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The Endless Hunt, Season 3: "Snakes! Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?"

Discussion in 'Machiavel: Ambition' started by Ravana, Jun 13, 2012.

  1. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    JMH, the Stealth Sketch Artist

    I have sketched Bouldergut in the past, but this is the first time I laid eyes on his wife. She was out shopping with a fellow Huntress. Other men commented on the beauty of these two women. Their comments favored the appearance of one over the other. I have chosen to leave this sketch incomplete, so those who view my rendition will view the princess and the commoner as they view each other:

    As equals.
    [​IMG]
    I did some research and found out the names of the women.

    (In addition, I labeled the contents of their bellies.)
     
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  2. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Omar turned to Bouldergut. "You're just going to let your wife go off like that?" He pulled his patchwork cloak about his shoulders, sneering and looking at the planks of the ship.

    If I had a woman like that I'd never let her go. Damned women. And two beautiful ones at that. Maybe I can yet replace my dear Elizabeth.

    Omar realized Bouldergut was staring a hole into him.

    Well, maybe not his woman. Although battling this brute would make a wondrous death. I'll keep that in mind.

    Omar's smile crept back to his face. "So, where are we off to? I'm so looking forward to this hunt. Should be really, really dangerous right?"

    He wiped some dripping drool off his chin.

    Picture below of Omar.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2012
  3. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Sigrelyn

    …looks at Bouldergut in amazement when she learns Jade and Silver strolled off into the city. A couple hours ago. Unaccompanied. One a woman who doesn't know the city, the other who doesn't know the entire bloody continent.

    She casts a glance over her shoulder. Almost immediately, Hogar materializes from that direction. He comes up, stops, twitches an eyebrow all but imperceptibly, waits for an answer.

    "Remind me to sympathize with you more often," she says.

    He makes no visible response.

    She shakes her head. "Better send a message to the Lord Mayor. Be sure to mention I'd be honored to have him as my guest for a parting drink."

    Hogar asks "Shall I specify a location, my lady?"

    "No," she replies. "If he can't find it on his own, that means we've done something right."

    She collects Boulder and Omar–to whom she halfway introduces herself in passing, in rather summary fashion: Omar has heard of a land called Azheg before, somewhere far to the east, but he's fairly certain neither she nor anyone else is baroness of its goat rodeos, star-spangled or otherwise–and heads off into the city. "Clothes shopping, you said?"

    "My wife can take care of herself, you know. I would bet Silver can, too."

    "You'd win."

    "So?"

    "Think about it."

    He does… and decides that, as seems usually to be the case, the baroness is right. Maybe he'd been on that island too long.

    As they go, a stooped, shrouded crone hobbles past, muttering either to herself or something she carries. Omar seems to make out the words "Where does creamed corn figure into the workings of the universe?" Though perhaps he didn't hear them correctly after all, considering.

    -

    [Legendary Sidekick or sheilawisz: one of you pick it up from here, from Silver's or Jade's PoV]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  4. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    Jade and Silver

    As the girls head toward the pier, Silver notices that her wine bottle is more than half empty. She apologizes to Jade after realizing that Jade hasn't had a single sip.

    "I will not drink wine for quite some time. I do not wish my dragon to come staggering out."

    After briefly explaining that, on her island, this year is the Year of the Dragon and that the dragon is the symbol of her tribe, Jade expresses her desire to learn more about Silver.

    "A woodcutter! You are a strong woman. If you ever come to Roku-Roku Island my fellow Huntresses will not treat you like an outsider, I guarantee."

    While Jade is concerned about Silver's fondness for wine, she sees that Silver is keeping it under control now. Perhaps she will not drink too heavily when she is enjoying herself.

    "I can see the ocean from here. It will not be long before I can put these bags down."

    Silver suggests they stop on a bench for a rest.

    Jade remembers her husband's warning to stay in areas populated by well-dressed people to ensure she will be safe. This small square has merchants and musicians and ladies walking under parasols. This must be the safest place between shops and ships.

    The girls get lost in conversation for about five minutes. Then they note the absence of music. Merchants fold up their portable shops. Ladies close their parasols so they can hasten their pace.

    Jade removes the chopsticks from her hair. She reaches into a small vial in a pouch in her skirt and dips the sharpened ends of the stick inside. "I can kill two men instantly if I must. Surely you wear a long cloak for a reason?" Jade sighs with relief as Silver pats the area where her weapon is concealed.


    (Sheila, write the first half of an encounter with a small group of turban-clad men wielding knives.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2012
  5. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    Bouldergut and Omar

    "Omar... I fear you were right that I should not have let Jade out on her own. I may be a target... which means my wife is a target as well. She is with child. If anything happens to her--to either of them--I can never forgive myself."

    Bouldergut is unable to interpret the grin on Omar's face. Does he take so much pleasure in being right that he can't even sympathize...? Ignoring his pointless suspicion, Bouldergut continues.

    "If things get ugly, I can promise you will be rewarded for helping me... if you survive. That I cannot promise. My only hope is that my enemies will only send enough men to make it appear that my wife is in danger... to lure me into a trap."

    Bouldergut peers in the direction that his wife headed in earlier, knowing her return trip would be on the same path.

    "It will work. I will kill a dozen armed men with my bare hands if they stand in the way of my wife and child!"


    (Phil, will Omar risk his life to help Bouldergut? Omar still has not turned in his weapons yet, so BG is willing to take the chance that Omar would be a valuable ally in the current situation.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2012
  6. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    Silver and Jade

    Silver loved to watch the sea and the ships in the distance, she was really enjoying this quiet, peaceful day with her new friend Jade and then, after a few minutes more of conversation and looking at the sea, both of them could hear grunts and then the harsh, deep voices of five men that were slowly drawing closer to them...

    "Jade, watch out!" Silver whispered, and then Jade, alarmed, realized that these dirty-looking, probably drunk and turban-clad men were armed with a knife each- "I knew that we were going to draw some attention..."

    "Ladies" grunted the tallest of these men, who had long, tangled brown hair and awful bloodshot eyes- "What are you doing, just the two of you alone, in this part of the city?"

    "Come and have a drink with us!" said another of them, wielding his knife through the air- "You look like we could have some fun ladies, we promise not to be too rude."

    Jade jumped to her feet, ready to defend herself... she knew that they were outnumbered and Bouldergut was too far to help, but then she realized that Silver Whitestar had stood up beaming at the men and looking quite unconcerned about their potentially fatal situation.

    "So" Silver said, laughing at them after finishing her bottle of wine- "What if we do not want to go and have anything with you?"

    "We may have to be more... persuasive" replied a third man, showing them his ugly yellow teeth... and then, all of a sudden, he raised his knife and charged straight at Jade!

    It happened in a split of a second, Silver was so fast: She drew out her hidden dagger that was almost like a short sword... Jade could see a flash of light reflected on the metal blade, Silver had delivered a lightning-fast slash and the man that attacked them had collapsed, now squirming in agony on the ground with his throat cut open from ear to ear.

    A second man attacked Silver trying to strangle her, just to get three fatal stabs in less than two seconds- the other turban-clad men were furious now, and Jade was ready to fight and defend herself as well!
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2012
  7. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Bouldergut, Omar and Sigrelyn

    …are joined by Hogar roughly half an hour after they begin searching. He nods once to Sigrelyn, then does what the others are doing: keeping their eyes and ears open.

    Perhaps another quarter hour afterwards, a runner in the blue and gold livery of the city watch comes up to the party, and hands a slip of paper to Sigrelyn. She reads it, then mutters something to the effect of "In a good part of town?"

    She addresses the others, reading from the slip: "Invitation accepted. Recommend the Brass Dolphin: good view, extensive cellar. Halvar."

    She directs their path to the east and somewhat back toward the docks. The twisting streets delay their arrival only a short while. They come to a square that looks as though it ought to be seeing more commercial traffic than it is at the moment. They surmise the reason for this is the presence of a dozen liveried men-at-arms keeping a large portion of it clear of such traffic, several shabbily-dressed bodies on the ground, and a wagon upon which they are just now beginning to be loaded.

    At a table outside of a goodly inn, over the door of which hangs a somewhat liberally-interpreted dolphin wrought in brass, sit four figures, two men and two women. Behind the table stand four of the city's watch; if they are standing somewhat nearer the two ladies than the two men, they're at least doing a good job of not being too obvious about it.

    The two ladies are, of course, Jade and Silver. Both are trembling slightly, though they seem otherwise unharmed.

    The third is a well-dressed man of perhaps thirty, wearing a badge with the city colors, to which is appended a white chief with grey battlement with a portcullis in the center; beneath the shield is a golden scepter crossed with a white scroll. He seems sober, if not overly concerned.

    The fourth is an even better-dressed man, also perhaps thirty; his badge has a gold chief with a three-pronged black label, also supplemented with a crossed scepter and scroll; encircling the shield is a chain of silver links alternating with blue and green ones; above this is a silver crown with pearls and arches; beneath the shield is a golden scepter crossed with a white scroll. The main charge is a blue trillium, adorned with green leaves and purple seeds, on a white field. This part, at least, is readily identifiable to all in the party: it's the same as the one forming the recognizable half of Heverik's banner: the Maritsa arms. He bears a notable resemblance to the prince… apart from being dressed in coordinating colors, at least. He seems genial and quietly amused.

    Sigrelyn actually pulls up short. She mutters "Oh, hell."

    "Indeed," Hogar rather uncharacteristically volunteers.

    Boulder and Omar have no idea what all the bling attached to the coats-of-arms means. What it means to Sigrelyn, apparently, is that she should stop before them, offer a bow to the first man, a somewhat deeper one to the second. Hogar does likewise. Boulder and Omar feel it politic to imitate them.

    "I was not aware your Highness was in the city," Sigrelyn addresses to the more ornate of the two.

    He smiles, rising to greet her. "You know quite well I move in mysterious ways… your Highness."

    If you didn't know better, you'd almost swear Sigrelyn sticks her tongue out at him for a vanishing instant.

    He continues: "Hogar: good to see you again as well. And with those formalities disposed of, perhaps one of you would be so kind as to perform introductions?"

    Apparently, this is Hogar's job. Bowing (well, really, inclining his head marginally) to each in turn, he says "Omar Metzger; Bouldergut the Great-Grandmaster Smith of Roku-Roku"—coming from Hogar, it sounds quite grand: Boulder tries, with very limited success, to suck his gut up into his chest and stand tall—"and husband of Princess Jade of Roku-Roku; His Serene and Distinguished Lordship Halvar of Dinesham, Minister of Imperial Cities and Lord Mayor-Castellan of Daarmuth"—the nod goes to the still-seated man, who rises and bows in acknowledgement; "His Serene and Eminent Lordship, His Regal Highness Mazosyr, Minister of State, Prince-Baron of Trelingshire—"

    Who cuts him off: "Et cetera. Let's skip the complete list: nobody cares where I stand in line of succession to what."

    "I would not do his Highness the discourtesy of demurring on the point," Hogar concludes.

    "Touché. Nobody here cares where I stand. So I won't." And demonstrates by seating himself once more, followed by the new arrivals.

    Sigrelyn glances over to the bodies, the last of which is now being loaded. "Turbans?" She looks over at the Lord Mayor. "They're well out of their way."

    "So it would seem." Halvar is now smiling quietly. "Probably there's a ship somewhere that has just acquired a need for three new crewmen. Or five, depending on how the other two fare with they physickers."

    Which leads to Jade and Silver recounting the skirmish… again, since they've already done so once for the watch and a second time for the nobles. They resist any temptation to embellish overly much, as the number of assailants is well established.

    The wagon departs; following a gesture from Halvar, so do most of the guards. The four who were near the table remain, but now station themselves at a distance sufficient to control access to the table without overhearing any of the quieter portions of the conversation. Which become fewer as time passes, since nobody seems to have any urgent business to attend to, apart from the innkeeper, who is kept more than active enough to earn his coin this day.

    As evening falls, the gathering winds down: Halvar and Mazosyr excuse themselves, collect the guardsmen, and head off. The party notes that two other guardsmen, previously inconspicuous near one edge of the square, now position themselves nearer the party. Sigrelyn suggests they finish their current round and head back to the ship, pays up, and gathers the others. The two guardsmen make to approach, but she waves them away: "They're just here in case we needed a guide," she tells the others. Which seems not entirely true, as they do follow… but at a distance.

    The walk back is uneventful and passed in quiet conversation. The only item of note is a brief exchange between Sigrelyn and Hogar:

    "Well?"

    "We've acquired another passenger."

    She nods, scowls, says little else until they reach the enclosure.

    As they arrive, a stooped, shrouded crone hobbles past, muttering either to herself or something she carries. Nothing she says can be clearly made out, unless perhaps "The owls are not what they seem" was heard correctly.

    The loading is completed, the ropes are being taken down, the ramps to all the ships other than the Sea Hind have already been withdrawn. Some time after all are on board and settled, the watch can be heard addressing someone coming up the ramp; any reply is too quiet to be caught. It was, apparently, the correct one, whatever it was, because the ramp can be heard being withdrawn immediately after.

    The next sounds of any consequence are heard hours later, as orders are called out, the anchor is hauled up, rigging is unfurled, and the ships put out with the dawn.

    A few hours later, while the party is lazing about on deck enjoying the sea breezes and the sight of four great ships running in line, a young woman comes out from the cabins. Her attire, while of good quality, is so generic no hint of her station can be derived from it. Her face is another matter altogether.…

    Put her in armor, give her some weapons, and she'd look a lot like Sigrelyn.



    [All: the first legs of the journey are uneventful. Feel free to take the opportunity to have conversations while it is in process, including discussing any of the foregoing. We will otherwise gloss over the intervening six days of sailing across sea, then upriver, then unloading the ships and trundling over land until the Turighard Mountains are reached.]
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2012
  8. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    Jade and Silver

    Perhaps she won't need this, Jade thought, but better to be safe than sorry.

    Jade jabbed Silver in the left arm with one of her chopsticks.

    * * *​

    For a split second, Silver wondered if she had been betrayed. But she understood as soon as she saw Jade jab herself in the arm with her other chopstick.

    Not only did she see Jade... she saw everything. The world around her became silent and moved slowly. Only Jade moved at a speed that was slightly slower than normal. A swift sidekick-back kick combination took out one of the men, while a palm to the bridge of the nose dropped the other.

    The last and largest of the men did not seem to notice how easily Jade defeated her enemies. He was focused on the woman who stabbed his mates.

    He rushed at Silver.

    Perhaps seeing things in slow motion should have given Silver a significant advantage. But when she thrusted her dagger, she was surprised by the lightning speed of her hand. Her dagger hit its target, but was thrust so deep inside, she couldn't dig it out.

    And now that time was moving normally again, she was ill-prepared to dodge the next attack.

    The large man grabbed her, and Silver thought she was doomed.

    Will Jade be the one to save me? she wondered.

    But despite her opponent being triple her weight, she easily overpowered him. She slammed him to ground so hard, the man was knocked out cold. Or was he...?

    * * *​

    "Dead."

    Jade stood over the large man's corpse. "Three dead, two wounded," she continued. Then she apologetically added, "Sorry I didn't warn you earlier. I gave you a concoction that initiates an adrenaline surge. If you are lucky, you shall see time slow down or even stop. It is possible that your strength shall be greater than normal for the next hour or more."

    "That's amazing!" Silver replied.

    Jade motioned her to remain silent.

    "Try to control your voice," she said gently. "One side effect of the adrenaline surge is that your voice shall be very loud. Make an effort to whisper. We must not attract too much attention on the way back to the ship..."

    Jade glanced at the muscular man lying on the ground, his split skull wading in a pool of blood.

    "...for the sake of the local thugs," Jade added.
     
  9. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    JMH, the Stealth Sketch Artist

    Bouldergut set off to save his wife with the assistance of Omar, a man who does not fear death!

    It was a violent battle! I dared not stick around, so please forgive the hasty sketch.

    [​IMG]

    It is my understanding that Bouldergut came out of this unscathed. Omar rushed into the fray as if he hoped to get his throat slit. Instead, he emerged victorious with mere scratches no more serious than those that were already on his wrists.


    (Phil, feel free to tell Omar's side of the story, as he lives to tell the tale.)
     
  10. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    Silver Whitestar

    The view of the open sea, the sound of the waves, the wind and the ships sailing towards the adventure and the unknown all were wonderful for Silver, and there she was, walking on the wooden deck and just admiring the vast sea as the entire Hunting party began their second day of the travel.

    Silver had suffered of sea sickness for the first day, but then Sigrelyn had given her a concentrated ginger root infusion and she was feeling much better after sleeping very well last night. That day, Silver was wearing her new purple riding hood and leather gloves that Jade had bought for her, and her long black hair was well combed and shiny.

    She wondered when would they arrive at the far off lands where the real adventure would begin, what would happen then and what sort of monsters she would have to fight armed only with her battle axe, her longsword and perhaps a bow and arrows if they had some of them included for the travel...

    "My father always said that the sea was beautiful" Silver whispered, stopping at the very edge of the deck and staring once more far into the horizon- "But this is better than I ever imagined it would be! I have your Longsword with me in this adventure, dad... Why did you have to die in that fire? Then, everyone abandoned me."

    Silver's blue eyes were getting teary as she remembered her father, looking at the sea: How he had taught her to use the axe, cut down the trees and then split the wood for many uses, how he would arrive at home every night and tell her stories about the creatures that lived in the forest...

    Then, Jade appeared beside her and they looked into each other's eyes.
     
  11. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    Silver sees Jade's eyes welling with tears.

    "Your father..."

    Silver hesitates to respond. Jade breaks the silence by scolding herself.

    "I am selfish. I heard you and started thinking..."

    Jade brushes her tears aside, wishing she could brush aside her thoughts as easily.

    "Tell me more about your father."
     
  12. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

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    Reaver

    Damn that fool gladiator to the deepest pit of Sheol!

    Because of his "romantic interludes" with "a bunch of hot babes", we'd missed the ship that was leaving Roku-Roku with the others on board and therefore had to wait another day for the next. By the time we reached our destination and the correct pier, the others had already boarded.

    My numb-skulled companion and I climbed aboard the tall-masted vessel called the Sea Hind just as the deckhands were casting off the mooring lines. We were greeted by two porters who took my rucksack and all six of Manimus' large cases to our cabins.

    After getting settled in, I decided to take a quick stroll around the ship to gain situational awareness. I spotted my massive barbarian friend Bouldergut first. He was standing near the bow of the ship, talking to a young man. Their conversation was occasionally broken by bits of raucous laughter.

    To the port side aft section, I saw Bouldergut's lovely wife, Jade. She was speaking quietly to a lovely raven-haired maiden with whom I felt an overwhelming desire to meet. I began to head in their direction but then paused, realizing how rude it would be of me to interrupt them.

    I turned and walked over to where Bouldergut and his young companion stood. My meeting the beauty with the ebony tresses was going to have to wait.
     
  13. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

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    Ultimus Manimus

    Okay. So like, Reaver was all pissed at me and stuff because I like, stuck around and like, had lots of great sex with all these like, super hot maidens and stuff. And like, you know, like, it's not my fault if like, he didn't hook up with any of those chicks, because like, he totally could've, you know?

    So like, when I was done, Reaver was all whiny and stuff and saying stuff like: "C'mon Manimus! We gotta get to the rondy...rondy something and like meet Bouldernuts and like his hot-ass wife and stuff."

    I was all like: "Whatever dude, you know? I mean like, seriously. Okay? Like, you know, relax. We're like, on a island paradise with like all these hot babes who wanna do us, because we like, saved their homes and junk. You know? So like chill out man. Seriously. Okay?"

    But Reaver was all like stomping his feet on the ground and like, throwing stuff. And he was like: "We gotta go-ohh-oh! Bouldernuts will be mad at us and stuff and I'm like, totally scared of him."

    So like, I was like: "Fine. Okay? Like, we'll leave tomorrow morning, okay? Seriously. Okay? Damn dude."

    And so like, we left and caught up to everyone else on this ship. I was totally pissed though. We left my entourage on Roku Roku, because Reaver is a whiny little bitch.
     
  14. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    Silver Whitestar

    Silver showed a little smile for Jade, they looked into each other's eyes for seven seconds and then, after discovering that Jade's interest in her past was sincere, Silver decided to tell the story of her father:

    "Jade, my father was the only person of my family that really loved me" she said, her voice a little broken- "My mother was not right in the head, really, and my older brother and sister... well, they always said that if I got devoured by something in the forest, they would have more food for themselves everyday."

    Jade could now imagine how difficult Silver's life had always been, she wanted to say something but then Silver, staring at the sea once again, continued with her story:

    "Dad taught me everything about working in the forest, sometimes he would take me to work and learn with him and he always told his friends how proud he was of his little woodcutter girl" Silver said- "When I stayed home, I loved to hear his steps drawing closer to our cottage. He would always tell me stories before I fell asleep."

    "What happened then?" Jade asked- "You said that everyone abandoned you."

    The wind was very strong and the ships were sailing fast, the sun shining strong so high up in the sky.

    "One day, there was a wildfire somewhere in the forest" Silver's voice was weaker now- "Dad and his friends were trapped by the fires far from our home, we never found anything of them, everything was ashes..."

    Jade hugged Silver as she realized that her friend's voice was breaking apart, but then Silver recovered control of her emotions and decided to tell the rest of the story in just a few words:

    "My mother blamed me for the fact that Dad was that day at that particular part of the forest, since the night before I asked him to hunt a rabbit for dinner and the best rabbits lived there- My siblings hated me too, they had always hated me anyway and so I have been on my own since then... My father's old Longsword is the only keepsake that I have of him."

    "Silver, I am so sorry..."

    "No problem, I have survived all these years just fine, have not I?" Silver replied, smiling at her- "What about your life, Jade?"
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2012
  15. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    On the Waves and on the Road

    The biggest excitement of the first day at sea—apart from being at sea, for those who never had—is when Prince Heverik strides on deck wearing his brand-new "Honorary Commodore" outfit, which is composed of an amazing assortment of vertical green and blue satin elements, all cut along undulating patterns, presumably someone's idea of representing waves, puffed out by a pearl-grey undertunic, to signify billows; every exposed edge is trimmed in narrow bands of white lace, to indicate sea foam. What's astonishing is that it actually all works: from more than a few feet away, it really does resemble what it's supposed to—that is to say, something formless, ever-changing and difficult to focus on for long periods of time. Like the sea, too, it glitters in the sun… this last effect courtesy of perhaps a hundred fine silver chains with tiny anchors on them. Which is why doesn't work all that well close up. Still, it's the most coherent, coordinated outfit nearly anyone on the ship has ever seen him in.

    He's also wearing a codpiece that appears to be made from a genuine cod, and a three-cornered hat with two extra corners… which prevents anyone from suspecting he's an imposter.

    Especially after someone confirms that, yes, he really does have a stuffed fish between his legs.

    The crew humor him, taking it in turns to complement his outfit, ask him questions or provide answers to his own. More observant passengers begin to notice this invariably manages to keep him well away from any vital part of the ship, and most especially out of the rigging.

    Days two and three pass in much the same way, apart from the inevitable variations that mark the prince's wardrobe from one day to the next: day two features a striped bass piece, day three a white grouper piece.

    Upon comparing notes, the rest of the party realizes Sigrelyn and the young lady who resembles her are never on deck at the same time, though sometimes they occur in sufficiently close proximity that it's unlikely the baroness is simply changing costume. Not that she's the type to. Also, the other lady's hair is shorter and not braided.

    At evening of the third day, the ships arrive at the mouth of the Thanding River, up which they proceed the following two days, finally reaching a decent-sized town from which mountains can be seen to the west. The rest of that day and all the next is devoted to unloading, a task complicated by the fact that the town's docks aren't really designed to handle large seagoing vessels, so only two can be worked at a time. Even this requires substantial extra pay for the longshoremen, as well as the recruiting of several dozen additional hands from amongst the local peasantry and the rapid construction of an extra crane.

    It becomes evident that most of the hunters arrived after the embarkation was already well in progress, as, so their amazement, the expedition has been provided with no fewer than eight wagons, four of which have wooden sides and roofs, plus teams to pull them, along with riding horses and remounts for twenty more people, plus around two dozen hunting dogs of fine pedigree and dubious training, and at least twelve raptors of various sizes. There is also one 20'x10' pavilion, twelve four-person tents, and more than enough sleeping rolls, all-weather cloaks and packs for the entire expedition.

    Which doesn't even begin to touch on the gloves, boots, leashes, collars, cages, sacks, snares, jaw traps, cage traps, snake sticks, snake hooks, long-handled nets, fishing nets, butterfly nets, butterfly knives (you suspect someone may have been the victim of a misunderstanding here), butter knives, boning knives, skinning knives, scaling knives, bows, arrows, axes, boar spears, fish spears, people spears, a harpoon, fishing rods, lines, hooks, sinkers, lures, torches, lanterns, oil (illumination, lubrication, honing, and cooking), food, wine, kettles, skillets, a hibachi, fire tongs, fire irons, shovels, tableware, water skins, drinking mugs, drinking horns, hunting horns, fodder, medicine, bandages, and taxidermy supplies. Along with spares of everything—it turns out that the eighth wagon is itself a spare, and is loaded mainly with wagon wheels and axles, leaf springs, rope, saddles, harness leather, yokes, tongues, traces, hammers, nails, saws, planes, screwdrivers and mojitos.

    In addition to the wagon-drivers, there are eighteen other support personnel, most of whom ride in the wagons; they include two cooks, a blacksmith, a fletcher, a wainwright, a clerk, a kennel-master, a hawk-master, four grooms, two taxidermists, two assistant taxidermists, and two tailors.

    The two large, ornate boxes on small wheels turn out to be wardrobes.

    Around noon of the day after the arrival, a small stir is created when the local baron arrives with his household guard. He, the prince and the baroness converse together for perhaps half an hour, before he heads off again, leaving four of his riders behind. Afterwards, Sigrelyn can be heard mentioning the man's wisdom. When asked why, she says: "He doesn't believe everything he hears. So when he heard about us, he decided to come see for himself."

    After a pause, as if in afterthought, she adds: "And he still doesn't believe it. That's the part I was commending him on."

    The four men the baron leaves behind turn out to be an escort. Not to watch the caravan, but to reassure the locals.

    Early next morning, the troupe sets off. Prince Heverik takes the lead: no longer aboard ship, he once again wears his particolored skull cap with the two snake heads for a crest. You now observe the function of the small spike they rest on, which allows them to rotate slowly in the breeze.

    By day's end, the elevation has increased to where the expedition can look back across fertile, well-maintained plains, dotted with farms and the occasional "hamlet" where three or four such come together at their corners. Off to the left, on a considerably higher outcropping, is a watchtower that must command a splendid view of as much as two-thirds of the barony. Away to the right, the land rises more gradually, eventually meeting the mountains as they curve around from the west to the north. Ahead, the shallow valley narrows, then vanishes altogether into the looming, sunset-limned slopes.

    "We should spot the pass tomorrow?" one of the functionaries inquires, examining the land rising before them.

    'You're in the pass" replies one of the escort.

    "Oh." Pause. "I guess that explains why it's seldom crossed."

    "No lie."

    Night falls.



    [Tomorrow: the Pass of Three Rigors]
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2012
  16. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    Jade's Belated Response to Silver

    "Sorry... Heverik's outfit caused quite a bit of commotion. You wish to know of my past?"

    Silver's reply suggests she's curious, and mildly annoyed at the interruption.

    "Your story reminds me of my father. A good man, and yes, he is... no longer with us. I believe he still watches over me. But when he was alive...

    "He was proud of me as well. I could not cut wood or do much of anything. I was the Jade Princess, daughter of the High Chieftain who ruled the largest corner of Roku-Roku Island. I was not supposed to do anything but wear green and purple stones.

    "To briefly explain how my island was ruled until ten years ago, there were five High Chieftains--one to preside over each corner, and a fifth to preside over the volcanic area in the center. The southeast--my motherland--was the most populated corner, and is where most of the common people live to this day.

    "Forgive me if this topic seems too personal to mention, but my father was proud of me because I was a true maiden. In my generation this was uncommon, as seven maidens were to be sacrificed in the year that I would turn twenty. Girls my age or slightly younger would give their bodies to several men up to three times their age just to earn a reputation of promiscuity so they could not be chosen.

    "The age of a sacrificial maiden was sixteen to nineteen. When my father found out I would still be nineteen on the chosen day, he met with the other Chieftans. He boasted of my purity and said a girl should not be punished for making her father proud. The tradition in our corner was to offer one maiden from the royal family and two common girls. I was the only maiden of age in my family. My father was happy about this as my position would help him to change the law, or so he hoped.

    "However, the other Chieftains did not have daughters. They feared the Lava Demon and would gladly sacrifice other people's daughters to save the island. Ultimately, my father was killed by my uncle and I was donned in an outfit made of white flowers. I was chosen to be the symbol of purity, and I was to watch a girl from my village die before jumping into the volcano myself.

    "It was Bouldergut who rescued me. He was second in command of an army that was to take over my island. When his commander gave the order to allow the sacrifice to go on then attack while the Roku-Roku men were distracted, Bouldergut looked into my eyes. He saw the girl in front of me leap into the volcano, then he shouted--too loud for the protests of his commander to be heard--'Spare the women and children!' His commander fell without a head, but only I saw Bouldergut's traitorous act. His men followed him up the peak. Several blow darts struck Bouldergut's entire army, but the poison was too slow. The mainlanders quickly overpowered the Roku-Roku men. And... you've seen my husband. Perhaps it is not a surprise that only he was able to survive the poison."

    Silver asks about the girl who died in the volcano.

    "Oh! I should not have skipped that part. Forgive me.

    "Heather is still alive to this day. It turns out that we girls had a plan of our own. Heather was to find a safe place to land so we could push some of the men in the volcano after they climbed down to push her in. We wanted to make the sacrifice impure so future generations would see that the Lava Demon is a hoax, and this horrible tradition would come to an end. Our intention was to save girls one hundred years our junior--we had no expectations regarding our own survival. If you come to my island someday, you may meet the other six maidens.

    "They rule the island now--as Huntresses, not Princesses. As they do not wish to take husbands..." Jade lightly pats her belly. "...my daughter shall be the next Huntress in charge."

    Silver wonders how Jade knows she's having a girl.

    "All the superstitious people say I shall bear a son. My daughter shall prove them wrong."
     
  17. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    Bouldergut

    "Reaver! Welcome aboard!"

    Reaver begins to apologize for missing Bouldergut's ship, but Bouldergut cuts him off.

    "No worries, friend! To make up for lost time, I have already asked the waitress to bring you a proper drink. Come join me at my table so I can find better things to do than count the squares on this patchwork cloak."

    Reaver sees that the man next to Bouldergut is slumped over on the table.

    "Omar?" Bouldergut lightly shakes the man. "Are you still with us, Omar?"
     
  18. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Omar Metzger

    "What happened?" Omar blinked. "Did I miss something?"

    I hope no one noticed that I just black out randomly. Damn boar attack.
     
  19. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    "Not at all," Bouldergut replies. To Reaver, he says, "You should have seen this guy in action. Some creeps attacked my wife in an attempt to lure me into a trap. Omar here lunged right at them. He seemed hopelessly outnumbered! But... he's a one-man army."

    Bouldergut pauses, and turns to Omar. His tone is almost apologetic.

    "Don't take this the wrong way, Omar. You do not seem to have any particular skill or strength that would lead one to believe you can take on four killers and survive, much less defeat them singlehandedly."

    Bouldergut announces his conclusion to no one in particular:

    "The man does not fear death."
     
  20. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Omar Metzger

    Omar frowned. "I killed someone? When did this happen?"

    Omar stared off into space, his eyes going in and out of focus.
     
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