|9-26-09: There’s not enough room in this world for my pain; signals cross and love gets lost
||[Oct. 23rd, 2009|05:40 pm]
The Chronicle of Aldencia: Saving the Kingdom
The party set out from Stone Cove to ride for about week through the land of Irenia. Everyone was understandably tense given both the interesting company and the dangerous situation ahead. Though Red Wolf’s people set a watch and regularly patrolled their camps, Matthias established his own watch just in case. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred on the trip to the shrine in the mountain save one night when a rider left the party apparently on orders one night, except for Matthias’s dreams. For every night he slept in the open, he dreamed of Crom, of seeing the monster do his work again and again, from behind the general’s very eyes. Matthias grew focused and angry as he lived horrors night after night, knowing very well what Crom was answerable to, and who had helped him.
Their haste was rewarded in that the rebels were first to the shrine, beating Crom’s advance party by some margin. This gave them the chance to explore the deep cavern, complete with its potently holy center at the back of the cave. A tall statue of the Goddess, somewhat different from how the Aldencian clergy depicted her, dominated the scene, and through her arms flowed a natural spring that passed through the cave into the floor. The cavern was high, and its walls were carved with designs worn almost smooth over time, studded with crystals that resembled quartz. The statue stood upon a dais that was also crowned with large crystals, and the entire chamber was held up by pillars that seemed to have been stalagmites and stalactites that grew together. With this backdrop, the rebel party laid the trap for Crom’s advance guard. Most of Red Wolf’s people took up hidden positions outside the cave along with Bendigar, while a few, including Red Wolf herself, joined the party in the shrine proper, either hiding or pretending to be simple worshipers. The wait to be attacked was a strain on more than a few of the individuals inside, and even Keleroth found himself caught up in Matthias’s prayers hoping for some comfort.
At last the party arrived, a group of 12 or so with a mage in tow. They entered the cave and immediately attempted to take the “peasants” hostage to wait for Crom’s arrival. However, the waiting trap was sprung and the lot of them were dealt with rather quickly and with little difficulty, especially after Red Wolf helpfully removed the mage’s arm in one swing. Outside, Bendigar held the cavern against any who might retreat and Jakal chased down and captured a scout, so the success was complete. While Red Wolf commanded her people to clean the shrine thoroughly (noting that where blood had been spilled there seemed to be a negative effect on the otherwise palpable holiness of the space) and Matthias’s people took the chance to breathe and reflect, Red Wolf and Matthias themselves interrogated the few left alive until they had all the information they wanted. It was a savage, bloody interrogation that lasted far longer than strictly necessary, and more than one of Matthias’s friends chose to look away at several gory moments. Matthias struggled, but nonetheless he did not prevent Red Wolf from her work and when they were executed in the end, he bore witness to it as best he could.
With only a few hours to ready themselves, the party worked quickly to set the scene. Dora, Red Wolf, and Theodor hid in the shrine itself near the entrance, where they would accost Crom directly when he arrived. Bendigar and Keleroth hid at the very mouth of the cave, pretending to be either dead or dying soldiers of Crom’s. Matthias and Nahla disguised themselves quite brutally as murdered soldiers as well, lying in plain sight in the middle of the cave path to the shrine. Red Wolf’s people hid where they could, took up the form of killed ambushers, and prepared themselves. The ensuing wait was excruciating in its length and tenseness – this game must be won, or none would leave the cave alive.
Minutes or hours crawled by before at last a sentry reported that Crom was approaching. Surprisingly, he had brought most of his army to the very base of the mountain, but had only one or two hundred with him, and these seemed to be almost evenly split between his fiercest, angriest warriors and the most green and frightened of his recruits. One of Red Wolf’s men who had infiltrated the army prior served to deliver the report of the situation, which went unquestioned. Crom himself, wearing no shirt or armor to display thousands of scars from those he’d killed, gave orders that he should enter alone with his four most trusted men keeping the shrine to his own use (complete with a few “sheep” that would serve for the opening ritual) before his men would push the young soldiers in to do their part. The soldiers who were now sheep themselves were swiftly relieved of their weapons and forced forward into the cave after their general. When Crom had reached the point marked by Matthias, it was time. With an almost inhuman fury, Matthias stood and spoke, stating eerily that he would return from the grave to confront and destroy the monster that was Crom before shouting the signal to the others.
Many things began to happen at once. Keleroth lit the fire that would cut the cave off from the rest of Crom’s army, roasting a few soldiers and a few sheep in the process. Red Wolf’s men leapt into the fray, striking at soldiers wherever they could. Those designated for sacrifice took their chance to shrink to the side or attempt to flee. Meanwhile, Crom barreled forward into the shrine, determined to begin his ritual with all the blood flowing around him, receiving a fireball in the back from Keleroth on the way.. And there he met Red Wolf. She challenged him, but shook before him, her eyes growing blank. All at once, Dora and Theodor understood what she had meant when she said she would become “incapacitated;” she was under his command. Crom ordered Red Wolf to attack Theodor, which she did, and though he evaded her smartly, he stood no chance of beating her. Seeing this, Dora gathered her courage and darted to the evil general’s side, crashing the Ojaluche over his head with all her might. The butterfly within sank into his body like light into water and vanished.
A bright light momentarily filled the cavern and every one of Matthias’s people knew that Dora’s power had been released. As Matthias and Nahla and Bendigar and Keleroth all attempted to make their way past the remaining guards and into the shrine, Red Wolf’s mind snapped back to her and she unleashed all her anger and hate on the object of so much pain. Theodor, attempting to help, was smashed into a wall where he fell down senseless. But Crom’s attention was on Dora, and he began chasing her through the cavern, ignoring Red Wolf’s repeated blows on his body. Rumor appeared from out of nowhere and drew Dora to the dais where he bade her hide behind the statue, which she did. Meanwhile, Red Wolf continued attacking while Nahla and Matthias and Bendigar and Keleroth and the now-awake Theodor all appeared, joining in the fight. Crom only began to fight back when he felt that he could not catch his quarry – turning to Red Wolf and in a fit of absolute rage and hate striking her head from her shoulders where she stood. As her blood (and head) rolled into the stream, Bendigar and Matthias both struck Crom in the head, one at each eye, blinding him and dropping him in a stroke of true irony.
The group stood over Crom’s prone body, and even Dora came from behind the statue to see. Rumor looked at the fallen general and bid him a comfortable farewell, and directed Matthias’s people to kill him. As one, they struck at him, and within moments the horror that had been Vardek Crom was gone.
A light seemed to sigh in relief in the air, and everyone felt the voice of the Ojaluche thanking them for their help. Even Matthias could see the warm butterfly as it fluttered with a careless freedom that signaled a release from something more than the prison of crystal in which it had remained for so long. Turning to Dora, the Ojaluche told her to pray to the Goddess under the waterfall to re-purify the shrine, polluted with flesh and blood. “She” will cleanse it, the Ojaluche said, and though at first Dora thought it meant the Goddess, she realized all at once that instead, the Ojaluche spoke of her daughter. She turned to the water while a moment of peace settled over the shrine.