Posts Tagged ‘Carania’

The Faith of the Raven Pt. 8

December 29, 2018

The adventurers lept into action immediately. Carania ran directly at the two zombie goliaths. They swung their fists but Carania narrowly dodged their attacks. While the zombies were distracted, Galath pointed his holy symbol and there was a brilliant flash. The goliaths turned away in fear from the divine light and started to run but they accidentally ran into each other and fell to the ground in a tangle. Carania descended on them and slashed at them and then pierced both with her sword. Arne finished it by setting them on fire as Carania moved to safety. The zombies did not react as they started to burn to ash. Carania guessed that they did not even feel the flames.

Carania gripped her sword tighter and trudged toward the King of Crows. She stopped short when she saw that the King had a knife up against one of his captives’ throats. She heard Arne and Galath halt as well. She grunted and glared at the man. Close up, she could see how pathetic he looked. He was old and scared and Carania felt all of the adrenaline leave her system and she grew calm as death. The captive, a young girl, was shaking but Carania did her best to offer a reassuring look.

“Leave the girl and deal with me,” Carania said. “Face me fairly.” She gripped her sword tightly, calm but tense like a wound spring. Her years of training had prepared her for these moments and she was not about to back down.

“Three against one is no fair fight,” The King said. His voice sounded a bit like a cawing crow. “Give me but a moment and I’ll summon up some friends.”

“No more moments, Crow,” Carania said. “My Lady of Ravens has requested I deal with you by sending you to meet her. Your time is up. I would not want to disappoint her as you have done.”

“If I go then I won’t be going alone!” The King crowed out and dragged the knife across the girl’s throat with a sick smile on his face. He started to chant something, waving his fingers.

The moment that followed felt like it flowed like molasses. Carania shouted wordlessly in anger and shock. She ran forward and stabbed the King of Crows hard through the stomach. His face seemed to freeze in surprise for an eternity. At the same time, Galath grabbed the girl and laid hands on her, healing the wound with holy light. Carania looked up into the branches above as the symbols of Nerull clattered to the forest floor. The ravens were up there in the trees, dozens of them, and they were glaring down at the necromancer. Carania smiled and calmly dragged the point of her sword across his throat as she mouthed a little prayer to Azrea.

As Carania stepped away, the ravens descended on the body of the King of Crows. She turned away and let them have it. She suspected it was their right as vassals of Azrea. She tried not to think of the sounds the birds made as they tore at the corpse. Arne was busy burning the symbols and tokens of Nerull and instantly the forest seemed to feel brighter. It was as if a fog was lifted and the evil evaporated from the fabric of the place. Carania walked over to Galath and the young girl. The paladin wore concern on her face.

“How is she Galath?” Carania asked. “Will she make it?”

“She will,” Galath said, looking up at Carania with a relieved smile. “She’s lucky a healer was so close by.”

“She’s also lucky the Talons were here,” Arne said.

Carania looked back over her shoulder. “Wait, who are the Talons?”  She asked.

“Just a suggestion for our little group’s name,” Arne said. “In honor of your patron, the Queen of Ravens.”

“I like the sound of it,” Carania said. “I think we’ll add it to our official introduction. I think we’ll be saying it a lot if we continue these fights.”

“I think you’re right,” Arne said.

“I agree,” Galath said. “I think this is exactly what we should be doing.”

Arne walked over and knocked on the cage holding the necromancer’s captives and the lock shattered and the door opened. The people started streaming out of the cage. They thanked the three adventurers profusely. Carania and Arne gave them directions back to town while Galath treated the most grievous wounds. As he did, Carania heard a noise from behind. The young girl was waking up. Carania knelt beside her. The girl was an elf so it was hard to judge her age but the light in her eyes looked very young. She had not yet reached physical maturity. She glanced around and saw no other elves which confused her.

“Are you alright?” She asked. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you from that pain.”

“You tried,” the girl said. “and you saved us.”

“What is your name?” Carania asked. She smiled at the girl, remembering when her former charge had been this young.

“Taryn Moonglow,” the girl said.

“Are you here with someone?” Carania asked.

“No,” Taryn said. “I came here alone. I was on my way back home when I was surprised by these men.” She sat up a little, taking deep breaths as she took it slow.

“Where do you live? I could take you there. We could take you there,” Carania said.

“The Fangleth Forest,” Taryn said. “I live among druids like me among the trees.”

“The Fangleth?” Carania asked. “What brings you out this far?”

“I came here to fetch a rare flower that grows here,” Taryn said. “It is the Southern Star Flower.” She pulled a dark purple, five-petaled flower from her cloak and held it up for Carania could see. “It can be used to heal some of my people from a specific curse.”

“Well, perhaps we can help with that too,” Arne said.

“Really?” The girl asked.

“Of course,” Carania said and took the girl’s hand. “The Talons are here to help.”

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The Faith of the Raven Pt. 7

August 20, 2018

“Leave now or face the power and the might of the King of Crows!” A deep voice emanating from deeper in the woods said. After the sound of the voice, it felt like the whole forest was silent. In that silence, it was easy to hear Arne’s partially muttered response.

“More bullshit,” he said.

“What?” Carania asked. “What’s going on now?” If she was going to continue her greater quest, and she definitely was, she would have to study and learn. She needed to know these things herself. However, it did not hurt to have knowledgeable people along for the ride.

“It really is silly. The King of Crows is not one person,” Arne said. “It is a parade of necromancers each with aspirations of being the alpha necromancer. Most of them are crazy, all of them are dangerous.”

“There was a real King of Crows once,” Galath said. “He was a powerful necromancer who amassed an undead army in Alscines. He was in direct conflict with the Raven Queen and her followers. From what I know, he also had a Queen of crows with him. Sort of an undead bride. At least, those are the rumors. I read it in a book last year.” He shrugged.

Carania shuddered. “That is incredibly creepy,” she said. “The less I think about that, the better. So this guy is just a pretender to the throne?”

“I don’t know,” Arne said. “He definitely has power. We’ve seen that much already. I haven’t seen anything yet that has wowed me, though.”

“Right,” Carania said. “But we can’t let our guard down. Not until we take this guy out.”

“Agreed,” Galath said. “He is referencing the undead god and he is the fan club of one of the worst necromancers in history, those alone are red flags. Nothing has changed. We’re following your lead here, paladin.”

“We continue going straight for the heart of the matter,” Carania said. “If we kill him, the rest will be disorganized and, in theory, no new zombies can be created. That means those that die will stay dead.”

“I like it,” Galath said. “Elementary tactics but sometimes simple is best.”

“Now we just wait for that plan to go wrong so we can improvise,” Arne said.

“So negative,” Carania said. “Try and smile for once wizard.”

There was a cawing sound from the branches up above and all three looked up toward the sound. However, only Arne was already smiling as he had a full understanding of what that sound was. He nodded up at Grimalkin and they seemed to share some silent conversation.

“Grimalkin has spotted the main camp and can lead us there,” Arne said. “Are we ready for that?”

“We are as ready as we are going to get,” Carania said. “Do you still have prepared spells left?”

“I’m good to go,” Arne said. “I haven’t run out yet.”

“I also have some left to burn,” Galath said. “It appears that we’re good to go.”

“Lead the way, Grimalkin,” Carania said and Arne nodded up at the bird. Carania had only read about the connection between a wizard and their familiar and it was interesting to watch.

They worked their way through the woods as they did their best to follow the raven familiar as it fluttered along through the trees. It felt extremely right for Carania to be following a raven into battle. It felt a little like fate.

The three of them reached the edge of a big clearing and they were assaulted by the smell of freshly burned wood and other things. It looked like the King of Crows had burned a large circle into the middle of the forest, creating a clearing. They were lucky that the fire had not spread and endangered the surrounding areas. The burned clearing looked alien and lifeless. There were more men with crow feathers adorning their clothes and there were zombies both in cages and shuffling around some tents. Arne looked up at Grimalkin as if to ask ‘are you sure?’ and the bird nodded.

“Shall I cause a little chaos, boss?” Arne asked with a smile. Carania smiled and then nodded.

Arne conjured five candle-sized flames and tossed them one at a time into the clearing. The flames hit a couple of tents and also a couple of zombies and started some fires. One of the zombies panicked and ran burning into another tent. Chaos had been achieved.

Carania vaulted into the clearing with Galath and Arne trailing close behind. Her sword was once again a whirling blur as she carved into both living and undead enemies. At one point, she ran into one of the men who had shot and killed her. They barely had time to register her before being cut to ribbons. Carania fought with no anger or at least that anger was quickly fading away. This was a noble mission and that was enough to fuel her.

The battle was fiercer this time and a couple of zombies rushed Carania and managed to injure her. Galath moved fast to heal her while Arne protected them with a shield spell from his umbrella. After some more battle with a few more injuries, the clearing was quiet again. The three companions stood breathing hard as they looked around for their true target who had yet to reveal himself. Carania looked for Grimalkin for guidance but the familiar was hidden somewhere and was no help at present.

“You have crossed the line and I cannot let you go. I will be with you in a moment,” the booming voice said. “In the meantime, meet my friends. When they are done with you, I can add your bodies to my army.”  The thought of that happening was enough to turn the stomachs of all three of them.

The earth in front of the three adventurers broke open and two very large humanoids clawed their way into the open air. Carania could only guess that these had been deceased goliaths, a very rare race she had only read about. They were too short to be true giants but they were far taller than the tallest human or elf she had seen. There were definitely parts of them that were missing and she could see some ragged flesh and bones showing in places. They were caked with mud which made their wide, pupil-less eyes all the more menacing. They lumbered straight for Carania and her friends.

The Faith of the Raven Pt. 6

July 28, 2018

They moved further into the forest, the three of them. The undergrowth felt dense, far too dense for a small forest like Hernon. Everywhere they went, thorns and thistles grabbed at them and branches scratched against them. It was subtly unnatural but they all knew that there was something unnatural going on in those woods. The dead should not rise and it was as if the necromancer’s dark purpose was corrupting the forest around them. Like many forests and landmarks in Eloria (and beyond frankly), the Hernon forest was named after elves. All over the continent, places were still named after them even if the elves had left the place centuries before. Names had a way of sticking and people had a way of sticking to them. Carania hated that this necromancer was giving Hernon a bad name. It hurt her elf blood even though she knew she did not own that land.

Still, they moved on and made their way through the best they knew how. Carania was always at the lead at her insistence and the others did not argue. She felt responsible as an expert close-up fighter and as the person who accepted this mission in the first place. She hacked at errant and aberrant vegetation with her long sword when she had to. She thought to herself that she might have to get a short sword for that purpose to save her blade’s edge on future hunts. She was surprised at herself at that moment how quickly he had adapted to her new role in life. She was equally surprised that her companions seemed to be just as determined. This was not their fight and yet they had taken it on. It was inspiring and it made Carania further believe that she had done the right thing.

Of course, Carania was also surprised that she had such faith that she would survive to see future hunts. There was no room to believe otherwise she supposed. She had long heard that faith was a big part of serving a god. It seemed obvious to trust that Raven Queen had made the right choice. How else had a woman with very little actual combat experience slashed her way through a horde of zombies like they were nothing but smoke? Faith and courage and a little wind at her back from the Queen herself. Not to mention that fate had handed her two capable companions who she was very grateful for. She could feel the talons of the raven reaching out for the necromancer and it felt so good.

As they walked, Carania saw little bones and trinkets dangling from the trees with little lengths of twine. Carania viewed the little things warily, not knowing quite what to make of them. However, she knew that looking at them made her feel bad inside like looking at food left out for so long that things were growing in it. The three of them all caught each other looking at the trinkets and for a moment there was an amused smile between them. It was a moment of pure connection. It cut through the gloom for a moment and they all seemed to welcome it.

“The followers of the necromancer must have hung them,” Galath said. “I’ve seen similar things before.”

“What in the seventh hell are they?” Carania asked.

“Offerings in the worship of Nerull,” Galath said. “Makes your stomach turn, doesn’t it?”

“Nerull?” Carania asked. “I know I’m still a bit ignorant but everybody knows that my queen killed him.” She smiled at taking ownership of her new goddess.

“As the necromancers show us, much that dies can rise again,” Galath said. “It is true that it is known that the Raven Queen defeated the God of Death while she was simply the goddess of winter. After she took his place, he was raised back up behind the veil.”

“As an undead god?” Carania asked with a shudder. “What does that even mean? Who raised him?”

“Nobody knows,” Galath said. “Well, if anybody knows they are not making it public. I always suspected that whoever did it was somebody who could also not pass through the veil between us and the gods. It is someone I would rather not deal with. I wonder if these followers or the necromancer even know an iota of what happened. I wonder if they even care.”

“How does somebody even become a necromancer?” Carania asked. All of this was great information to have. She had been given no manual or guidebook to follow.

“I suppose it’s the same as becoming a gang member,” Galath said. “A combination of bad luck and dark intentions.”

“He whispers to them,” Arne said, speaking up for the first time in a while.

“What?” Galath asked.

“Care to explain that, Arne?” Carania asked, glancing over her shoulder at the wizard. His familiar was nowhere in sight, most likely flying somewhere overhead.

“The undead god Nerull whispers to those with magical potential,” Arne said. “Not everybody with magic hears the whispers but he does whisper and he offers people the power to get what they desire. Whatever the cost.”

“That’s quite a rumor,” Galath said. “Where did you hear it?”

“I didn’t hear a rumor,” Arne said calmly, evenly. “I heard the whispers myself. In my darkest moment, the whispers came to me too. He offered all kinds of things. I said no.”

“Of course you did,” Carania said. She thought Galath had been about to say something and she did not want to take any chances with what it may have been. “What did he promise?” she asked. She had not meant to. She knew somehow that it was not a question she should have asked but the words got away from her before she had a chance to stop them. Carania was an eternal student, always grabbing at new information to wield just as easily as she swung her sword. She wondered desperately what could have been Arne’s darkest moment.

Arne took a deep breath. “That is private,” he said. “But I understand your curiosity. The point is, the dark wisdom that comes from those whispers is nothing to laugh at.”

“That is definitely the truth,” Galath said.

“Who’s laughing?” Carania asked. “This ends tonight.”

When It All Ended Pt. 13

June 30, 2018

One by one, Morgan’s Raiders stepped out of Percival’s mystical mansion. They were prepared for battle and as geared up as they were going to get. As always, Morgan Moonglow took the lead and came out first, her eyes darting to and fro, always checking for threats. She was wearing hide armor that had been crafted and enchanted by her formerly estranged mother, Irina. It had been made of the skin of the great Questing Beast which Morgan had hunted and felled all by herself. It meant more to her than the pressed leather she had worn in the service and through much of their early adventures. She carried two swords from the crypt of Alander the Great in crossed scabbards on her back. She rarely got in close but it was good to have the option. Lastly, she had the same longbow she had graduated school with. However, the thing had been fundamentally changed when it was exposed to the blood of the Questing Beast. It was more powerful now and a comfort for Morgan to hold.

When she stepped out of the mansion, she saw Amien standing with his equally scruffy pack. He was smiling at her in the sunlight with those crystal blue eyes and for the briefest moment her heart fluttered but she shook it off. There was a moment in time, maybe several moments, when she would have ended up with Amien. He was a werewolf who lived in the woods, she was a ranger who often did the same. There were a lot of similarities between their wild hearts and Morgan knew that Amien had seen that too. She could see in his eyes the arrogance of an alpha wolf who thought it was only a matter of time. However, he did not know the stubborn streak of a Moonglow. Instead of running to the wolf, she turned and smiled as she looked behind her.

Percival Stardane stepped through the door next with a big smile and a flourish. He was dressed to the nines as usual which was hardly practical for battle. Percy never seemed to care as old habits died hard. Besides that, Percy claimed that dressing up created confidence in bystanders and that showmanship could tilt the battle in their favor. He was not one for weapons but Morgan had forced him to carry a short sword on his back, partly obscured by a half cape. On the scabbard of that sword, Percy had painted the opening notes of his father’s signature song. He never followed in his father’s footsteps with a singing career but instead, he had embraced knowledge and created a new path for himself. He also had a bunch of trinkets and daggers hidden on his person which Garth had helped him arrange and design. Close at his hip was his favorite book, a book of Elorian folktales. On his feet, he wore blink boots which enabled easy escapes.

William Havelock stepped through the door next in full plate armor. He currently had his helmet off so that he could make a good impression as Percy had insisted. Cassandra had enchanted the whole set of armor to be collapsible at a moment’s notice. It was an intricate enchantment but it allowed William to be ready for battle at a moment’s notice. It was imprinted with the sign of the lion, like back home in Shura. However, he had altered it to fit him personally by removing any other reference to Shura. He often longed for his homeland but he no longer truly needed to return. He had found a new family in Eloria and they always had his back. He had several javelins in a sling on his back but his prize possession was the great sword on his back. It was constantly cold and its blade froze whatever it slashed at. He was not a great magician but he was grateful to have a little magic in his hand.

Cassandra Oakspring stepped out of the mansion next and her ginger red hair was tied up close to her head. When you dealt with magic, it was smart to not have anything dangling that could catch fire while spells were being thrown around. Her robes were finely crafted with magical runes embroidered into it with silvered thread. There was a barely visible purple aura which was her mage armor spell which kept her safer. She held her book of spells in her hands knowing full well that she had no time to reference it during a battle but, like Percy, she prized knowledge and carried it with her as a totem. She also carried a magical bag of components for her spells. She had a few ings on one hand which periodically glinted with magic power. Since she was planning to be in a fight on the roof, she had worn some boots of levitation. She also had the jar that held their djinn inside of it.

Garth Whispernight came out next like a walking shadow. He had black leather armor on and that armor had a chameleon enchantment on it to allow it to easily change colors. When he turned it black that meant it was time for business. He had the same enchantment on his displacer cloak which often made Garth look fuzzy or out of focus to their enemies. He had the hood on that cloak up and he had taken pitch and smeared it across his eyes which he had explained was a Kofrani style that just happened to compliment his sneaky profession. If one were to search him, they would never find the daggers he had secreted all over his person. Each dagger was enchanted and balanced for throwing. Each dagger had its purpose and he could pull off some amazing tricks by combining their attacks together. To complete his gear, he had dusted off his old boots of haste which felt like constantly having lightning run through him.

Lastly, Galath Wyndham stepped through the door and the door vanished behind him. Galath was wearing brand new armor, imprinted with the symbols of both Pelor and Lathander. He had finally replaced his somewhat ancient armor after it had been damaged in their previous adventure. He has been stubborn about keeping the armor that had been turned to stone so long ago. Galath had been very sentimental about all of his gear since it was one of the only connections he still had to the era of his birth. In fact, he had carried the same mace until they had adventured with Carania Galdon again and she gifted him with a new one. He had spent a lot of time blessing that new weapon in the proper ways. He had also tied a few raven feathers to the handle and he carried it proudly in her honor. Galath was not one for much else in the way of gear, relying on his faith instead.

As soon as the whole team was out of the mansion, Morgan quickly took stock of what they had and saw that everybody was ready. There was just one more part of the plan to set in motion. She turned to Cassandra.

“Contact the princess.”

The Faith of the Raven Pt. 5

June 16, 2018

As they reached the woods, Carania climbed down from Rhiannon’s back. She tied the horse’s reins to a nearby sturdy tree branch. It would discourage her from wandering off when she got bored but it would surely break if real danger appeared. The other two followed suit, tying their horse and pony up to different trees. Arne leaned in and pressed his forehead to his horse’s forehead and spoke quietly for a moment. Galath started to rummage through the pack on the back of the pony and pulled out a small, two-handed hammer which he slung across his back. Arne turned toward Carania instead of going into his pack immediately. Carania smiled to herself and prepared for sarcasm.

“So,” he said. “I assume we are continuing on foot?”

Galath laughed at that. “You’re the smart one, huh?”

“I am,” Arne said sweetly. “So nice of you to notice. I’m stating the obvious because I wanted an explanation, not confirmation.”

Carania laughed. “No need to fight, boys. I don’t want to endanger the horses or have them slow us down with all of the brush and roots.”

“Fair enough,” Arne said and shrugged. Carania had expected a little more pushback from the opinionated wizard who definitely had a high opinion of himself and a chip on his shoulder. Arne pulled a pouch out of his pack and tied it to his belt. Carania could only assume it was full of components for spells as she had observed as much from her former charge. He then pulled a parasol out of a side pocket, sliding it slowly out of what must have been a magic pocket on the horse’s saddle.

“That’s a curious tool,” Carania said. “I’ve rarely seen one of those outside of cities and even rarer out of the hands of nobility.”

“You like that, eh?” Arne asked with a smile. “Sadly I won’t be taking the bait and using that opening to pour my heart out about my past. My past is my own and I prefer it to remain mysterious.”

“Very mysterious,” Carania agreed. “I was only complimenting your parasol. I had never heard of one being brought into battle before. That is the only reason I commented.”

Arne relaxed, his shoulders visibly releasing tension. “I made it and enchanted it myself for a woman who never claimed it. So I did not want it to go to waste.”

“It’s very pretty,” Galath said in an obvious attempt to tease Arne and maybe further diffuse the tension of the situation.

“Thank you,” Arne said. “I do excellent work.” He leaned the parasol against his shoulder and Graymalkin flapped down from a branch and perched on the gem at the top of the parasol. He started off into the woods whistling.

Carania and Galath followed and then Carania got ahead of the two of them as they headed into those woods. Carania pulled her sword out and held it out at her side. While training at Battle Arts she had heard many stories about patrols that had tripped and fallen on their swords by holding them in front. Galath had his hammer out in one hand but he was clutching his holy symbol. He did not look scared, he looked intense. Carania had no idea how many they would be facing but she felt the Raven Queen like a wind at her back, pushing her onward. It made her feel powerful and that feeling made her feel braver but she was no fool. She would not rush into danger blindly.

After a long walk, the forest started to feel darker. It was clearly actually getting darker as the branches grew closer together in the unforested parts. However, it was also feeling dark and, for lack of a better word, spooky. It felt like it was harder to breathe and each step was more difficult than the last. Carania looked over at Galath and knew that he could feel something like what she felt. She could sense the undead in the woods and she started to lead them in that direction. She gripped her sword tighter and they moved confidently toward their targets. They pushed through a copse of trees and there were a group of men with black feathers attached to their leather armor. Their eyes widened when they saw the three adventurers appear.

“But we killed you!” one of them shouted out.

“It didn’t take,” Carania said. “The Raven Queen sends her regards.” Something in her voice must have scared the men.

“Release the cages!” Another man shouted. The men rushed to two big cages and threw open the doors and out poured a crowd of zombies. The men pointed toward the adventurers and the small zombie horde started toward them.

“I guess talking is out of the question,” Arne said and pointed the parasol at the oncoming menace.

Galath stepped forward and gripped his holy symbol and called out in his dwarvish language and the symbol glowed. The zombies hesitated and then some of them exploded where they stood and then the rest started to flee from that holy light. Carania took the cue to leap forward into the fray. Her swordplay was a fearsome sight as she slashed away at the fleeing horde and the bewildered human men. She was a primal force, revenge and righteous fury flowing through her. True Purpose is one of the most powerful forces in all of the universes and it was fully on display here. She was slowly covered in blood and rotting viscera as she carved a path through their enemies. Meanwhile, magic missiles streaked from the end of Arne’s parasol as he managed to hit those that Carania had not yet reached.

As the last thug fell to the ground in a heap, the two men looked over at Carania as she stood in the middle of what could only be described as a circle of death. The first thing the two of them noticed was that her eyes were obsidian black and she had a big smile on her face. It should have felt creepy, but for some reason, the image just felt right. These men and woman who had been raised from death without their consent had been laid to rest again. The men who had shepherded those zombies had obviously tried to kill their new leader, Carania and she had gotten her justified revenge. As Carania walked toward them, flicking the blood from her sword, both of them would swear later that they saw a pair of black wings spread out from her shoulders and then fade away like mist.

“Come on, men,” Carania said. “We have more work to do.”

Faith of the Raven Pt. 4

May 19, 2018

The three new companions rode out at dawn. The innkeep would not get up to cook breakfast but allowed them the use of the kitchen. Galath cooked up some eggs and sausage and then packed up some food for the road. Arne had suggested that they just leave as punishment for the lazy innkeep but Galath left a gold piece and Carania approved. While the two finished packing up, Arne swiped the gold piece with nobody the wiser. Now, they were on the path back to the forest with Carania at the lead with Arne and Galath riding side by side. Of course, being a dwarf, Galath was riding a war pony he had purchased a month prior. Arne and Carania each had exotic Kofrani horses. Carania’s had been a gift from the Silverlight family but she wondered how someone as shabbily dressed as Arne could have gotten such an expensive horse. Arne had spent the earlier part of the morning talking softly to his bird, Grimalkin, while Galath and Carania had remained quiet.

Finally, Arne broke the silence. “So, it’s weird to me to see an elf and a dwarf working together. How do you feel about it, fearless leader?”

Carania looked over her shoulder at Arne for a moment and then glanced at Galath before she turned back to watch the road ahead. “It’s true that there exists a long distrust between our peoples,” She said. “but I was brought up differently. I have no problems with dwarves.”

Galath smiled and looked at Arne. “And I have no problem with elves,” he said. “My family was intolerant but we did live underground where all we had were stories and a few unwelcome elven visitors to go by. Once I decided to live above ground, I learned to judge people by the content of their character instead of the pointiness of their ears.”

Carania smiled at that. “That’s a good way of putting it.”

“That is kind of strange, too,” Arne said, turning to look at Galath.

“What’s strange this time?” Galath asked.

“You said that you ‘decided to live above ground’ which is strange already for a dwarf,” Arne said. “On top of that, you are a cleric of Pelor, a sun god, which generally never happens.”

“I recognize that it is strange to worship something a dwarf rarely sees,” Galath said. “However, on a trip to the surface for trading, I was struck by the beauty of the sun that I could not get it out of my mind. I set out on my own and encountered a temple dedicated to Pelor in the first town I encountered.”

“So that’s when you saw the light?” Arne asked with a smirk. Carania groaned pretty audibly at the pun.

Galath just grinned and shrugged. “Yes, I suppose I did. In Overbrook.”

“I can’t understand the religious life,” Arne said. “I rely more on what I can do with my mind.”

“That sounds like a priest of Ioun,” Galath said.

Arne laughed and Grimalkin cawed in an almost laugh. “I am definitely no priest. If I was a priest I would be thrown out of any temple by now.”

“I’m new to the religious thing myself,” Carania said. “This is only my second day as a servant of the Raven Queen.”

Galath and Arne looked at each other and then back at the back of Carania’s head. “The Raven Queen does not have a lot of worshippers, per se. I guess we agreed to help you so quickly that we never heard that story. How did you become a devotee of the Great Spooky One?”

“Don’t mock her,” Galath said.

“I’m not sure if you mean Carania or the Raven Queen but I assure you that both of them can take care of themself,” Arne said.

“Never doubt it,” Carania said as she stroked the hilt of her sword instinctually. “The truth is that the story is strange and it’s still kind of sinking in for me.”

“Well,” Arne said. “Well, ou have to tell the story. It will help pass the time on the way to the battle.”

Carania paused for a moment and thought about the story and suddenly felt a little nervous. “It’s a pretty unbelievable story, I suppose. I’m not sure.”

“Now I’m really curious,” Arne said. “Please tell us. I want to know what I’m dealing with.”

“Tell your story or don’t,” Galath said. “Either way I am with you if your cause is to put an end to an undead threat. Nothing you say can make that cause unworthy.”

“Until the day before yesterday I was a bodyguard for one of the Silverlight daughters. I had trained for the job by training under three diferent sword masters at True Cross.”

“Well,” Arne said. “Being lead by an accomplished and well-trained fighter is definitely a comfort.”

“I’m so glad to comfort you,” Carania said, glancing back to show her sarcasm with a smirk. “I was on my way to a new assignment at the Capital when I was ambushed by a few thugs. I was skewered by an arrow and I fell to the ground and bled out. I died.”

“I can only imagine how horrible that was,” Galath said.

Carania nodded. “The next thing I knew, I was in a strange place talking to a woman who claimed to be the Raven Queen. She offered me my life back as long as I hunted those who would mock the barrier between life and death and the undead horrors they might unleash. It was not much of a choice so here I am.”

“I don’t know which is scarier,” Arne said. “That being real or you being crazy.”

“It’s true,” Carania said. “I don’t know who else would have had that power and would have left this mark on me when I woke up.” She held up her hand with the raven symbol on it.

“I believe it,” Galath said. “I have never directly conversed with Pelor or Lathander but I have felt their presence and the existence of religious visions is known. I’m envious even though I can see the burden she placed on your shoulders.”

“I suppose there are things beyond this world that I have not experienced,” Arne said. “For the record, I think she chose the right person to be her champion but we’ll see if she was right. Won’t we?”

“I suppose we will,” Carania said.

Faith of the Raven Pt. 3

April 26, 2018

The woods had been infested with the undead and human thugs. Carania knew that with the Raven Queen’s boons she could probably save the day but there was time to be more efficient about it. So, it was time to do a little recruiting. Few things banded people together like dealing with the undead and Carania was counting on that. After examining her map, she decided to head back toward the town of Thorncatch that she had previously just passed through. She found the road again and made her way back to the town limits. Along the way, she discovered her horse Rhiannon wandering on the side of the road. She had thankfully fled when Carania had been shot and killed. Rhiannon was particularly happy when Carania approached.

The two of them stood outside of the gate of the one manor at Thorncatch which Carania assumed housed the Thorncatch family. Most villages and cities in Eloria were built around and named after the noble families that lived there. However, the gate was fastened shut and there was not a bit of movement in the place no matter how long Carania banged on the gate and yelled. Admitting defeat, she headed to the only tavern in town which bore the name of The Grasshopper. Carania pushed her way inside and pulled her hood down and shook her hair free. The first thing she was confronted with was the warmth and smoke from a fire. The second thing she noticed that there was a bird in the rafters and it was a raven.

Carania stared dumbfounded at the bird and it turned its head to stare back at her as it cawed. Strangely, she saw intelligence in the birds’ eyes. Of course, she knew that ravens were intelligent birds in their own right but there was something more in those shiny, obsidian eyes. She looked down at her hand which had the symbol of the raven on it and then back at the actual raven. It was too much to just be a coincidence, right?

“I could draw you a picture,” a voice said. “before she pecks out your eyes for looking at her funny.”

Carania tore her eyes away from the bird and looked toward the source of the voice. “You see it too?” She asked. She thought maybe the Raven Queen had sent the raven as a sign.

“Of course I see it too and she’s a her not an it,” the young man said. “Her name is Grim, short for Grimalkin.”

“Wait,” Carania said. “isn’t that just a generic term for a cat? That’s a bird.” She gestured at Grim as she said it as if it was not an obvious statement.

“Very smart. She is my familiar,” the young man said. “Which means she can change. We all change. She was a cat when I first summoned her but she changed along the way.” Carania sensed there was more meaning here than the words conveyed but she felt it was not the time to probe that particular subject.

“Sorry for assuming so much about tour familiar,” Carania said. “So you must be proficient in magic then? Oh! My name is Carania Garion. What’s your name?”

The young man took a drag off of the herb he had been smoking and smiled. “Sure, why not? My name is Arne and yes I am a wizard.”

“Arne what?” Carania asked.

“Simply Arne,” he said with a hard look that said ‘drop the subject’. “What’s your deal, Carania Garion?”

“I’m a paladin of the Raven Queen and I came here to ask the Thorncatch family for help in hunting the necromancer in the woods near here,” Carania said.

There was a silence during which Grim cawed and Arne took another drag from his herb and then he blew the smoke out slowly. “That was pretty direct,” he said. “I like that. It’s refreshingly honest. Unfortunately, Thorncatch Manor is all closed down. Lord and Lady Thorncatch left one day to travel and never came back. Tough luck there.”

“I suppose I could attempt the hunt on my own,” Carania said. “but I was told to get help where I could get it.”

“Told? Is there coin in it then?” Arne asked. “I could be convinced to help for the promise of a challenge and sufficient pay.”

“Well,” Carania said as she thought hard about that. “it is sort of a holy mission but I bet that the necromancer will have some gold that you’re free to have a share of.”

“A holy mission?” Arne asked. “I’m not so sure about all of that. Don’t get me wrong. I am experienced but I am not a holy person and I have never been on a holy mission before.”

A dwarf sitting at a table alone spoke up. “You’ve never been on a holy mission? Truly? It’s a little bit like sailing with the wind at your back. Somebody out there wants you to succeed. My name’s Galath Windham and I’m a cleric of Pelor. I’m definitely available to help you on your quest.”

“Just like that?” Arne asked. “I guess my share just shrank, huh?” He stubbed out the burning herb he had been smoking on the surface of the bar. It was not the most polite thing to do but Carania did not see any member of the staff about to yell at the wizard and Carania was not about to ruin a chance by scolding him herself.

Carania turned back to face Arne. “So you’ve let go of your reservations then? You’ll join me as well?” She smiled at the young man who paused and made a face like he had been tricked.

“Like I said,” Arne said. “I enjoy a good challenge and it’s been a long time since one came along. You came here looking for help and you’re going to get it.”

“Thank you,” Carania said. “I seem to have lucked out in Thorncatch afterall.”

“I take it from your statement that you have taken me up on my offer of help as well?” Galath asked. “Will an elf take help from a dwarf?”

“Hmm,” Carania said. “I suppose I have little choice.” Galath looked a bit disappointed at that but then Carania smiled. “Aside from that, I have no bigotry in my heart. All who oppose undeath are welcome.”

“That’s definitely in my job description,” Galath said. “I’ll fight by your side.”

“And I’ll fight a little behind the both of you where I hopefully won’t get hurt,” Arne said.

“That’s fair enough,” Carania said. “Sleep well because we ride out at dawn.”

Faith of the Raven Pt. 2

April 19, 2018

Carania took a big gulp of wine as she processed this. The goddess of death was sitting in front of her quite casually. It was unnerving but it all fit. The black on black, the white mask, the feathered dress, the aura of immense power. Carania felt she had probably been impertinent to a goddess and that had to be remedied. “I’m sorry for offending you.”

“Offending me?” The queen said with a laugh. “You have impressed me. As for how I know your name, I am a goddess but you are not unknown in the world. You are Carania, possibly the best with a sword in Silverlight not to mention your proficiency with other weapons. But what interests me most is your name. You were born Cara. Caring Cara, always helping everyone as you grew up. You not only played with other children, you watched over them too. However, when you took your fencing training, you added the ‘nia’ at the end of your name.”

Carania nodded. “Yes, ma’am. I felt like I needed a change at the time. I never tried to hide anything about myself.”

“Ma’am?” the Queen asked and she laughed again. It was an almost musical laugh. “Very cute.” She waved her hand and her mask was suddenly gone and Carania immediately averted her eyes, looking down at her empty glass. There was rich laughter from the other side of the table. “You can look, dear girl. Few are allowed to see the true face of death but I trust you. Death can seem cruel but death is kind, I assure you.”

Carania looked up and saw what looked like a young woman Amela’s age. She was breathtakingly beautiful. Her waist length hair had suddenly gotten shorter and wavier and it was gathered in a stylish bun atop her head. Her face was painted to accentuate her features with striking black lips and heavy black around her eyes. Her skin was actually dark which was a bit surprising compared to the ghostly white of the mask. She looked almost like she was from the deserts to the north but she was a goddess so that could not be.

“It is like you have two names or two parts to your name. It illustrates the two sides of you. Compassion and the Sword. Both tools can be a great asset in what comes next and I need you to have every advantage you can get your hands on. I need you at your best, Carania.”

Carania swallowed the rest of the wine. “You need me? What possible use can the Raven Queen have for a mortal such as me?”

“I cannot walk the material plane as easily as you can,” the Queen said. “I need a champion out there fighting for me. I have many enemies and many things to set right and I need help. I think with your mind, your heart, and your sword, I think you can be exactly who I need.”

Carania blinked. “This is a job offer? I feel silly reminding you but I’m dead.”

“I can send you back,” the Raven Queen said. “As long as you agree to be bound to me.”

“What exactly would I do?” Carania asked.

The Raven Queen leaned forward. “You would be my sheriff. You would roam the world, mostly sending undead back to their graves by force. Undead rise all the time and they are unnatural and should be put down without hesitation.”

Carania nodded. “I’ve never met any undead but I would agree. Am I supposed to do this alone?”

“I would suggest that you partner with other people once you get back. Clergy and paladins of great faith are especially useful for this cause.”

“So, go back, recruit a fighting force and eliminate undead around the world? Is that all?” Carania mimed writing a list on her palm.

The Raven Queen laughed again. “For that, you get your life back and, seeing as how you’re an elf, you have a long way ahead of you. There will be adventures and I’m sure there’s some coin in what I’m asking if riches are your thing.”

“Where would I even start?” Carania asked.

“You would start with revenge.” Suddenly, the Raven Queen was holding up one of the arrows with the black fletching. “This is an insult. Their arrows are not even fletched with raven feathers. These are crow feathers. Fitting since the people who shot you are interfering with my harvest.” Carania looked a little lost. “There is a necromancer using human thugs to kill people for the necromancer to raise later. This necromancer is pathetic but he could become a problem later. I want you to take him and any undead out.”

“There’s plenty of incentive for that first mission,” Carania said. “I can’t pretend that the rest of it isn’t attractive either. You’re right. I do want to protect people and I have heard how nasty the undead can be.”

“Very nasty,” the Raven Queen said. “The unthinking undead such as zombies and ghouls are bad enough but the ones that think are even worse.  Eventually, you will be hunting down wights, vampires, death knights, and even liches. Do you think that you are up to the task?”

“As long as you’re not sending me back in this dress,” Carania said.

The Raven Queen laughed. “You can’t wear your armor all the time, Carania. If you do, it becomes a part of you and it becomes harder to take off when you need to. Figuratively, of course.”

“So, how does this work?” Carania asked. “How do you send me back?”

“Carania Garon, I charge you to purge the land of the undead scourge and to kill those who would unleash that threat on the world. In return, you will be resurrected, you will be harder to kill, and you will be granted special abilities to carry out your mission. In short, you will be a paladin and champion in my name. Do you accept this charge?”

Carania swallowed and nodded but looked at the Raven Queen with a steely gaze. “I do.”

“Take my hand, Carania,” the Raven Queen said. When Carania reached out to shake the Raven Queen’s hand, there was an incredible feeling just from her touch. It was cold but there was an odd tingling energy as well. The Raven Queen bent down and kissed Carania’s hand and Carania felt some of that power enter her body. She realized at that moment that she had been comfortably numb and now she felt everything again and it was exhilarating. “Goodbye for now. See you in your dreams.”

Carania suddenly woke up on the forest floor and stumbled to her feet. There was still blood everywhere but there was not even a single hole in her armor. She looked at her right hand and there was an imprint of the Raven Queen’s lips. The imprint slowly blossomed into the image of a raven with its wings spread. Carania looked out into the forest. It was time to go hunting.

When It All Ended Pt. 9

March 17, 2018

William Havelock and Garth Whispernight were sitting at the bar downstairs. During his exile from his homeland, William had learned to really enjoy a good tavern. There was usually fellowship, decent ale, and there was the possibility of a good brawl breaking out. William had earned his title when he was knighted. He did not come from nobility but he had instead made a name for himself in the tourneys all over Shera. He had fought threats to the land alongside prissy rich boys and girls and gained fame through hard work and bravery. However, it was not until he had officially become a full-time adventurer that he had downtime to discover the simple joys of drinking with friends. Of course, there was a time when it looked like William and Garth would never be friends.

Garth had come a long way himself, even farther than Shera. He had fled Kofrain himself when the desert had figuratively gotten too hot. When he had joined the party he would have been the first to admit that he was a scoundrel. He was proud of it. He called himself the world’s greatest thief but he had always done it for fun and not riches. William and Cass had been the ones to finally catch him and Morgan was the one who convinced him to join the group. What started as reluctant do-gooding turned into an exciting thrill ride which in turn led to him being as addicted to saving the day as the others were. The war of words between him and William had grown from animosity to petty fun and finally to real friendship. Garth had turned over a new leaf and while he still did not follow the laws of the land, he definitely used those powers for good.

“You are very quiet over there, Whisper,” William said, setting his mug down. “You also look a little green. You’re not scared are you?”

“Scared?” Garth asked with an incredulous look that had indeed been a look of dread a moment before. “Unlike you, I will never even be seen by the dragon. It won’t know what hit it when I get the killing blow.”

William laughed. “You? I’m sure you meant to say that it will be me who scores the killing blow and I will do it as I look that dragon in the eye. It will know who ended its life.”

“Will you two ever stop arguing?” Galath asked as he walked up and climbed up onto a stool. The older dwarf man had taken off his customary mail and cloak and he looked a lot more casual as a result. The party was used to him being so formal.

“I’m afraid not,” William said. “You and Morgan just might be stuck watching over us forever, old man.” He and Garth smiled at each other, they would be done sniping at each other for a while.

“True,” Galath said. “It’s not as if we’ve been able to unload either of you along the line.”

“We’re hard to get rid of,” Garth said proudly. “But who would want to get rid of a crack thief like me?”

“All of the nobles of Eloria for starters,” Galath said. “Usually I find your bravado a bit tiresome but we need your legendary confidence tomorrow, Whispernight.”

“I keep racking my brain for any more allies we could call on but I am separated from the Knights of Shera and most of the friends I personally made during our adventures are on the front lines,” William said. He reflexively looked over at the sword he carried with its hawk head pommel. He felt a brief guilt that he was not with his fellows in Shera or in the thick of battle with the brave Guard of Eloria. Then he remembered that if he had been, he would not be here to face the dragon and that was strangely comforting.

“Yes,” Galath agreed. “I too have been searching my heart for allies but to no avail.”

“What about Carania, Galath?” Garth asked.

Galath flinched at that. It was not a negative thing but just proof of how much that name affected him. “She would be very effective here but last I heard from her, she was dealing with a problem in the Underdark. Even if she was not down there, she would be on the front lines dealing with the undead that are rumored to be fighting in the war.”

“That’s a shame,” William said. “She really would be helpful even if this kind of strays from her mission from the goddess of death.”

“We all go above and beyond what we are asked to do, Mr. Havelock,” Galath said. “Also, I’ll remind you that she is no grim reaper but is as much a defender of life as she is a defender of death.”

“True,” William said. “I’m sorry for implying anything wrong with the lady. She has done right by us a couple of times now and I just wish she could be here now.”

“So do I,” Galath said. “But I’m sure that we will see her again.”

“I bet you will,” Garth said with an elbow to the dwarf’s ribs. “If you know what I mean.”

Galath coughed and shook his head. “I’m sure I have no idea what you mean.” The dwarf took a long sip of his tea, so much that the cup refilled as soon as he set it down. It was a bit of an irregularity for a dwarf to not be a drinker but Galath always wanted a clear head and sometimes drinking just reminded him of the friends he had lost when he had been petrified. He looked around and realized that all three of them were men separated from their original homes. While they were not the same, that thread had tied them together in the midst of a party of adventurers. “You know, maybe you two can go home after this.”

“Maybe I don’t want to go home,” Garth said. “Maybe there’s no real home to go back to.”

“Surely your home did not crumble to dust like mine did,” Galath said. “It is probably still there.”

“Not the structure, Galath,” Garth said. “Maybe I like it here better and maybe this is sort of my family now.”

“Has the thief grown a heart?” William asked with a smirk.

“No!” Garth yelled and then there was an intense silence. “I always had one, I guess.”

“Of course you did,” Galath said. “and I know how you feel. I will never forget the bond we have forged together.”

“Neither will I,” William said. “It is as strong as the vows I took as a knight. Maybe stronger.”

The three men drank to that.


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