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I AM THE ANCIENT. I AM THE LAND.
My beginnings are lost in the darkness of the past. I am not dead. Nor am I alive. I am undead, forever.


Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by Gordian Nought
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Village of Barovia




A peculiar evening exhumed a myriad of eccentric souls. Somnambulism gingerly brought these living corpses, huddled together at the crossroads of a sinister reverie, under a cancerous miasma.

Between the murky village and the maddening laughter.

The seven adjacent sleep walkers were strangely birthed, untimely severed from the umbilical cord of reality that prompted their existence moments before, but still pregnant with deadly arms at their disposal. They soon witnessed in the hazy distance, a dozen men and women, gathering around a crackling bonfire. The gypsies’ barrel-topped wagons were parked at odd angles. Carriages seemingly anchored as if no danger loomed in the whistling forest. Tied to a nearby tree, grazing, six draft horses bore bright coats. Their bangles and tassels audibly shivered in the frigid dusk upon them. The colorful folk appeared ostensibly in good spirits. A few of the prancers crooned and capered gluttonously around the flamboyant conflagration, conjured in preparation for the wayward night. Others searched fervently for beads of happiness in their flasks and wineskins. Wakes were funny that way, in bringing familiarity to strangers.

Mirth to the macabre.

The woods suddenly darkened as branches began to close ranks, their needle-covered arms interlocking to blot out any remnant of the unfriendly moon. The shroud of mist that covered the shifty ground turned into creeping walls of gray fog, silently enveloping, preventing any sight of the source of the twelve’s cackling, ghosts forever lost to the silver air. Eyes, unable to pierce more than a few feet in the glee’s direction, quickly misplaced the disappearing tracks of their impromptu existence.

As everyone stumbled over one another, drowsily, tall shapes loomed out from the dense smog that surrounded a sparsely inhabited hamlet. The muddy ground underfoot gave way to slick, wet cobblestones. The lanky contours became recognizable as dwellings. Nestled among the township’s solemn structures were a handful of closed-up shops with croaking signs, swinging as the obfuscating wind howled effervescently. Even the closest tavern was barred. The windows of each house glared emptily, out from pools of blackness, hundreds of oblivions devoid of shutters. No new sound cut the silence between you and your deranged troupe, except for the mournful sobbing that echoed through the streets from a distance.

The soft whimpering drew several pairs of pupils toward a duo of children abiding in the middle of an otherwise lifeless graveled thoroughfare, as spurned chimneys fed the choking haze that climbed ever near. All stood, now awake, ending the ignorance of this misjudged fantasy, finally inciting one’s sanities to the reality of a new nightmare.

Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by Ms Ravenwinter
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Rumblings began to emit through the ancient stone walls. Sand, unstirred for millenia, brushed over Illyana's face as she took another hesitant step forward. Cat. Hawk. Jackal. Blast it all, which was the next tile? The floor started to become unrecognizeable as the crumbling fortress of time-worn stones began to spew forth more sands. Swiftly, a Prestidigitation slipped from Illyana's deft fingers, and the sands vanished from the tiles before her in an arcane shimmer. Crocodile! A single victorious step rang faintly in the echoing chamber, drowned by the aching churn of stone. The temple's destruction hadn't waned, but the artifact was in sight. The only options now were to collect the tome and pray for time and mercy, or turn back and abandon all that she had come for. All that she had sacrificed. There was no hesitation as she lunged for the book.
With tired eyes, Illyana saw nothing but fog before her. What happened? Did she die? There was no artifact in her clutches, only sand. The salt of the earth flowed from the crevices of her bark-laden palms. "No..." she muttered to herself silently in her Elvish tongue, her voice shuddering with a seething rage limited only by her resignation to this untimely fate. Whatever it happened to be.

There was nothing but fog before her, until she took those first steps. Eventually, she worked to gain her bearings. Wherever she was, be it after or adjacent to death, she was not alone. This was made distractingly obvious by the increasingly distant cackling shrouded in dense fog. Besides this, there were others still. Others that seemed to be in her strange predicament. None of them were the team she had come with, people she would've expected to see were this the afterlife. No, they seemed much less... mundane than that. She looked on, and the diminutive forms of children shrouded in that uncanny mist were before them.

Wherever she may be, whatever fate had befallen her, Illyana would get her answers.
Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by JBRam2002
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So this is our reward? The gloom of the settlement mirrored the aggressively neutral glare from a human woman. Her clothing and hair style were as chaste as one would expect of a nun (at least, an armor-clad nun), and yet her demeanor was about as unwelcoming as it could be. We traveled towards civilization for how long, only to be greeted thus? Pathetic. Useless. Waste.

The woman produced a candle, setting it alight with a tindertwig and shedding light that provided insubstantial warmth to the woman's face, but the cold stare instantly snuffed out any feelings of compassion in her direction. This was not what she had expected. Where was the mirth? The merriment? Where were the happy faces of children playing with each other? Instead, they were greeted with gloom, depression, the chains of an oppressive fog lurking about, obscuring the town from view. Barred doors, such as she had encountered her whole life, were the main greeting established here. Not that she had expected a town would lay out a scarlet runner for her arrival, but she had hoped there was aught other than this: loneliness amongst despair.

Around her was a motley group of individuals that seemingly were as surprised as she was with this turn of events. Many seemed to have some semblance of power or training, certainly more than one would expect from a commoner, but none seemed as weathered as those she had known before. The teachings of the fey were not helpful yet in discerning their strengths or weaknesses, but if they were fated to travel together, time would reveal such information. Before them was a pair of children, seeming quite out of place in the murky atmosphere. The fog around them felt foreboding to Lydiane, and perhaps a bit sinister. "You there. Children. Should you be out and about in a time like this? Where are your homes?" Lydiane called, her voice stern and feeling almost abrasive against the chill silence of the area.
Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by Hekazu
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At first, nothing seemed too out of the ordinary. The air around the man clad in fur adorned leather armour was cold, but that was what he had got used to. The trip to the Northern parts of their land in early winter brought such misfortune for the tribesmen to endure, but they had geared up appropriately. The only part of him the cold bit was his face, and that had grown used to the gentle breeze one felt off horseback long time ago. What startled him was that he was no longer with his horse, nor could he recognise any of the shapes moving around him in the mist, not the ones standing nearby who he could see, nor the foreign voices of the caravan. And lastly, definitely not the children. He had never been around children much. He had not served the Khan well enough to earn a wife of his own. That was still in progress.

The man tried to draw comfort from what was familiar to him. The barred up buildings brought many a raid into his mind, for without the bars everywhere this place largely resembled a settlement their army had descended upon and sacked. Thing was, the buildings were in better shape and had been walled shut. But that nonetheless was something he could draw familiarity from. He laid his eyes on his armour, and noted that it was still there. His buckler was still strapped to his arm, his sabre hug on his belt in its sheath and when he reached back he could ascertain both his hat and longbow were unharmed. The only thing that was left to determine who these other people were, and where in the plains he was now. He couldn't be far from home... it hadn't been that long and he was still standing on his feet. He would simply need to find a way back.

But how would he go doing such a thing? Nothing came to mind. For now, the best thing he could do was see if anyone else would come up with something, for those around him, despite not carrying the standard of his Khan, might at least know where they were. But when the first comprehensible words rang out, they were addressed to the children, by the woman with the coldest eyes he had seen in his time. And for someone of his background, that was no light merit. Yet it was she who had spoken up, and Pisacar found himself moving one fur boot after another and slowly approaching her and the children. Inaction would lead to no results, that much he knew. And with somebody taking initiative, they could get on the move. This mist that was enveloping them appeared borderline hostile, as much a weather phenomenon could.
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Rig
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The tribe was gathered. Torches burned just at the limit of the bonfire's light. Eight sages stood in a ring around the fire, around the ranger next to the flames. The rest of the tribe stood on the edge, in line with the torches. Watching, waiting. The sages chanted under their breath, the moonless night made darker by the canopy high above them.

The ranger had everything he would need for the journey. Weaponry, of course, but also more mundane things. Food. Trinkets to remind him of the tribe and all its people did for him. He could feel the air around him crackle with magical energy as the spell's power picked up. He breathed deeply to calm his nerves, closed his eyes and remembered his training.

The heat from the fire vanished, instantly. He could feel the moist air on his cheeks, his hands. He opened his eyes slowly to see an assembled group of adventurers. He could hear the children playing, the gypsies at their caravan. One of the women in the group spoke, as the oppressive mist that surrounded them seemed to slowly seep closer.

Glancing at each of the strangers before him, Dalanth casually asked, "So. You must be the welcoming party, then?"
Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by The Harbinger of Ferocity
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The graying mage was no stranger to the surrounding mists and their clutches, rather he knew well what fear lied in wait, ready to grasp and seize his heart and mind. Just what he did not know was how these rolling terrors intended to do as much. His weathered eyes full of latent fear, he found himself immersed and drowned in their depths when they again consumed him; another night, another terror. Was it this time real or another of the fantasies of the realm that played games upon the mind? Whatever its case, his hand slipped within his robe and withdrew a withered old twig whilst the other fell silently to his satchel. Humble weapon at the ready, the descent led to him being surrounded - how long had it been? Where now was he to be? Who were the company the mists had drawn together? What was it they wanted with him now?

His dried lips muttered subtly, softly, "Another curse to bear..." as the shadows and silhouettes of the other mysterious folk began to stir in their wakings.

This wretched land was fond of its games, its torments, and the not so distant woman lit by flickering light calling out to the children - the same children Andhund too could now hear - only arose in his throat further despair. His hand tightened further upon his satchel and the twig, rather his wand as it were remained forward. They were not about to steal anything else from him on this night in Barovia, oh no. The mage was to be sure of that, so he kept on with his surveying the others and equally kept his footfall unintrusive to drew nearer still toward the light. The deathly mists creeping from all corners of the skeletal town, only slowly did he lower the implement and slip it into his sleeve as he was certain he was further away from the ebbing threat, at least for the moment. If these people were to be a danger, they paled in comparison to this dark realm where anything and everything could have well awaited them not but a few steps outside.

When the words so casually came forth in "So. You must be the welcoming party, then?", the response from Andhund did not delay.

"We should not tary..." He looked on to those bewildered starting first with the man who spoke before moving to the woman and her candle, giving her a nod. "... at least not here."
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by The Large Dumbo
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The repetition of a hammer striking an anvil was almost like a second heartbeat to Quoben Lorearthen, as the smith hammered mindlessly. Despite the forge beside him being lit, he still found himself oddly surrounded by darkness. Sweat began to bead on him. This kind of sweat, however, was not that naturally caused from the physical labor of smithing. Rather, it was caused by a mysterious sense of dread that seemed to surround him. He'd been in this place before, he realized, and he knew the outcome of what was to come next. It was a memory that replayed in his mind infrequently, warped by a perceived threat from the present. Three sharp raps upon his door caught his attention, over the din of his own work. Quietly setting down his hammer, he approached the door to his abode, his hands shaking. How had they found him? Wait a moment, who were they? Why did he bear this horrible sensation in his stomach that threatened to shatter his state of relative normalcy? Each step upon the wooden floor tainted by his own dread was like a gong, telling the dwarf his time had come.

Before opening the door, he knew who it was already. Several figures cloaked in darkness stood at his doorstep, one taking a menacing step forward as he forced himself into the dwarf's house. The imposing man stood significantly taller than the dwarf, and while the dwarf was not one to be easily disarmed by such size alone, his body seemed to grow, the forge and any sense of safety drifting into the darkness of his own mind. The debt he had accrued while drinking on one particular outing to the city was hefty, and came with an additional heavy cost that even he could not imagine; these hounds, who violated the memory of this one ceremonious time, had been hired to pressure Quoben to pay his debt. "N-No!" He gasped, watching as several more figures spilled in behind the first. "I-I-" His frantic pleas were cut off as all of the shadows drew weapons, before a rain of blows beat down upon the dwarf, shredding his body with horrendous wounds that almost felt as if they were more than just figments created by his frightened mind. It wasn't until one of the figures raised a bloodied spiked mace and, in an almost merciful manner, sent it crashing down towards the dwarf's face, that he felt his mind jolt back to life.

With a gasp, the dwarf shot up, panic in his eyes. His palms turned to face his gaze as he stared at them, almost daunted by the sudden shift. He knew that he was no longer in that horrifying dream that he had found himself locked in so many times, but that only raised his next question... Where was he? He brushed the dirt off of his hands and took a quiet glance around, his gaze catching onto the many oddities of the town, before finally resting curiously on the two children, as he groggily approached.
Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by Cu Chulainn
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Seven embers burn away. Seven buildings lead the way. Seven coffins for seven strangers. Seven flowers for seven sinners.

The mantra ringed in the man's head as he emerged a few paces behind the others, almost consumed by the treacherous mist. He had been there, appearing with the rest, a bouquet of white flowers, Lilies, clutched in his right hand. If not for the heavy, leather apron that he wore over his otherwise fine set of clothing, and the imposing hammer strapped to his back, the rather charming young man looked like he was dressed for a date.

"Sweet Harvest, my head feels like scrambled eggs on a smokin' hot skillet!" the young man hollered, rubbing his head with his empty hand, walking for the others with a dumbfounded smile on his face. His accent was... peculiar, to say the least, making the man look and sound like some sort of country bumpkin. His eyes scanned the others, having a particular interest in those whose less-than-human heritage showed so obviously.

"I reckon we should hunker down somewhere an' get out of this mist soon. Between that an' those flower children laughing behind us, I'm startin' to get the heebie jeebies..." The craftsman added, stuffing the bouquet back in his pack, almost catching up the dwarf.

"Heya, there, kid. What're you doing here all lost and by your lonesome? Ain't that axe too" He called to the short, stout figure, not catching a glimpse of his rather bearded face. "Here, Boris'll you a hand with all that heavy gear o'yours."

With that being said, the craftsman whistled loudly, looking around the treacherous mist for this Boris. And a moment later, the sound of stomping can be heard approaching the duo from behind. Some sort of beast treaded forth from the mysterious mist. An amalgam of bone and steel, the beast, once making its way to the craftsman who had apparently summoned it forth, nodded its head, steam exhaling from its apparent nose.

"Ah, thought I almost lost ya there! Gotta make sure you stay outta the mist over yonder, Boris. Might rust yer' gears and all..." The man had said to the beast formally known as Boris, petting its skull-for-a-head, before turning back to the dwarf and extending a hand to shake.

"Th'names Jaxson Hammersworn, on the count of this big ol' hammer, 'ere. I fix things. You got a name, kid?"
Hidden 27 days ago 18 days ago Post by Gordian Nought
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Village of Barovia – Death House


The fog around them felt foreboding to the cleric, and perhaps a bit sinister. "You there. Children. Should you be out and about in a time like this? Where are your homes?" Lydiane called, her voice stern and feeling almost abrasive against the chill silence of the area.

Glancing at each of the strangers before him, Dalanth interjected and casually asked, "So. You must be the welcoming party, then?"

"We should not tarry..." Andhund looked on to those bewildered starting first with the man who spoke before moving to the woman and her candle, giving her a nod. "... at least not here."

After shushing the boy, the girl turned to the verbose trio and whispered as softly as ebbing laughter, “There’s a monster in our house!” She then gestured to a tall brick row house that had seen better days. Its window frames now dark icons to the dreaded saints of hell. It had a gated portico on the ground floor, and the rusty gate creaked slightly ajar, intermittently as the mist swirled round about. The dwellings on either side were abandoned, their fissures and doors boarded up. The older sister, Rose, swiveled to the child gripping his faceless doll.

>Rose and Thorn

"It scares Thorn."

The tribesman heard more of the people speak up. Whatever the other man meant with a 'welcoming party', it was all meaningless drivel to him. They were in a quite possibly hostile environment, and this man spoke of parties. Hah! Nergüi did not even turn to face them, much unlike the old man to speak up next. They made sense, implored them to not wait. He did glance towards this particular figure and even nod, but with their apparent refusal to move further, he returned to his earlier plan, the cold faced woman and the children. Unfortunately the news were not good. There was a house here that they were from, but the indoors would offer no solace for they spoke of a monster in the area. Yet what option did they have? Despite the disturbing disposition of the children, Nergüi opened his mouth and let few words graciously garnished with a heavy eastern accent hang in the cold air: "A monster?"

The sobbing boy huddled deeper within the slightly oversized coat, smothering him imperceptibly with the semblance of a vague warmth, as his cyanotic lips parted. "Yes... sniff It howls. Terrible screams." The girl seconded, "We can't go back until the monster's gone." Her attire demonstrated inky laces which hungrily curdled, to one's vivid imagination, as if a certain portion of her cloak's threads had evolved into mindless tendrils, urging the rest of her gothic wardrobe to acquiesce into the shroud's conformity.

The voice of the eldest child continued. "It keeps Walter, our baby brother, awake all night."

A monster keeping children awake? Most likely a fairy tale gone out of control. "Describe this monster," Lydiane demanded. "If your brother is simply staying awake and none of you have been consumed and torn asunder, it is hardly a true monster." She waved her hand dismissively, as if she knew a thing or two about monsters that these children certainly could not understand.

"The mists are restless, so evil is afoot. Thus it is their misfortune that this might be more fact than flight of childish fantasy..." The aging half-blood man replied, eyes piercing the mists toward their house, scaling it up and down with their watchfulness. No monster could be overtly seen, let alone heard, but this did not mean it was not there - oh no, quite the contrary. The most frightening monsters were those in the mind, the demons no one else could see. This the man knew well for himself and he feared this was only to be the case, yet here in this village before the two children? There might very well be some beast in the belly of the house, hidden away behind a closet door or bricked into the very work of the structure. Too many secrets - even the wonder of how they all arrived - had convened for this to just be imagination. "Where in this house is the monster?" The man began, trailing off, certain to not spend more time than needed wandering the encroaching threat.

The children beckoned, chanting in unison, "Fear forbids us to see. We only hear." Rose yanked her brother behind, as four soft footsteps trotted to the house in question. She glanced over her shoulder wistfully, ensuring the gaze's snare was readied.

Both soon stopped and pointed with their unshackled hands.

>Front View of Death House

"There." The gate swung open, almost in conjunction with the girl's statement. "Our parents are trying to trap it in the basement." The feminine hemlock of a voice answered the final inquiry of the man possessed with maddening eyes.

>Lydiane's Insight of 21: The children truly don't know what the monster looks like but heard its terrible howls. They also seem genuine about their baby brother, Walter, and the suggestive terror demonstrated of the monster is visibly authentic. The duo believes they can't and should not return alone because the monster remains inside, likely a command given by their parents.

Children, of course. She had to be welcomed by children. Little ones always reacted to her with either fear or a prodding curiosity. Fear seemed the likely outcome now, given their recent harrowing experience. Illyana thusly turned her gaze away, prospecting the gothic abode before them. What if she wasn't dead? The tome could have transported her without knowledge to a simulacrum. A test. Perhaps the artifact demanded a certain cunning, virtuosity, or charity. In her determination toward this goal, Illyana brushed away her hesitation towards the young ones. Clutching the back of her holy symbol, the amulet started to glow into a bright sunlight. With this beacon lit, Illyana kneeled near the children and gently offered a hand. "I'll save Walter from this monster, little ones," she said softly, her voice more like soft velvet than her harsh bark-laden exterior. Her smile was positively warm, and her voice calming, even coaxing. "What are your names, my sweets?"

From big to small, each pirouetted in place, taking turns with the formalities afore the Celestial warlock. “I am Rosavalda Durst. My brother is Thornboldt.” The eager boy loosed the girl’s vise, in order to edge in a few words of his own before her older sister commandeered the conversation once more. “Rose, my name is Thorn. And this is…” The tiny hands hoisted his prized possession. “Wither.” The pale doll, riddled with stitching and burns, seemed light and insubstantial, as he passed the keepsake graciously to Illyana. Its eyeless sockets frothed in flimsy indentations, indicating innards of a stained constitution. The once blanche cotton evoked a mild crimson aftertaste to the astute eyes of the tomb raider.

>Illyana's passive Insight of 13: Thorn appears to be presenting the figurine to the transformed half-elf.

For a moment, Illyana reached for the doll, but after some hesitation she retracted her hand to her side to leave the cotton man untouched. Something about it unsettled her. It seemed untrustworthy. A simple doll, untrustworthy. "Wither looks like a good friend, Thorn," she spoke in the same comforting tone, "But I think you should keep him near. For protection." The children made no shudder, gasp or question to her appearance, despite how her gently writhing tendrils became visible in the light of her holy symbol. Perhaps this was what unsettled her. It gave the children a strange quality, other than the already peculiar behavior they showed. Perhaps it was not beyond this world, but it was beyond hers.

Nergüi took a step back, allowing the woman whose face was colder than the surrounding air speak with the children. Her reaction towards them was equally chilly as she left no doubt in the fact she did not believe the two in the slightest as the monster would already have eaten them if there truly was one. The children did not seem to lose heart at her words however as they began guiding the seven people that had emerged from the mist towards their house. The tribesman wanted none of it, his body and instincts fighting against the very thought of following them further. Despite all his warm clothing, he shivered. But he could not separate himself from this group. They were his lifeline in this strange place. The gates to the house the children called their home opened and they explained that the threat would be in the cellar. Yet more shivers ran down Nergüi's spine as he hoped these people would not be foolish enough to enter. The old man had warned them just as well, yet even they seemed to be following these children. Why? And then there was the case of the bark covered woman with writhing branches for hair, who would speak with all the warmth that had been missing from the other woman's voice. She tried to get along with the two freaky creatures. Well, they had something in common, that being their abnormality. But even she seemed to note something was off about the two. The feeling of dread hung strong at the back of Pisacar's mind, but he still could not bring himself to walk away.

Like a starving brute, the hanging clouds inaugurated its midnight snack, swiftly swallowing up the rest of the visceral village, facilitating the seven to congeal ever closer to the couplet’s invite. Before long, all one could truly decrypt with any logistic certainty of the Durst’s address was the domicile’s external anterior. Aside of the scattered panes easily noted, the dripping architecture of a face bore four stories, with a tattered balcony on the third floor. The extended bent bars frowned and smiled, sideways, from its metal maw, befuddled of the curious interaction colliding below in front of the house. Thorn swept the amputated toy abruptly from the woman's kind reach, heeding that imaginary companionship better accommodated the boy’s lonely imagination. The eyes of the child darted from Illyana and caught a peripheral glance of the approaching dwarf, due to their shared height.

He cautiously motioned for another friend. “Wither won’t protect us. Can you?”

Quoben's face of distant blankness snapped back to attention, as his gaze focused onto the two small children. "Protect ye?" He whispers, before clearing his throat. "Of course," he says, his face warming with a gentle grin as he slowly approached the children, gathering his bearings. He looked over the other members of the group, before turning his gaze back to the house.

Rose gleaned the roll call of Jaxson, the apron wearing craftsman, as his apparent pet escaped from the neighboring, hazy veil. Recalling some former wisdom suddenly, she whispered another subpoena, "Thorn, our parents told us to never to talk to strangers. Remember? We don't even know the rest of their names." Her nostrils promptly inhaled the murky ambiance, awaiting rebuttals, either in kind or amidst empathy.

He turned back to face Jaxson with the same warm grin, before grasping his hand and giving it a few thorough, firm shakes. "The name's Quoben Lorearthen," he says, introducing himself. "I'm a smith myself, mostly work with weapons. Nice ta meet ya!" He decided to ignore the fact that Jaxson called him a "kid", as there were several more important matters afoot, such as the plight of the two children.

"What in the..." Jaxson was caught off guard as Quoben turned to shake his hand. Either he's one real ugly piece of work, or he isn't human. Jaxson quickly shook his head, and gave a smile in return as he shook back. "Pleasure's all mine, partner! Sorry 'bout that, by the way. Haven't ever met a stout folk before... that's what you are, I reckon?"

The girl's admonishment of the boy didn't cause Illyana to recoil, but she politely stood and turned to face the group and the duo at once. As she stood, it became apparent that the glowing apparatus dangling from her neck was an angelic ankh, which seemed to be some strange sort of religious icon left unrecognized by most before her. Above the golden gleam were the warm motes of deep blue about her pupils. "I am simply Illyana," she said with a greater sense of command to her warmth as she spoke to all. Her accent, now clearly heard by the others, was well-traveled to the point of seeming alien. Even these few words seemed to flow with a cultural tinge so intermixed that she seemed to sound uncanny. She was as foreign as she was familiar. Her sapphire-glinted gaze drifted to the fog which sought to constrain them with voracious hostility. "It's quite cold," she said with mild chattering of the teeth, "Now that we're friends, perhaps you can invite us to your home for tea in front of the fire?"

The elf ranger's smirk dropped, as the strangers before him failed to return his attempt at humor in kind. Obviously they were not expecting him, or if they were, they weren't the friendly sort. It quickly became apparent to Dalanth, however, that they were strangers, not of this place. As the group turned to approach the children, the elf fell in with them. It seemed the sensible thing to do, given the circumstances. The mist was concerning, what might lie in wait within it more so. Keeping an eye out, he followed the others, his back to the group so he could ensure nothing snuck up on them. That was when he noticed the dwarf and the new human, with the strange skeletal contraption. They didn't appear to be a threat, but he kept his eye on them nonetheless. Until, that is, he heard the children mention monsters in their home. Dalanth's ears perked up at that. As he approached the children to get more information, he overheard them talking to the rest. They didn't know what sort of monster had taken up residence in their home, but it was something that made a lot of noise. Dalanth frowned. It didn't sound like what he had returned for, but it sounded worth investigating nonetheless. "Hi there, kiddos," Dalanth said, dropping to a knee to get to their level, to make them feel more comfortable. "I'm Dalanth. You can call me Dal. I'd be more than happy to look into your monster problem."

"So now we are to chase fantasies and monsters for children?" Lydiane spoke up with some annoyance. "For all we know, the monster was fabricated by the parents in order to ward the children from their marriage bed. But no matter; if we are determined to solve this monster issue, then perhaps the house will provide shelter from the fog." Lydiane stepped forward, keeping her distance still from the children. "Should we provide our name?" the woman muttered quietly to herself. "I suppose it could not hurt." She turned to face the group, announcing her name as if it were significantly noteworthy, like a teacher before a classroom. "My name is Lydiane Dupeaux. You may address me as Lydiane, if you so choose. I have been trained in the arts of staunching wounds, so please come to me if you or someone you know is wounded." With her announcement complete, Lydiane stepped back into the recesses of the group. "I still think we're making a mistake," she mumbled quietly.

Introductions were underway, some opinions were being shared and the garishly dressed man proved to be loud. As loud as the thing called Boris. Another odd thing added to the environment, it resembled an ox but was clearly built. Nergüi shook his head at the sight. The dwarf did not seem to take offence to being called a kid, but maybe they were used to it. Short length could cause problems, though never had he seen a midget with quite that prolific a beard. But they brought luck, the clerics had told, the dwarfish folk. With many other names having been spoken out to the children and the others, he concluded he should also share his. He blessed his parents for his given name as he voiced it: "My name is Nergüi." In the ancient tongue of his home, it meant no-name. Bullied for it in his youth he had been, but it would protect from evil spirits since they could not find him based on it. In this environment, the thought brought a sliver of peace. The most lavish of introductions was the one of the ice queen, though she did merely stay in the subject. The tribesman was getting to like this person, she reminded him of the sergeants back in the Khan's army. With her having shared what she did best, he tapped the handle of his sabre. "I ride, though with no mount I still have my weapons", he shared out loud and having heard what she had had to add more silently, he whispered to her in a similarly hushed tone, "agreed." Yet the mist was wrapping around them even more tightly.

They could not stay.

The children tallied with their chins as their attention tolled from one introduction to another, languishing and considering the appellations offered to the prior meager request for camaraderie. These strangers slowly and generously unraveled their identities to the throng assembled, aspiring that such a munificent act would grant unobtrusive amnesty in the near future. Rose observed the last and final unspoken body, her gawk scrutinized the familiarity of Erwald’s muted eyes. It was if he didn’t require to mention his moniker, for they seemed to already know the mysterious man. The ocular pair of dark wreathes, encircling their bound empty hollows, continued to watch and linger, for only a moment, contemplating whether a monster could have pity upon such a defenseless crowd. The boy and his sister squirmed in further thought, like a pig sty of ravenous hogs between them, racing to lead them onward and onto the cliff of the portico. These six given names seemingly impressed upon the girl, as charming, beautiful pearls, radiant in the night’s darkness. If only to be cast and crushed before the swine of her dual mind. The older Durst youth eventually pealed on, suddenly eager to incorporate all her new friends. “We don’t have tea or fire. But Mister Andhund would you lead the way?”

"Well, if it's monster's you're afraid of, lil' lady..." Jaxson spoke up, before unstrapping his hammer from his back, hefting it up with two hands. "That seems like a right an' proper thing Boris and I could fix." He pulled a trigger on the bottom of his hammer's haft, causing blunt spikes to eject from the business end of its head. These spikes seem to have been manufactured in order to transfer more force into whatever its target may be.

The grizzled mage permitted the introductions, even if his eyes remained distant and watchful into the mists, leaving his expression blank and largely soulless; as though the drawing night had sapped him of what little livelihood remained in an old man. He took no special precaution, other than keeping to himself, not until the children addressed him. Snapped from his twilight daze, he nodded abruptly, adding; "Yes, yes, wise are you, children." Andhund started, following along the way, certain to give the strangers a wary eye and his hands well in reach as part of his wide berth of them, "More dangers outside than inside tonight." Step by step in his beaten shoes, he managed to create a comfortable enough distance before he continued and seemingly addressed the rest of the oddities the realm had collected on this twisting night. "No more delaying - we would be fools to do so."

The cleric seemed almost surprised that Nergüi responded to her. "Y-yes. However... it seems our decision has been made for us," she replied quietly so the children hopefully could not hear. She stepped forward, following after Andhund with her candlelight leading the way, and raised her voice so all could hear. "It might be foolish to delay, but it is a greater fool who rushes blindly forward without caution. There are more dangerous things that lurk about than the monsters of children's fantasies. Be on your guard, and ever-vigilant."

The others made their introductions. Illyana seemed to hear, but was much more interested in the medallion about the grim cleric's neck. Situated squarely at the woman's clavicle was the visage of a crow crying out to the sky. The woman seemed to meet her warm yet discerning gaze with an equally cold one as Illyana's examination became apparent. Anything further prying wasn't necessary, so Illyana turned her attention back to the others. The decision already having been made for them, the group started to set forward. Illyana walked beside the wizened man and fellow priestess as they approached the entrance. It was Illyana that stood before the door and placed her hand upon the knocker. Her chest heaved with a single meditative breath before she rapped against the entrance.

“Yeah, I’d reckon we mosey on inside the house before this fog eats us up like a contest-winning pie.”

Jaxson followed the rest, relaxing the grip from his warhammer as the spikes retract back into the hammer’s head. He rested it on his shoulder, holding it with one hand and gesturing for Boris to follow him inside.

>Collaboration with @Cu Chulainn,@The Large Dumbo,@The Harbinger of Ferocity,@Rig,@Hekazu,@JBRam2002 and @Ms Ravenwinter.
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