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[UO Herald] The Awakening (swiped from Uhall)

Discussion in 'UO Siege Perilous' started by kelmo, Jan 20, 2012.

  1. kelmo

    kelmo Old and in the way
    Professional Stratics Veteran Alumni Dread Lord

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    Written by the EM Team

    http://vboards.stratics.com/uhall/258800-[uo-herald]-awakening.html

    “Last time I do a favor for Rollins…” He looked at the note he’d been given from Rollins about taking a friend of his along with him. Victor glanced around his horses, and checked the fastenings on the saddles for the fourth time as the wind picked up. He looked at the skies as the heavens threatened to open up and deliver their own cargo upon the land, before exhaling heavily. Climbing back up into the bench on the front of the wagon he muttered, “I just hope whenever this Sherry gets here that she’s packed and ready to go.”

    “I’m right here and ready, sir.”

    “By the Virtues!” Victor exclaimed as his heart raced in his chest, looking down to where the voice had come from, and seeing only a tawny little mouse wearing a tiny grey shawl over her shoulders. He blinked a few times and rubbed his eyes, before realization hit him. “Y-you’re the Sherry! Sherry the mouse I mean!”

    “That’s right! It’d take me a lot longer to walk to Yew than I’d like, so I asked around if there were any travelers on the way, and that’s how I found you! Permission to come aboard, sir!” Sherry let out a few quick squeaks which Victor chose to interpret as her attempt at giggling. He reached a hand down to help her, and she scampered quickly to sit next to him. With a crack of leather he lashed the reins of the horses to spur them on towards the road.

    Sherry squeaked in surprise at the noise. Looking slightly abashed, her voice rose above the hoofbeats, “Sorry! It’s been a while since I’ve ridden with anyone. I’d almost forgotten how fast it feels traveling this way! So how has your trading business been lately?”

    Victor shushed her, much to Sherry’s chagrin, before he spoke quietly enough that it hardly rose past the percussive beat of hooves. “It’s been…good and bad. I’ve been getting more pay for my goods, but the roads have been more dangerous lately, and a lot of traders don’t make it to their destination. We must be careful.” Victor sighed at length, looking across the darkening road as the sun descended further in its orbit. “It seems that the feeling left over from banding together to defeat Virtuebane is swiftly vanishing, and the nobles are fighting even worse than before.”

    Sherry’s face lengthened as she listened, and she looked down to the road swiftly passing by underneath the wagon, before looking back up to Victor. Victor’s eyes were locked on the road, but they darted back and forth in the gloom of the forest, seeking out hidden dangers. Sherry started to open her mouth but was interrupted as Victor spoke once more.

    “There’s a lot of paranoia and tension in the realm. I’ve seen fights break out between trading partners of decades, and families torn apart over their family businesses. I don’t think there’s a way to stop it.” Victor shuddered at something that this mention conjured up inside him, and Sherry stared at him briefly.

    “What is it? What’s wrong?”

    Victor’s eyes held a haunted and tortured look in them, and he took a deep breath before he spoke, but he refused to meet Sherry’s gaze. “Sherry ... let me tell you a story about an ... experience I had last week in Vesper. Maybe it’ll help to finally tell someone. It started off with an innocent enough encounter...” Victor took a deep breath, and as Victor told the story Sherry swore she was seeing it unfold right in front of her very eyes...
    Victor paused amidst the bridge and looked south towards the sea, taking in the sights of the boats on the horizon before he heard another’s approach. He ignored them until he noticed that the woman had stopped and rested her own hands on the bridge and seemed to be gazing out to sea as well, though her wide-brimmed hat covered much of her face. As thunder echoed in the distance the woman spoke so softly that at first Victor wasn’t sure she’d spoken at all. “Excuse me?”

    “There’s a storm coming, you know.”

    Victor chuckled good-naturedly. “Not a rare thing here in Vesper.” He looked over to the woman but his smile vanished in an instant at the sight of her face as she turned to look at him. While the gypsy woman's toothy smile was almost malicious in its bearing, it was her clouded, murky white eyes that resonated through a chord of fear in his being. Despite her obvious blindness, her gaze seemed to bore deep within to his very core. He had never felt a sense of trepidation like that which accompanied her next question.

    “Would you like to know the future, boy?”

    Victor swallowed hard and his hand went down to a pocket to fish out a few coins, hurriedly passing them to the woman while nodding his assent. Realizing his mistake he swallowed again, as all the stories of fortunetellers and oracles that he’d heard as a child flooded back to him in an instant.

    “Y-yes, I would.”

    The gypsy’s arms rose up and the shawl around her shoulders fluttered as she gestured with her hands, performing some archaic bit of wizardry to allow her to pierce the veil. Her voice dropped into a hoarse whisper as her movements held a rhythm all their own that kept his attention riveted.

    “People have risen and people have fallen, and throughout it all none hear the calling. The storm clouds gather and their potency rises, as none step forth to address the crisis. Though the raging winds and lightning ensue, it’s their aftermath that poses to consume. The path will open to our preservation, but not without its own consternations. The flames will brew and threaten us all, unless a way is found to pacify the squall.” Her tones had taken on an eerie cadence of song to them, and her swaying came to a close as she finished her incantations, regarding the shaken Victor as if waiting for some kind of response.

    “I…I don’t understand. What do we do?” Victor’s voice trembled for a moment as he forgot himself, while he felt a swell of dread rising in his gut. The gypsy folded her arms over her chest and bowed her head slightly so her hat covered all but his view of her mouth. Her lips moved ever so deliberately as she spoke once more, but this time with none of the lyrical tones she had adopted during her divinations.

    “The fires of fate will burn hot and bright, and this cannot be stopped by mortal hand; it is our duty to determine what these fires do.” With that she started to walk across the bridge before he shouted to her, causing her to pause and seemingly glance back over her shoulder.

    “What do you mean? I still don’t understand!”

    “Fire is a destructive and constructive force. In its embrace is where we can burn away our impurities, but linger too long and nothing is left to salvage.” With that parting shot, the blind fortuneteller strode confidently through a Vesper that felt colder and harsher than it had mere moments ago…

    As Victor’s tale drew to a close, Sherry gave the wagon driver a plaintive glance, and her tiny body shook as she swore she could almost hear the woman’s voice. She couldn’t find any words in response and instead studied Victor’s face inquisitively. It was plagued with worry and uncertainty, and she could feel its infectious touch beckoning her.

    Victor’s dismayed expression only darkened as they passed by the burned and arrow pocked wreckage of another caravan along the road, and the sky suddenly burst forth with a crash of lightning. Raindrops began to patter along the wagon, and Victor gestured to the covered portion. “Go ahead and get inside, it’ll keep you warm and mostly dry. I’ll tell you when we arrive.”

    Sherry climbed inside the wagon without a word and curled herself up into a ball against a few sheafs of wheat that were in the wagon, carefully avoiding the holes in the patched and worn canvas roof. Despite the shelter of the wagon keeping her warm and dry, her body was wracked with shivers from a chill that emanated from within. When sleep came to her, it arrived riddled with nightmares.
     
  2. kelmo

    kelmo Old and in the way
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    Re: [UO Herald] The Awakening - Act 1 (swiped from Uhall)

    Written by the EM Team

    http://vboards.stratics.com/uhall/259365-[uo-herald]-awakening-act-1-a.html

    Buzzards circled high in the sky above the inland roads that led away from the ferries of Skara Brae, their lazy paths taking them in loops above whatever carcass lay beneath. Artemia took notice of them as she crept silently through the forest, hot on the heels of the hart she’d spied an hour earlier. The old stag was a crafty one and had kept out of any clean shots so far, but she knew that ahead lay a clearing before the land gave way to the road. If she was going to get a clean shot, that would be her opening. With swift and sure motions she indulged herself in the hunt, and she broke into the clearing and sighted on the great stag for only a brief moment before a scowl rose to her face. It seemed that the object of the vulture’s attention was here. The stag made its way back into the brush as she stalked closer to the carcasses in the clearing, and began to check through them.

    The packhorses were clearly dead, and though they bore a mix of wounds, the feathered hafts of spent crossbow bolts spoke to what appeared to be an ambush. Their packs were empty as she’d suspected from the first, but she didn’t see any trace of their owner…until she noticed a light spattering of blood across trampled grass. She quietly nocked an arrow and stalked along the trampled grass until she found its end, where a fallen branch of dead leaves covered a man’s body. She kept her bow trained on him until she noticed no reaction, and stowed the arrow back into the quiver attached to her sash. Moving around the branch she took a moment to admire his face before shaking her head. She slung her bow over a shoulder and moved the branch off to see if she could identify him, or if there was enough left to take back with her. As she took stock of his wounds, she noticed a few shafts emerging from the side of a leg, and it looked like one of his arms was out of the socket. She knelt for a moment and closed her eyes before she became aware of a sound so soft she hadn’t noticed it until now. She looked down and laid her head atop the man’s chest for a moment to see if she wasn’t mistaken, but sure enough there it was; the slightest hint of life still ran through him. She set to work immediately, taking a flask of yellow liquid from a pouch at her side and pouring a bit of the potion down the man’s throat, following it up with another flask of cloudy white liquid. The man’s breathing seemed to strengthen, and Artemia put an arm under his head and scooped the man up with a grunt of effort, making her way back to Skara Brae.

    The extent of the trader’s wounds only became apparent when they had time to examine him at the healers. Artemia stayed in the room until the healers urged her to wait outside, but even that was enough to see that he had a half dozen other wounds from various weapons. Cuts and bruises, a missing ear, broken hand, seven crossbow bolts, dislocated shoulder, broken leg, and Virtues knows what kind of internal injuries. It was shocking that he’d lived after it all, and Artemia wasn’t holding her breath on his continued survival. After a brief wait she began to get restless, and peeked her head inside once before heading towards the Ranger’s Guild. Live or die, the trader’s life was in the healer’s hands now.

    Making her way through town she avoided a few of the roads and ignored the trash that littered the streets. The stench of the city had never held any appeal for her, but the rotting refuse that lay scattered amongst the town definitely wasn’t helping improve her disposition. As she traversed perpendicular to one of the main streets she stopped, feeling her body tense, and she crept to the corner of the next building and peered down the road.

    A small group of citizens were outside one of the businesses, shouting and screaming something she couldn’t make out over the tumult of their combined voices. Their demeanor was clear, and she could tell it was yet another of the riots that had been happening lately, but there was something different about this group. She looked more carefully, and that was when she noticed the one in the center with a heavy satchel. As she watched, he opened the satchel and pulled out an improvised explosive, and started his attempts to light it. As quietly as she could she unslung her bow, nocked an arrow, and fired at the man. The arrow whistled across the distance in an instant, piercing through the rioter’s arm and causing him to drop the bottle, and the others fled in all directions. Artemia nocked another arrow as she approached, and kept it aimed clearly at the would-be arsonist’s face.

    “Give me one good reason the next one doesn’t go through your eye.”

    The man seemed to be in a state of minor shock at the arrow in his arm, but he managed to stammer out a response. “W-we aren’t trying to h-hurt anyone, b-but we have to s-send a message!”

    Artemia scowled darkly, but removed the arrow from the bow and drew the short sword at her side, as well as a coil of rope from her bag. “Well I’m sure the town guard will like to have a few words with you, then. Give me any trouble and that arrow in your arm becomes the least of your worries.” The man didn’t resist as Artemia bound him, and she got him onto his feet. Marching him through town she got a mixture of responses, but ignored them all equally until she’d handed the man over to the guard on duty. With a sigh she headed towards the docks before anything else interrupted her.

    She took a final look back to the city before boarding the ferry and tossing the sailor a few crowns, and they swiftly crossed the bay to the mainland. She could already tell as she approached that someone unfamiliar was at the ranger’s guild, if the shouting from the guildmaster was any indication. She stepped through the door in mid-tirade, closing it quietly behind herself and standing patiently as her guildmaster argued with the woman.

    “…dumb enough to go on a wild goose chase! And for what you’re offering it’s hardly worth my time to even talk to ya! If ya want to drag someone off to die with ya be my guest, but it ain’t gonna be me or any o’ mine! Now take ya blasted maps and get out of my building.” Artemia stepped aside to let the visitor leave, noting the shock of bright blonde hair the woman sported as she passed, and looked towards the guildmaster for a moment. The old man sighed and rubbed a hand across his head, reaching for the drawer that she knew contained his flask. Noticing this, Artemia shook her head and returned out the way she came in. Artemia searched the nearby area to see if there was any salvaging her stag hunt…Even though she knew it could only be a brief, momentary respite from the reality that was unfolding around her.
     
  3. kelmo

    kelmo Old and in the way
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    As an aside. I am reading that this event is live on Test Center and will continue to unfold until September, the 15th anniversary of Ultima Online.