The Realm of Joroin

A Consideration of Betrayal

Transformation

L ich

A Consideration of Betrayal

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Graveyard Wall

The ground is moist on the soles of his feet, as the Dark Queen’s solider hobbles to his respite. Leaning back against the old oak tree that has stood guard over the graves, empty graves, of his once family; the warrior bows his head low allowing a single tear to wash a path down his face, dripping to the mud below.

Slowly a black clad hand reaches into a debris soaked pouch hanging off his hip, removing a small wooden box. The simple, but well-crafted, box creaks open under very little pressure. The other decaying hand reaches blindly into the limbs of his oaken rest and pulls down a fresh acorn.

Staring into the dark box another tear escapes and dashes itself against the hard wood floor, giving the acorn a target. The acorn is set into the box gently, while twisting his wrist slightly and tilting his head to watch the seed roll lifelessly around.

The lid then closes quickly, trying to stop from changing his mind.

The feeling is odd; bones, muscles and joints all tighten and stretch. Skin darkens and wrinkles while toes dig ever deeper into the mud. Hair fades into branches, and the face just fades away.

It only takes seconds for the once savior of the city to become nothing more than an oak tree, overlooking a few head stones just inside a graveyard wall.
Black paws oak tree

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The Riddle of Winter
"One year ago..."

“Who is Rikki Cooper and why should I care?”

Aria’s question fought through the cacophony of The Pitchfork’s main hall, settling in the tall pointed ears of a male eladrin sitting across from her.

“Have you ever wondered why all the winter’s in memory crowd the span of a mere four days every year? Four days. Four days Aria, that bring all of the season’s natural cycle into a distillation of bitterness that cripples the land. And the dead…the dead walk in footsteps not theirs to claim.”

Jack-A-Lynn stared with stony resolve into vampiric eyes whose gaze few could hold for long of their own accord.

“Not particularly, no.” Aria replied, pretending to dine upon a meal that her human palate had long since been retired from.

Jack’s eyes cut for a moment to a particularly raucous dice game that momentarily held dominance over the inn’s atmosphere.

“Her name appears randomly amidst the delusional scribblings I placed upon the surfaces of my cell in the High Church. In all the thousands of words I wrote, it is the only consistent piece of information, and recurs 12 times.”

“So? I assume there is a point to all of this.” Aria said, pushing the morsels on her plate into new arrangements.

Jack frowned a bit, and then frowned deeper as the boisterous dice game exploded with shouts again, and one of its principal players nearly staggered back into Aria and Jack’s table.

“The Battle of Saddle-Brook. Rikki Cooper fought there and died there on the 12th and final day of that battle. The day the avatar of Tiamat, Panserous, came from The Far Realms at the bidding of Simon the Eternal and laid waste to the city.”

At this, Aria stopped still at the feigning of her drink and stared with sober demeanor at the eladrin.

“The Undead forever claimed Winter after that day, and…”

A splash of cheap beer hit the table between the eladrin and the vampire, slung drunkenly from the mug of one of the gamers as he carelessly stumbled into it. Spinning about, the interloper brayed intoxicated laughter and spittle. Only Jack’s eyes moved to the interruption, and they caught the surly patron’s with practiced ease. His face went slack and his voice vanished. Not a word was spoken between Jack and the gamer, whose posture suddenly straightened and he spun about. Condensation gathered about Aria’s glass and Jack’s breath misted before him as the dice player calmly pulled a knife from his belt and walked calmly over to the dice table. He plunged the blade half its length through the hand of one of his comrades leaning on the table and buried itself solidly in the wood. The howl of the wounded gambler erupted as his attacker shook his head as if awaking from a dream. the wounded man swung with his free hand catching the first squarely in the jaw. Laughter and threats ensued while Groverton’s enforcers moved in to take charge of the situation. Old Charles himself stood behind the bar watching his two friends with a frown that seemed to say ‘Not again.’

Jack returned his eyes to Aria to witness lengthy canines retreating into her sensuous mouth.

“I could have handled that, you know.” Aria pouted.

“I know.” Jack simply replied.

“Continue…” Aria said, gesturing with her moist-slickened glass.

“Rikki Cooper had two children savaged by goblins, their bodies not to be found. She married an elf. The Eladrin Queen told me of an unfulfilled oath that Cooper had once sworn to the Fae. That she once had a connection to a beast, a connection that was severed. She was touched by the Shadowfell and fought against The Far Realms. Who does this sound like to you?”

“Blackpaws.” Aria said.

“Its all tied together, Arai. Cooper, the Fae, Winter, Tiamat, The Far Realms, Blackpaws…and more things I have not quite discerned yet. How they all fit together, I cannot say yet.”

“In fact, Blackpaws is the reason I am here, Jack. He gave me this…” Aria patted a large bag that jingled when struck by her bejeweled hand. “…and told me to tell Groverton ‘to get started before I forget completely’. I was waiting for him and the others, but they haven’t shown back yet. I’m a little worried.”

“There are more words that stand out from my writings…Argent, Corbin, Silver Cloak, somehow giants are connected. I have to research more.” Jack said

Placing her glass upon the table, Arai said "I need to check and see what’s happened to them. A new comer to the group, Vis, performed a teleportation ritual that should have brought them back. I don’t trust him.’

“Find them. Once I have completed my research, I will look for them as well if you have not found them by then.”

“Agreed. By the way, ‘Jack’. Why do you keep using this persona? We know who and what you are now.” The Vampire said.

“There are still those who would use me for their own rituals and purposes, Aria. Besides, I thought you of all people would appreciate the necessity of keeping up appearances.” the changeling said as she glanced at Aria’s plate.

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Season of Slumber
The last day of winter

Winter…sometime in the future…

The snow covered everything like a burial shroud. The whole world mourned for the loss of the sun and it’s warmth as it lay like an open grave filling with the sky’s frozen tears. The little clearing was littered with the remains of a modest farmhouse, its bones peeking up through the icy crust like a skeleton trying to claw its way out of an ivory casket. A crumbled fireplace stood as a headstone for the death of a dream.

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The only pallbearer to the scene was a lone figure standing naked in silent vigil. Blackened skin on his forearms and legs stood in stark contrast to the pale drifts that gathered around him, as they waited patiently for the grim figures unspoken eulogy. The full moon broke through the clouds, pregnant with silver light that was birthed upon the clearing. His black hair reflected the moon’s gossamer rays at the temples and crown as the wind whipped it about his face concealing his features. The ruined palms held a small wooden box as his thumb rounded the simple latch on its side.

The wind blew…

“Will it hurt pappa…?”

“No Sarah. There will be no pain…only an ending to pain.”

The wind blew…

“Will we be together always, My Love?”

“Yes, Rebecca. I will never leave you again.”

The wind blew…

“Are you at last at peace, Sarlane?”

“My soul is free, I am ready to move on.”

“Then I give to you my last gift, last of my faithful. With this act, I shall fade from all that is. You may open it…”

Sarlane Dersenara’s thumb ceased its rotation around the latch of the wooden box with the bas relief of a tree on its lid and flipped it open. He set the box at his feet and opened the lid. Warm light broke the skin of the night’s shadows, and the freezing winds blew a little warmer and bore the scents of green growing things. Rising back up, Sarlane closed his eyes and lifted his chin high into the air letting his long hair fall from his face cascading down his spine. He held his arms out, palms up as if to recieve something in each one as the light grew from his feet to envelope him. The clouds covered the moon to hide its tears.

Spring…sometime in the future…

Charles Groverton made his way to the riverside graveyard, and to the tree that stood in one corner of it. Never at a loss for words, nonetheless the aging lord of Pitchfork Keep kept his silence as he knelt before the gnarled roots of the massive oak. Three small markers were held in the earthy grasp of those roots. After some time, he spoke.

“I did as ye asked, lad. Simple and unadorned.”

Groverton reached down and pulled some of the sprigs of weed that had grown up around the tombstones out, dusting clean the simple stonework with a rag pulled from his coat pocket.

“All that time, sending back all that treasure…hell of a plan, lad. Lot of foresight on your part but then I guess you had to figure you’d never get it done on your own. Gave ‘em a hell of a target though to draw their attention so’s we could get the job done. You’re welcome Paws, and I am glad for to have been party to it.”

The remainder of Groverton’s visit was spent without comment, and the reserve punctuated only by the occasional raising of a flask pulled from the Lord of the Keep’s other coat pocket as he sat cross-legged midst the grass.

Finally, he rose and with an audible groan straightened his outfit and walked to the cemetery gates. As he exited to the street, a man walked up to Groverton. The former barkeep knew the type instantly. Large backpack, dagger strapped to his thigh, longsword at his left hip and a crossbow hung from his right. Adventurer.

“Tell me, old man. You look to have walked the ground your fair share of years. Where might I find the place known as Cooper’s Grove? I hear it is enchanted and a trio of black oaks stands at its center, hiding a powerful magical item. I’d like to try my hand at looting its treasures.”

Groverton gave the man a hard look.

“You’d best be fergettin’ that notion, my friend. That is a sacred place. Never touched by winter, always green and growing. The animals and plants that grow there exact a terrible price on those who come to it with a mind for tampering with it.”

A cocksure smile played across the adventurer’s face as he patted the length of steel at his side.

“Naught’s the beastie that can best my broadsword, grandfather. Why, I’ve felled…”

Groverton clapped his hand hard across the adventurer’s back, nearly doubling him over.

“I am sure such a tale deserves to be told over good drink. I know a place…come with me and you can ply these old ears with the stories of your doings. In fact, I’ll buy the first round. A special drink, one I think you’ll enjoy for a long time to come…”

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The Shallows of Night

Zhule squinted in the dim light, and moved her candle closer to the wall. The scrawled writings on the walls overlapped and travelled caddywampus from corner to corner, floor to ceiling. And not just the walls…the floor and ceiling as well as nearly every surface on the sparse furnishing were filled with charcoal-etched words. Zhule moved carefully about so as not to smudge anything. After all, she had no clue as to what the ramblings meant.

And she had written them.

Pulling her shawl closer about her shoulders, the enchantress was about to attempt to decipher the mysteries penciled upon the simple wooden chair she once sat in while taking her meals when from behind Zhule another light grew, soft and warm. Raising up from her position of scrutiny, Zhule adressed the source of the glow without turning to face it.

“Cardinal Goldenbrook.”

“Zhule, my friend…” came the gentle reply, words light as a summer’s breeze and dappled with an almost imperceptible musical quality. “…or is it Jack tonite? Or Dolemeck? or Zhora?”

The changeling turned to face her oldest…and perhaps only…friend. Clad in modest rainments of repose, the tall elven maiden stood with fingers interlocked at her waist. Her head was wreathed in a halo of light that was the source of the second illumination, the gift of Pellor to mark his highest clergy.

“Tonite…there is only Zhule, Cardinal.”

A smile flowed across the elf’s face like a dawn filling the morning horizon.

“There is no need for titles between us my friend. Please, call me Lia.”

The priestess of Pellor turned almond eyes full upon Zhule and regarded her intently, keen high-tipped ears detecting a sound…fluttering wings?…retreating to the darkest of shadows in the room.

“I ordered this room sealed, Zhule. I would have thought your mind would find no safe harbor here. What brings you to this place, in the shallows of the night?”

Zhule turned slightly, her eyes moving to the corners of the room still dark and fluttering despite Lia’s glow.

“Many are the uncomfortable places I tread in the dark of night, My Lad…Lia. In this hour, I walk them here. Your guards are not at fault. You no doubt remember how persuasive my magics can be. They will remember nothing.”

“You have grown strong, Zhule. I no longer sense the frightened child I harbored in this very room those long months ago. Your devotion to…grim doctrines…has placed steel in your heart.”

Zhule bowed her head slightly. “That forging has not replaced previous loyalties, Lia.”

“Nor have I forgotten mine, `ere I would not have come alone and dressed for the evening’s retirement to investigate this unannounced visit.”

Suddenly Zhule stepped towards Lia, hands clutching an orb of alabaster that glowed with qa soft thrumming noise spilling light from between her fingers in harsh rays, falling upon the words written in the room, shifting and moving as if seeking out each letter.

“I HAVE to know, Lia! What does it MEAN?! Somewhere in all of this is the answer. She said it was here. The Riddle of Winter…the answer can be found…”

Zhule slowly turned in a circle, wide-eyed and anxious, the rays of her orb lapping up charcoal mysteries eagerly.

“…here.”

For the first time since entering the room, Lia Goldbrook’s face turned serious.

“Who told you Zhule? Who?”

And from the dark corners of the room the sound of fluttering wings came once again.

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Moon and Stars
"A season of hunger..."

Black Paws sat with elbows on knees staring across the fire at the one called Vis. The Eladrin had insisted on a connection between them. Black Paws listened to his words at the time, cold and unfeeling yet insinuated with horrific insistence and curiosity. Like a piece of ice caught in ones eye.

“I will follow.”

He felt it then. Like something chill and wet had crawled into the core of his being. Moreso, it began to grow…pushing out memories and feelings. No, not forcing them out.

Consuming them.

“I was one with the cycle of life, death, and rebirth in all livings things. Now, I feel…nothing… Black Paws reflected darkly. Life and Death for me now are as…

The image of two kobolds wrestling for posession of a torn and bloody dress came to the mind’s eye of the druid.

Black Paws looked down to his forearms. He had been unknowingly worrying at the leather straps that covered them, the frayed ends fluttering in the draft that moved through the cave the giants had given them to shelter in for the night. Why did he keep his forearms and forelegs wrapped? With dull eyes that once burned bright with fire and purpose focused on his left arm he began to absently strip the mouldering leather from it, falling to the floor of the cavern like rotting leaves abandoning their branch. When the last of the wrappings fell away, the ruined memory of a forearm and palm was revealed in the firelight, mangled flesh that had fought its way back into a tortured semblance of form and function in a time and manner no longer nestled in his mind. And the skin…the skin from elbow to palm had blackened in an unwholesome hue.

A vague tugging of his perception caused Black Paws to raise his head and look around the mountain cave. All his companions had ceased their activities and stopped still, looking intently at the wolf warrior. Thier expressions ran the spectrum of curiosty to contempt, Vis directing his gaze at Black Paws with with the indifferent intensity of an insect.

“What…what happened to me? And who are Rebecca and Sarah?”

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Star Light, Star Bright

Twisted mind by 09alex d3kkboj

Bent Out of Shape

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.” – The Call of Cthulu, H.P. Lovecraft

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Of Wolf and Man (A Story of Vis Deimos)

Far realm

Of Wolf and Man

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.” – The Call of Cthulu, H.P. Lovecraft

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Vis Deimos - Backstory

Thief

The information below is not exactly a story, but backstory to entertain and help tie in the character to the rest of the group (or, at least, Black Paws). Feel free to make suggestions or offer insight as to where I might take Vis Deimos as the game goes along. I’m reading through the rest of your Adventure Logs and character backgrounds to find ways to tie into the game.

This information is all repeated in the Character Bio.

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A Season of Harvest
"Sometimes, it's just between The Raven and The Wolf."~carving on a stone in Saddle-Brook, unknown author

“His purpose is not yet done.” spoke the elven maiden with sparkling golden eyes that seemed to cradle the light of the moon that hung swollen and full of many promises kept and those not yet made.

“Yet, his way towards it surely is.”

The second voice was honey-dripped, dappling from the lips of a tall pale woman cloaked not in blackened robes, but in the essence of a moon-less night itself. Between them, the devastated body of a half-elf lay face-down in the snow, drifts of ivory near covering his ravaged frame. Black leather wrappings from the near-fey’s arms unravelled in a trail through winter’s dunes like bread-crumb sorrows, a trail of desperation and hardship leading to the edge of nothing.

The Moon-eyed woman looked down to the fallen one, sadness marring otherwise inviolate features.

“I would see him returned to his world, My Queen. I gave much once to see him in it and am loath to have that dowry squandered so soon. He was one of my faithful…my most faithful. His love was foolish, but it was pure. He…”

…is mine now.", The Dark Lady interrupted. “He is…mine. You have had your turn at him. Twice in fact…”

Several ravens descended upon the corpse as Winter’s Widow spoke. Greedily, they coaxed tiny morsels from the frozen form. The deepest savorings came hard, but with great reward-steam rose from the still warm bites.

“No!” the Moon-Maiden screamed, and suddenly a silvered bow was in her hands, arrow like a bolt of lunar justice noched to her ear. “You will not casually defile what remains of my last servant!”

The Matron of Ravens looked impassively…uncaring…at the weapon leveled against her, and the once-goddess that held it.

’My lovely…", she purred to the elven woman, “…you could not hurt me with all your outrage and grief. You are but a vestige of what was…a dream kept in the heart of a poor little farmer. Still, I am not without compassion. This one has also served me as well, and will do so again if we come to an accord.”

From the folds of darkness, The Dark Lady swept her hand and ravens scattered loudly like scolded children, seeking to drag away desperate scraps as they minded their mistress.

“Name your price, Mother of Graves.” The Lady of the Moon quietly intoned, the bow in her hand suddenly and simply not there.

“He shall be given back to you, to finish his business in this world…”

A gesture from The Dark Lady, and the ground fell in to her side…two graves, one smaller than the other.

“…fully under the influence of…well, whatever it is that you have left to give him my dear. All I ask for now is a piece of him. A small piece will do. Something he will hardly miss.”

The Elf of the Moon looked upon her shattered servant, drops of running moonlight perched upon her cheeks.

“Tell me little farmer…what is your name? Hmmm? No, I am afraid not. You must give it to me if you wish to continue. Yes, you must. Your name and all your memories that it holds in its arms.”

The Dark Lady knelt slightly, cocking an ear to the head of the frozen dead thing in the snow, waiting for an answer to her queries. Ravens skittered back and forth from the body, as if attempting to steal secrets leaking from its soul.

“Ahhh…”, The Raven Mother breathed in a most satisfied exhaltation. “There it is. Sarlane. Sarlane Dersennara. Thank you my sweet. When you are ready, you may rise.”

Pale fingers adjusted blood-matted hair, smoothing over gaping wounds in the skull. Without another glance at the Once-Fae, The Queen of Endless Slumbers spoke with her words blending into the snow-laden winds.

“While he continues, he shall carry what remains of your vestige within him Sehanine, though he will bear my mark as well. And when his time is once again at its end, he shall come to his Raven Queen, to serve as her Harvester.”

…And there was silence and stillness as if the Moon held its breath. No presence disturbed the whispers of the icy winds that drove the snow in eddys of winter across the body of Black Paws. The night grew long in the tooth until at last, in the hour before dawn, the fractured crunch of frozen snow over a hand in black leather wrappings scolded away the last raven.

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