Search the Community
Showing results for tags 'shysh'.
Found 1 result
Skaddi's Own Haakon hadn't consumed any Blue-shroom Brew since he finished the last keg a week ago. And his newest batch, though potent as he expected it to be, was just beginning to ferment. Haakon grinned as would a child who knew he had gotten away with a particularly risky prank, thinking of his banned homebrew warming him from the inside out. It would be a welcome relief from the icy winds that swirled around him as he drove his sled through the night. His uncle’s jaw was as stone and his chest ever-full, but in his eyes there had been a look few had ever seen in the revered ruler. They were slightly wider than usual, unblinking and fixed directly on the object of their attention as though they could hold it tightly in place. Haakon noticed. “I will not be alone, Uncle. My pledge-kin will join me, and the goddess will watch over us. Haggrax the Rememberer is to come along as well,” he had tried to assure his worried mentor. And so off they had charged towards the Horn of Endruul, Haakon riding ahead of the march so as to hopefully intercede before any desecration. The beastherds should be starving on the Ice’s Teeth by now, but when they set themselves to a purpose, they were far swifter than the dwarves. “They will still be many, and there is no shortage of wild thing for them to enslave in that harsh range. Keep your wits,” the elder had cautioned. Their warrior’s embrace would hopefully not be the last they'd share, but if it was, that was the cost of Haakon’s connection to the goddess. The war dogs strained against their bonds, whining and yipping with excitement; all but the lead pair, his alphas. Closer to domesticated wolves than pets or working stock, these creatures had served the Undissons for generations. But it was Haakon who first taught them to pull a sled. It was Haakon who trained them to respond to his subtle shifts of weight, rather than the harsh command of the whip. Behind him, the smell of the first night’s fire had faded, but Haakon did not notice. All he could hear was the slicing of runner through ice as his sled raced down the trampled track of the herd. By morning, he’d have reached them and could begin choosing targets. The pack alphas, driving the sled of Haakon the Mad His fellow Oathsworn would be on the trail before sun-up. Heavily-muscled and thick of bone, they wouldn’t travel fast, but by evening his campfire would again smell of bloodbrew, weapon-polish and dreamer’s chew. Haakon’s heart pounded in his chest with the excitement of leading his comrades on the hunt. So many sacred lands had been defiled, it was time these grudges were settled and peaks cleansed. Hakkon’s blood surged in an unusually persceptable pulse through his body, his hands tightening on the reigns. He noticed the edges of his vision blurring rapidly and forced his eyes wider. He inhaled the cold mountain air in a sharp pull, flooding his consciousness back into control and using this brief moment of clarity to pull his sled to a rest in a drift not 3 feet off of the trail. As he released the clasps that confined his team, a dark-furred head presumptuously if half-heartedly snapped at his hand, only to be bowled over and pinned by a growling alpha. Remembering the teachings of Master Haggrax, Haakon lowered himself into a deep squat. He sunk from a spring-loaded crouch into relaxing balance. Haakon measured his breathing, finding a steady rhythm that soon faded into the background as his vision took over. Bloody tracks, first scattered but getting more dense until they culminated in steaming puddles of mud and gore… A spear of gleaming blue ice with gruesome offerings heaped at its base or tied round its shining surface… Heavy bodies stomped about on cloven feet, guttural utterings in the place of speech… Closest to the stone were several hooded figures, each taller than a man but not thick like the goat men… There was a melodious nature to their chanting and he could feel himself drawn to it… The enemy were too, as the gors began to walk towards the stone, many shedding their armor as they went. They began to rock forward and back, breathing in the thickening purplish fog that had begun to creep all about them, rising in snaking tendrils from their ankles until it slithered into their nostrils. His vision began to shimmer. He was losing hold. The beasts moaned both in pleasure and pain as armored scales sprouted across their shoulders. Just then, one of the hooded figures turned towards Hakkon and loosed an awful screech from its avian beak. The vision quaked violently before dissolving. … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … The pack strained silently, but maintained their discipline, poised to attack just outside the ring of brush that surrounded the camp. Haakon’s eyes darted from furred hulk to cloven foot to horned mantle until he caught a glimpse of his prey. Unnaturally iridescent feathers, seemingly shifting from the green of the deep jungle to the teal of a glassy sea to a mystical pink, most comparable to the scales of a young summer wyrm, with every step of the cloaked form. The lithe figure was not touched or approached, but every beastman it passed watched it intently. Haakon unstrapped the twin hammers from his back, drew in a deep breath, and let out a high whistle. The pack alphas of Haakon the Mad War cries surrounded the camp as fur-clad duardin emerged from behind boulders and out of dense cover. Weapons were slammed into the earth in a challenge that was soon met by hungry growls and horned charges. With the slavering herd spreading out to meet the directionless attack, Haakon’s pack charged through an opening, lunging for the soft throats of even the newly scale-plated bestigors. All manner of death cry could be heard, but none took root in the mind of Skaddi’s champion. Though his visions were so often embedded within spells of dizziness and crippling pain, Haakon knew the lesser-goddess empowered her chosen alpha. Nothing distracted the predator as he strode through the fracas. The war dogs of Haakon the Mad … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … He wore scant armor and no boots, great plumage and a single high ridge affixed to an otherwise plain iron skullcap. His ruddy pink skin was not aglow with runic tattoo or mystical fire… Could this truly be the challenger who interrupted his transformation ritual? That was clearly a hero. His eyes had glowed with power. A furious heat had radiated from his densely muscled figure. No, this could not be the immortal he had seen. Xcryx’trynct the Temptor threw back the hood from his head and shook out his locks, allowing them to untangle from his crown of curled horns. He let the rest of the shoddy woolen cloak drop from his broad shoulders, admiring his gloriousness as the morning sunlight stabbed through the snow clouds to shine off of his multicolored feathers. The vain shaman hardly noticed his warband being cut down all about, for he was already imagining the taste of this upstart’s blood. Drawing a scimitar in his right hand while leveling his staff with his left, the Temptor gave a clicking chortle, taunting his foe. … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … Haakon had never seen such a beast. Frenzied half-men of all shades adorned with claws, fangs, bony growths or even hooves were the norm. Some, more blessed by the dark powers were more goat or bull than man and had the might to tear through a city guard. The creatures his pack had surprised were even larger and possessed odd scales and bulky growths, mutations that seemed more design than organic… And now this bird-man, glowing with an eery light… But there were many things the champion wished he could unsee in Ghyran since the arrival of the plague bringers. These were just more of the same. As the creature pranced and whirled, it made hissing and clicking sounds that had an oddly self-assured tone. Haakon sank his toes into the trampled snow, making sure each step had full traction and the push could be felt from the extension of his ankle through to his hip. Bounding from side to side with each stride, he noticed the widening of his prey’s eyes. Just outside the range of a staff’s swing, Haakon shortened his step right, hopped, and then gave a full push off. While feeling the air flow from the scimitar stab where the creature expected him to be, the sneering dwarf unloaded a hammer blow that crunched into the underside of the serrated beak. His second hammer strike shattered the staff hand, causing the weapon to fall into the snow and quickly lose its glow. With a roll and wheel, Haakon squared himself to the reeling enemy. A block and counter swing was all it took to drop his foe. Stepping closer to stand over the fallen defiler and examine it one final time before he finished his work, Haakon was annoyed to hear it begin to cackle again. Before he could strike down, it's body burst into a flutter of tiny birds, each scrambling into the sky with their misshapen wings. He tried to kill them, but only was able to fell a few which quickly turned to shapeless pulp. Letting out a roar of frustration, Haakon was answered by cheers. It appeared his comrades had finished their work and were satisfied that there would be no further defiling of this holy ground… ... Haakon suspected this was just the beginning of the atrocities he would see. Haakon the Mad's sled being pulled through mud and snow by his pack of war dogs. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ The Trap is Sprung Their whining had stopped and paw-strikes gone silent. The hunting dogs strained into their harnesses, working in tight coordination with their alpha’s example. Soon the pungent musk of the herd was noticeable, it's accompaniment by the stench of decay, a sign that this herd had earned favor of the grotesque one and would likely be more formidable than the last. If they traveled with knights, Haakon feared they might be beyond his prowess. He could feel the beating of his own heart, faster and faster, but he forced it to steady. There was no time for a dream now. Bursting from a brush line and joining a trail, Haakon's team was confronted with gruesome signposts made of dismembered limbs. Hands forced to point in conflicting directions were crudely nailed to stripped thigh bones and topped with decapitated heads, the edges of their mouths sawed into gory smiles. The effigies lined the way in both directions but seemed to extend more densely to the right, so instinctively he prompted the team to turn in that direction, only to come face to face with the stuff of nightmares. He pulled in the reigns hard, tipping the sled and rolling out from under it as it tumbled to a halt and the team attempted to keep free of the weight. Blocking the path were the bodies of his fellow hunters. Their limbs, where still attached, were broken into sharp angles. Cracked ribs protruded from their sides and guts were slashed open to reveal torn entrails. The bodies hung limply by nooses braided from the hair of their shorn beards. Haakon roared in fury. When it's echoes faded, he heard the cackling. The Oathsworn lashed out with his twin warhammers, striking out in wide circles to the left and then right, but the enemy could not be seen. Sinking to his knees, the warrior-priest’s growls gave way to sobs. How could he not have seen the perils facing his brothers earlier? The defilers and their bestial followers had spoiled yet another prestige wilderness, this time fouling it with an offense made from his own brethren. Haakon preparing to strike with his twin hammers. Gathering himself, Haakon bowed his head in prayer to Skaddi. He asked forgiveness for allowing such an insult to her kin. He vowed to settle this grudge or be destroyed in the attempt. But most of all, Haakon pleaded with Skaddi that she might accept these Oathsworn into the ranks of her mountains’ protectors. He begged her to see the purity of their hearts and to bestow upon them the honor of pledging their souls to her spirit-guard. Silence. Haakon sat in the complete silence only a practiced devotee could manage, waiting for a gust of icy wind to dry his tears, the howl of a wolf to guide his hunt… Any sign the goddess might send him. But for an agonizingly long time, there was nothing. And so he sat. Haakon would not entertain the thought that they could have been abandoned; not by Skaddi. When Grungni had pointed his children to refuge in the thunder-king’s heavens it was Skaddi who had denounced his cowardice. It was Skaddi who had sent the storms and the beasts to aide the Undissons in defense of their homes. And most recently, it was Skaddi who had sent her blessed out to secure the sacred sites within these ranges. She would never turn her back on her little brothers and sisters. Just then, an unseasonably warm rain began to fall. Though the air felt still, thunderheads moved overhead with force, blocking out the light save for their own electric flashes. Haakon felt no dizziness or dream-state coming, rather his benefactor simply appeared to him from within the storm as though she had walked out from the brush in plain day. Pale of skin and emanating a blue glow as she was in constant communion with the spirits who lived alongside the duardin of these icy mountains, Skaddi looked down upon her tiny warrior-priest as rivulets of pain flowed from eyes as pure as fresh snow-cover. “I was deceived little brother, and now I have lead you astray. A trickster sent forth by the dark gods drew my attention towards the Horn of Endruul and the kinstone sheltered within. Your wise teacher Haggrax the Rememberer has removed the stone from it's icy armor and carries it from the reaches of the defilers.” “But goddess, surely the stone will be safer in hiding with Haggrax than undefended as the bringers of sickness continue to befoul the mountains?” “That would be true little brother, but several of the players have only recently shown themselves. In the shadows they have managed to gain advantage that I fear we cannot recover from.” Haakon was stunned. His clan had worshipped Skaddi since the Age of Myth when she alone spoke to the connection between the mountains and the spirits of their ancestors. It was Skaddi who had helped them to settle the icy heights of Ghyran all those centuries ago, and who had taught them to use the natural energies coursing through ice and stone to commune with their predecessors. To this day, Skaddi spoke loudest to the Undissons, more clearly than to any other clan in Realm of Life. She had resolutely called Haakon and his brother Oathsworn to arms just the other night, sending them forth to preserve these sacred lands. He simply could not fathom the demi-goddess of mountain blizzards leading them astray. “In my suffering at all our losses, I was too hasty to try and prevent further corruption. The Mountainsson Grove ceased it's song. When I saw the twisted husks of the young tree-kin, I thought they had died of disease, but now I know they were bathed in warpfire…” “Warpfire?” Repeated Haakon in confusion. “That does not sound like the work of the plague-carriers or the beast herds.” “No, in fact it was not. It was simply a ploy to disarm the holy mountains, for the mature war groves are entangled in battle, and the few children of the wood that managed to survive have had to be ushered into hiding, or risk the extinction of their line.” Skaddi paused, gathering herself under the weight of her shame. “So too was there a ploy to spur Haggrax’s removal of the kinstone inside Endruul’s horn, thus dampening the communication between devoted and ancestor. The purple lightning that shattered the prayer-ledge of little brother Draketongue was not of Sigmar nor my creation. Dorbus the Shepherd even went about burying his totems for fear of what they could be used for if desecrated. Alas young priest, all these attempts have done is tear apart the webs of power that course through my once majestic ranges…” Haakon was beginning to understand, and the truth was far more grim than he had imagined. “You have not spoken of befoulment…” “For this was not the plague demon’s doing,” replied the glowing goddess sadly. “Then who?” Wondered Haakon aloud. “The god of lies and deceit has played his first hand. The trickster has manipulated me into severing the ties in our network of power. This has left my devoted, such as your clan’s Oathsworn, isolated and vulnerable. The secret-trader could prey on any of you he chooses now, and I would hardly see it at its peak, let alone in time to intervene.” “We did not pledge ourselves blindly great sister,” Haakon insisted. “If we fall, you will reshape us into blessed beasts to continue fighting alongside our brothers, in the service of our mountain temples.” “I wish it was still so…” Skaddi’s voice trailed off. After a pause, she gathered pulled her mind back from whatever was haunting her thoughts. “Another threat has been growing, and it's vile mechanations have begun to take hold. Nagash, ruler of the dead, has called to claim the souls of the fallen and his power has swelled as the tides of war have swept in. Though the ancestors are firmly rooted in stone still, your newly fallen brothers are beyond my reach.” Haakon of clan Undisson, driven mad in his hunt for the souls of kin “But you taught that sacrifice for the clan would bring the reward of ascension to the mountain’s pantheon of defenders. The other teachers and myself, our own teachers… We have preached this to those we trained since they were babes…” “It appears the treacherous one knew of Nagash’s growing reach and sought to take advantage. We thought we only fought against one evil, but cultists and bird-faced abominations have harried our flanks and forced us to stretch beyond our limits.” Blood filled his muscular frame as Haakon’s entire body tensed. The blizzard queen saw the fury in the warrior-priest’s eyes, the white of the storm flashing in her own as a warning to him. But he was no longer concerned with the demigoddess’ powers. She who had once taught them how to navigate to safety seemed to have lead them to their doom. The plague god’s minions corrupted once pristine wilds. The god of deception was slowly undermining their defenses, with what foul purpose he did not want to imagine. And now the god of the dead sought to enslave his clan for his own devices. There was only one question left to ask. “And who will protect our clan while I hunt the great necromancer?” “You know that answer already.” “She’s not ready, especially as fever overruns the range.” “And that is why the princess is leaving, your whole clan in fact,” replied Skaddi in a measured way, as though gauging the warrior priest’s reaction to each word as she spoke it. “Your uncle will of course remain king, but he has spent his strength protecting these lands. His daughter, however, has a yet unrevealed strength about her. She will join with a renegade king from Azyr and establish a new home range, one where the ancestors can once again find peace under the mountains.” “And I am to trust this upstart from another realm?” “No sweet brother, you are not. You have a different purpose…” Haakon the Mad of Clan Undisson, crackling with ancestral fury _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Riding into Darkness: Tattered leather coverings flapped furiously as the opac wind raced alongside them. Haakon ranted and muttered to himself but could not collect his thoughts. It had been a week since the he entered the shadowlands, the longest he had gone without communing with Skaddi since she had first reached out to him as a beardling. He was delirious, haunted by grinning skulls in his dreams and taunted by the echoes of cackling birds when awake. She had entrusted Haakon with the greatest of missions, so grand in scope that Haakon assumed he would meet his doom in the attempt. First he had caught up with Haggrax, tracking him by the feigntest of scent trails. The ruffian had ceased his cursing when Haakon’s panicked words registered. Equally disturbed by the demi-goddess having been lead astray and his greatest pupil’s sputtering tale of massacre and conspiracy, the old master had reached out a gnarled hand and placed it on his pupil’s shoulder in an attempt to comfort him. The Rememberer then revealed a plan to reunite long lost brothers under common banners. If he survived, Haggrax said with a wild-eyed grin, he'd meet Haakon in the clan’s new halls. Next he sought out Brother Draketongue. The feral duardin had sacrificed any semblance of a normal or traditional life long ago, even by Undisson standards. But it was a price he'd happily pay again for the ability to commune so fluently with generations of long-dead ancestors. They gave him the strength to accomplish feats that had made him famous from mountain temple to Ironwood keep. But even as he nodded in agreement with Haakon’s strategy to send the hermit into Shysh first to chart a path and set a rallying point for their forces while Haakon rode into Uglu to bring the clan’s most potent weapon into their plans, Draketongue knew they likely all would fall under the shambling hordes long before they could assemble for the battle they sought. Afterwards, Haakon had hunted down Eliriya Tree-sister and Dorbus the Shepherd. The mystics each had taken note of the way his eyes flashed with lightning and he voice seemed to roar as thunder. He might have only recently reached teaching-status in the priesthood, but this Haakon was quite obviously the instrument of Skaddi herself. And he was now emerging as the herald of great things to come, despite rumors that a madness had taken hold of him. Finally, he had traversed peak to valley, gathering the scattered questing knights of the Undissons. Rebellious and determined the lot, they had eventually agreed to his demand that they ride into Shysh when they heard that Elendor the Scarred would be meeting them at the portal. The legendary warrior-priestess had honored the gods time and again with her heroic deeds, and these babes were filled with pride at being invited to fight alongside her, no matter how grave the odds. Following a woodland trail through a darkness that no starlight nor fog-covered sun could penetrate, Haakon had completely lost his sense of time, but he was still acutely aware that something watched he and his team. What, or who, he could not tell. But Haakon the Mad knew one other thing with equal certainty - Even if Draketongue was able to assemble their band of heroes tomorrow night under the lone ironwood standing in the Garden of the Fallen, they would likely fall as the last of the Undisson mountain guardians to have defended Ghyran, if not simply the end of their clan’s line entirely. And so Haakon the Mad plunged deeper into the bewitching fog, following the invisible trail of spirit-power. His dogs’ surging legs never tired, for they had been hardened to the mountain’s strength. His blazing purple eye noticed what could not be seen because they had been blessed with the blizzard’s sharpness. With these gifts he had a chance to find the mother of bears and her duardin companion. ...But the real question was how to prevent the creature from tearing him apart on sight.