Ashen Shores (IC Thread)

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Larenil
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Ashen Shores (IC Thread)

Postby Larenil » Mon Aug 06, 2012 12:25 am

This is the in character thread for the 2nd Ed AD&D Ashen Shores PBP game. If you are interested in the game, PM me.

We begin on the first of the new year, 3149, on Forest Lake, near the village of Mirous, on the shores of Forest Lake. It is cold here this time of year, with a freezing wind blowing in off the lake, and snow piles up in drifts where the wind settles down. Fortunately, there is little shade from the forests, as the hardwoods lost their leaves months ago, and when the sun does shine through the clouds, it can be bearable. The winter does bring its glories, however, including Silvanus' Lights, the spectacular multi-colored borealis that lights up the sky above lake at night on occasion.

The village of Mirous is a few leagues from the large city of Rógel, a massive trading city that sits on the eastern edge of Forest Lake and what is now the front lines of the war against Hild. Mirous is primarily a fishing village, although some smiths reside here, away from the crowding and crime of the big city. Trade along Forest Lake Loop, the road bordering the great lake is abysmal this year because of the war; usually brisk trade in fish and other goods with those traveling between cities sustains the population, but the war has ended much of the trade. So close to the front lines, troops are the main traffic, and what little money they have to spend is usually haggled over to drive a hard bargain, so profits from what little trade there is remain low.

The great lake never freezes over, so fishermen sail out into its freezing waters each day, braving the waves and cold in hopes of sustaining their families with fish and perhaps a sale or two if they are lucky. Iygus Trollkiller was once such a man, hauling in the days catch to support his family and his home. He raised a son, teaching him to fish, but wanting a better life for him, and he and his wife sent their son away to be educated once he was old enough. Then his wife fell ill and died; the war came and decimated trade; Iygus was conscripted to service by the baron, and had to fight the Hildeans.

Iygus was sent to the front lines where he fought bravely, as only free men can, defending his homeland. The Hildeans had magic--a foreign craft to Iygus, but he had heard stories--and he knew that most casters could not practice their art here. But the Hildeans had found a way, and they used this magic to great advantage, driving the Seldarians back quickly. They had also harnessed the power of monsters, and on several occasions Iygus had fought not only the wicked humans of Hild, but also fell orcs and goblins--even a troll.

In fact, he earned his reputation when his unit fought off an attack of several orcs and a troll. Their small platoon had been ambushed around their campfire at night by several orcs and a troll. The unit suffered heavy casualties and the troll seemed unbeatable, rising again only moments after being dropped. The situation looked grim for the soldiers, until Iygus remembered some of the stores he had heard from some dwarven friends as a child--that trolls didn't like fire. He quickly lit a bedroll on fire and smothered the troll with it as it began to rise again--the troll shrieked and caught on fire, burning to ashes and not rising again. Seeing their strongest ally destroyed, the remaining orcs retreated, sparing the rest of the Seldarian troops. The rest of the men called Iygus the Trollkiller, and he took it as his surname henceforth. Upon hearing of his ingenuity, the Seldarian command promoted Iygus to Sergeant and gave him his own platoon to command.

Days and weeks dragged into months, and Iygus led his men fiercely against the Hildeans. On more than one occasion, he fought alongside a regiment that held an interesting soldier--a fearless giant of a man who wielded two battle axes and slew on the left and the right, not letting anyone stand in his way. This was Sterling Blackthorn, a human raised by elves to the north, and he fought with the ferocity that only hatred could give. Iygus shared a few meals with Sterling and the other troops, talking about the war and their homes, and they parted ways as their units were moved to different locations.

The last assignment Iygus had led him into a battle that could not be won. He fought bravely, but was overrun by magic and monsters--this time the fearsome gnolls--hyena like humanoids. The Hildeans fought with little honor, usually killing their dead, but occasionally taking prisoners to torture for information. This particular pack of gnolls was led by a human commander who ordered the capture of ranking officers. Iygus was captured and brutalized, but spared the fate of his men, who were butchered, tortured and eaten by the gnolls. He was sent further into the conquered region of Seldar to a small prison camp, where he was summarily branded with a tattoo on his neck, and tortured for information. As a low level officer, he had little idea of the plans of the army, so was brutally tortured by the evil priestesses of Loviatar [the goddess of torture and pain] to little effect. He was slated to be executed within the week.

Luckily, the speed with which the Hildean army moved had precluded strong fortifications, and his makeshift prison was in an old butcher's shop in a small town. One evening a fire broke out, drawing the attention of the HIldeans, and several friendly rebels freed the prisoners, giving them meager supplies and pointing them in the direction of the great lake and home.

Iygus parted ways with the other captives, hoping to avoid detection, and followed a small river west and north. He used his skills as a fisherman to catch food once his supplies ran out, and was able to swim or hide in the river when Hildean troops came by. He finally made his way through the Hildean front lines one night during a storm, and came out in a camp of Seldarian troops. The commander ordered him bandaged, armed, and prepared for fighting the next day, but Iygus had more than his fill. In despair, tortured beyond the capacity for rational thought, and in a survival mode from his ordeal as an escaped prisoner, he left for home.

He arrived back at his house to find his fishing boat stolen by his greedy neighbor and his five sons. Without a means of income, Iygus was forced to sell some of his valuables to stay alive, and found solace in drink. The winter had come, and he could scarce afford fuel for his fireplace, yet he managed to scrape enough coppers together for drink each night (and most of each day), and he fell into a pit of despair.

Goat, tell me what you think of this and what you would like to edit. I'm going to set the stage for Emerald and Sterling tomorrow. I don't mean to take over your backstory and I am trying to go with what you told me, but I am also trying to set the stage for the opening and give a little flavor to the world.
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Re: Ashen Shores (IC Thread)

Postby Larenil » Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:40 am

I'm going to intersperse what LF has already written (either in quotes or paraphrase) in the startup thread with some more background of his military exploits here.

The nation of Seldar was born out of conflict with the neighboring Hild over 400 years ago. Tensions between the two countries have always been high, but for a time, they learned to be neighbors. The two countries shared a border that stretched north and south on the eastern edge of Forest Lake. The border ran through the city of Rótel, which grew prosperous and strong through busy international trade. As a border city, both nations lay claim to it, although it by rights sat just inside the Seldar border. As the city grew, parts of it edged over into Hild, and conflict arose over the city and rights to access Forest Lake.

The people of Seldar valued their freedom, and shunned authority, only sparing their rulers as much as was necessary to avoid a war with Hild. Hild, on the other hand, was a strictly authoritarian military government. Although smaller in size and population, their military might slowly built, and they quietly amassed an overwhelming force. These troops were tested against monsters in the foothills of the Great Barrier Mountains, and in skirmishes with the elves to the north over logging and environmental issues. Most troops were battle hardened, and all were willing to fight.

Seldar, despite its lack of organization and regular troops, was not unaware of their neighbor's doings, and discovered Hild's plans to attack. They quickly mounted a force to strike first, hoping to use the surprise of the swiftness of their attack to buy themselves time to raise conscripted armies to defend their land. Despite a promising first few weeks of battles, the more well trained and seasoned warriors of Hild easily pushed the Seldarian forces back, driving the Seldarian forces westward along Forest Lake almost to the Rëanvane border, assuming control of most of the shores.

Fortunately, the Seldarians had superior ships on the lake, and routed what attempts the Hildeans made to attack them on the water. Supplies and troops were transported across the lake, and Seldarian forces harried the Hildean shorline garrisons. The Hildeans ran into further problems with the hill dwarves of northern Seldar, who viciously defended their homes from the invading forces.

The hill dwarves, coupled with a superior Seldarian navy and the onset of winter, stalled the Hildean advance. The quick advancement of their troops had stretched their supply lines to the limit, and food was in short supply for the winter. Finally, the spring came, and the Hildean troops prepared to receive fresh supplies, reinforcements, and advance to annex all of Seldar for good. But the supplies and reinforcements never came, as the elves of Anorien to the north had joined the fight, using guerilla tactics to disrupt supply lines and troops. The elves bargained with Pandar to supply Seldar, and together, the elves, the dwarves, and the Seldarian humans pushed back the Hildeans, routing them to the original border and beyond.

The Hildeans were driven deep into their own land, back to the Telanisch River. Here the dwarves and elves halted their troops, having had their fill of bloodshed. They supervised peace accords, and helped draw up new borders--effectively halving the size of Hild.

Years went by, and the Hildeans stewed, shamed and brooding over their losses. Though generations passed, hatred for the Seldarians, the elves and the hill dwarves was strong. Hild skirmished with the hill dwarves, but more particularly with the elves of Anorien, as they were easier targets. Small numbers of troops were allowed through northeastern Seldar by sympathetic peoples that felt they still owed allegiance to Hild, and such troops usually skirted through southern Tarvel to harass the elves' southern border.

Skirmishes with the elves became a way of life, annoying to the elves, but not particularly dangerous. Through the years, the elves began to accept that this was the way of life along the border, and those that made their homes there learned to be prepared. It was near the Tarvelian/Anorien border that a boy named Sterling Blackthorn was born to a forester and his wife. Even as a young boy Sterling was big, and he enjoyed helping his father with his work as a forester among the lush trees of Tarvel.

Sadly, this idyllic life was cut short when his parents were both killed in a raid by brigands when Sterling was only 7 years old. The brigands attacked Sterling's parents and set fire to the house in moments. Sterling's father, also a big man, fought hard and killed or wounded all of the brigands before being brought down. Sterling himself, seeing the last two wounded brigands killing his mother, picked up his father's axe and slew both men. Sterling was too young to recognise that the 'brigands' were men of Hild on an early raiding sortie. HIldean raiders, notorious for being unscrupulous, had decided to ignore their flimsy agreement with Tarvel to avoid harming their people in exchange for free passage.

The elves of the forest noticed the smoke from the burning house, and investigated. They found Sterling orphaned. The elves, having few children of their own and seeing the lone child in a remote forest house, took him in and cared for him, teaching him some of the ways of the forest folk. He grew even bigger during his time there, reaching the size of a full-grown man by the age of 12. He grew to love and honour the elves, thinking of them as his own people.

However, again tragedy struck, when another raid attacked the elven village. Accustomed to such raids, the elves hid the children, including Sterling, in a secret grotto, safe from the marauders. This raid was not a small skirmish, however--it was the beginnings of escalation between the elves and the Hildeans, and the force was a regular army unit in size and training. The troops tore through the village with alarming speed, headed further into the country.

Hearing the sounds of battle past, and not hearing the normal call of the adults to bring them out of their shelter, Sterling mustered up the courage to break from the hiding place and survey the village. When the children emerged they found the village destroyed; all the adult elves had been cruelly butchered and left to lie where they fell; the houses were burnt; livestock was maimed or stolen Even family pets were killed mercilessly, being used for target practice. Several of the village elders had been beheaded or hanged, dying before they revealed the location of their young. Sterling organised the children to honour the dead in the elven way, and cried the last tears he would ever cry that day.

Sterling knew the paths of the forest, and led the other elf children past the front lines and to another village deeper in the forest, warning the elves there of their experience. Sterling then left the forest and went to join the Seldarian army to fight Hild. Although only 12 he was able to pass as much older owing to his prodigious height and strength, and he devoted himself to learning to be a soldier, eventually earning a place among the elite ranks of the myrmidons.

Years passed, and Sterling grew into a giant of a man, becoming a fearsome warrior. He was loyal to the Seldar authorities and dedicated to fighting the hated Hild. As a young man, his assignments mostly revolved around defending areas in Seldar, but as he grew, his superiors saw his potential, and began training him more regularly and assigning progressively more difficult tasks. Soon enough, he was among the elite ranks of the soldiers, being sent wherever fighting was the most dangerous. He fought the likes of the Hildeans, orcs, goblins, gnolls, and even bugbears. These monstrous troops sapped the morale of the normal men, but they only served to enrage Sterling, who cut them down with his fellow elite soldiers. He witnessed many tragedies that others only heard rumors of: the evil Hildeans using dark magic to immolate large numbers of troops in moments; monsters able to see in the dark murdering soldiers in the night; elves being captured and sold as slaves; elven women and children being cut down as they fled; surrendering troops being killed rather than captured; the atrocities went on and on.

Through his travels, he saw many different military units of the Seldarian army, and made quite the impression with his two battle axes and giant stature. In time, he was given command of his own unit, but this also proved to be his despair. As a sergeant of a small platoon, he was privy to much of the news and planning of the Seldarian army. Through this position, he discovered that King Barten had neglected to come to the aid of the elves when Hild mounted their invasion that had destroyed his village. His heart torn, and his loyalty split, he left the army to make his way as a soldier of fortune.
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Re: Ashen Shores (IC Thread)

Postby Larenil » Wed Aug 08, 2012 1:23 am

During Sterling's periods of leave from the army (which became fewer and fewer as the war lingered), he traveled to many of the nearby villages. Unable to travel far from the front lines (leave during wartime being unsurprisingly short), he explored much of what was within a day or two's journey.

On one such journey, Sterling ventured to the large city of Rógel. There he saw such sights as he had never witnessed before, people of all sorts, elves, dwarves, and, of course, unsavory characters. The markets held a fair variety of goods in spite of the war, and the streets teemed with people. War had not yet hit the city, and entertainers were still to be found. Of course, pickpockets, ruffians, and thieves abounded as well, but few dared to perturb the formidable soldier.

As Sterling wandered the streets, drinking in all the new sights, he made his way toward the lake, and its attendant shipping trade, he happened upon an unusual sight: several young men were mocking and harassing a young lady who had just docked her rowboat. While such an event might not have been commonplace, this particular episode was made most peculiar by the woman herself, whose mixed race heritage was obvious from her appearance. Standing taller and thinner than her human counterparts, with red hair, green eyes, somewhat pointed ears and a very pale skin tinged with hints of blue and green, she drew attention wherever she went. Although she was quite beautiful, her different appearance and reserved demeanor invited teasing and sometimes outright bullying.

Sterling stared for a moment at this woman, as the younger hecklers darted close to her, daring to touch her briefly as if they were tempting fate to give them a disease or strike them down. The older ones jeered and mocked her heritage, but she gave no signs of acknowledgement or hostility.

Sterling, noting that her heritage was obviously part elven, felt a kinship with her, even if he did not recognize the elven line from whence she came, and anger stirred within him, bringing back memories of the Hildeans abusing the elves. He marched over to the small crowd harassing the woman and with a few harsh words and intimidating gestures, sent them fleeing. It was then that he met Emerald Waters.

Emerald was born to a sea elf and a human, being abandoned by her elven parent near birth. Even as a child, she was notably different, and the other children would not play with her. She grew up on the shore of the lake, but found herself spending most of her time swimming in small, isolated tide pools, or exploring the woods near her home. She was a natural swimmer, and spent time diving in the lake, discovering that she could 'see' underwater using sound waves, even in the dark. She learned a great deal about the life under the surface of Forest Lake, and though she could not breathe underwater, she never feared drowning.

The solitude of nature appealed to her, and when she was old enough, she left home to join a druid enclave. The druids immediately recognized her love of the natural world, and her talents with respect to aquatic settings. The druids had need of someone to watch over Swan Isle, a small island about 3 leagues offshore in Forest Lake, and so, after her initiation and training, she was assigned there.

Swan Isle was an important druidic site; the druids of the world gravitated toward places of untouched natural beauty, which indeed described Swan Isle. The land itself was not large, perhaps 300 yards in diameter, but its inhabitants remained virtually untouched due to the diligence of the druids and the treacherous, partially submerged rocks surrounding the isle. True to its name, the isle was a nesting place for swans, and during migration season, they would flock by the hundreds. Emerald fell in love with the isle and its inhabitants, befriending the swans, and getting to know most on sight. She was even more pleased to discover that some of them were not simply animals, but Swanmay, the secret sisterhood of rangers and druids that had the ability to shapeshift into swans. These brought news of other lands and people, and gave Emerald company in the fall and spring.

Emerald became so attuned to the swans that she herself gained the ability to shapeshift into one, a rare gift for a druid so young. She would swim with them on the lake, and fly with them, soaring overhead for a wonderous view of the shoreline and forest.

As Emerald came into her own, she began to notice what the other druids had told her about: Swan Isle had special properties. In addition to its natural beauty, Swan Isle was guarded by the druids because it was one of the few places left in the world where magic still functioned. The other druids told her of the first disappearance of magic in 2985, its reappearance in 3105, and then its most recent disappearance in 3147, each time accompanied by an earthquake and random magical disasters. Swan Isle, however, remained immune, a fact that the druids sought to keep from the general populace. Because of this, during the winter and summer months when the Isle was not hosting great flocks of swans, other druids would frequently train with their magic on the isle. Emerald learned from some of the most talented druids in the area as they visited to practice their art.

When larger gatherings took place on the isle, there was not enough food to sustain all the druids, so it was Emerald's duty to travel to one of the towns to buy supplies. It was on one of these occasional journeys during when she met Sterling. Sterling's chivalrous (and decidedly un-racist) attitude helped break down her reticence and the two became fast friends. On leave, Sterling would come back to visit Emerald, most often meeting her at the nearest shore town, Mirous, but once she brought him to see the wonders of Swan Isle for himself.

As for the day to day of Emerald's life, it was mostly mundane. She watched the birds migrate each season, the fish spawning in the lake, and a few mammals on the isle frolic about. She would watch the fishermen cast their nets from the boats (not too near the isle--these waters were considered protected by the druids), and see the cargo ships sail across the open waters to the larger port cities. She grew to recognize many of the ships and fishermen that made their way out day after day, and rather enjoyed her life. The war was something that nations and those concerned with politics were worried about; her only real concern was that it might claim her friend Sterling.

Thus it was that she was surprised to notice a fishing boat that she had seen for many years out fishing in some of the protected waters, close to the submerged rocks. Because it was so cold, the fishermen were bundled up and she was unable to recognize them, but she was able to make out the ship, and she knew the captain--an honest man she had dealt with on occasion in Mirous--Iygus the fisherman. After a few mornings of such fishing, she called out to the boat, but was ignored. Her irritation at the fishermen grew, and finally flared when she found a swan dead, washed up on the eastern (fishing) shore of Swan Isle, pierced through by an arrow. She had no doubts as to who had been shooting at the swan--the fishermen on the boat captained by Iygus the fisherman.

Emerald knew that she could not safely confront the man alone, so she sent word by one of her swan friends to Sterling, who, having recently left the army, was more than happy to help a friend, and came as quickly as he was able to Swan Isle, hiring on a cargo ship and taking a small dinghy to the isle.

And here we shall begin. Iygus is getting drunk at the only tavern in Mirous, and Sterling has just arrived to Swan Isle at Emerald's behest.
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Re: Ashen Shores (IC Thread)

Postby Lord Foul » Wed Aug 08, 2012 1:17 pm

Sterling stepped out of the small boat onto the shore of Swan Isle. Turning, he bid the sailor at the oars thanks for the ride, and gave the boat a shove back into the water to help it on its way back to the merchant ship, standing at anchor a short distance beyond the rocks.

He watched the dinghy retreat for a while, and then turned his attention back to the island, looking for signs of Emerald. Not seeing her, he made his way up the narrow beach and into the trees.

Sterling felt a little anxious, wondering again what could have caused his friend to seek his aid. It had taken him too long to get here. Is she safe? He tried in vain not to let himself dwell upon the prospect. He had lost too many. She must be safe. She must!

:think:
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Re: Ashen Shores (IC Thread)

Postby Larenil » Thu Aug 09, 2012 12:04 am

Despite having been to Swan Isle before, Sterling cannot help but be awed at the beauty once again. The rocky pebbles of the scant beach crunch underfoot as he walks into the forest of water-loving cypress, willow, and cottonwood, all bare in the winter. Although there is snow on the mainland and the wind is cold, it somehow does not seem as bitter here on the isle. He pushes his wonderment to the side with worry for Emerald, and begins his search of the isle.
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Re: Ashen Shores (IC Thread)

Postby GordonGoblin » Thu Aug 09, 2012 3:21 am

Emerald looks up as the temper of animal sounds changes. Someone has landed on the island. Let it be Captain Sloe she thinks.

She leaves the grove and makes her way towards the shore, hand on her weapon just in case.

When she sees the large man she gives a sigh of relief and rushes up to him.

"I knew you would come," she says, all but dancing on the spot with the release of nervous energy, "I need your help."

She glances out over the water looking for the boat. The fishers have not gotten so bold as to land on the lake yet, but it is only a matter of time.

"Things have changed here," she says, "and a fisherman I thought could be trusted has been acting more and more hostile, first fishing in the wrong waters, moving closer to the island, and now they've killed one of my friends," she chokes up on this a moment, "I called him Lirian, he was so brave, I'm sure he was trying to warn them away from the island... He had cygnets."

She composes herself, "I want to confront them, but I'm afraid I might be next if I go alone."

She puts on a brave face, but it is clear that she is scared.
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Re: Ashen Shores (IC Thread)

Postby Lord Foul » Thu Aug 09, 2012 12:44 pm

Sterling is relieved to see Emerald safe and well, and he picks her up and spins her around before setting her down to hear her tale. :D

As she explains he grows serious.

"You did right to call me, little sister. I will go with you to speak with this fisherman. Perhaps he meant no harm, but acted out of ignorance. We should find out before we act against him."

As they walk he tells her:

"You should know that I have left the service of Seldar. I no longer hold a commission in the army, and frankly I do not know what I shall do now. Perhaps, if it would not be a great burden for you, I might remain here for a time... while I consider what to do."
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Re: Ashen Shores (IC Thread)

Postby Lord Foul » Thu Aug 09, 2012 3:28 pm

When they reach Emerald's home, Sterling asks:

"Emerald, do you still have the arrow that killed the swan? If I might have it I would be able to compare the fletching with the arrows of any suspects, so we might be sure of the culprit."

"I would also know more of the law in these parts, if you can help me to understand better. Is it a crime to kill a swan here, or has this fisherman only committed an affront to you and the other druids? If we are going to confront him I would know if the law is on our side in this."
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Re: Ashen Shores (IC Thread)

Postby GordonGoblin » Sat Aug 11, 2012 3:39 am

"I don't know about the law," Emerald says, "I just know it is wrong."
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Re: Ashen Shores (IC Thread)

Postby Larenil » Sat Aug 11, 2012 11:55 am

The sky is overcast, the day grey. A light snow begins to fall on Emerald and Sterling as they talk.

Emerald gathers her things for the trip to Mirous, and makes sure to put on extra layers--leaving the confines of the island has its disadvantages. They walk over to her canoe, cunningly camouflaged in the brush several yards offshore, and carry the craft to the pebbly shore. After a quick launch, the two paddle their way to shore, dodging the half submerged boulders, and both Sterling and Emerald notice a sharp drop in temperature and an increase in the biting wind once they are past the rocks. By the time they reach the shore near the docks at Mirous, it is evening (Swan isle is about 10 miles offshore, so it would take about half the day to get there and another half to get back).

They pull the canoe up onto shore, concealing it again in some brush, and throw up their cloaks against the bitter, biting wind that is driving snow into their faces as they make their way toward the lights of town. Their boots ice up from the water of the lake, and they crunch their way through the drifts of snow covered in ice. The sun has only now set, but it makes the cold that much less pleasant. No stars shine tonight--they are blocked with cloud cover.
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