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Messages - JDodger

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1
Roleplaying / Re: Tales from the Bizarre Reappearance of House Dodger
« on: June 17, 2020, 03:43:51 AM »
7. Death in the House (part 2)

As JS and the Udorians drew within sight of the city gates, JS' heart sank into the pit of his stomach. He shot Telos a wild and wide-eyed glance, found his uncle already looking back at him, trying his best to look calm and failing utterly.

At the gates of the city, a train of camels - not the two-humped variety JS and his men rode, but the one-humped kind, the Palm Sea camel. Some of them bore richly decorated hawdahs, from within which could be heard the quiet weeping and chanting of Udorian women. Among and in front of the camel train stood Udorian men armed and armored in the traditional spear, killeen, buckler, iron cap and scale mail of the warriors of the 'Udur. Raising their hands to the sky, they chanted loud enough for JS to know if not really hear the words - the chant of mourning.

An Udorian mourning party, come all the way from Garuck Udor across the Bridge of Ciarin and miles unnumbered on camelback. This party was not sent with word of some warrior's wife - that would have been sent by seagull. No, a party at this distance, with this number of people and richness of dress and arms could mean only thing.

Death in the House of Fabri.


*hawdah - a carriage used on camelback or elephantback by the Udorians for the comfort and safety of women, children, the elderly, or sometimes men of high rank

2
Roleplaying / Re: Tales from the Bizarre Reappearance of House Dodger
« on: June 17, 2020, 03:40:55 AM »
Dodgers of Dwilight Dramatis Personae

Jonn Shintuk Dodger - main character, young knight, son of Jonn Dodger

Jonn Dodger - father of JS Dodger, former Khalkar Warleader, King of the Dark Isle, veteran General/Marshal of multiple realms on multiple continents, former Lurian Lord of Garuck Udor, last seen in Swordfell, but disappeared for years (currently on South Island, unbeknownst to the DWI characters)

Karl-Jagutu Dodger - JS' elder half-brother, son of Jonn Dodger by a tribal chieftainess of the natives of Abaka in the Colonies. Former Khan of Aren. Known for his bizarre speech and behavior, as well as copious drug use, but also for many victories in the Colonies during the Aren-Oritolon war

Fabri men Bolkos - Merchant prince of the native Udorian people, considered minor nobility under colonial Lurian rule, but now head of the Majalsi-'Udur (Udorian Council) which rules Garuck Udor independently in the post-Lurian era. Married his daughter Talea to Jonn Dodger during the latter's lordship there under the Lurian banner

Talea men Fabri - JS' mother, wife of Jonn Dodger, currently in residence in her father's court in Garuck Udor

Telos men Fabri - JS' uncle, Fabri's son, Talea's brother, Captain of JS' Udorian Guard, veteran of many wars and shadow wars on behalf of his father and his brother-in-law Jonn

For more information on the Udorian people please visit: http://battlemaster.org/testing/RegionDetails.php?ID=143

Many of these characters are originally introduced here: https://forum.battlemaster.org/index.php/topic,7263.0/msg,160066.html

3
Roleplaying / Re: Tales from the Bizarre Reappearance of House Dodger
« on: June 17, 2020, 03:31:02 AM »
7. Death in the House (Part 1)

(Note: This picks up essentially where JS' last letters/RPs left off, though it was written and sent two weeks later RL time)

Jonn Shintuk and his Udorians marched back toward Nifelheim, their new scouts riding ahead to learn any news, and also to distribute food among the commonfolk. JS' father, the Warleader Jonn, had taught him that new men should be given simple missions that would increase their loyalty, and JS hoped that allowing the new men to be the instrument of their young, foreign lord's magnanimity to their own people would do just that. Indeed, most of their faces had lit up when the bags of grain had been passed around, and they all rode off quickly to do his bidding - most likely back to their own homes and neighborhoods throughout Nifel, but that was just as well.

Most had come riding back smiling, even if some brought word of slow roads. But the last one to return had a face of ash, and when pressed for news, he could only say that the young lord should follow him, and quickly.

JS looked around with some misgivings. Karl-Jagutu, his elder half-brother and self-proclaimed "advisor", had disappeared in the night and could not be found. It was possible that Karl-Jagutu, the wild Abakan swamprunner, the former Khan of Aren who comported himself without an ounce of royal bearing, had run off with some girl of the streets under the influence of the noxious narcotic mixture he called "Tiger's Blood" - a mix of the infamous Arenese Babar elixir, Bloodmoon fruit, Udorian raaha, ikrif, and a lesser-known substance called "mogweed" - a mixture known to send him into bizarre, raving frenzies from which no man could calm him. Was he somewhere sleeping off his ecstasies? Or had he perhaps been led into some trap? Was that the reason for the scout's blood-drained countenance? Was the scout leading JS himself into a similar trap? There was too much he had yet to learn of these northern lands.

Try as he might, JS could get no more news from the Avernian native. "Fine," he said at length, "lead me where you will. My sword and my heart belong to the All-Creator, and upon Him I will rely." This last comment earned some confused looks from the local scouts, but his Udorians nodded in approval. "Lord Uncle," he continued in the Udorian dialect, addressing his Captain, Telos men Fabri, his mother's brother. "I will lead the way, but let your killeen* guard my right flank, and keep your falcon-eyes open."

"By the Will of the All-Creator," Telos replied in the same tongue, "let it be done, my Lord Nephew. Udorians! For the love of your God, your people and land, and your Lord, Jonn Shintuk, son of Jonn, may all their deeds be accepted! Ride with care, for we ride to ill news or ill fortune. Mark the face of this scout, and if he betrays us, take his head first!"

JS shook his head, smiling - he had no need to tell his uncle of his suspicions for the elder Udorian warrior to know them in full. Telos men Fabri was the son of the greatest of the Udorian merchant-princes, JS' grandfather Fabri men Bolkos, who had bound his house to that of the Dodgers of the Dark Isle when he married his daughter Talea to Jonn Dodger, who had been at the time the Lurian Lord of Garuck Udor. That marriage had led to the birth of Jonn Shintuk himself, and Telos had been fighting wars and shadow wars already at that time. Even now, in his fiftieth or so Springtide, his long beard and hair growing grayer year on year, Telos sat straight and strong in his saddle, and was known to be able to shoot a sparrow out of the sky from a thousand yards with a single arrow. He had been ordered to guard his nephew with his life, and had done so since the disappearance of Lord Jonn (the elder), leaving his beloved homeland and travelling to the frozen north out of honor and loyalty. JS was gladder to have him than ever, now that he had come of age and would go a-warring under his own banner.

But even faith in the All-Creator and a Guard-Captain of the caliber of Telos the son of Fabri was not enough to cure the misgivings in JS' heart as he and his Udorian Guard wended their way toward the gates of Nifelheim, following a scout whose face and frame slumped with sorrow and agitation.

*killeen - a curved Udorian saber, used both for mounted and dismounted fighting in close quarters. 

4
Roleplaying / Re: Tales from the Bizarre Reappearance of House Dodger
« on: June 17, 2020, 03:19:35 AM »
6. Shadow of Malice

Roleplay:

The hubbub caused by the appearance of the creature known as Kilhorn Dodger - and especially his merciless slaughter of his own brother, the former Imperator-King Kellan - had died down quickly, as it seemed as though the hooded shadow of malice had arrived, sent a bunch of seemingly disjointed letters, killed a few people in the streets of Aix, and then simply disappeared.

But those who had paid attention at the new King's coronation may well have noticed a cloaked figure, half-hidden by shadow, standing still and silent against one of the pillars in the back. And if they had taken the time to look closer, they would have seen in the flickering torchlight the flash of sharpened teeth in a savage grimace, and a clawed, rough-skinned hand convulsively gripping upon the hilt of a longknife.

No one had paid enough attention to notice this figure's disappearance or to where it had disappeared.

Some days later, mangled and dismembered bodies begin to appear on the road between Perdan and Perdan Mines, their limbs and smaller appendages arranged in grotesque but geometrically precise patterns, and the rumors begin again...


(Note: the new King of Perdan mentioned here is Smiddich Fontaine. As mentioned above, Kilhorn (or was it Jonn?) had supported someone else for the title)

5
Roleplaying / Re: Tales from the Bizarre Reappearance of House Dodger
« on: June 17, 2020, 01:39:32 AM »
5: Kilhorn (or is it Jonn?) Plays Politics, or: The Secret World of House Dodger, Part 2

Roleplay (Perdan):

The nine thousand nine hundred ninety nine diabhalin are cast down to the seventh earth

Jonn's hat is repopulated by other creations

Kilhorn cries for the last time

Public Letters:

Message sent to all nobles of Perdan (43 recipients) - 2020-06-02 08:01:34

Alyssa is Queen

Banetal is the White Hand

Smiddich is the Right Hand

I am the Hand of Death

Lucius is the Judge

We shall decide

and there will be much killing

Two realms from one

One realm from all

Perdan until the unmaking

There is no God but the All Creator

Find out the rest

Kilhorn

Message sent to all nobles of Perdan (43 recipients) - 2020-06-02 08:03:42

Nemean Jevondair Renodin is the Prince of the Xavax

Xavax prince do you desire killing and a city to rename Xavax

Or Xavax city

We have taken it once we will take it again

The All Creator sends his slaves to battle again

Khalkar forever

Kilhorn

Message sent to all nobles of Perdan (43 recipients) - 2020-06-02 09:41:38 (this was a response to another public letter which questioned Kilhorn's right to make such bold pronouncements)

Someone tell this killer who I am

Before I reduce Xavax to kindling again

I AM JONN DODGER

Kilhorn is the Hand of Death

I am the Hand of Life

Kellan sleeps

Kilhorn

Message sent to all nobles of Perdan (43 recipients) - 2020-06-02 10:47:00

Did we all win already

My dead brother was famous once

AND NOW HE SLEEPS

Kilhorn

Message sent to all nobles of Perdan (43 recipients) - 2020-06-02 14:05:18 (a response to someone who asked if Kilhorn was related to Kellan, and spoke of Kellan as if he were alive and merely absent)

Did you not receive word that Kellan is dead killer

He was famous once

But I am more famous

Kilhorn

(it should be noted that Kilhorn was literally, in ingame prestige terms, much more famous than Kellan at both their peaks, and won many more battles during his career. of course, more players of the time will remember Kellan - a discrepancy not lost on Kilhorn in the gameworld)

(also, I love that this is where I ended off before disappearing for a couple weeks)

6
Roleplaying / Re: Tales from the Bizarre Reappearance of House Dodger
« on: June 17, 2020, 01:25:34 AM »
4: The Secret World of House Dodger, Part 1
(these are interwoven RPs across multiple characters)

Kilhorn: Message sent to all nobles of Perdan (43 recipients) - 2020-06-02 05:04:54

The nine diabhalin guard the entrance to Kilhorn's mind, and they are the ones in control, or so they think.

Jonn: Message sent to all nobles of Sandalak (25 recipients) - 2020-06-02 05:05:49

Jonn guards the 3imaad with a sword of light

Jonn Shintuk:Message sent to all nobles of Avernus (12 recipients) - 2020-06-02 05:06:51

The shadowless sword is a sword with no shadow

Jonn:Message sent to all nobles of Sandalak (25 recipients) - 2020-06-02 05:12:17

The brim of his hat is wide, and the nine diabhalin sit in anger upon it, and within Kilhorn lies torn and bleeding, but he bleeds upon himself alone

Kilhorn:Message sent to all nobles of Perdan (43 recipients) - 2020-06-02 05:13:19

In Aix, Kilhorn's eyes leak blood in tiny drops unseen by any but himself

JS: Message sent to all nobles of Avernus (12 recipients) - 2020-06-02 05:13:56

Jonn walks with his sons though they see him not except in dream

Message sent to all nobles of Avernus (12 recipients) - 2020-06-02 05:15:34

The Fellish camel is more properly a Cathayan camel, originally used in the high and hot places, but used now to the high and cold.

Glossary:

Diabhalin: Darkish (Dark Isle of FEI native) word for "devils"

3imaad: (Transliterated) Arabic for "pillars (3 or more)"

Shadowless Sword: Ultimate sword style of the Khalkar, the pinnacle of achievement in swordsmanship in the Darkish tradition

7
Roleplaying / Re: Tales from the Bizarre Reappearance of House Dodger
« on: June 17, 2020, 12:53:47 AM »
3: The Fallen Warleader's Loyal Captain (re-enter Heimar)

Public Letters

Message sent to all nobles of Sandalak (25 recipients) - 2020-06-01 19:24:06

Greetings, nobles of SAndalake

my master is inDisposed so be patient with me

I am merely a servant writing on behalf of a wounded and comtoes man

Heimar on behalf of

Jonn Dodger
Knight of Dwamon

Message sent to all nobles of Sandalak (25 recipients) - 2020-06-01 19:24:46

We will fllow orders as best as abel please instruckt

Heimar on behalf of

Jonn Dodger
Knight of Dwamon

(These letters are written by Captain Heimar who served both Jonn and Kilhorn previously. What is going on with Jonn will be explained somewhat in future RPs, but to all appearances he has reappeared as a much younger man, wounded and in a coma, attended by Heimar and some healers and guarded by Revenants - Kilhorn's strange and ghoulish servants and most lethal killers)

8
Roleplaying / Re: Tales from the Bizarre Reappearance of House Dodger
« on: June 17, 2020, 12:47:29 AM »
2: The Sons of the Prodigal Warleader

Public letters

Message sent to all nobles of Avernus (12 recipients) - 2020-06-01 12:09:28

I am here brothers, I swear myself to the Khalkar in my father's name, I have been ever so sworn. My palms are scarred and my sword is ours.

Jonn Shintuk Dodger
Knight of Nifelheim

Message sent to all nobles of Avernus (12 recipients) - 2020-06-02 04:52:43

Travel is slow, where may I pay allegiance to my liege and swear the Steel Oath with him? I will make haste to recruit scouts and meet at a guildhouse of the Khalkar.

Jonn Shintuk Dodger
Knight of Nifelheim

(I won't include replies to these letters, but they would indicate that JS' father Jonn was once Warleader of the Khalkar and is well known to some of the Avernian nobles)

Roleplay
(re-enter Karl-Jagutu)

Strange to be in Avernus after all these years, JS thought as he wended his way toward Nifel.

Karl-Jagutu swaggered even on camelback, and he seemed to like the big two humped Fellish breed, which was really a Cathayan breed Jonn had brought over.

And of course Karl-Jagutu smoked and sang, and JS did not, but the Udorians liked them both.

And they were ready for war, whether there was war to be had or not.

Notes:

JS is Jonn Shintuk's preferred nickname.

Cathay was a realm on the Far East Island that Jonn led to victory in the Last War of the Far East over the forces of Sorraine, Myern, and the Grand Duchy of the Dragon. JS was an infant when FEI sank and Jonn returned to Dwilight, bringing Cathayan camels with him to Swordfell.

Udorians are natives of Garuck Udor, more properly known as 'Udur. Please see http://battlemaster.org/testing/RegionDetails.php?ID=143

9
Roleplaying / Re: Tales from the Bizarre Reappearance of House Dodger
« on: June 17, 2020, 12:29:51 AM »
1: The Death of the Imperator-King and the Rise of Kilhorn

Roleplay (Perdan):

A black sailed ship, ragged beyond belief, limps into the port of Aix.

Such a ship inevitably draws more attention than most.

A ghost ship, or so it seems. Old superstitions abound in the Golden City, and priests of all kinds emerge from their dens.

A crowd gathers and chants are heard, same old same old but different.

A new fervor. Bells toll. Bridges are raised. Guards and militia in the street. Looting in the poorer quarters, efficiently sequestered from the golder parts of the city.

The ship is allowed to dock against all regulations. Riots feared. Duke's orders or so they say.

The crowd numbers a thousand or more. Expectant and rabidly poor. They hiss and yowl like alley cats in the torchlit gloom before dawn.

Then from those in the good places a shout of jubilation. A hero's welcome.

Kellan Dodger emerges from the forecastle. Alive and well after all these years. The word goes up. The once lord, duke, king, imperator-king.

His eyes are wild and dark, his unkempt hair swinging behind him in the breeze. He calls out, "There is no God but the All-Creator -"

His throat opens, pouring blood. From behind him steps a shadow of malice. Yellow eyes set deep in barky brown skin, sharpened teeth bared for all to see.

The Imperator King is dead. The crowd melts in rancorous grief. The looting ceases. Fear laces the air from the water to the inner quarters.

Kilhorn and his killers walk the streets.

Public letters
(should be noted that the King of Perdan, Kay Peregrine, had just died)

Message sent to all nobles of Perdan (43 recipients) - 2020-06-01 09:19:01

The kings are dead

So is Perdan

Kilhorn

Message sent to all nobles of Perdan (43 recipients) - 2020-06-01 09:20:46

What timing

Kilhorn

Message sent to all nobles of Perdan (43 recipients) - 2020-06-02 04:50:46

i am with you
[9:49 PM]
White Hand
[9:49 PM]
And Hand of Death
[9:49 PM]
i am the sword in your hand
[9:50 PM]
and lucius is the judge
[9:50 PM]
and we will all decide
[9:50 PM]
i am your servant

TIMESTAMPS ARE IN BLOOD

Kilhorn

10
Roleplaying / Tales from the Bizarre Reappearance of House Dodger
« on: June 17, 2020, 12:29:15 AM »
Greetings again, I return for the are pee. This thread will compile (hopefully) all my RPs from the new iteration of my account.

To catch yourself up on Dodger lore across the various iterations of my account (started in '07, restarted in '14 and again in '20 - ffs), please visit my original wiki at: http://wiki.battlemaster.org/wiki/Dodger_Family (this includes outdated information on current locations and other things that have since been retconned, and leaves out many things that have occurred since it was last updated - ie. much that is "non-canonical")

And the forum thread "Wolves of War: House Dodger" at https://forum.battlemaster.org/index.php/topic,7263.0.html ("canon")

As well as "The Continued Adventures of House Dodger" at https://forum.battlemaster.org/index.php/topic,8716.0.html ("canon")

Dramatis personae: (to be added later)

11
Roleplaying / Re: The Continued Adventures of House Dodger
« on: August 01, 2019, 07:15:03 AM »
Roleplay from Kellan Dodger
Message sent to all allied nobles in Meuse (28 recipients) - 3 hours, 40 minutes ago

Kellan smiled as he set out for Winkamus, he and his Khalkar warriors winding through the great gnarled old trees of the Meusen woods.

Of all the places in the Westland, for so the East Continent was called among Kellan's people, the forests of Meuse and Mulhouse most reminded Kellan of home.

The trees were ancient and strong, some of the expansive roots crawling out of the carpet of fallen leaves so high one needed to ride around them rather than over. In the summer months the rainstorms that blew in from the not so distant coast filled the low places with a mucky bog.

In many ways, so like the Mistwood of Mnalor, where Kellan had grown up.

He hummed a Darkish marching song as they went, and soon his men caught up the tune. Some laughed, for it was a song for homeward marches, usually not sung before battle. But after Kellan had sung the first chorus, he reflected that perhaps for him, battle was the closest thing to home...

(You can just barely hear Kellan and his men singing through the trees. It sounds something like this: https://youtu.be/lQFKMar4x-w )


12
Development / Re: Command Staff Settings - Help Make Them better
« on: July 09, 2019, 10:58:26 PM »
They do get used some, unfortunately mostly in cases where the marshal doesn't trust their army to line up properly or just doesnt understand line settings. Given how few of them are even semi-useful, this is too bad for those armies. Marshals should take more time to work on custom settings and communicate with their armies. Once they get used to being expected to line up themselves instead of being treated like bots, they tend to do well. Repetition and consistency is key.

That being said, new marshal settings, especially in regards to ones that change unit behavior, would be useful. I will put some thought into it.

13
Roleplaying / Re: The Continued Adventures of House Dodger
« on: April 19, 2019, 09:39:38 AM »
Kellan rolled up a smoke.

He could watch the whole camp up here, just sitting on a mat on top of this little rise in the land.

It was a good spot for drifting off into thought, this little rise that, while only a few feet really, seemed to boost one so much closer to the clouds.

He lit the smoke and drew a deep breath.

He thought of the Dark Isle where he'd grown up. The way the towering thunderheads rolled out along the coast to pelt the earth with great teardrops from the sky. The way the dense salt fogs of the Mistwood drifted dreamily among the rough and gnarled trees, hung with creeping mosses. The way the darkish lights skipped airily over the little bogs that collected in the low-lying areas in the wet months, which were many and most.

His land. His father's land and the land of their ancestors. Won from the dark elves known as the Remnant in a war that never really ended, that waxed and waned in intensity over the centuries as the Remnant waxed and waned in magical powers, as the Darkish waxed and waned in singularity of purpose.

With nothing but steel and grit and bound by their Khalkar oath, the men of the Isle defended her from threats within and without for centuries. But Kellan was not born in those times. Kellan was born in the dark days of a foreign empire known as Arcaea taking dominion over the Isle and installing their foreign lords, first the Arcachoni and then the Coralynthi, over her inhabitants.

The Dodgers were always known as the worst kind of Darkish insurgents, the ones that lived off in the bogs down paths only they knew, the kind that talked like aristocrats and lived like brigands. Always the Dodgers, the Gegs, and the Shadow Clans giving the Arcaeans fits. Banditry, piracy, extortion, and murder for hire - all in the name of freedom.

All in the name of the Khalkar.

Kellan exhaled and looked down at his hands, the palms blackened and scarred from the taking of the Steel Oath, not once but twice. On his seventeenth birthday he'd stood with old Merrit the steward, who'd helped raise him after his father's murder by a Remnant lichlord. He and Merrit and Grathe Geg and a fresh-forged sword, still red-hot from the blacksmith's fire.

A year or two later he and Grathe stood with Lord Jonn, just the day before Jonn's victory in the tournament at Enlod, and took it again, to bind themselves to the Oath through the noble line of passage.

Ever since he'd come of age he'd been at the center of it all, from his accidental win at a tournament that got him a marshalship at 17. The last wars of the Far East, keeping the Dark Isle and Cathay alive with Lord Jonn until all their enemies were overthrown and the temples of the Sartanists burned even as the Far East sank into the waves.

Coming to the western land that most called the East, the mad Xerarch, Selenia's betrayal, coming to Perdan after the failed rebellion. Climbing the ranks to a throne and the unsought position of Supreme Allied Commander.

A brief absence... and now he was back.

Much had changed. Kellan's life, it seemed, was very quickly getting back to its normal.

14
Roleplaying / Re: The Continued Adventures of House Dodger
« on: April 19, 2019, 09:38:23 AM »
Kellan strode up and down the length of the allied camp, giving orders here and suggestions there. He was only of average height and appearance, with a plain, well-lined and sunbeaten face covered in multiple scars. His salt-and-pepper hair was almost all gone in the front and middle, leaving only the sides and back of his head covered.

But he was broad of shoulder and strong as any younger man, his eyes sharp and piercing. He bore himself as a man born to command, upright of posture, with a firm handshake, the kind of man that looks everyone in the eye and sees them for who they are.

He was dressed all in black as was the Dodger custom. Between battles on a hot summer day, he wore a simple cloth tunic and pants, his House arms and signs of his rank presented neatly on his collar. In battle he would wear black scaled leather and mail, and a war mask of black iron. Its blank and forbidding visage was known to terrify foes.

His soldiers were heavy archers, and while in times past they had been known to ride swift Udorian coursers into battle, firing from their saddles as they danced among the lines, these days they dismounted from humbler steeds and lined up with the rank and file.

But they were Khalkar soldiers one and all, takers of the Steel Oath like Kellan, with the scars on their palms to prove it. Some Darkishmen from the Isle, some Perdanese, some even from Garuck Udor and Unterstrom in Dwilight. They were trained in the Khalkar ways, ready to die at a moment's notice, and armed and armored with Perdan's best.

Kellan would need them today. Perdan would need all her soldiers today.

He continued making his rounds among the tents and pickets, as if his last-minute adjustments could stay the hand of Fate...

15
Roleplaying / The Continued Adventures of House Dodger
« on: April 14, 2019, 04:08:04 AM »
The night was dark, and somewhere in the distance an inhuman shriek rent the chilly air.

An old man picked his way through the ancient ruined shell of a noble manor in Gor Ault.

Had Heimar been the kind of man for musing, he might have mused at the irony of his situation. Alone in a lost and monster-infested land, surrounded by all the dread of dark and creaking boards and spiders and Creator knows what else scurrying off into the gloom, he feared none of it half so much as he feared the very thing he sought.

But Heimar was not a man for musing. He was an old soldier, burned out from too many battles and too much raaha smoke to cover the pain of lost friends. So he did not muse. He pushed aside his fears, his very thoughts, consigned them to the dark place behind the well-built walls of his soul, and continued on his mission.

The thing he sought - and it was a thing, for what other word can describe that which cannot be called human, and yet is not spirit, nor elf, nor beast, and yet moves as though it had will, and sense, and kills and kills again? - was somewhere within these crumbling walls, somewhere in the shrieking plains of Gor Ault where man was predator or prey or long gone.

Heimar had been sent by a master he'd once loved to find this thing to which he had somehow become bound, this killing machine that had turned his life into a nightmare unending, this yoke he thought he'd escaped twice, only to be dragged back under its crushing weight. That weight had smothered all love in his heart, until all that was left was duty unshirkable and the yearning for the release of death.

For now, Heimar believed, death was his only escape.

He found it collapsed in a dusty corner, like a doll tossed aside by a storming child. The yellowy eyes stared blankly off at empty darkness. The cruel mouth twisted in a meaningless grimace, exposing sharpened teeth behind the cracked and ragged lips. The clawlike hands twitched intermittently, spasmodically, on the ends of arms askew, splayed out at angles unnatural to the human form.

Heimar drew in a slow breath, shoved his hands into his pockets as he looked down at it. Was there life within? If so, it showed no sign of seeing him or sensing his presence. He thought - but perhaps it was the wind through the cracks in the rotting walls, but he thought - he could hear shallow rasping breaths.

He hoped against hope that he was too late, that he would fail in this "last" duty and go back to his peaceful life as a beggar in the streets of Agyr. But he knew better. As he drew forth the stone chip the nameless Khalkar brother had thrust into his hand by surprise as he sat smoking on the docks, he could feel the power within it surging forth as it never had.

It had led him here, and now he must complete the mission.

The thing stirred even before he pressed the stone to its convulsing palm, a great creaking shudder up from the base of the spine to the base of the skull. Heimar drew back and fought the urge to vomit.

"Can't be helped," he muttered to himself after a moment. "Made an Oath..."

Forcefully, he pressed the stone into the outstretched palm. A wheezing gasp racked the  supine form, the spine arching toward the ceiling. Heimar backed away as it siezed and shuddered, rasping groans grinding forth from between the desiccated lips.

At last the limbs shot out at crazed angles, the yellowed eyes opened fully, the mouth opened, and a rasping scream worse than that of a tortured animal burst forth from between the sharpened teeth. Then it collapsed, and was silent.

Heimar hoped again, briefly. But the thing stirred, slowly this time, the claws seeking purchase on the warped floorboards, turning itself, forcing itself to its hands and knees.

The head rose slowly, lanky hair parting to reveal the strange, barklike skin of a face halfway between human and monster. The yellow eyes glinted. It bared its sharpened teeth in a savage, bestial grin.

"Captain... Heimar," it rasped.

Heimar drew breath, fighting the wave of nausea that threatened to overwhelm him.

"Lord Kilhorn," he said, clearing his throat. "You have been assigned a task."

If a tool of murder can be said to smile, the thing known as Kilhorn Dodger smiled.

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