'The New Scourge' Campaign

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 Episode 20 of The New Scourge
 2012-07-22 -  
The Boy is Gone... ( Member Submission! )... 2012-07-22 
Griften was exhausted. The ambush in Greyhawk, the mental stresses of portal travel... he just needed to sleep.

Not yet. He told himself. They must open their eyes and see... they must be made safe.

The large teleportation room of Rel Mord's wizard's guild was familiar by now; its arcane sigils and well polished stone reflecting the dying midsummer sun as it shone through the narrow windows. As he stepped down, Griften was greeted warmly by the attendants for the Wizard's Guild teleporting hall; and Griften dutifully walked over to the small lectern for his 'voluntary contribution'.

"Greetings, m'lord." the attendant began with a courteous half-bow.

"Good day sir," Griften replied as he produced from the folds of his robe a small stack of gold coins. Handing it to the attendant for his contribution, the attendant's eyes grew a little and he quickly glanced at the guards outside the room some twenty feet away.

"Forgive me m'lord, but the contribution is only five gold pieces and a signature."

Griften smiled from the corner of his mouth and spoke barely louder than a whisper, "My apologies, good sir. I was sure that it was fifteen gold and no signature..." Griften winked quickly from his right eye opposite the guards.

"Welcome to the capital of Nyrond, m'lord." The attendant quickly covered the gold with his hand and bowed again. Griften turned and quickly stepped out into the hallway, hopeful he had bought himself a head start.

Hurrying now from the wizards guild to the outskirts of town, Griften's mind was racing.

Too obvious; might attract attention... Griften thought as he quickly moved through the city. No flashy displays of preternatural speed or psionic ability in the middle of Rel Mord without a cover of darkness. His eyes darted from side to side, trying to catch anything out of place, but he could see nothing. You're probably drawing attention just by being mindful... he looked behind him much too often. The city was slowly closing; night would soon fall and the anyone hurrying anywhere would immediately be suspicious. The cover of the bustling streets would evaporate.

Good; they'll both be home. Griften assured himself. It was true; especially living outside the city walls, in these times, it was unwise to be out too late. At least that was something they took seriously...

It took only a few minutes for Griften to reach the small village outside the city walls, and as he approached, Griften remarked to himself, This place hasn't changed in twenty years...

There was always a sense of peace about the villages outside the capital; the families grew up or moved away, but everything else stayed the same. Griften could see his parents' home in the distance, with a glow shining from inside as expected. Reaching the door, Griften knocked and waited patiently, more out of formality than anything... it had been a long time since he'd been home.

The door opened slightly and a small woman peeked out from behind it. There was a moment's pause and then it swung open, Griften's mother exclaiming with wide-eyed surprise and launching herself into Griften's arms with a cry, "Griften, my dear!" Griften couldn't help but smile and he embraced his tiny mother; she clung to his neck, her feet dangling in the air.

"Mother... " Griften let the moment last, and he breathed a sigh of relief that his fears had not yet been realized. He could hear some noise from inside the house, and asked, "... is everything alright?"

Griften's mother let loose her grip and dropped to the ground. "Everything's fine dear; what a pleasant surprise! Come in, come in! Don't stand out here in the cold by yourself!" Griften's mother grabbed his hand and led him inside the house, calling as she did, "Ammon! Your son is home! Stop fooling around back there and come see!"

Griften looked around the house; it was just as it always had been. Everything seemed in order; and he felt a smile threaten. It was like stepping into another time; the furniture, his favourite chair, the wobbly staircase, everything. All of these would have gone further to comfort Griften if not for the growing impatience growing in his mind. Even the oak table his father had made when Griften was young was still the main fixture of the room; Griften could even make out his name and the name of his brother and sister carved by each of them when the table was finished.

Focus! They're coming. They could already be here.

Griften's father came in from the back of the house, greeting him warmly. "Well, well stranger!" Griften's father strode over and clasped Griften's shoulders in his large hands. Even now, as a much older man, Ammon kept much of his youthful vigor. "You look awful, son. They not feeding you at the temple anymore? Or you off fighting monsters somewhere again?" He grinned broadly at Griften as he lowered himself into Griften's old favourite chair. "Yes, it's mine now lad; you abandoned it! She's been a good companion to us; a stout mug of ale, a beautiful woman and your chair! Life can be good!" He leaned back in satisfaction and motioned for Griften to sit as well.

It always stung Griften a bit when his father joked like this. So many years had passed... so much had happened, and Griften had kept it all from them. How do you say these things aloud? How do you tell your parents you might be the harbinger of death? For years, Griften allowed them their illusions, but that time was over.

They need to know the peril they're in.

"What's wrong?" Griften's mother asked when he didn't sit.

"We need to talk..." Griften began. Amazing; he had no idea how to begin now that the time was upon him. For years he had imagined this conversation... the Temple in the Sunless Sea... the Clones... the Codex... life and death... and no longer having the luxury of denial that he was a part of it. How to begin?!

"Please sit." Griften gestured to the table he had eaten at as a child. His parents sat slowly, keeping their eyes on their son. What must this be like for them? Griften wondered. To see me with a parents' eyes and remember me as a boy?

"Some things are happening now that are hard to explain." Griften knew that none of this would make sense, no matter how careful he was. "When I was a boy, and we decided that I needed to get trained how to... you know... use my power... well, that was the beginning of a story that I'm realizing now is starting to unfold." Griften could see the furrowed, confused brows of his parents meant that vagueness would no longer suffice.

"I'm involved in something, and there are some people who want something I have. These people are very bad, and they'll do terrible things to anyone who stands in their way. To get to me, they'll even come after you two. You're in danger." Griften paused to allow his parents to say something. Ammon reached out and took his wife's hand in his; looking at her with concern; trying to peer into her mind to see what her reaction would be. No one spoke, so Griften continued:

"We need to leave, and leave quickly. Minutes could be the difference, and I don't have time to explain; not now."

"I... I don't understand..." Griften's mother finally stammered. "Who would want to hurt you? Why? Did you do something?"

"No, mother... well, yes... but not in the way you think. It's what I might do that is why they're after me. Or, perhaps what I might not do." Griften let his eyes fall as the complexity of what he was trying to explain even sounded ridiculous in his own ears.

"What are you TALKING about?!" Griften's mother raised her voice slightly. "Did these monks get you in trouble? Are you in danger because of the Monks we brought you to!?" Griften could tell as she continued just how in the dark his father had allowed her to remain all these years. She knew, of course that Griften had powers, but Griften had always been careful never to display them with the family. Griften's mother was a simple woman; she wanted to see her family grow, and some things were better left unsaid. But now the time for naivete was over.

"Mother, I wish I could explain more now. I will, but just not now. You and dad need to leave with me right away, and we only have minutes to get your things together. I'm sorry." Griften knew his words carried little weight; that only full understanding could possibly justify such a change. Griften saw his mother's hand clench a little on the arm of his chair; her hand feeling the familiar fabric and smooth it out unconsciously.

"Now don't be silly, Griften. I won't have any more talk of this. You and your father have these delusions of grandeur, and you get each other all worked up; the world is always out to get you, and you react so strongly to these things! If we're in trouble, your father will go to the city guard and ask for solace inside the walls. The royal guard has dispatches that spend nights in the villages all the time! Whoever is bothering you won't be able to get you then." Griften's mother nodded her head once with a sense of finality that she had figured it out. She stood, smoothed out her dress and turned Griften's old chair around again as it always was. Satisfied, she started towards the kitchen. Griften's father followed her with his gaze and then quickly gave a meaningful look to Griften. Ammon nodded once and Griften knew what he meant.

It was time.

With a quick glance, Griften quickly swung the kitchen door closed in front of his mother. Startled, she paused a moment and turned to look at the men in the room. Griften and his father said nothing and waited patiently. Griften's mother turned back and gently laid her hand against the door to swing it open again, but Griften held it firmly closed. She pushed harder, but the door did not move. Leaning against the door now, she pushed as hard as she could. "Griften Insaith! You open this door right now! No tricks!" Griften's eyes lowered knowing what this would do to his mother, but this was no time for games.

"Mother, please listen."

"No, I will not! You come into this house, tell us this wild story that we're in trouble, and expect us to pick up and leave!? You're worse than your father and his blasted chair! I have spent more years in this house young man than you've even been alive!" She was wagging her finger at Griften now, "And no one, not even my alarmist son or my unreasonable husband is going to see me just pick up and leave because you have a 'bad feeling'!"

It was Griften's father's turn. "Renia, dear, please listen to your son." He stood and moved to embrace her, his tone soothing now, but something in Griften's mother had been shaken, and she would not be calmed so easily.

"NO!" She swatted away his arms, moving back into the room now and looked at Griften. "This is nonsense! It's been a long day; you look terrible, you will stay here tonight and in the morning you will talk to the city guard!" She was very animated now, talking almost more to herself than to Griften or her husband. "This is MY home! I will stay here until I can no longer, and no one will move me!" Griften knew her voice was carrying well outside their small home now. "Ammon, DO something! Tell him we're not going anywhere! This is nonsense! First one, then Darin, now YOU!?! NO!" Tears were streaming now.

Griften was a sea of emotion. No monkly-training could prepare someone for this. He wanted nothing more than to acquiesce, and do what his mother asked. It would be so easy...

... but she is risking everything without knowing it.

Griften tried to go to her, but she moved away again, continuing to rant. Distraught at what to do Griften turned to his father to do something, but he was similarly at a loss. Raising his voice as well, Griften's father tried to help, but things escalated. Yelling at full volume and stamping around the room now, his parents stood yelling at each other; Griften's old chair standing as silent mediator between them. Griften's mind was spiralling; everyone can hear us... this will change everything... I can't lose them... my responsibility... Griften felt dizzy. The room spun and it seemed as though this room was Griften's entire universe.

"ENOUGH!" With a blast of psionic energy, Griften focused on the chair he loved as a child and the one his father had since adopted and it exploded into a hundred pieces with a huge CRACK! Shards of wood and cloth were neatly directed away from both his parents but slammed into the walls of the room with loud, splintering thuds.

Eyes wide with surprise, both of Griften's parents stood silent, bodies frozen in terror as they looked at him.

"I've heard ENOUGH! You WILL do as I say!" Griften's voice was loud now; but he wasn't thinking. He could scarcely recall doing it. He was not a monk; he was a son.

Griften's mother's shocked gaze slowly changed. Eyes still wide, she turned her body slightly away, almost in a protective posture, and her eyebrows lowered, then narrowed as she slowly mouthed the words... "... who are you?" She had always been intuitive, emotional, sensitive, but Griften knew she could see... she could see the change in him. Griften knew there was more to him now, knew that he was forever changed. But now, lying exposed in his parents house, she could see it in him.

"You will do as I ask." Griften lowered his voice now, trying to sound reasonable. "I will give you time to gather some things, but we leave tonight."

Griften's father was also shocked but said nothing. Sheltering his wife in his arms, she now allowed him to lead her upstairs. Griften followed, not willing to let them out of his sight. "Gather your things; things you cannot do without." Sniffling slightly, Griften's mother stole quick glances at him as she and Ammon put together their things.

She will never forgive this. Griften thought to himself despairingly. It is betrayal now in her mind...

It was just a few short minutes for Griften's parents to gather their things. Despite all that Griften had been given, all the wealth at his disposal, his parents had always steadfastly insisted on a simple life. Griften took the largest of the items and piled them into his Bag of Holding. Amazed, Griften's mother watched as the items disappeared to the safety within. She said nothing, and stayed hidden behind Ammon as if afraid.

Not wanting to lose any more time, Griften asked again, "Is that everything for now?" His father nodded. "Then we go. Follow me and stay close."

Griften and his father quickly extinguished the candles and locked up the house. With several glances back at the house, they went swiftly back to the city before night finally fell. Griften constantly looked around, listening for anything suspicious and stared at almost everyone as the city got ready to close up for the night. Arriving at the wizard's guild, Griften was sure they had just minutes to spare. Quickly retracing the steps he made just an hour ago, Griften led his parents finally to the teleportation room. The guards nodded again, recognizing Griften's quick return. Griften's mother's gaze was fixed firmly on Griften, however, as if terrified of what might come next.

"Good evening sir." Griften addressed the scribe again. It was the same man he had spoken with upon his arrival, no doubt having pocketed Griften's 'contribution' shortly before.

"And good evening again m'lord," he replied, "Will you be leaving us so soon?"

"Yes, and I would very much appreciate again your discretion and some privacy." Griften spoke only loudly enough for the scribe to hear, banking on the previous 'understanding' they had established.

"Of course, my lord." Griften left another generous contribution on the lectern and motioned for his father to bring his mother inside. The scribe swept Griften's offering into a small pouch, folded up the large book on the lectern and stepped outside into the hallway with the guards; no doubt having made this kind of accommodation before for others...

"Stand here, and wait patiently, I need only minutes." Griften said. He knew that he was about to expose his parents to something they had never experienced before, and that their relationship with him would be forever changed. As long as they're safe.

Remembering his monk techniques, Griften slowed his racing pulse. He recalled the intricate sigils of the teleportation circle at the Temple of the Yellow Rose. With closed eyes and fast focus, Griften saw before him the ghostly blue images shimmer into existence in front of him. With a curl of his outstretched hand, the sigils rushed forward into his palm, dancing and moving through each other like well-trained smoke. With a quick, circular gesture of his arm, the sigils flung forward onto the teleportation dias and rushed to take their position in the archway, lining up like well-trained soldiers.

Griften's mother clung still to Ammon, and both of them stared with amazement at their son. Griften knew it; he could feel their gaze upon him. He almost liked it; but knew that was not the old Griften thinking that... it was the new one. Would that these feelings would leave him!

Opening his eyes, Griften furrowed his brow in concentration and the portal opened inside the sigils. Griften could make out the familiar teleportation room at the Temple, and finally turned his attention back towards his parents. Motioning for them to come to him, Ammon carefully stepped forward, keeping Renia in his arms. Griften looked at his father's face. He was crying, but he managed a smile for Griften. Griften mustered a half-smile of his own but said nothing and handed his parents' belongings contained in the magical bag to his father.

Carefully, slowly, Ammon pried Griften's mothers arms from around him. "It's ok, dear. Watch me." Griften knew his father was terrified but understood the gesture. Renia let go and stood unaided, watching with amazement as Griften's father stepped up onto the dais and through the portal. His image could be seen on the other side, hazy and indistinct, standing in the middle of the room, gazing around at the new surroundings with the bag firmly clenched in his hand.

Turning now to him, Griften's mother slowly raised her hand almost defensively, as if expecting something else to happen. Gently however, as if for the first time... she touched his cheek. Sure now he was real, she dared to place her palm full against Griften's face.

"... Griften...?" she whispered. New tears streamed down her flushed cheeks and Griften mirrored her gesture to wipe them away gently.

"Yes mother, it's me."

"My son..." her tears were full now. "So different..."

"Yes. The boy is gone."

Visibly wincing at the words, Griften's mother bowed her head and closed her eyes hard, the meaning hitting her full. Turning to the portal, Griften motioned for her to move with him onto the dais. Renia stepped forward, but looked up at Griften again, pausing a moment. She did not speak, her expression did not change, but Griften knew.

Cradling his tiny, trembling mother in his arms, Griften and his mother stepped through the portal together.
 Episode 19 of The New Scourge
 2012-07-20 -  
Keep Them Safe... ( Member Submission! )... 2012-07-20 
Griften stepped onto the familiar stone floor of the Temple of the Yellow Rose. The portal shimmered and faded behind him; the hazy image of Blazebane's teleport room disappearing. The air was cold; high atop the Rakers, but fresh and crisp, and Griften inhaled deeply.

Stepping through the massive doors to the teleport room, Griften was greeted by the monks guarding the room on the other side of the hallway.

"Master, welcome." both of them bowed politely. Griften recognized one of them as a young initiate of the order, but the other was unfamliar to him.

"Thank you brothers. I trust all is well this day?"

"They are, Master. The wind whistles and the temple is at peace today."

"Good, " Griften replied. "Are any of the High Masters here?"

"I believe they are, Master. High Master Armand arrived just yesterday and is in study now."

"Thank you. Work well." Griften bowed respectfully and the guards returned the gesture. Griften strode purposefully down the hall and ran down the stairs with haste; anxious to reach the High Masters' Residences. The temple was busy as usual, brothers racing around with their daily work. The sounds of training drifted up from the courtyard and Griften saw a glimpse through a tower window of a merchant tent setting up in courtyard. Griften had been away from the Temple for a month now, but he could swear his brothers' eyes were on him as he hurried through the temple hallways.

Has word spread, I wonder? Griften thought to himself. Why do they look at me so?

Arriving at the High Masters' residence wing of the temple complex, Griften saw Brother Grayne at his usual spot of study in the reception area. Brother Grayne was younger than Griften, and had also been with the Brotherhood from a young age, like many of the order. He was a student of lore and knowledge as Griften was quickly becoming, but his mind was sharp and no detail was lost or forgotten to him; he was a walking library. Griften noticed three more huge volumes on his desk, waiting to be devoured by the young student.

"Greetings, brother." Griften stopped at the desk. Grayne stood up, roused from his study.

"Welcome, Master Griften. You're back; I am glad. What brings you to me this day?"

"I would speak with High Master Armand."

"He is in study at the moment; please allow me to see if he is available."

Griften added quickly as Grayne stood to leave. "Please advise him that it is a matter of great urgency."

"Of course, Master." Grayne quickly turned and strode down one of the four hallways towards the High Master's quarters. He returned moments later saying, "High Master Armand will see you, master." He pivoted on his heel slightly and extended his open palm back down the hall. Griften walked quickly, stopping short of the huge doors to the High Master's chambers and knocked against the massive oak door.

"Come!" the voice could be heard from inside. Griften pushed the door open and let it swing wide into the large room. The light from the bay windows burst into the hallway, illuminating the dark, torch-lit hallway. Griften had to let his eyes adjust to the brightness, and stepped into the room.

"Welcome, brother..." Griften recognized Armand's deep, resonant voice immediately. For a man thrice Griften's age; he had the look and sound of a man much younger. Griften had only ever spoken to Armand once before; the High Masters were not at the Temple often. From what Griften knew, Armand's duties as one of the High Masters often kept him away from the Temple, and there was persistent rumour that Armand's conflicts with other High Masters made him prefer his time away.

"Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, High Master." Griften began, "I bring news and an urgent request." Armand gestured for Griften to sit in some of the chairs by the empty fireplace. "The Scarlet Brotherhood has made the first move, Master. My companions and I were in Greyhawk to procure items and information, and we were set upon by half a dozen monks, led by and old adversary; Clannair Blackshadow. Clannair's goal was clearly revenge for his fallen band of evil-doers, but the monks made clear their goal was abducting me..."

Griften paused for a moment and continued, "... they know."

Armand's face was grave. "I see," he began. "This is dire indeed, Griften. We have long suspected the role you may yet play would provoke them, but I am surprised they are moving so quickly."

"Yes, Master. I too was caught very much off guard. It is reasonable that their step will be to move against my family. I humbly ask that they be protected by the Brotherhood here at the Temple. They have long resisted my attempts to shelter them at my Citadel, but this time I feel there is little choice."

"Agreed." Armand nodded, his eyes drifted down, deep in thought. "I will have someone make ready appropriate accommodations for your parents."

"Thank you, Master. I will bring them here immediately; I am grateful for your support in this."

"Griften, you already know this, but you have long had the support of your Brothers and Masters. I speak for the High Masters; we will protect your family. You should also send word to our Brothers at your Citadel; if those of the Scarlet robes have chosen to take an offensive position, they will surely be watching for you there as well."

Griften bowed his head respectfully, "That is my next step, Master. I will return there when my family is secure. There is more, however."

"Oh?" Armand looked interested now.

"During our visit to the Free City of Greyhawk, we were confronted by the City Watch of Greyhawk. The bodies of the Scarlet assailants warranted by law the need for us to be taken into custody; The Scarlet Brotherhood has great influence in the city. Some of my more hot-blooded companions struck unconscious one of the guards, and I was forced to facilitate a quick retreat. The echoes likely still ripple there; and I was not disguised; my yellow sash has implicated our Brotherhood."

Armand's face darkened visibly at the news. "I know you have been going through difficult times, Brother. You carry a heavy weight and none of us can help unburden you, but you will soon challenge Brother Ilian for the title of the South Wind and choices such as this will not be available to you." Griften nodded, silently acknowledging the Master's words. "I will take care of this," Armand continued. "thank you for bringing this to my attention."

Griften's regret was almost palpable, "Thank you, Master; I will be more mindful in future. The Scarlet monks fought vigorously; I was lost without my companions. I could not leave them."

"Let us speak no more of this." Armand stood up and lifted Griften's arm for him to do the same. "Go, bring your parents here and warn our brothers at the Citadel. They must keep their guards up."

Griften thanked the High Master of Autumn and quickly retraced his steps back to the teleport room. Bowing to him again as he approached, Griften rushed past the guards into the teleport room. Another few minutes later, Griften was gone again.
 Episode 9 of The New Scourge
 2012-05-18 -  
News from Celene... ( Member Submission! )... 2012-05-18 
It was a somber flight home for the heroes. Carrying the dead bodies of Tiemel and Bajastelle upon the carpet, they rode in silence the entire way until Tanamier spoke in a quiet voice when they reached the gates of Blazebane. "I'll alert Tempus. He'll bring Tiemel back, I am sure; I'll do the same for Bajastelle afterwards." Young clerics came and collected the bodies while the heroes marched sullenly to Tanamier's meeting room, only to be met by an unexpected presence. "Why the long faces? You'd think somebody just died," said Kaelis with a trademark laugh and twinkle in his eye. J'afrock growled and grabbed at his axe, but was restrained by Tanamier. With infinite patience, the half-elf addressed the young bard "Two, in fact, so mind your tongue. Why are you here, anyway? I don't remember summoning you back..." Kaelis cut him off. "I am not here on Nyrondese business, but on that of Celene." With a serious look, he addressed the group. "I am sorry to hear such news, my friends, please believe me." J'afrock looked away in frustration. While he hated the ever-pleasant nature of Kaelis, he hated it even more when he tried to be serious. One never knew if the bard was being authentic or not. For one such as the half-orc, who was always VERY clear about his intentions, he could be infuriating... "WHAT business? What is happening in my homeland?" Caelynn moved forward, coming nose to nose with Kaelis. "I.. .think... I had better let him tell you. Right this way, gentlemen?" Kaelis adroitly maneuvered between the heroes and walked off to and adjoining room where there waited a sleek figure in brilliant mithral chain and royal purple cloak. "Prince Melf..." whispered Caelynn as he dropped to one knee. Melf drew back his hood. "Rise, Caelynn. No need for that here. I come to you not as your prince, but as a friend with ill tidings and a mission that I fear only you can accomplish."

"What mission is this, your Highness?"

Melf sat down and looked at Caelynn with a mixture of sadness and restraint. He remained silent for several moments, until he whispered a single word.

"Jelendra."

Caelynn quickly turned away from his companions as a wave of emotion swept over him. Jelendra! I have not thought of her in years! Of course, I have only been "alive" for two he thought sarcastically to himself. But soon his thoughts gave way to memories of his best childhood friend and first adult lover.

While they cared for each other deeply, they decided their relationship worked better as friends, even if each was the first one the other turned to after a failed romance. Both had shown aptitude for the arcane arts, but while Caelynn was drawn into the mysteries of bladesong, Jelendra wished to explore the seasonal magics of the Feywild. She was rumoured to have become a powerful Tulani of Summer and a great artificier of magical items. She was beautiful, constantly surrounded by a light warm summer breeze that gently tousled her shiny silver hair; she was forever brushing it aside from her almond-shaped emerald eyes. Her smile was demure, yet oddly enticing. It was her laugh that evoked the greatest memory in the bladesinger, however, usually after he had done something foolish. While very proud, Caelynn could always take a ribbing from Jelendra if it was accompanied by that laugh...

With a stern effort, he broke his reverie. "What about her, my lord?"

Melf gestured Caelynn to sit, and the others did as well. "I regret to say, I do not have all the details, being in exile as I am. However, I retain a few contacts, as do others," he indicated Kaelis with a nod and continued. "So I have what I believe to be a clear picture of events that have transpired." He paused again.

"Go on," prodded Tanamier.

"Yes. I shall just come right to it: She has fled Celene. I believe I know where."

Caelynn's eyes narrowed. "And the reason for her flight?" He knew Melf was not saying everything.

The elflord paused again. "I believe she has gone mad from her work on the Towers of Domination."

Tanamier leaned back in his seat and rolled his eyes in frustration. Caelynn's hands gripped the table, turning white, while Griften lowered his head in shame. J'Afrock knew why they were reacting so; many times had he heard the tale of what brought the Scourge together. The epic struggle against the Blood Queen of the aboleth who had tried to erect a series of towers that would dominate the minds of all in the Underdark.

"What do you wish me to do, your highness?" whispered Caelynn in a tight voice.

Melf reached into his cloak and withdrew a map. "From what we have been able to determine, she is located here," he said, indicating an area within the forest of the Oytwood, within the county of Geoff. "I confess, I do not think she can be saved, but I thought perhaps the sight of her oldest friend..."

"I will not kill her," Caelynn whispered, almost to himself.

Melf looked at the rest of the group. Tanamier and J'afrock gave curt nods.

"I will take your leave, then." He patted Caelynn on the shoulder and leaned to his ear. "There is a chance for great mercy and compassion here... and redemption, if you can take it." With the same light musical notes accompanying each footstep as Caelynn had, the elflord left the presence of the Scourge.

"Hh. Well... there's plenty of opportunity for redemption here for all of us," Tanamier said sardonically as he rose from his seat. "We were all there, after all," he continued, shooting a look at Griften. The young monk merely nodded his head.

"I cannot ask you to come with me," began Caelynn.

"You didn't," responded Tanamier curtly. "Like I said, we were all there."

Griften rose. "The indicated area is near my Citadel of Serenity. Give me an hour to prepare the ritual and I can teleport us there and we can then proceed outwards."

Tanamier looked at J'afrock. "This isn't your fight, my friend... you don't have to come."

"Well, I am certainly not staying with HIM!" he roared, pointing a finger at Kaelis. The bard shrugged his shoulders with his palms upwards, that infuriating smile inspiring violent thoughts in J'afrock.
 Episode 7 of The New Scourge
 2012-05-07 -  
The Power Within... ( Member Submission! )... 2012-05-07 
J'afrock and Caelynn were inspecting the remains of both the naga and the iron sentinel they had just defeated, kicking over bones and scraps of metal to see if there was anything of value. Griften stood off to the side, hands folded within the sleeves of his robes, recovering his mental strength. Tanamier was ostensibly investigating the pool of water the naga had emerged from as well as the furnaces that heated the room, but he kept one eye on the young psion.

It did not go unnoticed.

I hate it when he gives me that suspicious look, thought Griften. Then again, he gives everyone that same look...but still, I don't need to be a mind-reader to know why, he's...


"Someone's done their training since we last met," called out J'afrock as he kicked a now mundane helm to the corner. He looked at Griften with a mixture of surprise and pride. "The power sits well on you, bhaklat," he said, using the orc term for comrade-in-arms.

Caelynn looked up at this moment as well, a wry expression crossing his beautiful eladrin features. "Certainly more powerful than I remember you last, Brother Griften. I cannot recall you tossing our foes about with such ease."

"Or blowing them up from the inside!" Another grin from J'afrock.

Aware of Tanamier's gaze, Griften simply replied "We have all been through our trials, friends. They either kill us or make us stronger. And since I am here..." he trailed off with a grin.

"I suppose I shall have to eradicate the memory of you flailing about, trying to float out of the aboleth city; it seems somewhat passe now," said Caelynn with his trademark snobbery, sheathing his blade and obviously giving up on recovering anything of value from the naga bones.

"Aye, Brother Griften is a force to be reckoned with now! Let all who oppose us fear his unseen power!" added J'afrock with a hardy clap on the monk's shoulder. He turned his attention to the large gate that blocked their way. Caelynn fell in with the half-orc, and Griften moved to join him when he could resist no longer.

He turned to face Tanamier. "Is all well, my friend?"

Tanamier studied the young monk. "You are different, Griften. More powerful certainly, but there's something else as well. Don't think for a moment I don't see it."

"Tanamier, I..."

I what? Have been through more than you can imagine? Have killed with my thoughts and hands those who look exactly like those whom I love most? Might be the centre of a prophecy that may mean the permanent change of the world as we know it?

"...you can trust me, Tanamier. You know you can."

Tanamier edged forward, his eyes locking with Griften's. "Oh, I know I can. But what am I trusting? Do you see what I mean? What are you now?"

Griften lowered his gaze. "We'll talk, I promise. We need to focus on Tiemel and Bajastelle right now."

"I know. But you're right, Brother Griften: We will talk. Now, let's see if J'afrock can rip that gate off..."
 Episode 5 of The New Scourge
 2012-04-28 -  
To Serve and Protect... ( Member Submission! )... 2012-04-28 
Thank the gods for the old man, thought Tanamier as he watched Younard walk off to meet with the king.

King Archbold of Nyrond, desperately hanging on to relevance and making himself more irrelevant with every attempt, had summoned Tanamier from Blazebane for another 'strategic council' with Grand General Basmajeen and himself. After only one session, Tanamier knew all he needed to know about their 'strategies' and made a vow with himself that he would not attend another. Thankfully, General Younard, the 'Forgotten General' as he had been known, volunteered to take the burden off Tanamier's shoulders and attend these sessions for him.

He's the real hero of Nyrond for volunteering. I wonder if I will ever have as much patience as him?

Tanamier grinned ruefully. Probably not. And speaking of impatience, where in the Hells are Tiemel and Bajastelle? It's been over 24 hours; that's a bloody long time for a fact-finding mission.

That Duke Szeffrin had access to some sort of planar artifact was becoming more obvious all the time. It was also clear that he was experimenting with it against Nyrond. Sometimes Tanamier wondered if his command at Blazebane along with the now well-known members of the Scourge inspired the Iron Duke to engage them. Maybe if Nyrond had demonstrated no strength, Szeffrin would not see the country as worth the bother, even to experiment...

No, that was not true. Szeffrin was less a person and more a force of death now; one couldn't expect to anticipate him because he no longer thought like a real person, but an Animus. Any loss of life, on either side, would barely register to him, as long as he learned what he wanted for his inevitable march on Rauxes.

The latest experiment shocked the Nyrondese beyond what they had seen before. In fact, they could see the effects from the battlements of the keep, even though it appeared to be well behind enemy lines in old Almor. Fire lit the sky, then what could only be described as a meteor seemed to strike the earth. Waves of red energy swept out from the impact and the sky remained scorched for days. Tanamier's network of diviners could only conclude that some sort of portal may have been opened to another plane, likely the Elemental Plane of Fire.

"Last bloody thing we need are elemental shock troops to go with the demons he has coming in from his Abyssal gate," explained Tanamier. "We need to see what that meteor strike was all about, andif it is a gate, disable it if we can." He looked at the team he was sending on this mission, headed up by Tiemel and Bajastelle Rendarin, the cleric they had discovered protecting the small group of refugees from Almor. Now a captain in the Nyrondese army, Bajastelle often went on missions in her homeland, her knowledge of the place was invaluable. For his part Tiemel, was the preeminent commander for skirmishing tactics and so the pair made a natural fit for this mission.

But they had yet to return...

Szeffrin either had an ability to fog out divinations or something worse had happened since the spy network could not pick up any sign of them at all. A cold feeling had begun to from in the pit of the half-elf's stomach.

"Still have yet to return?" came a melodic voice from behind. Caelynn stepped into the room, a faint sound of music accompanying the bladesinger's steps. He looked at Tanamier quizzically, hoping for good news, expecting worse.

"No."

"What shall we do about it, then?"

"I don't feel comfortable sending others when I can't even determine what happened to the initial team... there's more to this than meets the eye. I'll have to go myself."

"When do we leave?" asked Caelynn pleasantly. Tanamier knew that, in addition to caring for his lost friends, the bladesinger needed action, needed a distraction.

"As soon as we can, at first light. We'll need to prepare..."

"Already taken care of," came a harsh voice from the door. J'afrock eased his bulk into the room and stood before his general. "I took the liberty of preparing for a search mission. I have no intention of leaving my brother-in-arms behind; I was coming just now to request permission to..."

"Permission granted, my friend," interrupted Tanamier. "On one condition: you consent to your general accompanying you."

"As well as a bladesinger," added Caelynn.

"And, hopefully, a scholar," came a soft voice from the entryway. "Brother Griften Insaith, 'civilian advisor' at the service of military. You needn't sacrifice any more soldiers while you have volunteers, general."

J'afrock let out a grunt of approval. "Works fine. The carpet seats six." He hesitated. "General..."

Tanamier smiled. "It's your mission, J'afrock. You have tactical command."

The half-orc smiled. In some ways, he was easy to please. Unless you were his woman.

"At first light, then!"
 Episode 2 of The New Scourge
 2012-01-20 -  
To Honour the Fallen... ( Member Submission! )... 2012-01-20 
It was very quiet in the Temple this morning. Griften hadn't stayed at the temple often since being charged with the keeping of the Citadel of Serenity, but his memories of the years here still were very clear.

A proper tribute to a man so well-respected.

The ceremony had been yesterday, but this quiet would continue for seven more days as was appropriate for one such as Senji.

Perhaps this quiet will echo through the halls when my time is ended...

There was always some activity in the Temple, a self-sustaining group of hundreds of people always needed some activity, but even those normally in critical phases of their training will remain still and in quiet contemplation during this time of mourning.

Griften strolled aimlessly through the halls of the Temple and could not hold back the thoughts of yesterday's events...



"Will this suffice?" The acolyte asked, but Griften wasn't listening. He stared out the arched window across the white peaks of the Rakers that lay before him. "Master?" The acolyte could tell he didn't have his master's attention.

Griften turned and focused for a moment on the robe the monk held up for Griften's approval for the day's ceremony. As Senji's long time pupil, Griften was charged with overseeing the logistics of the ceremony.

If they only knew everything, things would be different.

Justinian held up a long, white robe; often worn for ceremonies such as this. Usually, monks passing from the order was an occasion to be celebrated as much as monks celebrate anything; monks considered death in almost all forms as a transcendence to another form of sorts. This occasion, however, was not a happy one; Senji was murdered; his life stolen from him, stolen from the Brotherhood... stolen from Griften. Griften's focus drifted again as the flashbacks threatened again.

"Master?"

"Black." Griften snapped back into the moment. "The congregation will dress in black this day."

Justinian paused a moment but quickly recovered. "Yes, Master, I will see to it. Do you need anything else?"

Griften turned away, back to the window. "Masters to carry our Brother. I need the Masters."

Justinian bowed politely and disappeared into the hallway; the rustle of his sandals on the stone floors the only sound in the quiet, mournful temple.

If they only knew...




Later that day, when it was time for the procession, Griften found himself ashamedly wrestling with an inner turmoil no effort would quiet; Griften's emotions were threatening to rise to the surface. Years of training & discipline had shaped Griften into a statue of composure under duress; immovable, unflinching; like granite. But now, surrounded by the familiar surrounds of his youth, a time when he was so different than he was now, Griften found himself close to losing his composure amidst an army of his brethren; many of whom looked up to him!

Griften took a deep breath and focused his attentions again, realizing now that he was not alone anymore in the antechamber. He had been joined in silence by the high-ranking monks of his order, the remaining Masters of the Winds, now coming together to bid farewell to one of their own.

Without words, Griften and his Brothers hoisted the wide, wooden platform that bored the shrouded body on to their shoulders. No powers were ever used, and they would not be today; a silent tribute in committing the body back into nature as it had once come; humble, natural, and with great respect.

Slowly they stepped forward in unspoken unison, and started down the long hallways towards the outer doors. Griften's gaze became distant as he could hold back the memories no longer:





"Griften, pay attention. Griften!" Senji's voice snapped Griften back to reality. Griften turned and saw his trainer, young and wide-eyed, starting at his newest acolyte. "You daydreaming again? You'll get a chance to do your mental calisthenics later, but not until you learn this!"

Griften sighed, "But we've done it a hundred times!"

"You whine like a mule on your parents' farm, you know. My count is forty-two, so you've got a ways to go until you reach 100." Senji smiled at Griften, never harsh in his instruction. Griften marvelled at Senji's rigor; just three years his senior but already a member and already granted an acolyte to train. "See? Like this. Remember, left foot forward..." Senji stood next to Griften, imitating again his stance. "1, 2, 3, 4, repeat." Senji acted as if his staff had a mind of its own, it moved like it was one of his arms.

Griften followed again, more now to get this over with than anything else. This was by the far the most complex maneuver he'd tried yet, and Griften was sure it'd be weeks before he got off the hook.

1, 2, 3, damnit! Griften slipped again. The complicated footwork frustrated and Griften flushed at Senji's smirk.

"Ok, I think I know what's going wrong." Senji said. Griften was glad the training circle was empty this morning. He didn't work well with everyone watching; he was still new here and he always felt that everyone was watching him. "Let's try it this way." Senji's smirk broadened into an all-out grin as he moved opposite Griften instead of beside him.

"What are you doing?" Griften asked, standing upright and leaning on the training staff.

"This move you're awful at, well it's a defensive and offensive move combo like I said. It keeps you safe as you try to disarm your opponent. You lack imagination, Griften. You're not seeing your opponent, so we're going to try it this way instead." The grin was now as mischievous as Griften could remember seeing in Senji; a fleeting glimpse of the boy before the monk, perhaps? Senji had never sparred with Griften before; one-on-one combat only came much later in training, after many more lessons and a great deal more practice!

"Ok..." Griften reluctantly agreed and positioned his feet again.

"Ready?" Senji asked.

"Ready." Griften replied, the steps started to come to him again. "1, 2, 3, darnit!" Griften cursed as he stumbled again.

"A monk does not succumb to their emotions, Griften." Senji said over his shoulder as he returned to his starting position.

"Sorry." Griften shifted his feet to get ready for another try. The clacking sound of the bamboo staves sounded very strange, but those first two steps made excellent sense, Griften thought.

"Again!" Senji said, going faster now.

1, 2, 3, WHACK!

Griften dropped his staff in a flash of blinding pain as Senji wrapped his fingers with a crisp snap of his staff.

"Gotcha!" Senji's smile was back. "Faster!" He began again and Griften grabbed his staff quickly out of sheer desperation.

1, 2, 3, 4, Repeat!

"Nice one," Senji called as Griften survived to Step 4. "Again!"

1, 2, 3, 4, Repeat!

"Faster!" Senji called again.

1, 2, 3, 4, Repeat!

"Faster!" Griften was past thinking at this point; he was acting out of pure self-preservation. His hand throbbed and his movements were commanded by sheer panic.

1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4...

Griften could hear a rhythm now. In the clacking of his staff, in the shuffle of Senji's feet on the floor....

1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4... And then it happened. The sound of his staff hitting the floor. Griften looked down and saw the staff lying there, but he still held his tightly; knuckles white with the grip. Griften could hardly believe it.

"Excellent." was all Senji said. With a courteous bow, Senji picked up his staff and turned to leave. "You may turn now to your other studies, Brother Griften."

It was the first time Senji had ever called him 'Brother'.





Griften's eyes watered ever so slightly and he swallowed hard, glad the Masters behind him could not see his face.

As they reached the end of the hallway, the doors were opened and the frigid air of the Rakers washed into the entrance. The sun reflected off the snow brushed into the corners of the massive courtyard, and the peaks shone in the distance with icy luminance even from far away.

Assembled in the courtyard was the entirety of the Monks of the Yellow Rose. Hundreds of monks, darkening the sun with robes all in black. The only sound now was the wind whistling across the open courtyard and the crackle of the torches in the distance.

Slowly Griften led them down the stairs and through the ranks of his Brothers. Silent, stone-faced and patient, the assemblage watched as the Master of the South Wind, Senji Tul-Marin was led for the final time through their midst. Arriving at the wooden stairs, Griften slowly began the climb, each step a reluctant agony.

Could this be? How had it come to this? Are they all watching me? Surely they don't know...

Arriving atop the large wooden structure, Griften silently lowered the platform atop of the dais constructed there. Securing the shroud against the cold wind, Griften nodded and the four masters proceeded down the stairs again and took their place within the assemblage.

To an outsider, the following minutes of silence might have seemed awkward, or empty. But no monk moved or spoke. Surely they all were recounting much in their minds, but for the wind, nothing stirred. It was then, that she arrived.

From behind the congregation, the same large doors opened and The Grand Master emerged. Cloaked not in black, but in a gown of shimmering, almost water-like white, she was shielded against the sun by a hood of thick white cloth and her arms folded in front of her covering her hands against the cold wind. Griften was reminded again of her powerful presence; a silent, wordless thunder she carried with her with an elegance that could not be denied. Tall for a woman, she stood in the doorway for what seemed like a minute, but couldn't have been more than seconds. As she descended the stairs, Griften noted that it didn't even appear that she walked; so graceful her stride. Her long robe brushed gently against the snow on the ground, so she could have been floating on air.

With obvious reverence, the monks of the order watched her pass by to the small dais, and she arrived there quite suddenly; the funeral pyre reaching almost two stories overhead behind her. With a slow, painstaking gesture, the Grand Master then reached from the folds of her voluminous white robe and slowly drew back her hood. Her piercing eyes shone from her delicate frame and her head still showed not a sign of hair. She was breathtaking in her element, here, atop the Rakers, and a rare sight for her to join The Brotherhood, even for occassions such as these.

And then, beginning low and rising to a voice that could carry across two courtyards, the Grand Master of Flowers spoke:

"It is with a sense of loss we gather today, but I tell you it is not a sense of loss we suffer. Now we suffer envy, for our Brother has succeeded in his destiny where we have not yet done so. Understanding comes through knowledge, and Senji had much. I am certain that in his final moments, our Brother knew he had reached his goal."

With this, the Grand Master turned and met Griften's gaze. Griften felt himself shrink and closed his eyes suddenly as her meaning hit him full in the chest.

She knows everything. Of course she knows.

"We gather here now to celebrate the culmination of a life not wasted, but one that stands as an example to how life can be lived. Full, honourable, and devoted to a higher purpose. No, it is not loss we suffer this day, truly it is envy."

The Grand Master then made another simple gesture, and a member of the order reached forward to the torches flickering but undefeated in the cold mountain wind. Walking around to the back of the pyre, the monk touched the torch to the pyre and tinder, and Griften could see now the flames begin their slow climb, beginning the final farewell of Senji Tul-Marin.

As the flames began to crackle against the dry wood, Griften took note that not a soul had moved. All attentions were on the pyre; even the Grand Master in this rare appearance was staring at the pyre; seemingly lost in thought.

Griften wandered again; remembering...




When Griften's senses returned to him, he was suddenly aware that he had been standing there for a great deal of time. Much of the congregation had now left; content in their goodbye to their brother and master, anxious to return to the warmth of the Temple for their contemplations.

Looking around him, Griften noted that only his acolytes and the fellow Masters remained. The Grand Master's dais was now empty; Griften didn't notice even her departure.

Behind him, standing in a line were his eleven; Griften's strongest acolytes and those most devoted to him. Griften had never trained just one pupil for as long as Senji had trained him, Griften did not know this mentorship that he was so much the beneficiary of. Perhaps one of these few would look to Griften one day as having offered some insight, some help, some guidance.

How can I guide another when I have so many questions? How can I instruct anyone when I don't know what to do myself?!

Griften looked across their faces and saw in them that innocence he knew Senji once saw in him. These young men had not yet entered the world. They've been sheltered by it, told about some of it, but they don't truly know. They can't understand. Even as the Grand Master's words rushed back to Griften, "Understanding comes through knowledge..." he felt the words empty of their value.


"Brothers, thank you. Please return to the Temple. Your duties here are finished." The acolytes paused a moment and returned as directed. Justinian lingered again a moment, looking for any sign of something he could do, but he saw in his master's face nothing. "Go ahead, thank you." Griften gave one last glance before turning again to those that stood at his shoulder; the Masters of the Winds.

"Thank you, Masters."

Arioss, the Master of the West Wind turned to Griften. He was a very tall man in his early forties if Griften guessed right, but monkly discipline and the possibility of hidden power could mean he was much older. Incredibly fit and always hooded; these were some of the only things he knew of this Master, one he would eventually challenge for his rank. Senji did not speak much of the other Masters of the Winds, but Griften knew them to be men of stature and immense wisdom, just like Senji.

"Your soul is troubled, young one. Burden yourself not with what could have been, but heed well the words of our Master; she is right in all things. Your Master met his end in the manner destined for him. Trust in that."

Without another word, the three remaining Masters of the Wind slowly filed back up the stairs and through the large doors which closed behind them.




Alone then, standing in the courtyard of the Temple of the Yellow Rose, with nothing but the howling wind and the roaring flames to bear witness, Griften cried.

 Episode 1 of The New Scourge
 1113-01-14 -  
Born of Winter... ( Member Submission! )... 1113-01-14 
'My mother is the shrieking winds of winter, and my father the harsh bite of frost in your bones.' -Ozrik

In the western Sheldomar Valley there was once a small village near Geoff. Its name is of little consequence, because it no longer exists. Where once a small group of people scratched a living out of the land, now there are only the fire blackened husks of what were once their homes. Indeed, if it had a name, Ozrik no longer remembers it. After all he was a boy when the giants came, and he'd seen maybe seven winters in that time. He remembered it being a happy place, or at least as he likes to think of it that way. Certainly his parents worked hard, and his siblings were kind to him. Most others gave him suspicious glances, or treated him warily. I boy his age with winter white hair and icy blue eyes was a rarity, and the simple folk of his village were a superstitious lot.

None of that mattered when the giants came. They were merciless in their slaughter, and only Ozrik was spared. Something he never understood at that time. But these are old memories. Memories of a terror filled night, screaming friends and family, and the smell of burning wood, stone, and flesh. These are memories he does not dwell on, for the pain of that traumatic event has walked with him his whole life, and to dwell on them is to scratch that wound anew.

But this tale does not begin here, for who would want to read of such tragedy? I only tell you this part because so many who know this man have often asked where his tale began. To say it began when giants raided his village and slaughtered his people would be the wrong place to start. So we will start here...

SLAVE

The fortress is always cold. Cold, and lonely. But the cold does not bother Ozrik. It never has. If he had spent the last three years amongst children his own age, he'd know that it was abnormal for it to not bother him, as it does others. Being a slave of the giants and a prisoner in their fortress tends to skew a child's upbringing, and so Ozrik has no idea what is normal for a child of his years.

As like many previous days, Ozrik begins to contemplate why he is still alive. He's seen what the giants are capable of, and the savagery of their abilities. As with other days, he concludes that this is their way of torturing him. This is the cruelest form of punishment they can manage. To destroy everyone in his life and then leave him to wonder, every day, why he is still alive.

Today is different though, for when the doors to his cell open this day, the giants don't drag him out to feed on scraps, or assign him some menial task. This time they toss another person into his cell. The man lands in a heap at his feet, and Ozrik is too stunned to even react. He stares long at the man without moving or saying anything. He's not even sure the man is alive, until there is a wet cough, and the stranger rolls over, spitting blood onto the floor.

His battered and bloody face is not the first thing Ozrik notices, nor the oak leaf and acorn amulet. He doesn't even note that the man is human, the first human to be in his cell in three years. What he sees immediately, is the hair. White. White as winter snow. And his eyes: piercing blue. Just like Ozrik's.

'Are you capable of speech boy?' coughs the injured man as he rolls onto his back, making no attempts to rise. It's clear from the sudden wince on his face that he is gravely injured, 'or is your mouth locked open like that permanently?'

Ozrik shakes his head and works his mouth, but can't find any words to say anything. He's aware of how simple he must look, a frightened boy incapable of speech, and he hates himself for being this helpless, but still he manages to say nothing.

'Just my luck, a mute,' the man says as he drags himself towards a wall and props himself up to sit with his back to it, his face grimacing the whole time, 'the bastards probably tore your tongue out long ago.'

'Do you have any water?' the stranger continues, after several moments of breathing with laboring gasps. Ozrik numbly crosses the cell and carries over the skin of fresh water and hands it to the man, who takes a long pull from it.

'I...' Ozrik manages to stammer, 'I am... not a mute.'

'Well, well,' the stranger laughs, 'It speaks after all. You got a name, boy?'

'Ozrik,' he stutters, 'I w-w-was named after my grandfather.'

'Grandfather, eh?' smiles the stranger, 'Does he have hair like you? Was he touched by winter as well?'

'I don't understand what you're talking about,' Ozrik says, 'I've never met him. He died before I was born.'

'What about the rest of your family?' the man asks, 'any of them marked?'

'They...' Ozrik stammers, and against his will the tears well up, '... died. All of them. The giants...' his voice trails off unable to continue as he stairs sullenly at the cold floor. The silence stretches, and the stranger coughs again, and spits another wad of blood onto the floor. He groans in agony, before he manages to speak again.

'My name is Alec. Many call me 'The Icefang' or 'Alec the Froststalker' but those are just names I earned over the years. There was a time Icefang drove fear into the hearts of foul creatures like these giants, but that time was long ago. Now I'm old.' Alec coughs, and it rattles deep in his chest.

'Should I call you 'The Icefang'?' Ozrik asks the man, confused.

'Gods no! That man is dead - and this broken fool is all that's left.' Alec chuckles as he shifts into a more comfortable sitting position. 'How long have you been here, Ozrik?'

'Three years,' the boy answers after pondering the question, 'I think. I don't know why they've not killed me this whole time.'

'Because they're a superstitious lot.' Alec states, 'the frost giants believe it's bad luck to kill someone touched by winter.' He gestures to Ozrik's hair and eyes, 'You've been born with a gift, boy. Shame you didn't know. Not to worry, though, I can teach you to use it.' At the newcomer's words, Ozrik looks around the cell skeptically.

'In here?' the boy asks, unconvinced.

'No, of course not,' Alec replies, 'Once I've got my strength back, we'll escape here.' Ozrik for the first time in years felt some semblance of hope. Freedom was such a forgotten thought for him, and he went about his daily routine in the fortress in a numb state of shock. To be free of this wretched place! To see the world beyond the walls! For the first time in three years the boy smiled. The giants came to the cell that night and shattered the bones in Alec's legs. The screams were terrible. Ozrik held the man's head as he thrashed about like a crazed animal, broken in the dark. When the pain drove Alec into unconsciousness, only then did Ozrik sigh, as his cheeks streamed with tears. There would be no escape now.

THREE YEARS LATER

'Confounded boy!' Alec fumed. He had one hand against the wall to steady himself, and the other clutched at his makeshift crutch, 'You'll need to be faster!' Ozrik's shoulders slumped. He was already sweating with effort, and he felt silly twirling two lengths of wood around. He'd managed to salvage the wood and smuggle it into the cell ages ago, and Alec ran him through a daily routine that he claimed would teach him the forms he needed as a foundation.

'This is stupid!' Ozrik shouted in frustration, flinging the sticks to the floor, 'You can't learn to fight like this! What good is all this without an opponent?'

'What do you want?' Alec asked impatiently, 'To face me?' he laughed aloud, but not unkindly. 'Ozrik the cripple-slayer is what they'd call you.' Ozrik felt shamed, and glanced at the twisted legs of his cell mate. Without proper care, they did not heal properly, and Alec had limited mobility, and almost none without his crutch. Every step the man took brought stabs of pain up both his legs, and short trips left him panting for breath.

'I'm sorry.' Ozrik finally muttered. He meant it. Alec had already taught him so much. The man had travelled as a scout throughout the realm and fought with many bands of rangers in mountain regions to help stem the mischief caused by roving bands of treacherous creatures. The giants lured him up the mountains, as tales of their savagery spread. Three years in the cell with Ozrik, and the man still had so much to teach him.

Alec hobbled across the cell and patted Ozrik's shoulder. He was like a father to him now, and Ozrik hated to disappoint him.

'Nevermind,' Alec said, smiling, 'Let's rest instead.' The scout slid down the wall, sighing in relief, and stretching his crippled legs out before him, beckoning Ozrik to sit in front of him. 'How far did you get last night?' the man asked, after rubbing his aching legs. Ozrik had to think and count in his head the amount of door locks he picked open before answering.

'Out of the dungeons and across the main hall. I got into the pantry. I crossed the yards too, and found more work areas, there were many tools in the new area, I pilfered a few and stored them in our hidden stash.' answered Ozrik, nodding his head towards the loose floor stone where they excavated a place to hide items.

'Good,' Alec nodded, 'Did you get outside at all?'

'No, not last night,' sighed Ozrik, 'but I did see outside during the day. They had me work on loose mortar on the outside wall. The east wall. I was dangled by rope as they chuckled and swung me around when they got bored.'

'You memorized the terrain?'

'Of course, but...' Ozrik hesitated.

'But what? Spit it out.'

'It's mountains and cliffs. Harsh terrain.' The boy answered.

'So? You're young boy,' Alec chided, 'and I've taught you enough you'll survive.' Ozrik chewed his lower lip, not sure how to phrase his concerns to Alec.

'You won't be able to navigate the cliffs. Not eastward anyway.' Ozrik decided it was best to be direct about it. Alec just frowned and shook his head.

'We've been over this, boy.' The old scout said sternly, 'You get beyond the wall, and you go. I can't go with you.' He gestured to his crippled legs, a sudden coughing fit wracking his body. Ozrik nodded as if in agreement, but his thoughts did not mirror the gesture. He was running out of time. Alec was only getting sicker in this cell. The scout already looked like he'd aged ten years since he was first dumped here.

'I'm not strong enough, yet.' Ozrik stated.

'Foolish boy,' Alec replied, 'you don't need to be strong. You just need to be fast.'

I do need to be strong, thought Ozrik to himself, strong enough to carry you.

THREE YEARS OF PLANS

The wood sticks are a blur as Ozrik swings them around with practiced ease. It is his fourth time through the forms tonight, and his body moves without thought. Indeed, his thoughts were elsewhere. With a flourish, he stops, and exhales slowly.

'Ready?' Alec asks, his face full of anticipation.

'Yes.' Ozrik replies, to the point. He is ready. Pulling the makeshift picks from the hidden stash, the young man quickly makes short work of the cell lock. He's done this hundreds of times over the years, so it takes seconds to unlock it.

'Now remember the plan,' Alec begins patiently, 'Avoid any of the giants you see, and do--' He's cut off by the loud snap of Ozrik's makeshift practice swords. In one quick move, the young man has broken them over his knee.

'What are you doing?' hisses Alec, 'You need to stay quiet! Have I taught you nothing?' But Ozrik is ignoring him, as he looks the broken sticks over, choosing one and discarding the rest. Alec is too confused to speak, but somehow manages to find his words, trying to ignore his ward's strange behavior.

'Now remember where I hid my items,' Alec recites. He's told this story many times before, in painstakingly detailed accounts. The tale of how he hid everything he had when he knew the giants were tracking him, and when he knew that he could not escape them. 'When you reach the pass south west--'

But Ozrik is gone. Silent as a ghost, he's left the cell, not even bothering to close the door. Alec can hear the soft clang of a cell door down the hall, and feels a sudden stab of emotional pain. Surely he wouldn't leave without saying good bye. What in all the gods has gotten into the fool boy?

He scrambles for his crutch, and painfully drags himself limping across the cell to the door. Before he can reach it, Ozrik is back, without the broken stick, and with a large contraption of wood and canvas, and a long heavy length of rope. He quickly grabs the contents of the stash, which are already placed in a cloth bag.

'What is all this...?' Alec stares at him, confused now. Ozrik keeps his stare level into the eyes of his mentor. He's grown so much already, no longer shorter than Alec. He tries not to think that perhaps it's Alec that has shrunken in illness.

'It's a travois, and some rope. I made it slowly over the last few months, and stored it in an empty cell down the hall.'

'Don't be a fool, boy.' Alec's voice is stern. 'We've been through this a thousand times already--'

'I'm not leaving you.' Ozrik's eyes do not waver, nor does he budge.

'Look at me!' Alec says, his voice hoarse, 'I can barely walk!'

'I'll carry you.'

'You've given them no reason to hurt you,' Alec pleads, 'I'll slow you down, and when they catch you they'll break you like they did to me. Don't do this. You know that fat oaf of a guard walks the hall every few hours in the night, if we're both gone the alarm sounds sooner!'

'The guard won't be waking from his slumber,' Ozrik states bluntly. Alec now understands why the young man took pains to select which broken stick to use. And now he knows that Ozrik has made it impossible to turn back now. He sighs, his eyes bright with emotion.

'Please,' Alec begs, 'I don't want you to die for me.' But Ozrik only shrugs, as he quickly moves forward and hefts the older man across his shoulders. He tries to ignore Alec's grunt of pain, and somehow manages to grab the bag and travois, as he begins to move out of the cell.

'If I leave you behind,' Ozrik says, 'then who I am will have died already.'

As they pass the dead form of the giant guard, Ozrik takes pains to step around the pool of blood spilled when he jammed the jagged stick into the creature's eye socket.

'Your first kill?'

'Yes.'

'Was it difficult?' Alec asks softly.

'At first,' Ozrik sighs, 'but then I tried to think of my family, and I realized I cannot remember what they looked like any more. They took all that from me, even the memories now, it seems. After that, it was easy.'

'Too long you've been here,' Alec says mournfully, 'It's not too late to leave me.'

'You're my family now,' Ozrik states, 'and I'd rather die than live through that again.'

The path out of the giant's fortress was terrifying, but Ozrik was determined not to falter. The years of practice stalking the halls paid off, and he manages to get himself and Alec outside and into the biting frigid winds in no time. From there it becomes an exercise in willpower and determination.

Three days was Ozrik's best guess. Three days he spent, hauling Alec and what meager supplies they had through the snow, sometimes waist deep. Three days of scaling sheer cliffs, and lowering Alec down safely. Three days of backtracking to cover their trail, and hiding as the giants hunted for them. Three days without sleep, and barely any food. Three days of Alec begging him to abandon him and to flee with all haste. Ozrik began to think his life was always factoring into threes every chance it got.

When he finally found the hidden cave, Alec had been unconscious for most of that day, an occasional mumble escaping him. The entrance was a narrow horizontal crack in the mountain, and Ozrik had to pull the limp form of Alec through behind him. He could see now why Alec chose it: there was no way the giants could get inside. The cave was a relief from the howling wind outside, but Ozrik was too exhausted to even look around. He spotted a musty pile of old furs, and dragged them over himself and Alec. Only then did he give in and let exhaustion take him.

Ozrik's first thought when he wakes is that he's back in his cell. But then he realizes quickly that this place is warm, and there is the comforting smell of a cook fire and a hot meal near him. He rolls over, rubbing sleep from his eyes and sees Alec smiling over a small fire, stirring a pot of some sort of stew. The old scout smiles at the young man, and rubs his hands over the fire. He already looks healthier, Ozrik thinks to himself.

'Where did you get this stuff?' Ozrik asks, his body still weary and sore.

'I had some supplies stashed here before I was captured,' says Alec, 'mostly herbs and some pots and other items needed for long survival in the cold. The wood I got from the travois. I broke it up and burnt some of it. We need a hot meal, to get our energy back. It's weak broth with some of the food you pilfered from the giant's pantry.'

'We needed that travois.' Ozrik says, worried, 'We can't navigate the passes without it, and it's the only way off the mountain.'

'The passes are snowed in,' Alec states, 'Either full winter came early or our timing of how long we were prisoners is wrong. Either way, it's impassable, travois or not. We're here for a long stay.' Ozrik shuffles over and gets himself a bowl of stew. He savors every spoonful of this first meal as a free man.

'These are for you,' Alec tosses him a heavy bundle of oilskins. When Ozrik unwraps it, he finds a modest cache of simple weapons, most of them in need of maintenance, and a rapier and dagger set that catches his eyes right away. The rest drops away as he picks the dagger and light sword up to admire them. Gleaming almost light blue, they seem to give off a frosted mist as he looks them over. He can feel their power ebb into him, almost as though they are extensions of his body.

'They're amazing...' Ozrik states in awe, 'They feel like they belong with me...'

'They've served me all my life,' Alec chuckles, 'and they're touched by the same essence you are, as am I. The essence of winter. The power of frost. I'll teach you how to channel it. Gods know we'll have plenty of time in here to practice. I'll teach you to hunt and live off the land too. Even here, a man with the right skills can survive.'

'How long until the passes open?' Ozrik asks, distractedly, his eyes never leaving the swords.

'Depends on our luck,' Alec responds as he ponders the answer, 'I've seen the passes closed for as little as a few months, and I've seen bad seasons where they were impassable for a year or two.'

As if in answer, the howling and whistling of the winter wind at the cave mouth rises, its tone mocking.

THREE YEARS OF SNOW

The snow is melting. Ozrik can smell it on the air. Three years living in the cave gave him ample opportunity to learn everything about the environment around it. He'd hunted and ranged as far as he could, and grown confident in his skills at tracking, stalking, and killing his prey. Sometimes he did it for food, and sometimes to protect Alec and himself. There were all manner of murderous creatures this far from the civilized world, and Ozrik had dealt with a fair share over the last three years.

The wracking endless cough of his mentor brings his attention back to the inside of the cave. He moves back in, and checks the broth he has boiling on the fire. Alec coughs until he spits out blood, and Ozrik tries to ignore the blood dried on his tunic. He's coughed blood through the night, again. The old scout has aged so much in the last years. The pass had cleared more than a year ago, but Alec's sickness had progressed too far to move him then, and has only worsened since. Ozrik feels helpless, and yet resolves not to leave the man's side.

'We... need to talk, boy,' Alec manages to speak, breathing heavily from the effort.

'Why?' Ozrik says with a smile, 'We talk every day. Have you met someone interesting while I was out that you wanted to talk about?' Alec chuckles softly, but his laughter turns into a painful bout of coughing, and Ozrik immediately regrets making the joke.

'What... will you do... after?' sighs Alec.

'After what?' Ozrik says, even though he knows what the man will say.

'After I die.' Alec coughs again, he's eyes squeezed tightly shut. Ozrik can't remember when the old scout was last up and about. He does not want to answer, but knows that Alec won't drop the topic if he doesn't.

'I will make my way up the mountain, and slay every giant I can find on my way to their fortress, and every giant I find in their fortress.' states Ozrik.

'Fool boy!' Alec scolds with a ghost of the old steel is in his voice again, 'You'll do no such thing.'

'I'm not a boy!' Ozrik retorts, 'And I'll make them pay for what they've done to you. To me.'

'I didn't waste all these years on you, to see you throw you throw everything away!' Alec sighs, heavily. He reaches his hand out and grasps Ozrik's firmly, before he speaks again, 'You've saved me a wretched death in a cell, and for that I can never repay you.'

'You've paid me more than you can know,' Ozrik states, 'I've learned so much from you. I'm not the same frightened boy you met all those years ago. ' His eyes are damp now. This is a conversation he does not want to have.

'There is one more thing you must do for me, Ozrik,' Alec says, his voice firm and unwavering. Ozrik clasps the old scout's hand firmly, nodding.

'Promise me,' Alec continues, 'that when I am dead, you will leave this mountain, and never return. You will forget everything they did to you. Gods know boy, they've taken so many years from you already, don't waste another single year on them. Move on. Live your life. Make something of it. Don't waste it on them.'

Ozrik is silent for a long time, before he finally responds, 'I promise.'

He sags when he says it, the weight of all that hatred and vengeance flows out of him. Alec smiles, and lays back. His eyes closed.

'There is no greater revenge in life than to live a full life, despite your enemies' best efforts to make it the contrary. Make something of your life...' Alec murmurs before he begins to breathe slowly and fade into sleep yet again.

Alec the Icefang died in his sleep that night. In silence Ozrik wrapped his body in furs, and laid it out in the cave. He gathered what supplies he could, before one last long look at the body of his mentor. It seemed fitting to leave him here. Ozrik stood outside the cave and looked back up the mountain one last time. Then he set out down the slope, his heart heavy.

Alec's skills kept Ozrik alive for the whole journey out. He lost count of the days, but Ozrik figured it took him weeks to navigate through the mountains and then out onto the flatter ground, perhaps even more than a month. Summer was upon the land, and he followed the first road he found to a town. A bit of bartering and he manages to get himself a handful of coins for some furs he's brought with him that he no longer needs.

It doesn't take long for him to realize that survival in the civilized world requires more than just knowledge of the wilderness. He survives on the streets, thieving his way from meal to meal. After several months of this, shame gets the better of him, and he decides to change his fortunes. It doesn't take much to convince a local mercenary recruiter to sign him up for his sell sword company.

THREE YEARS OF BLOOD

'This is my last campaign.' Ozrik doesn't mean to sound so blunt, but sometimes the direct way is best. Brock "Blackmane"' Kormak begins to choke on his wine, and ends up spitting the mouthful onto the rugs of his tent floor. He swears loudly, and begins to wipe down the stains on the front of his garish vest.

'What did you say?!?' Blackmane, sputters.

'I'm quitting Blackmane's Bastards.' Ozrik says softly, 'It's nothing personal.'

'The hells it isn't!' Brock explodes, 'It's that thrice damned dwarf isn't it?! I knew the two of you didn't get along, but just ignore Thunderfoot, and don't let his biting words get to you.'

'It's not him at all,' Ozrik sighs, 'He's just a loud mouth braggart, and it doesn't bother me.'

'I should have kicked him off the company years ago, he's such an ass,' Brock laments, 'but gods, I've never met a better sapper crew than his. Shame he's such a mean drunk...' Blackmane shakes his head and collapses in one of the many chairs inside his quarters. 'Damn my luck. You do realize you are the best scout I've ever met? Nevermind how well you kill. Gods, you frighten some of the men with the way you move those blades.'

'I'm not a one man army, Brock, you'll be fine. I've trained the rest of the scout brigade and some of those lads show great promise.' Ozrik tries to comfort his commander.

'Why? Why now?!' Blackmane asks sadly. Ozrik sighs as he pulls up a chair and sits next to his long time commander. He pores himself of glass of wine, and refills Brock's as well before he speaks again.

'It's hard to explain,' Ozrik says, and Blackmane half chuckles and half sobs at him, 'But you've been good to me all the years Brock, and I will always be thankful of that. I will. I've learned a lot with the Bastards, and it's not easy to walk away. But you remember the tale about the group that took on the giants; we heard it from some mercenary company on the last campaign.'

'The Scourge?' Blackmane recalls, 'yes, I remember. You've been strange ever since. Oh gods, I'm a fool. I never made the connection. Are those the same giants that....?'

'Yes,' Ozrik replies grimly, 'They are. These men bested them. It reminded me of a promise I made. These last three years, fighting for money... I've not made anything of myself.'

'You've made us a lot of good coin.' Blackmane offers. Ozrik just shrugs.

'I need to go meet these men. Maybe even join them if I can. I hear that they're fighting a war in Nyrond. I'm leaving tonight.'

'I'll write you a letter of recommendation,' Blackmane says, 'and I'll draw out the money you've got invested in the company.'

'The letter I'll take, but not the money. Keep it in the company. These men are my brothers in a way, Brock. I'd want them to have it.'

'You'll be broke, don't be a fool!' Brock protests, but Ozrik waves him off.

'I have a small amount of money, and I'll manage.' The two old friends clasp hands firmly before Ozrik leaves the tent.

PROVE YOURSELF

'It's not often men turn down such high accolades,' Tanamier says, glancing through the notes on the scroll before him, 'I don't think I've ever heard of anyone who turned down a commendation of bravery before.' J'afrock snorts in disbelief as he looks down at the kneeling form before them. Caelynn sits lazily in a chair off to the side, his face almost bored, and Brother Griften wanders over to stand beside Tanamier, reading the letter over his shoulder.

'Says here you turned down the merit in exchange for an audience with The Scourge.' Griften says, 'I guess we should be honored.' J'afrock crosses his arms, unconvinced. Tanamier continues to look perplexed.

'How long have you served in my forces?' he asks.

'Just over a year, General.' The kneeling form replies, his head still bowed in respect.

'A year?' Tanamier looks again at the scroll before him, 'Well... interesting. It seems you've made a name for yourself in that time. The list of your brave deeds here is impressive. Why did you want to meet us so badly?'

'To convince you to let me join you,' Ozrik says finally as he glances at each of them in turn, 'Or at least to convince you to give me a chance to prove I'm worthy.'

'We are one man short.' Griften points out, 'and we're off to Greyhawk in the morning. It wouldn't hurt to have an extra man covering our backs.'

'True.' Tanamier agrees. J'afrock extends his hand and helps Ozrik to his feet. The half orc looks him up and down like a merchant appraising a horse. The barbarian squeezes the scout's arm and frowns.

'He doesn't look strong.' J'afrock grumbles.

'A wise man once told me that I didn't need to be strong,' Ozrik smiles to himself, 'just fast.'

... I would be lying to you if I told you this is where Ozrik's tale ends. And by now you know, that THIS, is where the real tale begins.
 Episode 26 of The Ministry of the Blade
 1111-11-10 -  
The History of J'afrock Kore... ( Member Submission! )... 1111-11-10 
A being should be judged on his actions. Your past offers no excuse to be cowardly and evil. All beings must be brave and embrace life's challenged freely, with conviction and honour. Let no being stand in your way of glorious and righteous deeds in the name of your god. Let the chaos of battle wash over and when it is over, look around. If the carnage of the battlefield assaults your senses; the salt from the blood so heavy in the air that you taste it on your tongue, the faint moans of opponents and the cries of victory of allies, then rejoice, for victory is yours and you have brought honour to your god. Should you see grassy plains and a tranquil landscape, pray that you have fought bravely, because you are surely dead, and Agravelenon cares not for cowards.

I was created, not born. Evil science is my father and dark magic my mother. I was never meant to be. My brother Turrosh, created with me, should have been stronger, faster and more cunning. But the dread experiments of the Scarlet Brotherhood were too good. Two beings lay there, where only one should. My Orcish birthright is apparent, yet my other half is not only human, but a mess of elf and dwarf as well.

Turrosh always resented me, as if I had stolen the power that was rightfully his. The Scarlet Brotherhood sent me to one of their forgotten monks, to be trained, while Turrosh learned from the most deadly of the Brothers.

Our hatred of the Brotherhood bonded us, as much as our blood.

After our escape, the freedom was overwhelming. Turrosh and J'afrock Mak, brothers in arms. Nothing in the Pomarj could stand against us. Tribes united behind us? Hmmph. OK Turrosh? They fell beneath his savage and cunning charisma. I never fit in. Battle was empty, the goals meaningless. There was no glory, only slaughter and pillage.

Deneb Kore changed that. He strengthened my soul. He told me of Agravelenon. He taught me the Urgrosh. I owe him everything. Why his dwarven brethern cast him out I will never know. I will restore his name?.. our name. Our clan be sung of again, in warrior halls, beneath the mountains. Honour will be restored, just as I have avenged his death. I only hope that Turrosh was not involved?

I will seek out others like myself. Outcasts, that have yet to find meaning and purpose. I will lead them to it and much more. But for now, Agravelenon has sent me down a path. While I question the agenda of those around me, it will not deter me from helping my companions accomplish our goals.

Tiemel, we are brothers. We share the same love of battle and glorious exploits in the name of Agravelenon. I cannot fathom your carefree attitude. It matters little, for we are brothers and I would lay down my life for you, as I know you would for me.

Talen, I know you not. You fight well and bravely, and that is all that matters for now. If you are at my back, I will will trust that it is well guarded. You are quiet and dour for an Elf. Do you carry a shameful legacy as I do? Do you seek to become more than you are? Perhaps we will have a greater kinship than I would expect.



S'Thiss, you are an enigma, the only original member of the Scourge. To have seen Agravelenon and Parthen reveal themselves to the chosen must have been tremendous. I envy that. Your Drow heritage is no worse than my own. We have both grown beyond it, and that must be respected. What higher power do you revere? Lose yourself in glorious battle, S'Thiss. Perhaps this will quell the demons inside you.

Khaal Wraath: You are a coward. The way out is clear, you only have to travel it. Power without direction, violence without purpose is unacceptable. Honour must temper all action. You are without honour, to serve one such as Karoolk. If not for Tiemel, you would not be here. I will reserve further judgement until I see you in battle. This will reveal all.

Azier, you are a child, or seem to be. Do you have power beneath that vulnerable exterior? What is you master's true agenda?

Callimar, you are the personification of honour. Your steadfastness and resolve is admirable. You do not seem to revel in the adrenaline of battle. Maybe your lawful nature prevents it.
 Episode 6 of The Scourge of the Underdark
 2009-09-13 -  
The History of Brother Griften... ( Member Submission! )... 2009-09-13 
Griften is middle child of three born to simple farming parents on the outskirts of Rel-Mord in the nation of Nyrond.

Griften was raised in this loving family and wanted for nothing, enjoying mischiefs and explorations with his siblings and the other children in their farming community. His parents' farm was small like many, but they had a small barn, tiny stables and two fields for their crop; all surrounding the small house where his parents still live to this day.

Griften's younger brother Darin was by far the most mischevious of the three, and Griften's contribution to the family chaos was tame by comparison; but their parents would certainly not have called either of their trouble-making sons responsible! Griften's older sister, Xenoria was the disciplinarian of the three; often charged with looking after her younger brothers when their parents were working on the farm or travelling to Rel-Mord. Xenoria was quite a bit older than her brothers; a decade having passed between her birth and Griften's.

When they last saw each-other, Griften's younger brother Darin, was continuing to work on their father's farm, content to work all day, drink all night, and more than happy to harass the ladies about town only to be scolded by his mother for a lack of responsibility.

Griften's sister's whereabouts remains a touchy subject at family gatherings. Seldom spoken of anymore, Griften's older sister Xenoria left home when Griften was still a boy. Just seventeen when she left, Griften's relationship with his older was one of great kinship; an unspoken understanding that they shared something beyond parentage; that amidst the normalcy of their surroundings, there was more to both of them than their parents cared to admit.

Griften recalls now that Xenoria recognized in him the budding power of his mind long before it was apparent even to Griften; she encouraged him to try moving objects without touching them and setting straw on fire without a tinderbox. Griften knows now that Xenoria herself was not without her secrets, and this would come to haunt Griften years later. When he first witnessed Xenoria's strange hobby, he was still a young boy and magic was still a story people told and a carnival trick at the annual fair. But soon Griften and Darin learned that their sister was more than just an imaginative girl 'playing pretend', she was already speaking the words of magic!

This, Griften thought, was the source of the tension that caused a rift in the family; Mother and Father had always been supportive of all their children's interests. Griften had bothered his father for months to teach him tricks with the staff before his father finally relented, and Darin had quit his archery lessons about seven times. What Griften first thought to be his parent's general disapproval of his sister's 'useless passtime' soon came to be understood as horror at the nature of her gift, and not the gift itself. Griften's parents never spoke of it to him.

Griften's memories of all that led to Xenoria leaving are few and clouded. He was just too young, and Darin was younger still. Griften still can only recall fragments and scenes, but they are filled with his parents pleading with his sister, arguing, yelling and great sadness. Griften was only ten when Xenoria finally left, but Griften's burgeoning gift allowed him to burn her image into his mind; he would never forget her.

It was Griften's father, Ammon who next saw in his son the growing power inside him. Perhaps learning from the Xenoria, Griften's parents welcomed and encouraged his growing power and made it part of their daily lives; even finding usefulness in it when Griften was able to control them. The last thing Griften's parents wanted was to lose another child from the same mistakes. Griften, in a way, owes much to his older sister for this.

As a young man, Griften had many jobs in town. Besides helping his father on the farm, Griften would take some of his extra time and work for merchants and stable-keepers for extra money. One of his more frequent jobs was to be the assistant shop-keeper for a man named Renoit. Renoit was a middle-aged man, quite a convincing salesperson when he wanted to be. He had no family that Griften knew of, and he came and went from town to town every year as he saw opportunity to trade with traveling caravans or spend some time in neighbouring towns and cities across Nyrond. Renoit was such a good salesman that he used to brag that he could sell anything to anyone.

One day, without any warning, Renoit told Griften that he would be leaving his shop for six days and that he wanted Griften to look after the store while he was away. Renoit said he would travel east to meet a very reputable pottery maker who would sell him beautiful potteries that he could in turn sell at the shop. Renoit told Griften that this trip was very important and that he would pay Griften twice his normal pay if he would stay and work while he was gone. Griften agreed.

Two days after Renoit had left, a man came to the shop asking if he could speak to Renoit. The man was tall, several inches taller than Griften, and he was clad in beautiful green and brown woven silk robes, and he had a hood drawn over his head. His face was fair, with prominent, high cheekbones and a broad smile, and he talked with an accent that Griften recognized as being Elven. He asked where Renoit had gone, but Griften could only tell him that he had traveled east. The man politely thanked Griften, tossed several gold coins on the counter, and turned and walked into the bustling midday crowd.

On the seventh day of Renoit's trip, Griften still had no word. He desperately wanted to return to his work at the farm. He did not like trying to sell people things they did not want, let alone need. He wondered why Renoit was in the business of selling things, what pleasure he got out of it. Griften reminded himself what an excellent entrepreneur Renoit was, and that he love his store more than anything else. Griften decided to stay on a few more days.

On the tenth day, Renoit had still not returned. No word had been sent, but Griften could not ignore his responsibilities at home with his father any longer. After two weeks of tending to Renoit's shop, Griften reluctantly closed the shop and put the keys in his room at home. Without any idea what happened to his friend, Griften always expected Renoit to casually walk back onto the farm and ask for the keys to his shop.

Renoit never returned.

As Griften became a teenager, his psionic power became undeniable; even a hindrance. Griften's father knew that he could not teach his son anything Griften didn't already know about his power, and so it was decided to find suitable instruction for what could no longer be denied; a destiny beyond the farms of Rel-Mord.

Having heard of a monastic order called 'The Brotherhood of the Yellow Rose', Griften's parents decided to seek them out. Entrusting Darin to a neighbouring family during their trip, Griften travelled with his parents further north than they had ever been, deep into The Rakers. Wild, barren and unwelcoming, they were led by caravan to a small village at the foot of a rise in the mountain range that disappeared far into the low clouds. It was there that they were greeted by monks who apparently resided there in the village, acting as 'gatekeepers' for those just like Griften and his parents; some curious, some desperate, and some with less honourable intentions.

They stayed in this small village three days before they were called to a tiny wooden house in the center of the village. There, Griften and his parents were introduced to more monks, all wearing the tell-tale yellow sashes. Griften recalls keenly being asked to demonstrate his gift, and it was shortly thereafter that Griften was invited to say goodbye to his parents; for the monks had decided.

It was a tearful goodbye; as any thirteen-year-old would fear the unknown so different from their home. Griften's parents assured him that he would see them again soon, and that this was the best thing for him. These words, however, rang empty in Griften's ears.

When finally brought to the Temple of the Yellow Rose; Griften marvelled at everything around him. He learned very quickly that the rigors he complained of working on the farm at home paled in comparison to the discipline and work ethic of his new teachers. Griften found a focus and a willpower he didn't know existed within him. Griften learned very quickly that an extra-ordinary mental being must be balanced well with a healthy body.

Griften remained in the secluded community of the Temple of the Yellow Rose for the next many years. In fact, no one came and went as Griften could tell. Many of his monkly-brothers had gifts such as him, some were martial in their focus, some psionic, some both. The degree to which Griften's gift could grow was limitless, but it was the contstant practice, experience and proper use that separated the strong from the weak. Griften was determined to succeed.

Not long into his eighteenth year, Griften began to have a recurring dream. It plagued him at no regular schedule, with no warning and no apparent reason. Some nights Griften slept peacefully, his dreams filled with peaceful memories of home and the comraderie of the brotherhood, but some nights Griften stared awake long into the night, trying to stay awake for fear that those dreams would turn into nightmares.

In this strange dream, Griften was surrounded by a thick fog so dense that he could not see his own feet. His skin shivered as the fog wafted over him and there was no noise, but this silence was unnatural. It was as if everything was being quiet, waiting quietly in anticipation for something to happen. He could see and feel very little but the cold, hard ground beneath him.

Griften had a sense of fear and urgency though he knew not why. Amidst the dead calm that the fog seemed to lay over him like a smothering blanket, a low, harsh whisper started very faintly, muttering words not loud enough for him to hear.

The whisper came not from one place, and not from his mind, but from all around him at the same time. In such a vaccuum of sound, even as a whisper it was enough to want to cover his ears. From his studies of ancient language, from all of his readings, Griften had never heard such horrible language; it was ugly and distasteful. It filled him with terror, though he did not know why. The unintelligible chatter seemed almost familiar, but Griften could never know whether it was because it was a recurring dream, or for some other reason

Then, as quickly as it had begun, it faded away and disappeared into the horrible fog, and Griften was left alone again in the cold vaccuum of darkness.

Griften shivered in his beg again as he returned mercifully to the oblivion of dreamless sleep.

After his induction into The Brotherhood of the Yellow Rose, the dreams plagued Brother Griften no more.

On the eve of having destroyed the altar in the temple of Tharizdun on the Isle of Shadows, Brother Griften had again for the first time that dream from years ago. Unable to wake himself using the powers of his mind, Brother Griften relived again the uncharacteristic terror that seeped through his bones and into his soul. He heard the same, unintelligible whispering, and this time, very clearly there were more words. He listened with some reluctance, almost afraid of what he might hear. He singled out the extra wording, and could hear clearly amidst the heavy silence: "Freeeeee.... freeee at laaast. You have my thanksss..... you will be rewaaaaardedddd..... freeeeee.... freeee at laaast. You have my thanksss..... you will be rewaaaaardedddd.....". This Brother Griften only heard twice, and then again the haunting whisper that gave him a sense of ominous foreboding.

When he awoke, Griften stared into the darkness of the Sunless Sea with wide-eyed horror. What had he done!? Those words, all this time... is that what they meant? What language was this?! How could he have had those dreams so many years ago, before all of this happened?!

Griften chose not to mention his latest dream to his companions. He wanted to keep it a secret lest he become even more of a burden and a suspicion when other matters more immediately should be dealt with. The towers of Great Sh'abboath loomed over Brother Griften as he returned to the cold, lifeless halls of troubled sleep.
 Episode 1 of The Scourge of the Underdark
 2008-10-17 -  
The History of Caelynn Silverleaf... ( Member Submission! )... 2008-10-17 
Born on the fourth day of spring in beautiful Celene, Caelynn, son of Jaenys and Erryn, was immediately noted to be different from other elves. He was a large baby, with piercing eyes of crystal blue, and had the proud bearing of a royal prince. His parents held him aloft in the shining sun with pride.

Raised as a poet and scholar, Caelynn learned the classic history of the Grey elves and embraced it fiercely. He often wondered why the other elves in the land seemed to dislike his race but at that time he put it down to their envy. His father, Jaenys, was the Minister of Agriculture for the city and as such was considered a minor nobleman. His mother was a teacher at the elementary school of wizardry, a place where young elves would begin to learn about magic and how to manipulate it. Caelynn had one sister, Ellenis, who was his elder by fifty years. Rumored to be among the most beautiful in the city, she had married an elder son of the Minister of Special Defense, the branch of the Celene Military, which commanded the awesome brigade of bladesingers.

Ellenis and Caelynn were very close, as is normal among elves. She saw in him the potential to be a great asset to his father's political future as he was tall, strong and impressive in his appearance. He found politics boring, however, and secretly dreamt of becoming an adventurer roaming the lands outside the forest while gaining magic and power vanquishing the enemies of the elves. This ambition led him to storm out of a cabinet meeting against his father's wishes one fateful evening, not realizing it would change his life...

His father had been opposing a bill, which denied other races, including other elves, from access to the eastern edge of the forest for agricultural expansion. Jaenys had a majority of the cabinet members' votes but the night of the secret ballot, he unexpectedly dropped his opposition to the bill after a private meeting with his wife. Caelynn could not understand what would make his father stand down like that, as he was always a proud and honorable elf and he failed to see the pain in his father's eyes when he spoke harsh words to him before storming out. To this day, only his parents (as well as certain others) know the truth [here you may insert what you want as the secret that was used to blackmail his father into backing down, I was thinking that maybe Caelynn had a different father, hence his strength and height, when his mother was visiting at another Grey elf city. They never told him but someone found out and used it against Jaenys.

The next day Caelynn applied to the Academy of Bladesingers and moved to his own quarters near the Academy. His relationship with his parents was shaken although it soon returned to normal after Caelynn immersed himself in his training and forgot about the world of politics. For the first time, Caelynn felt in his element. Always chided by his family for being so tall and strong, he now became the fiercest warrior, a whirlwind of shining silver with his sword. As is normal training for bladesingers, he spent half of his time training magically; learning offensive spells to best aid his fighting prowess. On border patrols, he was noted to be courageous, cunning and fearsome. Among the bladesingers in his unit, who had taken to calling him Orcsbane after he almost single-handedly destroyed a unit of twenty orcs and their leader, he became the unofficial leader and spokesman. However, the bladesingers are highly hierarchical and the fast rise of this brash young bladesinger was found to be unacceptable to many of the senior officers.

Caelynn was nevertheless promoted to lieutenant after only twenty years in the service. His conquests were numerous and his future was very bright. Unfortunately, as is Caelynn's way, he was very outspoken at briefings and officer's meetings and he vociferously disagreed to many aspects of Grey elf society. Believing in reaching out to extend the Grey elf power base and even to ally with the other elves (whom he was very curious about actually) to destroy all evil in the land, he often found himself disagreeing with his orders. On one occasion, he discovered an evil drow encampment located near the edge of Grey Elf lands. Very disturbed by this, he reported it to his superiors although he already knew what his orders would be: continue to observe the encampment and under no circumstances attack them unless they enter Grey Elf Land. By this time, the war against Elvandar was well known and Caelynn bristled as his people stood by and watched as another beautiful elven city fell to the foul black elves. After hearing of the fall of Elvandar, he secretly led his unit to the encampment and laid waste to it. The battle fought was a hard one and Caelynn lost three of his twenty men although the drow only numbered ten. He came to realize that there were very many powerful enemies out there and orcs and goblins were simply fodder.

When he returned from the raid, he was severely reprimanded for his actions and there was talk of a court martial. However, public opinion seemed to be wavering as the people learned of Caelynn Silverleaf and his beliefs. Thus, instead of a court martial, the decision was to send Caelynn on an expedition outside the borders of Celene with any members of his unit who chose to go with him. He realized this was a way to get rid of him but the prospect of leaving the city and seeing the rest of the world was too great and he chose to leave. All of his remaining unit accompanied him.

As soon as he and his men left the forest, they were waylaid by a large force of drow. Half of his unit was lost in the ambush and the rest, including him, were taken prisoner and taken into the underdark. He learned over the next weeks that the magic using prisoners were to be sent further down with human mercenaries while the others were simply kept by the dark elves to be taken to their city to be enslaved, tortured or killed. His moment of escape came when his simple-minded human captors stopped to rest on their first night. He magically unlocked his wooden cell and then aimed a weak, thin arm at the captors' tent. A moment later it was engulfed by a ball of brilliant white flame that burnt them to cinders. After freeing the other prisoners, he sent his remaining men back up to the city to report the news. Fearful and also curious as to the stories he had been hearing about what was happening in the city of the Glass Pool and beyond, he decided to venture on. It was a few days later that he met the rest of the Scourge of the Underdark; Gorath, Tempus, Tanamier, Akira, Griften and S'Thiss.