GraniteSpire

Pigeon's Adventure Nine Recap

My friends were dead. The holy man we just met was saying some words
for them, kind words no doubt, but I wasn’t listening. All I could see
was that monster’s face in my mind’s eye. The moment my spell
connected with his, that brief instant where his glaze flicked away
from Cutty and held mine. His mouth moved ever so slightly. Was it to
grin? To draw breath to speak? To unleash some other ancient
incantation far superior to mine? It was too hard to tell. His face
was covered in Aberlour’s blood.

His mouth may have been obscured, but his eyes communicated their
predatory intentions to my very core. “I’ll be with you in a moment.”

Somehow Jade and I escaped. Maybe it was her uncanny ability to steer
me away from danger or Luna’s watchful guidance or divine providence
in the guise of a white stag. But we made it. We made it to this
secret village, a place safe and friendly to all the races, to magic
users, to my kind. Some quiet voice in me pleaded that I stay, that I
earn my place among them and live out my days in peace. Maybe find a
willing woman to laugh with, to share simple moments with while I
pursued what I could of my craft.

But a firmer voice said, “No.” Not while unholy creatures like that
lurked the world, not when I have a gift such as mine. I needed
knowledge. I wasn’t forging new ground, not yet. I needed to stand on
the shoulders of the arcane masters who came before me. I couldn’t do
that in Brookston. I needed to access to proper grimoires. I needed to
get the hell out of the ’Dwell and gain enough power to come back and
kill the abomination that killed my friends. At least, I hope it
killed them. The alternatives are… unpleasant.

I forced my attention back to Dakkon’s benediction. He was speaking
about the mercy of death. I silently vowed the next time I encountered
that monster, he would receive only the latter from me.

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Dakkon's Warning

You may be asking yourself, “what is a cleric of Athar doing in this outcast village of the damned?” Well it is a fairly brief story and concerns our destination of Black Oak, so I’d best be telling you now. First, I’m not rightly a cleric, not according to the church anyhow. I call myself a Friar, though I’ve never taken vows to any order. I was still an acolyte when the edict came down forbidding magic and exiling any non-humans from the’ dwell.

“It’s not right Father Norvil! As the holy scriptures say,_ “serve an unjust king and you serve injustice.”_ Father Norvil was my spiritual advisor and was doing his best to cool my temper. I had exclaimed, rather loudly, that our good Bishop was a damn fool who knew as much about justice as an ogre’s big toe. Farther Norvil proposed to send me to a rather remote village and serve in the local church. The very village we are now planning to visit. I turned him down and fled the capital with a band of other “undesirables” So I would appreciate it if you don’t mention the words Friar, or Priest, or Cleric while we are in town. They are as dangerous to me as witch or wizard to you fellows.

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Cut-Nose Adventure 5 Recap

Jacob Storm, treasure hunter.
This new name is going to take some getting used to. The Jacob part has been with me since before I was born; named for my mother’s grandfather. The Storm part of my name arrived with my birth, on account of the weather. My father was a soldier, but I was born a bastard. I guess I should be glad the gods decided to storm, Jacob Partly-Cloudy just doesn’t have the same ring to it. I haven’t used either name since the shivering, when a demon’s claw took half of my eight year old nose. Since then I have just been Cut-Nose.

This treasure hunter part, that’s new. Entering the town of Black Oak, despite my trepidation, was not a disaster. We were able to acquire all the things we might need for a journey out of the ‘dwell. But first, we are treasure hunters. That was the deal. Weapons, armor, food, warm clothes, and one share of treasure each or the grocer and blacksmith of Black oaks. In return, we face certain death for a treasure that ay not exits. It’s a pretty good deal. Since we are already facing certain death it’s like getting free stuff.
*
*Jacob Storm, the completely plastered
.
As names go, it’s not as impressive as treasure hunter, but it is immediately gratifying. It is amazing how eager these village were are for a good story. I determined to have a drink for each of our fallen comrades, each time I told their story. That turned out to be a lot of drinks. I was expecting to be burned at the stake, or at least run out of town, so being drunk under the table by a crowd of friendly villagers was a nice surprise.

Cut-Nose the Serf
Just when I thought things were looking up, I was reminded of just who, and what, I am. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. A clandestine meeting at the abandoned church in the middle of the night, what could possibly go wrong? What waited for us was the first lady of Back Oak. We should be pleased to bow down and fulfill her every whim. For just a moment I forgot I was a serf. When she asked us to look into the disturbing sounds coming from her husband’s study, I stupidly asked what she would do for us. “You will serve us or you will die,” well those weren’t her words exactly. She prettied it up a little as aristocratic type like to do. Maybe it helps them sleep at night. Whatever… If I die in that study tonight I am haunting this family until the end of time.

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Cut-Nose Adventure 4 Recap

Not long ago I considered the night a refuge. Surrounded my snoring hounds I was (mostly) safe from the petty insults and casual violence of the Queen’s Guard and the prettier or more highly placed serfs. Out here, the darkness brings death; Bandits, freezing rivers, bears, and wolves. We lost another companion last night. I dread what the next night might bring.

The morning after Tain’s death we woke to the sound of voices. A short distance away, in possibly the worst location two people could choose for a camp site, huddled around their failed attempt at a fire, we found two more nearly frozen refugees. They were armed, though, and well dressed for the cold. After a few tense moments we struck a bargain: My fire for their guidance to Black Oak. One of those men, Stave, would not live to see the next sunrise.

He seemed doomed from the start. First, despite their promise to guide us back to Black Oak, they clearly had no idea where they were. We wasted half the morning before I realized we were heading almost completely the wrong way. Then there was the snake. Sometime after noon Stave startled a huge venomous serpent and got bit for his bad manners. I’m fairly certain I was able to stop the poison, and the other man, Ablelower, proved incredibly skilled with a knife. We made a fine serpent stew for dinner that evening. One more day until black oak and I was starting to feel hopeful again. Then night arrived, and the wolves arrived with it. I was on the first watch with Stave when they attacked. The battle was fierce, bloody, and desperate. They kept trying to drag away the more vulnerable members of our party. When the final wolf was driven off, and all the rest were dead, we found Stave still at his watch. There was a dead wolf next to him, and blood all around him.

His friend took it hard. Friends are dangerous things in this ‘dwell, as I know too well. This last winter, when the snow was heavy on the ground, the Queen’s Guard found themselves in need of entertainment. They made old Lem prop his peg leg up on a stool while they hurled daggers at it. They were well pickled by then, and when one the daggers hit Lem in the chest they were all falling down laughing. There was murder in my heart then, but Lem wouldn’t have wanted that. I decided to take my long horded if miniscule wealth and take the first caravan out.

That hasn’t worked out so well for me. I’m still not out of the ‘dwell. Tomorrow, with a little luck, we should be able to make Black Oak. I don’t expect I, and my band of hungry penniless refugees, will find a warm welcome. I hope it’s not my night to die.

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Cut-Nose Adventure 3 Recap
Instinct

Once again I find myself scrawling my thoughts on this scavenged bark, though this time with less optimism. One of our companions continues his journey in the spirit world. Once today I was able to save him, when the white doe he had lain nearly returned the insult. Twice was beyond my skill. Tain was killed by the wrathful paw of an enraged bear. I hope that wherever he is now, he is at least warm and dry.

Instinct.
It is a powerful drive, and sits beside the core that connects us to the natural world, right next to the heart of my new found strength. In this desperate journey I never considered the cost of this new power.
Three years ago, while hunting for some escaped serfs, my hounds came across a black bear. They quickly circled, each hound in turn darting in and snapping at the huge best, then darting back as the bear turned. Enraged, the bear kept turning and swiping at the hounds. When the huntsmen finally arrived with their crossbows three of the hounds were dead. That night I asked Lem why they would attack a creature so much larger and more dangerous than themselves.

It’s instinct Nosey. A pack may fight were a lone hound would run. Their bond gives them courage, and they will risk even the claws of the mighty bear for the pack.

The last two days I have been building those bonds with my fellow refugees and struggling to understand my new gift. When I woke to find a bear in our camp I reacted without thought, charging at the beast to drive it away. Tain circled behind and attacked. It all seemed right to me. Yes, this is how the pack fights. It was not until pigeons light flared between myself and the bear that intelligent thought returned. Tain was dead. Pigeon and Jade were on the far side of the fire. The others had fled. I ducked a swipe from the bear and leaped across the fire. Then we ran for it. The bears cry of rage triggered an avalanche. Jade was struck by a rock that would surely have killed anyone else. We staggered out into the night before finding this briar.

I must find some balance between this connection to nature and instinct with my rational human thought. A slave to instinct is still a slave, and I mean to be free

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Pigeon's Adventure Eight Recap

I peeled my traveling shirt off and spread it out on the ground at my
knees. The rest of my companions were asleep. All except Luna that is,
who I got the distinct impression was trying to choose between two
tempting kills. She seemed to pick up on my suggestion not to decide
at all and express a dry amusement (if owls have senses of humor). I
smoothed the garment so I could cast my mending more easily. Although
my friends had seen my working of much more complex and obvious and
damning magics, some part of me felt it a courtesy to perform what I
could outside of their observation. A futile gift of deniability?
“Yes, magistrate, I witnessed the man called Pigeon summon lightning
from his fingers, but I never once saw him bend arcane currents to his
will for the purposes of mending a torn seam.” Foolish notion. But
then again, I do a lot of foolhardy things these days.

The long claw scars on my chest and arm were testament to that. Or the
acid burns on my opposite shoulder. Or the dozens of bites still
healing from last night’s misfortune. Too soon to welcome any detail
of that memory. Besides, I’m supposed to be watching the entry tunnel.
I challenged myself to keep my dancing lights aloft in the corridor
while mending the snag in my sleeve, suffered whilst dodging the
poison spray of whatever that carapaced horror was we killed this
afternoon. Done and done. I dyed the shirt green for good measure,
darkening the color to my satisfaction in the low light. Not that it
would last until I woke Aberlour up for his watch. On and on my lights
danced in the tunnel. Such a peaceful satisfaction from these arcane
crafts. I only wish everyone could experience it.

Of course, my friends have their own gifts. Looking at them now,
asleep, dreaming no doubt of the treasure we just found, etching in
stone our status as proper adventurers, it’s hard to imagine my life
before them. These past few weeks have burned so brightly as to cast
my previous life in shadow, though I recognize its familiar contours
there in the darkness.

Despite this success, I know we won’t be safe until we leave the
‘Dwell. But I believe we’re safer in each other’s company. Because we
trust each other. We share a bond of family, forged by battle, that
says “from you, my brothers and sisters, I will keep no secrets and do
to you no harm, for we— WE, are in this together.”

My eyes grew heavy and Luna had finished both her meals. It was time
to wake my new friend and trusted companion, Aberlour, up for his
watch.

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Pigeon's Adventure Seven Recap

A thousand tiny legs, skittering, wriggling through my clothes,
desperate to fill arachnid maws with my warm flesh. I thrashed awake
but it was too late. They were crawling on my face. One was trying to
burrow into my ear. The bites! I could feel the poison like hot syrup
in my veins, or maybe I imagined the temperature. I heard myself
scream. I seemed so far away.

My body’s dying anguish as it squirmed in the dirt, an afterthought.
Something else spoke to me. Well, it didn’t speak exactly. But it had
my attention and I knew I had its. It was such a terrible comfort in
the fleeing of my mortality that I finally understood what those
clergymen spent their lives chasing. But there was nothing divine
about this. It felt like the night of my arcane awakening, watching
Barnus die on the bank of that river. Something was watching me die.
And it wanted to help, but… couldn’t.

Then something else pulled at me. Mother! Her arms wrapped me up,
carrying me from… what? A carriage? I could hear the horses. I could
hear the screaming. No. Mother was gone. But I wasn’t. I was the one
screaming. Jade slumped me against a tree. I was in my body again.
Cut-nose was guiding nature to undo what it had just done to undo me.
How many times had they saved me? People often admit to losing count
of things as a sense of hyperbole, but I sincerely had.

Aberlour rolled on the ground in my place. My mind flashed with the
spell I needed. I instinctively moved my arm to fetch my rose pedals.
They were gone! Wait. No. My arm wasn’t moving. Shit.

RHHHUZZZ PLELLS!”

I knew from the look on her face that Jade thought I was speaking my
arcane tongue. Thankfully her mind is nearly as quick as her hands and
she discerned the difference between my drooling and the carefully
creased syllables of my art. She looked down at the component pouch I
somehow had managed to open. Hopefully she wasn’t going to be
sprinkling grasshopper legs in my lap. If she did, it’d be Aberlour
dying instead of me. But who knew, I might still die tonight.

Then it hit me again. That presence. Something urged me to be calm, to
focus, to save my friend. And I did.

Soon enough, Aberlour was unconscious alongside scores of dreaming
spiders… dreaming of my flesh, no doubt. They would take those dark
fantasies to their spidery hell.

As the others tended to what need be done, my gaze drifted upward.
Somehow, amidst the branches covered in sheets of webbing, there was
perched an owl. Stately, curious, looking right at me. I recognized
her and she recognized me. Her head cocked to the side, but her gaze
never wavered. The moon stabbed through the canopy of leaves above and
behind her. Luna.

Luna wanted me to leave. She knew I was weak, but I got the sense that
as dangerous as it might be to move, staying here was certain death. I
did my best to communicate this urgency to the others and, despite
their skepticism, somehow I convinced them to uproot camp. By the time
I looked back to that moonlit branch, the owl was gone.

I got the sense she didn’t go far.

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Pigeon's Adventure Six Recap

“IT SPITS ACID!!!!!”

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Pigeon's Adventure Five Recap

She was soaked, her long pretty hair matted to her face, her chestnut
eyes that looked at me like I was something sacred. I hated what they
had done to her voice. The one that sang me to sleep since before I
could remember, now sounded like she had a bat fluttering in her lungs
when she drew breath. What had they done to her? Our stone cell lacked
a window so I never guessed at the hour but I knew our time was short.

“William, my sweet boy.” She smiled even now, speaking tenderly
between fits of coughing, bouts of hacking up what I hoped was only
water. I moved to comfort her when all I wanted to do was break down
the door and hurt anyone who would dare hurt us. But I had only seen
five winters and such a feat would have proved… difficult.

“Listen to me and remember well for soon I may not be here to remind
you.” Her tone was soothing but hearing those words instantly wound a
tingling pressure behind my eyes. “The key to creation and undoing
resides in a name. Never give these men your true name, your father’s
true name. You were named for him, did you know that?” She must have
read the confusion on my face, swiftly giving way to curiosity as it
always did. “Oh, William is indeed your name, but only part of it. The
rest you will claim when you are strong enough to protect it.”

“But, Mama. I am strong.” I heard myself say it in a trembling voice.
She smiled hard, squeezing tears from her eyes, causing me to lose
what control I had. I clung to her weeping while she spoke a secret
language I liked to believe she made up just for me. Time seemed to
slither away. The next moment, I remember waking up, my rags damp from
laying on hers. I was certain I had slept but she continued speaking
as if no time had passed.

“I know how strong you are, my bright boy. Wherever you find yourself,
whatever may come to pass, know that I love you, that your father
loves you. Continue to grow strong and use that strength to protect
people, even those who are afraid, even those who would hurt you.”

“Why would they hurt me? Why are they hurting you?”

Her head cocked to the side, she heard something. “They return and I
fear I shall not.”

“No!” I cried, too loudly.

As she calmly shushed me, I could make out their ironshod boots
clattering in the stairwell. “Never forget your true name, William.
Never give it to anyone who could take it from you.” An iron key
jangled and creaked in the lock at our door. My heart leapt into my
throat but I held very still as my mother cupped her hand to my ear
and whispered the last words I ever heard her utter. My true name.

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Tain's Adventure Three Recap
The Death of Tain

The surprising part is the sound- two sounds actually: the concussion of the paw and the pop of my head hitting the soil. The left half of my face and neck are tingling and pulsing with my racing heart. I’m frozen, and can only see slow glimpses of the brown fur between me and the fire.


I awaken to the sound of my door’s opening- but was it from the dream or the real? I freeze, unbreathing, waiting. The creak of a floorboard. I quickly roll over in groggy terror to find the silhouette of my father.

“Tain. My only son,” he’s whispering through sobs. I sit up, consumed by worry: what could be wrong? “I’m so sorry, Tain.” I try to pull the rest of myself from the dream world and make sense of his words. “It’s not safe for me here anymore, Tain, and the mountains are no place for a boy of your years.” He’s squeezing me so hard. He must know he’s hurting me. “Dedrick has promised to look after you, to teach you a trade. You’re better off, Tain. You’re-” a distant door creaks open in the night. He turns his head and notes a lantern coming toward the servant house. “Stay until light spills over the eastern peaks, but not after the stars in the West sky melt to morning. Take a milk pail and walk toward the North pasture. Dedrick will meet you.” he looks again to the approaching light. “I’m so sorry, Tain.”


I’ve been dead since then. For the last 16 years I’ve been walking closer to this moment.

A bright light illuminates the outline of my killer. How could I have gotten so cold so quickly? My eyes are dry and stinging, but I can’t bring myself to blink. The sounds of my new friends’ dying seem to be coming from a distant cave- the sounds echoing in such a strange way. A quiet roar fills my mind: is it possible to see a sound? The world is dark now, and I can hear only a faded dull rumble, smell only blood and fur and smothered fire, taste the metal of my own blood. An eternity passes before I feel myself rocking back and forth: I presume I am the first of us to be eaten.

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