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Tipping the Fates


Beyond the Wall
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The day was hot, but the wind held a promise of sweet coolness to come. The Turning Feastday was only days away and already the anticipation grew in the hearts and minds of the people of Havendale. This summer had been unbearably hot, the hottest and driest in a generation, said the elders. Flocks and crops both had suffered, and it was hoped that a wet cool autumn would give the late season crops  a decent harvest, but even if that came to  pass it would still be a lean winter.

 

But crops and winter were not on the mind of Meara Atkyn. The young girl, no, woman now that she had come of age at the last Rising Feast-day, was thinking about far off places and adventures and magic, oh yes always, magic.

 

She had volunteered the evening last to go into the north hills where their small flock of sheep grazed in the late summer. Her sisters Dara and Shale were currently watching over the flock but her mother had wanted them to come home early to ready themselves for the Turning Feast since both were expecting to be betrothed this year at the festival.

 

 She had volunteered because it was in the north hills where a couple of years earlier, she had almost lost a lamb and while searching for him, had discovered a small cave in a hill and in that cave a wondrous book.

 

The contents of the book had taught her magic and was her most prized possession, well that, along with her staff, which looked like any ordinary walking staff but was much much more. The staff was a magical wizard’s staff which had been gifted to her by a mysterious wandering wizard from the Bright Tower, following her coming of age this very year.

 

She kept the book hidden there  in the cave and returned as often as she could to study and learn from it. And now, this was the perfect time for that. She had convinced her pa that she could handle the flock alone so the rest of the family could ready themselves for the feast and that she would drive them home before feast day. She would have at least two whole days and nights to herself to delve deeper into her ancient book.

 

Meara had made the trek to the hills leaving before sunrise that morning. She had stopped and visited with her friend and sometime mentor Heygar the former mercenary. She had brought him some apples and a loaf of her mothers’ bread that she had baked the day before. Then she spent the rest of the morning climbing into the hills to their usually grazing area. After locating her sisters and seeing them off she had tended the flock until the early afternoon and then set off to her cave she was still a good hours distance from the secret haven when she spotted someone she knew it was her friend, Artoria, the daughter of the village blacksmith and a woman she had become friends with a  the summer before this one after and incident not too far from where she was today.

 

Spoiler

Jean you can tell us why Artoria is in the north hills and have her meet up with Meara. Justin you can hang back until I introduce you. also the tree of us are of course friends and we all three came of age at the same time.

 

 

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"Haa! Hra! Yaaah!"

 

Sweat dripping down her face, Artoria let out another cry as she swung her axe in a big, two-handed swing at empty air. Muscles burning from the prolonged exertion, the sturdy blonde exhaled. Her father had given her the afternoon off, so she hiked out here to what she thought of as 'her clearing' and set to work practicing. Fighting had evolved as a secondary rebellion against the norms of the village, in for a copper in for a silver and all that. Besides, she was an Aching, and Achings had fought for this land long as they could remember. Arms that hammered iron could just as easily cut flesh, and if she didn't say so herself, she had arms worth putting to use. All it took was asking for a demonstration of what the levee instructor had taught, and somewhere private to practice. Like today. Her peers hadn't forgiven her enough for her misdeeds to start approaching her father about a betrothal, so she had no one to impress.  

 

That suited Artoria fine for now. 

 

She'd work on herself and her craft until someone came along who wasn't intimidated by her. After her mother died trying to bring her a brother into the world, she was in no rush to risk the same death. Determined to chase away the dark thoughts, she was about to reset and resume her solo drill when she spotted Meara from the corner of her eye. "Heeeey!' What brings you out here?" she called, turning to face the other girl, sunlight catching her short-cut blonde hair and broad smile.

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Meara smiled at the big girl and leaned on her staff, “ I’m tending the flock, they are back over there,”  she points back the way she had come toward where the woods thinned. “I heard this hideous noise and was afraid it was an ogre come to steal my sheep. Only I found you swinging that massive tree chopper, if you’re not careful, you’re going to hack off a leg. Where did you get that thing any ways?” It was not the first battle axe she had seen, she had watched Haygar practice with one before though usually he carried a spear and a sword.

 

Meara came into the clearing to join her friend, pulling a water skin from her shoulder and offering it to the large muscular young woman. “Do you know Haygar? He’s the mercenary who came here a couple of years ago. He has a hut an hour walk from our stead. He could show you some tricks with that thing. He taught me how to use my staff as more than a club.”

 

Not a hundred paces from where the two girls have met in the wooded hills, Arden Tarsin crouched and studied the ground before him and the woods around. He had heard what he supposed had been a war cry of some sort but not any he had heard before but there had been something familiar about it.

 

Arden was to have met with his friend and mentor, Jhan Caval, a seasoned and well-respected woodsman of the village. But Jhan had been by the large Rowan where they usually met though he had been that the ground had told him. It was not like Jhan to not keep a meeting so Arden believed that something important must have drawn him away. On a whim Arden had tracked his friend and it had led him here. But the cry was close and might should be looked into and might even lead to Jhan.

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He could find the trail again.  It wouldn't do to abandon someone in need, the village was small after all, they all fairly knew each other well enough.  So he set aside the tracking of his mentor and Ardan turned towards where he heard the cry, and made his way trough the forest to its edge, to find Meara and Artoria there.  

"I see I shouldn't have worried."  He offered a thin, small smile at the two of them and approached slowly.  "I'd heard someone cry out and thought they might be under attack, so i came to help fight it off."   That the two were women really didn't mean much to him, he'd grown up with them, and would even call them friends, though Artoria had been a bully early on.   Ardan was one of those who'd rallied to Meara's call to help her, and he let out a little sigh.  "How are the two of you doing today?"

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Artoria was delayed in answering by taking long, greedy gulps of the waterskin. Her own was sitting next to a tree not ten paces away, but she wasn't going to say no to offered relief. She recapped the container and handed it back to the smaller girl.

 

"Ardan," she offered with genuine warmth, leaning the axe against a convenient rock, "I was just practicing away from anyone who might have a disapproving glare and lecture about how it wasn't a young woman's place to use weapons. Might be keeping Meara company as she hikes out to Haygar's if she thinks he's not that type. Safer to not go alone. Obviously. That last deer haunch cooked up well, by the way."

 

She laughed, nudging the side of her axe with one foot, "And to answer your question about this beauty, too many people give up on a broken tool too soon. A nail here, a scrap there. It adds up and a bit of fire brings back the strength in some of it if you know what you're looking at." 

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"I see.   I was supposed to meet with Jhan, but he wasn't at our normal meeting place at the appointed time, though he had been there before.  I was following his trail before stopping here, though every indication was that he'd come this way."   

"I take it neither of you saw him pass by?"   It would have been odd if they had, but if he were in a great hurry, possible.

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Meara smiled at Artoria again, "It is a nice axe."  Then she focused on Ardan, shaking her head, "No i haven't seen him, I have been over the hill tending the sheep. I came here when i heard Artoria practicing." Another sly smile at Artoria.

 

She looked back toward where her sheep were off grazing and made a little contemplative frown, "Now that I think about it the flock seemed less restive than normal. none tried to stray."

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"That's a good thing though, right?"  Ardan asked.   "Better than having to chase them down.  Though I wonder if he sensed something and was actively keeping it at bay."   He turned around and back into the woods, the way the trail had been leading.  "I wonder..."

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" Normally I would say yes," stepping away toward where the flock was, "but after thinking on it, a day this hot they would usually be trying to find a cool place to be lazy but they were staying right around the campfire my sisters had built earlier. I'll admit i wasn't really paying attention, my mind was on other things, but they may have been scared."

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Artoria had heard a lot of stories growing up about how little sense sheep had. If something had Meara's flock spooked and Ardan's mentor missing a meeting without so much as a word to anyone... The big blond frowned and lifted her axe.  "Think you could pick up Jhan's trail? I don't like the idea of maybe leaving him out in the woods with Gods know what," she stated, looking out into the hungry maw of the forest. 

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Ardan nodded.  "I was on it before coming here, so yes, I should be able to find it again."   He looked out at the hill beyond which Meara's flock grazed out of sight.   "Why don't you stay here with Meara, I'll go follow his trail, and I'll come back and let you know if I find anything or not?  If something is out there and comes for you, call out and I'll come to you.  If it comes after me and I can't get away, I'll call out."

it was a precaution, he'd leave it to them, whether to come help, or go get help from the village.  He trust his friends to act as they thought best.

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Without waiting for either girl to react Arden had about faced and faded silently back into the wood Meara stood open mouthed as if she had been about to say something and Artoria furrowed her brow and hunched her shoulders twisting her hands on her axe haft in frustration. Men!  She looked over at Meara who looked back tilting her head, “Well, would serve him right if something foul ate him,” the big girl said. 

 

“No, don’t say that,” said Meara shaking her head, “boys will be boys, and we have to look after them. If Jhan is in trouble that means it was something the hunter could not handle, and he is much more experienced than Ardan. I’m going after him. Are you coming?”

 

“Humph,’ grunted Artoria as she hefted her axe, ”Really you have to ask?”

 

The two young women started after the young woodsman.

 

Arden backtracked to where he had left off his trailing of Jhan. He could tell by the way Jhan’s tracks were easily followed that the older hunter had been moving swiftly and not trying to cover his tracks. The fledgling hunter followed the visible tracks a considerable distance, he was aware that he was in turn being followed by Meara and Artoria, and it made him smile they weren’t blundering about and were following his track pretty well. Then he frowned, was Meara using magic to follow him?

 

He paused for the first time he came across another spoor and this one worried him. He crouched and studied the ground his own brow furrowed now. He had come across a bear track, not unusual in itself, although they tended to stay higher up in the foothills and the low altitudes of the mountains this late in the year it wasn’t unheard of for them to hunt this low. But this track bigger than any bear track he had seen before and if he was reading the ground right as Jhan had taught him, this bear was much heavier than indicated by the tracks size. And it seemed to now be following Jahn!

 

Ardan made a decision to wait for the girls to catch up to him but his worry about his friend and mentor was growing.

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Ardan didn't have too long to wait. the other two coming upon him in short order. Artoria eyed the woods around her warily, alert for anything, especially as the woodsman had stopped for some reason. Trouble? Hopefully not trouble, not this early.

 

"Why'd you stop?" she called, a frown crossing her face.

 

"Bear tracks," he answered.

 

"Oh," she replied wracking her brain for everything she knew about bears, which, as it turned out, wasn't too much off the top of her head, mainly how dangerous their teeth and claws were..?

 

"A big bear," Ardan elaborated, "Following Jhan's trail."

 

"Oh. So that's bad then?" she asked, frowning more deeply and wishing she had one of those special boar spears she and her father made once. If it worked for one crazy animal, it should work for the other... 

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Ardan nodded.  "Bears can be quick over short distances, have greater strength and stamina than nearly anything else in the woods.  Incredible sense of smell, and powerful jaws and sharp claws.  They're not something to be taken lightly."  He looked to the two of them, having honestly expected them to follow.   They were good friends.  "Meara, stay between us, Artoria, stay in back.   Be alert, and be ready. "   With that he continued tracking Jhan, and now the bear.   "You better be alright old man.."   his softly muttered words were the only real sign of his concern for his mentor.

 

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The three youths moved through the woods for half a span noting the thinning of the  wood and the rise of the ground as they entered a set of rough hills. Coming to a wide fast moving stream which cut through the hills they lost track of the bear but found evidence of Jhan's passage when the found a quiver and several broken arrows.

 

This worried Ardan and he picked up the pace following Jhan's trail which was now leading almost due west toward the distant mountains. The trail stayed in the hills but followed the stream which had cut deep ravines in those lonely hills. the woods here where thin and of fir and pine. Ardan saw several newer tracks and he surmised that these may have been what Jhan had been following. they were smaller than the bear tracks but in truth Ardan could not tell what manner of creature had made them as he had never seen any like them before. He wasn't even sure if they were beast or humanoid as the bore resemblance to both.

 

The two girls followed along mostly quietly but giving voice to  encouragement when necessary. Artoria was unflagged as her stamina was great from her work atthe forge but Meara's was failing and she found herself leaning on the staff to help her along more and more. When suddenly, Ardan raised his hand. He had heard something ahead. Signaling silently to his companions to stay in place, he creped ahead to the edge of the ravine and peered over. Down below at the waters edge he saw the form of his friend and teacher lying still as if dead. Then a low moan came from the form revealing that Jhan yet lived.

 

Spoiler

the way down is very steep and will require climbing, it will not require a test if someone has a rope if not it will require a dex test. Meara and Artoria should also make a wisdom test. in both cases it is 1d20 roll under the ability for success.

 

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"i'm going to climb down.  Artoria, stay here with Meara.   I will need you up here to help pull him up."   Then he stopped for a moment.  "It's a risk moving him, but none of us are healers, and we can't leave him here like this.  Meara, while we get him back up, I'll need you to keep watch,  I don't know what pressed him to this, or where that bear went."

It was alot of trust in both of them, and he pulled the rope from his pack and began to securely tie off to a tree, before getting ready to head down to his mentor.   "I hope he can tell us what he was out here for."   He was very concerned about Jhan's safety and health, but there was little beyond the most basic first aid he himself knew, and he silently hoped that would be enough to get him back to town alive.

 

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"Be careful down there," she called as Ardan began his descent, fully aware how unfun a fall of any length could be if you landed wrong and the older hunter looked in bad shape. The blonde smith kept her eyes on the forest around them, one ear ready for a call from below. The woods were usually less dangerous this time of year, at least not-mystery bear spoking hunters off ledges dangerous. The elders would have mentioned something like, right?

 

Seeing Meara's condition, Artoria, fished her waterskin from her bag, "Hey. Drink up. Look like you need it."  

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Meara drinks heavily. and glances around with worry. She had never been this far into the hills before and the site of the hurt hunter below lying beside the rushing water frightened her.

 

Arden made the climb down quickly, it was steep and the side crumbly but with the rope it was easy. Depending on how hurt Jhan was getting back up could prove difficult. As soon as he was at the bottom of the ridge he rushed to Jahn's side and knelt examining him.

 

Jhan was unconscious, his breathing shallow and ragged. There was a great bruise on the left side of his face and many scratches on his exposed limbs. His tunic was torn and there were shallow claw marks that seeped blood soaking his clothes. his left leg was broken and bent at an odd angle. Probably caused by the fall. Arden looked around for his mentors bow and didn't see it and his axe, usually at his belt, was also missing.

 

Up above Arotria kept her eyes on the surrounding wood only glancing down at Arden occasionally. She couldn't explain it but she felt uncomfortably exposed, as if unseen eyes were staring at her.

 

 

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"What did this to you Jhan?"   Ardan asked, not seriously, he didn't really expect his mentor to answer in this state.  He catalogued the injuries, and quickly looked for a branch to splint his leg.  Taking a cutting of the rope he lashed the straight branch he found to his leg, not happy when Jhan cried out as he touched his leg.  "Sorry, but I have to get this done, I know it hurts."

He looked around quickly for the bow and axe, but didn't see them.  "We'll have to come back some other day to get your things.  I know they're important, but not so much as your life."   He called up to Artoria.  "He's hurt pretty bad, I'm going to put him on my back,  tie the rope to both of us and try to climb up.   I'll be counting on you to help pull us up."   He was open to other ideas, but this was all they could do.  Tying  Jhan alone didn't seem to be good for his wounds, and he couldn't make the climb alone.   

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Spoiler

Sp-Sp-Spot Check Time!

Details:[1d20 (7)] that's a 7 which is under artoria's 8 wis.

Here we go.

 

"Gotcha," Artoria answered the young hunter, bracing herself with the rope in hand ready to help haul them both up. As the rope went taunt and Ardan began his ascent, hand over over she pulled the rope behind her, slow and methodical. She wasn't going to slip up on her end of a canyon rescue. Not after having had one herself.

 

That she she caught sight of it, out of the corner of her eye as she grunted, a flicker of motion amidst the leaves. Someone, no, something, peeking out of a bush near the treeline. Was that a lizard? The blonde smith had an impression of horns sticking backwards from the head before it vanished again, suddenly acutely aware of her battle axe at her feet and hands full of human-laden rope. She frowned, having been on the receiving end of enough ill-fated attempts at revenge to be wary of vulnerability. Hopefully the animal or whatever it was had merely been curious. An exhale and her practised mask of 'nothing to see, just innocent Artoria dealing with stuff' coming up to cover her unease. No sense in acting hastily. 

 

"Might want to hurry up there, Ardan. Don't want to hang out here all day," she called down after another grunt of exertion pulling them up. 

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Urch froze as the giantess’s gaze locked onto him. She was big, as big as an Orc, and the axe at her feet was just as big and scary. Yoco, a few feet to his side hidden by the small tree trunk hissed when Urch caught the human’s attention and shifted ready to raise his little bow, but she did nothing and went on tugging on the rope.

 

Meara kept watch but hadn’t seen anything as Artoria and Ardan struggled to raise Jhan from the stream bank below. The had gotten him most of the way in fact Arden had just gotten to within reach of the top of the ridge and stretched out one hand to grasp the solid earth when a chorus of shrieks erupted from the surrounding wood.

 

Onto saw the hand and knew the advantage would soon be gone so with a hissing signal he drew his wicked stone knife and uttered a ululating shriek which was echoed by his comrades and burst from the bush in which he had been hiding.

 

Meara was startled as the three small reptilian creatures, maybe two and a half to three feet, tall burst from their hiding places two carried wicked sharp stone knives with blades a good eight inches long, the third had a similar knife at his belt and in its hands a small bow roughly a third of the size of Arden’s bow. The were oddly colored and it took a moment for Meara to realize thatthey had painted dark brown and green strips at odd angles all over their bodies and snouts.  The one with the bow stopped and let loose an arrow directed at Artoria and another charged at the large girl while the first came toward her!

 

Spoiler

The kobolds have surprise against meara and ardan, Artoria is not surprised and may act she has initiative. the arrow shot at her will fly wide. Arden must make a strength test at -3 to pull himself up and over the edge of the ridge. order of actions is Artoria, kobolds, Arden, Meara

 

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Oh Gods. That wasn't a lizard at all. What the hells were those?!

 

Somewhat alert the possibility of animal danger, Artoria tightened her grip on the rope with one hand, unwilling to let go completely and hoping one hand would be enough to keep Jhan from another fall. The other went for the knife at her belt, a trusty blade she'd made that had earned her Father's Grudging Grunt and Nod of Approval, the highest honor in the Aching family forge. Honestly, for all the solo practice she'd put into cutting down invisible raiders with defiant shouts, tiny screaming lizard things were not what she was expecting to use the tool in anger on. The arrowing whizzing past her as she moved to defend herself added an extra surge of adrenaline, a flush of anger to her counter

 

Out came the knife from it's sheath and down it swung on the closest monster.

 

Spoiler

Knife attack minus whatever mod there is for distraction hanging onto Ardan's rope...

Details:[1d20+4 (7)] 11 to Hit pre any penalties...

Well , if it hits... 

Details:[1d4+3 (1)] 4 Damage.

 

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Ardan heard the cries, and managed to avoid panicking.   That would have only lead to disaster.   Instead, he redoubled his efforts to climb up with Jhan, and finally having reached the top, Hauled both himself and his Mentor up to the top.  

"Artoria, Meara, we're up, you can let go of the rope!"  He called out, even as he moved from the edge, somewhere he could set Jhan down and join the fray himself.

 

Spoiler

str check-3

Details:[1d20 (2)] success

 

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Onto rushed at Artoria knife poised to strike deep but the giantess moved quicker, surprising the little kobold.

 

The arrow let loose by the Kobold with the bow flew wide past Artoria she stepped into the Kobold in front of hers charge and in a deft move drew her own knife, underhanded seeing the surprise in the beast’s eye she chopped down with the point aiming at the ugly little things neck!

 

Onto stopped short his charge and twisted his knife upwards to catch the human’s blade. Metal rasped on stone with a dull clang and splinter of the rock blade flew, but the blow was diverted and with another twist Onto lunged in an attempt to drive his point into her abdomen.

 

Artoria jumped back a space drawing her belly away from the lizard knife. The little thing was both quick and cunning. As she dodged the blow, she saw that Arden had managed to scramble up and dropped Jhan to the ground a few yards away. At least the numbers would be even now. She looked around to see how Meara was fairing and her eyes widened in surprise at what she saw.

 

Urch had targeted the slimmer of the two humans and sprang from his hiding place with a shriek which was his battle cry. He charged with his legs pumping and zigged and zagged to put off any counterattack. Mear for her part was surprised at the noise but was unafraid. She had already stood up to a chaos spirit what harm could three little lizards do.

 

Urch came in and dropped low his knife extend to parry or slash which is what he did. He feinted to the left and slashed right but Meara, who had been taught by a seasoned mercenary how to use a staff, easily intercepted the thrust with one end of her staff knocking the knife up and away and with one smooth move stepped forward and brought the other end of the staff in and underhand sweep which caught Urch under his snout with such force that his head snapped back and he was thrown up and backwards in a flip where he crashed to the ground unmoving!

 

Spoiler

One kobold is down. that leaves two. initiative is Arden, Artoria, Meara, Urch, Yoco

 

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Ardan drew his own bow and nocked an arrow in a single fluid motion, loosing it in the next moment at the kobold archer, deciding to fight fire with fire, so to speak.   Meara had things well in hand on her end, and this way he could even the fight for Artoria.   Whether it was the exhausting nature of the climb, or that he'd hurried the shot far too much, his arrow went sailing past the smaller creature and he grunted with some annoyance.

 

Spoiler

Details:[1d20 (2)]

 

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