the Cult of Fervus to build one of their temples here."

One of Aunt Daedra's eyebrow's arched. "Oh? And why is that?"

Gameth grimaced. "Where you have Fervusian cultists, you get their Discords. And since we have only one Guild for warriors, those Discords have moved in with us. You try living under the same roof with those maniacs."

"Discords?" murmured Lydith with a puzzled frown.

"Warriors of Discords," answered Aunt Daedra. "They're the warrior members of the Cult of Fervus who have undergone the Rite of Transformation which supposedly makes them fearless and gives them great strength. However, it is widely rumored that the rite also makes them go slightly insane."

"Slightly!? You should have seen what one of them did to my last pair of boots! Now I can't leave anything leather lying around without it becoming a Discord's late night snack!"

The trio proceeded down the streets as Gameth continued to complain to Aunt Daedra about his alarming Guildmates. Finally, they reached the front of the large, gray building Aunt Daedra had pointed out earlier from the hill. A massive, bronze double-door with carvings of Kryptian verses and Kryptian deities stood open. Some followers of Krypta, dressed in plain red robes but not priestesses, walked out of the Temple and proceeded down the street. Lydith could not see into the gloomy darkness inside.

"I suppose this is it then," said Gameth as he too peered into the massive doorway. He turned to Lydith and Aunt Daedra. "I must say, I enjoyed traveling with you two very much. You've both made better companionship than I've had for a long time."

The aged warrior reached out to take Lydith's hand but was pleasantly surprised when Lydith hugged him instead. "I'll miss you, Gameth. Thanks for accompanying us here."

Gameth laughed, slightly embarrassed. "If you ever need me, leave word at the Warrior's Guild. They'll know how to get to me if I'm not there." He hugged her again and then turned to Aunt Daedra. A cautionary look from her made him smoothly retract his hug. "Are you going off again soon?" he asked instead.

Aunt Daedra shrugged. "It depends. I will probably be here for quite some time."

Gameth nodded. "Then I might see you again. Good luck, Lydith!" With that, the aged warrior walked back down the street and disappeared around a corner.

Aunt Daedra looked back at Lydith. "Follow me closely, child - it's easy to get lost in here," she said as she entered the doorway. Lydith took one deep breath and entered the Temple of Goddess of Death.
 
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TaleSpinner



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 PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 8:04 pm    Post subject: Daughter of Krypta Reply with quote Back to top

Tomas the Taker.

Now that was a name Tomas had not heard in a long time. As far as he knew, the man who once wore that name was now dead, buried deep into a past life which Tomas had almost started to forget.

As his consciousness slowly crept back, Tomas kept himself still while accessing his situation. The back of his head throbbed like crazy and the hard ground it now lay upon was not helping. His hands and feet were tied with what felt like rope. It was night and he could hear a fire crackling in the background. Voices sounded near to him.

"How are you so sure that it's really him, Sylas?" That voice was wavering and unsure, as if the owner was constantly indecisive.

"I've seen him before and I never forget a face, Krut. That's Tomas the Taker - and I'd bet every gold piece I have on it." Sylas's voice suggested a man with many experiences which have given him a permanent tone of cynicism.

"Well, I've only heard of him. They say that he can walk through walls and he's killed more men than all the Shadows combined."

Sylas snorted. "Ach, you believe everything that's told to you, you balding midget! The Guildmaster's Shadows, although few, are all extremely efficient and each have a list with more names in it than the Daurosian Gospels. But it is true that he's pulled off some of the most difficult assignments compared to the other Shadows."

A brief silence. The fire spluttered - one of them must have fed another stick into it.

"So what are we going to do now, Sylas?"

"We bring him back to Centuria. The Guildmaster's gonna want to see him and catch up with him with questions like how's he been doing, what's he been up to, where has he been for over ten years after disappearing mid-assignment - that sort of thing." Sylas chuckled evilly. "After that, I don't think things will get too pleasant."

Yes, definitely someone with experience. Tomas had met men like Sylas before, they were the kind that survived in the guild via selective loyalty - usually to themselves.

"Besides," continued Sylas. "At least this will keep the Guildmaster happy instead of returning empty-handed without the girl."

The girl. Lydith. Tomas thought to himself. What did they want with Lydith?

The sound of someone getting up. "Watch him in case he wakes up," came Sylas's voice. "I'm going to take a leak."

That leaves the balding midget with me, thought Tomas. Tomas peered through half-open eyelids and surveyed the area - he was lying on his side facing a fire. Krut, unsurprisingly a short man with a receding hairline, sat against a log near Tomas's feet with his side facing him. Better now than never. Tomas pursed his lips together and drew in a slight breath.

A cough sounded from the other side of the fire. Krut started and reached for his dagger. "Sylas? Is that you?"

For a moment, there was no sound apart from the fire. Then another cough sounded right next to Krut, making the man almost jump out of his skin. Krut drew out his dagger and turned his head towards the sound, away from Tomas.

Tomas rolled on his back, drew his knees up to his chest and angled his feet towards the man's head and called, "Hey, you!" A wide-eyed Krut turned his head back, just in time to see the soles of Tomas's feet smash into his face. The short man dropped his dagger and fell backwards, knocking his head against the log. Tomas scrambled towards the fallen dagger and rolled unto his back so that his hands could take it. He rapidly worked the sharp blade on the rope tying his hands, just as Krut opened his eyes in a daze and stared at him before finally registering what had just happened.

"SYLAS!", he shrieked. "HE's AWAKE!! HE'S-"

Tomas's hands came free and he flung the dagger at the panic-stricken man. The dagger spun in the air and landed with a hefty thwack! into the log just an inch from the man's head. Krut's eyes glazed over as he fainted.

Tomas reached down and quickly untied the rope secured around his feet. He got up and groaned slightly at the aches all over his body. I'm getting too old for this, he thought as he sped away from the camp-site.
 
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TaleSpinner



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 PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 8:05 pm    Post subject: Daughter of Krypta Reply with quote Back to top

It was late into the night by the time Tomas stopped running. Although it was dark, Tomas had figured out roughly where he was - over ten years spent wood-cutting in this part of the forest had etched it firmly into his mind.

He stopped against a large tree and sucked in his breath noisily. It had been years since he last threw his voice like that and he was not even sure whether it would work. He gathered his thoughts together.

The Rogue's Guild of Centuria wanted Lydith. Why they wanted her remained a mystery, but Tomas knew that he had to find out. When he had gotten his breath back, he made his way through the forest again. After some time, he reached a large rock, half-covered with moss.

This must be the place. Tomas got down to his knees and started to dig. An hour passed before he finally brought an old, dirt-stained chest to the surface. He undid a leather throng serving as it's latch and carefully opened the lid of the chest. Probing his fingers along the inner edge of the lid, he located the trigger of a concealed dart trap and disabled it. He lifted the lid of the chest fully open and stared at the contents. A black leather suit with an orange-rimmed hood lay neatly folded at the bottom of the chest. Resting on it were a few small pouches, a long dagger in it's sheath, a medium-sized quiver and a crossbow.

Tomas lifted the crossbow out of the chest. It was slender and had a dark varnish rendered it almost black in the moonlight. He checked the loading mechanism, saw that it was still in working order and smiled in satisfaction. His fingers brushed against some engravings on the crossbow's handle - it was too dark to make out, but he knew that the letters spelt the word 'Taker'.

Priestesses were not the only ones who could bring someone back from the dead.
 
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