Today is of the Cycle Of The Seventh Moon.
Current Season & Month:  , Year: 543 A.R. (ref)

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The Tangled Roads to Ufaeria

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NoOne
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The night cycle of the Underneath fell. There was still enough luminosity to walk, even for those who could not see in the dark. The passages ahead and behind, however, immediately fade into the gloom. If there is anything more than a few feet ahead or behind, only those with night sight will be able to make it out. 

 


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Myrae

The march was long and miserable and long and annoying and long. Dragging Miiya along doubled everything bad and erased the one mitigating factor--Meat--as his healing and invigorating influence was now focused on the girl. 

They walked for many hours, and those hours were not easy on anyone. The fuse on Myrae’s temper grew shorter with every step and she would emphatically shush anyone making more noise than absolutely necessary. Absent some supernatural stamina, after their short uncomfortable night, the lava bridge, Skaven battle, dragon encounter, and long march, anyone would be tired, irritable, and not in their best state of mind. The caverns here were varied in shape and size, but they were uniformly barren. Except for the occasional dripping of some underground spring--and the footfalls of their party--the grottos were silent as the tomb. 

The drowess did not drive them without rest, but when they took breaks, those were only momentary halts called by Myrae so she could touch a scuffed patch of rock, scent the air, listen for sounds of pursuit. “There’s more than overgrown hookahs down here.” She warned, perhaps six or seven hours into their march, before waving the others back to their feet and moving on at an even faster pace. Myrae did not say anything else aloud, but her attention became focused more and more to the rear. 

Something was pursuing them.

Eventually, Myrae called Faan forward. “Moonie, guard the girl with Meat. My dogs are barking.” She whispered, falling to the rear. “I’ll take big blue.” So saying, she swung aboard Picnic once again. “Bear left, take the narrower passage there.” She pointed out a tunnel that branched off to the left. Assuming that neight Faan nor Rigel could see in the dark, she made her instructions a bit more specific.

Yew feelin’ better, blue?” Myrae wanted to know as she patted the Golem’s carapace. “Head all cleared up?” Myrae had not missed how Miiya’s influence had altered Picnic’s coloration. “Think yer up for another fight? I’ma try ta keep us outta one, but if whatevers behind us makes that turn,” she jerked her head back to the broader tunnel they had just left. “we may be in fer it.” 

Whatever was back there was not something the drowess could identify. Either their pursuers were too far away, or they were something with which even Myrae was unfamiliar. She hoped it was something small against which they could fight a rearguard action while still moving. In their present state, they had no chance if Graekokorheyurgardramyr made it to the Dwarf-guarded tunnels before them.


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Irihi
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Faan

The elfmaid was just as aghast as Pioloss as his exclamations drew her attention to the Aeros flaying of her own skin. She started forward to intervene--Picnic’s demands or no--when Myrae passed her and proceeded to threaten, slap, unhorse (ungolem?), and then heap more abuse on the distraught girl. Miiya was not acting rationally, but surely there was a kinder way to deal with the distressed Aeros? At the same time, could Faan really say the drowess was wrong? Myrae seemed convinced that they were all scant moments from dying, and she was their guide. The tunnel here seemed empty and safe enough, but Faan had not enough knowledge of the underneath to say that was how it would stay. If Myrae said their lives depended on moving now, then move they should, she reasoned, even if it meant restraining the intoxicated girl.  

I’m not riding on that Drowish war machine.” She confided to Pioloss, sotto voice, as Myrae stalked off. Picnic seemed to have settled now that Myrae had intervened, but Faan had no intention of getting closer to the golem than absolutely necessary. 

Then they were walking. Faan thought to take the opportunity to hold quiet conference with Pioloss, but was immediately shushed by Myrae. Any further thoughts she had about conversing were similarly ended by venomous glares from the drowess at any unnecessary noise. 

Faan’s hand had been in Pioloss’s only briefly, and that was a pity, she thought. The tense mood following Myrae’s outburst seemed not the right time to make contact with the man again. Faan did not want to ride on Picnic, and walking was tiring. Walking for endless hours was moreso, and doing so while maintaining Umanesque presence was exhausting, so Faan stopped and let herself slip into a trancelike state. Her carriage and gait shifted as she glided on the balls of her feet, finding the natural contours of the living rock and seeming to move effortlessly up and down slopes, across debris piles, and over solid flat ground. Even when darkness fell, Faan did not stumble. She could not see in darkness, like some elves, but still she remained sure-footed.

When Myrae called her forward, Faan moved to walk beside Miiya without a word, smiling at Pioloss with the same faint disconnected expression she directed at the Aeros as she advanced to the lead of the party. Faan did not take the limping girl’s arm or make any move to physically restrain or urge her along. 


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Irihi
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Miiya

It was a loooooooooooooooooooong walk. Or maybe it was a really short one. Apparently Miiya was going to be like this forever. She couldn’t discern the passing of time with any accuracy. Sometimes it seemed like an hour just to get one foot in front of the other, other times it felt like they only had an instant between stops. Everyone still looked like was food. Heck, the rocks looked like food now. 

She could recognize that there was an everyone. She could recognize that there were rocks. Maybe she was coming out of it a little? 

The problem was, that crying girl, the really small or far-off one in that room? The one that actually comprehended what had happened? She was getting closer. Miiya didn’t want to meet her. She was way scarier than any giant clownface, abusive spun sugar, 

or whatever was behind them. 

Myrae felt it, and Miiya felt it too. Or maybe she imputed it. She was pretty tuned-in to Cotton Candy. Cotton Candy sucked. She had taken his the knives--Miiya’s only real things--away. Boo. Even Crying Girl wanted knives. Cotton Candy was mean. When Cotton Candy finally vithed off, Miiya was happier with celery around, yet Mii wasn’t happy. Someone wholly present would see the signs pretty clearly as the Aeros girl pinched the web between thumb and index finger, or scratched rapidly where scalp met the back of her neck, or balled fists and tensed aching calves.

Celery wasn’t present. Celery wasn’t mean. Celery was barely there. Celery didn’t kick her, slap her, punch her, or even grab her when she bolted. 

Miiya was away from Layer Cake, past onion, threading cauliflower’s hooves, and FREE before anyone could react. Six or seven docile mind-numbing hours on foot certainly didn’t help anyone’s reaction time. 

“I’ll get ‘em!” Miiya chirped as she dashed off down the tunnel, back the way they had come. Just who she thought she was getting, or what “getting” meant was as unclear as everything else in her mind.

The Aeros girl was almost nearly night-blind. She could barely see her hand in front of her face, but that was okay, Graekokorheyurgardramyr’s mind-altering spores were still not anywhere near exhausted, and her addled brain did a great job of filling in the blanks with fantastical creations. Crying Girl was closer still, and kind of frantic now, asking what Miiya thought she was doing. She, or the darkness, or bouncing off a stalactite or two was enough to set Miiya dancing. 

Whatever was in the darkness, it was predatory, and really close now. Miiya slowed her mad dash, her hand strayed unconsciously to her ickorish vest, finding its holsters and sheathes empty. Oh that’s right. Potato candy took my knives. That’s okay. Maybe whatever is here has knives.

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Miiya's Perception

Crying Girl wasn’t crying now. She was screaming. That was less scary, but kinda annoying. “I told Cot it was okay. I meant it.” Miiya explained loudly to herself no-one. She had thought she did not care if Myrae cut her throat. She was being prey, being prey was okay, sometimes. He had died. Dying was okay sometimes.

Why couldn’t Sen understand that?

Whoo. Shouldn’t have called her by that name. Miiya and Crying Girl stood staring at each other, shocked into utter stillness. 

Crying Girl’s knees folded as she squeezed her arms in tight around herself. She squeezed until all the deepest chambers of Miiya’s sluggish and struggling dancer’s heart fired. Now it wasn’t Crying Girl who was crying--it was Miiya. 

Hey, arfline. Prey doesn’t stand still babbling to itself.

Miiya rabbited randomly. It was here, whatever predator lurked in the darkness was now. Miiya did not know if she was going to fight, claw, and kick when it caught her. She did not know if she’d hammer out its guts with dancer’s fists or just freeze and let it devour her. But for now,  

RUN


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NoOne
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Picnic

The Golem of Blue Ash had much time to process recent events as it faded back to translucent blue and stumped along through endless tunnels. Those hours and hours of silence were not nearly enough. Question upon question piled up in its buffers, threatening to overflow, yet Myrae directed silence, and so dozens of logic (and illogic) threads were left open and hanging.

When the drowess climbed aboard the TonDen it was relieved to have her company. Perhaps she would allow mindspeak and answer some of its endless troubling questions. So eager, almost desperate, was Picnic to ask one burning question about his friend, that he eschewed all logic gates when opening a connection to the dark-skinned warrior. WHY DID MIIYA HARM HERSELF? 

No sooner had the query been sent through the connection between Myrae’s thighs, hands, and arms where skin touched crystal than Miiya darted into the darkness. Autonomously, Picnic pivoted to follow. 


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Myrae

Hold that thought, Blue.” Said Myrae. “Stop.” She commanded. 

Picnic stopped, Myrae’s will overriding the Golem’s own unguarded mind.

Stop them.” She said, of anyone trying to pursue Miiya.

Picnic positioned itself, blocking the narrow tunnel. 

Myrae closed her eyes. She did not rub her temples or squeeze the bridge of her nose or sigh. Those were signs of annoyance. She did not bawl out in Staff Sergeant parade ground voice: “WHAT DID I JUST SAY?!!” (Six hours ago) That all had its place, but that place was not here. The drowess was a veteran of many campaigns. So were many of her Yochol Sisters, allies, and comrades who still drew breath. She made them that way by knowing when to cut her losses. Doing that was painful. So painful that sometimes you would rather die. 

But you did not make that choice for your command. I hate being in charge.

Myrae wasn’t glib or annoyed or angry when she addressed the rest of their party. “That way is death.” Myrae pointed in the direction Miiya had run. “Even if yew beat whatever is back there, rescue Miiya, and follow my trail, the dragon will catch and kill yew.” 

Myrae compelled Picnic to step aside. “I can't force yew to come with me, but I hope yew won’t throw yer lives away.” She patted the TonDen. “I’m sorry Picnic, I’m not giving yew a choice.” 

“Forward.” Myrae whispered, and Picnic stumped along as ordered.


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Irihi
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Faan

The elfmaid turned after Miiya bolted, a faint look of surprise on her face. She trotted lightly after the girl, stopping when Myrae moved Picnic to block pursuit. “I am responsible for her.” Faan said, faintly. She looked at Pioloss, then at Myrae as the drowess warned them not to pursue the Aeros girl. 

Faan could not see in the dark, nor could she track Myrae once she was out of sight. The Elfmaid was no warrior. Fond of the Aeros girl or not--and in her present state “fondness” was a bit of a distant concept--there was little she could do to help her, or even find her. She was under no contract to escort the Aeros girl--just to deliver and fit a tailskirt to her. 

Rigel and Pioloss, however, were supposedly obligated to both Faan and Miiya. Blackwing had charged them with seeing the Aeros girl, or her remains, to the surface. She had also assigned them as Faan’s escorts. If the group were to split now, which was their greater obligation? 

Faan wondered at, and weighed, all this with a clinical distance borne of her elvish nature. She could release Pioloss and Rigel to pursue Miiya--were they brave enough to march into the certain doom Myrae insisted such an endeavor be. The elfmaid recognized that her decision was not solely her own. 

If Faan pursued Miiya then so should Rigel and Pioloss, or be known as cowards eschewing their oaths to save their own skins. If chasing the Aeros girl was death, then she would lead all three of them to their doom.

If Faan now released them from their obligation to escort her, the same would be true whether Faan followed Myrae or chased Miiya. The men would only be obligated to die chasing the crazed girl. 

Only if Faan followed Myrae and reminded Pioloss and Rigel of their contract to escort her, would she give them license to act as they willed, choosing between obligations. Were she of different disposition, she might have made another choice, but the detached coolness with which she now made her judgment settled her on this course.

Rigel, Pioloss, I remind you that you are charged with escorting myself and my wares to Liathildor, and I shall follow Myrae.” She said simply, turning and gliding after the drowess and her massive war machine.

Perhaps Faan had made her decision based purely on that logic. Perhaps what rested beneath three sad cairns in some forgotten corner of The Underneath had no bearing on her decision. Perhaps she had forgotten the feel and smell of the blood-and-char-scented breath of doom of the Sunstealers inches from her face in complete and hopeless darkness.

And perhaps not. 


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Goblins

The choice was an easy one for the eight of Grog’s crew bearing Faan’s luggage. They followed as close to the war machine as possible. 

Except Grog

The little common-speaking goblin looked at the departing golem and then at Rigel, shrugged and sighed. “Grog go where yew go, Big Stupid.”


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A Beast in the Darkness

 

The beast has been tracking the group for hours. Well, that wasn’t exactly right, because the beast wasn’t tracking them–it was tracking her.  It had been tracking her for hours, because once it had picked up on that–on her–ambrosial scent, the beast was helpless to do anything except  follow it; follow her.   Over tough, rocky terrain, across tomb-silent, barren caverns, and through a confusing hash of tangled pathways, it stalked the group, growing progressively closer to them–closing the distance between itself and her.

 

Because deep within some primitive, primal, and instinctual part of itself, the beast knew that she belonged to it.  What was confusing the beast, however, was the fact that it couldn’t decide whether or not she was its prey. 

 

Was she prey? 

 

She smelled  like prey.  She acted like prey.  And yet she also smelled like something else, something it needed wanted to protect.  What the beast knew above all else, was it wanted–needed–her all to itself.  It needed  to get her away from the rest of the two-leggers.  Especially that one, the one that wore death and rot like perfume rubbed into its corpse-pale skin.  The beast wanted–needed–to get her  away from that one  more than any of the others–they presented little danger to her, and it would, could, deal with them easily enough.

 

The beast paused, lifting its great head and scenting the air.  Excitement shivered through it as her scent filtered through its olfactory system, diffusing throughout its senses with an electric thrill that jolted from nose to tail and igniting nodes along its spine that made the cool air press in around it with razor-sharp clarity.  It tasted her on the air currents, stronger than before–closer  than before.

 

My prey.  Mine!

 

Or,

 

Not prey? 

 

Mine.

 

Belongs to me.

 

Want.

 

…need.

 

Now.

 

The prey (not prey) was coming closer.  The beast forced itself to wait, its tail twitching impatiently as it crouched in the darkness and listened to her draw near.  She was talking to herself, saying nonsensical things that the beast couldn’t parse.

 

Didn’t matter.  The prey-not-prey was heading right towards it, almost like she was being pulled directly towards it by an invisible thread.  The beast crouched on powerful haunches, watching the girl stumble around in the darkness, its sight just as keen in the dark as it was in the light.  It watched her.  It watched the shift of her wings.  It shivered with desire as it watched her feathers twitch. 

 

It was salivating.  It wanted to sink its fangs into the joints where her wings met her shoulders.  It wanted to taste her heartbeat in her sweat as it licked the salt from her skin.  It wanted, needed, to claim her, to mark her with teeth and claw, because she belonged to it.  

 

No one else could have her–the beast would not let them. 

 

My prey…mine. 

 

(Not prey?) 

 

Mine

 

The beast shook its head in irritation, its confusion growing as her scent became stronger and as she moved closer.  Everything about her screamed prey…but something also told the beast that she was not prey.  But what? If not prey, then what?  

 

She smelled delicious.  The beast wanted her.  It needed to pin her under its body so it could figure out why it was so drawn to her; so it could figure out what  had made it follow her, stalk her, for hours.

 

Mine.  

 

Need want now!

 

The Aeros was achingly close.  She had no idea that the beast was right there, a predator watching its prey (not prey?) from only a few feet away.

 

The beast pounced.

 

Something screamed through its mind right before it made contact, and the beast jerked as if suddenly seizing.  There was a ripple of change  in the air, and instead of fangs and claws and fur, a shirtless, muscled, too-hot body crashed into Miiya and bore them both to the ground.  A palm automatically curved around the back of her head as she was taken off her feet and tackled to the hard, rocky ground, though she would find that whomever–or whatever–had slammed into her, took the brunt of the fall.  

 

Before its–before his–prey could get up or fight back, he entwined their legs and locked her down, pinning her beneath his body.  Heat shuddered through him as he pressed the Aeros under him, making his skin suddenly feel too tight; an animalistic growl vibrated in his chest in a combination of confusion and desire.  Her heart was thumping rabbit-quick in her breast, but he didn’t smell fear on her–she didn’t smell like prey.  

 

He snarled, placing his mouth over her throat, the sharp points of his eye teeth scraping her skin.  MINE,he growled, the word rumbling in his chest. 

 

He noticed a small scrape on her jaw and licked it, cleaning the wound.  It felt right; it felt right to care for her.  He settled firmly against her, breathing heavily as fire burned in his veins.  He brushed his lips over a livid mark on her neck, licking it apologetically when she winced.  “Mine” he purred, his brow furrowing as he warred internally with the signals telling him that she was and was not prey.

 

All of his confusion, however, flickered out of existence when Miiya’s chestnut brown eyes slowly opened and blindly met his own in the darkness.

Everything slid into place and for a moment he couldn't breath, he felt like he’d taken a dragon’s claw to the chest.  He lowered his head again, tucking his nose against Miiya’s collarbone and breathing in her scent, pulling it deep into his lungs.  A new word swam up out of the soupy confusion of his thoughts and instincts, clearing away some of the fog in his mind like a lighthouse beacon on a stormy night.  

 

Mate.”  

 

He swiveled an ear, hearing something coming towards them in the darkness.  He snarled, pulling Miiya up with him and crouching in a corner, holding her against him, guarding her from anything and everything–from all threats.  Nothing would take her from him.  Another word cracked through his confusion, his thoughts slowly becoming clearer the longer he spent back in his mate’s presence.

 

Teleskela,” he whispered.


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Pioloss
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Pioloss hesitated, torn between two impossible decisions. Deep down he probably knew already that he would follow Faan. But stars above! To just leave Miiya alone to her fate without even so much as trying to go and find her? She was barely more than a child! 

 

Out of the corner of his eye he glanced at Picnic where the Golem stood blocking the tunnel. Picnic was fast. But Pioloss was faster. He knew that should he make a bolt for it then he could be passed the Golem easily enough. But then… Why? If what Myrae said was true then all he would accomplish would be to throw his own life away, and worse, leave the others even more undefended against whatever else lay in wait for them. 

 

With a barely restrained snort of disgust, Pioloss came down from the balls of his feet and stomped along after Drow and Elf. He would do his duty in escorting Faan, but the way she had so casually dismissed the Aeros left a bitter taste in his mouth that he was not likely to soon forget.

 

 


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Irihi
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Miiya

“Oh, hi ghost kitty.” Miiya mumbled, finding herself borne to the ground by the apparition. This, of course, was not Tom-Cat. Tom-Cat was dead. Miiya and Crying Girl both knew this to be true. She had felt it happen, and even her intoxication had not been able to do much to dull the empty ache where her fledgling love for the catboy had once been. Crying Girl, slowly dragging Miiya toward lucidity, paused a moment as they were pounced. Oh, it looked like Tom, sounded like Tom, felt like Tom, even acted like Tom. But Tom was assuredly gone. So, of course this was his ghost. 

Because if there was one thing that Miiya and herself agreed upon, it was that ghosts were very much real. 

“Heh.” She breathed as Tom-Cat’s spirit hauled her to her feet and wrapped defensively around her. “Are yew a ghost scaredy-cat?” She giggled. “What’s out there, kitty?”

“It’s good to see yew, anyway.” Miiya whispered, laying her head upon the apparition’s shoulder. It was kind of a damp spirit, she thought to herself. At least, its shoulder was. Her eyes were burning too, but one thing had nothing to do with the other. At least, she was pretty sure it didn’t.

Miiya’s heart kinda stopped then. She had figured out how to dance on demand. Right? Didn’t I? Something about squeezing. It did not really cease to beat, but rather went back into a state of near-fibrillation. She was tired. She had danced a lot. She had ridden Picnic long and then she had walked, like, forever with a mean old yam. Now she was here with Tom and it would be just fine to sleep or die or whatever. Even though he was gone, they were together. She could just curl up here and just starve or suffocate or otherwise cease, guarded by his spirit until her’s joined his.


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NoOne
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Myrae

The drowess drove herself and the group hard after that. She did not speak again, instead using hand signals to call brief rests. The coalskin warrior did not dare dismount from Picnic, whom she continued to hold in her thrall. Myrae knew that, the moment she gave the golem back it’s autonomy, it would likely slay them all. At the very least it was sure to depart the group. Either case would be deadly, for she needed Picnic’s strength and speed to carry flagging members of what remained of their party, were they to have any chance of outpacing Graekokorheyurgardramyr. 

While whatever menace lay behind was being outpaced, Myrae detected the signs of the dragon’s pursuit as they crossed larger caverns and tunnels; shifts in the patterns of barely-visible rock lizards, flocks of deephome bats flying higher and faster to flee the great wyrm, and other harbingers of the monster’s presence. 

Though they were pursued, and though these weyrs of the underneath were magickal, there was no avoiding the great distance they must needs travel. Even at an exhausting jog, the hours ground by with the drowess recognizing there were more yet to go than were already past. As they marched, Myrae scored the rocks of their path with Picnic’s razored fins. If those they had left behind came to their senses and were able to follow, there would be a clearly marked pathway for them. Though it led into doom, there was one tiny flicker of hope--more a wishful thought than anything--which the drowess still held. Realizing it, however, meant that they absolutely must outpace Graekokorheyurgardramyr to the approaches to Shaarn.

The interminable hours of running; on empty stomachs, on not enough rest, on legs and arms and backs exhausted by travel, battle, and pervasive fear, dragged by.

Then they reached one particularly large cavern. The massive grotto was high and broad. A deep chasm ran along one side and disappeared into the dim depths. The day cycle had come, but even so the distances of the cave were indistinguishable in the gloom. What could be discerned by anyone with ears, however, was a steady drumbeat of concussions and rumblings that one could feel through the soles of ones feet. It was the impact of rock-crushing scale and talons upon stone; it was the approach of Graekokorheyurgardramyr. 

All ride!” Myrae hissed at her remaining companions, lowering Picnic to allow the goblins, Faan, and any others afoot to scramble aboard. “Hurry!”

The drowess would not wait long for anyone who dithered. She did not know Picnic’s carrying capacity, but she had noticed that the golem moved slower with more cargo. However, even burdened with the entire party riding, the golem at a full-out run was faster than any of them. 

Even so, it was a near thing. Myrae, still dominating Picnic’s consciousness, steered them across the wide grotto and into a narrow tunnel with the dragon’s thunderous footfalls only seconds behind them. She did not look back to see the angry gnashing maw of Graekokorheyurgardramyr, nor listen to the monster’s enraged roars. If the dragon caught them, they would die. If any fell from Picnic they would die. Only those who clung to the racing golem would live, for it made the narrower tunnel just ahead of Graekokorheyurgardramyr’s talons and teeth. 

To: The Underground Approaches to Shaarn


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Rigel
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Rigel saw Miiya break for the tunnel behind them and immediately moved to stop her.  He was not fast enough as the Great blue Golem stepped in front of him blocking his path.   Soemone had to stop her before whatever was following took her.  He moved to step around when Myrae spoke.

“Stop.” She commanded   “That way is death.” Myrae pointed in the direction Miiya had run. “Even if yew beat whatever is back there, rescue Miiya, and follow my trail, the dragon will catch and kill yew.” 

 

 “I can't force yew to come with me, but I hope yew won’t throw yer lives away.” 

 

Rigel Stood in conflict.  His instinct was to grab the Aeros and bring her to safety though he knew Myrae was probably right.  He had made a commitment to Blackwing to accompany Miiya to Sharn but he had also committed to accompany Faan.

 

Blackwing herself had acknowledged that she had her doubts Miiya was even still alive when they had left on this mission.   It pained Rigel that he would to have to tell Blackwing that he had failed to keep Miiya safe.  Perhaps she could take some solace in knowing that it appeared that Miiya had found love before her end.  For his failure Rigel would receive any punishment the Privateer decided was appropriate.  Rigel hated failing but was willing to face the consequences of his failures.

 

For now he could only follow through with his other commitment, accompanying Faan to her destination.

 

The ensuing hours of hard march were difficult but nothing foreign to Rigel as he had been in this situation many many times.  Several hours into their forced march Faan looked to be in the verge of passing out and Rigel thought to offer to carry her.  When she seemed to take on the strange ethereal presence he has seen before. 

 

Rigel marched on laying his hand on Pioloss and urging him to not give up while passing a bit more of his energy on to his friend.  Rigel even saw fit to pass a bit of energy on to the Gob-leach that trailed him like a duckling following a pig it was confused into thinking was it's mother.


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Irihi
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Faan

Picnic

Grog and Goblins

 

To: The Underground Approaches to Shaarn


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Pioloss
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OOC: To the underground approaches to Sharn


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