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 Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion

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The House of Ainsley
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PostSubject: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Mon Jul 20, 2009 8:23 am




[Enter, Sylvea Aringerille.]

[Sylvea is presently a Level 5 Cleric with all skills, Feats, equipment and other attributes as listed. She will have time to prepare spells before she leaves the temple.]



In the nave of the Pax ex Quietus temple among the southern foothills of the Crown Diamond Mountains, Northeastern Nellowswann,
two to three miles west of Fenderwick's Chasm and the Brustaggan border
Dusk, November 14, 1377 SE






What fell across the temple's gray nave was neither dirge, nor hymn, nor the uncontrolled lamentations common for the parishes of death gods, but the simple silence of an tranquil evening among the dusklit, craggy foothills. Scarlet sunrays sifted in through the crystalline western windows, and the strong scent of yellowwort incense hung heavy in the still air.

And from the westmost alcove issued the voice of an elder priestess, dictating to a priest well along in years yet young among the order.

"...you may have a mind to look on Provost Berrinole's tomb more closely tonight; it seems that the bears have been nudging his capstone loose more than once lately. Ah...and remember to pour an extra pint of oil in each vigil lantern tonight. We're expecting a strong gale with rain from the mountains, and the endless flames will need the added fuel. There should be plenty of lamp oil in the cellar; come and find me if our stock of oil is nearly spent."

Many elves are too vain to take orders from short-lived humans, but Matron Valanice was wizened and well-experienced among her kind, taking in many bereft folk over the years in her servitude to the eternal lady of love beyond life and death, Evening Glory. The soft crimson robe shifted around the matron's lean frame as she moved across the alcove to the outer doorway where Sylvea stood.

"I believe that Acolyte Corris saw your sister at the well behind the temple, perhaps drawing water or perhaps hunting for vermin as ghouls are likely to do...he did not say," Valanice offered offhand, regarding the young, silvery-draped elf before her with a weary and weathered gaze through eyes no less gray than the long braid which swayed and brushed across the lumbar curve of her narrow back. "But you may wish to gather her before you make your way to the burial mounds, just in case any nasty devils are roaming down from the mountains near dark. I have Acolyte Corris cleaning the choir loft this evening, but Acolyte Flordenia should be idle once she returns from weeding the Hope Garden...."

Much was involved in a temple's maintenance, and the Pax ex Quietus temple had precious few priests at hand. If only the Twilight Candle could spare more....

The spitting torch was slipped quietly from its wrought iron sconce nearby and offered to Sylvea in a wiry hand.

"So, then...once these tasks are through, we may gather the priests for our vesper prayers. Will there be anything you need before you set about your task, Sister Aringerille?"


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Fri Jul 31, 2009 9:14 pm

Sylvea arched a proud eyebrow, but the matron would be used to such a gesture as only a habit picked up from her time before her devotion to Evening Glory. Mostly a mention of her sister was accompanied with such an action. Sylvea sighed and shook her head, "With your permission I will gather my sister and head to the cellers. She can help me carry the extra oil for my rounds tonight." Her voice was light and musical - a strange, haunting lilt. Her voice was rarely warm, though it was far from cold, especially for the Matron herself - whom she respected greatly.

Turning to go, she looked askance at the wizened old woman and wondered just how much longer she could count on the woman's company in her aging years. Inclining her head respectfully, she made to leave, pausing only to see if the Matron was finished with her.

Once dismissed, she would travel to the well behind the temple to discover if her sister was truly there.

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Sun Aug 09, 2009 3:38 pm

Acknowledging Sylvea's glance, Matron Valanice offered but a silent nod of her head in parting, then fell to silence as she returned to the altar, taking up a bottle of the blessed flaxroot oil in preparation for the evening consecrations. As with most temples devoted to Evening Glory or other death gods, silence was observed in the nave at twilight, and shouts or other raised voices within the temple viewed scornfully as acts of irreverence.

Equally silent, Sylvea exited the northwest alcove and greeted the cold mountain breeze sweeping down from the Crown Diamonds and over the temple grounds.





What pavestones composed the path around the western yard lay buried beneath the first snows of winter from three days past. The weather had since risen to a lesser chill, and the sheen of water atop the melting snow glistened with an orange sunset radiance. But temperatures would descend with nightfall, and Sylvea found herself wondering if the matron's mentioned rainfall would come less as a strong shower and more as biting, plunging rivulets of ice. The temple doors would certainly need to sealed against the precipitation after all had gathered for vespers.

The tapping of hammers and planes pealed from the stone table centered in the yard; Brother Herrick and the vampire-spawned Anurrius toiled with the finishing touches on another coffin, for another traveller had been found dead from exposure among the lower mountains, and none had come forward to claim him. Maple shavings fell wildly from their work and sprinkled the trampled gray slush at their feet as the zombie Aneska stood idly by, ready to help Brother Herrick and Anurrius bear the coffin into the temple when the crafting was done. Every one of the undead who resided with the temple was there because someone had loved that person strongly enough for Evening Glory to notice and lend her aid. But some of the living--and some of the dead thus raised into undeath--wondered how the goddess could indeed be an entity of love, if her blessings so often left the beloved neither living nor dead, but somewhere wretchedly in between.

The barred recess between the western alcoves shimmered with scarlet rays as the dwindling rays of sunlight struck the Tear of Endless Devotion, a ruby set in the pedestal before the feet of Saint Zerestia of the Spring...or the feet of her statue, rather. Saint Zerestia and her betrothed Saint Arlanos lay interred in the sarcophagi behind the statue, the bodies they had worn in life sculpted as bas reliefs in the black marble of the sarcophagus lids. Together had they discovered the spring among the foothills--the spring which still burbled beneath the waters of the well--and founded the temple on that spot three-hundred years past. And legend had long claimed that Evening Glory eventually came for Saint Arlanos in his old age, and he left for the Underworld with her. And that the heartbroken Saint Zerestia, strong of love and stronger of will, simply willed herself to stop living and so followed her husband into the Underworld three hours later.

As was the custom, a three-day wake was observed for Saint Zerestia and Saint Arlanos to see if they would return from death. But, alas, both saints opted to remain dead. And so they were interred behind the temple they had built, with the statue and the Tear set in place to commit her deeds and her dedication to everlasting memory.

Though the Tear of Endless Devotion was clearly a gemstone of great value, it had laid exposed to the mountains' gaze for three-hundred years with never an enterprising thief prying it from its pedestal, for legend also claimed that a mortal curse would follow any who stole the Tear, so that the thief would never receive love for anything, nor feel love for anything, and would eventually waste away into interminable pain and nothingness, all the while painfully desolate, lonely, bored unto madness, hated by all and forsaken of need--even by himself and unto himself--until Evening Glory herself deigned to relieve the thief of his insufferable torment and cast him into merciful oblivion. And not a moment before then.

The well which the saints had dug, cleared, set with flagstones and consecrated to Evening Glory had incessantly murmured with springwater over the centuries, yet the old tales also claimed that the voice of Saint Zerestia could sometimes be heard pealing from the well's throat, singing the hymns and ballads from her childhood village among the mountains. And there before the lifegiving well stooped Ariean, drawing water for the temple. In her living days, eight or ten buckets of water would have wearied her arms unto sprains and torn muscles, yet her return from death had strengthened her body even as it ravaged her psyche. Her rigor-hardened muscles could bear such weight with ease, yet it was small compensation for her wasted and sunken appearance, her compulsory eating of raw flesh and the derangements which ensued if that appetite went unsated. Yet remnants of Ariean's old self remained entombed in her ghoulish frame, remnants of the Ariean which Sylvea had dearly loved...had loved strongly enough to defeat death itself, opening the door for Ariean's return.

A pity, it was, that Ariean did not return whole.

Against the hammering and the woodcutting, Sylvea's soft footfalls into the yard went unheeded. Ariean's gaunt and pallid arms, elongated to freakish proportions by undeath's embrace, plunged into the well's maw and took up the rope, vigorously pulling another filled bucket from the well's sloshing and rippling depths.


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Sun Aug 09, 2009 5:09 pm

Sylvea slipped across the snow laden courtyard, her silver draped hem brushing across the white flakes, occassionally stirring loose behind her. As she walked, she could see Ariean as she toiled by the well and was once again struck by just how different her sister had become.

As she studied Ariean's profile, she was forced to remember what her sister had been before death. The pride of the family with a joy for life that had been unprecendented.

Though her passage was relatively silent, Ariean would hear her coming and hopefully turn to towards her. She would see her sister's eyes well up both with love and a lesser degree of pity as she looked on Ariean's face. Though the muscle tissue was degraded and the figure mutated somewhat, Sylvea still saw her sister in those black staring eyes.

"Ariean my dear, what are you doing? You had a free day today - my duties allowed you to rest." Though a ghoul faced her, Sylvea could not help bypassing all of Ariean's new... capabilities.

"You must come with me now, we have tasks to finish." She reached out her hand for her sister's and waited.

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Sun Aug 09, 2009 8:02 pm

Turning at her sister's words, Ariean set the bucket of water to the snowy earth at her feet. Though her feet in ghouldom had grown too warped and elongated for footwear--and fingernails and toenails alike had grown into small, raking yellow spades capable of tearing flesh away in chunks--Ariean no longer felt the bite of the cold, only an ever-present numbness over her every inch of lifeless skin.

"But...will the water freeze before I bring it inside?"

Her trust in her sister swiftly returned, and her brief protest died with a shrug of resignation. Even unwholesome hearts--twisted with undeath or not--can feel love and trust, though such are extended to what very few can earn them. The buckets remained where they sat as Ariean stood erect and attended Sylvea wholly.

"Of what tasks do you speak, sister?"


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Sun Aug 09, 2009 8:28 pm

Sylvea shook her head slightly, "You can draw more water sister, and if the need arises, water can be melted and made fresher."

She took her sister's hand and gently warmed it between her own. She knew Ariean didn't feel the cold any longer, but her skin was always so clammy - she could not help it when she touched her.

"We have a few tasks tonight. The vigil lamps need extra oil - there is word of a storm brewing. And Matron has asked us to look into Provost Berrinole's tomb. And we have a trip to the Burial Mounds to look forward to as well."

Shifting her feet to rid them of the snow so her soft boots would not soak with them, she continued looking lovingly at her sister. Her voice was gentle, "What would you like to do first?"

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Sun Aug 09, 2009 9:34 pm

An unexpected smile came to Ariene's visage, warmed with her sister's charitable concern as her cold hand returned to her side. "Perhaps...we could meet halfway with this decision. I will set the water in the alcove, and then we will go to the cellar and gather the lamp oil. Will you hold the doors open for me? These buckets can be...cumbersome...."


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Mon Aug 10, 2009 4:10 pm

Sylvea nodded, as always ever eager to please her sister. Some others may have noted that her devotion seemed to equal Ariean's undead devotion - but never had it been questioned to her face.

"Of course." Sylvea never had a problem with the slightly slurred speach that came from her sister's decayed mouth and made her way to the doors, holding them open for her sister to go through.

Staring at her as she went past, Sylvea once again was struck by the inherent difference in her sister - as well as the sameness she felt when around her. It was truly odd - but somewhat comforting at the same time.

Once the water was stored away for the moment, she would lead her sister along towards the cellar, to fetch the first of her tasks for tonight.

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:19 am

The stout oaken door, shrunken in its jamb under the ceaseless duress of cold mountain gusts and descending frost, parted easily. The darkness of the cellar beyond was shaken by radiance spilling from the flickering brass oil sconces flanking either of the two cellar doors. And the air within hung heavy with the scents of fruits, dried meats and many incenses and oils.

Against the far wall stood a line of eighteen clay pots, but only five with their cork stoppers in place...filled, not emptied of their lamp oil as the others had been.

The door whispered shut behind Sylvea and Ariene as they descended the stairs into the cellar, only to drift open again as another howling gale bore against it. Snowflakes swept past the two and scattered into the cellar, and Sylvea's skin reflexively constricted and recoiled against the chill of the North.


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Sun Aug 30, 2009 9:05 am

Sylvea surveyed their surroundings and could not help the shudder that ran through her. No matter how much older she would get, she knew that she would never like the feeling of being enclosed under so much stone and structure. The trees were invisible to her here, and she could not feel the breeze against her back.

Sylvea didn't voice any of her feelings though, knowing that her sister may have reservations of her own. At least, she hoped she did. Sometimes, Ariean could surprise her with what the ghoul did and did not think of.

Then she turned and smiled, "Fetch us some oil, enough to last tonight. We will have to inform the Matron of our dwindling supplies."

Forcing a shudder down again, she sighed and waited for Ariean to finish, barely suppressing the urge to tap her foot. She really did not like this. At least crypts had some sort of feel to them. Some earth that she could connect with, lifeforces she could feel. This was just a building, housing what needed to be housed. It was nothing.

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Sun Aug 30, 2009 11:34 am

If Ariean shared her sister's sentiments about the confines of the cellar, she did nothing to suggest such. Wood elves are accustomed to grooming hollows in the roots and trunks of great oaks and interring their dead therein, to reunite the dead with the living world and to feed the greatest trees with the flesh and bone of past generations. Perhaps some dark part of Ariean's psyche remembered her body's months inside her own funerary hollow, leaving the cellar to seem as spacious as a palace through that uncommon perspective....

"I believe that half of this should normally be enough for all the lamps at the burial mound," Ariene appraised as she lifted a cumbersome clay jar with ease. "But did you say that we were to add extra oil to the lamps tonight, Sister?"


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Sun Aug 30, 2009 3:46 pm

Syvlea nodded, slightly distracted with thoughts of the enclosed space around them, but she gave her sister a warm smile all the same.

"Perhaps the entire jar will suffice." She was forced to remember just how strong Ariean had become once again and her smile faltered, but she covered it with a small cough.

Turning she mounted the stairs that led upwards, "Come, the matron would not be pleased if we tarry here."

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Wed Sep 09, 2009 8:34 am

Taking the earthen jar with them, Ariean strode behind Sylvea with a loping yet willowy gait. The echo of toe claws clacking on the flagstones ceased as the pair emerged to the snowy earth again.


• • •



The rolling mountain winds whipped this way and that across the foothills, peppering Sylvea's dark vestment with a thin scattering of snow as she struck her torch to the first grave lantern, scowling slightly as the broad wick stubbornly refused to ignite. Beside her, Ariean set the jar down and replaced the stopper, careful to keep any snowfall out of the oil. Water in the jar could only cause further problems with lighting the lamps, and she tried to block the wind with her body as Sylvea touched the torch to the oil-soaked wick again.

The lantern finally sputtered to life as the fire took hold. Quickly Sylvea replaced the lantern's hood, smiling slightly with contentment as the firelight rippled through brass framework and blue crystal glass to cast itself flickering against the burial mounds. Bringing the torch closer to her torso and shielding it from the wind again, Sylvea bid Ariean to follow as the plodded to the next row of sepulchers.


(Sylvea - untrained Listen check (DC 8 ): Success (16))

(Ariean - untrained Listen check (DC 8 ): Critical Success (25/Natural 20))

(Ariean gains a free round of action and may take the intruders by surprise if she wishes.)


Something not far south of them trod too heavily on the snow and cracked the stones beneath. Sylvea turned to face the noise, letting her mind race to consider the course of the intrusion. Ariean's response was swifter and purely primal; setting the clay vessel on the ground, she immediately darted past her sister and took to a low stance behind a granite tomb not far from the path into the burial mounds, glancing expectantly back to Sylvea as two shadowy figures strode forth from the craggy ascent to the site, casting the weak light of a target lantern low between them.


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:59 am

Sylvea glanced at the clay jar Ariean had left behind and shook her head. The girl should have taken it with her - nevermind.

Gliding to her sister's side, she settled herself to a vantage point where she would see the identities of the those that came before revealing her own presence. Though how they could miss the clay jar and the freshly lit lamp was beyond her, she prayed for a bit of luck.

Whispering low to her sister, she bent and hid herself behind the granite tomb, "We shall see who they are and what they do. If they try anything, we shall capture them." Knowing that Ariean would abide by her commands, she crouched down, peering into the darkness trying to see what would come.

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Thu Sep 17, 2009 8:43 am

Ariean nodded crisply with a gesture of affirmation as she remained frozen in her crouch, ready to pounce if trouble reared its head.

The first of the shadowy figures set down a rucksack; between the soft snow and the dulled sounds within, the sack's contents were indiscernible to the ear. He leaned against one of the guardian statues at the southern entrance to the burial site and gestured for his companion to approach.

"Lanterns, love. The boneyard's attended, it is...a mite recently, judging from the smell of oil about. Methinks the temple be not as abandoned as it was said, aye?"

Slinking into view, the second traveller raised her hand, gesturing from afar to the lantern which the death priestess had just lit. "Shan't we light our own path with such a lantern, then? Surely we're out've bandit territory now...."

"Be not daft, woman. If there be priests, they might take a spot've umbrage at seein' us at their door with a thieved grave lamp, eh? Besides, we shouldn't be far now. Surely they've help for our dilemna, eh?"

"But...that mayhaps pertain more if our son already lies among the dead...."

An awkward silence followed, punctuated by a muffled sobbing. Thus far, they had not sensed that they were not alone.


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Fri Sep 18, 2009 3:24 pm

Sylvea motioned for Ariean to remain where she was and stood to reveal herself to the two strangers. She fixed a benign smile on her face and stepped away from the tomb. She did not come closer and instead remained so that Ariean could intercept the strangers before they got to her, should they attack.

"Ho, strangers. I am Priestess Sylvea and you are on Temple grounds. May I enquire as to your need to be here?"

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Wed Oct 07, 2009 8:39 am

The two peasants turned with a start, gazing on Sylvea with uncertainly in their eyes. Though the man's tongue was frozen with trepidation, the woman's tongue was not. Cupping her hands to her breast, she approached timidly.

"We meant no intrusion, madam. We came to speak with the high priests of Evenin' Glory. Our son...we love him dearly. Truly, yes. But he was in Palemare when the Laughin' Death an' the quarantine came...we hoped to be reunited with our son, to find him...or to learn of his fate, if he be among those taken by the Laughin' Death...."

Her voice began to falter beneath weary, trembling eyes. The Laughing Death had overtaken the city so quickly. What few had not yet succumbed to the pestilence--if any remained--would surely be victimized and slain by those who had, for the pestilence inflicted a murderous derangement on those who took it, driving them into cackling berserk furies even as it slowly extinguished their lives. The baroness did well to move so swiftly with the quarantine, even if her healers were thus denied opportunity to better observe and understand the fearsome disease.

"So we came these miles out've hope, to see to the memory or fate of our loved one. Is that not the will of Evenin' Glory, then?"


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Fri Oct 09, 2009 6:16 pm

Sylvea nodded and held her lamp up further so she could see them more clearly. They seemed simple enough folk so she moved cautiously towards them. But not before murmuring to her still hidden sister, "Keep close - but do not let them see you. They will see the true glory of our Goddess before too long."

Once again she did not wait for an acknowledgement to her order. She knew it would be carried out unless something dire should happen. Then she knew her life would be in her sisters hands - as she had always known since her ressurrection.

"Come with me, I will take you to the Temple." She waited for them to turn on the path towards the temple that lay not too far distant but would seem far enough in the darkness. "Do not worry, I will guide you." Her voice was soft, yet spoke of calm command - and oddly for them, empathetic comfort.

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Tue Oct 13, 2009 6:21 am

(Ariean - opposed Hide check: 26)
(Commoners - opposed Spot check: 5)

(Ariean - opposed Move Silently check: 11)
(Commoners - opposed Listen check: 4)

(Ariean wins both checks.)


"We thank you, My Lady," the peasant woman softly replied, the gratitude in her voice singing against the next cold wind to descend from the crags. Taking her husband's hand, she walked with him and kept pace behind the priestess, never once heeding the malformed shadow which lightly slunk and trotted behind them....


• • •



Standing regally before the altar, Matron Valanice considered what the visitors had to say.

"Palemare City is a city of the dead," the matriarch intoned, thrusting an emphatic finger westward across the nave. "Reuniting the bereft with their loved ones serves the edicts of our temple and our goddess, but venturing into Palemare is not something which we would do lightly."

Almost as one, the humble parents sunk in countenance and in posture, fearful of seeing their request refuted. Sylvea briefly glanced up from the scene and to the lower windows, witnessing a familiar silhouette cast in the moonlight against the rose quartz glass. True to her sister's command, Ariean had not ventured too far.

Valanice continued. "And so I must ask: How much do you love young Galleid? How much would you give for his return, and how selfless is your love for him?"

"We haven't much, My Lady," the husband tremored as he turned to face the gathering of rose-clad priests and acolytes surrounding them, "but we would give it all to see him returned to us, alive or...dead, aye. I have seen enough winters in this world, an' I'd forfeit me own hand to see his body buried in his homeland. But to see him home alive, safe in his mother's arms an' among family...I daresay I may lay down this life to spare his from the grave, I would...."

A dismayed gasp issued from the wife's lips at the words of her long-betrothed. Many of the six priests--and as many acolytes--turned their eyes to their matron, as if to see her take the older man at his offer.

"We shall see the mettle of your words soon enough, good sir," Valanice nodded. "You and your wife shall stay here, in our temple and in our care, while our priests prepare for this undertaking. Know that whosoever among us would take upon themselves the trek to that forbidden city may choose to bring one or both of you along on the errand, the better to identify your son; if your company is so requested, we expect no refusal. And know that we, the priests of Evening Glory, do hold court with the undead, many of whom were our own families or lovers while they lived; we expect that you will not object to the presence of our own loved ones returned from death's hand, should they accompany us. These are but the terms under which we shall extend our aid; what price you pay for the return of Galleid, or his remains...that can be discussed when the deed is done. Do you agree to these terms of concord, beloved travellers?"

The hesitation behind their joined agreement was heavy, but ultimately fleeting.

"Aye, milady."

"We do."

With arms rising over the congregation, Matron Valanice strode two steps nearer to their visitors. "Then who among us will see to the return of their son, to his return from Palemare, city of pestilence and city of death? Who among us will serve their love for young Galleid and deliver forth his life, his body or his memory? Answer the call now, O Sons and Daughters of Evening Glory."


(The high priests and the matron herself are too indispensible to the temple, and the acolytes are in training and protected as wards of the temple until they attain priesthood. And so, along with Sylvea, there are three other clerics equal in station for this task:


Sister Fayla Rainbloom (Half-Elf Cleric, Domains: Charm, Protection); In contrast to most of the priesthood here, Fayla's demeanor is wholesome and pleasant. She is accompanied by her lover Ereck, a human vampire fledgeling who, while a potent ally, will become a liability--along with his coffin--in the hours of daylight.

Brother Haurigg Teufelhammer (Dwarf Cleric, Domains: Magic, Protection); Haurigg is brief in words and sour in demeanor, but his drive and determination are unquenchable. His sister, Heiddal, was long since bones when she was finally returned to him, and so she is a nearly mindless yet unusually strong skeleton.

Brother Ranadiel Swifter (Human Cleric-Bard, Domains: Charm, Magic); Dark-haired Ranadiel is a sullen, soft-spoken and poetic, prone to terrible bouts of depression yet dry in wit and humor. His daughter, Belraine, drowned in her early teen years but returned from death as a ghoul, and now follows her father with firm devotion.

If Sylvea does not come forward to accept the quest, then one or more of these other priests will do so instead, and Sylvea may remain behind to attend the temple's needs and to pursue her own ends. If she does come forward, she may also ask one or more of these priests (and their undead cohorts) to join her, but bear in mind that any Experience and other rewards gained along the way will be divided among all participating party members. In the latter case, Sylvea will also need to decide whether or not to bring Ariean along as well as which of Gilleid's parents (or both, or neither) will come along as well; the peasants will serve as mere guides and will not participate in any combat or other feats of derring-do.)



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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Tue Oct 13, 2009 9:15 am

The trip back was quick and uneventful and the matron more than willing to hold court for these weary of both heart and body travellers. Sylvea herself attended the meeting, having some form of responsibility for those she had brought here.

As the matron spoke, Sylvea did not hesitate to come forwards. "I ask to take this journey, Matron." She glanced once again at the window and nodded, more to herself than to any other, "And I ask that the father come with me. To better guide this task."

She knew there were others that could take on this quest, but she also knew that she herself had to do this. Not for any tangible reason - she just had a feeling. She nodded respectfully to the other three that she knew could have taken this on as well, paying her respects but asking them to leave it to her in a mere gesture.

Since coming there, her life had been the temple and her sister. There was more to be had, she was still young and curious and she knew she had to get this out of her blood completely before hopefully rising the ranks and devoting herself wholly to Evening Glory to the exclusion of everything else.

"And if you have no need of Ariean, Matron, I would ask for her company as well."

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Sun Oct 25, 2009 3:01 am

As if cued by the words of Sylvea's parting request, Matron Valanice's gaze drifted high to the windows, as if she too were somehow aware of Ariean's whereabouts. Perhaps the matron's familiarity with the sororal ghoul was more intimate than Sylvea had first suspected.

"Certainly she may accompany you," Valanice sagely affirmed. "If our order will not permit Death itself to part loved ones from each other, then who would we be to impose such partings ourselves? May Ariean be of great aid and solace to you, wherever this errand's bleak path may lead."

Bidding the bereft father to approach, Valanice addressed him in turn. "Sister Sylvea has called for your company on this journey, and by your word you shall lend it. When she is prepared to set forth for Palemale, she and her sister will call for you."

The peasant nodded solemnly and composed his reply, but the matron's continuing voice stopped him from putting thoughts to words.

"May your journey to Palemare find favor with the deathless beauty of Our Eternal Lady and end in unmitigated success. Fair winds to you."

The circle of clerics parted, permitting Sylvea to leave their presence and attend to her quest. Stout Brother Haurigg bowed as she passed and expressed his concerns.

"Yours is a dangerous path, it is, and I dread to see you foray on to Palemare without us. But I'll not lead you from that path, for your heart most truly knows your need. Return safely to us when the task is done."

Greater love and appreciation for his concerns would have been felt were hers a warmer and more giving heart. But for the moment there were only herself, her sister, her service to her Endless Lady and the road ahead. And even should the road be broken or the land obscured in fog or darkness, the Staff of the Northern Cross would see her to Palemare, one way or another.

And the seeking father came to her side. "I am grateful to the bones that you led me here. I am Donovon Minsel, and however I be needed I've ears for your every word, I do. I'll be 'ere on this spot when you call for me, madam."


(Sylvea may take this time to prepare for the journey and gather any of her items from her humble living quarters in the temple's dormitory. She should also take this time to prepare her spells, so that she will be able to cast them in times of need on the road ahead.)

(As a Level 5 Cleric with a Wisdom of 17, Sylvea may prepare and cast up to five 0 Level spells, four 1st Level spells, three 2nd Level spells and two 3rd Level spells per day. This checklist (encompassing all of the cleric spells from D&D 3rd Edition but not from Edition 3.5) contains many of the Divine spells which Sylvea can access and prepare; her Domains do not prevent her from preparing any of these spells, but her Alignment will prevent her from preparing and casting any Good spells (ie. Bless Water, any spell with "Holy" in the name and pretty much any spell with both "Evil" and an antagonistic tone towards evil in the name) and can seriously mess her up if she tries to cast them; if in doubt, don't hesitate to ask. And don't be fooled by the limited numbers of checkboxes on that checklist; Sylvea can prepare more than three castings of the same spell if she wishes.)

(As a cleric of Evening Glory, Sylvea also has access to the following spells (found in the supplementary book Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead) and may prepare and cast any of them as well:)


1st Level Spells

Summon Undead I - calls a skeleton or a Small zombie into the cleric's service. The undead summoned by Summon Undead spells do not count towards the maximum number of undead which the cleric can control through Rebuking.

2nd Level Spells

Blade of Pain and Fear - creates a fear-inflicting weapon from Beyond formed from biting, chanting mouths and gnashing teeth.

Ghost Touch Armor - makes the armor of any subject touched proof against the ethereal attacks of ghosts, wraiths, spectres and other incorporeal undead.

Spawn Screen - prevents one living creature from rising as an undead spawn if slain by any "contagious" undead while the spell is in effect.

Summon Undead II - calls a zombie, a Large skeleton, two skeletons or two Small zombies into the cleric's service.

3rd Level Spells

Clutch of Orcus - paralyzes and continually wounds a victim for as long as the cleric maintains concentration.

Protection from Negative Energy - shields one living creature from up to 10 Damage from every negative energy attack that connects during the spell's effect.

Protection from Positive Energy - shields one undead creature from up to 10 Damage from every positive energy attack that connects during the spell's effect.

Sheltered Vitality - grants one living creature immunity to fatigue, exhaustion, ability damage or ability drain.

Summon Undead III - calls a ghoul, a Huge skeleton, a Large zombie, two Large skeletons, two zombies, four skeletons or four Small zombies into the cleric's service.


(And remember that, as an Evil cleric, Sylvea may sacrifice any of her prepared spells to spontaneously cast an Inflict Wounds spell of the same level, in case the need for such a spell suddenly arises.)

(In addition to those prepared spells, Sylvea may also prepare one of her two Domain Spells for each spell level. These spells stem directly from her deity and Sylvea's two chosen Domains--Magic and Protection--and may not be sacrificed to spontaneously cast Inflict Wounds spells. Please choose one Domain Spell from each spell level below:)


1st Level

Nystul's Undetectable Aura - masks one magic item's magic aura.

Sanctuary - prevents enemies from attacking the cleric, as long as the cleric does not attack them either.

2nd Level

Identify - reveals one magic feature or property of a magic item.

Shield Other - shields one subject from half the damage of any attack, transfering that damage to the cleric instead.

3rd Level

Dispel Magic - either negates all spells and magic effects on one targeted creature or object, or negates one random spell or magic effect from every creature within a 30' radius.

Protection from Elements - makes the cleric invulnerable to damage from one energy type (fire, cold, electricity, negative energy, etc.), absorbing up to 12 Damage per Cleric level (60 Damage, in Sylvea's case) from that energy type before the spell ends.


(That's it. Don't forget that Sylvea's Protective Ward ability (bestowed by her Protection domain) will be refreshed at this time as well.)

(The time of day is now dusk...an ideal time for evil clerics to prepare their spells. However, Sylvea should also now decide whether to begin her journey tonight or the next morning. As a ghoul, Ariean is not hindered by sunlight or the sunlit hours, but at night she will enjoy certain advantages over any living enemies which she and Sylvea happen across. Of course, any undead enemies encountered at night may enjoy similar advantages over Sylvea as well....)

(And apologies for this post and its extended delay. As you can see, this post is quite big.)



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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Fri Oct 30, 2009 7:59 am

Sylvea nodded her thanks to the blessings from the other preists and smile, glancing only once up at the window as if to ensure she would find that shadowy figure there.

Nodding pleasantly towards the father, she bade both the parents to rest and recuperate, the temple would see to their needs for the night and for the father to prepare himself for a journing at dawn.

She knew advantages lay in the darkness for her, but Palemare would be a journey - hopefully they would reach it at dusk rather than the bright burning of the day. Not for the first time did she thank Evening Glory for bringing her sister back as a Ghoul, rather than a vampire. They were powerful - and usually better preserved, but they had their distinct disadvantages.

Beckoning for her sister to follow, she paced to her rooms - they were bare, save for the essentials such as a writing desk, bed, pallet and chairs. Her bookcase stood to one side and the curtains on the windows were light - translucent. Touching the curved back of the wooden chair lightly before she sat, she allowed herself to feel the essence of nature trapped inside it before setting to her task.

Preparing herself for the journey would not be too difficult a task, but she closed her eyes to better concentrate on herself during the process. Only occassionally would she open an eye to make sure her sister was still there, hovering by her side, amusing herself with a rat she had caught along the way.


Sylvea requests the following spells:
0 lvl: Create Water, Cure Minor Wounds, Detect magic, Light, Resistance.
1st lvl: Cause Fear, Command, Detect Undead, Obsuring Myst
2nd lvl: Ghost Touch Amor, Zone of Truth (I assume that this makes a person tell the truth?), Darkness
3rd lvl: Sheltered Vitality (I assume this can be done on herself? if not, I choose Summon Undead III), Animate Dead (if Summon Undead III is given, change Animate Dead to Remove Disease)

The following Domain Spells:
Sanctuary, Identify, Protection from Elements.


Packing what she needed for the journey, or what she judged would be needed, she ate a light meal, ensured Ariean would be refreshed for the morning - and slept deeply. She would need her rest - she knew this. Though this particular journey felt routine, she knew as a Death Priestess, anything could happen. She only hoped she was prepared enough.

Standing at the temple entrance the next morning, Sylvea hefted her Staff, patting the horse that carried her possessions. She preferred walking, herself and her elven heritage leant towards greater stamina in that area. Looking down at her official Cleric's Vestments - coloured silver in honor of her rank, she smiled and felt the small silver dagger that dangled from her belt.

Ariean, as always was by her side and as she waited for the father to appear, she felt amused by the reaction the man would most likely have upon setting eyes on her sister.

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Tue Nov 10, 2009 2:44 am

(The Zone of Truth spell does that and more; while the spell is in effect, all creatures within range of the caster--25 feet + 5 feet for every two Cleric levels, or a total of 35 feet in Sylvea's case--must pass a Will save or become unable to express any deliberate and intentional lies. The caster is exempt from this effect, of course, and the subjects of the spell quickly become aware of its effect; hence, they may still avoid answering incriminating questions or (as Pinnochio did in Shrek the Third) phrase their answers evasively without breaching the confines of truthfulness. Of course, this elusive behavior alone may be proof enough of the subject's guilt or deceitfulness, at least in the caster's eyes. And the spell does not prevent unwitting lies, falsehoods which the subject earnestly believes to be truths. Still, the spell is certainly useful for harvesting information--or for ferretting out deceivers and masqueraders--under typical circumstances.)

(And Sylvea certainly could bestow the Sheltered Vitality spell upon herself, as long as she can touch herself; touching her finger to her thumb (or her palm, or her opposite hand, or any other part of her body...) is all it takes. The spell's only stipulation is that the subject must be living; if Sylvea somehow becomes one of the undead, then Sheltered Vitality will no longer have any effect on her. The undead are usually immune to the ill effects which Sheltered Vitality prevents anyway, so Sylvea really wouldn't be losing all that much by that transformation...well, except for her lifeforce, her immortal soul and all the good things that come with them both, of course. Neutral )

(So we'll be going with Zone of Truth, Sheltered Vitality and Animate Dead? Very good, then. Smile )


The hours of night soon yielded to the morn. Whispered devotions and the sounds of passion murmuring and gasping from Sister Fayla's room ebbed shortly before the sunrise; Ereck had surely returned to his coffin, and broadcloth bedsheets were shuffled about as Fayla herself settled in for some diurnal sleeptime. Heavy, plodding footfalls and the clacking of bones against bones outside Sylvea's door hinted at the dwarves' passage outside to the temple's inner ward. A handbell pealed twice from within the temple nave, sharply calling the few faithful awake at that early hour to prayer before falling silent again.

As surely as the sunrise, Donovon emerged from the temple's guest quarters soon after the first rays of sunlight fell across the windows. Consternation was immediately upon him as his gaze fell across Ariean, and it grew as his eyes narrowed onto her mouth; Ariean was not one to play with her food, nor was she a tidy eater. Suddenly conscious of herself, her ruddy tongue quickly darted out from her mouth, stealing the remaining smears of rat blood from her thin, dark lips before retreating.

"Ahh...ahh...so this is what the matron warned me to steel my nerve against!" Donovon gasped, subconsciously stepping back without removing his gaze.

Ariean was accustomed to such alarm. "Pray cast your dread aside, sir. I do not kill or devour unless my sister permits. And so long as you threaten her not, she should have no reason to turn me against you. Is that not true, Sylvea?"

A paled glance rolled from Ariean to Sylvea, then back again. "Hmm...very well. Ye lent your aid on my son's behalf, and I shan't turn it aside."

The father then averted his gaze from Ariean, peering into the palms of his hands, unsure of the bargain he had made. But his uncertainty was quickly swallowed by resignation and compliance.

"Very well, aye. Very well. Then let us go to Palemare at once. 'Tis easy enough to find. We but follow the road west, and listen for the screams an' cacklin' of madness."


• • •


Location: Outside the East Gate of Palemare City
Time: Midevening






The hooves of Sylvea's burdened horse trod heavily on the stone road not far behind them, but soon other sounds rose before the travellers to further split the permeating silence. Donovon had spoken truly. Even at half a mile from the city walls, the howls and wails and deranged laughter of many could be heard. Brown grass thrust up through the layer of snow, seeming to sway to the uneven cadence of cackling and screaming as the wind swept, died and rose again rhythmessly. And the snow continued to fall and drift slowly across the lands of Nellowswann.

The evergreen bushes which flanked the approach to the gate had once been diligently pruned and nurtured by the mayor's gardeners; now the gardeners and the mayor were gone, and the shrubbery had grown wildly into sickness and disarray. Many finely cut pavestones had separated from the once-maintained road and lay scattered about that road, for no one cared enough to set them and mortar them back in place. And amid a scattered multitude of posted baronial quarantine notices, a great red X had been sloppily painted across the great outer doors of Palemare's gate, warning travellers not to venture therein.

To enforce that mandated avoidance, the baroness' soldiers had constructed a makeshift guardhouse at each gate; so hastily had the guardhouses been erected that the carpenters had not taken the time to shave the bark from the timbers. Go great was Baroness Camilla Lessenhoff's fear of the Laughing Death escaping Palemare that she had the standing gate guards doubled in number, more eyes and ears ever vigilant against anyone trying to get in.

...or trying to get out.

But on this day, the four guards posted at the east gate did not stand watch. Evidently a great and violent confrontation had occurred within the scant hours before Sylvea and her party arrived. Only one of the halberdiers could stand on his own, and he was busied attending the wounds of those who could not. The decorated guard captain lay bloodied and quivering from more than one great blow, his crumpled breastplate removed and his tunic torn aside so his corporal could take needle and thread to a belly wound dealt viciously enough to breach plated steel. Another corporal--a dwarf woman--lay across her bundled cape with her halberd beneath the small of her back. She seemed stable, though clenching her teeth with pain and cursing the bitter winter and the cold roadstones under her breath. And the captain's sergeant lay facedown on the road nearer Sylvea, his blood seeping an indigo stain through the blue armsman cape which covered his head and body. He would not be returning to his watch ever again.


(Sylvea - untrained Search check (DC 5): Success (9))


But what had caused the bloody commotion? Though she was distracted with the scene, and though the evidence lay beneath a thin layer of fresh snow, Sylvea could not help but notice the trail of deep and very large footprints, left by feet much larger than any adult man or half-orc; even the ogres who descended from the mountains from time to time were somewhat smaller than the towering humanoid who had left these tracks, approaching the gate and disturbing the guards. A flurry of exchanged blows, a shower of blood spilled...and the giant turned away and departed towards the north. But the departing giant's footfalls were staggered, shuffled and twisted by unsteady feet and flecked with falling rivulets of blood. However mighty the would-be intruder was, it seemed that the guards had responded to the threat with a formidable resistance and sent the giant away in defeat, though at grave cost to themselves.

But Sylvea could only guess at vagueries about the giant, never so intimate with her knowledge of giantkin. Perhaps the surviving guards had answers but, preoccupied as they were, they had yet to notice the cleric and her cohorts. If luck was with the guards, another threat to the quarantine would not press them again into their duties that eve.

And yet someone had noticed the approaching trio. Though barred together from the outside, the outer doors of the gate, with hinges wearied from age and neglect, hung ajar, and beyond the inner portcullis many figures loped and skipped and flailed their arms madly, a multitude of humans and humanoids behaving more in the manners of unrestrained children, rabid beasts or mindless, catatonic golems. An outstretched hand reached desperately through the portcullis and to that scant gap. Fevered glares from a face pressed terribly against those iron bars pierced the frosty expanse. And though the guards had grown accustomed to ignoring the crazed ranting from the doomed city's inhabitants, Sylvea's keen elven ears could never ignore the mad voice's chaotic stream of words.

"Great Son of the Ice, release me! Come back, I beg of you! I beg you...I beg you...pity me...us. She comes! She rides the moonbeams as Death's mistress, she does! Her steed is Death! Her heart is filled with maggots, and her tongue is already dead! Thunder down on us again! Mercy be to the earth! The earth that devours...devours us...our minds...YAH HA HA HA HA HA ha ha ha...."

The stacatto clamors of bone impacting against iron rang as the lunatic abruptly began to thrash his face against the portcullis bars, and he did so repeatedly and with greater force than an unafflicted man could ever muster. Ariean nervously panned her vision across the snowfields north and south of them. Whether the guards' presence or the raving madman had placed her lifeless heart ill at ease, she did not say.





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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Tue Nov 10, 2009 8:58 am

The journey was not a long one, taking less than a day at their steady pace. Donovon did not pause too long, nor did he speak to them too often, his eyes usually rolling towards Ariean as she strode beside her sister who led the burdened horse.

The horse itself, Whiteshadow, was by now used to the dead sister of his owner. His first reaction to her had not been favourable, but sweet treats, along with time and patience had given him a unique understanding of Ariean. She would not hurt him - and he would never snap at her again.

Sylvea did not overly mind at the lack of communication. She would gain the information she needed when she needed it. Her time at the Temple had taught her of Fate - and taught her that though she should not wait for things to come to her easily, she could expect things to come as they had been Designed to.

Donovon grew more accustomed to Ariean, but the scent of uncertaintly wafted off him in waves continuously and laid Whiteshadow's ears against his head. Sylvea absently soothed the horse, and kept a close eye on her sister. Just because she was undead did not mean she had her feelings taken from her.

As they finally approached Palemare, Sylvea slowed up, surveying the countryside around them. She bade Ariean look as well, to better note which passages went where, should they need to exit the city in a hurry.

Upon coming to a Gate, Donovon stopped as did Sylvea and the others. A battle had been fought, and it was difficult to tell if the soldiers had been victorious.

Immediately Sylvea moved to the halberdier that was still standing. "Dear man, what has happened here?" her Cleric's vestments gleamed, even in the dim glow. Her Staff in hand, she looked around to see if she could help any that survived this encounter, her gaze pausing at the man that would surely not servive the night.

Ariean kept diligently to her side, though Sylvea wished herself some more breathing space - she knew her sister was on edge and appreciated the extra pair of eyes.

She herself fought hard not to nervously glance towards the gate from whence the unholy screams and gnatterings came.

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: And Death Shall Have No Dominion   Tue Nov 24, 2009 4:00 am

Barely looking up from his ministrations, the armsman glowered. "A frost giant, hungry and desperate...moreso than most, methinks. Winter's hard on everyone, even the frost giants. Winter descends...fewer animals or people in the mountains...giants go hungry and start venturing down from the mountains to raid and eat whatever they can grab up. In years past, we could usually ring the alarm and call up enough guards to drive the odd giant or ogre away with little bloodshed. But since the quarantine...."

His wounded comrade began to breathe more easily; the bandages binding his thigh and breast wounds would hold. Satisfied in his work, the well guard's eyes wandered up to Sylvea again, and from there to the lanky figure at her side.

"You travel with a ghoul," he stated as calmly as he could, casting an assuring glance to the nearby halberd on the pavestones. "What am I to make of this? Explain quickly."

Behind him, more madfolk gathered behind the city gate. "Pull the veil from the moon," the talkative madman sobbed without lifting his head from the portcullis, weeping through a sheen of blood in a curious display of sorrow without evident causes.


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