The verdant leaves rustled as they parted, their majestic brightness, glistening with the renewal of Spring. Fat lazy rain drops rolled of the leaves, falling to the hungry clumps of long youthful shoots of clumped bright green grass. The pitter patter, of the water, as it hits the wide broad shoots, made a staccato like a marching band, in honor of the interloper.
And striding from their depths was Tam, with the air of an unabashed womanizer. He wore a charming smirk, even as he walked through the depths of a wild forest. A longsword of Temiun steel, hung from his left hip from a fine dark leather frog holder hanging from his belt. Rivulets of loitering rain water, rolled down the length of his scabbard. The water found channels in the leather, creating small streamers, along the battered sheath. Small pouches, and coin purses adorned his waist. And a wide tanned leather bandoleer with a brace of jack knives accompanied his woodland dyed leather tunic. The hood of forest green adventurers cloak swayed to and fro with his movements. With an unbowed confidence, he moved along the barely perceptible deer path. Blazing, a trail for his trailing companions.
Coming behind him was a squat wide angry eyed Pit dwarf. Where as Tam was grace, and charm, Onikk was a mass of anger and fury. He was covered head to toe in auld dwarven war plate armor. A heavy war shield may of stout oak and thick iron, hung from metal catches, attached from his backpack. His powerful piston like frame, bearing the load equally across his shoulders, and his waist. Clenched in his meaty mailed fist, was a squat but yet broad, spiked warhammer. It was of ancient design, and bore the stamp of a long lost dwarven clan, from before the catastrophic War of Magic. Looking at the two, they were an unlikely pair. And yet they shared each other’s company. With the dwarf grumbling under his breath, about something regarding being drowned, by a bloody forest. This caused the tall human to just laugh, with mirth at the dwarf’s discomfort.
And rounding out their group was the itinerant priestess of the Ultimate Light, Sister Lucia. A swift smile crossed her broad yet strangely attractive face as she watched Onikk waddle through the forest. He hated the trees, and the brush. She found comfort in their presence though. A loose strand of ash blond hair fell out of her leather hair bind. She wore a surcoat of pink, with an autumn gold sun print on it, it was secured in place with a wide, thick golden brown leather belt. Underneath, a light suit of chainmail, rang with a musical tone, in time with her movements, almost as a counterpoint to the harsh grating of the dwarfs plate armor. Her only weapon was a flail, it’s head was fashioned as a brass colored radiant sun swinging from her hip, that swung very little due to her holster she wore making it easier to grab. The clink of the well oiled chain links joined in the sounds of her armor, like a singer joining the choir of metal. She also very smart clothing, leather buckskin breeches, that clung to her voluptuous form. Her boots matched her pants, but they had down turned thick leather collars, of a considerably more fashionable style that was more at home in the city, and less suited to woodland visits. They would easily be seen on a seafaring buccaneer. But they were well worn, and well taken care of. The sleeves of her under tunic, and cloaks were of autumn golds and pink highlights. And coming along with her out of the woods, was a floating magical ornate round shield, on it’s surface, it bore the device of a rich dark golden radiant sun disk, on a pale yellow background. The shield bobbed up and down as she walked, pushed leaves out of her way and didn’t stray more than four inches from her as she moved.
Tam began to whistle, a jaunty tune. Subconsciously. He did it when he was distracted, and thinking about something, often when interrupted and asked what he was whistling for, he would always resort to a joke about his time with his last dalliance, in whatever village they had stopped in most recently.
In this case, he was thinking of their last visit to Sharlin, with that little wastelander village Inn. Called The Randy Ram, located just outside of the village proper. That little visit, led Tam to find out about an old ruined chapel complex from the time before the end of the last great war.
He smirked again, as he thought, about how close the entire world came to ruin. And for many people, it actually had ended. The world was left a horrific scarred wasteland. With monsters, and worse roaming the vast stretches of empty barrens. The world itself, had been terribly damaged by the end times. When titans strode the world, and their intermediaries fought on their behalf. There were still some cities so corrupted by the use of magical annhilation, that mana storms of pure unrivaled power flow out and lash the land, like a tortured mistress.
Tam’s smirk did not wave, as he thought about his ancestor’s past. And if not for his great, great, great grandfather, who was adventuring with Onikk’s uncle Kwaren, and their subsequent adventure that led them to deep pit in the mountains. From there they ecountered beasts of chaos and destruction, and were forced deeper into the mountain, with them getting lost in the under mountains passageways, for many years. If not for those actions Tam wouldn’t exist today.
But he did, and now the world was in the process of rebuilding itself. And the world was ripe for those who would go and seize their destiny in both hands. And Tam certainly did that a fortnight ago with that innkeepers daughter. As two who were clinging to life, within the throes of urgent passion, they found true comfort in each others embrace. That chance visit revealed to Tam, that if one were bold, one could visit the eastern borderlands of of the land claimed by the Darsaana. The woman had met another adventurer, recently. They had come back laden with treasures, and gold. And by chance, found many maps, in the trove. One of which Siri recognized from older maps in books that she once had. And offered to Tam, for a modest share of any treasures encountered, to divulge the location.
Knowing the area, they figured they could make a base of operations out of the Darsaana border village Kellvyl. And according to the rumors, they had heard in their travels. The dread leader of Darsaana was known as one of the rare and powerful magi, but if the the rumors were true, and one paid proper tribute, or so the rumors stated, he would possibly hire those adventurers to seek out even greater treasures.
And Tam was more than willing to get in the good graces of the King of Dasaana. Because that would put more coin in his pocket, and allow him to one day fulfill his own personal destiny.
A quick glance at the hand drawn leather bound map, it bore the markings indicating they were nearing their destination.
He held up his left hand and motioned it forward, “Were here I believe.” His confident baritone voice, reassured his long time friends. That indeed they were here.
Onikk just grumbled, with furious droplets of sweat just beading off his forehead, and running in rivulets off his massive nose. He always insisted on wearing full armor, when travelling. Because as he often yelled, the point of armor is to keep you alive, and his would. With a mailed hand, he wiped the sweat off his ruddy face. And then he unslung his heavily battered, warshield, and attached it on his left arm. The surface of the shield bore many dings and dents in it’s massive bronze face. But the shield had saved all of their lives on more than one occasion. And still shone with a glimmering brilliance.
“Now what’s gonna be goin’ wrong. Knowen’ dat’ yer plans always do.” He said with a thick earthy rumble. It was said without spite, more simply stated as a fact, of past experiences.
Lucia’s guffaw’s of laughter rolled through the sun dappled glade. The sort of deep laughter of friends, hearing old inside jokes. A rich smile broke across her tanned face, and sent a twinkle to her rich golden brown eyes. Tam just looked back at them, and feigned a wounded expression. But he couldn’t stifle a bit of a laugh, that broke past his stoic countenance.
“Look, not everyone can win a pile of gildars, every time they play poker. And anyways, that standing order in Tovia to arrest us on site, should be expiring soon. Now, who would of thought, that old fortress, would house a breeding pit for Nariun Ring Slugs.” He commented back in a jovial response.
They all chuckled at those memories. With Onikk again calling out, as he stepped to the moss covered flagstone. “Bah, ye be always finden us some trouble. At least I gets to vent. And after ye be making me be walking tru’ dis here forst’ for da’ last two days, I be really, ready to be venting!” His face was flushed a bright red, and gleaming with hot sweat.
And if someone didn’t know Pit dwarves well, they would think he was about to die. But that was just their normal state of comfort. He let the shield drop a moment and took a giant pull of one of his many thick sundeer hide waterskins. He wiped his hammer clenched fist across his thick moustache and long braided beard. The thick bright orange-red whiskers, barely moved when he did. But it seemed to give him pleasure, just touching it.
Spread out Before them, was an ancient site, covered with large fauna. It looked like a gigantic child had decided to play with the ruined temple. Large cracked and broken marble columns were strewn about without any visible pattern. Their ancient cracks were filled with teaming life, of insects, and green creeper vines. Flying back and forth between them were large black song birds, going to and fro, as they fluttered amongst them. The cacophany of insects, and animal life left a long droning chorus, to greet visitors.
The thick heavy air in the glade was filled with rich scents, sweet and inviting. Almost candy like. And something shiny seemed to be glinting in the dappled patches of sunlight, that stole through and past the thick verdant canopy.
A tinkling sound seemed to accompany shining glints of golden light, that floated by the remains of a larger central structure who’s devastated outer walls appeared to have been smashed inwards. And yet also in other places they had been smashed outward. All acting as sentinals and as protective walls around a massive and towering black stone ziggurat.
The lay of the land surrounding this malevolent structure, was antithesis of the ziggurat itself, beyond it’s walls, it was like walking through a fey wonderland. Bright flowers, raged in a riot of colors along the old cracked flagstones. Brilliant shinging blues, and striking lemon yellows. Were batched with loud orangebursts, and an variety of understated violets, and purples.
Standing from their vantage point, they could see a small natural pool of water, off to the west of the main structure, there were many insects buzzing around it, with the shining black feathered, song birds swooping every so often through them, as they ate, and consumed their aerial meals.
The group looked at each other, and the spectacle before them. It was awe inducing, yet also left the viewer, with the pregnant sense of a pause. A hint of ozone in the air, just before a great storm was unleashed.
With his smirk firmly in place, Tam began to stroll down into the glade, drawing his glowing longsword from it’s scabbard, sending a ring of metal upon metal. “Into the center of chaos and beauty we go.” There was a hint of fear, and confidence mixed into his voice.