Monday, April 16, 2018

Vorishnaad


Once agreement on plans for the morning are reached, and everyone begins to settle for the night, Zeb will find a place in Erathmar's camp to stow his gear, leaving everything except for his trousers, light boots, Malaran fetish around his neck and belt of sheathed knives.  Zeb's trophy for the night, Ignish's fetish, hangs from his belt, and his prey's blood has been smeared in a thick line across Zeb's chest.

Zeb is tired and wounded, but he has been bolstered by Tussugar's words and feels very much alive after the ritual combat with Ignish, at one with his savage, bestial god.  Zeb's going out...and Zeb's going to Hunt.

Not so much worried about Carcerus, other scouts or any other dangers that might lurk in the forest at night, Zeb feels instilled by the Beastlord right now, and this is how he'll learn that he's either chosen correctly--or that he hasn't, in which case he could meet a very bloody end.  Zeb doesn't know what the formal rite of vorishnaad entails, but this is how he's going to execute HIS vorishnaad. formally severing his ties with the beast cults, and establishing his own new, one-man sect with a new purpose, a new aclupar--seek justice for those slain in Shadfeld, and prevent it from ever happening again.

What Zeb seeks in the forest this night is a nod from Malar, some sign that his vorishnaad is approved.  No longer will Zeb play the role of prey to Korvich's insane aclupar or to threat from the Black Devil, Carcerus.  Stand or fall, succeed or fail, he'll confront them on his own terms.

26 comments:

  1. There are a few ways we could do this, ranging from me posting a follow up as to what transpires, playing out the details over thread comments here, or actually arranging a live side-session in between actual sessions. Preference?

    ReplyDelete
  2. If you don't mind, can we do it as thread comments on the blog? Unless there's something that would demand a lot of interactivity--like a complicated conversation--I think it would be nice to keep it all together in one place.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sorry for the delay. Here we go...

    Zeb sets off and bounds through the woods, adrenalized and eager for a sign from his god. The air has cooled since the previous day's rainstorm, and the crisp smell of rejuvenated leaves and foliage intoxicates the hunter's nostrils.

    After many minutes, Zeb slows his pace and finds himself well north of the village. He gazes around, then closes his eyes, attuning his ears to the night. The chirping of nocturnal insects emanates from the trees in a rising cacophony and... something more. The subtle sounds of light footfalls traipsing through the underbrush, in a direction not immediately discernible. Zeb opens his eyes.

    A shadow fleets near the edge of the meager vision afforded by the moonlight through the canopy overhead. Less than fifty feet in front of him, one or more creatures stir.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sensing the presence of others, Zeb slowly lowers himself, taking a knee, and then flattens his body against the damp earth. The layer of damp foliage and mud is cool against his bare skin, and helps to slow his racing, thudding heart.

    Zeb takes a moment to center himself, driving his bloodlust and Malar-inspired adrenaline boost into mental compartments at the back of his mind. He slows his breathing, then carefully slides a pair of knives from their sheaths.

    Fortunately, the recent rain means that leaves and sticks that would otherwise break and betray his movement are now damp, pliable, and more forgiving. It his been too long since his last Hunt.

    Carefully, Zeb begins to crawl, belly to the earth, towards the sounds, so that he might be better able to identify their source and nature.

    ReplyDelete
  5. As Zeb crawls closer, the footfalls persist. The hunter spies the silhouette of a furry paw, then another, ere he discerns the outlines of two young wolves leaping and playing together in the thicket beyond. Seemingly not yet old enough to be on their own, Zeb glances around for a mother or den protector, but sees nothing.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Zeb lies still for a long while, appreciating the young wolves at play. He's also careful not to make any sudden movements--just because he can't see their protector doesn't mean that one isn't around, and he'd rather not provoke any potential threat. Hunt or no, Zeb would rather not have his throat torn out by a territorial pack mother this night.

    He will lie in wait to see if it looks like the wolves will pass him by of their own accord. If not, he will eventually stand and leave them to their play. They are not the prey he's looking for.

    Zeb searches for meaning in the sighting; while this could be mere happenstance, the fact that Carcerus is so much a part of Zeb's thoughts right now hints of Malar's intervention--though to what purpose, the priest is yet unable to discover.

    No...better to continue searching in the night, to find more suitable prey.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Eventually, the wolves move on, and Zeb remains unnoticed in the brush. He rises, then, and continues his search, contemplating that finding his way back to Carrock in the near darkness may prove infeasible when the time comes, for even the roads known to travel east and west aren't beaten enough to be distinguished from other terrain without the sun's aid.

    In any case, thoughts of the motherless wolf pups and his return journey fade as Zeb's focus returns singularly to the task at hand. He navigates the forestscape for more than an hour before happening upon a bear - not a great cave bear, as was encountered near Moonglow Cave, but a smaller animal with jet black fur that would perhaps match Zeb's own height if it stood upright. As it is, the bear appears to be clawing aggressively at something on the ground in front of it, on all fours. Whatever the thing is, it distracts the creature detecting the hunter's approach...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Should read "Whatever the thing is, it distracts the creature *from* detecting the hunter's approach..."

      Delete
  8. Zeb will concern himself with the return trip when and if he returns.

    When Zeb sees the bear, it's as if a jolt of electricity hits him. Now THIS is a challenge worthy of a Hunt...but also an immensely dangerous foe. Even a group of hunters might have trouble taking down a small bear, and that assumes spears, bows, perhaps a net. Zeb has but a few knives, and prayers to the Beastlord.

    Vorishnaad or no, Malar still does not reward the foolhardy. Taking a similar approach as he did with the wolves, Zeb descends to the ground once again, crawling forth slowly on his belly. He's curious to see what the bear is clawing at, perhaps a mountain cat, a wolf, or even goblins. If it displays some sign of being wounded, that could even the odds...and killing a wounded creature isn't at all anathema to Malar's will--it's natural order.

    As he approaches, Zeb will look for an angle that presents as many obstacles as possible to the mighty creature. If it should notice Zeb and charge, for example, perhaps it could be lured to run into a tree, against a sharp stone, or even become caught between a narrow gap between trees.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Zeb edges closer, keeping himself mostly shielded behind large trees that would help provide cover from a direct assault. At a distance of thirty feet, the animal still fails to acknowledge the hunter, its attention solely on the large, feathery pile before it, which the bear paws and bites at in rapid succession.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Is the "feathery pile" alive, or does it look like the bear is eating?

    ReplyDelete
  11. More likely the latter, at this point, but not entirely clear.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Embracing the test that Malar has put before him, Zeb stands and steels himself for the encounter, reversing his grip on both knives. Zeb assumes that the bear is stooped over a kill, and that it will display its strength, its size, its roar in order to protect it.

    Zeb might not be able to kill a bear in a straight up fight, but he can show it that HE's the dominant creature this night.

    As Zeb approaches, the events of the past few days race through his mind. Fear, as the great cave bear attacked their camp. Fear at what they might find in Moonglow Cave. Fear, as they fled from shadows in Shadfeld. Fearful of what may stalk the ruins of Oldkeep, then fear again at Carcerus's planned attack of Carrock. Zeb has had enough of fear.

    Tussugar's words actually return to him, then. "If yer 'Black Devil' be gatherin' wolfs to his side, mayhap 'is strength isn't all that we're fearin'. If it were, why then's Carrock still left unscathed and unthreatened, if the beast-men could raze it easily as they did me home?" Carcerus's advantage isn't necessarily strength of arms or numbers--it's fear. Fear of what he'll do, where he'll strike next. And Zeb has had enough of fear.

    Letting all of his emotions boil over and spill forth into a low, guttural sound, Zeb marches towards the bear and its kill, the volume of his growl rising with each step. The moonlight shining off his eyes, Zeb pounds his chest with his fists, closed around the hilts of his knives, then spreads his arms wide, trying to take up as much space as possible. Though there are many emotions behind Zeb's eyes in this moment, fear is not one of them.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Finally, the bear takes notice of Zeb, first turning only its head, with bloodsoaked maw and tongue hanging out in lust for its feast, ere it lumbers onto its hind legs and roars upward at the night. Rather than advancing on the hunter immediately, the animal appears to standing in defense of its meal.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Zeb answers the bear's challenge, puffing out his chest and beating on it again with clenched fists, slashing at the air with his down-turned blades. Zeb roars at the bear, letting all of his frustrations at his powerlessness these last few days out in heated rage.

    Zeb stands tall, willing himself to greater heights than his physical frame will allow. He meets the bear's gaze, never flinching if it swipes or claws at the air in a display of force, never looking away.

    It's a battle of will--the creature, with its hunger, against Zeb and the force of his conviction. He takes another step forward, then another...readying himself should the creature attack.

    Zeb knows, should it come to that, that his only hope is to strike at vital organs. He can't hope to pierce the bear's thick hide with his knives, but its eyes and snout are vulnerable.

    Zeb takes another step forward, growling and asserting his dominance, inviting the creature to lunge at him.

    ReplyDelete
  15. The bear does indeed lunge, raking at the hunter's torso with both sets of front claws and biting a hunk of flesh from his right shoulder. Zeb nearly topples, flailing a knife back at the gnashing animal but missing wildly. At only a few inches taller than Zeb in height, the bear's raw strength outmatches his own, many times over.

    (Zeb takes 10 total points from the bear's three attacks. I'll need to verify the hit point status from the end of the previous session - Audric healed him for 8, so it's a net of -2 from after the duel with Ignish.)

    ReplyDelete
  16. (I have 11 hit points on my sheet left at the end of last session, but I honestly don't recall if I removed wounds suffered during the knife fight. In either case, I should be positive...but barely.)

    Nearly ravaged by the bear, Zeb will attempt to withdraw, leaving the black beast to its prize. He'll back away, careful not to turn his back on the creature, keeping his blades readied in front of him.

    If the creature charges, he'll try to maneuver so that there's a tree--or several of them--between him and the bear. If it allows him to withdraw, content to feast on its kill, Zeb will leave it in peace...a lesson in humility learned.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Zeb withdraws successfully; the bear seems content to return to its previous activity.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Once clear of the bear's territory, Zeb will examine his wounds, clutching the bite wound on his shoulder, and reflect on what it means in the larger scheme of things.

    Zeb could view the situation as a defeat--surely it looks like one, at least on the surface. Vorishnaad rebuffed, Zeb lost in the woods at night, wounded and nearly defenseless. That line of thought, however, leads to nowhere constructive--only despair.

    Zeb didn't come out of the encounter with the bear with nothing, however--in the moments before the attack, while advancing upon the mighty creature, Zeb experienced such a clarity of thought, such focus and determination...maybe THAT was the point of the test. Malar saw fit to see Zeb live, after all, and that's no small thing. To display despair, to display weakness now is to spit in the face of that gift.

    Zeb reaches down, cutting strips of cloth from his muddy, tattered trousers, and binds the wound on his shoulder as best as possible, wincing as he pulls the cloth into a knot.

    Once finished, he takes a moment to situate himself--find the moon through the forest canopy, try to regain some sense of direction--and then marches back towards Carrock, or at least his best estimation of what direction Carrock lies.

    He keeps his blades at the ready, his mind focused on the task at hand. Zeb's conviction, his faith in the vorishnaad remains unshaken. His conviction has been tested, for sure--Zeb is battered, fatigued, bloodied, disoriented--but unshaken.

    ReplyDelete
  19. A few hours later, shortly before the first light of dawn, the distant smell of hearth fires leads Zeb back to Carrock, injured but alive.

    (At this point, Zeb and Audric can reconvene as desired.)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Audric saw Zeb leave, but trusted him to look after himself.

    After awaking in the morning, and completing his meditation and prayers to Mystra, Auric stumbles upon Zeb. He is shocked at the state the man is in.

    "What in the Nine Hells happened to you Zeb? Did you run into an entire pack of wolves last night?"

    ReplyDelete
  21. Zeb stirs groggily, wounds still burning from the previous night's endeavors. He'll need to make sure they're properly cleaned and bandaged, and Zeb will need some new trousers.

    He groans, pulling himself to an elbow. "I uh...went for a walk, and fell down?" he replies sheepishly. Zeb then proceeds to tell Audric what actually happened, hoping that the fellow priest will understand the extents one goes to in order to communicate with their deity.

    "In any case, I found what I needed to, though it was a close thing. I need to tend to a few matters, but we should convene with Tussugar and Drachus this morning, and begin discussing plans. I don't know when, but we'll have a fight on our hands soon."

    ReplyDelete
  22. Audric listens to Zeb's words about his encounter. By the end of the story Audric is quietly seething. "So you went tracked down a bear, and fought it! That seemed like the best course of action when this town could be attacked any moment! How is this" Audric firmly squeezes one of Zeb's cuts to make a point, "going to help us fight Carcerus when he comes!"

    The priest takes a few deep breaths. "Zeb, leaving in the night on this Vorishnaad of yours, was selfish and self-serving to say the least. We need you, but if you can barely stand what use can you be to us?"

    ReplyDelete
  23. Zeb wasn't sure what to expect, but it certainly wasn't this. He wasn't used to seeing such strong displays of emotion from Audric.

    "In fairness," he replies, "I didn't leave with the specific purpose of tracking down and fighting a bear...that part just kind of happened." A poor explanation to be sure, but it's the only one available.

    Not feeling the need or desire to have to defend his actions, he wrenches out of Audric's grip. "Maybe your relationship with your god is easy, Audric, but mine is not. Carcerus isn't just some creature, Korvich isn't some bandit out for my blood...they're implements of Malar, and their hunt for me is sanctioned. Korvich has created what's essentially a holy order within my own faith whose sole purpose is to seek me out and kill me."

    Zeb's own emotions start to rise. "So yeah...I had a few things to talk over with my god. And this," he says, pointing to his ravaged shoulder, "is how Malar conducts conversations."

    Zeb lets his anger cool. "It may have been rash, foolish even, but it wasn't selfish. If I'm going to start killing members of my own faith," he says, lifting Ignish's symbol to the Beastlord, "then I need to clear up a few things with Malar first."

    "He's not happy with me," Zeb says, displaying the numerous knife, claw and bite wounds on his body, "but he also didn't stop me."

    ReplyDelete
  24. "Easy?! My relationship with Mystra is more difficult than you can possibly imagine. It has been months, perhaps years since I have encountered a fellow priest of Mystra. I have no one to learn from, and no one to lean on when I'm troubled. It was the brutal murder of my wife that caused me to end up as a priest in the first place, so don't think for a second that displaying this symbol on a daily basis is easy."

    "Zeb, it is not that you had to go commune with Malar that upset me, nor even the method, but the timing. We need to be at full strength for what is to come. I worry for the outcome of Carrock if we are not fully prepared for what is to come."

    Audric grabs his holy symbol with his right hand, and makes the sign of the eight-pointed star by Zeb's head with his left hand. "May Mystra bless you, and help to guide you." He turns to leave, but stops after taking a couple of steps. He turns and says, "I hope you found what you were looking for."

    Audric heads out looking for solitude. He sought a quiet place for contemplation and prayer. He wants to clear his mind and prepare himself for what is to come.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Zeb watches as Audric stalks off, having much to think about himself. "Careful," he mutters under his breath, too low for anyone including Audric to hear, "I hear there's bears in the woods."

    With that, he gathers his meager belongings and heads into Carrock, hoping to find someone that will help clean and dress his wounds, as well as to purchase a new wardrobe.

    ReplyDelete