Midnight RPG - Chapter 28.41
The following takes place after Zal'Kazir and Eranon meet in town but before they are called away by the activity on the Spear of Grief. I can't remember exactly where the conversation left off, so forgive me if I pick up in a strange or unnatural place. I was planning to pick up right after Zal mentioned Eranon looked troubled.
Eranon looks up at Zal'Kazir, a mixture of pain, rage, and fatigue evident. The previous fire in his eyes has diminished somewhat.
Eranon: "Yes, my friend, I am tormented by this place, seeing this has stabbed to the very heart of me. Seeing these criminals laugh and sing in their city bought and payed for by the blood of those they rob. They could do so much against the shadow, yet they wall themselves in while Aryth dies."
As Eranon speaks these words, words new to the elf's lips, words of intolerance and guarded mistrust, the small black-speckled terrier yaps at his feet; growling on occasion to show it's mettle in this new age of hate. It is here in this place where men feign happiness that the seepage stirs from his soul.
Along the docks of Bilgewater, as Eranon walks with Zal'Kazzir, they watch... Captain Aesir Norfall courts away in a foppish manner, turning his head to the young boys on the pier - with their sweat-stained summer silks clinging to their wide shoulders and broad chests. In the distance (some 100 yards) from the docks the sounds of brazen carousing can be heard, regardless of the mid-day hour. The whores are unashamed, as wives are cast aside for the plunder of their northmen husbands. The drink is unlike elven spirits or Sarcosan wines, here... in this place the liquor coats the gullet like acid, burning it's way to it's victim's gut. Desperartely they gorge themselves on poison; sopping up the grained alcohols with worm-eaten breads and meat red off the bone.
These men resemble their bretheren to the North - yet these Dorn have grown content being the bullies in their small world, taking what they want - but cowering against the cold embrace of darkness.
You notice that not only their lighthouse (the Bloody Light) burns day and night - so too do the torches along the L boardwalks... What are these people afraid of? It has been 99... no... 100 years since the Shadow fell, for which they've learned to ignore the calls of their forefathers, the calls of man, elf, dwarf, kith & kin of halfling and gnome...
It is the year of Eredane's 1st century, year 100. And the summer spoils on having just begun only six short days ago - yet in this place, in this time the summer seems to have captured all hate and brought it to the feet of this would-be elven hero.
Things not known on the wind conspire in this time, things of deceit and treachery and the arrow sting of love long turned foul... There will be a reckoning across Eredane this season - the disease of hate spreads where it once was not welcome. With each bitter word the elf speaks, the clatter of hooves driven by another bitter elf ride out to seek mass extermination, carnage, decimation, cleansing, massacre, mass murder, race extermination, annihilation - seeking genocide of the fey.
Were the will to save the world ever at these pathwalker's grasp, it has long since fumbled into the darkness... And the Great Lady feels fear for the first time since being scarred...
Zal'kazzir looks back at Eranon, his features softening, black eyes widening into deep wells of compassion. The half-smile fades from his lips, and then quickly re-forms as he begins to speak.
Zal'Kazzir: "I'm sorry to see this place affect you so, my friend. It must be shocking to you, to see such decadence, even as your people struggle and suffer."
"I must admit, it is even somewhat shocking to me; not the wine, women and song, of course, this place is tame, if exceedingly dirty and crude, when compared to many places in the southlands, but in light of what the Dornishmen once were."
"My people and theirs are ancient rivals, and while we Sarcosans have no great love for the northmen, we have always respected their strength and honor. Once, the Dornish nobles preferred death to disonor, and abided by a warrior code both terrifying and impressive to we of the south. Of course, our wits trumped their strength tie and again, but a noble enemy is still worthy of respect, and when the Dornish lords finally surrendered in Fallport, and kingdom of Erenland was eventually formed, many of our peoples merged and became a greater whole."
"These... *brigands* however, are a far cry from the noble Dornish princes whom we once battled across the Pelluria. The spark is still there, but it is almost as though they have forgotten who they are..."
Turning away from Eranon, and looking toward a nearby tavern, Zal'Kazzir continues, the scholarly tone he had adopted, fading to a softer, more philosophical one."
"Do you know why these men revel, Eranon?"
Zal'Kazzir waits, still facing the dimly lit tavern, waiting to hear his friend's reply."
Eranon: "I have only a guess, my friend. It seems to me that they have given up, they wait for the end hidden on this island, and while death approaches them all. . . they dance."
Eranon balls up his fist, looking around, then letting his eyes rest on Zal'Kazzir, waiting to be convinced.
Words spoken by the woodsman could never be so true. Yet their dances are unlike that of the fey. These are hedonistic thralls of shear uncaring. Throwing their viking-like bodies across the taverns and houses of ill-repute. They stink, they drink and they dance... they dance...
- ROLL: Zal'Kazzir (Knowledge: Nobility +8) ROLLED: 16+8 = 24
With this roll - From his background studies of Nobility, his history knowledge and heresay that he's heard while in the shops of Bildgewater (speaking with the woman at the Tithe Shop) Zal'Kazzir has access to some various informations regarding the Dorn, the Corbron Isles, the Pirate Princes, etc... click HERE and HERE for your EYES ONLY Zal'Kazzir.
- ROLL: Zal'Kazzir (Knowledge: Nobility +8) ROLLED: 16+8 = 24
Calmly, and with a little sadness, Zal'Kazzir answers, still facing the Tavern
Zal'Kazzir: "That is the answer I thought you'd give, and it is not incorrect, though it is also not accurate."
Turning back slowly, clearly upset, but still with a half-smile, Zal'Kazzir continues.
"It is true that cowardice is a large player here... fear of death, fear of the unknown... they weigh heavily on these men. But fear alone cannot engender this type of behavior. Only two things can drive men to bury themselves in isolation and debauchery; hopelessness and self-hatred."
"Deep down in their syphilitic souls, these men know what they are, and they hate themselves for what they have become. They know that their forefathers were far, far better men then they, and their fool's honor cannot abide that shame. Worse yet, they also believe that they cannot change their lot, and thus have abandoned all to hopeless despair... They are too hopeless to live and too proud to die."
"But even for all of these faults, there is still great passion and strength in these people. The mere fact that they can survive and even thrive as they do here is a testament to that. We can disdain and despise these men to our heart's content and it will bring us nothing but more hate and more suffering. I can see that the spark of Norfall honor is not dead... quite... despite the best efforts of it's young one-eyed scion. But in the other, Disa, there is still the fire of the old Dorns, and I would hope that Jaedyn, if we ever chance to meet him, shares that same spark; if not, then perhaps a change in leadership is in order, but I digress....
Turning more directly to Eranon, Zal'kazzir straightens up, crisp new robes of inky black silk, chased with green and blue gems, sparkling and suddenly impressive in the pale sunlight. Gone is the melancholy, gone is the hunched, secretive posture; suddenly you are aware of Zal'Kazzir as he -CAN- be, rather than as he often is. Here is truly a prince of the southlands, a leader of men.
"Eranon, I want to save these people. I want to see their life change, and I want them to help themselves by helping all of Eredane against the shadow. It is time for these men to stand tall once more, and it is time for the sails of Norfall to inspire fear in her enemies and honor and glory in her friends! Will you help me Eranon? I believe that you and I, with some help from a little Sarcosan wit, can help these people to see, and actually do something good for a change. What say you, Eranon?"
Eranon laughs a rather unsteady, forced laugh, rather hollow, but not necessarily disingenuous
Eranon: "I have not the same gift for words as you, for it was not fear, but of hopelessness that I guessed. As for self-hatred, I cannot say. Maybe it is deserved, but Eranon shakes his head a little, trying to losen up, his face softening a little it is not for me to say."
"I hear you, and I thank you for bringing to my attention and idea I had not considered. if these men can be moved to help the world, my poor restless heart might be still. Do you think it can be done? They are a willful bunch. If they could be turned, they could do so much more than their murder and reverie."
Eranon thinks for a moment, then looks to his friend
"Forgive me for my harsh words on the boat. While these men to earn my ire, my threats of violence were wrong. I do despise what these men have become, but I wish them no real harm. Harm will come to them reguardless of what we do, as it will come to us all. I do not know if it is the dark creatures, the orcs, the wraiths, my time with the eye, or what, but I feel so tired, so stretched. These dark thoughts have taken me, perhaps that strand of trees to the north will do me some good."
Zal'Kazzir: "No apolgies are necessary, Eranon. Your ill humor is shared by most of the Spear's crew... There is a taint of sorts emanating from that foul armor that Durgaz wears. You and I have both felt it's unclean caress, and I can only assume it is ravaging Durgaz as well. It seems to magnify the foulest emotions, especially hate, envy and disdain, while suppressing hope and love."
Looking apprehensive, Zal'Kazzir levels his black eyes at Eranon, and speaks softly, fear and deep concern evident in his voice.'
"Do you remember what I told you... do you remember what I said of the voice in the darkness that cries out to the worst in all of us, offering power and comfort, but asking a terrible price? Surely you remember! Durgaz' armor rings like a bell with that voice... I must ask... forgive me for asking... but have you spoken back to the voice?! No.... of course not.... but you mustn't! You MUST KNOW the price; if you speak to the voice, whether you taste it's power willingly, or whether it is forced on you, you will be trapped by it, bound to it, you will need it just as you need water and air. It is not a conscious thing, I don't mean to say that, but a corruptive force that seeks control... we must save you from it... It cannot take another victim..."
Zal'Kazzir trails off, and then shakes his head, solidly back in control of his emotions, and he begins again."
"I'm am sorry if I frightened you, as that was not my intention, but I will not see you lost and ruined to salve Durgaz' ego; that dread plate is horribly cursed, and for our sanity and his, it must be cleansed, or if that is impossible, destroyed."
"As for the Norfalls, I do believe that there is yet hope for them; they still posess honor, after a fashion, and the very self-loathing that drives them to drink can also be used to shame them to action. All they need is a fire of hope to start the process; even false hope will suffice if that is all we can produce. Just enough of a spark to get them moving, and once they feel the sea winds blow cool and fresh against faces once more held high, the Norfalls will open their eyes and cast off the shackles of their long and dishonorable lethargy."
"I suggest that I gather information from the pirates while disguised, and I can dispatch Belal to spy as well. Once we know who the leaders are, as well as who will actively oppose change, then, perhaps, we can make firmer plans."
"You seemed to get on well with that witch; do you know what power she and her fellows wield in this place? They could be a potent ally, or a vital threat to overcome."
Eranon: Well, we must do something about that armor. Hopefully Durgaz will be open to getting rid of it. Perhaps it is the cause of his recent imbalance. Maybe new armor can be found or made for him here. With the number of Shadow vessels you claim they have raided, they may have something the would serve as a substitute. As for a voice, I have heard no voice such as you describe, and you can rest assured that I would not respond to one if I had."
"Alright, try gathering information. What purpose do you think they should be put to, specifically? Had you something in mind, like a task?"
"I will go speak to Etri, the witch, and see what she knows. I presume from your language that I should keep our plans secret from her."
Zal'Kazzir: "The witch.. Etri as you call her.. is more dangerous than she lets on. If she and her 'coven' has survived in this place, they are neither fools, nor weak. Tread with care, and by no means let them know of our plans until we have established that they can be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem; an established magical power structure is not to be underestimated."
"What were you able to learn of their practices in speaking with the witch while aboard the spear?"
Eranon: "Unfortunately, I wasn't able to talk to her for very long before you came in. She seems not to like you at all. I found out only these things, she seems to have some affinity to know things she should not, she uses bones and other impliments, she seems to reguard her ancestors as the source of her powers and she and her coven claim to have some hand in redirecting the black ship away from the islands, though I could have misinterpreted that in the fray."
"Is there anything I should be looking for specifically when I speak to her?"
Zal'Kazzir: "Not to sound paranoid my friend, but it is no surprise to me that these witches find me distasteful; if they are indeed ancestor-worshippers, then they have uncounted legions of angry, bearded forefathers calling out for revenge and Sarcosan blood."
"More to the point, however, is how much power the witches have here. If they are marginalized and weak, then they are potential allies and a force that might be used for change, but if they are entrenched behind the current way of things, as I suspect they are, they we may be facing a whole pack of dangerous, demented channelers who would like nothing more than to use our bones for their fortune-telling."
"If you can, I'd love for you to discover their numbers, where they are based, and, especially, what beliefs they hold, and what the nature of their goals."
"Do you think Etri would speak with you at any length?"
Eranon: "Maybe I am confused and do not understand these things as you, but would not the witches be useful to us if they were entrenched and could be convinced. I have only my own culture to use as reference, but my guess would be that these witches are venerated wise women, and would be listened to. Since they worship their ancestors, would not they jump at the chance to recapture their former glory and put themselves back into the good graces at those gone before?"
"I will speak with her in the morning, if I can find her. She seemed willing to speak with me. Unfortunately, with you in the room, her willingness vanished. I will find what I can."
Zal'Kazzir: "Eranon, you do yourself injustice with such words! Surely you know the power that magic can wield, especially over superstitious, isolated folk such as these. Especially if there are a group of channelers, they could easily have the Norfalls charmed, or they could be holding hostages, or, more likely, they could no embarrasing, sevastating secrets that they use to control the pirate princes."
"I hope I am wrong, and these witches are innocent of such things; I hope that they are kind and good, and that we might aid and befriend them, but power corrupts my friend, and in a small place such as this, even a little magic can give a VERY large amount of power."
Eranon: "Etri did not give me the impression of malice or evil, but as we have all learned, such things may always lurk beneath the surface. I will heed your warning and I will be careful. At the very least, I should be able to learn of their number."
Eranon stops for a minute, remembering something
"Oh, yes, it became rather clear to me, moments before you came into the aftcastle, that Etri is rather protective of, nay, may in fact revere Jayden. She seemed to have no real love for the youngest wretch of the Norfalls. Her loyalty lies with the eldest, this much I do know. I'll find out what else I can."
"Also, we should both be looking for solutions to our armor problem. These men will likely trust you more, but I will also ask. Maybe the witch or one of her coven will know how to rid the thing of its curse."
Zal'Kazzir: "Interesting.... I'll look further into that... maybe she's a relative... or even an unrequited love..."
"Oh, also, I would refrain from discussing the armor just yet; the knowledge that something in our group is cursed may sour the attitudes of many, and greatly hinder our progress. Instead, let us see if we can find some new armor for Durgaz, or better yet an armorsmith from who we could commission some, and we can deal with the foul plate once we are somewhat more secure. In the meantime, I suggest we stay fare away from Durgaz, and the spear of grief as much as possible."