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Thread: The Tiers of the Shiverfang

  1. #1
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    Diadems of Promethion's Avatar

    Name
    Throld Sartet
    Age
    68
    Race
    Dwarf
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Red
    Eye Color
    Green
    Build
    150cm / 114kg
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    Runekeeper, Loreweaver, Spymaster

    The Tiers of the Shiverfang

    “Now now, gentlemen, you don’t mean to say,” the dwarf did declare, perching his considerable bulk on the counter-top so that he sat at a height with his audience. “None among you have heard of the Tiered Mountain?”

    Oak boards groaned beneath his weight, seasoned and stained with centuries of spilled drink. Having already imbibed an impressive amount of the indeterminate swill these humans called ale, he belched to show his appreciation. The nearby hearth glowed across the burnished sea of red-gold filigree upon his bared chest. His cheeks, like pitted coal, smouldered beneath its warm caress. Swirling smoke from an unseen pipe curled across his features: the broken nose, the gregarious gap-toothed grin, the bristling stubble on his lantern jaw.

    He heaved air into the powerful bellows of his lungs, savouring the acrid taste of dried summergrass like a connoisseur of fine spirits. Such distinctive scents tended to make him nostalgic for the silent weight of his ancient underground homeland, now lost to the chaos that consumed the far south. Funnelling the raw emotion into his voice as a spider might weave threads, he slipped into the assembled ears and arrested their attention.

    “That will not do! Allow me to wet my throat with your finest ale... aye, thank you, that will suffice my dear... and elaborate on my quest.”

    Already he had entertained the common room with three stories today. The best so far, a bawdy tale of a Cathayan prince and his pet dragon, had turned the tavern wench’s ears the same shade of scarlet as the Coronian wine she served. His latest pronouncement only further fanned their anticipation. Grime-streaked farmers leant close to better hear his words. Rush-strewn benches creaked as they fought for space with burly woodsmen and their equally burly wives. A handful of lone adventurers pretended not to listen from over their pewter tankards. From the shadows of the trestles in the far corner, a pair of tempered amethyst irises watched and studied.

    “Somewhere in the mists between Knife’s Edge and Archen, far from the well-worn tread of the Wolf’s Trail, there stands a mountain held by the most fanatical followers of the Ethereal Sway. Nobody knows how to find it, and nobody knows how to get there. Ten of the King’s best huntsmen once tried, at the height of your civil war. Only one ever returned, raving like a madman that there was nothing there to find. The king chopped off his head, not long before his crown came tumbling off to join it.”

    A satisfied hiss echoed through the flickering tendrils of darkness. The dwarf reminded himself that many of those present had likely fought for Church against King and noble, not so long ago. He would be wise to choose his words, so that his head didn’t end up separated from shoulders as well.

    “Legend speaks that the Sway themselves led the Saint there during her frantic flight from her tyrannical All-Father. The heat of her silken skin melted the heart of even this most bitter of lonely mountains. Her presence carved a hollow soul from the cold rock, and instilled it with her divine grace. Her tears pooled in its darkest depths, where even now they glimmer in silvery sorrow. The sweat of her sculpted teats...”

    The tavern wench shot him a dark look from behind the counter. The dwarf raised his hands in good-natured defensiveness.

    “... very well, I leave to your imagination the beads of sweat that spilled from her soft, supple, sculpted teats.”

    She upended half a tankard of stale bitter over his head. Leering snickers from his audience accompanied his exaggerated spluttering. The dwarf made a show of rubbing his cropped scalp and licking at the sticky rivulets that poured down his jaw. An appreciative sound rumbled from the depths of his muscled throat, as he too joined in the laughter.

    “But we return to my quest! Long after the Saint departed the Tiered Mountain, rested and healed, the Church reclaimed it for their own purposes. And unlike the Aeromancer’s Tower or the Grand Cathedral in Knife’s Edge, they don’t want anybody snooping around there. The Tiered Mountain serves two purposes for them. It’s a monastery where they can train their most infamous of inquisitors and witch hunters. And it’s a reliquary where they can store their most powerful, most mysterious of artefacts. The Grand Cathedral is the light they want people to see, all glamour and relics and pompous circumstance. The Tiered Mountain is the darkness, in which they hid their deepest and darkest secrets.”

    “Blasphemy!” a young voice called from the back of the audience, only recently broken into manhood. A couple of drinkers closer to the counter, more cynical and world-weary than the besotten boy, snorted with care into their mugs. All had heard at their mothers’ breasts the tales of shadowy figures burning innocents at the stake. But only some had experienced them first-hand.

    “Aye, blaspheme I do!” The dwarf laughed again to wash away the shiver of fear that settled in the room, though he made sure to pin the speaker beneath a glare of flinted jade. He’d rather not that any mind-washed fanatics stole into his room at night, sharpened knives in their hands and blind devotion on their lips. “For I am a harmless drunken dwarf from Alerar, a humble spinner of words and purveyor of magnificent merchandise. I seek out secrets and I quest for truths, for I know no better!”

    He punctuated his point with an emphatic gulp of his ale. Half the tavern followed suit, and all was well in their worlds once more. Now if only those cold amethyst irises would look elsewhere...

    Throld Sartet’s voice rose again, continuing to spawn half-truths and fancies from his fertile imagination. With any luck, he would not pay for another drink tonight.
    Last edited by Diadems of Promethion; 03-19-17 at 02:09 PM.
    -Level 1-

    Come one, come all, and listen close
    No braggart am I nor one to boast
    Yet to tell this tale I must declare
    'I shit you not, 'tis true, I swear!'

  2. #2
    Maul-Slayer
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    Joshua Breaker Cronen
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    At the other end of the bar, a man with Y-shaped scars on his cheeks placed a thick Coronian crown on the countertop.

    "That's for mine," he said, and added another, "that's for you, and that," he stacked three crowns atop one another and placed them down with a decisive thunk, "is to keep ale flowing into the storytelling dwarf's mug. Thanks lass."

    "You really should not encourage him," sighed the bosomy barmaid, but she took the coins without further protest and resumed service along the dark wooden counter.

    "Gold shall go where it is due," said Joshua 'Breaker' Cronen. He scraped a hand over the coarse stubble on his chin and ran callused fingers through close-cropped brown hair. He appeared absolutely relaxed as he sipped scotch from a squat glass tumbler, and yet his hazel eyes never stopped moving, always scanning the tavern in the dingy mirror behind the shelves. The scotch he supped had come from a tall amber bottle on the top shelf, the finest the tavern had to offer. The well-aged whisky went down as smoothly as a skier navigating the slopes of a glacier.

    Breaker considered his image in the bar's mirror over the rim of his glass. He had come to Salvar for a holiday, for some time away from Corone where half the population knew his face, knew him as a fabled prizefighter. When there wasn't an avid follower clamoring at his heels there was always work in Corone, whether paid for by men with gold or by gifts from his goddess Am'aleh. In Salvar Josh was relatively unknown; he had a few friends from the civil war when he'd helped the crown fight off the Ethereal Sway, but no one else knew of him. Since the cold climate did not bother the young demigod, Salvar had seemed like an excellent place for some well deserved relaxation.

    And then he crossed paths with the storytelling dwarf, and something in his mind shifted like the gears of an Alerian steamship.

    Breaker knew of the Tiered Mountain. During the civil war he fought against warriors who called it their home, and had killed the then-king who led them. Josh took an extra long swig of scotch, emptied his glass and signaled for more. Moments before Josh bested him, the king of the Tiered Mountain had murdered Cronen's lover, Kristina Rythadine. Josh toasted the air and drank to her memory; a fearsome Salvic warrior woman with fire in her hair and fire in her heart. Kristina's brother had been first amongst the dead king's disciples, and had flung himself off a cliff rather than face Cronen's wrath. Geoffery Rythadine had survived that day, for he wore a pair of enchanted gloves that allowed him to navigate the winds like a bird of prey. The gloves had been a gift from his father, Tinker Rythadine, the alchemist who gave Breaker his patented black metal boots.

    Years had passed since then, and still rage bubbled in Breaker's gut when he thought of the Sway-sympathizing Rythadine soaring to safety. Josh had sworn that day to hunt Geoffery down and end his miserable life... but he never had. He had returned to Corone and lost himself in an endless string of prizefighting matches. Years later, he had another chance, and he could not turn away from it.

    So much for my vacation, Cronen mused, sparing a glance for the beardless dwarf, tonight, he drinks as much as he can hold on my coin. Tomorrow... we'll see if he knows more than he told about the Tiered Mountain.

    Breaker leaned back until he could feel heat from the tavern's hearth on his broad back. The fire roared, but it could not match the blaze ignited in the demigod's belly. He stared into the mirror, into his own hazel eyes.

    There was a chance Geoffery Rythadine now ruled the Tiered Mountain. Breaker would find the place and have his revenge; he knew it was no legend.
    Last edited by Breaker; 09-12-16 at 02:13 PM.
    ... They fell to him as prey to bluefin
    for the Jya's warriors knew not how to swim...
    13-3-2

    I wrote a book! ~ Most Suave Character 2010

  3. #3
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    Diadems of Promethion's Avatar

    Name
    Throld Sartet
    Age
    68
    Race
    Dwarf
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Red
    Eye Color
    Green
    Build
    150cm / 114kg
    Job
    Runekeeper, Loreweaver, Spymaster

    The frost-flowers had yet to wither when Throld stepped out into a dawn of cloudy grey. His breath, hot and heady, steamed from his bristly lips into the mists that wreathed the northbound road. His boots, heavy and resounding, trod a crisp unwavering path towards the foothills on the horizon.

    Perhaps ten minutes after leaving the village perimeter, he came to a sudden halt in the middle of the road, sniffing the air like a beast at bay. Beneath the scent of muffled dew, beneath the aroma of the fleeing shadows, he caught the fleetest whiff of something else. Something that had bothered him the evening before.

    “I suppose I should thank you for not causing a ruckus in the tavern,” he declared in full voice, tracking the reverberating sound. His travel-sack slipped to the frozen ground, and in the same movement he shrugged a peculiar crossbow-like contraption from his shoulders. “But if you think you have me at a disadvantage now that I’m alone, I’m afraid you’re sadly mistaken.”

    Heartbeats echoed, wordless and silent. Wispy grey tendrils curled past bushy brows of burnished bronze, all that moved in a world of formless fog. Throld tensed, senses attuned to the slightest change in his environment. When the black-cloaked wraith rose like a summoned spectre from the shadows of a roadside hedge, amethyst eyes flaring like will’o’wisps in a mystic night, his features sagged in exaggerated relief.

    “Master Sartet.” The apparition addressed him in a voice more sinister than lyrical, like the first strains of a dirge. One formless sleeve reached up to remove the alabaster mask that obscured his face, revealing pale olive skin and features touched by the ageless youth of elfkind. “We have need of a conversation.”

    The air stirred with that vague hint of peppermint that always accompanied dark elf magic. Throld sniffed, then sneezed.

    “Oh I recognise you,” he grimaced, the dark folds of his face contorted into something approaching distaste. “The young one in Raiaera, what was your number again... Four? Five? You don’t mind if I just call you Blackie, do you? And, on a serious note, you have to do something about that outfit. For a clandestine hunter-killer employed by the Alerian government, you stand out like an old wine stain.”

    “Understand, Master Sartet, please. We asked when you returned to Ettermire, and we asked again via our attache in Gunnbad. We asked again after your journeys to Istraloth. Each time you grinned and agreed. Each time you failed to turn up at the appointed hour. So I am sure you understand that this time we are obliged to accompany you, to ensure that you answer our summons.”

    “And?” Dropping the jolly facade, Throld fixed the elf’s paper-thin courtesy with a flinty glare. “Are you going to label me a dissident and toss me in a dungeon?”

    The Blackcloak raised both hands in appeasement, though in the same movement he took a step closer to his diminutive target. “We promise. We only wish to know what you know about the rogue artificer and arcanist you encountered...”

    Throld groaned, stomach churning with bitter memory. What he would have given never to think of that maniac dwarf-dam ever again! “Then tell your superiors that I know nothing!”

    “I am afraid you will have to do so in person, Master Sartet.”

    Another heartbeat passed before Throld scoffed one last time.

    “Well here I am, refusing to budge.” Bell-shaped frost flowers shattered in muted tinkles beneath his heels, as he manoeuvred against the thick trunk of a Salvic oak. “What are you going to do about it?”

    The elf sighed, almost sad... or had he steered the conversation to end in this manner? “You leave me little choice.”

    Twin cudgels, trailing thick hempen cord, slipped from the folds of his formless cloak. In a blur of movement that only caressed the thick fog, he trapped Throld against the tree. One truncheon pinned the dwarf’s trigger hand to the bark, keeping the barrel of his dragon-belcher pointed in the wrong direction. The other coiled its rope around Throld’s remaining wrist, drawing as tight as a hangman’s noose.

    “I will have to take you there by force.”

    But Throld only bared his yellowed molars into the elf’s face: a filthy, mocking grin.

    “I rather think not.”

    He ducked.
    Last edited by Diadems of Promethion; 03-19-17 at 02:09 PM.
    -Level 1-

    Come one, come all, and listen close
    No braggart am I nor one to boast
    Yet to tell this tale I must declare
    'I shit you not, 'tis true, I swear!'

  4. #4
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    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
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    Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch.

    The frost gave each step a coarse voice.

    Shit.

    Through a curtain of nearly opaque fog, Josh saw the dark elf attack the dwarf. He sprinted. No time for a stealthy approach. He'd been following the dwarf since the burly fellow left the inn, staying far enough back and taking enough care to avoid detection. He'd been aware of the dark elf for some time, having spotted him flitting from one frost-laced building to the next as they left town. Under the cover of fog the elf hadn't looked like much of a threat, and at any rate the dwarf seemed the type to take care of himself. Then the clubs came out and Cronen's black metal boots chewed the frozen ground faster. Wind whistled in his ears and whipped through his plain brown woolen clothing as he ran.

    The elf turned his head as Cronen's crunching footsteps neared, a look of surprise on his narrow face. He acted swiftly with the calm assurance of a professional, looping the cords from his cudgels around the dwarf's arms and securing them behind the oak. He clawed for the powder weapon the dwarf still gripped.

    Josh leaped at a neighboring tree and bounded off the trunk, his enchanted boots giving him perfect traction. He came down at the dark elf, rolling his right shoulder back and delivering a thunderous downward punch.

    Thwack! The fog muffled the sound of the blow but still it resounded off nearby trees. The elf stumbled away, cloak flapping, gripping his jaw and groaning. But he kept his feet.

    Josh raised his eyebrows in surprise. He hadn't wanted to kill the elf, but he'd put enough into the punch to knock out most prizefighters he'd faced. The elf, it seemed, had a granite jaw. He shook the blow off and assumed a high guard with fists clenched, bobbing and weaving as he advanced.

    Want to box, eh?

    Breaker stepped in and delivered a sharp straight kick to the front of the elf's knee. He ducked under the retaliatory overhand right and snared a handful of the midnight cloak, twisting as he stood straight to whip the fabric over the elf's head. One wide, heavy palm caught the back of the blindfolded Alerian's neck and drove the side of his skull into the very tree he'd lashed the dwarf to. Breaker did not fight following any specific rules.

    The oak shook slightly and the elf crumpled to the ground, unconscious.

    Josh cracked his neck and rolled his shoulders and kicked his right leg up to snatch the black diamond dagger from his boot. Going for the blade sooner had not even occurred to him. He cut the dwarf free and sheathed the dagger and then picked up the dropped dragon-belcher and offered it to its owner. He wanted the dwarf at ease, after all.

    "You're welcome, master storyteller," Cronen said with a warm grin, "would you care to reward me with a few words?"
    ... They fell to him as prey to bluefin
    for the Jya's warriors knew not how to swim...
    13-3-2

    I wrote a book! ~ Most Suave Character 2010

  5. #5
    Member
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    Diadems of Promethion's Avatar

    Name
    Throld Sartet
    Age
    68
    Race
    Dwarf
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Red
    Eye Color
    Green
    Build
    150cm / 114kg
    Job
    Runekeeper, Loreweaver, Spymaster

    “Remind me never to brawl against you, Mister Cronen,” Throld laughed, thumbing the trigger mechanism upon one of his many rings. The serrated blade poised against the cords that bound him slipped back into its notch with the muted click of a tensing spring. “Your reputation is worth every ounce of its weight in mythril.”

    Not in a dwarven age could he mistake the People’s Champion, the prizefighter known as the Granite Phantom, described to him in excruciating detail whenever he conducted business in Corone. Neither had he missed said Champion’s interest in his tale of the previous evening, nor the surreptitious stealth with which the human had waited for him upon the road this morning. Throld reached up to retrieve the proffered weapon, and in the process offered Cronen his broadest, toothiest grin.

    “A pleasure to make your acquaintance, and to receive your help in my time of need.”

    Nostrils flared as he breathed deep of relief and reassurance. Beady green eyes darted across the worn wooden stock and oiled iron barrel, checking for any scrapes incurred during its brief sojourn. The dragon-belcher meant much to him, even more than its custom construction might suggest. Though it had only left his possession for a handful of heartbeats, still he fussed and clucked over it like a mother hen.

    At length satisfied, he turned his attention to the elf. An imperceptible rise and fall of the chest assured him that Blackie still breathed. A brief peer into sightless amethyst gave him no tell-tale signs of haemorrhaging. Dead bodies were bad for business, after all; Throld had no desire to make an irreversible enemy, just a unwilling ally.

    Propping Blackie up against the flaking bark, he arranged the elf’s spidersilk cloak to cover the face. From the road the unconscious figure might look like a traveller who had stopped to grab shelter and rest. Throld hoped any inquisitive passers-by would overlook the obvious question of why said traveller had not entered the village instead.

    “Blackcloak, right?” Cronen’s rumble interrupted from over his shoulder, a curt thumb indicating the unconscious elf. “What’s that all about?”

    Throld’s gnarled features twisted once again into their grimace, as bitter as the whiff of wood smoke darting through the dawn. “Had a run-in with them last year in Raiaera, alongside a psychotic maniac of a dwarf-dam who’s been raising trouble ever since with the independence movements. They still think I know something about her. I don’t. All very bad for keeping a low profile.”

    A few final touches ensured the elf’s comfort in his unconscious bliss. In the process, Throld slipped a faded scrap of parchment into his pocket, wondering if Cronen might notice. Either Blackie would find it himself when he awoke, or his comrades would notice when they caught up and checked on him. To Throld, it only mattered that the crude copy of the Tiered Mountain’s location told them where he headed.

    “My appreciation for keeping him alive, Mister Cronen,” he turned to address his saviour at last. “Dead bodies are even worse for business than bad rumours. At least I can deal with the latter myself. The former...”

    Harrumphing from the bellows-like depths of his lungs, he gathered his belongings from the crisp dirt path. Cronen fell into step alongside him - not difficult for the long-legged human - as the first rays of dawn seared through the mists, sublimating frost flowers from the grassy verge.

    “But where are my manners? You wished me to reward you with a few words. About the Tiered Mountain, perchance?” Studious calculation fixed Cronen from beneath his grin. Yes, the People’s Champion would do. A strong arm in battle, a shrewd mind out of it, and a shared interest to boot. “I would be happy to enlighten you as we walk?”
    Last edited by Diadems of Promethion; 03-19-17 at 02:09 PM.
    -Level 1-

    Come one, come all, and listen close
    No braggart am I nor one to boast
    Yet to tell this tale I must declare
    'I shit you not, 'tis true, I swear!'

  6. #6
    Maul-Slayer
    EXP: 166,794, Level: 17
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    Breaker's Avatar

    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    Ageless (looks 28)
    Race
    Demigod (human)
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Light Brown
    Eye Color
    Hazel
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    6 feet / 202 lbs.

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    The trail meandered over short hills, through sparse shriveled woods, and around burbling streams bordered by icy overhangs. Breaker kept pace with the energetic dwarf easily, enchanted black boots still crunching the frost with every footfall. The sun climbed higher in the sky, striving valiantly to melt the thick fog that shrouded the land. Birds flitted about small barren bushes and old rotted logs, supping on a scant supply of berries or worms.

    Josh found himself wondering about the dwarf's history with the Blackcloaks. He knew little of the Alerian operatives other than the clandestine nature of their work, having never encountered one of their agents before. He'd been tempted to linger with the downed dark elf until the Blackcloak woke up to conduct his own brand of questioning, but the dwarf was eager to travel and Josh could not afford to lose the lantern-jawed fellow.

    So he did notice who paid for his drinks last night, Breaker thought.

    "Aye," he acknowledged, "I would know all that you know of the Tiered Mountain." Not wanting to share his true motivation, Josh spun a short story to appease the dwarf's curiosity. Like most good stories it started with the truth and ended far from it.

    "During the war, I fought alongside the Salvic Special Forces repulsing attacks from the Ethereal Sway," Josh said as they strode past a stand of crooked pines, "I lost an adamantine dagger that was discovered by my grandfather, given to my father and then to me. It is of course a priceless family heirloom. The blade was captured by a Sway sympathizer who was overheard speaking of his home in the Tiered Mountain." Josh shot a look at the dwarf to see how his story was taking, hazel eyes steady as two stones.

    "I swore I would recover that dagger one day, but no matter how I searched I could not find anyone who knew of the Tiered Mountain." He paused a beat to let his words sink in while a frigid wind whipped between them. Breaker did not shiver despite his thin traveling garments. "Until last night. Your story provided the first hope I've had of re-discovering my grandfather's blade."

    They strode along in silence but for the crunch of frost and the wind whistling through the gnarled trunks of fresh-smelling pines. Breaker hid the emotion from his eyes as he remembered Kristina dying in the snow, and Geoffery Rythadine's mad laughter as he escaped off the edge of the cliff. He kept a modest smile on his face despite the part of his mind that screamed at him to shake the information out of the dwarf and be on his way.

    Best not to rush this, he reminded himself, the dwarf likes the sound of his own voice. If I get him talking on the right topic he'll tell me everything he knows and then some. Josh pushed the burning anger into a sealed compartment at the back of his mind, banking the coals for later. He took a deep breath of crisp air, broad shoulders and barrel chest expanding.

    "So aye," he repeated, "I would know what you know of the Tiered Mountain. But first, it seems you have me at a disadvantage. You know my name - although this 'Mister Cronen' business is unnecessary. Call me Breaker. And what should I call you, master storyweaver?"
    Last edited by Breaker; 10-02-16 at 02:42 PM.
    ... They fell to him as prey to bluefin
    for the Jya's warriors knew not how to swim...
    13-3-2

    I wrote a book! ~ Most Suave Character 2010

  7. #7
    Member
    EXP: 3,391, Level: 2
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    Diadems of Promethion's Avatar

    Name
    Throld Sartet
    Age
    68
    Race
    Dwarf
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Red
    Eye Color
    Green
    Build
    150cm / 114kg
    Job
    Runekeeper, Loreweaver, Spymaster

    “May Ronus forgive me! Or did I abandon all courtesy alongside my dignity when that blasted elf tied me up? Throld Sartet, merchant and raconteur, at your service.” The dwarf bowed his cropped scalp, not breaking the rhythmic tread of his cured auroch-hide boots across frost-hard Salvic trail. “And thank you kindly for your praise. I suppose I do have a reputation in certain circles, Breaker. Although it’s nothing as impressive as yours.”

    “A merchant? With so few wares?” Breaker asked, sending a glance like a broadsword at the light pack Throld shouldered.

    A low chuckle rolled across the waves of coarse knee-high grass. The dwarf ran a meaty hand ran across his close-shaven chin, morn fire glinting upon dusky chest hair.

    “My family deals in a variety of goods... wines, gems, cloths, metals, the magical and the mundane of worlds both over and under. But I leave the carting and hauling to those who can manage pack animals without eating mouthfuls of excrement, especially above ground... oh, it’s a dwarven thing. Rather, I’m the friendly face you send to begin negotiations, the crowbar you use to pry open a barony of notorious small-mindedness. But my true wares are what you’re paying for from me at this very moment. The most valuable commodity in all the world.”

    A second devious chuckle welled in his throat. He leant close, heady breath steaming into the promise of an overcast afternoon. Breaker had a strong, earthy scent - the scent of a life well-lived - but with a lingering undertone of mystery. It tickled Throld’s sense of story: another tavern tale to tease from its covers and sow into the soil of an eager audience.

    “As a merchant I travel where I wish to hawk my wares. With a wink and a wave, a hundred princes and a thousand paupers dine at my table. As a raconteur I tease truths out of lies and weave lies out of truths. With a single word I can make a man or topple a dynasty.”

    With equal alacrity he retreated from his travelling companion, enjoying the theatrical pause as he took the time to scan the withered moorlands. No sign of pursuit dogged their footsteps, though doubtless the Blackcloaks would take greater care now they knew who accompanied him. Ahead the trail rolled for many leagues before disappearing into heavy cloud upon the northern horizon.

    “Information, Breaker. I deal in information. I don’t pretend to compete with the specialists in the field. And I leave the cut-throat aspects of this business to those more bloodthirsty than I. But I daresay that I’ve picked up a few juicy tidbits in my time.”

    “Such as your tale of the Tiered Mountain?”

    The dwarf chuckled a third time, sniffling messily as the chill infiltrated his nostrils. Almost on a whim he struck off across countryside, through a gaggle of thorny bushes that in time revealed to their feet a muddy, ill-used track.

    “Like all good stories, it starts with a grain of fact. Like all good tellers, I then embellish it with glamourous smoke and mirrors. The Tiered Mountain does exist, of this I am certain. And I also know where.” Grinning up at Breaker he patted his chest pocket, drawing the man’s attention to a creased sheaf of parchment tucked there. “I have enough evidence to speculate that the Church used it as both training ground and reliquary, both before the Saint’s War and during it. Hundreds of students must have thronged its halls during its heyday, striving - or driven - towards the Sway’s ideal of a zealous enforcer. I’ve also got some hints that some of its secrets are far darker than that. Beyond what I’ve just said, though...”

    Breaker’s footfalls came to a sudden halt, moments before Throld himself crested the latest rolling rise. Once alongside the tall, well-built man, the bristle-chinned dwarf grunted in satisfaction. He hadn’t really expected any of the villagers to react to his tale of the night before, given the notorious heavy hand with which the Church protected its secrets. But it had been worth the attempt.

    His grubby finger pointed at the snow-capped peak that now pierced the clouds in the distance.

    “Well, we’ll have to find out ourselves.”
    Last edited by Diadems of Promethion; 03-19-17 at 02:10 PM.
    -Level 1-

    Come one, come all, and listen close
    No braggart am I nor one to boast
    Yet to tell this tale I must declare
    'I shit you not, 'tis true, I swear!'

  8. #8
    Maul-Slayer
    EXP: 166,794, Level: 17
    Level completed: 83%, EXP required for next level: 3,206
    Level completed: 83%,
    EXP required for next level: 3,206

    AP
    29
    GP
    16,155
    Breaker's Avatar

    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    Ageless (looks 28)
    Race
    Demigod (human)
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Light Brown
    Eye Color
    Hazel
    Build
    6 feet / 202 lbs.

    View Profile
    As they trudged toward the towering, distant mountain, Breaker increased his pace until the dwarf was practically panting. The change in speed was not born out of impatience; Josh simply wanted the dwarf to stop talking so he could have a quiet moment with his thoughts. They marched over frosted ridges, around heavy drifts of snow, and through mountain passes where a single misstep might trigger an avalanche. As the day wore on the sun melted the thick fog that had shrouded the land, giving Breaker a clearer view of their destination.

    The demigod wondered what was holding him back. He could have left the dwarf in his wake easily, and would arrive at the Tiered Mountain sooner for doing so. If Geoffrey Rythadine still ruled there, he would want the stealth of a solitary approach. And yet something in the back of his mind kept him from accelerating away from the stout fellow. For some reason Josh felt he might need the loquacious dwarf... perhaps Sartet had not been entirely honest; perhaps the mountain he'd pointed out was merely a marker along the path to their destination.

    "I say Breaker," Throld puffed, a ghostly plume emanating from his whiskered lips, "might you grant me a brief reprieve? This pace of yours has placed a murderous stitch in my side." The dwarf paused in the lee of a large pile of boulders and sat on a flat rocky outcropping, twisting to and fro to stretch his stomach.

    "Of course," Josh replied. While Throld rested the demigod scrambled up the pile of rocks and perched upon the top, shielding his eyes against the late afternoon sun and peering in the direction they'd been traveling. "It appears we'll have to choose the high road or the low road," he pointed out. Ahead, the trail they'd been following split in two. One path meandered along the gully between two snow-capped mountains while the other cut a straight line along the whitewashed slopes.

    "A choice between two paths!" Sartet exclaimed as he rooted through his haversack. "How appropriate for the narrative! I defer to your better judgment on the matter." He waved a careless, meaty palm as he pulled some bread and cheese from the pack and munched on them noisily. "Hungry?" He asked, offering a heel of bread.

    "I do not require much sustenance," Breaker replied. He leaped down from the rocks and landed lightly with a frosty crunch.

    "Nor much rest, it would appear!" Sartet said, dusting crumbs from his beard and clambering to his feet. "Lead on then." The dwarf stamped his boots against the cold and wiped his nose with a thick sleeve.

    They followed the path that led up the edge of one mountain and along its slopes. The air grew thin and the ground became snowy, with large drifts gathering in napes of the landscape. A snow hare burst out of one such drift as they passed by.

    Without thinking Breaker kicked his right foot up, drew his black diamond dagger and threw with an overhand flourish. The blade buried itself in the hare's spine and the long-eared creature died without a sound. Blood stained the surrounding snow in a growing red halo. Josh retrieved his dagger, ran the blade through the snowbank to clean it and returned it to its sheath. He plucked the hare by its ears and carried it with him while the sun descended swiftly behind the western horizon.

    "Why not camp here for the night?" Josh asked as they passed a particularly heavy drift of powdery snow.

    "Out in the open?" Throld queried. "My poor chin might appreciate a mite more shelter than this mound of ice."

    "Let me see to the shelter," Josh suggested with a knowing smile. He raised his hands, rolling his fingers inward from the wrists and calling on his connection to the limitless Eternal Tap. The bank of snow writhed and re-formed, shaping into four tall walls with a roof. As the structure hardened into solid ice one section melted into a doorway, and Josh stepped inside the improvised ice hut. He crafted a fire pit into the north wall, with a narrow accompanying chimney to vent smoke. He left the hare's body in the pit, and then ducked outside to see Throld marveling at the creation.

    "Why don't you rest here?" Josh suggested, "I'll nip down below the snowline and find some firewood before it's fully dark."
    ... They fell to him as prey to bluefin
    for the Jya's warriors knew not how to swim...
    13-3-2

    I wrote a book! ~ Most Suave Character 2010

  9. #9
    Member
    EXP: 3,391, Level: 2
    Level completed: 47%, EXP required for next level: 1,609
    Level completed: 47%,
    EXP required for next level: 1,609

    AP
    5
    GP
    1,086
    Diadems of Promethion's Avatar

    Name
    Throld Sartet
    Age
    68
    Race
    Dwarf
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Red
    Eye Color
    Green
    Build
    150cm / 114kg
    Job
    Runekeeper, Loreweaver, Spymaster

    The dwarf did as Breaker bade him, but not before unrolling the bear pelt he carried on his back and spreading it upon the icy ground. A sound somewhere between a relieved sigh and a pained groan escaped his chapped lips. Giving up on unbuckling his rucksack, he instead began to massage the weary aches in his legs and side.

    “C’mon, you stupid stubby pegs.” He infused his reprimands with self-deprecating humour, knowing that keeping up the constant chatter would help him feel more at home. “You’re meant to be good at this endurance business. Get working again before the longshanks starts laughing at us.”

    In short order, given generous application of gnarled massage and grumpy cajoling, Throld felt confident that he could find his feet. This time he did manage to shrug the burden from his shoulders, unpacking and laying out item after item in front of Breaker’s makeshift fire pit. A cast-iron traveller’s pot and wooden cooking board soon found themselves accompanied by a pouch of barley, three different varieties of dried tubers, and two small precious parcels containing sea salt and peppercorn.

    He then reached into a coat pocket, pulling out a generous length of twine, a handful of iron stakes, and some bronze chimes that tinkled sweet song in his palm. Grunting with effort he waded into the drifts upwind from their shelter, scanning the lay of the land with the eye of an experienced traveller and identifying the most likely routes of approach in the lee of the boreal wind. Working with the fevered haste of one who wanted to avoid giving his fingers frostbite, he had soon set up a simple perimeter around the encampment. With any luck, the bells would give them warning should an inquisitive predator stray too close. He even had time to fill the pot with clean snow before his companion returned with armfuls of dry kindling.

    “Welcome back,” he said, reinforcing his words with a hearty laugh that creased his wind-tanned brow. Breaker raised an eyebrow at the various homely accoutrements that had appeared like magic from Throld’s pack and pockets. The dwarf waved it back down with a nonchalant hand.

    “Thank you kindly for taking care of the heavy lifting. And for the meat - great shot, by the way.” Nodding at the firewood and the hare in turn, Throld exposed his teeth in a broad grin. “I’m merely reaping the benefits of having learned how to pack for the road, and the consequences of wanting to live well while doing so. Not all wilderlands are quite so kind to give me fresh meat, after all, and old Vera here doesn’t do so well when it comes to leaving her dinner edible afterwards.”

    The dwarf patted the crossbow-like contraption at his hip. Breaker gave it an incredulous look.

    “You named your belcher? After a woman?”

    “Yup. Ain’t she a beauty? Say hello to the nice gentleman, Vera.” He gave the man a wink. “In any case, I promise you that my famed stew will taste much richer with fresh rabbit than with the salted pork I usually use. We’ll see how much ‘sustenance’ you need when this gets to bubbling, eh?”

    Throld lit the stacked kindling with a murmured word of power, and they set to cooking with a will. Breaker skinned and gutted his kill, while Throld soaked the barley and dealt with the tubers. Soon their dinner steamed its meaty aroma into the chill, salted to the dwarf’s liking, and the snowscape beyond their icy doorway bathed in the flame of a brilliant sunset. A pair of iron bowls joined the pot around the fire. The pair of travellers wrapped their cloaks about their bodies, huddling in newfound warmth.

    Now they ate, and well. In a matter of minutes, only a simmering broth remained of the hearty stew. The onrushing night extinguished the world outside, bringing with it the first whispers of a frozen gale and the promise of an overcast dawn. But within their shelter such troubles mattered not. Reclining upon the furry luxuriance of his pelt, Throld breathed a puff of fruity smoke and allowed his sated muscles to relax.

    “I suppose that you have many questions, Master Breaker. I certainly have some of my own. So let us share.” He grinned, at ease. “Please let me start us off. What tales can I spin for you tonight?”
    Last edited by Diadems of Promethion; 03-19-17 at 02:10 PM.
    -Level 1-

    Come one, come all, and listen close
    No braggart am I nor one to boast
    Yet to tell this tale I must declare
    'I shit you not, 'tis true, I swear!'

  10. #10
    Maul-Slayer
    EXP: 166,794, Level: 17
    Level completed: 83%, EXP required for next level: 3,206
    Level completed: 83%,
    EXP required for next level: 3,206

    AP
    29
    GP
    16,155
    Breaker's Avatar

    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    Ageless (looks 28)
    Race
    Demigod (human)
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Light Brown
    Eye Color
    Hazel
    Build
    6 feet / 202 lbs.

    View Profile
    Sleet fell as the growing wind moaned in the doorway, and Breaker sealed the opening with a casual wave of one broad hand. He drew a thin layer of ice across the entryway and the little hut grew warmer still, heat emanating from the glowing coals that remained of their fire. Josh sat upright in his snowy seat by the door, enjoying the sensation of the hearty stew digesting in his belly. Too often Breaker forgot the common comforts of mortals, and camping on a mountainside in Salvar seemed like a good place to remember.

    "A story or two might help to pass the time," Breaker acknowledged with a gentle nod. He scrutinized the reclining dwarf. Everything about the stout fellow seemed light and casual... everything save for the dragon-belcher he still wore at his belt. "I'm curious how Vera came to have her name. Was she a long-lost love interest of yours, Master Sartet?"

    "Love interest, no," the dwarf said. A shadow fell across his kind eyes. "Long lost... you do cut straight to the heart, Breaker." Throld cleared his throat with a low, gravely grumble. "Well, let me start at the beginning. I was born the fourth of five children. My younger sister Vera was a precious thing. Even as a babe she rarely fussed, and she grew up as beautiful as could be. My family had fallen on hard times and found it necessary to journey away from our homeland in Dheathain." Sartet plucked a rabbit bone from the stew pot and pointed to the edge of his bear pelt. "We sailed all the way to Corone," he said, dragging the bone to the middle of the pelt like a marker on a map, "but the island nation never liked us much. During the civil war we made our way to Scara Brae, and then eventually," the bone changed directions, "up to Raiaera."

    "We came under attack during that last leg of our journey, and my father perished. Vera was lost to us all... but her memory lives still." Throld patted the weapon on his hip. "And that, my dear Breaker, is all that I will say on the matter." The dwarf dashed a grubby hand across bright green eyes and his jovial grin emerged. "Allow me to collect a new tale or two, if you would. Of course I've heard tell of Joshua Cronen, the legend... but I would hear of his deeds from the mouth of the man himself."

    Josh chuckled. Throld could lay flattery on as thick as freshly churned butter. The demigod flexed his shoulders and leaned forward, wiggling his fingers in the warmth cast by the lingering coals.

    "I suppose it is my turn to spin a yarn," Breaker said, "what would you hear of this eve, Master Sartet?"

    "Well I am curious," the dwarf replied with eyebrows raised, "why call yourself 'Breaker'? An apt title to be sure," he said, splaying his palms defensively, "yet it does make one wonder about the origins of such a name."

    Josh chuckled again. Without knowing it Throld had struck Breaker's true reason for seeking the Tiered Mountain.

    "I met a Salvic lass during the war," Breaker began, "by the name of Kristina Rythadine. She called me 'Heartbreaker'. It was a joke you see... she insisted I'd break her heart when the war ended. Well, the war ended... and I did return to Corone. There I made the mistake of telling this same story to a particular bartender. She harped on it relentlessly, calling me Heartbreaker for all to hear... some of my students caught on and began calling me Breaker. The name stuck, and before long I became fond of it." Josh took a deep breath, trying not to let his other memories of Kristina surface. Throld had held back the details of his sorrowful story, and so too would Breaker.
    ... They fell to him as prey to bluefin
    for the Jya's warriors knew not how to swim...
    13-3-2

    I wrote a book! ~ Most Suave Character 2010

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