The Serpent Amphora Cycle

Dark Forrest

Samael watched the forest as they were being led to their destination by this odd looking elf. The forest unsettled him, like he could feel evil and darkness all around him. Everything around them seemed to want them dead or in misery. Even he had trouble dealing with the thorns and insects that kept nagging about.

He kept Ennoia close as to keep her safe, his bow ever at the ready so they wouldn’t be caught off guard. The noises in the woods for foreign and often caught him by surprise or confused him. Ennoia shared her displeasure of this woods with him through their link.

He studied the flora and fauna as best he could as they traveled through the woods. For the most part he was trying to make sure nothing was attempting to kill them at the time. But, as a ranger, Samael was still very interested in the woods and trees. How did such things survive with this ominous presence. Were they creating the presence? Was it just his nerves from everything that had happened? Maybe this place wasn’t as evil as Samael thought it was.

He often prayed to the gods non-vocally asking them for safe travel and help in their journey to come. He was worried that their skills wouldn’t be enough. That the help from the gods would be necessary for them to survive. It had been so far and things were only getting harder for them.

He was also skeptical of this new person. She had said she was hunting the Gorgons that they had fought but maybe she was actually hunting them. And how could she live in such a place and still be sane? He felt like he was in an alien world that deserved respect but was never to be trusted.

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Lost Letter

Sila peered into the branches of nearby trees as the group continued on their way, noticing a flash of pale wings among them. She whistled a few notes, and a large, battered barn owl silently flew up to her.

Sila wrapped her trailing sleeve around her arm a few times, and held it out for the bird to perch on. The owl looked at her with its dour, almost alien face, with only one eye remaining. The bird hadn’t been recently injured, she had always known it to have these scars, but seemed exhausted.

Sila had seen the owl several times before in her many months of travel—it was one of the birds her mate had raised to hunt with, as a falconer, and it had brought her letters from her mate several times in the past, both before and after she had met her traveling companions.

It had been a long time since Sila had heard from her mate, and her last two letters had gone without reply. Sila checked the owl’s legs, but no trace of its tethers nor any sign of a note remained. “Did you lose your letter, or did you never have one at all?” she asked the bird, gently stroking the feathers atop its head. While it was a well trained animal, it was just an ordinary bird. Of course it couldn’t reply that it had once been carrying a message on this flight—a hastily written note, several months old, explaining that her mate had left home and was searching for her—but Sila and her companions had traveled very far very quickly, thanks to divine providence, and the raptors just couldn’t keep up with supernatural speed (and massive versions of themselves).

All Sila could do at this point was give the bird a moment of rest on her arm before it flapped its wings and disappeared into the trees once more. She had more important things to worry about than herself and her beloved, after all. She began to pray silently as the group continued their journey toward the citadel.

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Chapter 7: The Serpent Citadel, Part 1

Hielaa dismounted the mighty woodwrack dragon with the Serpent Amphora clutched in her arms. She exchanged a quick nod with the Blood Crone, leader of the Dar al Annot and handed over the small jar. “Take it,” she hissed, “and do what must be done! Let the Serpent Mother rise again!”

With a wicked smile, the Blood Crone stroked the amphora slowly, lovingly, as a grandmother coddles her devil child. “You’ve done well, storm hag. Now the ritual will begin. In one month’s time, Mormo will rise.”

“Nothing can stop us this time,” Hielaa cackled with glee.

Three weeks later, a filthy elf and her Hornsaw Unicorn led a dwarf, an elf, a Vigil Arcanist, a Keeper of the Eternal Flame, and a Mithril Knight to the footsteps of Annot Kalambath… the Serpent Citadel.

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The Afterlife

The cacophony of the forest woke Samael from a deep sleep. He was startled at his surroundings and the noise. The woods? This was not where he had been. What had happened? Samael couldn’t figure out what was going on. With a quick roll he was on his feet. Nothing looked right in this place. The forest was extremely lush and ancient, Samael had never seen anything like this before.

The trees were overgrown and surrounded by vegetation. Animals were everywhere as if they didn’t even care that he was there, not a one even paid him any attention. The smells and the sounds of the woods were so foreign to Samael he felt like he was on a completely alien world. Everything looked so perfect and at the same time wasn’t right.

Samael tried to look as far out as he could but the distance was obscured by a hazy light. This place just wasn’t natural, but he felt so at ease. He wanted to stay here forever and just enjoy this feeling and explore this place, but he had a mission. He had friends that he had to help, and Ennoia was not here either! Samael pushed himself forward, starting at a walk but it turned into a run. No matter how hard he tried though he didn’t seem to come anywhere near the edge of the forest and he still couldn’t see the end.

The light just grew brighter the further he ran as if he were running into the rising sun. As he ran he thought he could hear little sounds, people talking maybe? He thought he heard voices ringing through, they were his friends, comrades. What was going on what had happened in that tomb that he was no longer there. The louder the voices became the weirder he felt, like he didn’t belong there anymore.

The last sound he heard before everything went black again was a booming ominous voice. “Go back, Your time has not come yet.” And then everything was gone, the light, the forest, everything went completely black and it felt like he was unconscious. The only thing he could hear or feel was his heartbeat, it had started again.

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Chapter 6b: The Serpent and the Scepter, Part 2

In the ghost town of Vauldell, in the foothills of the Kelder Mountains, deep in Black Dragoon territory, a company of Dragoons and Calastian soldiers milled about in the mid-morning rain. The Archfiend Fiarun, with his red hair up in a warrior’s queue and his wide-flanged mace bouncing against his blackened full-plate, watched as his men searched the foothills. He knew this was an exercise in futility – the men had seen the great harrier birds rise above the mountains with many riders upon their backs.

“Damn the Urian elves,” Fiarun swore. “Damn Coreanites…” Really, Fiarun was angry with himself for getting too zealous when telling the story of Marilvaz, and telling the adventurers from Vesh about the town of Vauldell.

One of the Calastian soldiers approached the Archfiend. “Sir! The elf, albadian, dragon-cleric, sorcerer, and dwarf are gone. We found the remains of a scuffle in Marilvaz’s tomb and several of his tomes are missing.”

Fiarun’s cheeks turned as red as his hair. “Burn the village. Slaughter the elderly farmers who remain.”

“Yes, sir!”

“Oh, and corporal… when it’s over, submit yourself and your men to the Black Dragoons to be executed.”

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Harrier sketch

IMG_3483.JPG

Trying again, my phone was being glitchy for some reason.

Anyway, I decided to sketch the giant falcon my character met last session. I drew a Sila silhouette next to it because I imagined it wouldn’t be a very large bird indeed, to be able to carry two people.

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Meditations Part 2

Samael sat on his bed, his legs crossed as he meditated. The day had been frustrating to say the least. It bothered him that they’d found so little in the dungeon and it’s traps were so intricate, this was going to be a much harder task than he thought. There were so many secret doors and surprises that they had to deal with. He reflected on his failures and how he could improve upon them. The hidden doors puzzled him, this place was not created by an elf it was obvious from what they had learned but the all the secret doors he’d found. Why were they there, wasn’t this supposed to be a tomb? This man must have been a very very paranoid man. And the traps, he must be hiding something very precious or just be utterly mad.

His mind wandered upon the tomb for a while until he got to the mirror that damn mirror that swallowed one of his new friends. Or at least Samael considered all of these people friends. Even the weird little dwarf that was constantly bothering his new companion. Boswell had been sucked into the magical trap that had contained another being. This one was NOT his friend, and was not to be trusted. She had joined the party and gone back to the cleric’s house, but something was beyond weird about her. He didn’t trust how quickly and willingly she joined their party. The girl didn’t know who they were, what they were up to, but joined them without hesitation. And to top it off, Ennoia didn’t like the woman. Ennoia stayed away from her, always kept herself between Samael and the new woman. She growled and grumbled whenever she made to move anywhere near him. It was a much more defensive action than she had to the dwarf that she didn’t like. It bothered Samael, it bothered him a lot. He contemplated waking someone else to keep watch on this girl but hopefully his meditation would be short enough that he could keep an eye on her as soon as he was done.

He had told Ennoia to lay at the end of his own bed to protect him while he meditated. Hopefully his fears were not warranted but something inside of him told him not to trust the girl. Only time would tell now though. He cleared his thoughts and went back to meditating and preparing himself for the days ahead. His ranger training would have to be enough to rely on in case anything were to happen.

Samael was becoming quite confident with his abilities. Even his latent magical abilities were starting to show themselves. He had learned the spells during his training and now he was finally able to use them. But which ones would help him the most. He only had the ability to use one of the many spells he knew each day.He would have to choose wisely each day to prepare the spell that would be most useful for the situation.

Ennoia’s well being was also in the forefront of his mind. She wasn’t a tool or a weapon to him. She was another companion to fight with the party. One that he wanted with him the rest of his life. Ennoia would be the first being that Samael ever trusted completely and he knew that she was sent to him thanks to his training and a gift from the gods and the earth mother titan that his people gave fealty to. Samael thanked them from the bottom of his heart and thanked their messengers that had helped them so far. The Taurosphinx and the Coreanic steeds. The gods were definitely looking well upon them for providing them with such help. It also impressed upon him how important this job was.

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Chapter 6: The Serpent and the Scepter, Part 2

Excerpt from The Vigil’s Second Collection of Creatures: the Dark Menagerie

On Face Stealers

In their natural form, a face stealer appears to be a humanoid covered in shaggy fur and sporting lanky limbs. All of its proportions are distorted from what would be a normal human, elf, or other Divine Race’s beatific ways. Unfortunately, rare indeed is the vigil who can catch a face stealer in its natural form.

The creatures, through an ill-understood titanic magic, steal the face of their enemies and wear their bodies as their own. They absorb the stolen face’s memories, at least partially, and are often quiet violent monsters. They like beautiful people and will become obsessed with stealing their identities.

Three great such beasts have been found across Ghelspad. One in particular is called by a title, the Great Messenger of Equality (or, in classical Ledean, the Equi-Faxae) and is believed to have a goal of stealing the identities of at least half the nation.

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Freedoom

As Boswell reflected on the events of the past few days he felt more certain than ever before as to the purpose of the Vigils and what his country of Vesh stood for. He shuddered as he recalled the evil totalitarian way of life in this foreign country. While the paths are clean and the roads are free of bandits at what price does this law and order come? The people lack the ability of self determination and if you are found to be non-conforming in anyway, death and misery is what you can expect.

As Boswell pondered all of this he smiled grimly as he realized that he and his party must go even deeper in the den of oppresssion by meeting with this notorious duke. As distasteful as this seemed, Boswell understood that he and his party must stay the course for the good of their mission.

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Chapter 5: The Serpent and the Scepter, Part 1 - Torhilda

Belemir the elf leaned down to pet Huan behind the ears, his imposing traveling companion looking at a map.

“How are we supposed to find the right Asuras house to speak to?” Valda asked, mostly to herself. “Everything here has the name Asuras on it.”

“You said we’re looking for an archeologist.”

The sorceress looked over at the elf and his dog, staring at him in surprise.

“You WERE paying attention!”

“The meeting was… unnerving,” Belemir said quietly, checking Huan’s harness.

“You were scared,” Valda said. “Admit it. And yes, we’re looking for an archeologist who works for Asuras, Ara Koska Tabir.”

“Who is looking for me?” A short woman on the street asked, looking at the tall Albadian and her elf friend.

“We are,” Valda answered, as Belemir was opening his mouth to answer also, stepping on his foot to keep him quiet. “I heard you’re the best archeologist the Asuras family has on staff. And the most determined.”

“I wonder who you’ve been listening to… that’s not what my boss says,” Miss Tabir said with half a smile. “Most annoying, perhaps. Though in the nicest way.”

“I imagine it’s your northern blood giving you that grit and determination,” the Helliann sorceress says with a smile, recognizing a certain accent in the short woman’s voice. “But you missed out on the height, I see.”

The scholarly woman’s eyebrows rose. “Not many pick up on that, but then you’re not long from the Mount, are you? Was there something you need an archeologist for?”

“Yes, in fact there is,” Valda answered, remembering her mission. “There’s an archeological dig at Mullis Town, could be some very useful artifacts buried in the river mud. Maybe some with special healing capabilities. But no one of much skill is organizing the dig, and it’s a mess. They need an expert, and I think you’re the one.”

“Mullis Town… that’s quite a journey.” Ara Koska Tabir said, tapping her chin. “Healing artifacts, you say?”

“If you can escort us to your superior, we can go over the details of your next expedition…”

Later that day, walking out towards the forest, Valda made a check mark on a list.

“You used her pain. She’s trying to heal someone.” Belemir stated, looking at the sorceress.

“Yes, and family can drive us to do extraordinary things. I fulfilled the mission, and I hope she does find the artifact she needs, while also being where she’s needed by others.”

“Speaking of family…” Valda looked over at Belemir with a grin, next to a field of red lotus.

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