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> Seven Reimagined, A new view of an old story
Renee
post Feb 8 2019, 04:57 PM
Post #121


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I think I've been mooned by a gnome at least once. I was at a Grateful Dead concert at the time though, so that probably doesn't count.

WHAT? THey wanted to expel Aela???? For cryin' out loud. She's the one who helped them so! dry.gif

Yes, I am with Aela on that one. If she didn't have all those talents, maybe the others might not have spoken up for her. sad.gif

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SubRosa
post Feb 9 2019, 04:40 PM
Post #122


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Grits: That arm band idea with colored beads or streamers sounds like a great idea!

The crested ibis came from a documentary called Wild China. There is an indigenous people (Dai or Tai I think), who do not go out to work in the fields until the crested ibis fly into them first.

Theut is a god of magic (like RL Hermes), so he would not be the one to pray to for sweaty muscles. Though he would probably appreciate them as much as Loria... wink.gif



Acadian: We will indeed see more of Vesia, and lean more about her, and Agrigento in the process.

I do hope that Aela's awkwardness makes her more endearing. My hope is that it will give most people something to relate to in her. I am sure we have all felt awkward, and not known what to say or do, at some time in our lives.

That was indeed a not, not a nor. Thanks for the catch!


Renee: Given what might have been floating around in the air at that concert, there is no telling what you may have seen! laugh.gif

I didn't think someone like Aecha would just let things drop, so I worked in her end run play against Aela. Whether the other villagers are more accepting than her, or just more practical, is one of those things we will probably never truly know.



Chapter 13.5

Aela finished digging the ditch that day. As she predicted, Venca reminded her to dig out that little land bridge she had left for moving the cut bamboo into the village. He seemed impressed with her work however, and they took a tour of the breastworks as night fell. He even approved of how she had set the timbers of the wall to alternate between chest height and head height, like a crenellated parapet on a castle. She knew from experience that the higher sections would give the defenders refuge from missiles, while the lower ones would give them positions through which to attack with their own bows or spears.

"It would have taken hundreds of men to dig this out in the time you did it. Not to mention to reset the timber wall. I'm impressed." Before Aela could let the words of praise go to her head, he continued. "Tomorrow you can dig that tunnel between the distillery and the stable."

So the next day Aela found herself toiling within the bowels of the earth, with only a spell to see by. More than ever she was thankful for the gnome, who did not so much dig the soil out of the ground as shift it aside to create the passage. That made it unnecessary to cart wagonloads of dirt out of the ground. The earth spirit also took the local stones and fused them together into single, seamless pieces of rock. From these he created braces every six feet or so to prevent the ceiling from collapsing.

As the tunnel ran a much shorter distance than the moat, Aela finished her work by noon. She emerged to find Venca leading the effort to build shields from the timber they had felled in the previous days. At his direction the villagers cut the wood into planks. These they laid over one another in a crisscross pattern of two layers, held together by fish glue. These half-inch thick cores were cut into round discs just under three feet in diameter. A hand grip was added to the interior by way of a long strip of wood that ran from one end of the shield to the other. The edges were rimmed with rawhide, and the outside was faced in linen glued to its surface. Then finally each finished shield was treated with oil to waterproof it.

In the meantime Phereinon continued hacking the bamboo they had collected into spears, poles, and spikes for the frises, and punji sticks for the currently dry moat. The taciturn woman appeared to take the task as seriously as she did her battle in the streets of Veia, and her face remained a mask of razor-sharp focus the entire time.

They took a break for a simple lunch of rice flavored with what Aela had come to think of as Teodon brown sauce. It was a condiment which the saurians put on nearly everything. So far as Aela could tell, it was a fish sauce spiced with garlic, basil, and lemongrass.

Alcheon showed them how to eat the meal with Teodon kuaizi sticks: two slender bamboo sticks held between the fingers and thumb in lieu of a fork or spoon. At least he tried to teach them. Of all the other mercenaries, only Dhasan was able to master using the sticks. The fumbling attempts of Aela and the others brought amused giggles and chuckles from the villagers. Aela imagined that she would have an easier time using her bare fingers, and like most of the others, she eventually surrendered and used a wooden spoon. Phereinon did not even try, nor eat any of the lunch at all. Instead she continued working upon the bamboo.

The next day Venca was training the villagers in the use of spear and shield. Only the children and the elderly were left out. Even old Hyunsu, who tried to beg off the combat training, was dragged into the line by Ranazu. The Rasen pointed out that despite his age, the Teodon was still as fit and capable as a marsh croc.

Unlike the individual training that Venca had offered on the Nakdeok Queen, this was something entirely different. Instead he taught the villagers to stand in line and form a shield wall. The first rank would kneel and ground their round shields. They were so tightly packed that the edges of their shields overlapped with those to either side. The second rank would then step right up beside the first and hold their shields high, so they filled the gaps left above and between the first rank's shields. The end result was a double row of overlapping shields that faced Venca, appearing as immovable as the timber wall surrounding the village.

The Rasen tested the strength of the wall with a single kick from a lorcras-armored boot. The entire wall collapsed under the blow, and the villagers fell hither and thither. Even those nowhere near the Rasen's kick scurried away like mice. Venca was left in the aftermath, shaking his head in dismay. It was clear to Aela that the drill instructor had a great deal of work ahead of him…

* * *

Dhasan took a break from planting punji stakes in the ditch surrounding the hamlet. He climbed the dirt wall of the dry moat on hands and feet, frequently slipping in the loose soil. He wanted to curse at the difficulty. But the thought of his enemies having to make the same climb while he fired arrows at them made it all worthwhile.

Once he had reached the top, the vulpine easily scampered over the crenellated wall. Settling down inside, he drew forth a short piece of bamboo bearing a single line of holes along its length. Taking out his carving knife, he cut a final hole in the shaft. Once he was satisfied it was just right, the Asokar held the flute sideways to his lips, and blew a gentle breath of air through the instrument.

A soft whistle issued from the flute, like the sound of a bird. Working the key holes with the pads of his fingers, Dhasan transformed the simple noise into a haunting melody. As he played, his memory fled back to his days as a kit, when his mother had first taught him the flute.

Thoughts of Kye Rim, Agrigento, and bandits fled from his mind. Dhasan found himself sitting on his mother's lap outside their home in Hiakwia. The hot sun warmed his fur, and his tail danced in delight as his mother played for him.

"Let me play, mommy!" he cried, pawing for the slender flute in his mother's hands. The golden-furred vixen smiled back him, and obligingly lowered the musical instrument to his lips. Yet the sound that issued forth was anything but musical!

"Who farted!" his father laughed. He was tall and lean, with dark red fur that faded to soft white under his chin. Today he wore his ironleaf armor, and carried his flatbow bow strapped across his back. He bent down to lift Dhasan in his paws, and the young Asokar responded with a contented yip as his father held him to his shoulder. But in no time at all he felt himself lowered to the ground, and then it was his mother who embraced his father.

"It is time then Skiriki?" she said with a dread in her voice that the cub could not understand.

"Aye Taipa," his father responded grimly. "The tuskers have been drawn out near Serpent's Bluff. Today we shall finish them, and avenge what they did last winter."

"Will the round-ears assist?"

"Aye," his father nodded in assent. "Their fighters will meet us on the road. They will probably bring those chariots again."

"Then don't try to ride them this time!" Dhasan's mother admonished. "And stay behind the shield-bearers, and don't be a hero. One father is worth any ten of those."

"Aye, aye woman," his father threw up his paws in surrender. "And I won't drink the water, or talk to strangers. Cannot an Asokar have any fun?"

"Just bring yourself home alive," his mother fretted.

"That is Skiriki's promise," he declared. "And you my little kit, when I return from chastising those orcs, perhaps I shall teach this one to use the bow? Then my son shall become a real Asokar warrior!"

"Yes I will!" Dhasan cried.

"Until then, watch for serpents, and defend the house," his father said. "I will be back before my scent fades in the air."


But of course he never returned.

"Dhasan!"

The voice snapped the Asokar out of his reverie. He looked up, and found that the Teodon trader Daehyun was walking up earthen rampart. He carried a self-bow made of bamboo in one hand, and a brace of bamboo arrows rose up from the quiver slung over his shoulder.

"I was about to go hunting," the Teodon said. "I thought you might wish to join me."

"Aye," Dhasan grinned. "Anything to get away from these stakes. Though I suspect they will still be waiting for me when I return."

"If we return with a pig, or sika deer, the work will go much easier."

"At least our stomachs will be full eh?" Dhasan smiled. "Let me get my bow and quiver…"



Shield Wall training



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Acadian
post Feb 9 2019, 10:09 PM
Post #123


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Another episode full of busy preparations as you continue to build tension for the likely big battle. Aela’s mud-buddy is even better at digging tunnels than moats! Shields, punjii stakes, spears all being crafted. Venca’s testing of the shield wall was both proof of progress as well as a humorous reminder that much remains to be done.

Kuaizi sticks and the frustration that comes with learning to use them. I think most folks can identify with that!

A poignant memory from Dhasan that gives us another tantalizing morsel of his background – nicely done.


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Grits
post Feb 12 2019, 04:55 PM
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Oh dear, and that shield wall shaped up so nicely. Now Venca needs to make some warriors to put behind it.

What a lovely and haunting glimpse into Dhasan’s past. Their vulpine ways and phrases felt perfectly natural.


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SubRosa
post Feb 16 2019, 03:37 PM
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Acadian: I really liked Dhasan's flashback to childhood. So much of who he is today is rooted in his feelings toward his father, who never came home.

And I have never been able to use chopsticks myself!


Grits: Venca definitely has his work cut out for him. But then again, doing so shows just what he brings to the team, besides just a sword and a strong back.

I love taking modern terms and phraseology and adapting them to different cultures and species.




Chapter 14

"This is the Sepulcher of the Voracious One?" Sindeok breathed quietly.

"It was," Dark-Eye murmured.

Sindeok started, he had thought his voice had been too low to hear. He hoped his captain would not take offense. He had worked hard to stay in Dark-Eye's favor, much to the displeasure of the other raider lieutenants. The last thing he needed to do was incur their master's wrath. That would prove fatal.

"What has happened here?" Girim, the leader of the band's mages spoke. "A battle?"

Sindeok looked over what had once been either a settlement or fort. It was too crude to be called a castle. In some places the wooden walls that surrounded it were still intact. But wide swaths of the fortification had been battered down, or burnt to ash.

A spring bubbled outside of the walls, and ran off to form a narrow stream. It wound away out of sight between the high pinnacles of the Stone Forest, which rose up all around the site. The irregular stone columns jutted into the sky like broken bones from a skeleton. In some places brush and small trees sprouted from footholds in the stone towers, but most were as barren as old corpses.

They ventured deeper into the ruins, to find stone and wooden buildings in various stages of decimation. Some only had doors broken down or windows smashed in. Others had roofs burned out, and one or more walls tumbled down. A few were nothing but piles of scorched rubble. The structures ended at a large open square that was littered with broken spears, splintered boards from shattered shields, and other detritus. A tall mound of earth and stone rose beyond. A dark opening yawned within its side, rimmed with unmortared stones.

A tall pile of bones rose beside the mouth of the tunnel. The remains looked odd to Sindeok. They all lacked tails, and their necks were unnaturally short. He imagined that they must have been from humans, and mused that the soft-skins looked even stranger with their flesh off than with it on.

"This is the work of bounty hunters!" Dark-Eye spat.

"How can you tell?" Girim wondered.

"The heads are missing," the captain explained. "They took them for proof of the kills."

The other bandits looked about with unease. The site of the massacre did not aid Sindeok's nerves either. But something smelled different about this place. It was not the soot or few rotting strips of flesh left on the skeletons. It was something more subtle, yet infinitely more potent.

There was magic in the air, he realized. Powerful magic. Its savory aroma filled his nostrils like the smell of a roast duck once did. His stomach murmured at the thought, and at the sight of the bared bones. This was a holy place. But he suspected a place only sacred to those like himself, who had feasted upon the flesh of the manaborn.

"It appears our brothers are no more," Girim frowned. "Yet perhaps we can still salvage something from the ruins?"

"Aye, spread out, see if the bounty hunters left anything of value!" Dark-Eye cried.

Sindeok doubted that they had. Whoever had caused the massacre appeared to have been as skilled at looting as they had been at killing. But he was not about to voice that opinion. In fact, he kept his lips very tight. Dark-Eye had led them here to find allies for the fight to come. Discovering their potential friends dead did not weigh in their captain's favor. He would be looking for any opportunity to reaffirm his authority over the men. Sindeok did not much like the idea of something dramatic happening to him, to prove their leader's power.

"You two, come with me." Dark-Eye looked to Girim and Sindeok, and without another word led them into the mound.

Sindeok quickly realized that it was not a natural formation. The ceiling was held up by massive slabs of irregular stones. The walls to either side were of smaller stones, so carefully fitted into place that no mortar was needed. The former nangdo suspected that mortar had not yet been invented at the time this was built. He had read about the ruins of the Mound People, who had lived in the lands to the north before the time of the Rasenna, before even the Arvern. He imagined this might be one of their creations.

The others made no light as they stepped into the darkness. As he guessed they must have done, Sindeok focused his mind, and channeled his mana into his Dark-Seeing spell. He had learned it years before, when he had first joined the Celestial Flight company. All hwarang had to be able to fight in total darkness if need be after all.

The fragrant smell of magic came much stronger here, filling him with a feeling of strength. It was as if the air itself was charged with an energy that found a home in his bones. It was almost like a drug, and Sindeok could not help but to bare his teeth with predatory joy. This place made him want to hunt, to kill, to carve flesh from bones and devour it. Not any flesh of course, only that of the manaborn would do.

"This is a place of great power," Girim said beside him. "The Devourer has sanctified it with her presence. I can see why your allies made their stronghold here."

"Aye, this barrow has long been a holy place to Manaha, and our brother eaters," Dark-Eye said. "It was here that I learned to fight with the longsword, and the true depths of the Voracious One's power.

Sindeok looked about, and finally realized that the tunnel was indeed a burial place. Now he saw small niches in the walls. These played host to dusty bones that must have been thousands of years old. Several times they passed by corridors that ran off to either side. But Dark-Eye paid them no heed. Instead he led them directly to the end of the tunnel.

There it widened into a semicircular chamber. A great cauldron was knocked over on its side near the center of the room, with the skeletal remains of legs jutting out from within its wide lip. Ribs and a spine were scattered about nearby, and a pair of iron shackles hung from the ceiling overhead, with wrists and hands still bound within them.

A second, headless skeleton lay nearby. Scorch marks scored the walls and floor, and other bits of charred bone and other debris littered the end of the room. Sindeok could still smell the faint trace of magic in the air. Some sort of arcane bolts, he imagined. To mundane eyes it would have seemed like lightning. But he could still feel the power that had lurked beneath the elemental force. Whoever had destroyed this place had possessed great magical strength.

Dark-Eye ignored the cauldron and skeletons, and crossed the room with a handful of confident strides. He stepped into a large pile of scorched detritus, before a short pedestal of stone. Sindeok wondered if some sort of idol or shrine had stood atop the stone, only to have been shattered into the wreckage on the ground.

Dark-Eye leaned down over the pedestal, and seemed to hunt around it with his hands. A click came to Sindeok's ears, followed by a rumble of triumph from his captain's crimson-banded throat.

"The bounty hunters did not find the barrow's real treasures after all," he said, satisfaction plainly evident in his voice. Straightening up, he turned to reveal a book and amulet in one hand, and a small egg-like object in the other. Sindeok smelled power in all three items, especially in the egg. In fact, the latter nearly overwhelmed his magical senses.

"Take this Girim." Dark-Eye handed the bone amulet to the raider mage. "It will shield you from enemy spells."

"This is for you Sindeok." The bandit-lord gave the book to the former nangdo. Sindeok noted that the binding was made of leather, and it took only a moment for him to realize that it was human leather. This brought a smile to his face, and he casually opened it to the title page.

"Recipes For A New Age, by Pherein Phonon." Sindeok read aloud. He wondered if it was some form of cannibal cookbook?

"It is a copy of a treatise on spellcraft," Dark-Eye said. "The original was written by the Scale-Breaker herself, over five thousand years ago. The binding is newer however." Dark-Eye winked. "It will teach you the arts of concealing your aura, summoning aetherial blades, creating enhanced poisons, and other techniques useful for a revolutionary, or an assassin."

"The Scale-Breaker herself?" Sindeok stared at the tome with new-found respect. Then his eyes narrowed. "But it is written in our tongue? Was the Phereinon not a soft-skin?"

"The writing changes to match the language of whomever is reading it," the raider captain explained. "An elf will see it in elvish. A Skanjr will see their runes. It can be used by one of any race, to overthrow any power."

Sindeok stared at the page with rapt fascination. Like all members of the Celestial Flight company, he had been taught the basics of magic and sensing the aether. This would teach him so much more. It was power, something he had quickly learned equaled life in Dark-Eye's company.

He looked back to his captain, and saw that the red-scaled Teodon had lifted his eye patch, revealing the scarred, gaping ruin beneath. In his hand was the egg-like object. Sindeok saw that it was blood red in color, and seemed to be made of some sort of resin, like an insect's secretion. It stank of magic, like a pile of rotting corpses. Just sensing it made him hungry…

Dark-Eye raised it up and placed the object directly into his empty eye-socket. He screamed then. It was the only time Sindeok had ever seen him acknowledge pain. A searing noise came to the former nangdo's ears, like that of burning flesh. Dark-Eye hunched over, with both hands covering his face.

Girim reached out to steady the captain, but the black-striped raider batted the mage's hand away. Even now, he would accept no assistance. After a few moments the sizzling noise abated, and Dark-Eye rose to his full height once more. For a moment Sindeok thought he saw something within the new eye's crimson surface. A tenebrous landscape of dread and corruption. Then Dark-Eye drew his eye patch down over the terrible artifact, and the nightmare vision was gone.

"Nothing can stop us now," Dark-Eye crowed.


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Acadian
post Feb 16 2019, 09:11 PM
Post #126


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"This is the work of bounty hunters!" Dark-Eye spat.
"How can you tell?" Girim wondered.
"The heads are missing," the captain explained. "They took them for proof of the kills."

- - A grisly but reasoned observation. ohmy.gif

This episode was suitably ominous and disconcerting as the reptilian cannibals discovered the looted site.

By Azura! Dark-Eye just got a lot darker – literally.

The Seven wield some potent magicks but here, we learn that so do their foes. . . .


Nit: "Aye, spread out, see if they bounty hunters left anything of value!" Dark-Eye cried.' - - the vs they?


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Grits
post Feb 17 2019, 05:15 PM
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Yikes, the raiders have an instruction book written by the Scale-Breaker herself. That and the artifacts made things a lot scarier!

I loved this chapter! The sense of dread just kept creeping up to the last line!


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