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The Long Dark Road

Discussion in 'UO Catskills Role Play' started by Deraj, Aug 20, 2015.

  1. Deraj

    Deraj Sage
    Stratics Veteran Stratics Legend

    Mar 10, 2004
    Likes Received:
    Posted June 17, 2015.

    Tserim Arryth, once-legendary ranger, trudged up the stairs of the outpost and into the barracks. First a defeat at the Terathan Keep. Then another argument in a long line of arguments with that hopelessly stubborn woman, Oona. Candles cast soft orange light in the darkness on lines in his face shaped by frowns, weary from conflict as he sat upon his bunk. Nothing really felt the same anymore after he became First Seeker. The group was already broken, like an egg, never to be reassembled. Life had lost its color after that. Ale, it's flavor. Donuts, their sweetness. Dancing was pointless. His dusty lute, an empty vessel. Everyone had long ago grown tired of his stories and his jokes. Everyone had, long ago, moved on. He looked about him to see rows of empty bunks. Kat lived in the other outpost. Toby slept in a log or wherever he went at night. Oona and Mylar seemed to dwell in their own houses. The only soul he heard that night was the quiet slumber of Corinna sleeping in her bunk nearby, an image, he imagined of his own future, the Keeper of an empty outpost. The rest of them, gone. Even his own brother had not returned after leaving the cabin over a year ago. The world was moving ever forward, and there was Tserim, still stuck in one place, bound to the sorry duty of a First Seeker, and watching over his broken family as its collective spirit died. And so, he laid himself down, laying in his bunk without blanket as the cool night breeze came through the open window, watching the familiar sight of dark wooden beams above him, and the soft, distant sound of the forest nocturne of Spiritwood calmed his restless mind.

    He felt, for a moment, like he once did long ago: abandoned.


    Posted June 28, 2015.

    Tserim ventured into the forest that night after the heated discussion at the outpost about the fate of Hal the Wandering Healer. Or was it Semidar? It was hard to say at this point. The frustration and inward regret tore at him as the debate persisted within, even as he wandered alone. On another day, he would have followed the trusted advice of Katalin, but now he was gripped by cynicism. In a seemingly futile world filled with scouts who wouldn't listen, seekers that broke their oaths, bears that *always* win, charming snakes as governors, and old wounds that refused to heal, he bitterly battled the ever-growing sense of futility which seemed to cloud their efforts. He would not allow this evil to pass. He would not let- "Evening, mate." A low, gruff voice interrupted his thoughts.

    He looked over to see a man kneeling a few yards away. The man seemed to be inspecting the ground. Ragged leather covered him, and atop his head, a strange deer head. Tserim said nothing.

    "Troubles?" the stranger said.

    "None that are your concern," replied Tserim curtly.

    "Now, no need for rudeness." The man stood up to face Tserim. "Name's Hawkins."

    Tserim raised a brow and slowly said, "...Tserim." He knew who this man was now, but didn't understand why this enemy would identify himself. He decided against reaching for his bow and said, "Why are you here?"

    "A man can't hunt some food..?" Hawkins said.

    "Don't act like our meeting is a coincidence. What is your game?"

    Hawkins leaned against a tree, grabbed a berry from inside a pouch and tossed it effortlessly into his mouth. "No game. Come to see what's troublin' ye. Come to wonder when you're goin' to be the leader. When your goin' to buck up an' take charge like your meant ta. Wonderin' when you'll do what needs ta be done, and save tha' healer from the evil tha' grips him."

    Surprised, Tserim said, "How do you know about that??"

    "I don't," Hawkins said cooly. "Edgar knows." He tapped his head with his index finger.

    "Who is Edgar?" said Tserim incredulously.

    "Who is Edgar," Hawkins began, "Who is Edgar they say. They always say who is Edgar. They neva listen when Edgar talks to them. Instead they say, who is Edgar. An' when I tell them, they think he is what I say and not what he really is, hearin' but not seein'. How can I describe him? Do ye 'ave a voice in your skull, what's it called, a conscience, tellin' ye what ta do, how ta live an' all tha'? Do ye ever look to your conscience in dark days wonderin' what ta do, and comin' up empty handed? Aye, that's like Edgar. But Edgar is there when your consciences gives right up. Edgar knows all the paths in the forest." Hawkins stood up and began to walk away.

    Tserim called out to him as he left, "They say you talk to yourself, that you talk to this Edgar. If he's your conscience in dark times, why are you always talking to him?"

    In the shadows, he saw the vague silhouette of antlers moving as if a head turning to respond, and heard a gruff voice respond. "Friend, all my days are dark."


    Posted August 20, 2015

    There was a moment on that grim day, when from through the dark, overcast sky the setting sun peeked between an opening in the clouds in the distant horizon, casting a red, fiery light upon the clouds above and filling the northern outpost with a strange, luminescent glow. Upon a bed, Tserim Arryth sat upright, silently gazing at nothing with an expression both grim and patient.

    The walls of the outpost seemed to vibrate to the sound of a door downstairs opening and then closing, and the sound of steps below marked those of Corinna, the Keeper of the Rangers. She stopped where she stood to examine the documents she held outlining her own investigation into this case, yet also in some small way to delay, even for a moment, a matter that filled her heart with sorrow. Still, she continued, climbing the steps to find him there waiting. "Good evening, Tserim," said Corinna.

    Tserim looked right at her. "Keeper."

    Said Corinna, "You know why I am here, don't you?"

    He looked away. "You're here to interrogate me."

    "I'm here to find out what's going on -- I am on your side, Tserim. Never forget that."

    He shut his eyes and said, "There's nothing more to be said. It's over. Everyone believes that I killed Hal and not Semidar, and nothing can ever change that now. I will be put in jail and thrown out of the rangers forever."

    "Don't say that." Corinna began to walk past Tserim towards a neighboring bed. "There is still evidence to pur-"

    A moment later, his arm enclosed around her neck, the other holding fast to her right arm. She barely managed to stutter a strained "..Tserim..!" between her struggles to breathe. Tiny moving stars flew across her vision as the world seemed to dim and grow farther away to a tired numbness, but when she heard a distant voice calling out, "Hey!", she came violently back to her senses when what followed was an unnatural, piercing screech ringing in her ears. She stumbled forward as the death grip was released and, turning slightly, questioned her own senses as she saw, not one, but TWO Tserims!

    The Tserim which held her in that choke hold now himself was struggling violently like a trapped animal in the grasp of another Tserim. The attacker screeched repulsively as blood poured from a fresh knife wound. The two of them fought and tumbled around, keeping their balance amidst the beds and tables around them. The monstrous Tserim then broke free of the hold, striking the other Tserim across the face, but only before the second Tserim roughly pushed him back over a table, knocking it and a lantern over. As the attacker crashed through the table it was then set ablaze by the shattered lantern. This monstrous form rose to its feet and jerked about violently as the oil that had splashed upon its skin caught fire. In utter agony, it tumbled about in awful pain, screeching and knocking over tables and pushing beds aside.

    Tserim, the real Tserim, jumped away from this wretched scene and threw an arm around Corinna. Urgency marked his voice when he said, "Let's get out of here!" and guided Corinna towards the staircase. Swiftly they began descending the staircase as the agonizing shrieks of the look-a-like echoed throughout the halls. When they were halfway down the steps Tserim caught one last look of the second floor before it went out of view, to see that monster, now only a blackened form beneath a fiery blaze, flailing about wildly. There was a moment, however, when its strangely visible eyes seemed to pulse, and its howling seemed to subside, that offered Tserim in that fraction of a second a foreboding sense of imminent danger. He threw his arms around Corinna to protect her and started to say something, "Corinna, watch o-!"

    In the next second, a deafening roar and blinding light shook his senses, and then-!



    Roused by the smell of dense smoke, he awakened in darkness and began to move, but indescribable pain bade him stop. He could hear voices nearby carrying with them an air of hostility. His senses told him the danger was still present. Once again he tried to move, forcing himself through the pain but found, to his distress, that he could not. "Move that log!" A distance voice called out. Suddenly, the rubble which covered him was cleared away, and in the dim light he saw a woman standing above him. A masked woman.

    "So you're the one that murdered Semidar," she said, her voice like an echo behind the mask. She continued, amusement in her voice, "Not so legendary now, are you?" The woman gestured behind Tserim and, struggling to turn his head, he was barely able to see a huge wooden beam resting upon his now shattered spine. He realized, then, that he could not move his legs, or feel the broken wooden shaft upon which his abdomen was impaled. Blood gushed from the wound. The masked woman tilted her head. "You're a goner, young man." She looked down at him, while a few shrouded figures walked away with one of them carrying an unconscious Corinna.

    He thought he had said something in that moment. He thought he had yelled out, "You won't get away with this!" or possibly, "The rangers will stop you!"; at least in his mind he said these words, but only silence and gurgling blood came from his lips. There he lay, trembling as fear and urgency and anxiety poured over him and a tingling, cascading numbness began to spread throughout. He felt, in those final moments, the overwhelming desire to fight the futility of it all, to break free - he felt himself pushing beyond the constrictions of his paralysis - felt himself standing, throwing off every constraint, every log, every chain. He felt himself taking up his bow in a firm grip and drawing the string with unprecedented ease. He felt the arrow fly, and he along with it, like sprinting through the woods without resistance - like he himself was flying. Brisk air rushed by his face as he dashed through forest dusk. Stars in the clear night sparkled with unusual brilliance, and twin full moons glowed, each in opposing positions in the sky; Trammel with its bright red hue, and Felucca, a sickly teal, filling the foggy forest of Spiritwood with a strange, dual glow.

    The night forest was alive! He felt its pulse, heard every twig as it bristled in the wind, heard every croak of the frog, the chirping of the crickets, the dulcet chanting of the owls. But he also sensed the steps of cloven hooves in the damp grass - a massive stag standing in the distance, shadows obscuring its sepia fur and the dim moonlight pronouncing its proud antlers. It seemed to look knowingly at Tserim with darkened eyes that whispered darkened purpose, and he ran - ran to get away from it. It followed, never charging but always there, haunting and tormenting him along the way. A female voice called out to him, echoing from a distant place, "Tserim? Tserim!", a voice so familiar he could not resist it. He ran, still, following the melodic, motherly voice, desperately searching for its source and its protection from the great stag that pursued him.

    He nearly lost his balance at some point, tripping over a large, shallow depression in the ground, and when he caught his footing he saw it to be a footprint from a massive boot. The huge tracks lead through the forest, and he followed, all the while the tender voice called his name. He ran more swiftly, more desperately. The commotion of the forest became louder as he stumbled over bush and fallen logs. The chirping crickets became a deafening chorus. The owls, a booming menace. The bristling twigs a scratchy racket. The cacophony of sounds seemed to sync with the distant voice calling out to him, pronouncing it in a way that mocked him, and all the while he felt the great stag, its hot breath on his neck as he pushed uphill through thick brush, squeezing between tree trunks and over tall grass and through hidden branches, suffocating beneath the maddening ruckus of a fevered dream, hearing a thousand voices from his memories all speaking at once and from all directions, but as he pushed his way through a wall of branches and stumbled into an open plot of ground, every sound came to a sudden and conspicuous hush as he stood in the presence of a giant.

    Towering above him, a great statue of a man sat upon a cliff, its head bowed and its feet touching the ground near Tserim - its stone boots the destination of the massive footprints. Tserim looked up in awe at the figure, its contour illuminated but its features hidden by the shadows of moonlight. He approached the base of the statue, seeing a stone tablet in the cliff wall obscured by thick vines. He pushed aside the vines, and under the pale teal moonlight, in the strangely solemn silence of the forest, he read the inscription carved upon the stone:

    Tserim left his hand touching the stone, tears welling up in his eyes. There was, he could feel, nothing else here; no noisy critters, no womanly voice. Even the trees stood still here. There was nothing but the silence of a shadowy face looking down, not in judgement, but with a somber, melancholic love for its wayward son - its silence broken only by the faintest wind. He felt the cold air moving past him, and turned now to the cliff wall, once again moving thick vines to find the opening to a cavern. He entered.

    There was, at first, only darkness. But as he slowly tread further in he found a soft green glow upon the cavern floor, marking a path through a small, lonely tunnel that twisted and turned seemingly without end. There was no sound save the echo of his footsteps. The green foggy glow guided him, and soon he began to find vegetation and plant life growing on the walls deep in the darkness. Beyond the borders of cities, beyond the boundaries and dangers of the wilderness, hidden away and guarded by a titan, this long dark road to the edge of the map - to the edge of understanding - to the edge of the incomprehensible - finally reached its end.

    The passage opened up, and there he came to a small room wherein he found a green shaft of light. The strange object seemed to come from a hole in the ground and connected into a hole through the cave ceiling. It had a flickering glow like a fire, but did not burn. It moved like fabric floating in midair, yet could not be touched or held. He stood before it, his eyes filled with its emerald brilliance, and said simply, "Help me." He took one step forward and said, once again, "Please.. help me."

    And then, Tserim threw himself to his knees, tears once again welling in his eyes and he cried out, "HELP MEEE!!" - his forlorn cries ringing throughout the caverns, and echoing across the forests of Spiritwood, invoking the great noisy clamor of the woods once again, and the light of the cavern blazed in his eyes, it swelled into a great white incandescence, expanding and filling the entire room. He reached out to touch it, and his vision was filled by its radiance, and then, his senses slowly fading, the light retreated to nothing and all was dark.


    The masked woman stood before Tserim Arryth, watching a trembling arm reach in futility towards her and then falling to the ground. He rested his head on its side, pupils to the far right taking one last glimpse of her before they closed, and the sound of his short, labored breaths and gurgling blood gave way to silence.

    But as vacant eyes gazed into darkness, somewhere out there, under the starry night sky of Spiritwood, a ranger dashes across hidden roads, his laughs echoing, and he dances in the moonlight as the forest sings to him:

    ♪ Come back home! ♪
    ♪ Come back home! ♪
    ♪ Come back home, my wayward ranger! ♪
    ♪ You've done your part.. ♪
    ♪ Now rest your weary heart.. ♪
    ♪ For tomorrow's fight is wrought with death and daaaaangerrrrrr! ♪

    ~The End~​
    Zuckuss, Noble Beast and Faeryl like this.