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> Postcards from Tamriel, Stories and such that fall somewhere between a snippet and a thread
Acadian
post Nov 23 2014, 12:07 AM
Post #101


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Joined: 14-March 10
From: Las Vegas



I'm simply delighted that Jerric both enjoyed the thought and is able to make good use of Buffy's gift. Our hope was to reduce the amount of Jerric Juice the big Nord has to schlep around all the time without making a gift that was overpowered.

I hope no one else made the mistake I almost did. You see, when I saw Jerric's signature on his letter in bold, I just took that as a way to make his sig stand out. For some reason, it didn't occur to me straightaway that it was a link. Happily I got myself sorted out. Buffy and I were treated to not only a fabulous shot of the sexiest man alive, but I am in awe of your skill with poses, photoshoot setup and especially that you actually crafted Jerric's Stone for your game!

It is wonderful to know that Jerric and Co spent his birthday safe and sound at the Bannered Mare - one of the very nicest taverns one could ask for.

As far as Buffy's reaction to Jerric's letter and picture. . . IPB Image


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Grits
post Nov 3 2015, 07:06 PM
Post #102


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Joined: 6-November 10
From: The Gold Coast



Here is a postcard from Valdi in Rorikstead at the dawn of the Fourth Era. It doesn’t go anywhere or do anything, it just is. ESTROGEN WARNING: There are no werewolves in this story. If you are squeamish about female bodily functions, you might just give this one a miss. smile.gif


Blood Moons

The sun went down behind the mountain before I heard his feet on the porch stairs. I could tell because the back windows had gone dark. He shouldered the door open with boots in one hand and grocery sack in the other. I felt my face get warm, and that tight feeling came into my chest.

“Hello, my love,” and he gave me that smile.

My tongue still got tied up in knots whenever we saw each other, whether it was first thing in the morning or after a time apart. Today it had only been a few hours. I’d tried not to think about him all afternoon, which made it seem like forever.

“Did you get some rest?” he asked. “It’s gonna be a late night. Pa says Jouane told him be ready for a raid. Don’t know how he knows, but he knows.” He dropped the sack on the side table and shoved his boots underneath. His axe went on the rack by the door.

Harvest time meant raiders until the crops had all been carried to market by the caravans. No matter how far he roamed, Erik liked to be home by autumn to defend his village. Our village, I kept telling myself.

My fingers were tangled up in work, cheesecloth and string and little wads of tundra cotton all arranged at one end of our big kitchen table. I emptied my hands and climbed over the bench, my eyes full of him. I didn’t say I missed you, or I want you, or any of the love talk that you hear on a Loredas night at the Frostfruit Inn. I just walked into his arms and kissed every bit of skin I could reach, and then I pulled his face down to mine and kissed him some more.

He tasted like Mralki’s Autumnfest ale and smelled of woodsmoke. I ran my hands up under his tunic and he yanked my collar to get at that spot on my neck. Next thing I knew I was laid on the table with my work scattered everywhere and both of us fighting with my belt. I should have learned by then not to wear trousers around the house.

There was a thump downstairs and something rolled. We froze. Then there was a noise like someone kicking at a door frame. Which was probably exactly what was happening down there.

“Dammit,” Erik muttered. “I forgot She was here.”

She was my friend, hadn’t been for long but we’d been through the kinds of things together that make you invite her to stay with you as long as she likes, as long as she needs. And then you remember that you should have checked first with your husband. Erik has my back in this like he has in everything else that has happened since the first day we set eyes on each other. That only makes me feel worse when my choices pain him.

Also, until recently, She had been a vampire.

Erik put me back on my feet as easily as he’d stack a bundle of kindling. I watched him toss tufts and string back into the basket while I straightened my shirt. I had been making little pouches of cheesecloth stuffed with tundra cotton. They’re good for soaking up blood.

He picked one up by the dangling string. “You’re making moon mice already? Didn’t you just..?” His eyes rolled up as he counted days. Erik is no scholar, but I ain’t either.

“Yes,” I said, holding out the basket. “I won’t have my time again for six weeks or so. Not until Masser is waning. These aren’t for me.”

He dropped the moon mouse into my basket, face blank.

“They’re for Serana,” I told him.

“Oh gods,” said Erik.

“She hasn’t had her cycle in a thousand years, I’d wager. I don’t know what they used back then, but I’m sure she hasn’t thought about what she’ll use now.”

“Oh gods,” he said again. “What makes you think..?”

Erik has a way of not saying the lady words but still getting the message out. I can’t blame him. His Ma died when he was born, and he grew up without a sister to torment.

“Women tend to cycle close together when they’re under the same roof for long,” I explained. “I just finished mine. I guessed that hers would start back up some day. And she’s been so snippy and tense. I mean, more than usual.” Serana’s transition from vampire back to Nord had not been easy on her.

Something broke against the stone floor downstairs. Something that had been glass.

“Oh gods,” said Erik. “Sweet Mother Mara.”

Folk always want to pin lady troubles on Mara, even though it’s Kyne who made us. The way it works with women and elven lasses I’ve always thought a male must have come up with it. The elves are lucky and don’t get theirs as often, but that means fewer elves. Some Nords say that’s also lucky. The elves seem to suffer more with it, though. At least Lildereth does. But then I don’t know a lot of elves, so maybe it’s just her. And once I think on it, it’s mostly the rest of us that she makes suffer.

“She might want a length of sheepskin instead,” I thought aloud, “with the fleece boiled clean and the hide side oiled against leaking through.”

Erik’s scars and freckles stood out like ink, his face had gone so white.

“Sorry,” I said, sort of surprised. Erik wasn’t shy about anything at all once the clothes came off, and a little moon blood had never slowed him down before. Probably because he wasn’t the one who washed the linens.

He sat down hard on one of the chairs we had drawn up to the fireplace. I don’t think he planned to. “Don’t be sorry,” he told me. “You’re the one who thinks of things and I’m the one who’s sorry. What if we have a little girl some day? We could have a pack of girls. You’ll be the best Ma there ever was, strong and kind, teaching them your way with sun-fire and a shield. And I’ll just be there to… What do I know about girls? I’ll be there to chop wood and scare the boyfriends.”

I sat down in the other chair before my knees gave out. What kind of Ma will I be? The kind who drags her brats through hideout and cave, always ahead of the law but always looking over her shoulder? I’d grown up wild. That was all I knew. I couldn’t even tell him he was wonderful, my mind was so full of how I was nothing.

We’d never had this talk before. I was still making my teas the way Abiene showed me to keep my womb empty, still counting the days in fear when my time was due, terrified it hadn’t worked. Had he been counting days too, hoping we’d made us a child?

“Erik,” I croaked. My throat was all funny. “Love.”

He took my hand and squeezed it. I could see he remembered about my family. “We’ll figure it out,” he said. His face was strong again. “When you’re ready, when we’re ready. Or when the time comes and surprises us. We’ll figure it out together.”

I could hear Serana’s hard heels coming up the stairs. It bothered Erik that she wore boots in the house, and now it bothered me, too. But I felt awkward saying something, and I know he never would since she was my friend. She was already breaking things. Maybe this was a good time to tell her.

Serana appeared by the shield rack. Her knuckles showed white on the stair railing. I could see that lust on her face, the same as in her vampire days when she thought I wouldn’t see her blood hunger. She had left her vampire appetites behind, but she sure was hungry for something now. And her human eyes were fixed on my man.

I was standing in between them before I knew I’d moved. What the hells is this? I drew a breath.

Serana bent her neck to look around me at Erik. First she hissed, then the words came out in a whine. “Did you go to the bakery? Did you bring back something sweet?” She paced over to the bookcase, her hands restless on her arms and lower back. “Gods, I want some iced cakes. What did you buy at the market? By Molag’s maul, I have to have something sweet!”

Erik was out the door before his chair finished tipping over. His boots still sat by the door.

“He’s going now,” I told her. “He’ll bring back something salty, too, I’ll wager.” I motioned for Serana to join me at the table so we could talk.

I wasn’t much for hugs and touching, but Serana relaxed as soon as I put my hands on her back. I wasn’t much of a smiler, either, but I couldn’t help it when I thought of Erik running barefoot down the street. He’ll be the best Pa there ever was, strong and kind, teaching them his way with an axe and bow. When the time comes we’ll figure it out together. And we’re going to be just fine.


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Jerric's Story * Darnandex * Morning Star Screenshot: Cyrodiil Meadow
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SubRosa
post Nov 3 2015, 09:05 PM
Post #103


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Joined: 14-March 10
From: Between The Worlds



Looks like I guess the meaning of Blood Moons had nothing to do with Werewolves! wink.gif

She was not too hard to guess at either. I love how she is She. At least its not Valdi's reanimated sister in the basement (though an ex-vampire is close).

I don't have to guess what the tundra-cotton cloths are for either.

Hope they have plenty of chocolate at the market!

This post has been edited by SubRosa: Nov 4 2015, 12:33 AM


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Acadian
post Nov 3 2015, 11:38 PM
Post #104


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Joined: 14-March 10
From: Las Vegas



Gosh there was so much to like here as you explored a perhaps overlooked consequence of transitioning from Daughter of Coldharbour to Nordic woman with more than a thousand or so years of possibly pent up hormones. ohmy.gif

The aspects of fertility that Valdi shared with us dovetail perfectly with previous glimpses into this area shared by Abiene, Teresa and Buffy. The elven implications were particularly close to home – fertility comes infrequently and more harshly. I also loved Valdi’s observation of what Buffy has experienced; indeed, every spring and autumn, she and her almost constant companion Superian come into ‘heat’ on the same internal clock. wink.gif

Moon mice! Poor Erik! laugh.gif

*

And finally, let me comment on your current ‘Distracted’ screenshot of the month. I don’t know whether I envy Jerric or Lil more. wub.gif


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mALX
post Nov 4 2015, 12:35 AM
Post #105


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From: Cyrodiil, the Wastelands, and BFE TN





Aw, nice screen! ("Distracted") I didn't know you were doing that too! (like Acadian)




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Grits
post Nov 19 2015, 04:43 PM
Post #106


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Joined: 6-November 10
From: The Gold Coast



SubRosa: Yikes, no Clarissa in this basement! ohmy.gif Serana may have been demoted to mortal, but She will always be a bit larger than life. Thank you!

Acadian: Thank you, Acadian! I love spending time with Jerric and Lil. Each seems to make the other even more who they are. How sweet that Buffy and Superian share a cycle. happy.gif

mALX: Thanks, mALX!

This post has been edited by Grits: Nov 19 2015, 04:43 PM


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Grits
post Nov 20 2018, 01:52 PM
Post #107


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From: The Gold Coast



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Svanja and the Ghost Fox

As told by her brother Jerric


Once upon a time about thirty years ago there was a lass called Svanja. She lived in Kvatch with her sister and two brothers, five cats and three dogs, and Ma and Pa who loved them. Svanja was the youngest because this was before I was born.

This lass had a kind heart, a strong will, and a mouth full of sass. She also had a fair amount of energy, even for a Nord child. Sometimes her loving Ma and Pa and two brothers and sister could use a break from Svanja. At those times if school was out and she was willing, Svanja got to stay with Ongve and Shasana in Anvil. She loved them as family.

Shasana and Ongve were hand-fasted in the old Nord way as Ongve did not care for priests and their chapel weddings. Still childless at the time, they possessed the patience that comes of restful sleep. They lived in Anvil’s Harborside district where houses were small and close together. Folk grew flowers in pots and kept their windows clean. Shasana and Ongve did not have to keep a close eye on Svanja.

One of Svanja’s visits took place during a particularly hot and dry summer. County Anvil summers are always hot and dry, so you can imagine that if it was memorable, it was rutting hot. Svanja had passed her ninth winter. Back home in Kvatch she had been given an axe and begun to learn how to use it. She had a good pack, sturdy boots, and an excellent sense of direction. Svanja had also become a decent shot, but she left her bow behind when she wandered. Svanja loved animals, even the mean ones, and had no taste for hunting.

Shasana had a friend who lived in Brina’s Crossing, a village straight north of Anvil but farther by road. On this day Shasana gave Svanja a basket to carry to her friend. Whatever was in the basket is long forgotten. Maybe Svanja never knew. Anyway, who cares why one lady sends a lass with something to another lady? Only the two ladies, that’s who.

Svanja had half the day to get there and half the day to return by nightfall. Few folk traveled after dark when all manner of miscreant and beast came out to hunt. The occasional Legion patrol could not be counted on to save someone foolish enough to walk alone at night.

She hopped out of bed that morning when the first of the fish carts rumbled by. Svanja didn’t mean to go out the Dock Gate and take the long way around the city walls, but that’s where her feet went. Skipping along the harbor as the stars faded, she noticed that the tide was out. That meant tide pools on the rocky strand past the lighthouse. With such an early start she surely had time to see what gifts the sea had bestowed overnight. The breeze off the water wasn’t quite cool, but it was still a breeze. Svanja pulled off her boots and socks and was soon creeping through the tide pools.

Spider stars picked their way through the crevices, lifting their legs three at a time. Tiny fish flashed pink and silver as they darted through the salt lettuce. Delicate sea horses clung to marsh grass roots, nipping at the water strider bugs on the surface. In one pool Svanja found a baby diamond-backed skate and gently carried it to the surf.

A fish eagle’s call drew her attention out to sea. A cloud bank had formed low against the western horizon, painted all the colors of Aetherius by the rising sun. Morning was well underway, yet here she lingered far from the road to Brina’s Crossing. Svanja’s young legs made up some time, running over the dunes at an angle to meet the road. She spent the journey alternately jogging the flats and walking up the steepest parts, always staying within sight of someone.

Shasana’s friend offered Svanja a late lunch, and of course she accepted. It can be certain that Svanja thanked her hostess, carried her dishes to the scullery, and did not run while indoors. This is known because Svanja’s Ma raised her well. By the time Svanja stepped back onto the road, shadows stretched along the ground.

Home before dark, she thought. The long way by road would make her late. Svanja was a good girl, but at nine winters she was not thinking of Shasana’s and Ongve’s worry when she failed to return by nightfall. She was thinking of dire wolves prowling the hills, mountain lions slinking through the hollows, and bandits high on the outcrops over the road, all waiting for dusk to begin their hunts.

There was also the matter of ghosts. Some said that ghosts were always around us, you just couldn’t see their nature unless it was dark. Some said that ghosts would never hurt the righteous. And some said that ghosts were not to be feared unless they were angered. But if you were dead, Svanja reasoned, wouldn’t that make you angry?

Svanja crossed the road and climbed through the rocky verge until she could see Anvil’s red tiled roofs and the lighthouse peeking out between the hills far below. On a clear day she might see all the way across to the shores of Valenwood. But today was no longer clear. The cloud bank had moved over the sea toward Anvil. Now it filled the western sky, towering over a flat, dark base. This morning’s breeze had turned to a wind that hissed through the dry grass, answered by grumbling thunder. The air felt heavy and smelled of cookfires.

Svanja began her descent straight south through the hills. Her brother Petr had told her of a stone mouse that ran up his trouser leg and turned to itchy dust when he clapped a hand over it. Svanja doubted the truth of that story, but she’d seen enough serpents and lizards to be cautious with her footing. Gusts of wind blew the plants across her path, making it hard to see where she stepped. When she spotted a game trail winding slightly east across the hillside but generally down, she took it. At a level spot Svanja paused to tie the rain cover over her pack. Wet hair wouldn’t bother her, but she didn’t want her supplies to get soaked.

Kneeling in the dust she saw a flash of orange-red on the ground ahead between the waving grasses. Svanja stayed still for a moment, watching. When whatever it was didn’t move, she crept forward to investigate, wary that it may spring at her.

The grasses parted to reveal a fennec fox, its small leg caught in the cruel jaws of a foothold trap. Flesh had torn from bone in its desperate struggle, but now the little creature’s pain and fear were over. Its antics would never grace County Anvil’s golden hills again.

Svanja freed its leg, her eyes clouded with tears. She followed the chain to where a ring secured the trap under some rocks. They were too heavy for her to move, so she smashed at the links with her axe until they broke. Her last stroke cracked the axe head from its handle. With a curse, she flung the trap away down the hill. Her broken haft sailed after it.

The little fox was with Kyne now. Svanja made a soft bed so that its body wouldn’t lie twisted in the dust, then smoothed its fur from nose to tail once she laid it there. “I’m so sorry, dear one,” she whispered.

An antelope leaped over her head from the rocks behind, landing in puffs of dust and springing away before she could yelp. Seven more followed, ignoring the Nord child in their panic. Svanja squinted against the wind and saw smoke low along the hills. Too much for a camp fire. The storm behind it showed angled slashes of rain. Svanja turned and began to jog along the game trail, a nameless worry nipping her heels.

Thin squeaks and chitters drew her attention to an outcrop above her track. When she held her breath to listen, the clatter of brittle wings sounded over the wind. Nixads! Svanja scrambled up to find a flutter of the aerial creatures in distress, one of their number tangled in a snare. She had never been so close to one. While a part of her shivered with delight, she approached carefully. In pictures they were drawn with sharp nails and beak-like jaws for crunching bits of the magicka-infused stone they favored.

Svanja knelt to look, gently swatting away the three that buzzed around her head, screeching and scratching. “Stop it, you!” she murmured. “I’m no mage, stealing your gem chips. I’m here to help!”

The snared nixad’s complaints rose to a shrill keen as she bent over it. An upper section of its wing had snapped at the strong edge and torn through the membrane. Ma insisted that her wandering daughter carry strips of linen for a splint, a bundle of poultices for wounds, and one healing potion for emergencies. Svanja was a good girl and listened to her Ma, but she wasn’t so good that she replaced supplies as soon as she used them. Upon unrolling her kit, Svanja found herself with only one poultice and the healing potion.

“Your wing is broken, small one” she told the nixad. “I’ll heal you.” Her clever fingers made quick work of the snare. The injured nixad thrashed and bit as she freed it, but when she pressed the poultice to its straightened wing, it stilled. Magicka heals quickly. The nixad began to trill.

The others stopped their attack immediately, joining their voices in celebration. When Svanja opened her hand the healed nixad twirled into the air. She laughed along with their bug song as they swooped up and away.

A clap of thunder drove the smile from Svanja’s face. Storm clouds had overtaken her. The campfire smell was stronger. When she stood up to look, she saw that the band of smoke reached from the foothills below to the slope above her, too far for her to escape up hill. Orange light glowed at its base. Svanja picked up her pack and began to run.

More animals dashed past her now, too many for her to count. A new noise sounded under the wind’s roar, as loud as the growling thunder. It was the voice of the fire.

A woman’s scream jerked her attention to a short distance down the hillside. Svanja’s reckless scramble toward it turned into an uncontrolled tumble. Her pack caught on something and yanked her to a stop, legs sliding over the edge of a pit. The scream came from below as Svanja hoisted herself back up, horrified at her mistake. There was no woman in the pit. That cry came from a mountain lion. When it screamed again, Svanja saw fangs as long as her hand. She knelt shaking at the edge, a lump in her throat. If she let the lion out, it could kill her.

The lion leaped up at her, clawing for the edge. Svanja lunged away as it fell back down, her own shriek lost in its cry. “No, no, no,” she moaned, first crawling and then limping away down the hill.

Something was wrong with her knee. Svanja rummaged for her healing potion. The ground was alive with small rodents and the reptiles who fed upon them, all fleeing the fire. A badger trundled past, bumping against her in its terror. A boar followed, knocking her to the ground. When the lion screamed again, Svanja’s pack slipped from numb hands. She turned back to the pit.

Smoke stung her eyes as she searched for a branch that would hold the big cat. The first she found was too heavy for her to move. The next was too short. Then she saw a sturdy sapling on the ground, perhaps cut and left unused by the trapper.

Her knee collapsed when she tried to drag it. Svanja clutched it with one arm and braced her strong leg against a rock, pushing and pulling her way along the ground. Now the wind carried ash and heat. Breathing through her tunic helped. Svanja’s world narrowed to the tree and the lion pit. One rock at a time, one push at a time, she reached the edge.

The great cat escaped as soon as the tree dropped down, so swift that Svanja missed its leap. Its golden belly flashed over her, then she was alone with the wind and fire. Lightning flashed an instant before the thunder, but the rain was not coming fast enough. She looked into the pit, empty now but for the branches and tarp that had concealed it. Should she slide down and hope that the fire would pass over? Should she try to find a rock to climb on and hope the flames didn’t reach?

Svanja was a caravanner’s daughter and had the vocabulary to prove it. She used it now to curse the trapper who had caused such pain. She cursed the hedge mage or hunter whose careless fire raced toward her driven by the wind. And she cursed her fear when she dropped the pack with its healing potion. She would never find it in the smoke.

But this Nord was not finished yet. The branch that had been too short now helped her rise. She angled her path downhill but also across the slope to gain more distance from the fire. Even dragging a leg, Svanja was quicker than some creatures. A spine-footed tortoise marched along, soon to be cooked alive in its shell. Svanja picked it up and rolled it into her tunic. They passed an orange and black mottled jewel lizard next. She tucked it beside the tortoise. New purpose drove her forward. As she lifted a young spotted sloth to her shoulder, Svanja spied another small shape through the smoke. A fennec fox stood watching her. It trotted away a few steps and turned to look back.

Svanja limped after it, near panicked by the heat and roar at her back. When her path was blocked by a boulder, Svanja heard a sharp yap from above. The fox stood atop it, looking down at her. For a moment it disappeared, then popped back up. It barked again, ears pricked forward.

“But that’s uphill,” Svanja coughed. She turned and took a few lurching steps down.

“Arp! Arp!” The fox stood in her way, four feet firmly planted and ears pinned back. Its tail lashed the air. “Arp!”

“All right!” Svanja cried, her throat raw. “Show me!”

The fox led her back to the outcrop and around to the uphill side. By now the fire’s roar nearly drowned out the booming thunder, and lightning barely pierced the smoke. The fox yapped again, then jumped down a crack under the boulder.

Svanja knew a hundred reasons not crawl into a dark crevasse. Now she knew one in favor. She clutched the lizard and the turtle through her tunic. The sloth had such a grip on her neck that she feared it would choke her. She lay down flat and the four of them slithered after the fox.

Dark, cool, and the trickle of water. Svanja cradled the turtle and the lizard, finding them both un-squashed. She placed a soothing hand on the dusty sloth. Overhead the fire sounded like an arena on Loredas. The fox stood alert, looking up at the crack through which they had come. A soft blue-white glow surrounded it.

Svanja wondered if Ma would give her doll away, and who would get her books. Snowball would have to pick someone else’s shoes to barf in. She thought about Sigur Evinsson with his quiet ways and kind smile. They were supposed to grow up and get married and have three strong children all red-haired like their pa. Now poor Sigur would never know because Svanja hadn’t told him yet. Most of all she thought about the fire. How long would it hurt while she burned?

After the fire passed, the rain came. Svanja had to shift her position when the trickle below became a rushing stream, but the cavern did not flood. The lizard crawled away while Svanja was sleeping. When a ray of sunshine pierced the cavern’s gloom, the sloth released Svanja’s neck and began its slow journey up the rocks. The turtle waited until Svanja had climbed out and placed it on the mud before emerging from its shell.

Shasana did not scold her for being late, for breaking her axe, or for losing her pack to the fire. She simply lifted Svanja onto her back and carried her down the blackened hillside. That afternoon Ongve made his first visit to a chapel of the Divines.

Some say that when you see a ghost and a ghost sees you, a little piece of your soul travels with it. Svanja couldn’t say why she searched the hills above Anvil every time she came to stay with Ongve and Shasana. She searched over the winter holidays with her two brothers and her sister, who were for a time quite happy to put up with her sass. She searched in the spring when the grass grew back green, and in the summer when the hills turned golden again.

After Svanja finished school and took up her work, she still returned to walk the hills when she visited Anvil. In time her husband with his quiet ways and kind smile joined the search at her side. Later she brought their three strong children, two red-haired like their pa and one blonde like her mother. But Svanja never saw the ghost fox again.



.


This post has been edited by Grits: Nov 20 2018, 02:29 PM


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Jerric's Story * Darnandex * Morning Star Screenshot: Cyrodiil Meadow
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TheCheshireKhajiit
post Nov 20 2018, 03:49 PM
Post #108


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From: Sheogorath's shrine talking to myselves!



^
That’s a nice little story G! Very timely given the horrible fires over in Cali.

This post has been edited by TheCheshireKhajiit: Nov 20 2018, 04:10 PM


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"Family is an odd thing, is it not? Defined by blood, separated by blood, joined by blood. In the end, it's all just blood."
-Dhaunayne Aundae

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Acadian
post Nov 20 2018, 09:08 PM
Post #109


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From: Las Vegas



What a wonderful treat to see a new short story from you! You have absolutely lost none of your delightful ability to enthrall with words.

Jerric’s ‘voice’ as storyteller is perfect – just rough-edged enough to remind us who is narrating.

And a wonderful story it is! The brave little Nord saved by the ghost fox that she took the time to care about and give a proper send off to wherever little foxes go when they die. Svanja may be young and small but she displayed a heart as big as all the Gold Coast as, despite the mortal dangers of fire and fangs, she saved every troubled critter whose path she crossed.

The ending was perfect. Bittersweet but left me with a smile. Beautiful work, my friend! happy.gif


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SubRosa
post Nov 20 2018, 10:48 PM
Post #110


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That was a wonderful tale about Grizzly Adams Svanja and the Ghost Fox. In a short period you painted a very clear and vivid picture of her. Best of all, throughout it all she remained true to her character, right to the bitter end. Which is what saved her. Well done!


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treydog
post Nov 21 2018, 01:00 AM
Post #111


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From: The Smoky Mountains



Your talent is undiminished. The sights and thoughts and events make me long for wander along the shore and the hills of my childhood once more.


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The dreams down here aren't broken, nah, they're walkin' with a limp...

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Acadian
post Nov 21 2018, 04:24 AM
Post #112


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Oh, and Happy Birthday to Jerric today! cake.gif


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mALX
post Nov 21 2018, 09:18 PM
Post #113


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From: Cyrodiil, the Wastelands, and BFE TN





Aw, this was a really nice surprise! Also: Happy Birthday to Jerric!




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Grits
post Dec 1 2018, 02:08 PM
Post #114


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TheCheshireKhajiit: Thanks, Khajiit! My mom and I once stumbled into the aftermath of a forest fire. It was a unique kind of scary.

Acadian: Thank you, Acadian! Jerric’s first draft had a lot more of his flavor of speech, but a lot got cut when I tightened things up to fit the story into one post. I’m happy to hear that it still sounded like Jerric. He had a great birthday. Thank you for the good wishes!

SubRosa: Young Svanja seemed so real to me that I couldn’t really tell what was coming through in the story, which made editing tricky. I thought immediately of Teresa when Svanja turned out to be such a nature lover, I’m very glad that you liked it. Thank you, SubRosa!

treydog: Me too, long free days where no one wondered where we were and there were no cell phones. Thank you, treydog!

mALX: Thank you, mALX! He had a great birthday.


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Jerric's Story * Darnandex * Morning Star Screenshot: Cyrodiil Meadow
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treydog
post Jun 12 2019, 07:22 PM
Post #115


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From: The Smoky Mountains



So here is another installment from the earlier (mis)adventures of Athynae and Athlain. Or mostly, Athynae's younger brother, Rahvin Sarethi. Hope you all enjoy this little bit of "before the Bloodmoon Main Quest" madness.

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One Fredas morning, I went to see Rahvin. As breakfast (with its attendant sweet roll dessert) was over, I knew he would be in the rickety structure he proudly referred to as “The Lab.” The capital letters were understood from the way he uttered the phrase.

It was never a good idea to just walk in- there was a good chance you would get shot at, engulfed in, or otherwise assaulted by his latest “experiment.” On this particular day, before I even tapped on the door, I could tell that things were going worse than usual. First, the odor emanating from the gaps in the wooden plank walls was of a... quality... I had never encountered before, not even in the guar pens. Second, I could hear Rah talking to himself. That wasn't unusual, but this time it sounded as if he was... chanting? That could turn out very badly. If he had found an old scroll or spell book, we might have Daedra running loose in the streets. Although interrupting him in mid-recitation might be more dangerous than awakening his older sister- an act often compared to kicking a sleeping dragon- it was necessary. So I stepped to one side of the door, just in case, and knocked loudly.

The chanting stopped and nothing emerged for some time, other than a few more wisps of evil-smelling vapor. At last, Rahvin's voice answered, sounding more distracted than usual. “What?”

“Is it safe to come in- or are you still writing poems?” I admit it; I liked to tease him, because he took everything “scientific” so seriously. He made up for it by being a really good person, and by participating in word games with me. Much to the disgust of almost everyone else in our families, we both loved puns and would go on long “pun runs,” which Aunt Serene said were “evidence of the decline of education, civilization, and sanity.” But she smiled when she said it, so we kept it up. And it also drove Athynae to distraction, which was an additional bonus.

He ignored my jibe, as he usually did, and called, “Athlain! Come in. I have a... ah... situation... here and could use your help.”

That was the point at which someone else would have remembered an important appointment somewhere, like possibly Balmora or maybe even Summerset. But Rah was my friend and there was a note of distress in his voice that I could not ignore. So I went in.

The lab- sorry “The Lab,” was in an even greater state of chaos than usual- beakers and vials were overturned; streaks of some dark substance ran across the walls, the floor, and even the ceiling; papers were strewn all over; and in the midst of it all was Rahvin, sitting on the floor with his hands in front of him, appearing as if they were clasped in prayer. Before I could even think of what to ask first, he gestured with his hands, which were still held tightly together,

“Lizards,” he said, as if the word was a curse, followed by, “glue.”

At the mention of “lizards,” I made a more careful scan of the room. Rahvin was a brilliant, fine person, and a good friend- but sometimes his scientific shorthand could be misleading. When he said “lizard,” it might mean anything from a tiny gecko to a Daedroth. But nothing seemed to be moving in The Lab; especially no green, 8-foot tall, mouth-filled-with-pointy teeth creatures from Oblivion. And that meant I could focus on the second part of his cryptic remark. A close look at his hands showed that they were, indeed, glued together.

There were times to rush ahead and times to consider carefully. This, I decided, fit in the second category. Rah with his hands disabled was Rah unable to make the problem worse. So I grabbed a stool, checking first for any explosives, adhesives, adversarial animals, or other potential problems that might prove detrimental to my well-being and/or appearance. “I think you should begin at the beginning.”

“It was like this,” he began. “I have been working on a new kind of secret ink, one that works like regular ink, unless it is used with special paper- which I have also been working on. It's that blue paper over there,” he pointed with his chin, but I decided it was better to stay in the relatively clear space where I was. “Anyway, one of the ingredients for the ink is made from some Bitter Coast insects, and it has an... acrid odor.” For Rahvin to acknowledge that anything he worked on actually smelled was a major admission, so it must have been truly, monumentally bad.

“So, apparently the desert lizards around here; you know, the light-colored ones.... Apparently, they really like those bugs. So they have been sneaking into The Lab and knocking things over and leaving tracks everywhere. And I couldn't catch them. So I decided I would use some of the paper that didn't work to patch the gaps in the walls. But to do that, I needed to makes some glue...,” his face was a study as he admitted, “which smelled worse than the insect parts. But I think there may be a commercial market for it.” He paused for a moment before adding, “And actually, the paper-making is pretty smelly, too.”

He made as if to rest his chin on his hands, but thought better of it before he made his predicament worse. Not being able to talk with his hands was obviously making things hard for him. “So I glued the paper up last night, figuring that would keep the little beggars out.” He shook his head. “But when I got here after breakfast, they had just... gone ahead and pushed their way in. Except they got stuck to the paper and were all over the floor. And... and they were pretty annoyed- I could tell. Some of them had even... pulled their own tails off trying to get free.” He looked sad as he said that part; Rah, for all his scientific turn of mind, was a champion of all creatures, especially the small ones. “I mean, I know that they will grow back, but... still.”

“So, I... ah... thought maybe I could re-attach the tails, with some of the glue. And there's an oil that's safe, but acts as a release agent for the adhesive. So I took some of the oil and some of the glue and started trying to turn the lizards loose, and give them back their tails, but they were still pretty agitated and... anyway... they're gone, and I got my hands stuck together and they all scarpered off. So... if you could bring the release agent, I would appreciate it.”

I sat in stunned silence for several minutes before I could speak. At last, after looking around, I said, “So let me get this straight. It all started because you had inky stinky pink lizards leaving black tracks all over the shack. You couldn't catch them because they were careful (and because of the numerous gaps in the walls). So you accidentally made blue gluey traps which snared the critters and caused them to become annoyed and lose their tails, thus turning them into angry, sticky, tricky, truncated inky stinky pink lizards. This made you sad. And then your own problem arose when you tried to re-attach the tails with your new glue and got stuck, turning yourself into a blue, new glued reptile retail adhesive Sarethi.”

He looked thoughtful as I finished my summary, and then pointed out plaintively, “But the glue isn't 'blue,' the paper is.”

At that point, there was nothing more to say, so I poured the release agent over his hands and got ready to help him clean up The Shack- sorry- The Lab. And that was when 'Thyna appeared.

“What in the name of Azura have you been doing in here, Rahbrat? This place smells even worse than it usually does. You missed morning tea, so I figured something was up.” She smirked at me and added, “And seeing as your partner in misfortune and mayhem is here, it must have been spectacular.”

I shook my head vehemently. “Oh no- not this time! For once, I got to the scene after the mayhem was managed. At least Rahvin has the courtesy to not involve me in every one of his 'great plans for a really fun adventure.' Unlike some other Sarethis I can think of. And he also didn't douse me with all the foul-smelling substances he concocted.” No, as a matter of fact, I was not over the “let's hunt cliff-racers- you be the bait” incident, nor was I ever likely to be.

“Fine! But since this one was not my fault, I would still like an explanation. Just in case I need to explain the 'not my fault' part to anyone.” She had folded her arms and was going to start tapping a foot any minute. Everyone who knew Athynae recognized those danger signs.

“You probably want to sit down for this,” I advised, “and... look where you sit before you do.” Yes, there was a small part of me that briefly considered letting 'Thyna get glued to something. But the kinder, better, and above all- sane- part reminded that other one that she would eventually get free. Once she was seated, I summed up Rahvin's adventures in invention and invasion and attempted interdiction of insect-seeking outdoor inhabitants. And at the end, I just couldn't help myself, “So, you see, it was all because of the angry sticky tricky truncated inky stinky pink lizards that your brother turned himself into a blue new glued reptile retail adhesive Sarethi.”

Athynae's eyes had crossed by the time I got to the end, and she opened and closed her mouth several times, but no words came out. And that allowed Rahvin to again point out, with the long-suffering air of a scientist whose feelings are hurt when others fail to meet his standard of accuracy, “Yes, yes; it's all true. Except that the glue isn't blue. And also, once I used the oil to let them loose, they got really slippery.” He looked thoughtful for a moment before adding, “And now that I think about it, those lizards had short legs and no visible necks. I think they might have been... skinks.”

I inhaled deeply and began, “He thinks they're skinks; which would mean....”

Before I could get any further, Athynae held up a hand. “Don't! I'm still considering whether to kill you or die laughing. Or possibly both.”

I tried, and probably failed, to look innocent, but could not help saying, “Oh no, I wasn't going to say anything about slick pink skinks; I was just wondering if I could make one of them into a stylish pendant for you. A really slick neckless pink skink necklace? What do you think? ”

The resulting bruise was definitely not pink, but somehow she had managed to make it look like a lizard- or possibly a skink.

After we had calmed down a bit, we started to clean up The Sh... ah, The Lab. It was going fairly well, as Rah had made plenty of the solvent to counteract his glue. I was impressed that he had actually had the foresight to do that- he was incredibly smart, but sometimes he would get so focused on one thing that it could have... unfortunate consequences. Our current situation being a prime example. As we worked, having to fetch water from the well every so often, I looked around and tried to gauge my distance from Athynae before I commented, “You know what would really help in here? A sink, I think. Except what if the water attracted the lizards? What if the slick pink skinks came to the sink to get a drink?”

I had forgotten that distance was not a barrier to 'Thyna- if she could see me, she could throw something and hit me. At least it wasn't a glue pot- or the stinky skink ink. However, it was the last, nearly empty bottle of solvent. Rahvin smiled and said, “Not a problem! I can mix up more- I just need to check the formula first.” And it was then that we discovered that the solvent formula was glued, face-down, to the top of his work table.

Meanwhile, 'Thyna had another concern. “So... these... slightly not-red lizards of yours,” not only would she not wear the color, she also had trouble saying the word, “where did they go- exactly?”

“What do you mean, NayNay?”

“I mean your sh... Lab backs up against Skar, which is where our house is, which is where my room is, which is where my bed is. So if any of them ran into the ventilation shafts...,” she twirled a throwing star in her fingers before concluding, “and one of your icky slick formerly sticky yucky lucky plucky lizards slides into bed with me....”

He looked stricken and pointed at the throwing star, “You wouldn't! You wouldn't hurt an innocent skink! Besides, they're really small....”

Her smile would have caused a slaughterfish to consider becoming vegetarian. “Oh, I wouldn't hurt the lizards... You, on the other hand- I will deliver you trussed up like a caught cliff-racer to the red-headed dastardly duo.” And then her mind caught up with something else he had said and she added, “So- if the skinks are 'really small,' does that mean they are.... 'dinky?' ”

Rah remained oblivious as I fell to the floor, weak from laughing. “You should be safe I would think. The insect ink is the link to the skinks.”

And, as usual, Athynae got the last word, “You should be less concerned with what you think, than with what will happen to you if my room is invaded by your angry slick quick formerly sticky tricky truncated inky stinky dinky pink skinks!”










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The dreams down here aren't broken, nah, they're walkin' with a limp...

The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
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ghastley
post Jun 12 2019, 08:28 PM
Post #116


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I'm now wondering what IRL situation inspired this. And did it involve six thick thistle sticks?


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Mods for Oblivion and now Daggerfall and Skyrim. Fan fiction, too.
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SubRosa
post Jun 16 2019, 09:08 PM
Post #117


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From: Between The Worlds



I just came off of re-reading The Case of Charles Dexter Ward for the dozenth time, and your description of The Lab immediately got my hackles up for Mythos-related danger. The odor, the chanting, I wonder if he has a worn copy of Borellus in there...

A very amusing interlude with dinky pink skinks, blue paper, and Sarethi glue.


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treydog
post Jun 22 2019, 04:43 PM
Post #118


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From: The Smoky Mountains



@ghastley- It started with the phrase "sticky lizard"- which I don't remember the context for. And then it just kind of scarpered off on its own from there. Growing up, I did have occasion to catch our local variety of skinks- Five-Lined. And they can "lose" their tails as a defense mechanism- and then grow them back. For the rest- it is what happens when you turn a former English major loose with a word processor....

@SubRosa- I think this next installment will fit in with your feelings of creepiness crawling. Rahvin is usually pretty good about avoiding "things that man (or mer) was not meant to know," but sometimes his thirst for knowledge gets away with him. I am glad that it caused a smile or two- it was certainly fun to write- and to picture in my head.

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Somewhere outside of Ald'ruhn, Vvardenfell

The two boys tumbled out of the opening in the hillside, their exit punctuated by a rumble of falling stone and a gout of dust that covered them from head to foot. “Remind me again how I got involved in this?” coughed the larger one.

Two days earlier

I found Rahvin in his lab, which was not surprising. He was there any time he did not have to be somewhere else, and would have slept there if Aunt Serene had not drawn a line about it. Of course, saying he was “in” the lab was a bit of a misstatement. It had only taken a few explosions, releases of noxious fumes, and infestations of escaped creatures in Sarethi Manor to get him banished to the outside wall of Skar. There he had set up a makeshift roof and a couple of additional walls that were almost sturdy enough to deter an anemic scrib. Considering the frequency with which the walls were blown down- or sometimes knocked down, by people rushing to escape one of his “tests,” it was just as well. Regardless, he was usually there, unless he had been forcibly reminded that his presence at family meals and lessons was not “optional.” The only exception was weapons training. Whenever 'Thyna reminded him it was “time to practice,” he dropped whatever he was doing and grabbed his bow. When I say “dropped,” it is not a figure of speech. I should know, since I helped put out a number of the resulting fires.

But on this particular day, he was not burning, boiling, or blowing up anything. Instead, he was slumped on his stool, chin supported by both fists and his elbows propped on the table to either side of a tattered book. If I had inherited any of Mother's artistic skill, I could have done a painting or sculpture of him and called it The Scientist- Dejected. The hair sticking out at odd angles just added to the scene of misery.

“Hey, Rah. If the story is that sad, just read a different one.”

He didn't look up at first, but continued his morose glare at the pages of spidery writing, as if he could transform what they said by sheer force of will.

“Hello Athlain. No, it isn't 'sad,' it's just....” He stopped and looked up suddenly, his eyes alight with a new- and probably explosive- idea. “Athlain! Good! So I found this old... journal, and it gives directions to a t... a cave that is almost certain to hold the ing... some really interesting artifacts.”

“So?”

It was usually his older sister that roped me into dubious and dangerous adventures, but I still had painful memories of going to lessons covered in purple fuzz, thanks to one of Rahvin's “really good ideas.” I was actually interested in exploring this cave, especially if it had been forgotten. But the thing was, others tended to have an interest in caves too, like smugglers and bandits.

“And where is this cave? Skyrim? Akavir? And what's in it besides 'artifacts'? Dragons? Vampires? Giant deadly Dwemer constructs?”

Rahvin's enthusiasm did not waver in the face of my questions. “That's just it. The entrance isn't far from here. And better still, it was blocked by a rock slide a long time ago.” His eyes drifted up and to the right. “So there's almost certainly probably nothing in there to be worried about.” He casually added, “You could bring that staff Mother has been teaching you to use- if it will make you feel better.”

What I felt like was that I was being... herded. Rah knew I was happy to have finally found a weapon that I could actually use- and one that let me keep Athynae from beating me during every practice session. And he also knew that I had always hoped to make a significant discovery of some sort. So it sounded good, but it never paid to give in too easily.

“I don't know, Rah. Who else is going?”

Because it was entirely possible this was one of Athynae's “adventures,” and that she had put him up to asking so I would be less suspicious. But he waved his hand dismissively, “Oh it would just be us- unless you don't want to be part of The Expedition.”

I could hear the capital letters, and felt my resolve slipping. “Let me think about it.”

He shrugged as if it wasn't all that important, and started sorting alchemy ingredients. That went on for several minutes and then he paused and asked me, “You have archery practice tomorrow, right?”

I looked at him as if he had grown another head- not as far-fetched as it sounds, if you had seen some of his “experiments.” “You know I do- you're supposed to be there with me. And what does that have to do with anything?”

He nodded absently, his hands still busy. “Right. Yes. So... how about this? If I score better than you, you go with me to the... cave.”

Rahvin was more naturally adept with a bow than I was, but I had managed to stay close through diligent practice. I wasn't in Athynae's league, but then almost no one was. But on the other hand, I wasn't so hopeless that people had to evacuate the range when I shot. Still. “And what about if I win?”

He didn't quite laugh, but his lips twitched. “Ah... If you win, you get all my desserts for a week.”

“Two weeks,” I countered, and stuck out my hand.

“Done,” he answered, and shook on the bet.

That should have been all the warning I needed; Rahvin might miss meals, but he never missed dessert.

The next afternoon found us on the archery range, and I was amused to see that Rahvin had equipped himself with a new bow-string and was examining the shafts and fletching on each of his arrows with a critical eye. In that moment, he resembled his older sister preparing for a tournament competition, instead of someone engaged in a friendly wager. Of course, his desserts were on the line, which probably explained his competitiveness. And it also probably explained the fact that he beat me by a good ten points. I didn't like losing, but the prospect of doing some exploring was enough to soothe that minor irritation. Athynae was occupied with a handful of wild guar that had been brought in, and was spending almost all of her time at the stable.

So it was that I met Rahvin at his lab far too early the next morning. When I surveyed the pile of “essentials” he had gathered, I understood why we were meeting there instead of Sarethi Manor. Anyone seeing all that equipment would have deduced that Something Was Up.
“I thought you said the cave was nearby.”

“It is.” Rahvin's voice back came from somewhere in the mountain of supplies. “In the hills northeast of here.”

“And how many pack guar are you planning on using? And how will you get them out of the stable without Athynae noticing?”

His head popped up from behind a crate like a startled scrib, hair sticking out in all directions. “Pack guar? I didn't think we would need...,” his voice trailed off as he looked from me to the mound of gear.

I leaned on my staff and pointed to the travel pack strapped across my back, “Food, water, a few potions and bandages. We aren't going to invade Elsweyr, are we? I like the Khajiit.”

He chewed his lip and looked at the accumulation again. “Well, no. But....”

I straightened up and pointed. “Same things I have. Food- plus a little extra in case things go longer than we expect. Water, because you always take clean water. Some potions- but not your entire stock! Maybe a small shovel and a pry bar.” I had gone on enough, “Come on. It will be fun,” adventures with his older sister to know how to prepare. “And bring your bow; that's racer country.”

When I mentioned cliff-racers, his face lit up and he started digging through the sacks and boxes. “I can test my new Cliff-Racer Repellent formula!”

“Ah... how do I put this? 'No.' No Racer Repellent, new or otherwise.”

The thing was, the evil-smelling concoction actually sort of... worked. It also tended to stay on your skin for a month or more and... ate holes in your clothing. Not to mention that it caused every scrib and kwama forager in the area to think you were a member of the opposite gender- if scribs and foragers had genders. But... no. Just no.

At last, minus the repellent and enough other equipment to have supported the garrison at Fort Moonmoth for a year, we left Ald'ruhn. The going was easy, and we would have made good time, except for Rah's need to stop and examine and catalog every bug, bush, or flower we passed. He also frequently consulted the notes he had made from the old book, explaining that the tome itself was “too delicate to carry into the field.” I was just happy I had packed enough food for several meals, and that we had left near first light.

Once we got into the foothills, Rahvin stopped to take sightings of several mountain peaks and turned us a bit more east. Satisfied with what he saw, he picked up his pace toward the mouth a a ravine that cut deep between two of the hills. When we reached the terminus, he sat down in the shade and pointed to a pile of stones that lay against the slope. “That should be it. Just roll those rocks out of the way. The slide doesn't appear very deep.”

“And what will you be doing?”

He waved an airy hand, “Oh, you know. Making observations; taking notes- that sort of thing.”

I pushed the shovel into his outstretched hand and said, “How about you take this shovel and observe me using the pry bar while you dig, instead?”

Between the two of us, we were able to clear most of the debris. As we got deeper, I thought some of the stones seemed to have been worked, and possibly even had partial inscriptions etched into them. But Rah did not seem interested, so I just got on with the work. After an hour, I stopped to drink some water and Rah picked up the pry bar and poked idly at an upper corner of the rock pile. It collapsed inward with a clatter, revealing the entry to an underground chamber. There really was a cave behind the slide. With renewed energy, I took the shovel and enlarged the opening to the point that we could get through.

“You brought a lantern, right?” He looked sheepish and then stared at the ground. “Torches, then?”

“Ah... ummm.....”

I stopped shifting rocks to look at him squarely. “You set out to explore a cave, and remembered to bring half-a-dozen notebooks, twenty pens and brushes, four colors of ink... but no light source?”

He kicked at a small rock, “I packed several. They were in one of the boxes you made me leave behind.”

I grabbed my hair with both hands to keep them from reaching for his throat, and growled. “I told you to leave the box behind, not the lanterns. Because that box also had saws, hammers, and enough lumber to build a small house!”

He didn't respond, but began flipping through one of his notebooks. “Ha!” he said, finger pointing to an entry. “And not far from here, either!”

“Would you care to... enlighten me?” I couldn't resist the pun.

He grinned back in appreciation. “That is precisely what I intend to do. All we need are some fire fern leaves and some scathecraw branches. Along with a few drops of my fire-breath potion- it's still experimental- we can make torches.”

I was torn between admiration at his ingenuity and wanting to ask why he thought we needed to carry an... untested... fire breath?... potion with us. Admiration won, and I volunteered to go get the other things he needed. I had some experience with the thorny scathecraw plants and figured I would be less likely to get skewered- or sidetracked. I also wanted to put some distance between myself and Rah when he opened a potion that might just catch fire if he looked at it sideways. For a wonder though, the impromptu torches worked a treat and didn't even give off as much smoke as regular ones produced. We smiled at each other and headed out of the midday sun and into the gloom.

After the first fifteen feet, the floor and walls became smooth and uniform. So it probably had been a bandit cave at some point. If so, the inhabitants had abandoned it or perished long ago, and should not trouble us. When we had gotten thirty feet in, the narrow tunnel gave way to a more open chamber. Rah made as if to press ahead, but I stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.

“Even though it appears empty, we should still observe the rules for entering unknown ground. That means I go first with my staff and you wait for my signal.”

He grumbled a little, but agreed; even when we didn't think there was an actual need, we followed the rules. Both of us had gotten bruises from Athynae when we had failed to do so. Her lessons tended to stick with us... sometimes for weeks.

I took a firm grip on my staff with my right hand and raised the torch higher with my left, then approached the opening. I paused before stepping out of the tunnel, trying to see everything. Shadows ran away along the walls, and I saw a pile of bones scattered to one side. It appeared that my surmise about the inhabitants being caught by the slide had been correct. I continued my scrutiny, trying to avoid staring into the flame of the torch and further destroying my night vision. Details swam into focus- a couple of large, low stone rings in the floor, filled with some kind of dark, powdery dust; some decorative urns along the walls; a stand or podium of some sort. The individual pieces suddenly snapped into a coherent whole and I hissed over my shoulder, not taking my eyes off the room.

“Rah? Since when does a 'cave' have ash pits? I thought those were used to burn the bodies of the ancestors, so their spirits could strengthen the Ghost Fence. But then that would make this a... tomb?”
As the word left my lips, I did turn all the way around to glare at Rahvin.

He avoided my gaze and mumbled, “Ah. Well. Yes. That is... you see...”

Whatever it was I was supposed to “see” was interrupted by a rattle, like pebbles striking the ground. Fearing a new rock fall, I looked back into the room, where the “pile of bones” was reconstituting itself and rising from the ground and... screaming... as it lurched toward me. In the pause between the screams I had time to hear Rahvin gasp from where he had come up behind me. I couldn't spare a glance for him- the ambulatory escapee from a graveyard was coming too quickly. In that moment, something- training, or reflex, or abject terror- took over. I tossed my torch at the skeleton and used the now free hand to shove Rah back down the tunnel. I took a step back after him, blocking the entry with my own frail flesh. Then I grasped my staff in both hands and waited.

Undead are almost all vulnerable to magical or silvered weapons. The helpful voice that sometimes popped into my head was back. I thought in reply, “That's nice. Too bad I don't have one.” The voice continued, as if reading an entry in an encyclopedia, Skeletal undead range from actual animated skeletons to bonelords to bone golems. Because they have little or no soft tissues, blunt weapons are favored for use against them. Hoping that Rahvin would stay put, I took a long step back into the chamber and swung my staff horizontally at about shoulder height. The blow caught the skeleton right on the side of what had been its head, interrupting it mid-scream. I put everything I had into that swing- shoulders, wrists, and hips. And it worked. The skull flew from the spinal column and ricocheted off the opposite wall. A second later, the rest of the bones dropped back into a heap.

And as for me, I turned and ran, shoving Rahvin ahead of me all the way out of the tomb and into the light of day. There was a rumble behind us, and a fresh fall of rock sealed the entry once more. I stood up from where I had collapsed, untangling myself from Rah and my staff, and began brushing the dust off. He stayed on the ground, his eyes huge and his face whiter than the bones of the grinning tomb guardian we had faced.

“That was an animated skeleton!” he gasped at last.

“Yes. I noticed.”

“But it was screaming.”
“I noticed that, too.”

He sat up with a frown of concentration on his face. “But, how? It didn't have any lungs, or a tongue, or vocal cords, so....”

I picked up my staff, looking at it with a new respect. “It also doesn't have any head, which is probably what saved us. And I am not going to go back to ask it about any of the other stuff, either.” There was a long, tense silence before I went on, “That was an ancestral tomb, wasn't it? And you knew it was a tomb before we even started.”

“Well... yes. But... it probably has artifacts in it, too. And it was lost, like I said.” He finally stood up and looked me in the eye. “I needed some ingredients to test some new ideas- gravedust, bonemeal, ash salts. Do you have any idea how much the apothecary supply merchants charge for those?”

“No. But I think we both have a good idea as to why they charge what they do, don't we?” I tried to be angry, but I was too exhausted. I could feel my body starting to shake with delayed reaction. But Rah was already off on another tangent.

“A skeleton! And you... I mean... you just stood there, like nothing was ever going to come past you. And it was screaming fit to bring down the ceiling on our heads, and you... you stalked in there, like it should have been afraid of you. And then the staff went “whoosh” and “crack” and its head went sailing! You know, I bet I could invent a game out of that. Of course, I'm not sure how we could get the skeletons to participate- and I would have to do something about the screaming; that's really unnerving. And I don't know how they do it anyway. But...” He ran down and his eyes got wide again as he stared at me like he hadn't ever seen me before. “But you saved my life, Athlain. Even after I deceived you into going into a tomb.”

I picked up my staff and my pack and said, “Yes. Yes I did. So you can give me all your desserts for the next three weeks.”

A shadowy shape rose up from the side of the ravine, from a place where I wouldn't have thought a pebble could have hidden and a voice dark with menace said, “I don't think either of you will be getting any desserts for some time.”

Rah goggled and gasped, “Unc.... Uncle Seth?”



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The dreams down here aren't broken, nah, they're walkin' with a limp...

The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
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SubRosa
post Jun 24 2019, 02:39 PM
Post #119


Ancient
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Joined: 14-March 10
From: Between The Worlds



Ah, the poor Scientist Dejected. Just waiting for a hapless victim to come along and get roped into ingredient-hunting in a cave.

Athlain seems to be hitting all the high points of what is likely to be found in said caves. Besides ingredients of course...

I am so used to Athlain being a mace man, that I forget he started out with a staff. I guess when it comes down to it, he is just a blunt instrument... wink.gif

Everywhere is racer country!

Good thing no one brought the lanterns... laugh.gif

Uh oh, it's not good when the piles of bones get up. It looks like Rahvin had the worn copy of Borellus after all. It's a good thing Athlain has his vorpal staff, that goes whoosh rather than snicker snap. Or does it just snicker?

A fun little childish escapade that definitely went too far. Thankfully Athlain was able to rise to the occasion.

And Seth Rogan at the end! wink.gif


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treydog
post Jul 6 2019, 02:06 PM
Post #120


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Joined: 13-February 05
From: The Smoky Mountains



@SubRosa- Rahvin is fun to write. I admit to a fondness for distracted scientist types, especially the Wile E. Coyote sort....

And Athlain wishes he had more of an "edge," but he is a bit too generous for his own good.

Athlain's fear of undead doesn't help much either when the dry bones get up and dance.... And I have a feeling the staff (or at least the wielder was going "Oh crap!" or similar sentiments).

Seth Rogan- as a matter of fact, he WAS part of that assassination plot in Korea.... hmmmm...... At least it wasn't Mike Meyers- THAT would have been more frightening than the skeleton.

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Late One Morndas in Ald'ruhn- A Nursery Slime (Part One)


My feelings about guar could best be described as “mixed.” The wild ones could be almost as dangerous as their alit and kagouti cousins, and even domesticated beasts could be unpredictable. “Unpredictable” and “out-weighing you by an order of magnitude” is not a good combination. But then there was Cos Mear, who had been my companion since he was a baby. 'Thyna and I had found him beneath his dying mother's body while we were wandering the Grazelands. When we freed him, he had bleated at me and head-butted my midsection. It was the start of a wonderful friendship. Funny how so many of my friendships started with me being bruised or battered.

I had spent the first several nights after that with him, but fortunately for my sleep schedule- and my aroma- Lumhara, Athynae's racing guar, decided to “mother” the little lump of scales and claws. Of course, with care and regular feeding, he did not stay small for long. He would never reach Lumhara's size; the males rarely did, but he still grew large enough to carry me within just a few months. Better still, his calm presence made him ideal for working with captured wildlings or even abused animals that we took in.

The sudden development of using guar as mounts had caused an equally explosive growth of the infrastructure to support them outside the walls of Ald'ruhn. Stables, paddocks,and exercise and care facilities spread to cover more area than the original town. Under Aunt Serene's careful management, the formerly barren hills and valleys had become as verdant as the Grazelands far to the north. It was hard for me to credit the descriptions of blasted, ash-covered terrain related by those who had lived to see the end of the Blight. Regardless of recent history, the combination of good grazing, humane practices, and official sanction had turned Ald'ruhn into a hub for all things related to guar-riding. Harness and saddle-maker stalls sprang up like mushrooms following a spring rain. A track was laid out running past Fort Buckmoth all the way to the former Ghost Fence and back.

Soon, everyone with a “guar problem” or a “problem guar” came to my formerly sleepy home town. It was as if a form of madness had afflicted almost everyone, and I tried my best to avoid the contagion. And, excepting my bond with Cos, I had been successful- until the aftermath of the “Tomb Incident.” My sentence for that little adventure was a general restriction to the house when I was not fulfilling the other part- stable duty. I had always handled all of Cos Mear's care, including cleaning his stall, getting his feed, and even tending him when he acclimated some of the difficult guar that came our way. But that was the limit of my involvement in what I privately referred to as the “Guar Madness.” There were plenty of people more suited and also more inclined to spend every waking- and even some sleeping- moments in the stables. I preferred less... aromatic environs. Of course, my parents were aware of my- “extreme” was the word Mother used- devotion to personal cleanliness. So, when the Tomb Incident was revealed, it was to the stables for me. For one full month.

It was Mother's idea, mostly, but when I protested, my father was less than sympathetic. “I spent the first years of my life in a stable, if you will recall. And I slept there. You will get to sleep in your own bed every night, provided you clean up beforehand. I will make sure there's plenty of water waiting outside the house for you.” He appeared to be suppressing a smile as he added, “And you should wear some old clothes- which you might also want to leave outside before you come in.”

Thus it was that I found myself wearing a disreputable striped shirt, threadbare canvas trousers, and a battered pair of boots, all while wielding a shovel and pitchfork, and trying to avoid splattering myself. Feeding the herd was not bad, other than the weight and odor of some of the feed. I could at least console myself that hefting the sacks and buckets was building muscles. But there was also the fact that some of the animals, apparently following the lead of Athynae's racer, Lumhara, had taken to spraying half-chewed bits of food at me. It was either a sign of affection, or more likely, their idea of fun.

However, the... byproduct... of their diet was another matter entirely. If Rahvin and I had not been forbidden to converse for the duration of our punishment, I would have set him to work on a knotty, not to mention smelly, problem- how was it possible for an animal to produce thirty pounds of waste from ten pounds of food? But that metaphysical discussion would have to wait. Another mystery that perplexed me by the second day was the apparent absence of Athynae. She normally spent every possible moment in the stables, to such an extent that Aunt Serene had finally been forced to issue an edict- “No sleeping in the stables, except in the case of an emergency.” And the corollary was that it was up to Aunt Serene to decide what constituted an 'emergency,” and also that, “But Lumhara gets lonesome,” did not count. But a bit of observation, something my father had encouraged me to practice more diligently, gave evidence that 'Thyna had been around. Lumhara's stall was always clean when I got there, and her feed and water were always fresh. But where was Athynae? Why was she not taking every opportunity to tease me about my “new-found dedication to the care of guar”?

I sighed and put the tools of my incarceration away, glad to have another day over with. Only twenty-eight to go. But just before I could make good my escape to less pungent places, the person about whom I had just been wondering appeared from some hidden corner of the stable complex. “Lainie! I need your help! The eggs have all hatched, but the babies are ignoring my attempts to feed them. They won't eat and if they don't, they'll die! Why are you just standing there?” And she turned back to the door of the room from which she had emerged.

I was “standing there” because I was deciphering her rush of words, and also because I was gazing with forlorn longing at the sunlight streaming through the doors that offered escape. With another sigh, I turned away from freedom and trudged after her. The “eggs” she mentioned had been found in a Hlaalu smuggler's wagon a week or so earlier. Apparently the fool was trying to carry them to the mainland. While Aunt Serene and her other daughter, Bree, were engaged in investigating the “business” side of the smuggling, 'Thyna had become the self-appointed “egg tender,” a job that became necessary as soon as it was discovered that the eggs were viable. Even if the original nest could have been found in time, a faint hope, the mother would have rejected the stolen eggs due to their having been handled so much.

So Athynae had been minding the eggs, a measure that became necessary because none of the females in the stable were currently nesting. In fact, we generally avoided bringing nesting guar into the stable complex because there were too many chances for trouble. Any of the “ladies” suspected of being about to bear were taken to one of the herders for care and so that they could raise their offspring in a less stressful environment. Once they got a bit more independent, the herders took over the hand-raising to keep them tame. In any event, with no “mother guar,” available, 'Thyna had been keeping the eggs warm, turning them as needed, and watching their progress for several days. And now it appeared her efforts had been rewarded. Five newly-hatched guar. Wonderful. Up until that time, Cos Mear had been the youngest of the creatures I had ever dealt with. In fact, as far as I knew, this clutch was the first ever to hatch in Ald'ruhn. And now, Athynae Sarethi, expert on all things guar, needed my help? She had asked, I could do no other but to answer. I squared my shoulders and entered the tack room. What else could I do? The hatchlings were in this fix through no fault of their own. The tiny creatures needed me and I could not turn away. A "true knight"- according to all the stories- helped the unfortunate, the helpless, and the downtrodden I had kind of hoped that meant a girl my age or younger- but still....

We got into the tack room, where 'Thyna had built a sort of "nest"- a raised mound of clean sandy earth, bounded by boards to hold it together A pile of small, dark-striped shapes was curled within on fresh straw I did a quick count- five And all of their little rib cages were rising and falling- so they were alive- for now. A stove held kettles of water, kept warm enough to maintain humidity. When I got close to the nest, first one, then another- then all of them, raised up and started a high-pitched cheeping. They opened their mouths wide, displaying purple tongues and gums.

“Um... 'Thyna? Why are they doing that?”

She smiled and put a hand on my shoulder, “They’re hungry and they want you to feed them. They wouldn’t do that for me. This is fantastic, Lainie! Look how sweet they are!”

I made to step back, replying, “Good. That's what you wanted, so I can just....” At my movement, the little oval heads tracked me and the cheeping increased in volume. And the friendly hand on my shoulder became a push in the back.

Athynae said firmly, “No. What I want is for them to eat. I already knew they were hungry. You're the first person they have responded to. I thought about asking Rahbrat, but he would turn it into an... experiment. And anyway, it appears that they want you to feed them.”

I resigned myself to my fate. “Fine. Hand me the bucket and I'll toss them some grain.” If we could finish up soon, I would still be home before dark,

“Ah. No; that's not how it works. Their little bellies can't handle grain yet. I have made a mash for them, and you have to scoop it up and put it in their mouths.”

“Um... well then, hand me the bucket and the scoop.”

There was a long pause that told me I wasn't going to like what came next. And I was right. “There is no 'scoop,' except for your fingers. You take a small lump in your hand and....”

I interrupted her explanation, “I do what when now? They have teeth! How about I just hold the bucket for them and let them dip their little, toothy snouts in there?”

“What part of 'hand-feeding' do you not get? You have to take a lump of mash in your hand and stick it into the baby's mouth and push it into their throat until they swallow. Remember when we watched the mama cliff-racer feeding her babies?”

I recalled the incident all too well and the memory caused my stomach to lurch. “You must be joking,” I hissed.

Athynae's cheeks flared and she thrust the bucket into my hands. “No, I'm not. If they don't eat, they will die! Is that what you want?”

As a matter of fact, I did not want that to happen, nor did I want to live the rest of my days knowing I could have done something and chose not to. I took the bucket and knelt before the mass of squirming, cheeping reptiles, telling them, “Settle down, you lot. I know it smells bad, but the good news is, there's plenty to go around.” Whether the words made any difference to them or not, I don't know, but they calmed immediately, tracking the bucket of foul-smelling... stuff... with their tiny heads. With a shudder, I stuck my hand into the gooey mess and pulled out a clump of something unspeakable, which I then shoved into the first gaping purple maw. I swear the eyes crossed, a reaction I could understand, but then there was a spasm and a swallow and the goo disappeared. And I had been correct- they did have teeth- really sharp ones. But what were a few- or not so few- minor cuts among friends? I moved to the next, and the next- repeating the process of “scoop, shove, swallow, grunt, nip” until the bucket was empty. Five mouths finally closed and ten beady eyes began to droop shut as their owners sank down into a pile of striped scales and bulging bellies.

It had been moderately awful, but at least it was over. I let out a pent-up breath and spoke over my shoulder, with faint hope, “So... I'll see you tomorrow, then?”

Athynae was already over by the stove, creating odors that would have been more at home in her brother's laboratory. She shook her head even as she stirred slimy things in with smelly things. “They will need to be fed again in two hours, so there's no point in you going anywhere. There are some blankets you can use if you need to rest.” She stopped what she was doing to give me a dazzling smile. “Their metabolisms are really fast at this stage; that's why it was so important to get something into their stomachs. And they will need a lot of food to start with, so they can finish developing. I'll send a runner to let Aunt Baria know. We can do this, Lainie. Now that you've gotten them to take food, it will be easy.”

I laughed hollowly. “Easy. Right. Also smelly and disgusting. And who elected me for this anyway?”

She pointed the ladle at the nest of little snoring shapes, “They did.”

My legs were starting to cramp, and I made to stand only to hear a distressed “mewl” rise from the nest, followed by a small, scaly head. I put my hand down and the little devil snuffled at it and settled- after grasping my fingers with his front legs. It was going to be a long night. “You think you could bring some of those blankets over here? I don't think I will be going anywhere for a while.”

[To be continued]

This post has been edited by treydog: Jul 8 2019, 11:59 AM


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The dreams down here aren't broken, nah, they're walkin' with a limp...

The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
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