Chapter VIII - The Riddle of the Stones

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Senlui
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Chapter VIII - The Riddle of the Stones

Post#1 » Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:11 pm

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Telalis had mustered the forces after three days had passed without sign of the Commander. Any hopes of finding him alive were waning. Patrols and scouts had traversed the area, and the Coven had tirelessly pored through tomes and scrolls in the hopes of finding something they may have overlooked. Thalken had been captured and dragged screaming into the camp to aid their cause, yet despite the most persuasive questionings, they had expired without revealing anything useful.

The search party had gathered at Poisonblade Heath. As the sun began to dip beneath the hills to the west, Duvaindir and Vithari joined Ithilsyn and the Coven. Looks of suspicion were cast from the more regimental forces towards the sorceresses, the tension as chill as the wind that swept through the camp. The remit of their summoning was given, with a brief explanation of the previous days’ events. Their quest would begin at the waystone where they had last seen Caranordor.

Determined to get to the bottom of this, Ithilsyn marched at the head of the column, flanked by the guards, and followed by her retainer for whom she was grateful for a watchful eye on her back. The Coven followed closely behind, who then carefully gathered around the waystone at Nimosar as they reached their destination. Already the High Elves had begun to gather; most likely expecting their return. Swatted away like flies, they fell in sweeps of steel and bolts of dhar until the ground was soaked with blood. Challenged no more, the Coven stepped forth to investigate the stone. Convinced now that the Commander had been transported rather than trapped, it was to be seen where he might have emerged. Surely there had to be some logic behind this network of stones across the land?

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With great caution they drew closer. The stone pulsed with magical energy, and care was taken to protect themselves from any sudden surges in power. For a quiet moment, the sorceresses paced the stone, investigating for any clue. Then suddenly a mark was noticed. A symbol etched into the side of the menhir with an inscription formed in an archaic form of Eltharin. It seemed to make no sense, some code perhaps? Three lines, a jumble of runes. The sorceresses drew in, considering the words carefully. Even Duvaindir, ever a questioning mind, stepped forth to glance at the markings.

“Chrace,” uttered Ehlana, quietly, breaking the silence. The others gathered forth as she traced a finger over the runes, careful not to touch the stone itself, “This word here... says ‘the’ from this I can deduce the rest of the words...” her brow furrowed as she calculated what was written, “Where the pious... no... where the lions roar. Where the stones weep. Chrace.”

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Ithilsyn smiled in satisfaction. The sorceresses were learned and highly intelligent, and Ehlana’s deduction from the jumble before her had demonstrated this clearly. “Then there is no time to delay. Onwards, to Chrace!”

Riding through the night, they traversed a narrow causeway at low tide, passing onto the mainland and the rugged highlands of this Outer Kingdom. Beneath the stars, the distant bellows of lions echoed from the cliffs, and here and there a wandering Chracian challenged their approach. One against a small regiment of Druchii stood little chance who cut down any who would disturb their work with efficient brutality. The Regiment had found the place where the lions roar, but what of these weeping stones?

They split up into two smaller groups. Could the riddle be referring to a river? A waterfall? Following the course of a wide stream it was followed to the point where it plunged down to the sea, and a nearby cave. The search here was fruitless, and so they moved on, staying close to the river’s edge as they moved back inland. Sylleth suspected that another waystone must be nearby. Perhaps another clue could be found here? Foolishly she wandered alone into the woods, whilst the Regiment continued southwards. If she came across anything untoward, let her test herself against what might come. It would of course be unfortunate if anything were to bring about her demise, even if she reeked of taint. The wild eyed sorceress remained within earshot, which was some form of blessing, as the Regiment found themselves on a path leading through a gorge. The gullies split into many directions, the white cliffs towering above them. Which way to choose?

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A thalken sign conveniently marked the directions in which the paths led. The fools were not prepared for an invasion by taking these down. Perhaps it was ignorant pride, yet more likely another lure to bait them. Their arrogance was astounding.

“The Stone of Valetear!” cried Ehlana, “... where the stones weep” she mused, recalling the riddle at Nimosar. The Regiment threw each other determined glances before urging their steeds onward at a more furious gait. Disregarding any stealth, Sylleth was called to join them with a loud shout. Through the gorge they raced, kicking up trails of dust behind them, stones clattering beneath horse hoof and nauglir claw.

And there he was.

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A field stretched out before them, a series of waystones standing in a focussed arrangement though which to channel qhaysh; one larger menhir surrounded by four smaller stones. At the foot of the largest, Caranordor’s form could be seen, still as a statue and as silent as one. All about, mounted thalken paced, a camp set up on a nearby ridge. All wore armour of ithilmar, and all were battle ready. Here was the trap that had been so delicately arranged by their weak kin. Ithilsyn had to admire their cunning.

“Kill them all,” she hissed.

With battle cries, the Druchii charged into the field. Nauglir threw their scaly bulks against the asur steeds, feasting on horse meat and elf alike. Battle lust sang through the Dark Elves, who with frenzied delight slaughtered their foes. Their weak kin had underestimated their might and determination.

Finally, around the hour of the wolf, the final defender breathed his last as Vithari’s sword plunged into his chest. Already the Coven had made their way to the waystone where Caranordor could be seen; four of the sorceresses taking a corner around the stone to hold back any wards that may be about. Ithilsyn stepped forth, Duvainder at her side, “Commander. Can you hear me?” There was no response, although it was apparent that he was still alive, his shallow breathing fast in pace, and a light pulse detectible.

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“We need to...” the seeress was cut off by the sound of mocking laughter, seemingly from nowhere, yet everywhere. A blast of light emitted from the top of the waystone, exploding out in a seering burst. Ithilsyn stood up with alarm, slamming her staff into the ground, sending forth a cloud of dhar to meet this light. She shouted to the sorceresses, who raised their arms, linking their power in a bid to create a shield. It barely held, knocking them to their feet, yet shielding them from the worst of the blast.

The laughter ebbed away, “Ah, you have found your prize. Although in his current state, it shall not be long before he perishes. And you with him!”

The Druchii looked about themselves, seeking to find a source for this voice. It seemed to come from the stones themselves. “Get down!” yelled Ithilsyn as the runes on the waystones began to glow; a pale blue at first, intensifying to a bright white that broke the darkness of the night and cast thick shadows across the field. Many shielded their eyes, the agony of this arcane illumination too much for them to bear.

Shielding themselves in darkness, the sorceresses pulled in as much dhar as they were able. Streams of purple light rippled off them like smoke, as one by one they pointed their staffs at the central waystone, the strain of their efforts visible on their faces. Where they cast their will, dhar penetrated the light, as if a shadow broke forth in completely the wrong direction from the light cast upon it. The tendrils of dark magic thickened, faltered, then slammed against the stone, rising up it and smothering the shining runes. The bright light of Qhaysh dimmed, then resisted, sending out tendrils of blue through the smoky shadows of dhar, before in a final push of fell energy by the coven it flickered out with a sound not unlike thunder.

Darkness was restored. And silence.

The Druchii were anxious to move on. Surely the thalken would be swarming through the canyon at any moment. The sound of battle, let alone this light show, would have alerted them to Valetear. They tried to move their Commander, still motionless and unresponsive. A barrier seemed to now anchor him to the spot, one last enchantment to overcome. A wind swirled around the stone, the mocking voice now barely audible, “Caught in a web, there he shall lie...” More laughter, amused by their frustration. “Perhaps in the spider’s lair you shall find your answers... Or your doom.” The voice faded with the wind.

“Hurry, find this place. Bring anything back that you find.” Ithilsyn urged, cursing herself for risking the Regiment for one Druchii. Time was running out, and as the Dark Elves scattered into the foothills around the field, she knew that the likelihood of recovering their Commander was diminishing. Infuriatingly close to their goal, his recovery was still so far from their grasp. A small guard remained with her and the Commander, ready to defend should they have to make their escape. Too few, she realised, considering also the dangers her kin may be facing in the surrounding cliffs.

She had never been so pleased to see their faces when they finally returned. Covered in white dust, and cobweb, it seemed they had found a cavern in which a monstrous spider dwelt. Sildra pulled forth a venom sac from her bag, and explained that perhaps the Commander had been poisoned. Quickly she and the sorceresses worked on a potion. No healers were among them so a basic antivenom needed to be concocted.

“Sisters, with me,” Ithilsyn commanded. Forming a circle around the Commander, they channelled power until a ring of dhar formed around them. They focussed their dark magic; the circle diminishing in size from them and around Caranordor. Finally surrounding him, it touched the barrier which crackled and sparked, before shattering with a hiss; the dhar evaporating against the barrier as it destroyed it.

Ehlana dashed forth, removing the Commander’s helm and spreading the mixture on his forehead. His head was tipped back, and a little poured into his mouth, which after a moment he swallowed lightly. The sorceress stepped back.

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Expecting more trickery, Ithilsyn drew her dagger protectively, kneeling close to Caranordor. “Hey Commander... Wake up...” Her knife ready to strike, she waited, hoping to see him return unto his self.

“I would suggest you stand back...” advised Aegnyr, and at that moment the Commander threw out a hand, crushing her neck in his gauntleted grip. In a voice filled with hateful rage he exclaimed “Ithilsyn!” his eyes blazing with anger.

Dropping the dagger, her eyes filled with surprise, the seeress struggled to breath, feeling her throat close in his grasp. Aegnyr launched himself at the Commander, throwing them both to their sides, granting Ithilsyn precious time to roll out of the way. She staggered backward, gasping as her hand rising to her bruised neck, as Caranordor uttered, “She has broken the decree of the Witch King’s writ! Seize her!”

Duvainder and Vithari stepped forth, Zharis smiling at the scene before laughter erupted from her lips. The seeress’ retainer stood between her and the Commander, shield raised and sword held forward. She shook her head with resignation and uttered, “Stand down, Aegnyr.”

The Coven stood with their seeress, surprised by his reaction. Ithilsyn looked calmly to Caranordor, willing to deal with any consequences that may be. At least he was back.

As Vithari stepped forth with shackles, she prepared herself to be taken away. Clearly the Commander suspected foul play. If she struck out, she would only reinforce his belief, and not only jeopardise the Coven, but the tasks that she had been given to execute.

Before the next order could be given, horsehooves could be heard approaching from the canyon, and all turned to see who approached. Instead of a High Elf, it was a Druchii. He leaped from his horse before the creature had even come to a halt, and dashed forth, kneeling before Ehlana. “My lady,” he gasped, “thank Khaine I have found you. The thalken, they have amassed at Narthain. It has fallen. Immediate reinforcements are required...”

Caranordor placed his helm over his head, his voice booming. “Such incompetence.”

He turned to Ithilsyn slowly, his voice thick with dire promise. “We will deal with you, later.”


If you wish to join us or learn more about us check this topic:
viewtopic.php?f=14&t=23965

Previous Chapters:

Chapter I - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=23964
Chapter II - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=24190
Chapter III - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=24669
Chapter IV - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=24808
Chapter V - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=24875
Chapter VI - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=24880
Chapter VII - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=24898

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