Dying of the Light

8: Magic in the World
Stonefast Hinterlands

There is a place for Magic in the world. It lies in the ashes of the Pyre, at the bottom of the well, and in other dark places where only madmen dare to venture.

Inscribed in the Stone at the resting place of Judge Inquisitor Sjalimir the Fifth, who cast out the Mages from the Stonefast

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7: On the Road Again
The Stonefast

There is naught in the world as gleeful and gain,
As a y’ng bastard on the road again.

Northern Road Song

As Mara finishes her stay in the Stonefast, Amit and Jin reconnect in the Merchant District. As Mara Joins them, they do some shopping, search for rare herbs and finally join up with a caravan of northerners and decide to go South and board a boat for the Azalai empire. After a gruelling climb down they stop at a roadside inn for a late supper.

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6b: Veterans
Stonefast Hinterlands

Politics is the art of navigating between the cane, that one uses to punish others and the dagger that one uses to get rid of them. There are also words involved but they are mostly used along the way, for deception.

Kajura Animir’s Memoirs

Waking up to find that Mara hasn’t slept in her bed, Jin asks to be taken to see Cpt. Animir hoping that he might know where she is. The two of them have a soldier’s breakfast, reminiscing over Jin’s past, things that are, things that could be, things that will never be.

The captain then offers to take Jin to observe the proceedings. What should be a simple deposition only proves that politics are a far more dangerous weapon than any sword.

As Jin finds himself escorted to the Merchant’s District, Mara’s fate remains uncertain.

Rewards:

1 AP

Ornate Cane, that belonged to Cpt. Animir’s grandfather

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6a: The Magic Garden
The Stonefast

Beauty blooms in the darkest places.

Xalth Saying

After deciding to remain behind in the bath-house when Jin and Amit go to have dinner, Mara tries to calm her mind and consider the events of the previous day. The hot springs make the experience that much easier and successful, until she is interrupted by a somewhat worried young guard, having brought her clean clothes. He introduces himself as Aman, but Mara refuses to reciprocate, simply mentioning that she is most often called “Girl”. The two share a few words about the hot springs, then the guard leaves Mara to finish up. As she comes out of the baths, they engage into a conversation. Mara learns that the young man is training to become both a soldier, and an explorer. He offers to show her around, and leads her, after several corridors and a heated argument with some gate guards, to an interesting sight, a garden in the middle of the earth. Aman introduces the various types of mushrooms in the garden, making conversation as he does so, which Mara takes as flirting. She confronts him with this in a slightly joking manner, which seems to fluster the young man. He explains that courtship is not like that in the Stonefast, and then bluntly asks her if she’d like to spend the night with him. After a moment’s consideration, Mara decides that she’d like that. Before drifting off to sleep, she says a single word, her name.

In the morning, she awakes in the garden, after dreaming of the luck lizards she’d learned about the previous day. Aman explains that they are late for the questioning, and they rush to the judgement hall. Along the way he explains that due to the tardiness, he will offer to translate in Amit’s place. They reach the judge, and the questioning begins, Mara being instructed not to hold back the truth, as the judge will most certainly know. She explains to the judge the same things she’d told the Captain, and Aman seems a bit overzealous in his retelling, taking liberties that slightly bother the judge. By the time the questioning is over, the judge offers Mara an opportunity: to help lead some people back to the tunnels where she found the lost expedition. In return, she would receive the necessary lodgings, food and supplies, and even a second-class citizenship in the Stonefast. Not knowing much about the ways of the world in general, Mara asks that she be allowed to confer with her companions, which the judge rejects. Mara later finds out that this is likely why Jin and Amit were removed from the Garrison that same morning as well. Eventually the questioning is over, and Mara finds herself outside the judgement hall once again with Aman.

Rewards:

1 AP

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5: Society in Darkness
The Stonefast

Society in darkness/ A people in the dark/ Cannot exist in fairness/ Without a brighter start.
So cast away the shadows/ And let the Law Beget / Corruption to the Gallows/ And Rule for ever met.

Stonefast Children’s Brigade Chant

After a hard night the survivors carry on through the badlands towards the Causeway, the stone highway built by the Stonefast. On the way the Captain narrates how he had lost his fingers. After a few more hours they arrive at a Causeway inn where they have enough time to grab a bit of food and rest (as well as a bit of money and companionship for Amit) before they carry onwards towards the Keep. More discussions on the stonefast follow along the way until finally the group of soldiers and prisoners pulls into the Stonefast outskirts. Greeted first by the crowds and then the corpses of bandits and rebels, the three heroes make their way into the Stonefast. The entryway is grim and deadly, the Merchant District is a cacophonous roar but finally the captain takes his wards to the garrison within the Stonefast. They part ways and the three unlikely heroes receive quarters and an escort to go about the garrison wherever they see fit. They take a bath in the small bath-house attached to the Garrison and although Amit and Jin leave to get dinner, Mara is so Impressed that she stays behind.

She manages to make a new friend in a trainee guard called Aman sent to act as her escort as the others go after dinner to the medical area where they encounter a strange and a tad disturbed doctor, originally from the West who talks to Jin about the dangerous physical effects of Magic, something Amit finds particularly worrisome. They manage to convince him to donate one of his prize magic-reacting fungi for Jin to take back to the Seat. With Jin’s broken foot now fixed and in a cast the two companions return to their quarters…

Rewards:

2 AP

Magic-cap

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4: The Roost
The Roost, Stonefast Hinterlands

There is value in diverging opinions, debate and popular vote. Yet there is more value in unity of action, determination and stability. With society teetering so oft on the edge of the abyss the only cleavages we can admit in our society are those sliced by the tip of the blade.

High Judge Almaeus Ajalmir, Thirteenth address to Stonefast Citizens

After the discussion in the cave where the Stonefast Border guards had their camp the three prisoners are disarmed, mounted on horses and taken for a long ride towards the Fast. Mara convinces Animir, the guard captain to leave her hands untied and she shares a horse with Amit.

Amit starts to talk to the guards, particularly the captain on the way while Mara focuses and isolates herself from the world, focusing on concentrating. Though Amit and the captain are quite loud and at one point they address her directly she focuses better than ever before. Jin rides in the back, silently analysing the situation.

Eventually, they arrive at what the Stonefast calls “the Roost”, an odd cave-outpost, designed to offer protection by way of a bottlenecked door on one side, and a sheer cliff face on the other. The evening goes on with some interesting, if rather heated discussions related to the policies and laws of the Stonefast, and the livelihood of the Southern tribes. Amit in particular voices some very strong opinions about the harsh methods of the Stonefast, much to the disgust of the captain.

During the night, as everyone sleeps, Mara is woken up by a strange dream, much to everyone’s luck, as she is just awake enough to notice an ambush… by her old tribe.

After a prolonged melee, the Stonefast guards prevailed, with only one casualty, though the captain appeared to be much worse for wear, not unlike Mara and Jin who had also sustained some very serious wounds. Mara instructed the guards to leave her alone with the captain, and performed a ritual to ease his magically-addled mind. The results however… were more than anyone expected.

Rewards:

2 AP

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3: Blood and Rain
Stonefast Hinterlands

Much has been said about Magic being the manifestation of one’s soul. I would like to offer a counter-thesis and stipulate that magic is naught more than blood in its elemental form. The blood of the masses is water, as natural as the river or the rain but the blood of a mage is more. Infused with power it transcends the natural and becomes a conduit for the supernatural. To compare such blood to rain would be a tragedy and a grievous insult.

Theophanes of the Tower, A treatise on the Nature of Magic

Having survived the ancient Stonefast outpost Mara, Jin and Amit retire around the campfire where they have supper and discuss where they are heading next. Amit remembers having some rare plants in a jar and discovers a wad of White Alm leaves and takes them to Vala, the old shamaness who uses them to treat Jin’s leg. Amit and Mara have a long discussion on the nature of servitude before they part ways and go to sleep. The next morning Jin wakes Mara up with a pitcher of water and starts to train her in self-control by teaching her meditation. She also manages to control her thoughts on controlling the bodies of others.

Meanwhile Amit notices a flock of birds going about in weird patterns and concludes that a storm is approaching. After informing Illiagan the caravan master the caravan starts packing in a bid to push forth past the cloud level and into the safety of the high pine forests. Jin and Mara abort their training session, deciding to finish it later.

The caravan rolls up the old Stonefast road, making good progress as the wind picks up. Around noon it finally starts raining and there are gray clouds on the horizon closing in fast so Illiagan decides to head for a small plateau identified by Amit and mar and secure the carts amidst a tree thicket. The storm rolls in fast but, with the carts well secured the travellers spend the time talking old legends and morals. Vala teaches Mara to bind Jin’s open wounds as the storm rolls in more and more. At one point mara leaves as the talk goes sour and takes a shower but returns later on. Wit the storm dying a bit down and the cloud level dropping she steps outside and tries to meditate once more. The soothing rain and the pulse within her calm her down enough to help her relax and, eventually, enter a true meditative state. Alas it would not last long.

Following a cryptic warning from Vala Amit and Jin discover that they are being ambushed by heavily armed men. These men are exactly what the Caravan Master had been fearing, a Stonefast patrol with a penchant for drawing blood. At first the patrol leader orders his men to kill him but following some linguistic panache and persuasion from Amit and a fortuitous discovery in the back of a cart the group is spared and separated from the caravan. Unfortunately in the chaos Vala gets killed by one of the Stonefast men.

Leaving the caravan behind to financial ruin the three are taken to a nearby cave where the patrol leader, a noble named Amarat asks mara to identify where she found the letters on a map. After some deciphering and geographic know how they discover the approximate location of the lost expedition. The captain adds that they need to identify the bodies and return them to the stone, therefore another expedition would be necessary. Mara vehemently disagreed but the captain just added that it’s going to be just another bughunt…

Rewards:

2AP

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2: The Dark Walker
Stonefast Hinterlands

Walker in the Dark/ Bleeder in the Light/ Bleed now in the Dark/ And walk with the Light.

Southern Steppes Chorus

Jin and Mara are tasked with exploring what lies beyond the ominous gates by the caravan-master. They are joined by the moon-worshipper who volunteers to go along. Within, Jin and Mara discover that the tunnels are a long abandoned Stonefast checkpoint. What’s worse, they discover that the old defenses may still be active. During their exploration they manage to trigger these defenses which most definitely were still active, and still quite deadly. The moon-worshipper, in a panic, attempts to shove one of the Starmetal Constructs that made up the defenses, and met his swift demise. Reluctantly, Jin and Mara finish exploring the tunnel and narrowly make their way through, triggering more Constructs. They decide it may be possible, albeit risky, to lead the caravan through. They return, carefully, through the tunnel and inform the caravan of the situation. The cloaked figure, Amit, offers a potential solution and joins Jin and Mara to test it out. It appears to work, and they decide to start leading the caravan through. Everyone almost gets through safely, despite a few bumps and a bout of panic, until the foolish caravan-master decides to rush things and nearly gets everyone killed. The situation looks bleak, with Constructs closing in on Jin, Mara and Amit, then, perhaps due to a combination of utter terror, will to survive and a great concentration of Starmetal, Mara let loose with raw magical power and disabled the constructs. Then, still hazy and fueled by adrenaline, she brought the mountain down on itself in a terrifying display of starmetal-infused arcane might, sealing the old checkpoint and its murderous defense system away, then promptly passed out.

The old crone managed to help Jin’s now-broken leg and shared some words of wisdom with him, while Mara and Amit talked about magic, and the life of those who wield it. After what seemed like hours of chatter, it looked as though the three had grown together, and decided to continue their travels as a group.

Rewards:

3 AP

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1: The Long Road
Stonefast Hinterlands

The Long Road/ The per’lous night/ Lone make sweet/ The coming light

Azalai Hymn

Jin, the exiled swordsman, has signed on to defend a merchant caravan. Much to the dismay of the caravan leader, their guide is murdered in the night, his throat slit, with no one the wiser. The caravan wanders for a while before Mara stumbles into their view, still on the run from her tribe. After a tense exchange, the caravan leader agrees to feed and shelter her in exchange for her skills in navigating the area.

The caravan takes off, back towards the mountain, hoping to evade any Stonefast patrols and the levies they charge for passing through their hinterlands. The caravan leader stubbornly insists that they find an old path through the mountains, ignoring the better judgement of some of the caravaneers. Fortunately, after a day of slow progress, Jin discovers some manner of ancient road and Mara concurs that it seems to be heading in the right direction. The caravan takes off again, with heightened spirits.

During the very foggy night however, natives ambush the merchants, killing two guards and nearly-fatally wounding another. Jin masterfully displays the skills he has been hired for, swiftly dispatching natives left and right while Mara tries to save one of the grievously wounded guards, not having much luck in the melee.

After a short, but bloody fight, the natives retreat back into the jungle. The next day, the caravan finds itself in front of an ominous gate, leading maybe to safety, or even more peril…

Rewards:

2AP

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0: The Dark Below
Avan Heights

Do not Go/ Into the Dark Below

Old Children’s Rhyme

Running away from her tribe Mara stumbles into the strange remains of a lost expedition. After noticing strange markings she finds an old cave camp. Realizing she’s hunted she runs away but ends up scaling a cliff and getting stranded in another cave bearing the same markings.

She discovers a lost expedition journal in an unknown language. Making her way deep within the cave system she finds the decomposing bodies of several expedition members as well as a strange forest of columns which turn out to be cocoons of some unfathomable beast. She disturbs one, which stalks her through the maze like caves.

She barely manages to escape but falls in the middle of the camp of her trackers. The beast and the trackers fight, and the baleful beast wins, offering enough time for Mara to escape and make her way down the mountain. Two days later she emerges from the foothill jungles into the southern steppes and notices a column of smoke ahead…

Rewards:

1AP

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