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By request, the Solen quest

Discussion in 'UO White Stag Inn' started by Guest, Jan 31, 2004.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    (some information asked for...) /php-bin/shared/images/icons/wink.gif

    Ilshenar again was blessed with almost indescribable fair weather. In this land of new wonders, the sunlight always seemed a little brighter, the clouds floated a little higher, the air felt crisper and cleaner, and the waters of the lakes and rivers quenched the thirst more deeply. It truly was a land for the adventurer, open and free, but full of many dangers. The plot known as Pormir Felwis shared in nature's good will this day, however the air was perfumed with an aroma that was somewhat odd; the smoke of an open fire and roasted meat. This was peculiar in that, though many traveled through Ilshenar, not many people made camp.

    In a secluded clearing near the river the carcass of a wyvern lay splayed on the ground. The creature had been butchered in a rather shoddy fashion, but looked to have rendered up most of its useful portions. Near the corpse a young woman sat on the ground, elbows on knees, and at her feet was a small, hot campfire on which chunks of the slain lizard were cooking. In one hand she held a charred filet of wyvern and in the other hand a large clove of garlic. She would alternately tear a morsel of the meat with her teeth and then take a bite of the garlic, chewing rapidly and swallowing hard. Owing to the poisons that coursed through the monster's veins, the steaks were more tender and sweeter than Delucian beef, and her preparing the meat with garlic and ginsing before roasting almost made it a delicacy and much safer to eat. An assassin she met had hinted that if one were to eat the meat of a wyvern, and survive, it would increase ones immunity to poisons. The woman had a weakness to poisons, and weakness was something she had no use for. So she continued her deadly meal. Occasionally, she would retch and reel back as if to faint, at which time she would raise a flask of thick, orange liquid and desperately chug the fluid.

    The process continued until she could eat no more. She rested with her head lowered between her knees, at times shaking her head to clear her thoughts and make even a more tangled mess of her long blond hair. Drawing herself up to her feet, she took a few stumbling dance steps, as if to test the level of her vertigo. Satisfied that she was not about to collapse, she removed a sack of salt from her backpack and made to where she had staked out the wyvern's thick hide. She heavily salted the hide, working the grains in with her boots and fists. She swore at herself as she examined an area of the hide that was badly tattered and scourched. The bolt of thought and energy had dispatched the beast quickly, yes, but had blown the front leg and sholder from the creature and had ruined an otherwise perfect pelt. 'Better concentration,' she reminded herself.

    After the thick leather was thoroughly salted, she rolled it up tightly and bound it with tendons. There would be enough here for a new set of armour. The leather armour she wore at the time was made for a man. It restricted her breathing when she need to calm her thoughts and, in all honesty, didn't fit well for obvious reasons. A good tailor would set her up well, and the wyvern hide would offer greater protection. She lifted the heavy roll and carried it to where she had hitched her horse to a nearby tree. She threw the hide over the horse's rump and lashed it to the back of the finely crafted saddle. While tying the knots she glanced at the coat of arms for the House of Spur the was expertly tooled into the rise of the saddle. It reminded her that she should make great haste in returning the stead to the stable. If the Master of the House were to find out she had taken one of his horses without asking, he would have her hide!

    She readied to mount her horse, but quickly ran back to the wyvern carcass, as if she had forgotten something. She grabbed the monster's tail by its sharp stinger and with her knife made a deep incision beneath the dangerous barb. Reaching inside with her hand, she drew out the gland that contained the deadly liquid which had finished many a warrior. Cutting the gland free, she thought to herself that her assassin friend might pay well for this little item. Gently squeezing the gorey sack, she applied a smear of the poisonous bile to her knife and tucked the blade away safely in the sheath in the small of her back. She tied off the organ, stuffed it in her pack and returned to and swung up on her horse.

    She walked her ride to the edge of the clearing and looked back. She studied her campsite and then closed her eyes, held out an open, contorted hand, pursed her lips and released a puff of air, as if to blow out a candle. A violent gust of wind swept down over the trees and blasted into the clearing. Branches were broken and downed, leaves madly tossed about and the fire was extinguished; its ashes scattered. The wyvern's corpse was covered by the tossed about underbrush and all evidence of her previous activities was removed.

    She opened her eyes and cocked her head to the side admiring her work. She reined the horse around hard, loosed a loud, long whistle and spurred the animal into a gallop towards the nearby moongate. She entered the moongate at a full run as she did not fear this method of travel. Her presence was known briefly south of Trinsic and, only by the cause of her wishes and knowledge of the ethers, she then materialized with her steed's hooves pounding the firm soil of Vesper Road in the northeast of Felucca...
  2. Guest

    Guest Guest

    The old bridge thudded hollowly under hooves as the young mage trotted her master's horse into Minoc. Dirt-caked miners shuffled through the streets leading heavily laden packhorses to the smithy's shop where the ores of their labor were smelted into the materials that armed Britannia. She rode slowly through the workers that seldom raised their eyes, much less tipped a hat in her direction. Tending to a few errands, she haggled and bartered for a few items that she required, then made for the stable to return the stead. The stablemaster was properly bribed so that the horse was carefully groomed and that no one would know that the animal had ever left the stable. Her story in place, she ran through the sooty streets to the edge of town, glancing back as the chimney of the blacksmith's shop exhaled billowing clouds of black smoke that drifted slowly and sank upon the city. Minoc was busy these days.

    Quickly returning over the old bridge, the young woman crossed the road, scampered down the embankment and swiftly entered the dense forest. She walked a meandering path back to what she knew as home, gathering fresh roots and mosses as she traveled. Those who had raised her taught her that the fresher her reagents, the greater the effect they would have. Stooping in a patch of nightshade, she was startled by a clicking and ticking coming from a bramble up ahead. Lowering herself closer to the ground, she peered through the underbrush to discover a large, bizarre insect tearing at a rotten log with its large scythe-like appendages. The beast would shread the wood, then pick through it to separate out the bluish fungus that grew in the moldering pith. After the fungus was sifted out, it was briefly mouthed, as if to test for quality, then stored away in the folds of the giant's rigid, black skin that shone like highly polished shadow armour. In the distance, she could see another of the curiosities ripping at a small bush as if it had commited some great wrong to the creature. The closer insect paused from its toil to gently pull and clean its long antennae with its intimidating front claws. The sight of such a delicate task by such an ungainly brute made her giggle, which was a sound that was misplaced in these deep woods and to the great insect. The monster raised up and looked in her direction, moving its head from side to side to aid in detecting any motion in the brush. The mage snorted and scurried through the leaves on hands and knees, pushed through the brambles up a berm and tumbled down the other side of the incline, coming to rest at a line of houses that she recognized.

    Darting between the buildings, taking time to hide and look back, the girl come to a line of quaint houses. Dashing past the gleaming marble home, she noisily clomped up the steps of the neighboring log cabin. She hastily waved to the vendors next door who responded with their usual vulgarities. Smiling, she returned an improper gesture, unlatched the door to the cabin, rushed inside and slammed the door behind her.
    "M'lord? M'lord!" she called out.

    Maxim, heir to the House of Spur, hunched over a small writing desk. A thin thread of blue smoke snaked from a pipe nestled in the side of his mouth, fragrancing the room with the odor of damp tabacco and cherries.
    "Virginia, must you always slam the door? Tull worked most of yesterday repairing your last damage." Without moving he continued, "These scrolls you have brought me from the Lost Lands contain a great deal of knowledge. I have been reading them most of the morn and have yet to absorb it all." Turning slightly to face her, he was taken aback by her disheveled clothes and the mud and scratches on her face. Sighing, he groaned, "Where and what have you been up to this time? Wrestling with orcs again?"
    "Big bugs!" she pipped, bouncing on the balls of her feet "Big black bugs!"
    Maxim stood slowly, wondering if the creaking he heard was the aged furniture that had been under him, or his own bones. He walked towards Virginia, leaned foward and sniffed at her face for the hint of liquor, only to recoil from the stench of her well garliced breath.
    "I've not been a'drinking, m'lord. There are truly grand insects about in my woods!" she huffed.
    Pondering, Maxim replied, "Yes, of course. I should not be surprised in this curse'd land. We drive the Juka out only to have them replaced by abominations. I swear we should have taken task against the Meer rather than the Juka. At the least, the Juka are not clumsy magicians." He lifted a heavy pack from the floor and slung it to his sholder. "Very well then. I will look into this. I have business to tend to in Trammel. You, on the other hand, have another order of scrolls to inscribe," his reminder bringing a frown to Virginia's face. "After I have consulted with my salespeople, I will take in a hunt and see what is about. My prized Troy has not been out for a run as of late, the outing will be good for his heart. Open one of your gates to the stable for me, as you know how the use of runes effects me."
  3. Guest

    Guest Guest

    The smooth, hand-rubbed Yew wood made nary a creak as it flexed under the increasing tension. The braided gut cord twisted and stretched taut as frayed strips of leather woven into the strand fluttered in the morning breeze. Arrow nock, angled bowstring and gloved fingers moved in unison and came to rest on the exact same location on the archer's cheek that they had set so many thousands of times before. Shoulder and arm joints locked into position, muscles tightened and ceased their stressed twitching, a last breathe was slowly exhaled, the mental image of target and arrow as one became clear; for a brief, fleeting moment all things were calm and there arose a feeling of perfect peace.

    The arrow leaping from the bow suprised Maxim of Spur, as it should when his release was flawless. The absence of conscious effort and the minimum of physical movement would insure a straight and true flight. The arrow planed upwards slightly, then settled into a gradual trajectory as it coursed down range and struck the great insect in the midsection with a hollow thud. The wounded solen bolted a full three meters straight up and landed, stumbling, on its four hind legs. The creature took a few clumsy steps forward and clawed at the air with its front legs as if to defend against some unseen attacker. "The arrow has lodged well in the vitals," he thought to himself. Maxim quickly nocked, drew and loosed three more arrows, striking the huge ant in the same area as the first bolt. The mortally injured solen staggered ahead, suddered and collapsed into the underbrush. Spur cautiously rode up to the kill, noticing that the fluid that spilled from the carcass sizzled as it ate into the forest floor.

    From a nearby hilltop a stranger called out, "Hail! Hallo! Fine shot there, good sir! A most fine shot!" The stranger proceeded to ride down the face of the hill and was joined from behind with what seemed to be a hunting party. As they drew closer, Maxim could see that they number about half a score and that the party was made up equally of warriors and wizards. The warriors were suited in the finest agapite and verite armour, and they were armed with the highest quality weapons. Their armour and weapons were dressed up with brightly colored sashes and streamers. The mages wore vibrantly colored robes and odd, tall hats; some of them had painted faces or were marked with strange tatoos. The loud stranger brandished a beautiful, gold halberd, the finely honed edge of which seemed to have never seen combat. The stranger continued:

    "Outstanding arrow placement, sir! You truly are a master of the bow, good man! A person of your talents would be of great service to our party as we pursue our quest! Will you join us?"

    Maxim brighten a bit, "A quest? Towards what great cause do you sally forth?"

    "A Queen of the Solen has tasked us with destroying her rivals so that she may reign unquestioned. She has promised us many great gifts for accomplishing this deed, " the stranger replied and proceeded to describe rare, magic bags, powders and balls of crystal.

    Spur looked towards the ground, "So, if I am to understand you correctly, you plan to enter the sovereign colony of the solens, slay their queens in their own throne rooms and then collect a reward of magic trinkets?" The stranger nodded exitedly. "This sounds more of the soiled acts of mercenaries and assassins than that of virtuous quest seekers. Of what danger are these solen to you?" Maxim asked. "Are they attacking your towns, destroying your farms, threatening the citizens? I have slain this creature here only in that it wandered too close to my vendor tower and became aggressive towards my customers. These solen are quiet, lowly beasts that toil only to collect the smelly fungus they so greatly cherish. Who are you to interlope with their affairs?"

    "But think of the rewards!" the stranger retorted, "They have incredible powers!"

    "These items seem to only have value to the goldmonger and beastmaster," Maxim replied, "of which I am neither. I have no use for these gains, nor for your venture."

    "No use? You can sell them for outrageous profits!" the stranger quipped, "Stock your store with solen articles and harvest the riches. Are you to say you have no need for wealth?"

    "My shop is stocked in accordance to my customers needs, " explained Maxim.

    "Bah!" coughed the stranger, "Stay here then and sell your arrows and bandages and smoked fish. Remember where you are, archer. In this facet of Britannia, the citizenry does not buy what they need, they buy what they want!" Turning to his party, "Come along then, it is time to ride."

    The gaudy entourage galloped off into the woods, clanging and clattering like a gypsy wagon. Maxim of Spur called after them, "In the least, good luck! And safe travels!" Soon the last of the bright streamers and banners could no longer be seen through the foliage. The archer took a deep breath and exhaled hard, looking up at the clear, morning sky and pondered these puzzling times. He reached down, recovered his arrows from the insect corpse, and scooped up and bagged the purple fungus. He would give this moldy growth to the blacksmith that was in his hire. The smithy may have some use for it in his explosive hobby of alchemical experimentation.


    Virginia completed the scrolls she had been asked to scribe...
  4. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Virginia completed the scrolls she had been asked to scribe and shook her writing hand in an attempt to relieve the cramps. She tightly rolled the scrolls, secured them with ribbon and set them aside for Master Spur's next business journey. She then seated herself in front of the chest that she was allowed to store her things and hefted open the heavy lid. The young mage hurriedly tugged off the damaged leathers she was wearing and replaced them with mismatched armour pieces that she withdrew from the chest. As she dressed, she grabbed handfuls of various cloves, roots and other reagents and stuffed them inside any loose area within the clothing. She packed her bag with more of the ingredients and added in a few small vials, some jewelry, her books and, of course, apples. Virginia stood and, while hopping on one foot and then the other, tugged on a pair of tight riding boots. Reaching once more into the chest, she took out a moth-holed robe and donned it, smoothing it as much as possible.

    She closed her eyes and deemed that she was at the stable, and she was there. Virginia claimed her horse, Studebaker, and treated him to the apples she carried. The stablemaster made his usual jokes about her shabby looking horse and its funny name, and he was promptly rewarded for this with the usual small-fisted punch in the chest. Virginia mounted up, rode hard out of town and quickly turned off the road into the forest, as she was in search of more of the large ants she had encountered before. It did not take long for her to come upon a small group of the creatures in a dense part of the woods. The solens were diligently going about their business of collecting fungus and paid no great mind to the girl as she watched from behind a tangle of bushes. All at once, the insects abruptly stopped what they were doing and paused as if harkening to a silent calling. The solens quickly made off in the same direction through the trees. The girl nudged Studebaker foward and followed the ants at a safe distance until they disappeared into a partially hidden hole in the ground. Caution aside, Virginia followed into the abyss.

    The tunnel was engulfed in an impenatrable darkness. She thought of a bright oil lamp, and the cavern was bathed in light. In the brief darkness, she had lost track of the solen workers, so she rode down the corridor to try to regain their trail. As she progressed deeper into the colony, many other insects of extraordinary dimensions made themselves known. To avoid confrontation, Virginia quickened her mount's stride and, when it seemed safe, turned from the main passage way into a cave to hide and rest.

    From a dark corner of the cave Virginia heard a clicking and ticking she recognized, so she readied herself for defence. Out of the shadows walked a solen of which she had not seen before. Words of destruction were poised on Virginia's lips when she was forced to suddenly hold up because she believed she had heard... the insect speak! The solen queen carefully approached the girl and slowly lowered its ungainly head to within inches of the little mage's face. In almost perfect English, punctuated occasionally by clicks of its mandibles, the royal insect described a most ambitious and intriguing plan to Virginia. Eyes wide, mouth agape, and swayed by the queen's eloquence, Virginia nodded slowly and said, "Yes, I can do this for you."

    Virginia bolted from the cave and, in her exurberance, rode headlong through the winding tunnels. Deeper and deeper into the caverns she rode and, after realizing that she was lost, slowed to a walk. She noticed that her spell of light was waning, but up ahead in a widening of the tunnel she saw a dim glow. As she rode ahead, the tunnel opened into a room from which came loud laughter, strong language and the sounds of combat. She then heard the death cry of a solen. Pressing on into the room, she came up behind a semi-circle of men that were quite inebriated and raucous. Beyond the group of men lay the corpse of a solen queen. One of the men was sitting on a keg and turned a bearded face towards Virginia.

    "You there! Come closer!" the bearded one ordered her. Virginia dismounted and strode towards the gang. "Do you wish to join us in our little game?" he asked, motioning to the room with an extended arm. "If you live, you may claim your loot. If you die... well, you die!" He bellowed a loud laugh that was echoed by the others present. While still laughing, the bearded one plunged his hand into a basket at his feet and withdrew a small piece of wood and read a name that was written on it. "Sir Trevor! You are next!"

    A warrior stood up from the group and walked to the center of the room drawing his sword. As the fighter readied himself, the others called out insults, made wagers and gulped more ale. The warrior took his stance and peered into the darkness of the far side of the room. Charging out of the gloom, a solen queen lumbered towards the swordsman. The fighter was lightening fast. He darted in and out on the insect and, when close, would land a grievous blow onto one of the queen's legs. The warrior continued his onslaught to the cheers of those that bet in his favor. When all seemed lost for the solen, the creature suddenly veered wildly and vomited up a gush of acid that completely soaked the brave one. In shock, the man gazed upon his broadsword as it fizzed and popped. His shock turned to horror as he watched the gauntlet that held the sword begin to erode, followed quickly by the flesh of his hand. The sword fell from boned fingers, and it seemed that the warrior was sinking into the floor of the cave. It was not that he was sinking, but rather that his feet and legs were dissolving out from underneath him. The swordsman emitted a torn scream and collapsed with a splash into the acid pool. It only took a moment for the man's armour and flesh to become indistingiushable in the slurry. The revelers in the circle hooted and gaffawed and slapped each others backs, and great sums of gold were exchanged.

    The bearded one motioned again to Virginia. "So, do you wish to play?" he said with a grin. Remembering her pledge to the ambitious queen, Virginia reached into her pack and withdrew a blank rune block. She carved her name in it with her knife, tossed the block into the basket and shrugged. And so the procession went on. Solen queens died, men died, gold was won and lost, and ale was quaffed.

    "Plain! Virginia Plain! You're next!" the bearded one cried out, holding the wooden block aloft. Virginia mounted and rode to the center of the room. Behind her she could hear the men snickering and the bearded one say, "Gentlemen, gentlemen! You will have to give me odds! This waif doesn't stand a chance. How about it then, let's say twenty to one?" Virginia hunched her shoulders, lowered her head and began murmuring to herself.

    The solen queen erupted from the darkness and dashed towards the girl. Half way to its victim, the giant insect seemed to have been hit with a invisible force that sapped most of its strength. At the same time, a brilliant explosion burst forth under the creature and a jet of searing energy stabbed out from the woman and ripped into the behemoth. Virginia dug her heels into Studebaker and reined him into a tight circle around the solen. As she rode, she yelled out incantations that seemed to draw forces up out of the ground and from the walls of the cave and bring them down upon the hapless solen. The wizards that sat in the group of spectators understood the words she spoke, but they had never before heard the dialect or accent with which Virginia spat them out. Little did they know that not only did Master Spur have access to Lost Lands scrolls, but that the girl mage had done much studying, too. The things that she had learned made short work of the insect queen. The beast crumbled to the cave floor with a final blast of energy rolling it to its back.

    Studebaker slowed his gallop and walked back to the semi-circle. Virginia stood erect in the stirrups, her back stiff and her neck muscles strained. Her hands were held away from her sides and her fingers danced as if playing some phantom instrument. Her eyes were rolled back, her eyelids fluttered, and a watery stream of blood flowed from one nostril. Horse and rider walked straight towards the bearded man who fell off his keg backwards in fright. He held up one hand as to halt her approach and pointed towards the solen corpse with the other. "The loot!" he cried and pointed, "please, go claim your loot!"

    His yells broke her trance and she sat down hard in the saddle. The color returned to her face, she blinked a few times and roughly wiped the drainage from her nose on her sleeve. She looked over her shoulder at the smoldering solen body, turned back to the bearded man and a wide, childlike grin spread across her face. One of the other warriors collected up the ant's belongings and handed them up to Virginia. The bearded one motioned to her.

    "Come. You come and sit here by me!" as he pointed to the ground next to the keg. Virginia lowered herself to the ground and sat cross-legged by the man. "Could you stand an ale for your thurst, Little One?" he asked her.

    "Ale?" she replied, "now that wouldn't be very ladylike, now would it?" She paused, "Have you got any hard liquor?"

    So on into the night, and also into the day, the game went on. The mages present hounded Virginia with questions as to her arcane knowledge and practiced phrases with her. In the end, she had killed five of the queens and the time had come for her to return to the chambers of the ambitious queen.