Forum Story: Chapter 2

Sirathiel

Spy with looks and guts
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When the others continued to just stare at her, Vey felt that maybe her disguise was not as good as she had thought. Trying to keep up appearances, she made a face and said in a disgusted tone: “You know, it’s high time that I get a decent bath. And no, Haj, I’m not planning to follow your example and add dragon blood to all that mud.”



Still no reaction from her companions. Strange. Maybe they just didn’t get why she had taken that yellow gem? Yes, that must be it, Vey thought to herself and proceeded with a lengthy explanation on its healing properties which made the others lose interest in her person very fast.



Vey smiled satisfied to herself. Her disguise was still intact, but she had to be careful not to let on that she was more than the eye met.



***



Haj and Judith started anew their discussion of where to go first, while Alvis tried to revive their game of I spy. But neither Vey nor Caterina were interested in playing. Instead they fell a bit back and began to exchange their experiences of having to run away from home, discovering to their delight that their circumstances were relatively similar.
 

polymorphikos

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Judith was asking Haj many questions, and he was doing his best to answer them.

"Know, you see, that wasn't actually a dragon," said Haj, "or atleast, not a proper one. It was all strange. Where I come from, dragons are like wolves, or wild boar. That one was "off". They usually have to be to get across the river, and sometimes they breed and multiply in the hinterlands. That's how you get dragons roaming about. We generally don't kill bashva back home, because we avoid them, but the civilized peoples seem to hate moving.They'll try and live in a swamp rather than admit they're wrong, but they call me a savage."

"That's all very fascinating," said Judith, "but I actually asked which way next."

"Oh. South, I suppose."

"Yay."

"But what about Caterina?" asked Alvis. "I mean, we should probably give her a hand, too."

The two others stared at him blankly.

"Why?"

"I mean, she can come with us. It's not our problem if she wakes up and she can't find her stars anymore."

"Now that I'm actually interested," said Judith, "Keep up with it."

"What? Oh, right. You see, the Svirasi are a migratory people, restricted to the long rift valley after which they take their name..."
 

Esioul

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For a while, everyone argued and swore and even giggled, but eventually it was decided that, as no one had any very urgent concerns to attend to, they would all use the pebble. Caterina would come with them, having no where else to go; Alvis and Haj would use their pebble for whatever it was they wanted it for; Judith would be able to be avenged on Holofernes, and this would make everybody rich.

Judith yawned, and said,
"Haj, you stink. Go and wash"

This was true: being inside a dragon is actually quite detrimental to one's personal odour. Several of the cottages luckily proved to have baths, and all the peasants were too releived and grateful for the removal of the dragon that they forgot to be suspcious of five very suspicious looking people. Some time ago in their history the Famous Five had passed through, laying waste to their village, so it always had been a bad number for them. [sorry, couldn't resist that]

Finally clean and lacking in dirt and mud and smell they sat down to tea and biscuits, as well as a bottle of whiskey.
"You're actually ginger!" Judith said to Vey.
Vey primly helped herself to a cup of tea while Judith finished off the whiskey.
"But I don't think you're actually pink."

Haj was just spilling his tea when they heard a clattering in the trees. It was staring to get dark: one of the peasants shrieked.
"Another dragon?" Caterina asked nervously.

It seemed to be getting louder, but they couldn't yet see anything trhough the gloom of the trees. Alvis lit a torch and lifted it up: they caught the glitter of metal coming towards them in the light.

A group of armed, mounted soldiers were jangling and shining their way into the clearing. One of the peasants swore and muttered something about too many guests. All of the soldiers wore some kind of regalia on their breastplates: a symbol of what looked live a severed head on a pike.

Judith bent her head and tried to look invisable. "Holofernes' army. I wondered when they'd get round to conquering the rest of the world" she whispered.
 

polymorphikos

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The adventurers paused, triying to think of a plausible way of keeping Judith quiet and not revealing any key backstory whilst dealing with the on-coming troupe.

"I know!" cried Caterina, "I've had a jolly good idea. Why don't you run away, because you are clearly not on good terms with these unpleasant looking gents, and we shall cover for you whilst avoiding asking any pertinent questions."

With Caterina done revealing her convenient plan and oddly-phrased plan, the continuity was restored. At once Judith ran to the nearest hut and begged that the people inside conceal her.

"Bugger off!" cried the people inside.

"But we saved you from a dragon!" moaned Judith.

"That's very true, but we're duplicious. So bugger off."

With little other choice, Judith ran and concealed herself within the dragon itself, for all around was open woodland and the soldiers of Holofernes would have an easy time of it finding her. She swallowed her pride and re-swallowed her lunch, and then crawled deep inside the foul-smelling brute.


At the table, the other four drank their tea.

"Excuse me," said one of the soldiers of Holofernes, "but you wouldn't have happened to see a pink-haired woman around here, would you?"

"But of course," said Haj. "She was heading east, leaving by the north road, when the sun was in the west, about ten miles south of here."

"Are you playing smart, you funting little prack?" said the soldier.

"Of course not," said Haj.

"Good. Nice work on that dragon, by the way. Can we have it?"

"Fifteen hundred marks and its yours."

"Fifteen hundred marks? Bugger off you shark-skinned hood. I'll keep my fifteen hundred and go by a few dozen from someone who has half a mind. Charlie, kick this man!"

Charlie, a man far more menacing than his name suggested, dismounted and came at Haj. Several unpleasant occurences later, Charlie apologised and crawled back into the saddle. The soldiers went away, because there were quite a few of them but none of them wanted to die, and someone always dies when a group of mysterious travelers are confronted in a lonely village, especially if one of them has kust shown that he can kill a dragon.

"Well, that was a sticky bit of trouble overcome," said Alvis.

"Does anyone have a towel?" asked Judith. She was covered in a mixture of gore and vomit.
 

Sirathiel

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"Sure thing, Judith." Vey said and got up to search their baggage. And indeed she came up with a more or less clean towel handing it to Judith who proceeded to try to clean herself off.

Watching this Caterina had another splendid idea:"Why don't you take another bath? I'm sure you'll feel much better afterwards."

Judith just stared at her before pointing out the obvious:"If the villagers don't want to hide me, while I'm all clean, then they'll most surely not want anywhere near them looking and *smelling* like this."

Haj and Alvis enjoyed that little exchange very much already starting their bets in case of a physical struggle between the women.

Vey just threw them a dirty look, before proceeding with two buckets to a nearby stream. Returning with filled with fresh, clean, cold water she positioned one above their camp fire to heat and for Judith to wash with.

Then she turned to the two men, smiling evilly. Then she threw the still ice-cold content of the bucket at them. All three women laughed to their heart's joy as they heard Haj and Alvis sputter and curse and look very bedraggled.

Vey then served herself some more of the tea.
 

polymorphikos

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[nothing helps kick-start a lagging story like a change of scenery]

The desert stretched away on all sides in an endless blanket of sand, fringed with the white and blue of mountains to the north and broken now and then by a streamer of dust caught in the afternoon wind. Overhead, the sky was a purple so deep and rich that monarchs would give half their treasuries to possess a cloak dies in its colours, and the sun was a golden disk sinking slowly into the pinks and reds and warm, muddy browns of the west.

At the top of a hill, a figure was seated upon a whirlwind. It's face was swathed in black, and gold glinted at its temple, and when it shifted in its saddle a pommel would rasp gently against the leather of an embossed belt. The figure watched the panorama with eyes that shone like twin candles, casting a hazy, arcane light from behind its veil.

They come, it said. I see them two days hence, to the north and east. THey travel swiftly, and they do not waste time in idleness.

From somewhere close, and wind whispered, and in the play of currents a voice spoke beneath hearing.

I shall, master. They have things that might aid us, and we those to aid them. Do I come as man or beast?

Again the wind murmurred at the summit of the dust-devil. THe eyes of the figure shone thricefold bright.

In wind, I go, master. In wind and dust.

Without a roar, the whirlwind moved across the plain, and in the howl of its sand and stones a laugh rang out. It shook the sand like thunder, and a bright light shone at the summit. The ground was torn and furrowed, and plowed in turn by the passage of the jinn.

________

"Looks to be a sandstorm," said Haj. "A whirlwind heading west. We should be safe, if this wind holds."

"Aye," said Alvis. "I've no wish to have the sand strip me of my flesh."

Judith and Vey nodded and wrapped shawls about themselves, and Caterina nestled upon her camel with uncertainty in her eyes. Then she cried out, and pointed.

"The whirlwind, it is turning!"

The pillar of sand twisted in the air, and bore down upon them vivid against the darkening sky. At its summit the fire burnt as brightly as an ocean star, and in minutes it cut across two days of journey. The party froze and looked up into the spinning chaos, and with a sound like a day's rain in a moment, the sand drew still, and the beacon at its tip shone down godlike upon them.

I have words for ye, it said.
 

Sirathiel

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Vey shivered in cold fear as the whirlwind of sand came directly towards them. She felt the crystal she had taken from the dragon grow hot in her pocket and knew instantly that the whirlwind was not of natural origin and that it was magical.

Her dragon blood reacted shortly afterwards, telling her the same thing as it started to boil in her veins. She drew her shawl closer over her face to dissimulate the pulsing of her veins.

All her suspicions came true as the whirlwind stopped in mid-turn and spoke to them. The beacon at its top glowering down at them.

She curiously watched the expressions on her comrades' faces. Malign curiosity dominated Judith, naïve awe and wonder Caterina. Haj and Alvis showed signs of being ready to battle, even if there was nothing they could do against this magical creature. At least as far as Vey knew.

Calmy Alvis spoke up: "If you have to say something, then do so. We do not have all the time in the world, you know?"

Vey shivered as she felt that the whirlwind-jinn's mood was changing.

[It's not much, but it is something...]
 

polymorphikos

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I come, and this is how you treat me. To not tempt the patience of the jinni. I bring word, and ye shall listen, and well. I seek that which is amongst you, of origion strange and sorcerous. Do you know that of which I seek?

Haj felt at his pouch, and the small, hard object within. The jinn laughed.

Pebbles are the resort of priests and enchanters. I am neither. Why seek to control powers which I am? Keep that which you hold, but I must ask that the emerald be gifted me. I shall not take it sans the volition of the bearer, yet should I recieve it, then ye shall be gifted something in turn. It is a question to be pondered, and so I go.

The whirlwind vanished, the world fell into darkness, and then the sun began to rise up from its cradle in the east. A night had passed in moments.
 

Sirathiel

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The group of five companions stood there, still perplexed, as the sun climbed slowly higher and higher in the sky. One after the other they started to shake off the feeling of being stunned.

"He doesn't want the pebble?" This thought was very hard to comprehend for Haj.

Alvis simply shrugged: "Be glad, fool. That means we can keep it!"

Judith nodded very vigourously at that, obviously very happy that there was no question about keeping the pebble or not.

Vey, on the other hand, remained silent, reaching into her bag and bringing the gem, the very rare yellow emerald, to the light of the new day. She knew of its immense healing power, but she also knew that there weren't very many things that held the same value as the gem.

Is it save to give it away? Has it capabilities to harm? What is the jinn to gain from it? Why does he need it and what are we to receive in exchange?

The sudden silence around her, brought her back from her thoughts to see three avid and greedy stares riveted on herself and the gem. Only Caterina stayed out of this staring contest.
 

polymorphikos

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Several days later, the party were nearing the edge of the desert. Here and there a swathe of spinifex cropped up, and saltbushes and wildflowers crept out from beneath the stoney earth. The sky overhead was becoming overcast and in the distance a low fringe of green denoted the presence of an approaching forest.



"So," said Haj, "do you suppose that jinn is going to pop up again?"





I find the odds to be highly in its favour.



A ball of fire was resting in a pit of glazed earth. It burnt with a clear, yellow flame and not a hint of smoke. The grass and bushes nearby were unscorched and the heat-haze that should have wavered above it was imperceptible.



"Gaargh!" shouted several of the travellers in surprise. Haj fell off his camel.



Have you decided, or shall I leave you to your indecision?



[Sira, if you want to keep the stone, then ignore this bit. It's your emerald, after all.]



"I don't know. Have we?"



"Yes," said Vey. She took the beautiful little gem from her pocket and looked at it. "But first, what do we recieve in return, and what do you want it for?"



he jinn was featureless, but had it eyes then they would have been piercing her. With a font of flame it flared up into the air and fell down into a crackling, crouching, man-like shape. Now it had eyes, incandesant white, and they certainly were piercing.



You have the stone, and my master would possess it. There is no reason to this. I do not question my master. He is that which commands me from the pits of the east, in the pillared halls that held his court in elder days. He is that which speaks without tongue, and sees without eyes, and hears without ears. His throne is a mountain, his crown the rainbow, and his dominion the lands where sand stretches above the cool, life-strewn pools. To question his word is death, but to aid him is to seek rewards more useful than any you might easily recount.



"Yes, but what rewards," said Judith, who was markedly unimpressed.



Holofernes possesses men, and castles.b lie beyond the master's realm. To lose the stone is to gain passage across hostile relams, borne in the arms of a demon, and set past those places where your presence would mean death.



Vey looked at the emerald, and the others looked at her. She looked at the jinn.



"Fine." She threw it with regret at the firey manequin, and the thing grasped it in a net of flame and shot into the air, turning once and boring away down through the earth. They looked at the hole, still steaming, and then sidled over and looked down into it. It was a glowing funnel as bright as a heated iron and slowly cooling through the spectrums from white to yellow to orange to red.



"I think we've been had," said Caterina. There was a blastof furnace-like heat and a



rush of flame shot out of the hole and scooped the five up in its arms.

 

Sirathiel

Spy with looks and guts
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[Don't worry. It's completely ok with me... who knows, we might meet another dragon...:p ]

Vey knew that she should be scorched and burnt to death, but instead they were all quite comfortable, speeding along in a lulling haze of warmth.

Nobody cared to point out to Caterina that they hadn't been had, because it was far too obvious.

It was Alvis who posed the question running through all their minds: "And where exactly are we being taken?"
 

polymorphikos

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I vote chapter end. Who's with me?

(and Hypes, I hope I'm not being rude, but I was wondering if you'd done any of the editing of 1? Don't think I'm trying to pressure you or anything, just curious).
 

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