Zarja blinks, suddenly staring up at the ceiling of the training hall. His eyes see stars, and he scrunches up his face as he sets up, shaking the cobwebs free. He had accepted Iton's offer for a sparring session under the impression that he stood a chance, but once the two had faced off, the highlander had been a living whirlwind, pressuring Zarja from every side. The cleric had been able to bat aside most of the hits with his mace, but had gotten in few of his own. The strikes that did penetrate Zarja's defenses had made quite an impact, and that last horizontal swing had been enough to knock the man prone.
Rising to his feet, Zarja spies the elf maiden standing a ways off, a slight smile playing on her face. Zarja nods to her sheepishly, hoping he didn't look as bad as he believed he had. Turning to Iton, Zarja can do no more than shrug his shoulders in apology.
"I am sorry, Iton. I suppose it was more difficult for me to shake the rust off than I had anticipated. I suppose that wasn't much of a match for one of your caliber."
Picking up his mace, Zarja winces at a slight tweak in his side, but shrugs it off when he remembers that he survived a natural disaster. Running a hand through his hair, Zarja turns to Ela, only to find the elf has begun her own training session, intent on being left alone. Nodding to himself, Zarja looks at Iton.
"I'm not sure round two will offer much more, to be honest. What say we go look for the others?"
"I don't like X, they should remove it." "I like X, they should keep it." "They should replace X with Y." "Anybody that likes X is dumb. Y is better." "Why don't they include both X and Y." "Yeah, everybody can be happy then!" "But I don't like X, they should remove it." "X really needs to be replaced with Y." "But they can include both X and Y." "But I don't like X, they need to remove it." "Remove X, I don't like it."
Lady and gentlemen.... I present to you the Edition War without Contrition, the War of the Web, the Mighty Match-up!
We're using standard edition war rules. No posts of substance. Do not read the other person's posts with comprehension. Make frequent comparison to video games, MMOs, and CCGs. Use the words "fallacy" and "straw man", incorrectly and often. Passive aggressiveness gets you extra points and asking misleading and inflammatory questions is mandatory. If you're getting tired, just declare victory and leave the thread. Wait for the buzzer... and....
One, two, three, four, I declare Edition War Five, six, seven eight, I use the web to
D&D should not return to the days of blindfolding the DM and players. No tips on encounter power? No mention of expected party roles? No true meaning of level due to different level charts or tiered classes? Please, let's not sacrifice clear, helpful rules guidelines in favour of catering to the delicate sensibilities of the few who have problems with the ascetics of anything other than what they are familiar with.
Just a quick note on the MMORPG as an insult comparison...
MMORPGs, raking in money by the dumptruck full. Many options, tons of fans across many audiences, massive resources allocated to development.
TTRPGs, dying product. Squeaking out an existence that relys on low cost. Fans fit primarily into a few small demographics. R&D budgets small, often rushed to market and patched after deployment.
You're not really making much of an argument when you compare something to a MMORPG and assume people think that means bad. Lets face it, they make the money, have the audience and the budget. We here on this board are fans of TTRPGs but lets not try to pretend none of us play MMORPGs.
The wood in arches at the top of the castle tower that hangs over the jagged geometries of ancient cliffs is old and soft and Espi's fingernails dig in deep as she pulls herself up. Others spar or talk and move below but after her ascent to the vertex of this strange new world Espi sees only...
nothing. Small insects.
Espi's new armor isn't broken in and the leather creaks with each exhalation but soon her sweat will fill its microscopic crevices and her knife she has her new knife again and a mission but she feels
Nothing. Wage doesn't sit beside her.
Espi doesn't feel any particular need to compete in Ulrynth, or show her face again, not after her failures in the Valley, but when Sir Raeven assigns them a task she can only nod, momentairly lost in emotion, a weakness imparted by the impossible myth that sits above them on a spire.
Espi catches Sir Raevan, after, and keeps her voice low and soft and out of the presence of others.
"Sir Raeven," she asks, casually, spinning her silver blade between her hands, "There is a man, my superior, by the name of Wage. Can't say he'd be glad to see me again, but it's my duty as a soldier to inquire... Has he turned up?"
Cassilda's comment catches Espi off-guard -- and the scout follows her cue, sauntering out from a nearby stable, leading her horse by the reins.
Espi hates horses.
"Hey, there, Cassilda..." -- she nods at Yuhren as well --"Are you ready to go? Because if there's one thing I wanted to enjoy in the afterlife, it's finally learning how to ride."
She awkwardly pats the neck of her mare; she's probably killed more horses than she's cared for, actually...
If, on a desert night, a traveler, outside the town of Balic, leaning from the steep slope, without fear of wind or vertigo, looks down in the gathering shadow (in a network of lines that interlace) on the carpet of sand illuminated by the moon around an empty grave, what story down there awaits its end?
"May I enter?" Sir Raeven's voice broke through the silence in Arliekkos' quarters, but the man did not wait on a reply before stepping through the doorway. His face was stoic, and he makes no secret of his impatience to get this conversation over with.
"My lord Bluemantle, a word please. I understand your devotion, even if I do not share your beliefs, but unfortunately I -" he pauses, then looks directly into the Knight's eyes, "no, we, cannot wait for fate to direct you to your path. As I told you earlier, the path has been torn apart, and it is important that I set you upon the way you were supposed to arrive on before... something... intervened."
The mage sighs, then draws up a chair to sit down. "You are believed lost to the Holy Guard. Nobody in Ulrynth knows you live, and many believe it impossible for any so close to the disaster to have survived. Still, you will probably be recognised by your brethren and hailed as a hero. In truth you have nothing to lose by joining the tournament. Some of your brethren will also compete, and it will inspire the commoners to see a hero born again compete for the glory. It will not matter if the victor already owns a place amongs the Holy Guard, the fact that anyone may join will ensure many new recruits for the armies of Ulrynth.
"I do not claim to know the true workings of your God, but consider that perhaps he placed me on your path, to direct you back into the embrace of blessed Saint Murray. These mountains are harsh and inhospitable, without my aid you will surely perish. You are welcome to try, but I beseech you to consider the many lives that depend on your survival if what I say is truth. "I am not asking for your allegiance. All I request is to compete in Saint Murray's tournament, nothing more. You will be free to walk the path under the One God's holy light."
Sir Raeven stands, returning the chair to where it stood before he entered. "A lot rides on your decision, Lord Bluemantle." he says, placing his hand on the doorhandle, but before he opens it and leaves, he adds "Your allies will ride for the old tower today, I believe. If I may offer some friendly advice, join them and make some friends."
--- Yuhren, Cassilda and Espi
A man in his twenties looks at the three gathered outside the stables. He is grooming one of the horses, brushing in long, even strokes with a smile on his face. He keeps his shoulder-length brown hair tied in a short tail, and a thick stubble covers his jaw. With a clear voice he calls out to the three riders, "Going to the tower, my ladies, my lord? Will anyone else be joining you? I just told Tom to muck out the stables, so I can prepare more horses if you need."
He finishes his last stroke, then drops the brush in a small bucket of water before walking out into the courtyard, leading the horse he just brushed by the reins. He notices Espi's discomfort, but rather than commenting on it he simply pats her horse on the flanks. "She's a calm one, my lady. She will not harm you. I could not help but overhear, and if you wish, I can teach you how to ride. Shall I accompany you?" He directs the question at all three, dividing his glances evenly between Yuhren, Espi and Cassilda, making sure to cause no offense. His dialect is clearly Ulrynthian, but there is an ease about him in these surroundings that shows the man has been working in Sir Raeven's employ for several years.
Cassilda looks toward the castle but no one else seems to be coming. “Yes, we thought we would explore the ruins,” she answers in response to the grooms question. “There might be one or two more joining us.” She doubts they will see Sir Arliekkos. She expects he will be on his knees praying to his god for at least the next few hours. She wishes him well and hopes he finds the answers he needs.
The wizardess turns and watches as Espi attempts to climb into the saddle. “I don’t know how you managed to ride with the army for so long and never learn to ride.” She sounds mystified. When the groom offers to go with them, she looks to Espi, leaving the decision up to her. She is good with whatever is decided. "I imagine we are all going to be learning some new skills this side of Life. It's just that you get to go first." Her eyes crinkle as she smiles at Espi.
She trots her horse around the courtyard, getting a feel for him. He is a good horse, but he isn’t Blaze. She doubts she will ever find a horse as loyal or true as he was. The gods were good in allowing her to have him as long as she did and she cannot complain. She leans forward and pats her horse along the side of his neck. His ear flicks backwards and then forward again and she pulls up next to the others. "Are we ready or do you want to wait a few more minutes to see if anyone else is going to show up?"
Do NOT meddle in the affairs of dragons; for you are crunchy and go good with ketchup
I believe it best we get started. We'll take it easy on the road, if the others decide to follow, they shouldn't have any trouble catching up to us. He nods at Cassilda, causing some of his long hair to slip in front of his face. Then Yuhren looks at the others in the yard. Perhaps it would be good to have someone around who knows more about the terrain than we do. The others did say the paths were a bit treacherous. He turns his horse towards the gates and leads the small group out onto the path that leads towards the ruined tower. A grin spreads across his face as they step out into the open air, chilled as it is on this mountain-side retreat. His eyes sparkle in the sunlight and he seems eager for the exploration.
“I packed plenty of food for an extra person.” Cassilda looks at the groom. “We welcome your company. I am Cassilda. That is Yuhren, and our expert rider there is Espi.” She smiles at Espi. She knows the woman well enough to wonder if she is truly as unused to horses as she claims. The woman is too clever by half and as smart as Cassi is, she doesn’t think she holds a candle to the devious mind of her fellow female compatriot. Whether or not Espi truly knows how to ride a horse is not something she dwells on for long. She trusts Espi and that is good enough for her.
She lays the reigns over to one side of the horse’s neck and he turns in the proper direction. With a slight kick, the horse breaks out into a trot, heading toward the mountain path. “It looks to be a fine day for a ride!” She throws a grin over her shoulder at the others. She has rather enjoyed these last few days. She does not have the personality that allows her to take many personal breaks. There are always too many responsibilities that need to be seen too. Yet, for the past few days there have been no demands on her and nothing that requires her attention or skills. She has still managed to make herself useful, but she has done so because she enjoys helping, not because it was required of her. The break has been nice and she finds she is more settled in spirit than she used to be.
Do NOT meddle in the affairs of dragons; for you are crunchy and go good with ketchup
“PATER noster, qui es in cœlis; Sanctificatur nomen tuum: Adveniat regnum tuum; Fiat voluntas tua, Sicut in cœlo, et in terra. Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie: Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, Sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris: et ne nos inducas in tentationem: Sed libera nos a malo. Quia tuum est regnum, et potestas, et Gloria, in saecula. Amen" "May I enter?"
Arliekkos did ignore the rudeness of the interruption of vespers and do did ignore Sir Raeven until the completion of a nightly ritual of many years.
"We thank thee O' Lord for thy mercy. We thank thee O' Lord for thy daily blessings both great and small. We thank thee O' Lord for all things that are and shall be. Amen."
Arliekkos did then rise and look upon his host and heard from him the words that man did speak. Sir Arliekkos did then rise when his host rose and bowed to the man and spoke thus, "Consider then this as well then good and noble Sir Raeven that as I now stand before you once more amongst the living that perhaps God has reached forth to you to answer a higher calling as well. This 'something' that intervened; this armageddon that has brought death and destruction upon the land. If you know more of this 'something' then I would know of it before we ride forth. If you know of what has befallen my beloved family lands and the lands of my betrothed then I ask you with heart felt need to know what you know."
The knight's gaze fell upon the favor of his lady. "For the gift of retrieving that alone I will go forth in your colours. For recovering my blade and cloak I shall represent your lineage at the City of Saints. For the fact that if it was not the will of God I would not be so now conversing with you I shall take this as his divine will that, as you have said, it has destined to be that our paths should cross."
"As for friends...mine all perished in the Vale or at the hands of the Asheran and this 'something'. I shall ride forth on the morrow to keep an eye on those that are bound to this strange destiny. That is all that I can find in my heart to give them, but perhaps in time."
Sir Arliekkos completed Lauds as the sun rose above the snow-capped peaks and sorely did his heart miss his home, family and loved ones. Breaking fast he found his way to the armory and collected the arms and armaments set aside for him by their host and so did he intone the most holy of prayers over each item as he attuned them to his spirit and his connection with the spirit of the divine. Excelsior flashed with the brilliance of the sun as he oiled and cleansed the blade before sliding it home into the new scabbard of ebony. The knight felt awkward in the unfamiliar colours of red black and gold. "Praecingemearmatuisodomine, ut proeliohostestuiinnomine tuo!" he did pray as he turned and strode forth from the room to the stairway leading down to the stables. Virtus awaited and it did his heart glad to know that at least one true and trusted friend would be at his side in the coming days. Pausing in the passing he spoke to the holy brother. "The others mean to ride forth to investigate yon ruins that were seen from atop the tower. Duty calls to those of us who shield and protect. Come join me in the radiant light of the day and give thanks that God has given to us these extra days of life."
Sir Arliekkos, mounted upon mighty celestial steed Virtus rode forth from the shadows of the barbican that lead from the yard and stables into the bright light of the day, pennant snapping in the cold breeze of the day from atop the deadly lance. No smile lights the visage of the knight despite the tension leaving his neck now that he once more rides atop the armoured destrier as he gazes upon the Asherans and his fellow countrymen that too easily set aside caution in the company of former enemies.
The lord of the castle followed Arliekkos' gaze, keeping his eyes on the silken scarf as he responded to the Knight's words. "The lands of your lady were ruined, I am afraid. Your own homelands were also tarnished by the flood, but as they sat on higher ground they escaped most of the devastation. You may be proud to know that your father was one of the first capable of lending aid to the survivors in the City of Saints. Had you not encountered the savages, you would have seen signs of his passing. "Yet now your lands lie abandoned. Isolated in a land of desolation, your family and childhood friends that survived travelled with Saint Murray back to the old lands to seek a new beginning. Perhaps some of them will be in Fichel for the tournament." While his words are uplifting, his voice betrays there is more news to come for the holy man. His eyes flicker upwards to meet with those of Arliekkos, and sensing the man is ready for the message, Sir Raeven Garric continues. "Your mother... she was out riding. She has not been seen since."
The mage closes his eyes, and to keep both himself and the man sitting in front of him from dwelling on the fact he changes the subject. "As for this something, there is little even I know. The flood seems to be nothing more than a natural disaster, but it was not supposed to happen. The stone surrounding the water should have held for at least a thousand more years, and no one with the power to see into the future had foretold the event, where the crossing of so many souls should have reverberated through the visions of even the weakest Gazer. "I do not know what caused this, my lord. Whatever did has power greater than mine own, and could be a match even for your all-knowing, all-powerful One God."
--- At the stables
Tom, one of the hands working the stables, already has the mount Zarja, and it does not take him and Arliekkos long to follow after the others onto the treacherous mountain trail. The day is clear, with only a few sparse white clouds dotting the otherwise bright blue sky, and the sun is quickly beating away the night's cold and making the few patches of snow on the landscape weep.
The trail is still wide so near to the castle, slowly dipping downward along the edge of the mountain. A fresh breeze stirs the hairs of the mounts and riders alike, and it causes ripples in the long grass deeper in the valley. On the opposite end, five white dots move along the red-grey stone, and it takes the trio a few moments to identify the spots as mountain goats, probably looking for their first tufts of grass to eat.
It is not long before the two hear voices up ahead, and sure enough, when they round a bend hidden by a copse of small trees, they spot five more horses on the trail ahead, their owners standing beside them looking out over the valley. By now the trail has descended far enough for healthy green grass to grow in plenty on both sides of the path, and while no forests, more trees are spaced around the landscape. The duo glimpse familiar faces as they move closer. Iton, Yuhren, Cassilda, Espi and a young man have dismounted along the path to take in the spectacular view and enjoy the fresh mountain air.
It is only when Arliekkos opens his visor that the tranquility of the scene is broken by an astonished exclamation. All eyes turn to the stablehand, his mouth opened wide in shock. "My... My lord?" His voice is unfamiliar to everyone, except the man the stablehand is staring at wide-eyed. Arliekkos. The Ulrynthian knight instantly recognises that tone, although it has dropped an octave since he last heard it, as the voice of his trusted squire.
"Papiols?" Arliekkos saw in the man the lad he once knew and his eyes widened with shock and horror. "That long?"came his words in a strangled sob. The knight's shoulders sagged and shook from silent sobs.
Iton is strangely absent during the saddling up of horses and the inital departure from Raeven's tower, but the stablehand gives no more than a smirk and a shake of his head when asked about it. Soon enough, before the copse of trees, the trio of Yuhren, Espi and Cassilda spies a large figure apparently sitting on a rock. As they approach, the figure comes into focus as Iton, who somehow manages to loom while seated. He cracks them a wry grin. "Stableboy said they didn't have any horses he hated enough to punish them with my weight, so I got a head start." He stands up. "Let's see this tower of yours, Firebrand."