In Medias Res

 

From the abstracted look on her face, Andrei suspects he doesn't quite have the Paladin's full attention. Trying to keep the feelings of longing and sadness from creeping into his expression, he nods his respect to the lady before stepping away towards the darker corners of the room, searching for a space to breathe un-haunted by the specters of memory.

Stepping carefully across the scree that covered the cavern's floor, Andrei makes his way towards one of the great iron grates. Stopping at the stream, he follows the dwarf's example, scooping up a double-handful of water and splashing it on his face. The cool water is like a balm to his soul, and the quiet darkness a place in which to heal. He dips his hands again, but the effect is diminished. With a sigh, he rubs his face dry with his sleeve, and turns to peer at the grate. Let the others fill the air with useless words...

Andrei has one foot in the stream, intending to poke and pry at the grate with his hands and hidden tools, when he spots the markings in the wall... too regular to be natural. He steps closer to read, and shudders in horror at what he finds. With a darting look at the false-stars and a silent prayer to Desna, Andrei jumps in the stream almost flinging himself onto the grate as he searches for a way to open it.

I hope I'm not assuming too much!
Rebuffed by the iron solidity, Andrei curses, a sharp bark of frustration, and turns to see the others huddled around the light. "Future endeavors! You speak as if this were some grand tale in the making." Andrei snarls, his frustration transmuted by the oppressive space into mindless anger,"I can assure you otherwise! What of the ones before us? I doubt their lives ended in glory, for men reduced to this do not die in such a fashion!" He jabs an accusatory hand out towards the markings painstakingly etched into the wall.

Septima crowds around with others to look at the words. "A person cannot dwell in the past. That brings only madness. Our future is what we make of it. Look here." She points at the last part. "'Stitched men.' Well, they are men, and men can be bested. Who here is ready to prepare for them? And who," she looks pointedly at Andrei, "is already surrendering?"



His kind...his kind..HIS KIND... Daius suddenly snarled in fury, taking a step back from Aamir as his bony hands clutched his gnarled staff, the knuckles standing in stark white as he trembled. Over and over, no matter what he might say! At this point he might teach the man a lesson, but he hardly could do that surrounded as he was. Giving Daius a chance to redeem the actions of the mindless undead? BAH! He'd taken no action against them, his words were logical and from the heart. Or at least what passed for a heart. Yes, he sought power, but the price was terrible and payed in advance! What would this fool know of anything?

"Self-righteous fool!," Daius hissed, stark anger evident in his tone and stance. "I have nothing to do with the Whispering Tyrant, nor his armies! I spit upon the thought of it! Yet you persist in holding grudges against me, for what "my kind" has brought upon you." The two words were hideous to hear, loathing and hate mingled as he fought to control his anger. "Should I not in turn claim YOUR kind responsible, for the Tyrant was once a man himself! Your kind, my kind, they are one and the same! Make your peace, fool, for know that I have walked out on that dark path, and want no part in destruction!"

Turning and stalking towards the wall, he jabbed his staff at the wall, clacking off with a ringing note. Bits of the bloody refuse clung to it as he waved it back towards Aaamir in abrupt gestures. "Your fear blinds you!", he rasped, starting to breath more easily as his temper cooled. His finger uncurled, pointing towards Septima, even as he spoke to Aamir. "Let your prejudice begone, or our chances to live fall."

She’d been halfway joking about the killing each other part, and was glad to see it wasn’t the kind of thing that stuck in the maw. Her own little way of remarking on the painful inadequacy any single being might bring to a situation that had already drugged, knocked them over, and strung them out in an alien land. Anyone would be right to be suspicious of anyone else, in such a vulnerable course of events, but it was good if others could rise above their own concerns to wonder about the greater situation.

Khiida, for her part, was mostly concerned, still, with finding something solid to ground herself on. She let Aamir talk; he was better at it, especially in Common, which she disliked speaking in for more than a few words. Instead, she watched everyone, the ones she could see best, glad for the vigor of Orcish blood lending power to her eyes in the dim. Was this the time for this sort of aggression? Well, if not now, when…she supposed. If there was a villain here…well, she could clear this up, right enough.

One of them was talking of something she had no notion of (‘stitched men?’ she wondered…), but the others—this still.

”Right, well, if there is some doubt…” A hand went to her belt, and with a bit of trickery with knots she freed the silver mug, her holy symbol to Cayden, holding it generally in front of her.

”Perhaps we could have a bit of a nip before we start our grand endeavor” bit of good-natured mockery there toward the small human, but she meant no real sting

”… starting with you, lord” and this toward the source of the little group’s conjoined hostility, moving away from them but, she figured, simply making distance in disgust, not truly stalking away.

”, if you please.” Voice raised, accent thick.

” I assume my drink’s good enough for you. A fine way to move things forward quickly, no?” Of course, the man had said he’d once drunk from Cayden’s cup. He might not be capable now, in which case...this was a pointless exercise. But at least she’d know.

She flicked open her flask with an adroit motion, poured a stream of amber-colored liquid inside.

”Mayhap we could pass it about, see what we can tell? I find this to be a perfect occasion for Cayden’s blessing—strange location, hostile circumstances, odd folk--” She shrugged, swishing the mug, as if it made no difference either way. It would be better to band together, of course—assuming none here would turn on her first chance presented. She only had so much stamina, and she still hadn’t found her mule…

"It is easy enough to say." Aamir said with a sigh, his shoulders dropping a little. He took no pleasure in this, and in fact felt somewhat sick for doing it. But there was a truth about the dead who were not dead, that history lacked many, if any records of such creatures doing good unto anyone. Passing judgment based on that alone was an awful thing, but his people had payed a heavy price because of that truth. That this man was so hurt, so affronted by the idea that he was the same was difficult to process. Not because he couldn't understand why he would be, but because he didn't know if it held any honesty. To protest so hard only polarized things, making the man doubly innocent or doubly guilty.

"To believe someone prejudiced against you, isn't it?" There was a beautiful irony there, that prejudice breeds prejudice; that in the hate of life there was bred a hate of undeath that in turn sired a hate of being hated. And it bred madness, not only paranoia, but manic lunacy. Like waving a carrion-laced stick around for emphasis in what he could only assume was a plea for an end to the paranoia that put the man to thinking he was mad. It was circular, but that made sense. Once hatred and distrust took root, it was hard to break the cycle.

He gestured to Khiida, then smiled apologetically at Daius.

"We distrust those who've wronged us, or those like them. In your own words, you call us the same, so surely you must recognize that. It's why you have no faith in me, and I no faith in you. But it takes more than leaving each alone to fix that, doesn't it?" Aamir reached for the mug, both needing a drink and happy to prove that no poison fouled the liquid. Of course, trying to imagine Khiida fouling drink was like trying to imagine Ogres flying; simultaneously impossible and deeply unnatural. He took a draw, then offered it to Daius.

"It'd have taken more than simply not striking you, or speaking against you to prove in your mind I'm not somehow an enemy, wouldn't it? All we ask to take that same fear from our minds is that you drink. No Wight nor Ghoul nor any other hideous thing would bear to partake of mortal food, or touch pure silver, or be judged under a god who spurns misdeed. Proof that your lot lies elsewhere is a single swallow away. And, it's good stuff. Really good." He added the last part with a wide grin. He couldn't help himself, booze was just another reason to be happy, another proof that good gods loved all good men.


Pursing his thin lips, Daius accepted the proferred mug, holding it briefly in front of his mouth. He hesitated, both of fear and because he could already feel the fumes worming through his frail body. This was strong beer, and one he would likely regret soon. However.. he needed their trust. While perhaps he had not been completely forthright with them, who could blame him? He was a necromancer, an unwitting servant of the goddess of undeath and debauchery. True, he sought the power willingly, but not the source. He could hardly call himself an athiest, nor an agnostic. The gods were real- but not necessarily of great import to him. Barring Urgothoa's forced entrance into his young life... Blowing out a shivering breath, Daius raised the mug in toast.

"Then may the god strike me down if I have lied to you, or wish any of you harm." At least until provoked.., he mentally added. Without a moment's further hesitation, he quickly quaffed a goodly portion of the brew. He blew out a startled breath as liquid fire raged through his veins; not the holy wrath of a god, but the warmth of a good beer. Wiping off his pale lips with one frail hand, he handed the mug back to Khiida.

"Will you trust me now, then?", he asked as a flush quickly spread through his cheeks. Clerics of the drunken god certainly didn't pull their punches..


Andrei would likely have ground his teeth to see Daius taking his side, even in such an oblique fashion.

He most certainly would not have backed down from Septima's not-so-veiled insult, his youth spent pretending to be a Sczarni would not have allowed him to slink away from such.

But he had not waited for the group to shuffle over to the eerily marked wall. By the time the words reached his ears he was already splashing his way towards the other grate to try his luck there, and he shrugged them off, intent on other matters.


Andrei didn't have much luck with the iron grate, but his efforts were at least rewarded with the knowledge that they did indeed have the capacity to raise. No mechanism was evident but it was clear that the barrier receded into the stone above. It would not happen through any feat of physical strength . . but it did open.

Elsewhere, the 'conversations' were quickly halted when the entire chamber was suffused with a sickly-green light. Frost slowly crept up the walls, across the floor and hung in the air as your breath turned to mist. Strangely, you didn't feel chilled, simply a numbing sensation as your movements slowed . .



Andrei cries out as the gate opens, in victory or in fright, even he is not sure. But the way proves clear and he makes a dash for freedom down the tunnel. As the creeping mist begins to clog in his lungs he starts to sag into the stream, his feet growing heavier with every step. With a final surge of strength, he throws himself against the tunnel wall in a desperate bid to avoid drowning in the shallow water...


Valeria stared out, removed from her thoughts once again as the green lights suffused the chamber, by instinct her hand gripped the pommel of her sword.

Maybe the stitched men would emerge as the writing read, maybe something else, but it was for certain that something would happen...

"Stand firm Dae..." her words came out barely as a whisper, maybe in hearing them spoken, it would make it so....






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