November 25, 2015 at 6:18 pm #1584
The lord calls out, and the two spirits look down from the high steps, rising to their feet. Holding one anothers hand, they wave to you all. You are almost to the dock that resides below the base of the pagoda, once again it seems as if the anxious, awe struck Daidoji is ready to leap out of the boat! Stern and Hroth paddle furiously, splashing water up into the boat with the might swing of the oars.November 30, 2015 at 1:25 pm #1585
You are close to the doc now. The Spirits of the former lord and lady of Shen Ling look down from the heights of the Shrine as they rise. Holding hands, the spirits wave to you all, before taking a deep bow, like actors upon a stage. Then rising, they continue to wave, glowing looks of happiness and approval beaming on their faces, apparent and overwhelming, even from this far away. To the side, you spot Oldbow, a grounds keeper, and an old priest, who are huddled together in the village square not too far away, dropped to their knees and awestruck by the spectacle.
Daidoji finally leaps up onto the dock and starts bounding up the stairs 3 at a time. The two spirits have turned towards each other, holding both hands now, to look deeply into one another’s eyes. Daidoji reaches the first landing, and there he stops. His wild rush up the steps is replaced with an awestruck reverence, as he stops there on the landing, looking up at them a hundred steps away. The two spirits gaze down with admiration to their son one last time…there is a long silence, meaningful and unbroken by words, that would only fail it anyways.
A wash of sunlight suddenly spills through the branches of the mighty trees, as if the sun has finally fought back the morning and claimed the day. It baths the upper part of the pagoda and the spirits. Sun Quan smiles at his son, and everyone below while extending a hand, palm down, as if in reassurance that all is well, and then as the sunlight washes over his golden form, he vanishes like a ghost in a golden mist.
In the place of Layna now stands the unicorn, as if she changed from the beautiful elven priestess into the magnificent beast at just the moment you blinked, or as if there was really no transformation at all. The unicorn gives an almost courtly bow and rises to regard you all for just a moment more. With a mischievous shake of her quicksilver mane, she rears up and lets out a cry, both haunting and glorious, that seems to shake the leaves on every tree in the forest. Then, she leaps into the air and rides the rays of sun light up through the branches and into the sky, like an ascending comet. Down below, you brave heroes, the Lord of Shen Ling, Oldbow, a grounds keeper, and an old priest are left in silence, to regard the wonder you have just seen, and stand in the sun light and shadows of a new day.
November 30, 2015 at 1:53 pm #1586
Daidoji, No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to the heavens don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.
I was once told, To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent.
Now the Shadowy veil that has consumed your land as of late has been lifted, many will need time to mourn their loses, many will need to rebuild complete lives. Your people will look to you, the Unicorn and the golden lady for guidance and leadership, Legends were made this day the History books will be written on what you do tomorrow.
November 30, 2015 at 2:20 pm #1588
- This reply was modified 5 years ago by Stern.
Caris still feels her connection to the unicorn. Upon first seeing the golden lady and the old Lord and then the appearance of the unicorn, she felt as if she rose the stairs behind Sun Quan yet her feet never left the boat. The song of nature rose up in her ears again as she gazed upon the Unicorn. her connection was palpable, not only in a physical sense, but in a emotional, sensual, mental, and spiritual way. She softly looks up at Hrothgar and then the others and says, “we’ve done good work here… We all have”December 1, 2015 at 12:19 pm #1591
“So cheery and joyful, that one…” Hroth says with a smile nodding towards Grey’s direction. “You should see him in a bad mood…”
“Well, Fools or not, We did do good work this day, and deserve the night to celebrate it and feel good of ourselves before we allow Grey his chance to ruin that for us tomorrow. Let us go.”
Hrothgard motions for his companions to head towards town with him and hopefully find an Inn to drink the night away.December 1, 2015 at 2:01 pm #1593
The Lord of Shen Ling kneels at the first landing of the steps a good 60ft away from your group, lost in thought, staring up where his parents where. He nods, acknowledging Sterns words before regarding the spot above again. It’s hard to judge his emotions, only that they are deep and powerful, coming over him like a slow and purposeful river. He’s obviously having a moment.
“Ehlonna be praised”
Oldbow speaks in a reverent tone as he approaches you all on the doc. He gives a concerned glance at his Lord, then kneels in a dramatic and courtly fashion, which does not match his gruff appearance, or the disheveled, war torn nature of his garb, it’s obvious he’s been through about what you have.
“My Lady…If I may speak.”
It’s awkwardly quiet for a moment until Caris realizes he is bowed low, waiting for her permission to continue. Caris bids him speak
“There is an inn right there we’ve commandeered, plenty of beds, just look for one that hasn’t been used and claim it…There’s also a cask of cider behind the bar, the only liquor they didn’t take with em’. It’s not quite done fermenting, a little flat, and not yet as sweet as it should be, and gives a wierd burn going down, but I can attest it won’t make you sick, and after a night like last, it’ll be the best drink you’ve had all year. I’ll see about some food for later, but for now, you all look like you need a drink and a few hours sleep. No one’s returned to town yet, but I’m sure whoever owns that Inn, they won’t mind a few heroes catching a rest and drinking that cask on the house…I think we have all earned a drink, though you can leave something if you feel compelled. I will tend to my Lord, and seek you all out this afternoon.”
He bows again and turns to walk up the steps towards Daidoji.
“Lord Thenody seems troubled, and in the site of such glory…are there worries yet we’ve to contend with?”
He pauses and turns for a moment to give a chance for anyone to answer the question.
December 2, 2015 at 7:08 pm #1595
- This reply was modified 5 years ago by DM.
By late afternoon, towns people have begun to filter back to Oldhome. You are just waking up when the Inn’s owner, a short, slight man with a beaming smile seems absolutely thrilled that you’ve taken up residence at his Inn. He looks appalled when he realizes such heroes have been drinking his awful unfinished cider, and it’s only a moment later he comes wheeling in a fresh keg of proper quality. Grey is not about, but Stern reassures you he’s off on some matter of import and will join you all soon enough.
A night of drink and celebration begins, even as various attendants of state and various leaders of Shen Ling’s defense force find their way to town to meet with the Lord and dispense intelligence. Shen Ling, it turns out, does not have anything like a standing army. It’s heroes are comprised of militias which meet to train from time to time, bands of hunters who come from the same village, and a few formal posse’s that patrol the lands boundaries, and they are the closest thing Shen Ling has to a standing defense force. It is the very people of Shen Ling who rose up to do the fighting, no professional army, and it appears fighting is something they all know a little bit about.
All in all, Shen Ling’s government is strong in custom and ceremony, but lose and informal in its structure, more of an alliance of noble houses and independent settlements, all loosely unified under the Lord. It’s defenders are even less formal, each wearing the tokens that mark their village or the colors and Icons of their house. This diverse and segmented group have come together and successfully fought a guerrilla campaign to defend their homeland, as it has always been in Shen Ling when trouble came knocking, and they are a colorful bunch. Some of these bands are grim and shaken, others put on a noble air, not haughty, but acting as if they represent some far larger order than they do, and still others are rowdy and down-home, reminding you of the folk from Homestead.
They realize what you all have done, and it sets you apart. They fought this war, but only Caris and her band of mysterious heroes were able to finish it. They know, to varying degrees, and obscured by rumor, but none the less, they know you all stood up to the night walker where most of them have only spent the last weeks running from it. They know you freed the Unicorn, where they could not. These are nobles with some basic training in spell or blade, and citizen militia fighters, but you are mighty heroes among them, and you realize, amidst the low bows, nods of approval, and commemorations of praise cast your way, there is a separation, that natural separation between common folk and those of renown and destiny. All go out of their way to offer up thanks when they realize who you are, but they are coy, overly respectful, nervous in your presence. It is subtle, but more and more obvious as more arrive in the small town. You’ve seated yourselves at a huge table built around an indoor fire pit, though you have many visitors, none will sit with you. Finally, Loanbear, who has finished half the cider himself you think, makes a move. You realize you have never seen him in anything other than a state of fierce battle, woeful worry, or subdued awe…but now, as the sun sets, he is in rare form, or at least a form rare to you. He wonders why so many will come to your table yet none will stay very long or sit with your group. Finally he stands and shouts to the room, in a bellicose but playfully drunken tone,
“Enough Shen Ling people! No more greetings and praise to us if you will not drink with us! We did not come all this way not to make some friends! This is a big table we have here, you would do us the greatest thanks by keeping all these seats full and sharing drink with us!”
With that, the old priest and the grounds keeper from earlier take a seat at your table, and for the rest of the night, the ice is continually broken in all situations by Loanbear, with Stern and Hroth as his accomplices.
At some point there is a roaring applause that spreads through the room. Three figures stand at the door, the Lord of Shen Ling is dashing in laquered red plate armor and a Emerald green cloak. To his right, Oldbow, dressed in a regal outfit of the same green silk and cream colored linens, looking suave and dignified, his beard freshly trimmed. To his left, Grey stands, ominous in his broad brimmed hat, which he quickly removes with a fluid motion as he bows to acknowledge the praise of the room. The 3 are surrounded and the room breaks into an old Shen Ling song, one of solemn joy you wish you knew the words to. Then the chorus comes, “Heart is Homeland”, easy enough, and some of you join in. Grey is sort of stuck up there with the Lord and Oldbow, keeping a noble bearing, but to Stern,he looks like a social hostage, probably wanting to duck the lime light but knowing to do so would be unseemly. Finally the song ends and the crowd relents a bit. There is a simple clay up in his hands and just the slightest hint of a wobble, as Grey finally escapes the center of attention and takes an open seat next to Caris. He bids you good evening and there is no hint of his earlier mood apparent in his features.
It is a night of celebration, but for some, also a night morning, and still for others, there is much planning to be done. The 3 small Inn’s and the Saki house of Oldhome are alive with different groups of Shen Lings Defenders, mingling with flushed and ecstatic bar maids, dignified and pious priests, house diplomats and weapon-masters, craftsmen relieved their village still stands and that they can get back to life as usual, and even a few bands of entertainers who rushed this way all day to get a chance to be some of the first to perform for the Lord of Shen Ling after this great victory. There are poets looking for heroes to write of, storytellers looking for gossip and details of the final battles, and professional Heralds looking to learn the names and backgrounds of any who distinguished themselves in the final days of this war. The many gathered are in various states, some finely dressed and bathed, while others look gruff and fresh from hard work or battle. The dignified house scions clasp hands with the rowdy hunters who have been defending there estates. Elven mages trade rumors with Barkeeps. Priests give praise to Ehlonna and the ancestors as they throw back shots with the local carpenters guild and discuss the repairs to be done to the shrine.
All around you, tales are told, old alliances are reaffirmed through the retelling of shared battles, and new one’s cemented over drink. Reconstruction projects are planned, volunteers are gathered for scouting parties to go north, and apparently, it’s very clear that Grimeye’s horde has indeed shattered and made their break for the mountains. The Unicorn is back, and there have never been so many who have actually witnessed her. Everyone appears to feel the greatest danger is passed, and to believe wholeheartedly that no evil can enter Shen Ling’s Valley’s now…not with out attracting the immediate Ire of it’s territorial unicorn spirit. Everyone seems to have a story about spotting her.December 3, 2015 at 2:31 pm #1596
Early next morning you leave Oldhome behind, traveling with the Lord and Oldbow on the River. A messenger arrived from the Keeper of the Shrine of the Golden Lady, and he has bid you all head south to attend an informal ceremony to commemorate the triumph of good.
On a beautifully gilded river barge you lazily drift down the slow winding river that runs down Shen Ling from North to South. You drift south with the currents, deep in thought, lounging on hammocks, huge pillows and decorative couches arrayed under the ships silk pavilion. You pass many small villages along the river, all dressed for celebration, for the news has spread quickly. In every small settlement you pass, banners, garlands and window dressings, and silk streamers and colored lanterns have been pulled from storehouses and put on display. Word of your trip down river seems to spread ahead of you. All along the route, at each village, people are there to greet you and their passing lord. Drummers play on the shores while townsmen and their wives wade out into the water to shout “heart is homeland!” or to sing old hymns from Shen Lings past. Children and adolescents have climbed up into the thick branches that hang out over the river with bags of flower petals, to cast down upon you as you pass. People set laurels of beautiful flowers afloat upon the river as you pass, to flow along with you. The air is rich with the scent of cedar pine and jasmine which seems to grow everywhere along the banks. Cherry, rose, and wild flower petals rain down and drift alongside you in the air and on the water as you go. Ecstatic people chase you along the shore, and it seems you finally leave them behind as yet a new village comes into view, and trumpets sound to honor your passing.
It’s mid afternoon and you’ve traveled many miles. The river spills over a great fall up ahead, and the boatmen steer you into a special canal that allows your boat to float up to the edge of the fall, but not over it. There, two great, arching spars of mithril extend out over the drop. Each is anchored to one side of the canal at the edge where the flow of water is stopped by a stone wall. Each is equipped with a complicated block and tackle with a winching system. They are cranes, designed to lift boats out of the water, swing them over the falls, and lower them down to the lake below, upon whose shore rises the Shrine of the Golden Lady, where you first came to this land.
Hundreds have gathered along the canal at the top of the falls, and below, thousands have gathered around the lake. The parks, docks, and the gardens of the manor houses along the lake have been made ready for a great feast. Carpenters have worked all night building stages, putting up tents and awnings, and the trees are covered in ribbons, lanterns, and hand-made ornaments. Mismatched trestle tables and benches have been brought out, donated from every household, as if the entire place has decided to make the streets and shores of Shen Ling into one great feasting hall beneath the sky. Every hearth and oven in the city has be commandeered to make ready, and the smell of fresh breads and sweet confections hang in the air.
It is exhilarating being lowered down the 80 foot falls in the lazily swaying barge. The roar of the water drowns out all else and mist washes over everything, a cool sensation in the warm air. Down on the lake the boat men steer you to a fragile looking doc where the Keeper of the Golden Lady’s shrine is waiting surrounded by priests and attendants in crisp, pressed robes of white linen.
You leave the boat in great ceremony. A flamboyant caller announces each of your names, occasionally adding some small title or detail you wonder how they got. This voice caries across the water, supernaturally loud, and as each of you emerge, horns blast from the doc and drums sound wildly from the opposite sore in response. In the finely appointed hall of the shrine you come before the keeper.
There is a look of genuine relief and peace upon his old features.
“All of my thanks to you heroes. I knew nothing could stop you…that Ehlonna’s providence was with us all. A celebration and a mourning shall be held tomorrow for all of Shen Ling. I humbly ask you to join us and our noble lord for tomorrow’s celebration?
I also ask if you will be my guests this night, and join me for a simple meal in this hall. We do not have many spare rooms here, but asking you all to go into town and find baths might be most inconvenient given your celebrity, so I have a large room prepared for you. The local common house has generously allowed us to borrow some beds, and they’ve loaned us a few extra tubs which I have set up in a bathing room. These humble servants of Ehlonna,”
and he points to one white clad attendant for each of you,
“have offered to be at your disposal. I understand you have had quite an ordeal, they have been counseled not to harry you with questions, only to help you with whatever you need. Between them we can have your cloths cleaned, armor polished, and blades oiled by night fall…will you be my guests?”
December 4, 2015 at 9:41 am #1600
- This reply was modified 5 years ago by DM.
Grey takes only enough time to claim his bed and sort through a few things before leaving. He briefly speaks to Stern, presumably to let him know his general plans. There is no hint of vitriol or anger in his bearing, but there is something focused, perhaps too focused, perhaps his version of nervous…it’s hard to say. The unreadable grey elf wields tremendous power, which he has used to blast your enemies, zap you across the battlefield, either in or out of danger, and he has even healed some of you, apparently able to take the wounds of others on to himself and then purge them from his body…he is a problem solver, perhaps troubled by some problem he does not know how to solve. Or perhaps this is just his bearing. Some of you wonder what troubles him, other’s merely write it off as his way. He acts as if nothing is wrong, and slips away to seek his cousin.
That night you share a simple vegetarian meal with the Shrine’s Keeper. Those of you expecting a more hardy feast are a little disappointed…but the man is very gracious. He avoids further praise of your actions, instead showing his gratitude through his mannerisms. He is obviously a deeply religious man, but he also seems to be a student of history. Over dinner he speaks much of Shen Ling and Yun Shan’s history, asks many questions about what you’ve seen in your adventures, and wonders aloud at what various events might mean. Those of you with a taste for philosophy, talk of the gods, or history, find the night fascinating, those of you who do not, hear the distant firecrackers, drums, and occasionally catch a whiff of roasted meat….it seems a small number that live upon the lake are starting the celebration a night early…and you find yourself wishing you were out there.
Caris, for the longest time you have been alone in your bond of faith, but in the past days you have heard praises to Ehlonna on the lips of so many. It’s strange, and now you are with this scion of your faith. You don’t know if he is your equal in divine power, but he is certainly superior in his knowledge of the faith and wisdom. He speaks to you in fatherly tones that feel you with a peace you can’t deny. He is charming, smart, strong in faith, charitable, and all in all the kind of man you imagined your father was. After dinner wraps up you move to a room before a great crackling hearth, with mismatched, oversized comfy chairs for all of you. A rare sweet wine is brought out and you all speak with the shrines’ keeper for as late as you wish. At some point, while you are all still up, he speaks:
“I must confess, I offer you all more than I led on when I invited you to stay the night. I imagined….That is to say, I had hoped you might stay here a while…take some time to reflect on the deeds you have done, take time to enjoy the hospitality of a grateful land, that sort of thing…and it would be my honor to house you here for however long that time might be. This is a peaceful place, a shrine to the honorable dead, and to the ever living goddess…it is a peaceful place where few will dare come to bother you. You may take a hard earned rest, or go and roust about if you wish, but at least know you have a quiet place to come home to when you need it. I am sure there are perhaps things here for you, loose ends, unanswered questions…perhaps something in need of study before you make your next move, or do you intend to leave soon?December 4, 2015 at 9:56 am #1601
“Thank you Keeper, As we are uncertain as to our day of departure we appreciate your humble hospitality. We will be staying a short while to ensure we have done what we can for the people here. I am sure that Caris has much more to do here than I or these guys (Gestures to Hroth and Grog). When we are more formal in our plans we will be sure to keep you abreast of any changes.”
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