Arora's Muddled Musings

Use this forum for any in-game stuff such as stories, journal entries, or in-character discussion.

Postby Cailin » February 7th, 2010, 3:07 pm

(The following several posts span several months of D&D Sesssions, transfered from the old forum)

Fri Oct 17, 2008

As Arath bit into the dark, rancid-smelling fruit Arora felt her heart sink. Whatever it was he was consuming, it came from the bosom of evil. That he could bare to take something so putrid and vile into him made her stomach turn with despair (which was not an easy feat for a dwarf). Is this what it had come to? Were we all just merely individuals with separate, selfish goals who would happily put the welfare of civilization at risk out of some silly curiosity and self interest? She could only turn away with only the cool and even approval of Erathis to comfort her decision. But, it was hollow. In a sense, she was hollow too now. What of harmony, cooperation, or the common good? Did these things matter to any of them?

Arora’s thoughts drifted briefly to Deomin, whose cold and sometimes callous exterior reminded her of only the harshest winters of the East Rift. She sighed inwardly. He could never understand what it meant to be united, how much more could be accomplished when self-serving desires were put aside. Instead they argued and fought and wasted time, she thought bitterly. The fate of Hommlet and no doubt the whole of the civilized world (and perhaps even the rest of it) depended on them, on their ability to work as a team. She felt unworthy of Erathis at that moment, and fell into another moment of deep and sorrowful prayer, full of remorse.

Erathis, force of order and of unity, protector of civilization, how can I hope to do your will with such people who do not understand? Will you yet withhold your divine clarity from them? Is there nothing to be done that will turn their hearts to your wisdom? I have tried so hard, Erathis, I have done everything you asked of me and lived true to your word. Help me understand, help them understand.

Silence echoed in her head maddeningly. She took a deep, somber breath. She would persevere, against this test she would find a way, Arora looked about at her mysterious and distant companions. If they could not understand until it was too late, then it would be too late for everyone else as well and it wouldn’t matter anymore. They didn’t have to understand, perhaps. That would come in time if it was going to come at all, and it wouldn’t be from her, obviously. Arora existed to preserve the peace, to promote unity, and to fight for the Great Cause and to the underworld with their understanding and their foolishness. She would protect them as much as she could till her last breath, she would keep the pact they had unknowingly made with her (as is the nature of any Erathis sworn Paladin), and as long as she was able to do both this and maintain her duty to civilization, she would stay true to them whether they knew it or not.
Cailin
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From Arora's Journal

Postby Cailin » February 7th, 2010, 3:08 pm

Sat Nov 07, 2009

In my heart I knew that Aurum was going to be a difficult challenge, but in the beginning I maintain that I in no way realized how much of a liability the dragonborn was capable of being. I find myself on more than one occasion having to deal with a less than favorable position because of his poor choices. He seems driven by ego and selfish desire, something that flies in the face of Erathis' teachings and frankly puts me in a very difficult position. If I allow him to continue his destructive behavior it is very likely that we may all be put at unneccesary risk, while arguing against him or outright restraining him is counter productive to preserving group unity and harmony. But really, is there any group unity to preserve when Aurum is so willing to throw caution to the wind in the purisut of his own endeavor? These are the questions I must ask myself, as I discover Aurum is less than the leader he thinks he is. If he continues in the vein and refuses to listen to reason I shall have a hard decision to make. I cannot continue to allow his wild and unpredictable choices to put our mission and our group at risk, no matter how much I'd rather he stay and lend us his skills. If he is merely using us to his own ends... I do not see that going far. We will outlive our usefulness to him and what then? Will he abandon us, or join with our enemies even? It is too risky, but I cannot make such a grave decision without speaking to him first.

There was no time to tell Aurum all the things I was thinking after I brought him back from unconciousness. He was about to be interrogated by the high priestess of the Air Temple, time was running out. I arranged for our group to ambush the priestess and her skeletal gaurdians in this remote area of the temple where Wren, Melek, Hugh and Aurum all wait in their positions, ready to spring our trap. My heart races and I am glad that we were able to turn this around, to save Aurum from himself and turn a negative position around. How many more times must we save him though? I cannot under any circumstances allow Aurum to die if I can help it, for that would be as good as murdering him myself. Erathis, who is as strong in me as my own heart demands the highest standard. However, if it comes down to his death or the death of the rest of us, I know I must choose the Greater Good, and allow Aurum to lay in the bed he has been so busy making. I hope beyond all measure that it does not come to such a fate for all our sakes...

-Arora Whurlode
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From Arora's Journal

Postby Cailin » February 7th, 2010, 3:08 pm

Fri Nov 13, 2009

On the subject of the guarded diamond I find myself rather conflicted. On one hand the dwarves of old clearly intended to keep the diamond here, protected from the outside world and shielded from those who may seek to use it to their own nefarious ends. If we were to remove such a valuable artifact would it find a safer place anywhere in the world than here among the ruins of their mines? My dwarven instinct yearns to protect this artifact, valuable though it may be, as a monument to their lost cause. However, there is yet another part of myself that feels leaving such a monumentous item among the ruins is criminal. Witholding such a wonder from the civilized world is hardly a fitting end for such a jewel, more than a jewel, an achievement of dwarven craft that has never seen an equal to my knowledge in this world. How can I leave it to gather dust on a pedistal in an abandoned mine? Is this truly honoring these brave dwarves? Erathis demands such a relic as this much be preserved in the halls of antiquity, shared with the masses so that all may learn and marvel at our triumph over the earth itself, rendering the very rock into a thing of unimaginable value and beauty. And yet... all this conjecture is useless when the diamond remains protected by the horrible whirling blades of the pedistal.

Perhaps the question must remain for a while longer, but what is a while longer to such a thing as this, who has been waiting already for so many years? There is no rush I suppose, though it does tingle in the edge of my soul. There are certain responsiblities all dwarves have to their kin and the relics they keep, Erathis understands this, and knows how even a paladin cannot escape this integral part of my culture.

-Arora Whurlode
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From Arora's Journal

Postby Cailin » February 7th, 2010, 3:09 pm

Wed Nov 25, 2009

What a strange journey this has been. We stand at the edge, at the precipice from which all things balance. With good teamwork and thourough planning we managed to put an end to the ambitious cleric Choranth, claiming the second half of the air key for ourselves and setting across the terrain of the Earth Temple, beyond which the Air Bridge awaited us. I must consider us either supremely lucky or supremely in favor with the gods to make it so far undetected by the various guardsmen who kept watch over the Earth temple and bridge. Whether by grace or fortune, we crossed the bridge with little resistance, entering the chilled circles of the Outer Fane. How horrible it is to think that this massive compound had even more unspeakable horrors even deeper within its rotten bowels! It was not uncommon to face the deadening chill of evil in the ridges of the East Rift, where upon the dwarves were set upon countless battles against the evil creatures of the Underdark. Still even with this experience hardening my bones I found it an increasing trial to resist the numbing cold of the "Fane". Despite this, we pushed on. I am proud of my companions and their strength of spirit to continue forging on a path that for many would spell only certain death. Because of this, we have persevered. But I take nothing for granted.

Perhaps it is that very ease of entry that concerns my heart as we faced no true opposition to the Inner Fane, passing through the curious gates one after the other, honestly and openly declaring our intent to destroy the cult and forever deny Therizdun his freedom. There is too much unknown to forge a judgement in this matter, but part of me must wonder, just why are we allowed entry so easily when our intent is clear? Are the gates merely a barrier for those who would decieve the Doomdreamers, or is their purpose more mysteriously connected, allow the Doomdreamers to prepare a trap or other unsavory greeting for us? Again, nothing is clear. I must assume the worst, that they are indeed aware of our presence here in their realm, and that they are waiting for us. What should we expect? I cannot know, though the mysterious invisible sentinels watching us before concerns me greatly. It is frustrating, but there is no help to be found from without, we must depend on eachother or we are surely doomed to failure. The heat here is blistering, shockingly different from the fridgid realm we leave. What is it the humans say? Out of the frying pan... into the fire.

-Arora Whurlode
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From Arora's Journal

Postby Cailin » February 7th, 2010, 3:09 pm

Sun Dec 20, 2009

So we have an ally within the cult! Ha! Not only this, but the second in command under Hedrick himself? If this is a trap it is an expertly crafted one. Ultimately, we have no choice but to trust this man, who until recently seemed just as mad and enraptured by Therizun's thrall as the rest of them. He gives us information invaluable to our cause, items which he assures us will help, and a plan other than marching straight up to the Doomdreamers themsevles and asking politely for them to bugger off. He assures us that his intentions are pure, that they are that of atonement, but I still know not what has inspired such a monumental change of heart (though in our favor it seems to be). My father always used to say that if one is given a the gift of a labor mule, no good can come of critisizing its teeth. But... father is not here, and he did not have to face such a task as daunting as this. This man who propports to be on our side may very well betray us in the end, though I sense no deception from him.

His words seem to have aided us thus far, however. We have obtained an orb which seems to be the key to the cult's undoing. If it is possible to destory such a thing as this, I shall do it with great vigor. For now, hope only to obtain the sister orb, the greater instrument of the cult, and prevent them from raising spirits of elemental princes long forgotten. I must make an effort to bury myself in the Great Libraries of Estagund, perhaps make submitted entries to further our collective knowlege of such things. But I cannot concern myself with the future as of yet, there is only the present to think about now. Of consequences and plans, of goals and strategy.

Vister and the Azer (Erathis forgive me for I cannot remember his name at this time), seem only barely suited for this place, they are weak and in need of proper rest and recovery, yet still they try. Perhaps it is because they have no other option, perhaps it is because they have nothing else to do. I care not of their motivations, for they seem capable enough. It has been... comforting to have another paladin of Erathis here with us, though it is not to say that all paladins get along, even when they serve the same god. We call come to Erathis from different paths, and Ertahis recieves all who would heed her wisdom. I make no judgements on Vister, or the Azer. If they die, it is my failure but theirs as well. I hope it does not come to that but we all do what must be done to save everything we know is worth saving.

-Arora Whurlode
Cailin
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From Arora's Journal

Postby Cailin » February 7th, 2010, 3:10 pm

Sun Dec 20, 2009

If I complained about the frigid cold of the outer fane, it is only because I had never experienced true heat such as the inner fane produces. It appears here flame is the birthright of all creatures we encounter. The heat warps and twists the air, causing the sort of flickering mirages that only dwell in the heat of the mountain. It is an unnatural place broken apart by the spike of darkness thrust deep into the voclanic wound. I cannot explain it, but I feel pity for this mountain, for what it has become a part of. This evil driven into its core taints and violates the stone. I will not forgive those who have done such a thing as this, as a dwarf this is the greatest of atrocity.

The Doomdreamers will suffer my wrath by the end of this. I swear it.

As if it were not enough to be forced into the furnace itself, we must fight the very doors themselves? This citadel is evil beyond measure, that much is certain. It contains within it a Vocanic Dragon, the likes of which I have never known. An ancient, and wicked force of power and I am glad to have the sheild of flame to protect me. I wonder now if perhaps the dragon adorning the front was a dragon of this very type we have encountered. That certainly would be an interesting development. A trial by fire, if ever there were one. Then it lay dead, smoldering even as a corpse, a pool of laval bile fit for no forge on this plane or the next. It is an evil thing and only evil can come of it. I am glad to see the end of it now, for my steps grow weary and my eyes warm with suffering. It has been so long since Estagund, since I have seen the Shining Lands and the Golden Water, the great temples of Chavyondat... and the Rift... even in its own way it calls to my heart whenever I find myself in the tunnels of this place, so unmistakeably dwarven hewn is the rock that I find myself whistful for the Eartheart Imperial Ale, the stone is more solid there than any other place I have come to know. The others cannot know this of course, for their feet are accustomed to the softness of soil. But stone is different. It does not bend or absorb impact. It is rough and brutal and beautiful when shaped by the will of the engineers and artifacters. Walking on grass is... a pretty experience but much more like walking in sand to me. This is why feel such fondness for cities, with stone-layed streets and buildings made of rock and carved right into the mountain cliffs... it is a sight and a feeling unlike any other.

But I must remind myself that this is the very reason I cannot be there now. I cannot allow harm to come to my world, to the people in it, to... to what civilation has accomplished. Perhaps when all this is over and I have given everything to prevent the coming of Therizdun, perhaps then I will have proven myself to Erathis and earned and answer to the questions that have burned within me for so long, questions my dead father (Erathis keep him) cannot provide, questions that for so long have proven as stubborn and unreadable as the rocks themselves.


*Her quill hesitates... the ink drips on to the paper briefly, obscuring the text slightly.*

...Who am I?

-Arora
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A Few Facts About Arora:

Postby Cailin » February 7th, 2010, 3:12 pm

Sat Jan 09, 2010

A Few Facts About Arora:

1. She writes her journal in common not out of any practical reason but because she finds the appearance of the letters more aesthetically pleasing than Dwarven.
2. She has no Dwarven accent whatsoever. Perhaps it is a combination of her time spend in Estagund and her desire to "fit in" to her surroundings.
3. Unlike every Dwarf she has ever known, Arora does not fear the sea. She does hate the noise it makes, however.
4. Arora is actually a lightweight compared to most other Dwarves. The only way to find this out would be to get a group of dwarves together and let the inevitable drinking contest sort it out.
5. Arora was once approached to join the Maquar, an elite group of warriors who serve the Raja of Estagund, but she was unhappy with the strict code of conduct and limitations required of them and abandoned the notion.
6. Arora has no musical ability whatsoever and will only sing when very very drunk, and always in dwarven.
Cailin
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From Arora's Journal

Postby Cailin » February 7th, 2010, 3:12 pm

Sat Jan 09, 2010

The Dark Fruit had been nothing to me! I had stood strong against the fool temptation of the dark promises of Therizdun and his kind. I had felt nothing but disdain and despite those gifts the dark god bestowed on Arath (who did partake) I feel no regret, no pang of desire and without such discipline I could not have made it thus far.

But the damned Dealer, may Erathis scatter his bones to the nine hells, he tempted me. Empty, souless sockets, born by the very dark forces we seek to extinguish, and still, I yearned. Despite myself, my hand lifted towards those tempting promises, promises I had not thought to dream of in even my most hopeful longings.

And curse me as well, for I still feel tempted even now. Erathis has truly forsaken this place, if I find no peace in knowing I have done what is Just. There can be no Justice in a game of chance. And yet... oh and yet.

Long have I imagined in the cold forgotten corners of time, if she still lives, if she thinks about me, what she is like. My father, Belhem Whurlode (may he be honored by the Stone and its Keepers), could not be convinced, even in his final admittance, to tell me of my mother. He saw it fit to deny me, for reasons unknown. Perhaps this pains me more than anything else. Not knowing why. The injustice of it. The unfairness therein burns me.

I must have been terribly unwanted by her, whoever she was. There are not that many well established houses outside of the Rift. I cannot guess her reasons. I only know they met in Estagund, at Erathis' high temple overlooking the Shining Sea. I have conjured up many versions of that story, the only story my father ever told of her.

And as I looked at those cards placed upon the table, all I saw was that temple in the sunlight. I saw a woman in silhouette with arms outstretched in welcome. I has been too long, she would have said, I missed you so my daughter.

My weakness shames me. How close I could have been to losing everything, all for the ridiculous notion that I could just be given what I wanted. A selfish fancy unworthy of my father's memory. It is for him that I restrained myself, though the bitter and willful parts of my soul would have me ignore him in a fit of impetuous desire. In my anger and agony at having everything promised me but not being able to take it, I turned to the only thing that made sense: the mission. I ranted and made passionate pleas, after everything that had happened I could not allow them to draw another blasted card without my protest being clear and unmistakable. If I have learned anything from all this is that I have just as much ownership of the actions of others as they do themselves. To put it in plainer terms, when Aurum does something ridiculous that affects the rest of us I am responsible for allowing it to happen. This is what unity means. We are in this together, and if I allow myself even the slightest alienation I will not serve myself or them properly.

I must admit, it was Melek who surprised me most when he asked Aurum to stop drawing cards. Perhaps shocked would be a better way of putting it. Melek, who up until this point has pushed the limits of sanity beyond what I thought was possible, I had almost not thought him capable of restraint. Why he chose the way he did remains a mystery to me still. It doesn't matter in the end, I suppose, as long as we are able to continue. All our wildest dreams and desires will mean nothing if we give up everything to get them. Therizdun will take it all back a hundred-fold if we do not stop him. Too much depends on our success. Too much rests on our mantle. The Shining Sea and the alabaster temple with its filigree and marble will mean nothing if we fail.

And the arms shall remain forever closed.

-Arora Whurlode
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Postby Cailin » February 7th, 2010, 3:13 pm

Fri Jan 22, 2010

Heartbeats are measured in years, it seems, as Aurum watches her and the others. He is leaving to seek after his comrades - his greatest wish since she has ever known him. They both know this path will part them, they both know neither can follow the other. Arora feels the pause well up within her, but Erathis whispers in her ear even through the din of the thundering hillside. "Harmony is balance, Justice is fair, Honor asks nothing you cannot give. Such is the way of the Adama. Trust... Arora. Trust. You are the maker of great things. They will find their own way." Is it really her god speaking, or her own heart? She cannot know, the world is crashing down around her.

"Just as the soul of your quest is written on your heart, so is the fate of the world written unto mine. I wish you nothing but good fortune. You have been a worthy ally... and friend." She clasps his massive scaled hand in her smaller, more stout palm. Between them is a casm both real and imagined, but they are connected, too. Arora can feel the strands of commradery, friendship and respect binding them together in the sadness that creeps into her soft smile. She has known this day would come, eventually. She expected to be angry, all the same. At least a little, perhaps, but it is not so. She feels only a mingled sense of loss, accpetance, and the same stalwart optimism that has kept her heart bright in even the darkest of places. Arora feels the ground beneath her rumble and shake. The air around her is thick with ash and sulfur. She opens her mouth to speak, but the words die on her lips and time is too short. She sighs slowly.

'See them through to the end, Erathis.' She prays silently as Aurum's hand slips from hers, her eyes graze Melek's usual featureless expression as the phantom steed whinnys softly as he throws his pack over its back, she smiles at him, nodding slowly. She understands. 'Protect them and guide them through the current in the dark water, grant them saftey in the face of whatever trials await them. Be with them Erathis where I cannot follow.'

She will miss them both, she knows this, watching with silent grief as their steeds disappear rapidly in the growing distance between them, the smoke obscuring them as if fate herself were swallowing them up forever. She looks down at the small, broken piece of the obex Aurum placed so gently into her hand. Her fingers close around the totem softly and she slips it into her pack reverantly.

"It's time to go." She says suddenly, but softly. Her voice is broken and mingled with melancholy and grim determination. Vister nods, casting Arora a sympathetic look, and as they speed away from the wounded monolith, Arora manages a final look back towards the volcano as it purges the evil from its core in a violent upheaval of fire, stone and destruction. Cinders float in the air and settle on her hair and skin, it is white, like snow, she has never known snow. The forest is aflame and the whole world shudders and moans under the strain of the energy erupting from the evil root that had wound its way so far into the fissure of the mountain.

She spurs the steed into a rapid gallop, the wind and the smoke sting her eyes and tears form, heavy and blurring her vision. She isn't crying, she thinks to herself, it is only the wind.

It is only the wind.
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From Arora's Journal: (SPOILERS: Ep 1)

Postby Cailin » February 7th, 2010, 3:13 pm

Tue Feb 02, 2010

Seeing Hommlet in such as state as to be preparing for war was simultaneously a gratifying and terrible thing. Farmers and potters practiced with staves and bows and swords, men who have not known true battle and death, boys barely able to hold a weapon let alone wield it, the knights and bowmen in various states of practice and skill... the fear in their eyes. But not fear of death, no. Fear of failure perhaps. Fear of the unknown. But not death, even in these civilians the fire of greatness has been kindled by this threat. My heart finds cause to rejoice in this, and that at least is something. I will do all I can to make sure they do not die in vain.

Elmo is even more serious than usual, which is some sort of achievement among humans, in my opinion. Rufus and Burne finally see the wisdom of our warnings (let us pray it is not too late), and have gathered a small but respectable force to challenge the encroachment of the temple and bring down their dark machinations.

I met the most unusual human today as well. His name is Brandis, though I am unclear if this is his clan or simply what he chooses to call himself. At any rate, I find him charming, in the way that only a seasoned warrior can be. He is brash and bold, of good humor and kind affect, brave and perhaps somewhat addled either by age or bodily trauma, I cannot say. He may even admit to this, it seems as though he would be the type to do so. Still, I can say with some certainty that I am confident in his ability and look forward to serving alongside him when the time comes for us to face the ever growing shadow. My comrades have said I am too eager to trust and accept. Perhaps they are right, though it has not failed me so far... I cannot help my nature, it seems.

I was impressed by the warrior's ability to educate the troops so thoroughly, though I may question his tendency to knock them to the ground so eagerly. Better his blade than the enemy's I suppose. If they do not learn it with the blunt end they will very well learn it at the point, this is sure. Both Hugh and Wrenn seemed drawn to the archers, for which I am grateful as I have no kith or kin who can make an arrow fly as true as that ranger can, nor have I seen such a clever (and clean!) magic user as my gnomish friend. The bowmen are in good care with them.

I cannot help but feel the absence of Melek and Aurum, though by now the pain of their departure has ebbed to a dull ache. I hope to see them again, though I know not how or when, or if we will even recognize each other when the time comes. Arath has been notably absent, though I suppose I am partially to blame for not seeking him out. I do not think he is avoiding me, busy as he is with the preparations for tomorrow, but still some part of my heart stings from his silence. There is no time, though, to worry about such things as perceived slights or missing companions. I spoke to the people of the town, warriors and farmers alike, their hearts obviously heavy, laden with sorrow and doubt and uncertainty. I could not give them certainty, I could not feed them pretty lies of ease and success. I spoke instead of sacrifice, of honor and justice and the nobility of the fight against evil. I told them exactly what they would be facing, I spared no detail from their minds. I tempered their spirits as a blacksmith tempers steel. They will not withstand the fear unless they are prepared. They cannot protect their hearts from cowardice without the shield of righteousness. I have given them this as best I can, now that darkness settles into night as this town faces an uncertain dawn. Tonight I pour over the maps and make sure we have not missed anything important, any possible tactic the enemy may use. We may face vast numbers beyond our own army. And if this is the case, only our raw power and tactics will save us. Let us hope they are enough.

-Arora Whurlode
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Entanglement (SPOILERS: Ep 2)

Postby Cailin » February 7th, 2010, 3:15 pm

Sun Feb 07, 2010

Three broken ribs. Dislocated shoulder. Multiple contusions and a minor concussion. Cuts and scrapes, one large gash along the right forearm when she had been too slow with the shield. The cut is deep, but clean and the blade managed to miss her major arteries. It will mend well, the cleric has assured her.

It's the best Arora has felt in months.

She's not sure how she feels about the statue. In the East Rift statues are made in the likeness of kings, not heroes. Even then, it is only after they have passed into the rock again. It is the closest thing to immortality on the mortal plane. But Arora is not dead, after all. She smiles, and intuitively she knows precisely how long the retrieval of stone this size and quality would take to mine, transport and chisel. The people of Hommlet managed to do this within a month, which impresses her. Humans are not Dwarves, but they manage to do a respectable job. Just wait until the birds come, she thinks to herself,then you'll learn to be humble again proud statue. This is one of the benefits of building statues in the rift. No birds. She smirks as the thought occurs to her as she thumbs the Honored Ones medallion absently in her hand.

This would be enough. Wouldn't it? This would have to be enough.

"Am I interrupting?"

Her head shoots up, startled out of her thoughts. It is a common occurrence, she's beginning to note. It had been something of an adjustment when she had first left East Rift and its Dwarven culture. Humans were always interrupting everything, they couldn't help themselves. She shakes her head slowly, turning to face the man approaching her.

Elmo is not in his usual full plate armor, shifting his weight slightly to the left foot more than the right. His eyes are a mix of relief and melancholy, set into bright deep brown eyes that defy his age. He is looking up at the statue of Burne. He smells faintly of ash and ale. He is still in mourning, this statue is a cold comfort, he is resigned and fighting with himself and guilt and duty and the unyielding truth of war. These are the things Arora notices, all in the span of a few heartbeats.

They stand in silence for a while, the sky darkening with delicate shades of orange and purple streaking across the sky from the horizon, throwing the statues into silhouette. "In the Eartheart, those who fall in battle are known as knurl karak um. We make songs of them, usually drinking songs, and light flames in the high tower to mark their passing when war is done."

Elmo nods absently, "What is... what did you call it? Knurl-?"

Arora shifts her eyes to the statue again, pausing. "There's no clear translation, but I suppose the closest could be 'those who endure within the foundation we stand upon'."

Elmo smiles a little. "All that in three words, eh? I had no idea Dwarven words had such profound meaning."

She smiles, shrugging helplessly. "Dwarven is a very complex and subtle language. Why the Great Ballads of Kings are not sung in our language first by the bards I will never know." She laughs, "as I said, it's more of a general intent. Their sacrifices are what allow us to survive and grow. They make us stronger and we thank them for that. It is the best thing we can do to honor their memory."

He is smiling still, but his eyes are distant now. He is caught in a memory. His hands are rough and calloused, clasped with thumbs pressing together thoughtfully. His eyes close and Arora recognizes some of the words he is murmuring as some sort of prayer. Though he towers over her by nearly two feet, she reaches up and places a hand on his shoulder. She is still wearing her gauntlets though now she wishes she weren't. They are heavy and unwieldy and hardly comforting though Elmo doesn't seem to care.

"Thank you, Arora."

The words are hard, but not insincere. He is a man of restraint and discipline. He does not show weakness easily and Arora knows instinctively that she is one of only a handful of people to see him in such a state of vulnerability. Her mind flutters briefly to the druid. Her face contorts into a closed-lipped grimace, and she looks down. He has lost more than she has, by far. He is a good man to be able to keep himself from hating them, hating what they have dredged up from the muck of the past. They have reopened old wounds and created new ones. They have destroyed the innocent peace of this town in more ways than one. It was worth it, of course. Hommlet will endure. It will heal, in time. Life will go on and a new generation will not know the horrors so keenly as they.

Elmo and Arora say their farewells and she leaves him by the statue to his thoughts, while her mind turns to the whirling roots of past and future which to her are so intricately bound together as to be impossible to separate. They have fused so tightly it chokes her, sometimes. She's in the temple now, though she has been largely unaware of moving in its direction. Now she is standing before the great altar which still bears the marks of reconstruction. Vister is there, she looks different, and it takes a moment for Arora to realize it it because she has had a full month of recovery since they last saw each other. They clasp arms and embrace.

It is Vister who suggests going to Estagund's temple. "If you really intend to make an Entreaty, they would be the best suited to hear it, I believe. But...what exactly is it you want them to tell you?"

Arora looks down with sudden shyness. She has not spoken about her past to anyone, no more than the inconsequential matters, anyway. Besides, having no idea who your mother was and having a father who refused to tell you even when he lay dying wasn't exactly polite camp-side conversation. The last thing the group had needed was her plaintive whining about matters that had no impact on them. It would create doubt and uncertainty in her abilities and stability. It would have jeopardized everything. They would not have respected her then, she was certain of this. They would have wondered what was so horrible about her that her own mother had wanted nothing to do with her. A tear slips down her cheek unbidden and Vister looks away, suddenly uncomfortable.

"I... I'm sorry Vister. It's nothing. I'm... tired." She stands, letting the words fall into silence. "I will go to Estagund, I think. Tomorrow."

"So soon?" Vister looks up at her, concern knitting in her brow. "You've only just returned, and your friend is still recovering. Are you leaving them all behind? Why abandon them so?"

Arora bristles at Vister's words though she knows the paladin does not intend to offend. She scowls, clenching her hands into fists and fighting the urge to strike the small blonde woman. "Deomin is staying behind with Arath for some time, he will be in fine company." She turns away, sweeping her gaze across the wide expanse of the building, glowing softly with the light of many candles. "We all have our own paths to tread, we made no vows to each other. I abandon no one."

Vister frowns softly. "But, Erathis-"

"Erathis does not speak to them!" Arora whirls on the other paladin angrily, her voice raising with barely strangled anger. "They are my friends and I know my vows and I know my duty. Erathis makes no claim to them, their hearts are their own! She. Does. Not. Speak. To. Them!"

Vister is shrinking back against the altar, a tremor just barely glimmering in her voice. "I... I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

But Arora is already walking purposefully out the temple doors, the pain in her chest growing with each angry step. In the morning she will be gone. Depending on where Brandis is going she may travel alongside him for a while, if she can catch up with his damn monstrous reptilian mount. She is very aware of her bite-sized nature and the creature makes her uncomfortable. The rest of the night is spent talking some to her companions and others who come to her. She cannot refuse anyone and it is late when she finally finds a bed to rest in. She has said her goodbyes.

It's time to leave. To Estagund, and a hope of final freedom from the entangled roots of history.

(Click to read what happens next!)
Cailin
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From Arora's Journal: (SPOILERS: Ep 5)

Postby Cailin » February 22nd, 2010, 1:30 pm

It didn't seem right to burn the body in the usual dwarven traditions. There was the rain of course to contend with now but something about it seemed... inappropriate. Perhaps I just needed something to do, and digging a grave seemed like a fine distraction from all those messy thoughts and emotions. I suppose in a way I was burying more than just the body of a broken paladin that day. Betrayal is bitter, worse than Viccen root or Underdark Ale and three times as potent. I miss ale, I but I miss the old Arath more.

I refuse to believe this is is not without nefarious underpinnings. Arath couldn't do this to us, not without something terrible happening to him. He wouldn't do this to us, to me. He wouldn't leave us to die, knowingly sending us into a death trap for some corroded rat-eaten fossil of a crown! There has to be an explanation!

Wrenn seems particularly hard-hit, I can feel his anger surging powerfully through the ring and I worry about him. There's something different about him since he returned... and I know he has not been fully forthcoming about his experiences over the last year. After what happened to Arath I suppose I should keep an eye on the Invoker, if for nothing more than to spot a good opportunity to talk to him about my concerns.

My heart is all twisted up, and I don't think I've truly accepted the reality of Arath's actions, as I did not see them for myself. Perhaps that is why this is so hard to accept... and perhaps not. Only time will tell. At any rate, I am glad to see my friends again after so long. The memories of them are the treasure I keep in my heart and I know that they are all talented and capable adventurers in their own right. I am lucky to be with them in this difficult time, and would trust each of them with my life.

-Arora Whurlode-Keshali
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The Stigs (SPOILERS: Ep 8)

Postby Cailin » March 3rd, 2010, 11:57 am

(Ready for a little side-story in Skyclave?)

It's the little things that Arora notices about people, at first. The way the tiny muscles in their brow twitch, the unconscious pursing of lips in thought, a slight increase in their shallow breathing, or the way the thin lips curl over teeth in a forced smile. This man is lying to her and she knows it before he has even opened his mouth.

"I'm a bit lost Ma'am, could you tell me how to get to the Redwing Training Clave?"

It's crowded and the man shifts slightly from one foot to the other, eyes just barely glancing over her shoulder. But Arora can feel the diversion. She is meant to turn around while this man pickpockets her. Her feet dig in, turning slightly inward as if preparing for a shove. But none came.

Confused, Arora began making noises as if she were trying to come up with an answer for the growingly impatient man. Her eyes scanned the wall of shops behind him, finally catching her own reflection in one of the many mirrored bells and chimes hanging from Grisellda's Wonderous Sound and Charm Emporium. She could clearly see a small figure lurking just barely behind her. An accomplice!

Quickly Arora whirled around and grasped the startled would-be-thief by the wrist, the coin purse dropping into her other hand. At first Arora thought she had captured a particularly malnourished gnome but as the figure struggled and strained against her she was started to see that this was a human child! Eyes narrowing, she turned back towards the man who was to act as the distraction, but he had vanished in the crowd when she had turned around, leaving the patsy to his fate.

She sighed, half lifting/half-dragging the boy to the side of the crowd, ignoring his attempts at biting and scratching his way out of her grip. She could turn the boy in, Arora considered, regarding the unkempt and dirty appearance of the urchin she had captured. Somehow it didn't seem quite right that this child should suffer because of the influence status and society had thrust upon him. However, neither could she turn a blind eye to his misdeeds and those who enabled such behavior. The child had finally stopped struggling and was now standing defiantly still, staring at her with eyes of daggers. He appeared to be 7 or maybe 8, but could have been even as old as 11 depending on how successful he was at finding/stealing food.

"What is your name, kid?"

"My name is 'Go soak your head you stupid dwarf'"

Arora bristled inwardly, remembering that this was a child and she would not be roused to anger by some pre-adolescent.

"Very well. I'll think of something to call you later. What I really want to know is who sent you to rob me? I have a feeling you didn't come up with that plan yourself."

This time it was the boy who bristled and turned beet red. "I could do it myself! I can do anything all by myself I don't need anyone!" He tried to wrench his hand out of her grip but she remained clasped to his wrist. Finally he relented, finding he was getting himself nowhere. "I...I work for Lurd."

Arora raised an eyebrow. "...Lurd?"

The boy's eyes widened as she spoke the name, and he leaned forward, voice barely above a whisper. "Lurd the turd. He's the top dwarf in Refuge. We all work for him."

"I see." Arora frowned a little at the child's obvious state of poverty. Clearly whoever was profiting off of his labor was not sharing the wealth with his subordinates. "And who exactly is 'we'? Who works for Lurd?"

"All of us..." The boy said nervously, as if telling some sort of embarrassing secret. "The orphans. The Stigs."

"Don't you have somewhere else you could go?" She said dumbly, and the child gave her a look that was oddly mature and cynical for his age.

"Stigs aren't welcome outside of Refuge. Most people don't like us much." He shifted slightly, uncomfortable.

"Well..." Arora said thoughtfully, "I like you just fine. Aside from the stealing my coins and calling me names part of course." She smiled warmly and the boy brightened a little, then dimmed just as quickly as two Imaskari Vengeance Takers approached the pair.

"Did this filthy little Stigling do something to bother you Miss?" The first Imaskari guard said, sending a positively repulsed look at the urchin cowering in Arora's grasp.

"Not at all. In fact I was just about to thank him for helping me with some directions." She released his hand and slowly withdrew a glittering coin and pressed it into the child's palm. "Thank you very much young man." Arora rose from her kneeling position and looked straight up into the guards eyes earnestly. "See? There's nothing the matter here, I'm sure your fine work is needed elsewhere." She smiled and the guards wandered off.

She had expected the boy to have vanished when she turned back, but she felt a slight tug on the sleeve of her tunic. It was the boy, coin in hand, grasping her by the waist and pressing his head into her side, crying. Arora let her hand rest on the top of the boy's head and she whispered softly to him no passers-by could hear. The boy looked up and nodded, and from far away it would appear as if he were giving her detailed directions to somewhere that she was busy writing down. "Is there anyplace else you can go for just a little while while I sort this out?"

"Well, there are places in the Regal where I can hide for a few days, lots of little places Lurd can't get to."

"Go there then, use the money to get some food. I'll take care of the rest."

The boy turned to go, but paused briefly. "Thanks lady."

"My name is Arora."

"I'm Kasen." And with that the boy vanished into the crowd.

Arora smiled, and tucked the piece of paper into her pocket.

Time to get to work.
Cailin
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From Arora's Journal: (SPOILERS: Ep 8)

Postby Cailin » March 5th, 2010, 2:04 pm

It's nice to finally have some good news to write about for a change. After several days of research and investigation we have located what may be one of the only people in Skyclave (or even Faerun) who seem to have a firm grasp on the concepts of planar-alignment. Oddly enough, she is the product of some sort of chronomancy gone wrong. It will be difficult to treat Frida Veruth as she is, and not what she appears to be. I have a feeling she will be happy to remind me each time I forget her "true" age when speaking with her. If Arath is behind the ransacking of her home as I fear he is, then we may be closer to his trail than I had originally thought! According to Frida we have two years, give or take a few months, before the Crown can be activated. What else is required? We do not know...yet, but I must admit knowing we have no immediate danger to face makes it a bit easier to breathe. Now I can see the world more instead of the blur that was Hommlet, Rastor, and the mines.

And what a world this Skyclave is turning out to be! Every corner seems to glitter with some new and exotic wonder, and there are so many interesting people living in this vast, towering city it makes my head spin. We have only been here a few days yet, but already I feel this place is teeming with stories yet untold, and there's still of course the matter of that loathsome Lurd fellow in Refuge. If what the Stig Kasen said is true, then this "fellow" deserves a visit from my hammer as soon as I can manage it. The very idea of forcing children to steal to fill his pockets absolutely nauseates and infuriates me. I think I will enjoy seeing him try to wriggle out from under the justice he's been courting for so long.

-Arora Whurlode-Keshali

Also: It turns out I may be a fan of music after all. Particularly the handsome, bold sort with enough nerve to ask me point-blank for a kiss. Yes. Music. I could get to like that sort of thing.
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Stars (SPOILERS: Ep 9)

Postby Cailin » March 12th, 2010, 1:32 pm

Therefore it is profoundly dangerous to attempt altering the age of a person's physical form because of the variant and unpredictable effects of time distortion on the sequential nodes of the spiritual bonds to the body, not the least of which include the tremulous hormonal development structure (fig.1b) linked with the Ardencine zone of the incorperal threads. Considering this rather under-researched element-

Arora closes the book. It is beginning to give her a headache.

"Not interested in The Hazards of Theoretical Chronomancy? I suppose I can't blame you, it's not my most... clearly worded publication."

Arora looks up slowly from the worn, leather-bound cover at the small girl standing in front of her. No... not a girl. This was a well respected academic, nearly peerless in her understanding of planar theory. Despite this Arora was having a rather difficult time reconciling the enormous discrepancy between Frida's mind and form. She puts the book down softly and sighs, looking up into the mysterious alien night sky Frida has created for them.

"None of these stars are right."

Frida frowns a little, following the dwarf's gaze into the sky sprinkled with stars. "Pardon?"

"I can't find Ieriyn anywhere, or The Dagger. The constellations are all... wrong." Arora murmurs softly, still lost in the unfamiliar sky.

Frida has now crossed her arms over her chest, her lips pursed in a pout. "Well... we aren't exactly in that plane anymore. You can hardly expect the stars to be the same! Do you know how much energy it takes to ensure this place even has a day/night cycle?"

Arora's eyes widen and she turns back to the perturbed, child-like woman. "Oh! I'm sorry. I've just... I've never really been beyond the material plane before." She pauses, "Not like this, anyway. I suppose it never really occurred to me that the stars here would not be my own. Thank you."

Now it is Frida who appears taken aback. Her arms drop to her sides with a sigh. "Hold on a minute." As suddenly she vanishes into her small tent, returning moments later with a rather large large book with very big pages and several silver spots of shimmering ink dotting the cover. "Here," Frida holds out the book expectantly "take it."

Arora hesitates, unsure of Frida's intent but then slowly draws the book to her, drawing her fingers over the elaborately decorated (and considerably large) cover. Frida is watching her now with an eagerness that is almost unnerving and Arora opens the book to discover a whirling cosmos of illustrations and images of sparkling star groups moving and twisting across the large pages. At the top is a title scrawled in neat printed letters: The Planar Sky: An Illustrated Compendium of Multi-Planar Celestial Configurations and Constellations by Frida Veruth.

She smiles, looking back at the scholar who for all the world looks like a child who has just won some sort of academic contest. Frida raises her eyebrows high, pointing at the book with a delicate finger. "It will revise itself automatically when it enters a new plane, you see." She smiles with triumph, "No one has ever developed a self-contained astronomic-mapping implement before! And it renders the images at whatever time you wish. You can uh... hold onto it for a while... if you want to..."

Arora closes the book gently and nods, "It is quite a remarkable achievement. I'm sure Wrenn will be dazzled!" She smiles brightly, glancing around the camp briefly but not finding him anywhere nearby. Frida nods.

"If he's half as clever with arcane magics as he appears to be, I'm sure he will." Frida smiles a little before ambling away towards her shelter once more, leaving Arora with the book and the dim fire. Arora is already turning the pages back to the mortal plane, to the stars of the Shining South. The Archer, Shaundral the Drifting Star, The Wand and The Dancer. She smiles to herself. Hugh the archer, Brandis the drifter, Wrenn the master of magic and wands, and Deomin the free spirited dancer of the air. But where is she? The Anvil perhaps? Or The Chalice? She cannot see it. But it's late, it didn't bother her that much anyway and soon she is asleep. The book lies open to the air, stars dancing unseen in her lap.
Cailin
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On a Boat (SPOILERS: Ep 9)

Postby Cailin » March 26th, 2010, 12:58 pm

"Hey dwarven lass, you know why your kind are so welcome on board?"

Arora turned slowly, facing the somewhat drunken sailor leaning over a large pile of rigging line next to her. He was in his late forties, unshaven and wore a tattered red cap, bleached pale and pink by the sun and salt water. He stank of fish and some sort of ale that even Arora had to crinkle her nose at. Yes. This was why she avoided ships.

The man seemed undaunted by her pointed, observational silence and leaned closer. "Firstly, they don't get scurvy. Which means more limes for me!" He laughed then, completely ignoring Arora's growing scowl. "And the other thing is..." He whispered loudly before shouting "they're are a bitch to try and tip over so you can just grab onto their ample bosoms in a storm and be safe! Ha ha ha!" The laughter rose among the crew and Arora felt her features tinge pink as other ship-hands laughed and slapped their knees. She looked down, partially to avoid their stares but then noticed how the sailors foot was nestled neatly in a coil of rigging line. She moved her gaze to the heavy lead weight at the end of the line, designed to work as a counterbalance. She sighed, and began to move away when the sailor reached out and tapped her shoulder.

"Aw now don't go giving me to cold shoulder, Dumpling. I was hoping I might be able to demonstrate point two below deck, if yer quite done tying yerself to the mast!"

Eyes narrowed. "No thank you." She said, brushing his hand off her shoulder.

"Well that would be just like you paladin prudes. Not enough grit to handle us real men!" He grabbed his crotch lewdly and was in mid-thrust when a delicate dwarven foot pushed the weight over the side of the ship. The rigging flew into a spiral, slipping under the water and catching the man's foot as he was launched into the air, pulled screaming up forty feet before getting his pant-leg lodged in the pulley system while the sailors aboard broke into a chorus of laughter and cheering.

Arora smiled.

Maybe ships weren't so bad.
Cailin
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Swords and Shields (SPOILERS: Ep 12)

Postby Cailin » April 1st, 2010, 11:12 am

Frida splayed her cards on the barrel-drum table triumphantly. "I believe I win again Kalla!" She smiled happily as she swept the gold off the table with one dramatic sweeping motion, making the coins clink merrily as they fell into her pack. Kalla, for all his stoicism, appeared rather aghast.

"I do believe you may have under-emphasized your familiarity with Swords and Shields." He said flatly, noting the mischievous glint in her eye with some suspicion.

"Oh come now," Frida began shuffling the cards and arranging them once more. "I'm sure it's just beginner's luck."

"Now now, I'm an old man. If you make me much poorer I will barely be able to afford a cane."

Again Frida smiled. Though it was true this was the first time she had played Swords and Shields, she had neglected to mention she was a very, very quick study and had managed to figure out a very viable strategy which Kalla had failed to notice and was now happily taking advantage of it. Easy.

Kalla sighed slowly, straightening up from his bent over position to peer at the deck and then Frida.

"Tell you what..." Frida rolled a coin between her fingers casually. "How about you get a chance to win it all back, plus an extra bonus!" She stifled a grin.

Something seemed to perk up in the old Githzerai's eyes and he nodded slowly. "What sort of bonus?"

"If you win? You pick." She smiled encouragingly. This was going to be too easy.

Minutes later Frida was sitting in front of a very empty table, cards in a messy pile to the side. How had this happened? It had all been going so well and then... She had done all the calculations... but how...?

Kalla was smiling very slightly as his pack now sagged heavily with gold. He would not have had to teach her such a harsh lesson had she not so handily beaten him the first time. By the time he had figured out her game she had already taken half his gold. Facing the shame of being beaten by a child, he chose to let her think she had continued the ruse and lost his other half on purpose. She happily settled into the false sense of security he had created for her, then offered him everything back. Just as he had intended.

Easy.

"Don't forget Frina. No magic."

She scowled at him, and kicked the table with a defeated grunt. Her mind still reeling with confusion.

The next day Arora stared in absolute shock as she saw Frida on deck slaving over a washboard, covered in suds and water. She was washing robes... with soap! She came nearer and opened her mouth to ask the question burning in her mind but was shot such a venomous look by the girl that Arora's mouth snapped shut and she spun around, putting as much distance between them as she could manage.

Kalla smiled and nodded kindly as Arora passed by. "Frida is being rather strange today!" She exclaimed, pointing at the girl savagely scrubbing a particularly muddy bit of cloth with an unfriendly glint in her eye.

A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth and he raised a knowing eyebrow. "Really? Well would you look at that..."
Cailin
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Laid to Rest (SPOILERS: Ep 12)

Postby Cailin » April 9th, 2010, 6:34 pm

Twenty-one flaming arrows fizzled into the dark sea, lit only by the glowing lights shining from their ship and the massive brass lantern hanging off the stern. The ship rocked lazily as Hugh lowered his bow finally. Arora cleared her throat.

"Come sailors, mourn the loss of these
commended to the deep
the Sea who surely loved them best
Has finally made them sleep
"

The sailors dispersed then with some quiet respectful murmurs, though Arora knew it would be just as bawdy and bustling below deck once the crew honored their fallen mates with ale and song. That really was the best way to do things, she thought. Solemn farewells never quite suited her but she could not refuse the captain's request for a small service in honor of the fallen crew.

Even so, she never wanted to do it again.

"Are you alright, Angora?"

Arora looked up, a smile tugging at the corner of her lips as Kalla patted her shoulder with a feather-light, weathered hand. "I think so. I mean... I will be."

He nodded slowly, gazing out over the cold, dark water. "We've all done what we can. No one can expect anymore than that."

She sighed, leaning against the railing. She no longer worried about tumbling overboard, perhaps hurdling into the sea had cured that particular concern but the view still made her dizzy. The space between them was filled with the restless whispering of the sea lapping against the ship and the breeze pushing stray bits of dark hair across her face. There was nothing to say, and for once Arora was content with that.

They stood together on the deck for a while longer, the ship rocking peacefully back and forth... the songs of drunken sailors rising up from below deck made Arora smile faintly, while somewhere twenty-one arrows drifted to the bottom of the sea, settling in the deep grey silt.
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The Shape of Things to Come (SPOILERS: Ep 14)

Postby Cailin » April 18th, 2010, 11:35 pm

Far beyond the East Winds there lies a palace. It a wondrous, glittering fortress with windows made from gems set in silver and gold, walls of inlaid copper and ivory, and floors of beaten mithril. Within the walls of this glorious fortress stand two figures watching a pool of glistening silver with detached but interested looks.

"She has done well so far." One slender figure speaks with a soft, almost tender voice. He stands tall, an elf with glistening gold hair and piercing gold eyes. He looks at the other figure who scowls.

"Yes... for a mortal. We will see yet if that one is up to the task." The other figure appears to be a human man, with similar golden hair that brushes his shoulders and stern, hard eyes. He wears shining gold plate-mail and carries a glistening war hammer with silver inlay that forms the image of a long, sinuous dragon with wings spread wide.

"Must you be so cynical, Borkadd? The prophecy says-"

"He is wise beyond all of us, true, but prophecy can be broken. It is yet to be seen whether or not she is worthy."

"Then perhaps you should accept this assignment. After all, who better to judge than you?" The armored human seems to bristle at the elf's tremulous words but he remains still, gazing into the reflective pool. "One of us must go, and though you may not believe in her yet I believe you will at the very least find the experience... refreshing?" The elf's voice is hopeful and warm, touched with melodious, dulcet tones that echo delicately in the vast space of the room. The man sighs.

"Perhaps you are right. Even if this is a waste of our time, it will be good to stretch my wings once more."

The elf smiles, "I will inform him of your acceptance. Though... it is very likely he is already aware." When he turns back, the man is already gone, though he does not miss the glimmer of a small golden bird disappearing into the sunlight.
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At Sea (SPOILERS: Ep 13)

Postby Cailin » April 21st, 2010, 1:26 pm

Estagund is spawled out before her on a wave of sand and palm fronds. It is just an hour before sunset, the breeze coming off the sea brings the normally soaring temperatures down nearly 20 degrees. Chavyondat is a beautiful city, full of movement and sounds Arora has never heard in the Rift. The women here wear deep red coral jewelry and not much else, and in the growing evening she can smell jasmine and something dark and rich called coffee is offered to her by a smiling merchant. The little cup is warm in her hands as she stares across the trading quarter. It is strung with little enchanted lights and lanterns and braziers. There are rows and rows of stalls and carts heavy with produce, red snapper, colorful spices, glittering gems, golden figurines, sacks of beans and dried fruit. The drink is bitter and sweet at the same time, and she catches a hint of cinnamon and clove in it.

Arora is barely 14 and knows no one in the city, but as she looks out on this strange new place, she feels only a sense of burning curiosity and excitement. She has her father's spirit of discovery and adventure, and there is so much to discover in the world beyond the great doors of Eartheart. Something draws her deeper into the city walls and she finds herself enraptured by its exotic beauty. Gulls soar overhead, flocking to their various roosts and the sound of mercantile shouting dims, and the sound of the roaring ocean seems to drown all other sounds, louder, and louder.


Slowly, two large blue eyes squint and open. Arora is leaning against a crate on deck of The Laughing Maiden with a thin blanket pulled over her. The sky is deep blue, the sort of blue that Arora has come to associate with the coming dawn. She sighs heavily, shaking the dream which still clings and lingers on her senses. She can taste the sweet intensity of the coffee, she can still smell the jasmine... and then it is gone. A seagull bleats overhead, circling and eying the dwarf as it flies away towards the crows nest. Arora watches the bird dissappear, turning back to her pack and rummaging through it quietly. There is the little gold statuette, the prince turned king. Little yellow gems are set in his eyes and clothing, the ancient mark of the Shining Lands etched onto its surface. She holds it in her hand, feeling the weight of it. A little bit of home. It's warm, though that's likely the result of her sleeping on her pack, she prefers to imagine it is warm with the sun of another land... of home.

"Deep thoughts lass?" The crusted rumbling voice of the captain makes Arora start with such violence that the statuette nearly leaps out of her hands. She stumbles to her feet to face Dunlin. He peers at her merrily from deep wiry eyebrows, his beard is even more mussed than usual and he is missing his hat. Arora nods slowly.

"I was thinking about home."

"The Dwarf lands then?"

Arora pauses, "Not quite." She holds up the statuette which is now glittering with the light from the creeping sunrise. The captain eyes it with a mixture of appreciation and confusion. The pirate in him wishes to snatch it out of her hands, but it is an old impulse he has long mastered.

"The Shining Lands eh? Not the kind of place I'd imagine ye be enjoyin', being so near the sea and all."

She smiles, shrugging as she stares out into the sea. "I can't say I really imagined it being so either. But... there it is." She gestures out to the water as if she could see Estagund, Durpar and Ulgarth just on the horizon. "What about you Captain, where's home for you? Where did you grow up?"

Kaz Dunlin looks at her for a moment before cracking a huge smile. "Pirate ship."

Arora laughs. "Of course, how could I have not realized that!"

"Yar, born bouncin' on Umberlee's big blue titties, that be I!" The Captain breaks into a hearty laugh and slaps the dwarf's shoulders with a snort.

She can't stop laughing now, the image thrust into her mind with vividly ridiculous imagery.

It is a good morning, and when Frida asks them both innocently what was so funny, the Captain and Arora can barely stop themselves from bursting into another fit of raucous laughter.
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From Arora's Journal: (SPOILERS: Ep 14)

Postby Cailin » April 24th, 2010, 12:39 am

It has now been one and one half months since we left Skyclave on an uncertain path of twists and turns following Kalla's notions. Sometimes I am forced to wonder if the man is soft-headed, despite his battle prowess and good intentions. I do not know why, but even in the deepening chill of these mountains... I trust him. I trust all of them. Perhaps Arath would find that amusing, considering how expertly I was manipulated.

I doubt he will find it so amusing when I have dragged him out of hiding and the blunt end of Bahamut's justice hangs over him at last.

It seems so eventual, so laced with inevitability that I cannot help but shiver at the thought. When the time comes, will I be able to deliver justice? Can I look down at him, and let my hammer fall without hesitation? It is my duty. Perhaps it is my destiny, I cannot know.

What I do know is there is only one direction to move, only one path cut amongst the spires and valleys. Forward. Focus. Duty. Justice. The mountains conspire against me. The snow weedles into the joints of my armor, chilling me to the bone. The wind howls in my face and freezes the breath in my lungs.

But there is yet a chill which crawls into my very soul.

If I am the one who must make the final blow, I do not know if I will be able to do it. And that thought terrifies me more than anything this mountain harbors.

Arath once told me I was the first friend he'd ever had. In some quiet moment in the tree lined corridors of Rastor and Hommlet, he said that he was glad to have known me, and that our friendship was a precious thing to him.

Perhaps that was a lie, too. Perhaps his deciet extended further than I could have imagined.

And if it were true... that Arath must already be dead.

But it does nothing to comfort me.

In truth it may be that the day I feel comfortable killing a friend is the day I cease to be worthy of any title, be it Paladin, Justiciar, or Friend.

And what of these friends who toil beside me as we trudge up a solid hunk of ice and snow? I cannot throw away my duty to them under the pretense of some withering nostalgia. I have to think of them, as well.

I have to do what must be done.

Whatever that may be.


-Arora Whurlode-Keshali
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From Arora's Journal: (SPOILERS: Ep 14)

Postby Cailin » May 4th, 2010, 9:03 pm

Though it was serenely still at the peak of that mountain, I could not help but break the silence with a small cry of joy when I saw the lush valley below us. It was as if a large weight had been lifted off of me, my vigor restored to me in an instant as we all gazed onward with impossible relief.

All I can think of now is warm water, and warm beds, and warm food. The mountain wears on me in a very different manner than that of the sea, and though it is familiar and solid I do not feel guilt or remorse at leaving this abominable cold behind. While the cold of the rift can be sharp and crushing, the cold of the mountain is a biting, dull numbness that spreads slowly, like a disease. In short, I will not miss it.

These jumbled feelings of relief and wonder nearly pushed my thoughts away from a more personal matter. Nearly. Ever since that vision a few nights ago my mind has been drifting in memory with a confused sort of nostalgia. I do not long for the reality of the past, though its innocence is enviable.

I wonder...with what feelings will I look back upon this moment?

I am getting ahead of myself, of course. We must stop Arath before a future can even be possible. By Bahamut's wisdom, why did it have to be he? I would have much preferred some dark lord in a tower, some necromancer of Thay or a bedraggled shambling servant of some evil god. But no. The face of my enemy had to be familiar, it had to be that of a friend and ally. Fate, it seems, has a twisted sense of humor.

If he has already come and gone from this place, we have yet to see. It appears peaceful, at least.

Also I am fairly certain that I will never hear the end of it from Kalla, who despite his assurances that this place did indeed exist seemed just as surprised as we were to discover it.

Will wonders ever cease? Not in this line of work, it seems.


-Arora Whurlode-Keshali
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Education

Postby Cailin » May 8th, 2010, 1:12 pm

"Arora, what are you doing girl?" A large dwarf strode forward in the doorway of a barely lit room where a younger dwarf, maybe 12 or 13 years old was sullenly poking at a fire with a long metal rod.

Belham watched his daughter sulk quietly for a moment more before placing his broad hand on her shoulder.

"Go with Elsin, dear. She wants to continue your Deep Speech lessons."

Arora frowned into the fire, poking the embers with renewed vigor. "Why should I? If I ever run across an illithid, the last thing I'm going to do is have a conversation with it."

Her father snorted, sounding somewhere between disapproval and amusement. "Arora, this is important. We're right on the doorstep of the Underdark. You need to listen to Elsin!"

Arora threw the red-tipped rod to the ground, scattering sparks everywhere. "No I don't! She's not my mother! I don't want to do anything with her, ever!"

The older dwarf looked pained, grimacing with his deep grey eyebrows arching towards each other. "Don't... don't talk like that girl. Elsin has always been there for you!"

"Why won't you tell me about my real mother?" Arora demanded pointedly. It was an old argument, one that never ended well. Belham sighed, and turned towards the door.

"Go meet with Elsin. Now."

Arora continued to protest loudly but Belham simply shook his head, and disappeared out the door and down the darkened hallway. Arora kicked the wall with traditional Whurlode stubbornness, ignoring the pain as it radiated up her leg.

Elsin found Arora in tremendously moody sulk when she stomped through the door, but the older dwarf merely smiled softly at her god-daughter/niece. She was young and fiery as her brother Belham had been, though age had mellowed him somewhat. She greeted the young dwarf in Deep Speech. "Vendui ussta baut'wael." Hello my student.

Arora turned her scowl into a dramatic eye roll and bowed low in a melodramatic gesture. "Ussta lu'oh l'ilythiiri valsharess orn sanwttdd a ussta equidain vel'drav udos cal h'uena mzild wun l'tullusas d'lil Har'oloth!" My how the drow queen will smile at my skills when we dine once more in the halls of the Underdark!

Before Elsin could formulate a reply, Arora sat down with a thud, throwing her book open and flipped the pages angrily. Ever Belhem's daughter is she... Elsin sighed. This would be a... challenging lesson.
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From Arora's Journal: (SPOILERS: Ep 15)

Postby Cailin » May 10th, 2010, 10:03 am

Finding the Philosopher's Temple was far from easy. I shudder to think of how many men were sacrificed to the sea because of our quest, men whose misfortune landed them on that boat at the same time as our group. After Stallo led us the the peak I expected things to be easier somehow, yet as we made our way down the mountainside into the valley it soon became clear that we were entering a whole new form of difficulty. Maranos, one of the many elves here is distrustful and downright hostile towards us, no doubt he carries some extreme measure of xenophobia for our mismatched little crew. Three humans (one being a mage in a child's body), a dwarf, a gnome, a githzerai and an elementally charged elf makes for quite a sight, I admit.

We came here hoping for answers, for help. So far it seems we will have none of either, only the assurances from the devas that the problem is in the "right" hands now and that we needn't concern ourselves. As if that were possible. It is only an added insult that they claim they cannot allow us to leave. Captives in a beautiful prison are captives none the less, and I for one will not tolerate it with gentle sweetness. In fact, if that deva Heptos claims to know of greater things than we "mortals" do one more time I may very nearly lose my composure completely and create an inter-diety incident. Calm nobility is something I am still working on, obviously.

Perhaps there is yet something we can do to convince the keepers of this place that we are indeed capable of dealing with Arath, and that this threat is greater than they are willing to admit. Perhaps the wool can be torn from their eyes still, before it is too late.

-Arora Whurlode-Keshali
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From Arora's Journal: (SPOILERS: Ep 20)

Postby Cailin » May 28th, 2010, 6:15 pm

I had the dream again last night... as the embers were still smoldering in the campfire, nestled into our little hideaway, our little hidden pocket in the steets of Orvyltar.

There was darkness, and I lay on my back I feeling weightless and frightened, trapped and alone. But I wasn't alone, no. Not in this nightmare. Two hands were holding me by my neck, pressing, pushing me down beneath what I realized was cold, dark water. Endless water. Somewhere above me was a shadowy form beyond the rippling mirrored surface, back-lit by bright flickering torches. I struggled, I screamed. I clawed and fought. Bubbles rose everywhere from my thrashing. Every time, I am drowning helplessly in the dream, when I see a silver cord dip into the water, dropping just out of reach. I extend my arm towards it, feeling the darkness closing in and the burning sensation in my lungs reach its crescendo. If I do not grasp this cord, I will die. If I do not reach it, I will never be free. The hands clutch at me, press down with surprising strength as I stretch my fingers, aching with desperate fear. The cord is there, glimmering in the candlelight. Just... a bit... further...

And then I awoke in the dim moonlight, Frida staring at me with concern I had not the state of mind to appreciate. I thought it would stop after the ship, after I mastered my fear of drowning... but now it grows stronger, even more vivd and strange. I still feel the burning in my lungs, the fingers at my throat. I told Frida it was nothing, just a nightmare. Not exactly a lie... but what else could I say? That ever since I can remember I've been having the same dream over and over? What does it matter, anyway... when so much is on the line in the real world? Watching a paradise burn... lives torn apart... ruined... broken. I must focus on Arath, I must channel my fury and my rage, my fear and my anguish, and use it. Control it. Focus it and remind myself of our goal.

When Firon spoke of Velgresh's fate at the hands of Saulz Keshali and I felt my blood run cold, imagining that man - no, that monster who took my mother from me, who took everything from me, sitting on the throne... it makes me nauseous with fury. How will I balance my personal feelings when it comes to him? What if we need him, gods forbid it be so, but what if he must live for us to succeed? No... I mustn't think such things. It does no good to suppose to wonder, to speculate. There are more important things to do. We must prepare to leave this place. We must move on and the Nightmare will fade into the background, as it always has.

-Arora Whurlode-Keshali
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From Arora's Journal: (Orvyltar, Ulgarth) (SPOILERS: Ep 21)

Postby Cailin » June 22nd, 2010, 10:07 am

Arora was pacing a trench into the ground. Kanor was taking far too long to wake up and the antics of Brandis’ “cohort” were beginning to wear on her nerves. As she stared down at his sleeping form Arora could not help conjuring up memories of this man as he was in her youth: arrogant, prideful and callous. This man seemed none of those things, and was even considering helping them. Strange times, indeed. She understood his anger, perhaps too well. The paladins hadn’t needed to die, but were victims of circumstance, of fear and old hatred. She could not deny the shame she felt when he had accused her of rashly jumping to violence.

Just what game were the fates playing at? Of all the people in Faerun, it would have to be Kanor who had pursued them, Kanor who made her feel shame at her own misjudgement. She smiled grimly, wondering if Arath would appreciate the irony of an old enemy coming to the rescue. She imagined he would not. Sighing, she turned back to her pack, pulling out a worn looking metal bound journal covered in Dwarven sigils and runes.

----------------------------

I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever be able to fully appreciate the wonders of Orvyltar. At this rate, I will be lucky if I escape once more with my life. It is tragic, in a way, to be so close to something I’ve wanted for so long and yet remain unable to grasp it. The coffee houses with their rich silks and latticed walls, sweet harp and lute performances under bead-fringed tents, and the exotic beauty of the rain as it sweeps through, making the tassels on each lantern-post dance and sway. I am hard pressed to find time to appreciate such things while being pursued by guards, slinking about in the night, and searching for clues. The joys of this place lurk on the edges of my mind, and all I can do is promise myself that when all this is over, I will come back Steward or no Steward. For now, Keeper is my priority. If it weren’t for him I’d likely be dead or worse. If Arath truly is involved in the Steward's doings as we believe, then time is certainly not on our side. In Keeper’s case, I just hope we aren’t too late.

----------------------------

Kanor stirred, making a slight groaning noise and Arora lowered her quill, turning to watch him quietly. He was older now, as was she, but even through age and experience his face was that of the very same arrogant blockhead who made her life in the Estagund temple excruciatingly frustrating. Yet something in her knew that he would be able to help them, that somehow something had changed in him over these last six years. It was as if he had been placed there specifically for them, perhaps even to challenge Arora’s preconceptions. She smiled a little. Fate truly was strange.
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Unsuitable (SPOILERS: Ep 21)

Postby Cailin » June 24th, 2010, 2:49 pm

“I cannot continue this assignment.”

A pair of placid, gold eyes blink slowly. “And why not?” The eyes shift to the figure of a armored human male, who stands stiffly, obviously agitated. The slender elf smiles softly, as if to coax an answer.

“She is unsuitable.”

A delicate eyebrow arches as the elf tilts his head a little, long strands of gold-blonde hair whisping into his face. “Borkadd, surely even you could not have come to a decision so soon?”

The man snorts furiously, his anger only accentuated by the still calm of his counterpart. “She slaughtered an entire troop of Erathisine paladins.”

The elf sighs, trailing his fingers in the raised basin of silver water. “Well, that is disturbing. However, I cannot help but feel you may be jumping to a conclusion regarding her true nature. After all, she is only a mortal.”

Borkadd bristles at the comment. “If you find my methods so ineffective perhaps you should have taken to job yourself!”

The elf merely smiles, his gold eyes glimmering in the water’s reflection. “No. I’m afraid it must be you. Our interest in her has drawn some...unwanted attention.”

At this, Borkadd’s eyebrows raise, his features now set with grim curiosity towards the water. “Someone is moving against us already?”

Slowly the elf shakes his head, holding up a sleek black feather between his fingertips. “Not as of yet, no. But they are watching, they are waiting to see what will come of this. I would deduce that they are not yet truly aware of the nature of her importance, merely our interest in her. But, that is more than enough to cause some concern, you see.”

"There is another matter as well." The man’s face has settled into a stony grim expression by now, looking out past the gilded windows into the swirling tempest beyond. “Velgresh is dead.”

At this, the elf’s eyes widen. “Dead? But how?”

“It appears some mortal Lord exacted revenge upon him for protecting the dwarf.” He replies, his hands digging into the railing.

“I shall speak to our Lord, and ensure his sacrifice is well rewarded.” His eyes seem somewhat colder than before, but the Elf continues his peaceful expression, his fingers clicking absently on the metallic rim of the basin. “Nonetheless, you must continue your observation. The sooner we are able to confirm her suitability the sooner we will be able to enlighten and thus protect her.”

Borkadd gives a curt bow, frowning slightly. “Very well. I will continue my assignment immediately.”

The elf nods slowly in response as the man’s form begins the shift and morph, shrinking and shrinking while glowing with golden light until he is hardly larger than a sparrow. In fact, as the light fades it is clearly no man but a small bird with glistening gold feathers and tiny black eyes. In a flash the bird is in the air and rocketing out the window, leaving the elf alone in the tower once more. He turns back to the pool.
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Velgresh's Mission (SPOILERS: Ep 3)

Postby Cailin » July 2nd, 2010, 4:45 pm

Velgresh is staring out across a vast plain of sand which stretches almost as far as the eye can see. It is dotted here and there with palms and shrubs, and in the far distant horizon he can make out a glimmering ribbon of water: an ocean lapping gently at the coast. He stands on a dune which towers over the others, feeling somewhat breathless by the realism of this dream.

Brother Velgresh, I bid you greetings from the Lord of the North Wind.

The dragonborn is startled by the sudden voice behind him, resonating with the layered harmony of many divine voices speaking in unison, bound up in the vision of a lovely female elf with long golden hair. She smiles softly at him, though her amber eyes remained fixed on his with a seriousness that only barely tempers her beauty.

Velgresh drops to one knee at the sight of her, head bowed with reverence and expectation. It is not a common occurrence to be visited by a messenger of Bahamut. In fact he has not heard of any cleric in his order having such a thing occur so directly as this.

"Sonngrad," he says, "I am honored. What would the Wyrmking wish of me?"

The elf smiles more freely, pleased he has recognized her.

Good cleric, you are to be called to a task of great importance. Seek a fallen paladin of Erathis, for she is on the cusp of a great change, and needs guidance.

Velgresh stands slowly, confusion plain in his features. "A fallen paladin? I beg you forgive my ignorance and tell me how I could possibly be of use in such a task."

Sonngrad seems to sigh, although no true sound escapes her.

Your task is to find this paladin, not to understand why you are doing so. When you find her, you must gently help her to find what lies within her heart and nurture it. Erathis has been her Winter, you must be her Spring. Only in this moment will she be able to accept her true calling, only with your help will she be able to embrace her destiny.

She places a delicate hand on the dragonborn's expansive scaled chest. A gesture of authority. Velgresh bows his head. "I will do as you ask, but how-"

Some of what you seek has been foretold, cleric. She is on a path which shall intersect with that of a human woman by the name of Iselda Nahettia. Go to this woman, and wait. The paladin will come to you through her.

He nods, still reeling from the proximity of this divine being. "Yes of course, but how will I know it is her? What is her name?"

Arora is her name, and when you find her, you will know. Reveal nothing to them of what you have heard, of what you know. There will be a time for such revelations and they shall not come from you, Velgresh.

Slowly, as if the substance of her form were disintegrating into dust, the elf begins to diminish into nothingness, and the land around Velgresh begins to lose its detail at a rapid pace. "I will do what you ask, Sonngrad, but what if I fail?"

The vision has already faded to a milky grey color when darkness sweeps in and his eyes fly open in the night. He is once again laying on a cool bed, clinging to the threads of warmth emanating from his chest as he hears the voice echo in his mind with finality:

You must not fail.
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Open Sails (SPOILERS: Ep 24)

Postby Cailin » July 18th, 2010, 12:13 pm

"It's in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped." - Anthony Robbins



The towering spire of Skyclave was growing ever more distant on the horizon as the ship surged ahead into the clear bright sea. Arora sighed, trying once more to shake the melancholy from her features as she replayed the recent events over and over in her mind.

My baby! My baby! Please you must help me!

He’s gone! Oh gods forgive me where is he? I need to find him!

I beg you bring my son back to me, he is all I have left!


Arora leaned against the familiar railing, resting her chin on her arms as she stared at the rapidly disappearing coastline. Their pleas had been heart wrenching, even more so when she was completely unequipped to solve their problems. And now they were left to their fate, whatever that may be. Her heart stirred with guilt and pity. She had tried not to be selfish - though truly her desire to thwart Arath was always at the top of her list, she could not deny that having the opportunity to restore the rightful leader of Ulgarth was at times just as tempting. Still... it had been a group decision. She looked back at the now rather colorful group of individuals who made up their resistance. She smiled thoughtfully.

Somehow, despite all their differences, they had been brought together. Even more remarkable still, they had managed to work together, to function more or less harmoniously towards a common goal. Arora felt a familiar warm feeling bloom in her chest, and her hammer lit subtly in silver light as though plunged into an enchanted forge. Keeper and Iselda would be safer out of her company, she knew. It still pained her to watch as they too slipped away, remembering so clearly the loss of Velgresh the last time she left them. Looking up into the mast rigging she caught sight of Deomin, who seemed absolutely gleeful as he and the salt air danced among the sails. The coast was now almost completely gone, mostly obscured beyond the gentle curve of the sea. The crew gave a shout of “whoo-ah!”, glad to be finally cast off from the clutches of the land. Arora knelt, holding her hammer close as she began a whispered prayer.

“Guard those who are without protection, soothe those who are without hope, hold those who are too weak to stand alone, and keep them safe until our return. This I ask humbly and with great reserve, that Skyclave gains Bahamut’s favor in our absence.”

So distant now, so beyond her power, the people of Skyclave moved unaware of the gentle pleas of a single paladin who even in her relative insignificance called out for their protection. The boat rocked smoothly under her feet, reminding her yet of their growing distance. Arora turned, hearing her name catch on the wind. Seeing nothing she turned back for one final glance of High Imaskar, only to find it had utterly disappeared in the growing haze of atmosphere, sea spray and distance.

She sighed, forcing herself from the railing towards the growing sounds of revelry and excitement near the bow. There was no use in looking back any longer.
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Wounds (SPOILERS: Ep 25)

Postby Cailin » July 23rd, 2010, 11:02 pm

"It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons." - Johann Schiller



“Please, you must try not to move so much.”

Arora bit back a hiss of pain as Heptos removed another shard of deck-wood from her forearm. He held her arm still, gently waving his hand over her as one by one the large, jagged splinters eased their way to the surface of her skin. If Heptos felt any regret at causing the dwarf any pain he did not show it. In fact his placid features remained just as calmly stoic as they were in most situations; something which Arora found oddly peaceful after so much bloodshed. Another more barbed sliver caused Arora to wince violently, fresh blood spilling from the open wound even as it began to heal. Heptos paused, his hands dropping softly to his sides. “Are you hurt?”

She shook her head, fighting the tears that threatened to spring forth. It figured. She could take gashes, fractures, hemorrhaging, concussions, bludgeoning and even the occasional ingestion, but when it came to something as simple as a splinter Arora could barely keep herself from bursting into tears. Some hero. She blinked, feeling the sudden heaviness of a hand on her arm, turning it carefully as Heptos examined the injuries. The tenderness of the gesture surprised her. It was almost...fatherly? Arora found herself smiling faintly as Heptos guided a roll of linen gauze around her arm, dressing the wounds with a calm, steady motion. She had forgotten how much she missed her family until just that moment.

“There do not seem to be anymore of them. I am sorry if I harmed you further. It is... easy to forget the fragility of the young.”

Arora ran her fingers over her newly bandaged arm, leaning back as she allowed the unobstructed sun to wash over her. She turned to Heptos, who knelt to gather his medical supplies.

“Do devas have parents?”

Heptos froze. He suddenly seemed to be somewhere far away and Arora found it hard to tell if he was pondering the question or shocked by it. The wind picked up, causing the delicate silk cloth hanging from his headpiece to dance and twist before him. He raised his head, looking her straight in the eye as he sighed.

“Parents? No. Not in the way you mean, at least.” His voice was steady and calm as ever, though Arora couldn’t help but catch the glimmer of... something, in his eye. She nodded quietly, gazing out over the seemingly endless cloudscape passing beneath them.

“Your parents... are dead, are they not?”

Arora felt her back stiffen a little, a flush rushing to her face. “They are.”

His brow furrowed a bit, following her gaze to the sea of clouds and wind. “I know I cannot truly understand what it is you have lost but for what it is worth, I am sorry.”

She turned, looking back at the earnest expression on the deva’s face and wiped away a gathering tear. “Thanks.”

Heptos merely smiled, placing a hand over his chest with a slight bow as he stretched out his other hand to help her rise.
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The Forge (SPOILERS: Ep 25)

Postby Cailin » August 11th, 2010, 3:27 pm

Arora woke with a violent gasp, her lungs burning. Had she been holding her breath? She wondered, feeling the strain in her chest with painful clarity. The dream, however, was already fading. She had managed to grab hold of the chain in the water that time, she was sure of it. But what happened after that? Why had she awoken so suddenly? Arora sat up, now wide-awake. There was no getting back to sleep now, she was sure of it.

As quietly as was possible for a dwarf of her dexterity Arora made her way to the portal door, which by all accounts looked just as plain as any other until opened. The swirling, misty light churned in front of her and only tingled just slightly as she passed through, arriving once more in the moon-lit pasture.

With less careful steps she made her way to the small clearing where she had built her forge. It was large, built with quite heavy load-stones, inset with almost random bits of metal and gems giving it a somewhat mystical glistening appearance in the moonlight. She lit a few torches, stoking the still burning embers (for a true dwarven forge never went out) and examined a small rod of dull grey metal. She held it in her palm, examining it, twisting between her fingertips, and tapping it lightly against the anvil she had crafted. Seemingly satisfied, she threw it into the forge’s now white-hot coals. After a short while, the rod was removed from the heat, glowing silver-spotted orange with an iridescent sheen.

With a quick glance over her shoulder Arora allowed her hammer to forge its chain once more, watching as the links of silver light tethered the hilt of the hammer with the connecting tissue just above her wrist. This was usually obscured by her gauntlets but when she worked with metal she preferred to do so ungloved.

Every strike caused the hammer to surge with light. In fact the entire chain appeared to become solid and white as bone for the merest second during each impact, as she brought the hammer down on the small metal piece over and over again until it was once again cool. Now the grey metal held the opalescent sheen much more clearly, and by the time Arora had finished a second round of heating and striking, there was a subtle glow to the material, much like that of her hammer. She sighed, plunging the metal into a pool of impossibly clear, pure water. Steam erupted from the basin, and Arora allowed it finally to settle to the bottom of the pool. Carefully she covered the pool with a few planks of wood and a bucket of tools before the hammer’s chain extinguished. With a tremendous yawn, the now exhausted Arora sat on the ground by the forge for a while as the warmth of the still burning forge finally lulled her into sleep.

Neverwinter was just on the horizon.
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The Champion's Code (SPOILERS: Ep 28)

Postby Cailin » August 20th, 2010, 6:50 pm

It is a very cold day on the ship’s deck when Arora realizes she’s developed a habit. She holds the silver etched symbol of the Champion’s Code in her hand, turning it over and over as she runs her fingers along the plain smooth surface. Her fingers tingle when she touches it, slightly warm as if it were a living thing. As she concentrates on it she feels the warmth growing, and the glow emitted from the holy symbol echos that of her spectral chain. She stares with wonder as dwarven runes emerge from the depths of the platinum as if they were being carved before her eyes in white silvery light.

What they speak of astounds her. Her eyes move over the letters again and again, her heart racing with exhilarating astonishment.

The Champion is commanded to be vigilant against all evil and to destroy it whenever it is encountered.

The Champion knows that Evil will never reveal itself. Those sworn to wickedness cannot abide the shining beacon because they find its brilliance loathsome. Evil’s servants haunt the darkness that spawns it, biding their time. They spread evil ’s filthy seed to unsuspecting innocents, offering temptations even the innocent cannot refuse. Evil would have us fritter away all our strength against its decoys, laughing at our feeble flailing.

The Platinum Dragon commands us to protect the weak and to safeguard the innocent from
Evil’s depredations, we shall not allow another day to pass—while the vile forces plot our dooms from unseen redoubts. We must look deep within our hearts and find our purity. We must scourge our flesh to purge temptation and doubt. We must test our friends, our families, and our neighbors to be certain shadow has no hold. And where we find it, we must cleanse the flesh. We liberate the spirit.

If we falter in this holy mission, we fail.
If we quail before the horrors, evil wins.
Giving mercy, we permit evil and become
no better than those we fight.
We are at war.


Arora stares down at the symbol in her hand, feeling a chill fighting against the warmth of the holy object. Test? Cleanse? The cold words of the champion’s code resonate within her core, and she feels with every fiber of her being that those words are written on her soul, somehow. And yet... she thinks about her friends, and how they would feel if they knew the nature of this code. Would they revile her for such callous piety? Did it matter? The words are already fading into nothingness once more, and a heaviness has settled in her heart.

She has granted no mercy to evil. The demoness lay begging for her life and Arora did not falter. Lurd cowered and bargained for leniency but she did not hesitate. But this same fervent dogmatism sparks a fear somewhere in her, a fear that does not quite have the words yet to speak its name.

She returns to the forge, hastily ignoring Deomin’s distant greeting as she slips through the portal. With a heavy grunt she reins down the hammer over the empty anvil, sparks fly in all directions until a resounding crack echos through the grove. The anvil has split down the middle. As if this outcome were completely expected, Arora sets about to repairing it with cool, placid eyes. When Heptos inquires after the noise, her hand unconsciously rises to linger over the silver shield-shaped medallion around her neck. She assures him it’s nothing to worry about. The medallion grows warm in her hand, but Arora says nothing more.
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Delving (SPOILERS: Ep 30)

Postby Cailin » September 2nd, 2010, 12:16 pm

There will be bloodstone for thirty more yards, and a vein of gold runs though it. It’s hardly enough to warrant a mining expedition but Arora makes a little tick-mark on her map anyway. It never hurts to have something to bring back to East Rift as a thank you for letting them use the access tunnels.

Not that the dwarves are particularly worried about what goes into the tunnels.

Scribbles and notes litter the map, though Arora references only when she sees something interesting, or noteworthy. Navigating the Underdark is like traversing the sea on a cloudy night, when maps are useless. The currents and the wind are replaced by the endless thrumming of stone, and the faint coppery trails of minerals in the air. One way follows sweet stones and metals like quartz, gold, and marble. The other way follows darker, more tannic-tasting obsidian, serpentine, and bloodstone. She wrinkles her nose, and leads them down the dark way. The group follows, delving deeper still into the chasm that drips cold droplets of water and red, clay and mineral deposits which give the ground a distinctly “bloody” look. Even in her most adventurous childhood days, she never came this far into the darkness. Yet still it manages to be as familiar as it is alien. Arora wonders if the drow feel the same sort of unease on the surface. Probably not, she decides, they don’t feel much of anything.

Every step echoes loudly throughout the cavern, the large opening has created an almost perfect amphitheater, with naturally formed steps arching across the greater half of the oblong cave. If not for their torches, this place would be drowned in endless dark. The glowing fungus and spores have long since ceased being abundant (a property of their depth and the increasing sulphur content of the stone here). Arora tries to remain high-spirited, and points out a rock formation that looks like a giant rendition of Brandis’ head. Their smiles soothe her concerns, and she forges onward, following the dark stone, facing the stinging cold with a warm heart.
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What Might Have Been (SPOILERS: Ep 31)

Postby Cailin » September 12th, 2010, 12:44 pm

Arora was still reeling from the impact of the shadowguard’s blade when another more powerful blow stuck her down, blinding her with shadow and the warm spatter of fresh blood. It was as if the blade were smoke, passing through her gut despite her armor, pain radiating to every nerve.

Darkness.

The numbing bleakness of the Shadowfell clawed at her mind with cold fingers, drawing her soul into a misty grey void. And suddenly she was floating, lost amongst its torpor-inducing emptiness as if suspended in water... a feeling of despair washing over her. Here there could be no peace, no warmth... no-

But just as she felt the insidious work of the Shadowfell flow into her, she saw something. This was particularly remarkable considering just how much nothing was to be had. A small rectangular card hovered in the air just out of her reach, glistening with unspoken promises. And then she recognized it. The slick, undulating pattern on the back of the card, the twisting glyphs that decorated it... the deck of many things. Her hand moved slowly, dreamlike and deliberate as she reached out to grasp it.

At the very instant her hand touched the card a burst of white light erupted from it, bathing the entire space in white cold light.

“The Vizier.”

Arora’s eyes shot open once more to find herself standing in a spire before a table covered in cards, a skeleton dealer regarding her with empty eyes. She was having trouble remembering how she got here, or what she was doing before this moment. Instead she looked down at the card in her hand. A winged scroll marked with a five-pointed star. Had she drawn a card? Hadn’t she been doing something... something else?

“One question. One answer.” The skeleton spoke, seemingly annoyed with her long pause. Arora bit her lip thoughtfully, her fingers reaching up to grasp at... something. Something was supposed to be there. A medallion? There was only her symbol of Erathis, and it didn’t feel right. But as she looked at the card those feelings of wrongness and confusion faded like a bad dream.

Aurum stepped forward as if about to speak. He reached a hand forward towards her, towards the card? Arora batted his hand away with sudden ferocity that shocks even Melek. One question. One answer. She doesn’t need Erathis anymore. She doesn’t need any of them anymore.

Suddenly she is standing in front of a statue in the center of Hommlet. She looks up at her own effigy with disgust. Shoddy human work at best. Rufus, Burne and Elmo stand in proud silence, stone eyes gazing towards an uncertain horizon. They have defeated the cult of Tharizdun, but not without terrible cost. She takes the symbol of Erathis out of her pocket and lays it at the feet of her statue. Next to it she places a small brass and silver medallion bearing the crest of Hommlet.

No one is surprised when Arora vanishes without a goodbye; she has grown cold and despondent since that dark moment in the spire. Whatever restraint she had, whatever mercy and compassion she had once known had evaporated when the skeleton whispered her answer in her ear.

They never see Arora again, but hear stories of a violent, bloody coup in Ulgarth led by a dwarven paladin of Assuran, the lord of vengeance and retribution.

Arora sits on a throne she has never seen before, though it seems so familiar to her somehow. Behind her the agonizing cries of an old man echo throughout the grand palace hall. Saluz Keshali will suffer a lifetime of pain for his crimes. Ulgarth itself will suffer for allowing him to carry out his evil. Orvyltar’s royal family will know the true cost of complacency; they do not deserve to rule this place. She catches her reflection in the sword she carries. It feels odd in her hand, as if she has never wielded a fullblade before. Her armor is deep grey and speckled with blood. Her eyes look as though they belong to someone else; they are dark, haunted, and angry. Unsated rage continues to well in her heart for the wrongs she has experienced, for the life that was stolen from her. When Assuran himself offers her the opportunity to lead his war, she is eager to accept. She carries out vengeance for this god against people she cares nothing about, forever chasing that satisfaction that eludes her. Cities fall. Armies are torn asunder in her wake. All of the Shining Lands glisten with blood and echo with lightning and combat.

But her god is a god of lies. Soon the missions become more and more strange, diplomats, noblemen, women and children. Fleets of paladins fall at her feet; she does what she is asked because it is the only thing that makes her heart stop hurting, even for a moment. Somewhere in her a light struggles to remain lit in a torrent of blood until finally, it goes out in a gasp of smoke. Arora feels it as she draws her blade through a child’s neck, pushing him over with a heavy plated boot. She smiles. The pain has finally stopped.

“My exarch has revealed herself at last.” A dark voice emanates from inside her skull pleasingly. But it is not the voice of Assuran, not any longer. Arora kneels amongst the slaughtered corpses. She cannot recognize the Chained God’s treachery when she feels it. The cold is too complete, the numbness too inviting. The light is extinguished and dark madness slowly rolls in. It was never Assuran. Eternally patient, the dark god now has his revenge, his prize and even better... an avatar. But despite the laughter now echoing in her mind, Arora is too lost to her own madness; she cannot see what she has become, nor does she care.

A gasp of cold air fills her lungs, and Arora’s eyes fly open wide to see Deomin’s face hovering over her. “Get up Arora! Fight!” He’s shouting over the din of battle, winds swirling with strange blue hues around him. She shakes her head as if to dislodge some terrible dream which is already escaping her. She coughs, hand flying to her chest. The Champion’s Code resonates warmly at her touch. It’s still there. She’s been unconscious for no more than a few seconds... and it shocks her. The dream had been so real, so vivid... but the fight drives her wonderings from her mind. Arora picks up the hammer at her side as it flashes to life once more, and fights.
Cailin
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From Arora's Journal: (SPOILERS: Ep 32)

Postby Cailin » September 17th, 2010, 5:09 pm

They wonder why I hesitated to strike the shadar-kai who shared our cell. Have I the countenance of such a beast that they would think me eager to invoke violence when none is necessary? Or perhaps they feel something akin to blood-lust themselves? I must remain vigilant, the shadow could take hold of any one of us in a moment of weakness.

Even among the Shadar-kai, he was barely a young man. Perhaps I felt pity for him, for he seemed as weak and vulnerable as a child compared to that which lurked in the darkness of Prison Rathmore. Is it not my mandate to protect them from those who would exploit their weakness? Perhaps it is not so... perhaps it is as Hugh suggested. I sensed no evil from him. Foolishness, yes. Arrogance and ignorance as well but none of these are high crimes. I myself have been guilty of these very things.

Perhaps it is the ghost of a half remembered vision that stayed my hand. For as I looked at that shadar-kai I caught a flash of my reflection in his eyes, but it was dark, cruel and utterly callous. Contrary to what the shadar-kai seem to believe, it is restraint, not excess that indicates strength. It is the decision based on law, rather than desire that bares the consequence most just and noble. All too easily my power could fall to the whims of my heart. The ease of harming or simply murdering that boy did not fail to cross my mind, after all.

But how then are we not the same as Arath? With what logic shall I appeal to those I serve when I am asked to justify his death in that moment?

I make no mistake that those who truly have earned their judgment shall not escape it. Arath is no innocent, nor is he blameless for his position scroll or no scroll. My mercy is not limitless. He and his champion shall lay in the tombs of their own creation by the end of this.

I swear it.

-Arora Whurlode-Keshali
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Wounds (SPOILERS: Ep 34)

Postby Cailin » October 5th, 2010, 10:38 am

There is a long wound running down Arora’s exposed forearm. She can’t quite recall how she received it, but notes with some grim satisfaction that it has frozen shut, leaving little bits of dark red and pink ice solid in the gash. But is it Deomin’s work or the dracolich? An intense stinging sensation as she moves confirms that it's the dragon’s. Deomin’s work is cleaner, and uses more... fundamental influences. She looks over to him with concern as he shouts almost incoherent accusations at the armored man who observes them so coolly from behind his helm.

The whole scenario gives her an odd sense of deja vu. A tower of flame and unbearable heat, a man holding a silvery orb wielding a heavy sword. Flashes of memory intertwine with a dream, and Lareth the Beautiful vanishes, in his place stands Arora in massive dark armor with dark purple energy swirling from her eyes like smoke. Arora starts suddenly, jerking her mind out of the vision and back to the blood-stained arena and the roaring crowd.

The Champion stands between them and Zahar’s cold still body, calmly assessing them.

“Well then.” Arora says, hefting her hammer to her side as she looks over her shoulder at Brandis, silver light flashing briefly in her eyes. “Let’s not keep him waiting!”
Cailin
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Mercy (SPOILERS: Ep 3)

Postby Cailin » October 6th, 2010, 10:34 am

“He’s not h-home!”

“Your lying serves no one, least of all the scum you hide here!” Arora turned a cold eye on the nearly hysterical woman who fidgeted and wept as Arora forced her way through the door in shining armor and righteous fury.

As she suspected, he was hiding under the bed like a roach. She dragged him out by the collar of his crushed doublet and flung him to the ground before her. The woman (presumably his wife) shrieked in horror and flung herself at Arora’s feet.

“Please! He’s my husband! I love him!”

“He is also a slaver, murderer and extortionist. What is your love but another thing this man has not deserved? As Bahamut’s justiciar I am bound to entomb this man in the legacy of his own design!” Her hammer glowed bright silver, pulsing menacingly as she spoke. The woman only tightened her grip on Arora’s leg, weeping pitifully while the man stared on, frozen in terror.

“Don’t kill him! Don’t kill him please, please I beg you! Have mercy!”

“If mercy had been required, they would have sent a paladin of Tyr. But no. Those who grieved for the loss of their loved ones called a Justiciar of Bahamut, and I think you both know what that means. Tell me Vendrin, how many people pleaded for their lives at your feet? How many did you ignore before you sent them off to their fates?”

The man hung his head, “Forgive me. I was a fool blinded by greed.”

“There is no word for what you are.” Arora spat. Raising her hammer.

“No!” The woman lept before her husband, causing Arora’s hammer to jerk back away from her face just barely in time. “Kill me if you must kill someone! Take my life and not his!”

“Th-That is hardly justice.” Arora stammered.

“I love him,” The woman said calmly with tears rolling down her cheeks. “That’s all that matters to me. Let me stand in his place.”

“Deara no, no!” Finally the man spoke with passion and fire as he reached for his wife with desperate hands. “My life means nothing without you in it! Don’t throw your life away for me.”

This made Arora pause, for Bahamut’s code often spoke of honor and nobility as the tempering hand of justice. Could this man possibly be worth redeeming? But as she looked at the couple, at how his hand held tightly to hers... Arora felt her wrath fading. He was a pawn of evil, and killing him... would it help anything in the end?

“Perhaps...” Arora raised a gauntlet to her chin thoughtfully. “Perhaps there is another way for you to atone.”

“Anything!” They both spoke in unison.

Arora thought for a moment, before placing the blunt end of the hammer heavily on the kneeling man’s shoulder. He trembled for a moment, as if she were preparing to knock off his head.

“You will return with me to Bahamut’s temple, where you shall remain in service to him until such time as you are redeemed in his eyes or I release you. You will leave everything behind, and if you should run or seek to escape this pact know that as a Justiciar I am bound to uphold your sentence, and I will find you wherever you hide, where you will find no more respite from the suffering you have earned.”

The man mumbled and nodded hurriedly, sputtering praise and gratitude as he followed her out the door.

-------------------------------------

As she returned to the temple Velgresh was of course the first to stop her. “How did it go?”

She turned towards the man being led away to the initiates ward. “If he is as repentant as he says he is, then perhaps Bahamut will find some use for him here. Perhaps his story will serve as a cautionary tale for the youth.”

Velgresh nodded slowly. “It must have taken great restraint not to kill him.”

His simple words surprised her. She shrugged helplessly. “I...couldn’t do it.”

The dragonborn patted her on the shoulder. “No, you wouldn’t do it. Everyone has to find their own way to hear the code of protection. You’re still so young but you’ve seen so much evil. It’s bound to take some time for you to find balance in Bahamut’s demands of honor and justice.”

At this Arora smiled, glad to have such a wise mentor. “So, how will I know when it’s my code and not someone else’s?”

Something passes in Velgresh’s face, but Arora isn’t looking at him and doesn’t see the knowing smile he gives.

“When you feel it, you’ll know.”

Arora let out a frustrated grunt. Velgresh always did like to play it vague and all-knowing.
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Graves (SPOILERS: Ep 35)

Postby Cailin » October 13th, 2010, 12:07 pm

“No! Damnit Arath! DAMNIT!”

No matter how furiously I cry out, no matter how violently I strike the stone... their bodies do not stir. Not Kalla’s nor the five or so Imaskari who are here because of us, either by our action or inaction. They are my responsibility and thoughts of guilt buzz in my thoughts like hornets. I lash out until my strength and my emotional resolve fail me; I sink to my knees. Blood stains the grassy clearing, and Arath’s threats echo in my mind.

I will keep sending them to their death until you stop pursuing me.

Desperate and petty threats, but I have no doubt Arath means every word of it. He isn’t the type to bluff. But then again I didn’t think he was the type to betray his friends and destroy entire nations in pursuit of his selfish goals. A shudder runs down my spine and I stand slowly. I force the rage to fade into the background, replaced by the steady thrum of righteous power.

The champion’s code feels heavier, its warmth reminding me once more of my duty. My fingers trace the draconic engravings absently. “Must you force my hand, Arath?” I whisper quietly, my eyes now brimming with tears. “Why are you doing this?”

The bodies I stare at offer no insight. I close my eyes and run my hands over my face.

“We have to bury them.”

At this Frida raises an eyebrow. “Are you kidding? We’re not turning my plane into a cemetery.”

“Well what would you have us do, Frida?!” Suddenly my heart feels as if its clenched in a vice. My hands ball into fists and my eyes faintly glow. Frida shrinks back.

“I uh... well maybe we could take them out and...”

“And what? Drop them off the airship?!” I growl and begin pacing. “These are not creatures they are people. They are his victims. We will not treat them like refuse!” I notice a few other heads turn in our direction as my voice raises, but I don’t care.

Frida bites her lip, clearly unused to this sort of treatment from me. “Fine. Do what you want. I just...” She looks over my shoulder at the bodies. “It’s morbid.”

Seeing Frida’s nerves softens my anger a bit, and I sigh, speaking now with a softer tone. “I’m sorry Frida. This is just... I need to have control over something again, even if it’s just where these people find their final rest. Arath won't turn us into monsters, no matter how hard he may try.”

She nods, and I head back to the forge to find a proper shovel.

---

Anyone who passes by finds Arora far behind the forge digging graves with slow methodical intent. There is peace in the rhythm. Shovel into the earth, sinking into the ground, throwing it over her shoulder and repeating the action over and over. It is the most natural thing in the world for a dwarf, but her purpose is too grim to find pleasure in it.
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Memory (SPOILERS: Ep 35)

Postby Cailin » October 19th, 2010, 10:21 pm

There are now 57 small piles of stone in the clearing several yards behind the forge. Not having to worry about the weather in this environment is only a small comfort to Arora as she places the final stone on the top of the last mound. Each one is buried in the fetal position, returning to the earth as if returning to the womb. Arora finds this oddly appropriate. She moves as if wiping sweat from her brow, but in truth she is smudging tears and dirt across her cheeks. Anger mingles with grief and frustration.

Kala is gone, or at least lost for the time being. The group had completely fallen apart over a statue in the tomb of Ulgarth's ancient kings, and she's pretty sure the Klethen, the Prince of Ulgarth, hates her. She lets out a frustrated grunt, pushing herself to a standing position as she peers over her shoulder at the forge. Things would have been so much simpler if none of this had happened. If she had been less curious, less petulant and demanding... she may have had a forge of her own in East Rift. Perhaps even a family. She smirks. But then who would have dragged those pebble-heads to Hommlet? Who would have stopped Therizdun's cultists? Any life she may have entertained would have been a fleeting happiness, at best. Arora rubs the back of her neck, fighting the stiffness she feels growing in her joints. She may be a hero, but the body is still flesh, and it protests each movement now that her mind is allowed to acknowledge it.

She flings herself back into the long grass among the graves, staring up at the illusion of a sun. It still makes her eyes hurt, and she squints with an arm raised.
Warm silver light washes over her, causing the blades of green to ripple and shine around her. It reminds her of the holy circle she had summoned back under the guidance of Velgresh and she smiles sadly. As they pulse outward like ripples on a pond her muscles feel soothed, and tended to.

Velgresh had asked her to come with him to his office in Bahamut's Temple after that event. That she might find some answers among her confusion and shock.
Arora closed her eyes, bringing herself back to that moment with a long, slow sigh.

For a while, Arora sat simply staring at her hands. Something had happened to her, but she wasn’t sure what, and for some reason her state of shock led her to believe the answer was there, in the ridges and grooves of her palms. After months of darkness and emptiness she had been able to access a source of divine power, but how? And who? It didn’t feel like Erathis, that was for certain. This feeling was not orderly and structured, like a golden city. It was swift and powerful, leaving her fingers tingling with warmth and her heart burning with the need to... do something... but what? Her eyes flitted to the shield and warhammer by her side.

“Thank you for seeing me, Arora. I know you must have many questions.” She looked up to see Velgresh was at her side smiling softly with his hand outstretched. “Let us talk in my study.”

“I’m still not quite sure what I’m doing here, Velgresh. This doesn’t make any sense.”

The dragonborn nodded thoughtfully. “No... I don’t imagine it would. You’ve been lost for a while now, haven’t you?”

Lost. Now that was an interesting term.

“I uh... it’s sort of complicated.” She fidgeted in her seat as she watched the cleric unrolling a scroll and place a pair of modified spectacles in front of his large reptilian eyes.

“Yes, I read the report actually. They didn’t paint you in particularly favorable light, though I have a feeling that was a rather one-sided point of view?”

Arora snorted. “That’s one way of putting it.”

“Tell me, did you really break the High Chancellor's nose?”

Arora felt herself turn crimson. “I... that is... I didn’t mean to do it.” Velgresh merely smiled.

“A moment of passion brought on by the insufferable ignorance of an old racist windbag.”

“You could say that, yes.” She felt her heart lighten a bit at the dragonborn’s smile. “But I shouldn’t have done it, all the same.”

“No, you shouldn’t have.” Velgresh agreed, but as he watched Arora’s heart sink he added, “But passion is good. The drive to right what is wrong, to give tyrants what they deserve... that is admirable. You simply need a... code of conduct. Something to give you discipline and guide your hand.”

At this, Arora frowned. “You mean like the law? The reason Erathis’ grace was revoked?”

“No...” Velgresh shook his head with a smile. “I mean something more fundamental than the laws of men. You were able to touch the divine despite those laws, were you not? You connected with a divine being and tapped power you have never known. That does not just happen out of the blue!” He grinned, tapping his claws on the table emphatically.

“I suppose I hadn’t thought about that. But I still feel something of Erathis’ bond flowing through me sometimes, how could I be accepted by any other god?”

“Arora, child, the world is more...complicated than you know. The heart is a delicate thing that resonates like a plucked chord, and that chord can change through time. Erathis’ blessing will always be upon you my dear, but you are not limited by your past. It strengthens you and prepares you for what comes next.”

Arora raised an eyebrow. “And... what comes next?”

“Enlightenment.” Velgresh said mysteriously. “If you wish it. You have the opportunity to cultivate something new in your heart. Something that resonates with light and honor, something that will give you the strength to bring justice to those who do evil, and the power to shelter those who need your protection.”

At this Arora smiled, her hand rising to her heavily armored chest, resting over her heart. "I think I'd like that."

Velgresh echoed the gesture with a small smile. "As would I."

In the grass, Arora felt the code resonate at the memory, now staring up at delicate oranges and pinks unfurling around the horizon of Frida's planar pocket. Arora let her hand linger over her heart for a moment, before clasping the emblem of the champion's code fondly as a small swarm of fireflies flitted across her vision and into the night.
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Armor (SPOILERS: Ep 37)

Postby Cailin » November 8th, 2010, 11:32 am

The wind is harsh on the deck of the Thunderstrike; cold and biting it freezes the skin and slows the mobility of everyone except a certain elf who seems to revel in it. Arora chooses to spend her time by the roaring warmth of the forge. In the early morning hours Arora spends her time fixing the few scratches and dents the earthquake dragon inflicted on her armor, but she is pleased to see that the armor itself requires very little tending. Dwarven engineering at its best.

First Arora slips on her leather coat, lined with soft cotton batting. She checks for tears and weathering, strong stitches that hold prevent broken bones. Chain mail comes next for her legs, torso and arms. It’s heavy but familiar, and warm from being by the forge. It glimmers in the orange light. Then the plate leg armor, large shining plates strap to the front of her shins and clasp at the back with heavy leather belts around her chain mail. The gorget slips around her neck easily, clasping into place with a soft metallic click. The breastplate and back plate cover her torso and already Arora can feel the weight of it pushing her feet a little more heavily into the soft earth. Durability is worth the mobility sacrifice, though. She may not be able to jump out of the way, but she can take the hit and that’s what matters. The rondels snap into place protecting the vulnerable space between breastplate and pauldron. The pauldrons are massive and add an odd bulkiness to her silhouette that suits her. Finally vambraces and gauntlets slip over her arms and hands, and Arora sighs contentedly as she checks the fit. It’s surprisingly comfortable, but then again she’s been wearing armor for years, and this is the very best that even the Dwarves can make. She runs an armored finger along one of the runes, so ancient even Arora isn’t quite sure what it says. But it doesn’t matter really, because she knows what it means. The circlet is more of an afterthought, its pretty delicate design clashes with the heavy bulk of her armor but there’s no helping it. She can’t stand limiting her range of vision in a helm.

Her shield and hammer lay nearby and as Arora hefts them in her hands she feels a sense of calm wash over her, the sort of feeling that always precedes the storm of battle. A glowing spectral chain forges itself link by link, arching from the carpal bones of her wrist to the exquisitely designed silver handle of her craghammer. With deliberate steps Arora leaves the forge and goes to meet the others on the deck of the airship, confident that whatever they are going to find in the vault below the Rauin desert, she is ready to face it.
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Westward (SPOILERS: Ep 43)

Postby Cailin » December 2nd, 2010, 10:08 am

The Eladrin is making her skin crawl. She wants to grab him by the hair and gouge his infuriating glowing eyes right out of his head. Her fingers twitch. It's that eladrin...no... Tahladar... no... Hugh! Hugh. She shakes her head, struggling to force the murderous tide to subside as she leans back against the low stone wall with a long sigh. The gesture is wholly un-drow, and only serves to emphasise the almost comical juxtaposition of exasperated concern and vicious cunning.

Right now the “Chalriina” part of her has already devised no less than 18 different ways to escape, and more than half of these involve horribly maiming “the eladrin” and four of them feature burning the entire keep to the ground. Arora’s stomach has tied itself in a firm knot over the events of the day. Deomin had seemed to melt away into role of Feiren the shifter. It had served them well but... she suppressed a shudder. Where did one personality end and the other begin? And what of she and Chalriina, for that matter? Arora recalled with horror how completely she had been overcome with Chalriina’s desperate rage and cagey impulses. One moment she had been talking calmly with the others, discussing what to do next and then she had locked eyes with Wrenn...

He talks too much. Someone should put a knife in him. Snide little snake. Only a fool trusts a dragonborn.

He...he tried to betray us! Who? Who had...? Xavice? Wrenn? Wrenn.... and Arath. Oh god my... my head. That.... that traitor! I’ll kill him! I’ll KILL him!


And she had leaped at him screaming accusations with that horrible, shadowy fullblade drawn; Chalriina moved so naturally into the role Arora could not resist in a culminating peak of stress and fear. She would have killed him; she was sure she would have mercilessly sheared his head from his shoulders... despite his confidence that she would (or could) not. But the voices of the others had pierced Chalriina’s instinctual haze. Arora heard. She dropped the sword in shock and trembled at her own actions.

But Chalriina was as much a part of this body as Arora was, perhaps even more so. Her darkvision cast the entire keep in a strange too-bright echo of what Arora could usually see, even the faintest star acted as a beacon of light on every wet stone. Her limbs were long, and flexible. She could feel the tightly coiled muscle and balance... the confidence and sway of her hips as she moved was certainly surprising, to say the least. But there was also a fragility which Arora found herself unaccustomed to as well. This drow, Chalriina, was so startlingly delicate that Arora would have called her frail, had she not known the underlying killing-power the assassin could command. Where Arora would have been able to withstand the crushing blow of a mace to the head or the concussive blow of a psychic bolt, Chalriina would crumble. Bones would snap. There would be Bruises and Blood. These were to be avoided at all costs. Now that flighty, hyper-reactive self-preservation instinct was starting to make sense.

Arora let another long sigh escape into the night air. She glanced over at the stoic features of Hugh-now-Tahladar who sat across from her meditating quietly. Her skin prickled uneasily once again, her stomach churned. They were instincts she didn’t understand and didn’t want. Hugh was her friend, but... the coldness with which he regarded her reminded her in no small way of Arath... and the thought made her heart thud a little more sharply, a little more painfully. She needed space. She needed to... to be alone.

But the solitude she found didn’t last long.

“And here I thought you and the Captain had the entire night ‘booked’. I’m surprised he let you off your leash this late... Mayylin.”

Arora turned slowly from her place on the South Wall, every nerve tingling with the urge to bolt. This was the man Brandis had called ‘West’. Chalriina had instantly understood the word he had used and its meaning. It was barely passable elven... but it was Arora who erupted in a blush.

Beautiful maiden... indeed.

Her eyes narrowed. “And what are you doing out here at this hour... Sir West?”

“The drow knows my name!” He smiled dangerously, “I didn’t think your kind bothered with formalities among your enemies.”

“I...” Arora struggled to restrain the impulse to kick the leering knight’s teeth in and reigned in her growing distaste for Sir West. “You are not my enemy...unless you make yourself such.”

It wasn’t the wording she had meant really... she wouldn’t have normally added the modifier but for some reason it seemed to fit beautifully. West seemed unconcerned with the fully armed and armored drow glaring at him, and shrugged.

“Ah, but what have I done to earn such benevolence, I wonder? You drow have a reputation you know...” He looked her up and down, taking a sly step towards her “do you know the term...man-eater?”

What followed was a stream of flowing syllables from her lips that Arora could only barely interpret as something akin to “go kiss an orc” though its meaning seamed much more vulgar than what she could translate. West’s understanding of this sort of elven seemed none the better, and he merely smirked further.

“You’re lucky I only let very pretty ladies talk to me like that.” He stretched casually, moving with a practiced ease that would have been charming if not for his demeanor. “Shame though, there are so many more...appealing uses for that mouth of yours.”

Arora frowned, brushing past him as he moved aside just enough to allow her to walk by with a wink. “Perhaps tomorrow will find you in a better mood, mayylin. Maddock promised to entertain my bid for your company when he’s done with you.” It must have been fate, or some freak affection of Avandra, but somehow Arora managed not to whirl around and eviscerate the man. Instead she all but fled down the stairs and into the safety of darkness once more.

When he’s done with me indeed!

Now flushed and furious, Arora fully fit the usual drow profile as she stalked back to where Hugh sat, calm as ever. Oh, how she wanted to kick him.

Instead she sat down across from him... and stewed.
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Dearly Departed (SPOILERS: Ep 46)

Postby Cailin » December 31st, 2010, 8:30 pm

You know you’d never be rid of me that easily...

No. No no no no.

It’s as if all the breath has flown from her lungs. Her knees tremble and collapse beneath her as she stares at the motionless body. Somehow she struggles to find her words again but her thoughts are too hard to grasp through the haze engulfing her. She screams at the Goliath to bring him back but he just looks on helplessly. His mouth moves but she hears nothing. Brandis tries to tell her he’s gone but she snarls and snaps at him.

This wouldn’t have happened if you had been doing your damn job!

For once, the human falls silent. Arora turns back to the still form of Deomin. She cradles his head in her lap, but the divine energy flowing from her does nothing to bring the spark of life back to his eyes.

“Hey... hey come on, you’ve come back from worse... Deomin?” Her voice is trembling and she can’t feel anything beyond the cold numbness wrapping around her. “You can’t leave now! You... you can’t...” But she can’t feel his presence anymore.

He’s gone.

With a shuddering breath, Arora struggles to her feet, picking up the fallen blade Deomin had called the Lace of Grief. Never has its name been more appropriate. Without even bothering to wipe away her tears, she slips the blade into her pack along with the flute she had given him.

Don’t worry, it’s just for safe-keeping. They’ll be here when you’re ready.

But death is more complicated, and sometimes fate has other plans for the departed souls. Arora’s mind races with ideas, schemes and plots to bring her fallen friend back, but her grief cripples her good sense. She has no choice but to stand back and watch as he is placed on the Imaskari’s altar. With a quiet whisper she entreats a connection, she reaches out with memory and emotion as she calls to him.

Do you remember when we first met? You could barely stand all my talking about Erathis, and I hated your impulsive carelessness. But we managed to make it out of that cavern and to even greater adventure.. and then you changed but I still saw you there, behind it all. We’ve saved each-other’s lives so many times, we survived a living island, we even both know what being digested by a Behir feels like. We’re family, you and I. You promised you’d help me have justice for my mother, and I said I’d help you with your quest... we’re not done yet, don’t you see?

The answer she receives both shocks and enrages her. It leaves her nerves on end, her stomach churning, her heart racing. She had not expected to see her friend’s soul entangled in chaos, trapped under the heel of some beastly Shadow. Her anger ignites the divinity in her blood, causing her cold grief to erupt into righteous fury. She will free Deomin from whatever villain claims to have hold of him.

She will kill the Fiend who keeps him trapped, she will tear Deomin from death’s clutches and face any challenge the nameless evil can throw at her. Her hand tightens its grip around the cold metal flute she had given him.

That Shadow better know what he's in for. You know you’d never be rid of me that easily...
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Liars (SPOILER: Ep 49)

Postby Cailin » January 16th, 2011, 11:39 pm

“I don’t like liars. Break his finger.”

Keeper watched with cold eyes as Arora gave the order. How could she do something like that, knowing how his own experience at the hands of the Baron had marred him in more ways than simply physically? But her own eyes betrayed a sort of strained desperation behind the bravado. She was neither cruel nor callous, despite what he saw. She couldn’t stand it anymore than he could. She wouldn’t do it if it weren’t absolutely necessary...

Suddenly Keeper wasn’t sure whether his thoughts were based on fact or hope.

Her eyes flickered to him with a small glimmer of panic as the sizzle and pop of burning flesh brought forth a sharply painful scream that made Keeper wince.

Stop this. He urged with a silent tilt of his head. Stop this madness, I beg you.

Arora set to work bandaging the wound, though her trembling fingers did little to help the now shaking Imaskari who was freely babbling about voices and conspiracy. Keeper closed his eyes in an attempt to block the event from his mind... to no avail. It was only when he felt a small hand on his forearm that he looked down at Arora.

‘I’m sorry.’ She mouthed, as the Goliath hoisted the barely protesting man over his shoulder as if he weighed no more than a sack of grain.

“Arora...”

She quieted the construct with a gentle ‘sush’ sound, furrowing her brow as her hand slipped from his arm.
“I didn’t think Wrenn would go that far...” She wasn’t looking up at him so much as she was staring at the slowly swaying residium trees.

“That’s not what I was going to say.” Keeper said firmly, drawing her attention back to him. “I’m just worried... about you.”

She sighed heavily, before slipping into a small smile and thudding her gauntleted hand against his chest. “Don’t you worry about me. I’ve got this -” she hefted up her hammer, “this..” she clasped her free hand over the champion’s code settled above her heart, “...and I’ve got you.” She nudged his side with her shoulder as they continued onward to catch up to the group, and Keeper’s feet began to move somewhat automatically as he considered her words.

“Of course you do, Arora.”

She smiled up at him fondly.

“You’ve got me too Keeper. Like old times.”

His eyes glowed softly in his version of a smile, but he said nothing.

They continued on to the Imaskari palace in silence.
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Digestion (SPOILERS: Ep 51)

Postby Cailin » February 5th, 2011, 12:06 pm

Inside the belly of a giant purple worm it is dark, suffocating and caustic. What little air there is inside the creature is permeated with moist acidic fumes that stick to the unfortunate occupant within.

Didn’t I promise myself I would never be digested again? Arora only has a few precious moments to consider the scenario as she frantically clasps the hilt of her hammer. The spectral dragonling following her seems unperturbed by the change in scenery and shines a bright light which illuminates the situation.

The esophagus arcs well above Arora’s reach. The insides of the beast churn violently and are too slick for her heavily armored form to scale. There’s no chance to escape, and there’s no guarentee that the rest of the group hasn’t been similarly dispatched by any of the other existing threats beyond the worm’s digestive tract. Her only option is to fight.

Even if I don’t get out... at least I can try to buy them time to either get me out or escape.

A burst of divine energy erupts from her hammer scorching the creature from within. The acid is seeping in between her greaves, stinging and burning her skin. She clenches her teeth and ignores it as her hammer makes contact with the gigantic fleshy insides of her captor. A sudden rumbling has her turning just in time to see a glittering blue arrowhead pierce the gut of the worm. A crackling spiderweb of ice freezes the tissue around the new wound causing the beast to jerk and thrash in pain. Arora’s heart surges with hope.

Moments later the saliva-slathered form of Colban rockets to her rescue, and Arora can’t help but hear Deomin’s words echoing in her mind.

I’ve been eaten by worse than you!

She suppresses a melancholy smile, hefts her hammer, and fights on.
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Arora's Journal (SPOILERS: Ep 46)

Postby Cailin » February 28th, 2011, 11:18 pm

Is he suffering terribly? I wonder. In the increasingly rare moments of peace I find myself asking this question and fearing the answer. Unconsciously my hand finds its way to the filigreed handle of the “lace of grief”, and I feel the stirrings threaten to become fresh tears. Is it horrible to wish he had simply died, rather than be forced not to know if he is bound to endless torment? Perhaps it is, but I cannot deny I have thought such terrible things in the darkness of night. Colban is very different from Deomin, yet somehow looking at the Goliath instantly draws my mind back to my dearest friend and brother-in-arms.

What happened to him? I wonder. There is so little known, but what I do know is that it reeks of Evil. My heart cannot rest until the wrong that has befallen him is put right, and in this way Colban and I are of one mind. It is... good to have an ally, no matter how strange he may be or by what providential circumstances he came to us. After all, what more questions can I ask of his origin than can I ask of the Champion’s Code, or the dragon spirit which was my shield? By my eye, they are all acts of divine intervention; above question and above doubt.

But to what end?


-Arora Whurlode-Keshali, 8 Eleasias, 1480 DR
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An Understanding (SPOILERS: Ep 43)

Postby Cailin » March 17th, 2011, 11:29 am

Arora could not help looking for Deomin’s form once or twice in the grove, but it was a habit she was not eager to break. Eventually her eyes settled on the broad-shouldered figure of Brandis lurking outside his cabin. She sighed heavily, memories of the last few weeks of difficulty between them simmering in her mind.

“Brandis. A moment of your time.”

Brandis turned slowly from his work with a grin. “What do you need?”

She took a deep breath, steadying herself. Brandis’ grin began to fade slowly as Arora spoke. “I realize that since our return to this time I’ve been... unduly harsh with you. My behavior isn’t befitting of either of us, despite my feelings. I regret insinuating that Deomin’s death was your fault in any way. Although I still... disagree... with your choices regarding the Lich...”

The formality of her comments sounded stiff and harsher than she’d meant them to. The words threatened to die in her throat before she could go on.

Brandis regarded her with a cool, expectant look. His silence was enough encouragement for her to continue.

Another slow breath allowed Arora to begin again. “I want to be able to trust you, yet I know I can’t ask you to never lie to me again. In that case... I don’t know what to hope for. I just...I can’t bear worrying about whether or not I’m being ‘used’ by the people closest to me.” She looked up at the warrior, beseeching him to understand. “Please.”

Brandis heaved a mighty sigh, as if he had been expecting this from her for far too long. Little lines of agitation swept across his features, betraying a glimmer of aged fatigue.

“Whurlode,” He began with a half-hearted smirk “you're wearing gear that fell out of the god-damned sky! The power of the Divine is in everything you do.”

Arora took a step back as he suddenly began pacing, falling into such a train of thought as to forget her presence entirely.

“Wrenn wields the arcane almost as easily as I do my sword, and Deomin's ties to the elements are obvious. I don't understand what happened back in the keep, and I have absolutely nothing to go on.”

He paused for a moment, brow wrinkled in frustration as he turned to face the dwarf.

“Is this someone's misguided attempt at a regeneration potion? Did I help out someone important? Maybe someone up there or down there wants me here. Last I checked, I didn't have a deity watching my back. Does some dark god have use for me in the realm of the living? Or is there just a wizard out there with a twisted sense of humor, watching me stumble around in ignorance?”

Arora’s head was beginning to spin with the rapid-fire questions that were not truly meant for her. She looked down at the Champion’s Code on her breastplate, then down to the hammer which was always at her side. She had never questioned them, never felt the need to know anything more than the one question she had already answered. Brandis, for his part, seemed consumed by his own question. Arora had seen it burning in his eyes before the Lich, the wholly uncharacteristic desperation in his voice subtly reminding her of her own begging at the feet of the Erathisine cleric.

“I... think I understand.” She said softly, not wishing to break the fragile state which allowed him, perhaps for the first time, to speak so openly with her.

Brandis bowed his head, brushing his hair back with a large war-weathered hand. “Do you? I have memories I can't explain - adventures from history books, battles with no survivors, long dead rulers no one remembers in lands no one has heard of, and living in ancient, ancient kingdoms. I had assumed that some were stories I had heard enough times that I imagined myself in them, that others were dreams, and the rest were from one too many blows to the head.” He grinned a little, wrapping his knuckles against his temple. When he caught Arora’s eye, however, the smile quickly faded. His gaze drifted to the fire, marked with a pained, frustrated grimace.

“Szass Tam knew what I was, Arora. I had to try.”

His eyes turned to Arora, fixing on her with an intensity usually reserved for battle.

“Now as far as telling you what I had planned to do - well, quite frankly, I risked the very fabric of existence. The only thing Heptos told us was to not change anything in the past, and I knew I had to do the exact opposite to get answers. You can volunteer all you want, and demand we make a group decision, but I'm not going to put that responsibility on others."

Arora felt pinned to the spot by the seriousness of the look he gave her. Suddenly she found it difficult to return his gaze. He kept the truth from them...to spare them. The realization hit her like a hammer to anvil. They were more alike than she had ever imagined. Brandis mistook her averted eyes to mean she was upset with him, and softened his tone.

“You feel used, and I'm sorry. I was brought back from the dead, and I don't even know the how or the why. I still don't.”

Arora felt a smile tug at the corner of her lips. Who knew that Brandis was ever capable of being vulnerable? “Yes well, next time you feel like tearing the reality of time and space asunder... consider letting me know. I may surprise you with how much responsibility I can handle.”

She knocked a gauntleted hand on his armored shoulder with a smile which he returned in kind.

There was nothing left to be said.
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Falling Away (SPOILERS: Ep 59)

Postby Cailin » March 25th, 2011, 12:33 pm

Musical Accompaniment

Arora’s ears are ringing so loudly she can barely hear the battle roaring around her. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knows - she’s dying. Something is draining out of her, eyes fixed open but unable to see anything more than a growing tunnel of gloom. Colban is yelling something at Brandis, and Arora calls out to them from the darkness as they both stumble in the path of the dragon’s shadowy maw.

Run. Take my hammer and run. I’ll be fine.

Her chest rises and falls with a shudder. Colban takes hold of her hammer and the chain connecting the great weapon to her wrist instantly shatters in a brilliant burst of light. Her lips part with a silent gasp as Colban moves away taking the preserved fragment of her soul with him.

Hugh, Brandis and Colban burst through the line of enemies and tear a path back through the cavern from whence they came. With hurried movements they rip open a portal with the Exodus Knife and make their escape holding Wrenn’s body and Arora’s hammer in their arms. Finally they are safe in the silence of the planar haven, hearts pounding thunderously. Meanwhile down in the tunnel Arora’s blood stills as her strong heart finally slows to a stop.

Arora is five years old, sitting on her father’s knee as he tells her a story about Moradin. She laughs and scrapes her knee as she falls onto the ground. She’s twelve, screaming at her Aunt Elsi and stomping her feet. Tears are streaming down her face as her father’s pyre is lit. Fourteen years old, she’s being introduced to Firon Palriel in the temple of Erathis in Estagund. It’s five years later - she’s kissing him; he has to kneel and it makes her grin.

Rapidly time leaps forward.

She’s meeting Deomin - darker and colder. Desperate and angry, she’s begging Arath not to take Therizdun’s “gift”. Melek and Aurum disappear over the horizon as a volcano explodes in the distance. Keeper drags her kicking and screaming out of a tavern in Chavyondat, holding her as she breaks down in a mess of drunken sobs. Arora cuts her hair for the first time. Velgresh smiles warmly as he presents to her a shining silver hammer and a crest of Bahamut. The tunnel shudders and collapses around them as Arath holds a crown in his hands. They’re careening down the back of a monstrous beast, she’s handing Deomin a beautifully filigreed flute. She’s kneeling over his body with his sword clutched in her hands. There’s a heavy hand on her shoulder; It’s Keeper who tells her he admires her. She smiles. Her black hair whips around her face as Thunderstrike soars through the air towards Calimshan. Her hand drifts up to the Champion’s Code around her neck. There’s a terrible roar and a blast of shadow. The sensation of falling forever...


And suddenly her eyes open.
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Justice (SPOILERS: Ep 60)

Postby Cailin » April 5th, 2011, 10:51 am

“I hope you are who I think you are.”

A hazy cloud of golden smoke envelops the group in an instant, and when it clears they find they are in an oddly familiar location: the palace of Orvyltar.

They appear to be standing in some sort of foyer or entry-way, the floors are polished marble reflecting the light of several torches lining the ornately decorated walls. Borkadd is nowhere to be seen.

Arora bursts into the throne room with a thundering crack, the doors flying open to reveal the dimly lit throne room. A frail-looking elderly man sits atop the throne, the crown of Ulgarth high on his brow.

It is Saluz Keshali: A cruel and callous man, cowed into submission by his fear of Arath and loss of agency. What he fears more than losing his crown, however, is death. He is sure that Arora has come to kill him.

The man sits on the throne rigid with fear, his eyes locked on Arora.

No mercy for the wicked. To allow mercy is to allow evil.

“You are Saluz Keshali, murderer of the king of Ulgarth, usurper of the crown, torturer, betrayer to you kingdom and your kin, do you deny it?”

Saluz is struck with fear and despair “No, gods no! You look... you look so much like her. I had forgotten her face... my Ardora...” He sobs.

Arora’s eyes are cold and narrowed “Forgive me if I find myself unmoved by your timely remorse. Justice has come for you at last.”

Saluz throws himself at her feet looking all the part a wretched and miserable man. She steps back, the hammer glowing as he begins sobbing.

“I beg you child... pity this man... have mercy on your own blood!”

Arora is unmoved. She rounds on him with trembling fury.

“I will grant you no mercy, for there was none in your heart when it mattered the most! You have written your own fate on the fabric of your soul with each unjust act you’ve committed. Do not stand before Justice now and beg for what cannot be given.

Saluz winces at the accusation, and tries another tactic. “Will you not spare some part of your heart for a man who lost his only daughter?

Eyes widen as her gauntleted fist strikes him full force across the face, sending him reeling backwards with a cry. “Lost!? How dare you! You murdered my mother just as you were planning to murder me! If you think--”

He interrupts Arora with a soft chuckle.

“So... that is what this is really about...” He coughs, blood mingling with spittle, “Not Justice, but Revenge. Revenge for the one murder I didn’t actually commit. How ironic that you would be the one to kill me for her death, when you were the reason she killed herself!”

“Lies!” Arora snarls, kicking the felled man hard in the ribs. Bones crack. “You murdered her! Iselda told me the truth!”

Curled on the ground Saluz coughs and holds his side in pain. “Your...dear Iselda told you the truth...eh? Did she tell you that your mother tried to drown you in the bath hours after your birth? That she considered you a punishment from the gods? Did she tell you Ardora refused to name you? Did she tell you that four days after your disappearance Ardora walked into the desert to die?”

Arora’s hammer suddenly feels heavier. She stills, her eyes flickering to her friends who stand motionless at behind her. “That... that’s not true! You’re a deceiver and a murderer! I will hear no more of your lies!”

Saluz senses he’s hit upon something. He presses forward. “I swear it! Killing me won’t bring her back! I’m not to blame! It’s not my fault, none of it is! I did what I had to do!”

Arora’s bright blue eyes darken, face falling into shadow as the hammer is lifted.

“And so must I.”

“Don’t do this!” He squeals, raising his arms defensively as she advances on him. “We... we can rule together! You can have anything you want!”

“Saluz Keshali, by the divine right of Justice, the Champion’s Code, and for the people of Ulgarth, I declare you unfit to rule, and unworthy of mercy. By Bahamut’s power, I claim High Justice in the name of your victims and in the name of Ulgarth.”

He screams in desperation “This isn’t Justice! This is vengeance! The only victim you care about is yourself!”

Arora shakes her head slowly. She looks back at her friends, distant memories drifting through her mind like smoke. She looks back at the man whose clear blue eyes are so like her own.

“At one time, you would may have been right. But this is bigger than my past. I’m too strong and too damn stubborn to be made a victim by the likes of you. Now you face Bahamut’s Justice, not mine.”

“No!!” Arora blasts him full force with a divine burst from her hammer. He flies back, eyes lit silver and gasping, silver smoke escaping his mouth as he hits the ground dead. She walks over to him and closes his eyes for him.

She picks up the crown that has fallen off his head and hands it to Klethen. She bows low.

“I believe this belongs to you, Your Majesty.”
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The Code (SPOILERS: Ep 61)

Postby Cailin » April 20th, 2011, 12:49 pm

Deomin was free. Months ago the Underdark had silenced him, offering only tortured screams and vague promises of rescue, yet here he stood right there in front of them. Still, Arora nearly doubted her own senses. He was like a ghost - some strange combination of laughter and determination that burst out of the maelstrom chaining him to the pandemonium altar. She was almost afraid to embrace him, lest she shatter the fragile joy she felt.

But embrace they did, radiant warmth engulfing her heart as she handed him back his amulet and sword. He was real. Arora’s happiness was so potent her spectral dragonling echoed the feeling, arching in an airy dance above them. Deomin was real and he was back.

The happy reunion was cut short, however, and Arora tried her best not to let her growing fatigue show. She had thrown everything of herself into the battle against the Shadow, pouring radiant energy forth from reserves in her spirit she had never knew existed until that moment. The vision of Deomin’s soul twisting in agony had done something to her she had not expected; her urge to rescue him had driven Arora to a spiritual depth such that she could nearly touch divinity itself. She was still breathless from the exertion, radiant light still lingered on her fingertips and in the starry-blue of her eyes. She had exhausted everything to save him, but there was still more to do. Some small part of her faded a bit at the thought. There would always be more to do.

With a determined grunt she forced herself to heft the shining hammer over her shoulder as they approached the defiled altar. She wouldn’t leave him behind now.

Deomin disappeared into the hurricane portal so suddenly Arora didn’t register that he had vanished at first. Her instinct was to follow, but aside from the obvious lethality of the place something else made her pause. The Champion’s Code around her neck was warm and glowing around her neck, reminding her sharply that she had other duties; other people who needed her more than Deomin. She turned, eyes flickering back to the portal Colban had barrelled through only seconds ago.

It was the mandate of Bahamut to protect the week and safeguard the innocent, but there was little if any weakness among them. Even Ramus, Kaylar and the Lady of Water held strength in their respective spirits that Arora could easily sense. But she could not save them all, and that knowledge chilled her heart like winter-steel as she made her decision.

Ramus.

He was the only one among them who did not seem to have come with a full grasp of what it meant to be connected with Deomin. The fact that he accepted what fate had dealt him, that he had honorably chosen to risk his life despite his tenuous link to their cause made her decision all the more clear. Arora ran to the crackling edge of the lightning portal, sending what little remained of her divine energy after the half-giant to aid him and keep him safe.

She accepted the consequences of her choice, even as she watched others of her group spend their efforts elsewhere. She did not miss the frown on Hugh’s face, nor the confusion in Wrenn’s eyes, but there was no explaining it. If they despised her for her choice, then that was simply the price the code demanded.

But that thought did little to comfort her as the Lady of Water slipped beyond their grasp.
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What the Future Holds (SPOILERS: Ep 67)

Postby Cailin » May 30th, 2011, 12:10 pm

“Momma! Uncle Brandis said he ate a horse!” The little girl’s warm-brown eyes were wide as she looked up at Arora. Her scrunched little frown reminded the queen so much of herself she couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Oh he did, did he?”

Seldi balked at her mother’s laughter. She clearly wasn’t taking this sort of outrage as seriously as she should. With a determined stare the little girl stamped her feet into the sandy dirt, strands of her dark hair struggled free from her braids giving a wild, untamed appearance.

“I don’t think he did at all!” Seldi barked, “A horse is too big to eat and Uncle Brandis says he ate it all by himself. Nobody can do that!” She crossed her arms with such finality that Arora could only smile, biting back the laughter bubbling up inside her. With a single motion she scooped up the little girl into a hug.

“Your Uncle Brandis tells a lot of stories, sweetheart.” She lowered her voice to a near-conspiratorial level, “and some of them are even true.”

After a short struggle Seldi forced herself back to stare at her mother with surprise. “Did he really eat a horse?!” Her eyes were saucer-wide, tiny mouth agape like a small fish plucked from a pond.

Arora smiled slyly. “He may have. He does have a very big mouth, after-all.”

The little girl grinned at her mother. “Or maybe it was a very small horse!” The image of her uncle eating a very tiny horse whole sprung vividly into her mind, and she burst into a fit of giggles that drew more than a few disapproving glances from the nearby courtyard staff. Arora patted her head fondly before releasing the child back to the ground.

“Run along, Seldi.”

As Seldi ran off to tumble and play with the other boys and girls in the courtyard Arora turned back to the worn missive she had been reading. Stiff, halted lettering scrawled across the worn paper, folded and re-folded hundreds of times over the years. Had it really been so long ago? She wondered, feeling the frown creeping across her features.

“Your Majesty?”

Arora let out a tiny startled huff as she shoved the letter back into its envelope. Advisor Uril stood off to the side at a respectful distance watching her with curious, cat-like eyes.

“The Lords of the Golden Sails are arriving within the hour. The dining hall is prepared as is the receiving foyer and the royal promenade, as you commanded.”

The queen nodded, already wondering just how favorable she would find the notoriously fickle tradesmen of the East. They reminded her of Deomin, in that way; they were forceful and decisive yet completely unhindered by anyone’s desires save their own. Arora glanced up at the parapets where the archers crouched, making their daily vigil.

“Sir Weaver! Will you join me for supper with the Golden Lords of the East?” She called, smiling as she watched the tanned, olive-cloaked archer turn to wave at her from across the yard. He was not a man for titles or formalities, so the term had become more of a good-natured tease between the two of them.

At Uril’s quiet insistence, she made her way to the receiving foyer to await the arrival of the men from across the ancient wide ocean, trade maps and manifests splayed before her like a great patchwork blanket.
Cailin
TK Player
 
Posts: 794
Joined: February 2nd, 2010, 7:34 pm
Character Name: Arora

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