2.0 A Dream Within a Dream.   Posted by The GM.Group: 0
The GM
 GM, 536 posts
 Fair Winds and
 Following Seas
Fri 12 Jul 2019
at 23:44
2.0 A Dream Within a Dream
Theme Music
The dreams were still the worst. Kellan's gentle kiss on her brow; then waking to his absolute and permanent absence. She'd not seen the Mournland for herself, not yet, there in the Karrnathi prison cell. That immortal horror would come later. The mortal horror was the confines of the cell. It was clean, and dry. The stone bulk of Fort Bones shielded her from the heat of the sun, and food and water were brought to her by the dead, thus sustaining her life. Maybe it was that she was Kaarnathi-born, or maybe it was that the name ir'Andreion still meant something, or maybe it was that so many horror stories had been told of Karrnath that the prison-keepers made an extra effort to dispel the rumor through acts of kindness.

Still, there were no rats; not because of any kindness, but because all of the rodents were caught, and killed, and put into service; tiny rodent skulls were mounted in the corridors, swaying this way and that, and observing all. And then there were the dead. Karrnathi skeletons were the bulk of the armed forces; led by human soldiers they were ever-present in the time of war. And the one that brought her food and water was precise, and uncommunicative. But the food was good, and the water cold, and in the heat of the nearby desert, very welcome.

She first dreamed of the mournland the night they'd told her what happened in Cyre. In her mind's eye she'd pictured the home in Metrol that Kellan and she had lived in, and the strange event-cloud that had washed over it destroying everything. Later, she had learned that things had looked quite different than her dream, but, that was later. The truth was that Kellan was gone, their home was gone, that life was gone. When they'd taken her name from her it was almost an afterthought.

She never really knew what had happened on the day she'd escaped. A man had come, breathless, excited; there was triumph in his eyes. He paid no attention to the cells; "I have the Soul Engine," was all he'd said before moving out of earshot. Then there were cries, and then a long period of screaming. The screams stopped, but there were still sounds of battle. Then that too stopped. The man was long gone, and without a thought to any in the cells.

And hour passed in silence, then another, and then the skeletal servitor slowly shuffled to the cells. The skeleton was badly damaged. It unlocked her door, and one other. Then its bones detached themselves one from another and collapsed with a quiet 'clack-clack'. Whatever magic had animated the bones was gone; she knew this was not a normal occurrence. The occupant of the other cell moaned. She was unhurt; her capture had been without violence, though not without harsh language. This one had fought, though. He was bandaged over most of his torso and head. One eye glared through the wrappings. She'd not been able to suppress a scoff when she saw his uniform: Thrane, and a paladin of the Silver Flame to boot.

Lorelei did a swift investigation:  a Deneith platoon had assaulted the Fort, there was no-one left alive. Not one defender, nor, judging by the bloody uniforms, one defender. Gore and guts and shredded meat covered the first floor of the fort. Bones were everywhere. It seemed pointless to hope that anyone could have survived this massacre. Bloodied footprints did lead away to the north, so perhaps one person had. South, though, south is where Lorelei was looking. She saw the blood and the bones in her dreams, too. She wondered at the bloody footprints and what kind of person could walk away from such a charnel-house.

That person had walked north, though. And south is where Lorelei was headed: south to Metrol, and home, and some kind of confirmation. One hundred miles, maybe one-thirty, but it was closer than she'd been in a long while, if you didn't count locked doors.

She decided what to do with the muffled Paladin, and proceeded.

It was not a true desert, she knew, just an uncomfortably hot plain. The Talenta Plains were to her left, and she was determined to keep them there; she thought the rumors that the halfling nomads that lived there were cannibal were not true, but she knew that the dinosaurs were. Travelling by night, and conserving all the water she could made the trek arduous, and when she crossed the well-marked Orien trade route she knew she was half-way there. Abandoning the road was an act of defiance, and one that she occasionally wondered if it was her first mistake, or her last. But that was the shorter way to Metrol.

The Cyre river marked the boundary of what they would call the Mournland. Here it was a wide, flat, and easily ford-able stretch. Lorelei was mostly concerned with the water, and not the dead-grey mist that shrouded the far shore. She drank, and drank again, and then refilled her bottles and skins. The mist was thick, cloying, and did not refresh as fog or normal mist would. Though in the open, she felt as if walls were closing in upon her; as if some unseen hideous presence were watching her every step.

In her dreams, she recalls going into the mists. In her dreams, she always hears the screaming begin again.

The Mournland was a ruin; baked, pulverized, made unholy, and corrupt. The oppression was the first thing she felt. Her body ached just being there. Even now, her hand felt the same way. The landscape was no longer the purity of the desert with its clean death of starvation and thirst. Something had made a mockery of life in this land, a hideous sham of the will to exist. No plant lived, no animal, no person. Movement came only from the wind, which was tolerable, and other things, which were not.

There were only fragments of the things she saw that she recalls; the rest come in nightmares. The dead were still there; not decomposing, there was no rot, for rot is just another form of life. And life was anathema to the land, now. There was movement, not life, but things that roamed, and Lorelei took care not to be in the open when they came by. She saw a cloud of animate lightning cruise overhead smashing random bolts down as it passed. She passed a smashed Air-warship whose captive elemental keened and cried out to the wind for release. All of those who could have released it were dead.

There was no food. The dawn of this event had turned provisions into a rock-like or powdery mess; inedible. There was no drinkable water. The water from the Cyre river lasted three days. The nights were nightmares of shrieks and moans. The days were filled with horrors she would not forget, sights she could not un-see.

The stars would not shine, and there was no longer any of the landmarks that she'd known when she lived here. Cyre had become a hostile, alien wasteland.

The water ran out. She knew she was going to die, then; was already dead. He goal changed into one that would allow her some choice of death that would not leave her body as some twisted mockery of her life. But even those choices were to be denied. Trudging through a set of sandy dunes that had peculiar pyramid-shaped stones thrust up through it; she leaned on one of the stones. Bright light shone in the stone's surface, a pattern that was either a complex language or a meaningless pattern. The pattern crawled partway up her arm and then vanished, taking her limb with it.

The pain came, as she struggled away from the monolith. She wondered at the futility of her instincts as she bound the wound to stop the bleeding. There was no point. Futility was everything. She lay on the sand, all hope draining away. Night came and things that were not stars spun overhead. The day came in a haze; winds kicked sand and dirt and dust, and in that haze, she saw a figure approaching.

He was tall, and covered in a robe-like garment. It might have been a saffron or gold color, or that just might have been the dust that covered him. His face was covered with a scarf or mask wrapped to keep the dust away.

Lorelei somehow found the strength to croak out: "Lend me a hand?"

He didn't speak, but extended his hand and pulled her up to her feet. He held her up, one arm supporting her as the walked. Her perception was fragmented. Some days she is not sure that what she saw was even real, even some dreams seem realer. They walked over fields that had turned to glass; past a city that had turned into a strange abstract reflection of itself: Metrol, she'd realised. Metrol was dead. Nothing in the nightmare landscape bothered them; large creatures bounding along paid them no mind, and the soaring arcane clouds did not rain down upon them.

Still he spoke nothing. Parched as her throat was, it was probably better that he not ask anything of her. They passed the first of a line of stones set in a row that led off into the distance. The Lightning Rail, she realized. They followed it and then she saw the foggy barrier ahead. They passed through the mists, with the same claustrophobic sense she'd felt on entering, but once through, she felt a lifting of her spirits. She was still alive. There were trees, grass at her feet. But only one set of footprints led back into the unnatural fog. And then she caught sight of her hand.

She recalled the yellow figure draping her other arm over his shoulders, but never thought of the cessation of the pain in her truncated limb. It had been severed: disintegrated. And now there was this ... thing. It moved as she willed it, but the  sensation through its fingers was odd: var'klept--the word popped into her head, meaning nothing to her.

A stream slaked her thirst, and a copse of fruit trees got her strong enough to continue the track of the Lightning Rail. She secured unorthodox passage when she got to a station. She paid little attention to the towns she passed through, only debarking when the rails had taken her as far away from the Mournland as it could: Sharn.

A few days in Sharn was enough to convince her that the best place to be was not on the Continent of Khorvaire. A blacksmith's glove brought less attention to her arm than what lay beneath, but neither Cyran nor Karrnathi were very welcome in Breland. But Sharn was a port. She'd sailed before, first as a Lhazaaran privateer, and later in the service of Cyre. Now it was as a smuggler to Stormreach. That captain barely knew what hit him as she took over the sloop and turned it around to sail back to Xend'rik. She could hear him shouting curses and bellowing as the dinghy she'd left him in vanished into the distance. "Been there, done that." she'd thought.

Three months. The famed pirates around Stormreach had gone into hiding, or been killed. Her information was years out of date; The Lords of Stormreach had put together a navy and a contingent of Dragoons, and they were merciless and effective under the command of Bonedeuce. The one pirate she'd managed to crew with ran his ship up on 'Shargon's Teeth' and that meant that there was one less employer, and three-score more people looking for work. She'd heard good things about Bethany Razor and her ship the "Widow's Wail" but the Widow would hardly come into port now, with so much attention on piratical practises. Falken Drango was another possibility, and so here she was in the Leaky Dinghy, slowly sipping a poor ale to make it last all the longer. She had the cache of dragonshards, but one did not simply pay for an ale with a dragonshard. She kept a tight rein on her cash.  But the news came, and it was not good: Drango was imprisoned, and set to be executed (again) and that this time they were not going to let him escape.
Falgor Finney
"Ye look troubled, Lorelei. Kin I git ye some food? A bit 'o stew won't cure yer ills, I wager, but it'll give ye strength to face 'em." Falgor called for a bowl of stew for them both and then with the presumption of a tavern keeper sat down across from Lorelei. "There's no cure for something in jest sitting. Tell me yer woes. If I can't top them, I can find someone who can."

This message was last edited by the GM at 06:22, Sun 14 July 2019.