Saturday, October 1, 2011

SCI-FI FANTASY FRIDAY! ACTION SOCIETY #4


Fantasy Friday


I play Dungeons and Dragons every Friday. That is to say I run a 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign every Friday set in the country of Beniro. As such I've decided to chronicle the hero's adventures from the perspective of different characters my friends play. Each week and each short chapter I will rotate the perspective so you can get a feel for all the characters. I will try my best to capture my friend's characters and the adventures they go on. I might change some elements but know I do it for the story.

A lot of the art I will be using is not credited, so if you know the artist, tell me and I'll label it appropriately.


THE ACTION SOCIETY
BOOK 1
RISE OF THE WHITE SPIDER 
CHAPTER 4
LUCIUS

  
It was not in Lucius’s nature to be early. Punctuality was as out of fashion in the upper echelons of Beniro society as incest and badminton. The current fashion pleased Lucius because he hated the sight of inbred royalty and the implications of the word “shuttlecock.” Yet, a whole hour early he had arrived, and a whole hour later he leaned against a pillar waiting to enter King Duhknin’s Great Hall. He had not arrived early out of courtesy to Doktham’s ruler. He had arrived early in order to complete his business with the old king. Lucius hated prolonging the wait to discuss his debt with King Duhnkin so he could take his leave and return to Tiefl.

It was also not in Lucius’s nature to owe favors or debts to Dwarven kings or anyone else for that matter. Lucius had been born with a silver fork in his mouth and, as the heir to a Tiefling trading empire, would probably die with a silver fork in his mouth. It had been his Uncle’s plan to pay for his education in wizardry. He reckoned having a wizard in the family, much more a wizard as the leader of the family business, would be a worthwhile investment. It was not as if he forced an unwanted education on his nephew. Lucius was born prematurely and his body was too weak to learn the way of the sword. Furthermore, he loved reading, spending almost all of his time in his Uncle’s library and pouring over ancient tomes of forgotten lore. Lucius was sent to apprentice under the prestigious wizard, Knilerm. But something went wrong between beginning of his education and his fall into the dark arts. His Uncle had cut him off until he could prove himself a good man. Yet, the fall had cost Lucius much more precious things than his family fortune.

At least it was not without its amusements. He was bored but he was not dying of boredom. He was not very bored because, despite being somewhat alone, he was not completely alone in waiting on the King. Sitting on the marble bench near the door was an elven maiden in green robes. She had a gorgeous face with skin like snow and emerald eyes that were like deep pools of time. He took advantage of the way that her eyes searched the floor for any grain of soil to pick at her every feature he could with precision. Her aureate hair, like a field of dark yellow on a dry winter’s day, probably smelt like rain. An earthy green cloak and a thick skirt made it difficult to judge that body but he was positive she was the athletic type. Thin but muscular, strong but flexible, and soft but enduring; hers was a countenance he would love to admire more closely behind closed doors (or anywhere really). He might have made a move on the flaxen lass but, alas, standing to her right like an unintentional chaperone was a knight.


The chivalrous kind, but even more intimidating, was his shape. A good foot taller than Lucius and, despite being suited in a mix of plate mail and scale, he could the dumb muscle from across the room. He had to be more careful to make a judgment of such an intimidating figure. Clad in bronze and copper green steel from neck to toe, a great golden fist holding a lightning bolt painted on the front, running down as if faded from time, and a green cape attached to the great paldrons that adorned his shoulders; it was all a little too dashing for such an ugly creature. He took special care to first look at his hands, in fact more like great scaled claws, one brick read and the other as pale as the sheen of his plate mail. The unavoidable was the knight’s face. Not quite reptilian, or crocodilian, the paladin had the head of a dragon but more to the shape of a human. He was a dragonborn. His eyes like fine golden beads set under a prominent frilled brow, seemed to dart around with impatience. Every now and then he would hear a gruff murmur from the paladin directed toward the elven maiden, who would politely smile and nod, or if the dragonborn was luckier, a chortle. On one hand, he was a little nervous at the sight of a dragonborn paladin, not only a symbol for justice, but a member of the very same race that had destroyed Lucius’s peoples Reziek Empire generations ago.

The last fellow in the hall was sitting, leaned against the wall next to the door leading into the Great Hall and lacked even the little patience that Lucius had. Occasionally, the young man’s eye would dart to the door as if expecting it to open any minute. He would rise at the sound of any approaching footsteps, which Lucius could not hear but only imagine from where he stood, before returning to his place on the floor. That solitary eye stood out brightly, black but bright as a marble, as it seemed to pick out every detail in the room. Lucius had to be extra careful to avoid meeting that cold gaze but was sure the other had noticed his observation. That fellow intimidated him even more than the dragonborn but was a head shorter than even Lucius. There was a relaxed fury in the posture of the eye-patch wearing young man with his green velvet hood and longbow. He looked out of place in the dark halls of Doktham.

            Yet, it was not in his nature to begrudge someone for looking so different, as the dragonborn or dangerous, as the ranger. He too suffered great scrutiny for his own appearance and he too did not belong. The most curious thing that he noted about the people in the room, including himself, is that they did not belong. They were all from the surface world and all looked uncomfortable. They were all waiting to go into the room and that made him a little nervous. When the door at the end of the hall opened, the young man with the eye-patch quickly followed a drow guard into the Great Hall. He hung back, as the dragonborn and elf were ushered in as well. The drow guard looked across the hall at him and judged him for more than moment. He could just see the other’s thoughts in those white eyes. Lucius was sure that he saw:

What’s a Tiefling doing in the King’s foyer? Why is he looking at me like that? Do they all have to be so ugly? Its skin looks just like the red hot fire of the Nine Hells with eyes like great golden blobs of magma pooling out of his jagged skull and leering at me. The worst part is those horns. Coming right out of his brow and shooting straight up ahead of his hairline, those devil’s horns, like a fiendish goat. Why won’t it go away?

But rather being ignored, the stern looking drow cleared his throat and gestured for Lucius to come in, “The King is ready to speak with you, Sir. Please do not keeping him waiting long. He has very little patience in these trying times.” His voice was dry and monotone, dressed all in black leather, and wearing a blue cloak. His shock white hair pulled back and down to his shoulders showing off that he had lost one of his pointed ears in what was surely a dark and violent life. This was no ordinary drow guard. Lucius quickly stepped out of the shadow he had been lurking in and entered the Great Hall.

It was a marble cavern, carved by craftsman in time before there was a Reziek empire, and the figures he had seen in the foyer were making their way down a blue and white strip of carpet that led to a great black throne at the end of the hall. The drow guard closed the door to the hall and ushered Lucius forward. Confused about the manner of the meeting, Lucius turned to the drow, “I don’t mean to be rude but I have been waiting rather long for a meeting with the King. I hope it would not be too much to request an explanation for why the meeting is anything but private? The King and I were to discuss private matters.” 

The drow didn’t look at him, instead focusing his eyes on the throne before saying, “The King has his reasons. I would walk faster if I were you.” He added with a tone of utter impatience not only for Lucius’s question but anything that he had not already planned that morning. Such people made Lucius consider his words and actions carefully, and so, rather than cause an incident with the guard, he doubled his speed before finally reaching the end of the carpet. He stood at the right of the other three and watched as the drow guard moved to stand beside the throne.

Sitting on the throne was King Duhnkin Startooth. Tall, for a dwarf, Lucius was always impressed by the dwarf’s stature. Bald but with a dark grey beard that ran from his fast to his waist, where he had it tucked neatly into his belt, he looked his age, 212. Rather stout, his body forcing the black and blue chainmail he wore to bulge, he still looked strong as iron. Perhaps most impressive was toothy smile, living much up to the name of his clan, shining like white pearls. Yet, the King did not look the same as he had last seen him. There was weariness in the king’s face that sunk the wrinkles made from centuries of guffawing laughter. He soon caught the reason as he looked down and noticed the other’s arm hanging in a sling. Perhaps the king was growing and had suffered a fall after one too many drinks or perhaps, even more grave, he was wrought with an infirmity of the mind making his body seize and shake when he felt stressed. It was not in Lucius’s nature but he was concerned. He was about to ask the King a good many questions when his eyes caught another sight he fancied.

Standing on the other side of the throne, was another drow, but not so dower. A young dark-skinned lady, in the same black leather and blue cloak, was surely a guard and perhaps the daughter of the older drow guard. He hoped not. She was a beauty of a different kind than the fair elven maid whose beauty shone like the sun, while her own was best in shadow. Furthermore, it was dressed in a more easy to admire form, tight black leather that, while sensible, was easier to conjure into less than armor with the proper imagination. His eyes lingered on her body a bit too long, so he quickly moved to admire her pursed lips, her eyes filled with a rose glint, and teasing him with unfocused gazes from behind a few stray tresses of hair. Yet, her eyes were not on the floor or his fellow guests. Her eyes rested, with some sunken sadness on the king’s arm, and this quickly sobered his observations. He was about to ask the king about his arm when the king interrupted him, “Salutations, my fine young friends. I am most pleased to see you all are in good health. To those I have met before, thank you for returning to my Great Hall with such speed. To those I have not met, thank you for responding to my request so swiftly. To all of ye, welcome.”

Lucius did a gracious half-bow and glance to the side at the others. The dragoborn knight knelt on one knee, the elf made a clumsy attempt at a curtsy and, the ranger just nodded. The King grinned, “I am sorry that I could not explain the exact manner of request or purpose of our meeting in the letter I sent to you all respectively. My most loyal advisor, Chezz,” He paused to wave a hand at the older drow guard, who nodded in appreciation.

“It is my greatest honor, my lord.” Chezz said, but Lucius had trouble believing it. King Duhnkin, on the other hand, seemed more than satisfied but also seemed to sense the constant undertone of irony in everything the drow said.

“As it should be,” Duhkin cleared his throat and continued, “And it is my honor to welcome you young folk into my kingdom. Doktham is the first and last great city of the Underwold but,” His words grew heavy, “all is not well.”

The King moved uncomfortably and the dragonborn asked, “My lord, please tell us what we may do?”

“First, tell us what is not well and what you expect us to do about it, sir?” The ranger showed little respect in his tone but Duhnkin seemed little bothered. He nodded,

“Nadarr,” The King looked to the dragonborn, “Aramil,” then the ranger, “Lora Faine,” then the elf, and then finally, “Lucius, I have not sent for you for your courtly affection, although I am sure you are well-mannered. Let us drop this fa├žade.” The King spat on the floor as if releasing all unnecessary levity in his words, “Doktham is dying. I sent for your help to fix it because you are all obligated to help me. Yet, this is not for me but for the people. The city’s lifeblood is its people and my people are dying.”

The king let out a violent coughing fit and Chezz took over, placing a hand on Duhnkin’s uninjured arm, “What my King is trying to explain is that the people are suffering from a plague. The Stoneskin Disease. A rather nasty thing that is affecting the dwarves of Doktham, the disease turns its victims to stone and the effects are, as of this moment, permanent.” He explained with the hollow emotionless drone of his voice.

Lora Faine spoke up, “My lord, what need have you of us? I am a healer, yes, but unless you show me a case I cannot cure it.” 

Chezz seemed to grimace as the king moved to rise, squeezing his shoulder and trying to stop him, “My lord, please.”

Duhkin ignored him, threw off the sling and revealed his arm’s true plight. His hand and wrist looked as if they were never flesh but rather crude grey stone. I couldn’t help but hear Lora Faine gasp and the feel the collective internal wince of the room.

“Does it hurt, your highness?” The drow maiden, from beside the throne, stepped forward just enough to see it.

The king seemed to take some shame at this, lowering his arm and shaking his head, “I’m sorry, little Ryjac, but I feel no pain in the arm. I feel nothing. Just a weight at the end of my arm, creeping up and stiffening everything.” Lucius could not imagine the pain the king was feeling, not in his arm, but in his pride. The king had been a great hero once and to lose control of his arm, his body, was surely agony. Ryjac had moved to help the king place his arm back in the sling and sit back in his throne as Chezz stepped forward.

Chezz explained, “As you can see this plague is a most terrible curse and, if not handled quickly could result in panic and worse, the total collapse of our kingdom. I have already taken it upon myself to place a careful quarantine upon all entrances and exits to our city as of now but we need a cure and quickly. The king is not well enough to travel and I am needed here. We needed young talented people and so, I took it upon myself to send for each of you, either through recommendation by your orders or from other such advice. You are all capable adventurers and I believe you can handle the task.”

“What task?” Aramil asked.

Chezz stared right into Aramil, “A task that, if completed, may save us all. The king knew a witch, Shebaba, who is said, can cure almost any ailment. She has cured great epidemics in the past but in recent years has become…difficult to reach. The king needs you to find her and to make a formal plea for her assistance.”

            Aramil glared at Chezz and looked at the other three would-be adventurers, “And who among us would know their way through darkness of the Underwold? I assume not a single one of us has ever taken a step into those miles of crisscrossing tunnels that form an endless maze that has driven experienced trackers to madness? Without a guide we might as well be blind and, while we are at it, dead, before going on such a fool’s errand.”

            Chezz did not seem impressed, “Do you not think I considered that, half-elf?” His voice was a little throatier. Lucius could tell he was offended by Aramil’s impudence, which unlike Chezz, Lucius found refreshingly honest, “I have the perfect guide for you. I will send one of my Black Hands to guide your through the blindness. The Hand is the best trained ranger in the city and has read every map known to our people. I hope that is sufficient?”

            Aramil nodded but looked about, “Where is this sufficient guide?”

            Chezz’s thin lips formed a smile and he looked back besides the throne, at Ryjac who was watching him from where she crouched by the throne, “There. I would hope my niece is more than sufficient enough for this task.”
****

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