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Old March 29, 2016, 06:21 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Pitcher [Dolwoods] “Porta and Vaishen Sitting on a Tree” (OPEN)

The ancient forest seated between the former Enamorian Province and Centripax was always a strange and wondrous place. Just when the Dolwoods couldn’t be any weirder, it did.

It didn’t take long for Porta and Vaishen to notice something unusual when the forest appeared to shimmer on their approach. That was definitely not normal. Once they drew closer, they noticed that the trees throughout the Medonian Circle and particularly those of the Dolwoods taken the color and texture of snow-white glass.

“It’s just wondrous, ain’t it?”, chirped a voice somewhere beside them. Neither traveler noticed anyone approaching or realized the tiny figure was there until just then.

It was a froglok, though probably still a youngling for his particular species. For starters, he was the size of a toddler and had a nub where his tadpole tail should have been. His entire body was bright green like a common tree frog ...but, you know, much larger and sentient. He croaked happily and waved a webbed hand at the travelers.

“Mind stepping outta the way?”, he asked of the pair. “Yer kinda blockin’ my rays. I’m tryin’ to sunbathe here. Such a fine brightening, eh?”
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Old March 29, 2016, 07:42 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Vaishen shifted back and forth ever so much, straining every sense in preparation for the horrors that awaited the Vadei duo in the Dolwoods. The nairu dervish had never once ventured into that mysterious destination before, but he knew all too well the circumstances that caused the miserable failure of a Hegemony expedition into those woods. The reports had been harrowing: Metal objects melting away into nothingness upon entering, living trees assaulting the party, and other weird crap determined to make the party fail no matter what.

Porta, though, seemed eager to return, despite all that. She was the one who'd recommended this particular adventure, and Vaishen eagerly agreed. Divesting himself of all metal, venturing into a horrible murder forest without his blades or other equipment, and living to tell the tale -- that was the sort of deed that would make him stronger, more capable, and better able to protect those closest to him.

As preparation, he'd left all his weapons, trinkets, and armor at home. Vaishen came, instead, in a simple padded leather hauberk constructed without metal components. A bone knife was sheathed on his hip, though it was a very poor substitute for his Arakmatan daggers. Finally, he carried a stone axe tucked away in the belt securely around his waist. That, a bit of beginner’s magic, and a small satchel of food and water -- for this was mostly a light reconnaissance mission -- were what he brought to tame one of the most enigmatic places in Aelyria.

Vaishen came mentally prepared for an experience ranging between total war with mother nature and hell itself. That shimmering in the air, the changing colors, his every muscle tensed, readying him to become the instrument of destruction he was trained to be--

“It's just wondrous, ain't it?” The voice chirped, and Vaishen’s eyes immediately went to the source. He gazed at the froglok for a moment, feeling the adrenaline slowly deflate and fade away.

A baby frog. Hell itself, all right.

Vaishen was not one to be a nuisance to a sunbathing frog whose light he'd blocked. Sure, he'd murdered, connived, and thoroughly annoyed more people than he'd ever be able to count -- but he wasn't quite that big of a jerk.

“My apologies, I somehow didn't see you there.” Vaishen answered in a friendly tone, making sure he unblocked the froglok’s rays. “It is a fine brightening indeed, and this is quite wondrous. It's certainly not what I expected.”

Last edited by Vaishen Vadei; March 29, 2016 at 07:46 PM.
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Old March 29, 2016, 08:30 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Ah, so we meet again, was Porta's thought with regards to this endeavor.

To someone who prided herself on her expertise with forests and trees in general, the Dolwoods stood as the single patch of nature that had kicked her sorry behind all the way back to the forestline. Porta would be the first to admit she knew very little of the world, and her understanding and exposure to everything from political infrastructures to foods like bread was... limited. The forest was perhaps the only realm on Telath in which she actually felt like she belonged, her natural habitat.

So that said, going head-to-head with these woods in particular was a rare matter of pride to Porta. She simply had a score to settle.

With Vaishen at her side, all of her possessions -- metal or otherwise -- still safely stowed away up in some tree out in the basin, and nearly two more eras of experience under her belt since her last trip here, Porta was readier than ever for round two with the Dolwoods. Her arms and hands were wrapped up to her elbows, her clothes was her typical attire picked to blend in with the shadows and the trees, and her boots were softened and well-worn, ideal for giving her free range for navigating tree canopies. With some flint in one pocket and a sharp-edged stone in the other, she’d be ready to shave a few pointy weapons along the way while still traveling light.

Porta knew from experience that the Dolwoods had a tendency to physically shift and morph by the second, so while the shimmering initial view of the forest was new, it wasn’t completely mind-boggling.

What was unexpected was this talking frog. Porta blinked and followed Vaishen, stepping out of the “rays”. “Sorry,” she echoed quickly, eyeing the amphibian curiously. A froglok. Porta bit her lip, trying to put many memories of past meals she’d made from this guy’s relatives out of mind. She was trying to be less impulsive with what she ate, to think more with her brain and less with her stomach -- but it was hard when frog’s legs tasted so good. And when this one was pretty sizeable... Snap out of it!

But if he felt comfortable enough to sunbathe out in the open where predators like Porta could easily snatch him up, he probably spent a lot of time in these parts, a local. Maybe he had information. She crouched down next to the froglok. “What happened to the trees around here? Do you know?”
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Old March 30, 2016, 12:09 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Being metal-less wasn’t too bad. Vaishen felt a little lighter and it translated into easier movement and ease of transport. His body was used to all those weapons and light armor. So even a little extra weight off did wonders for the dervish. The bone knife and light leather was just a safety precaution. (Continued)

Porta considered eating the froglok. She decided to ask questions first, unrelated to potentially stewing the creature and eating its legs. (Continued)

ALL:

“Life is like that”, the tiny froglok said sagely. When Vaishen moved out of the way, the green creature closed its large eyes to enjoy the warmth without becoming blind. Which was a good thing since he didn’t notice Porta deliciously eying his legs.

He opened one eye, the one facing the crouching Porta, after she spoke. “Not sure”, he croaked. “Some of the gnomes swear that a dragon swooped down and turned the trees into glass. I heard Mr. Heron shouting on about mages -- when he’s not trying to eat me or my cousins. There’s an odd man who still lives inside the Dolwoods. Raises chicken-lizards. Nice fellow.”

As if ‘nice fellow’ and ‘chicken-lizards’ were normal things to go together in the same sentence. Then again, Porta and Vaishen were talking to a frog.
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Old March 31, 2016, 08:50 AM   #5 (permalink)
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A man living in the Dolwoods? Now that was a curiosity worth investigating. The whole chicken-lizards thing was, well, weird, but when in Prime...

“This nice fellow, what does he say of it all? And where might I find him? I'm quite certain I've never seen a chicken-lizard before.”
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Old March 31, 2016, 01:04 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Now this was interesting. Dragons, mages, chicken-lizards… And someone was actually living in the Dolwoods? On purpose? Porta furrowed her brow.

Were chicken-lizards tasty? It sounded like there was potential there, for sure.

She remained there, crouched next to the sunbathing froglok as Vaishen asked the questions, and looked again at the bizarre, sparkling trees. How would it feel to climb them? she wondered at the back of her mind. Smooth and ridged, like scaling the sheer marble pillars of the old Hegemony building? Rough, like the strong pines of the Great Mountains? Solid and narrow, like scaling a flag’s pole, requiring leverage of the feet to keep from sliding down? She’d have to try it out for herself.
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Old March 31, 2016, 02:02 PM   #7 (permalink)
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"They're delicious. Crunch", mused the froglok. Then, realizing that the dark-skinned dervish was probably referring to the fellow he added, "Oh, you mean Old Greg? I doubt he noticed. See, he's a little vision-impaired."

Which was to say the hermit was 100% blind. But the green tree froglok was taught that saying things like that outright was considered rude. Sometimes the hoops grown-ups forced themselves to jump through to be politically correct was exhausting.

"He's next to the Griffin Tree and the Badger Turtle holes", continued the froglok, as if that was supposed to make sense to the average traveler. The green creature continued to lay on the meadows, sunbathing still.

Last edited by Crimson; April 4, 2016 at 06:01 PM.
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Old April 1, 2016, 03:01 PM   #8 (permalink)
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“Ah, I see.” Vaishen replied, nodding at the froglok’s revelations. An old, vision impaired hermit lived in these woods? The thought of it was so inconsistent with everything Vaishen knew about the Dolwoods that it set him slightly ill at ease. He once knew a lad named Curly Jefferson that wound up mounted like a fishing trophy for being too comfortable with such situations, and Vaishen did not want to similarly be taken in by a character such as Old Greg.OK, this is totally non-canon and breaking the fourth wall, but can't resist

“I'm sorry to keep intruding on your relaxing afternoon,” Vaishen said in polite fashion, “but we're new here. Can you point the way to Griffin tree and the shelled badger holes?”
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Old April 2, 2016, 09:04 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Delicious, huh? I’ll need to try a chicken-lizard then, first chance I get.

Oh wow, a vision impaired man was living in the Dolwoods? That was even more impressive than Porta had originally thought, and she straightened to stand upright again, crossing her arms. She nodded along in agreement as Vaishen asked the real questions.
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Old April 4, 2016, 06:01 PM   #10 (permalink)
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"Sure", said the frogling. He pointed a webbed finger directly in front of them. "Straight through the Noose Vines. Then make a right at Mrs. Spider's tree. Don't wake her up, though. She doesn't like solicitors, especially door-to-door missionaries and Ioannes' Witnesses."

"Once you reach the Orange Owl, you make a left and you're at Griffin Rock. I suggest that you don't feed the rocks or pet the griffins. It's considered rude. If you pass the Badger Turtles, you've gone too far."
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Old April 5, 2016, 10:28 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Porta nodded at this wise information, creating a mental map of the landmarks they would need to watch for, and bowed her head in gratitude to the helpful froglok. “Thank you very much.” Good things happen when you don’t instantly try to eat animals, it turns out.

She turned to look at the Dolwoods treeline, shrugging back her shoulders, ready to enter for round two with Vaishen at her side.

Blind man in the forest, here we come!
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Old April 6, 2016, 02:26 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Vaishen nodded along in time, listening to the directions intently and yet learning nothing of importance. He could have pressed the froglok more, certainly he should have if any good sense were to enter the equation, but sometimes one just had to say to hell with it and wrap themselves up in that wondrous spirit that was adventure. “A thousand gratitudes, my friend. May the sun shine down on you.”

Porta had already turned, and Vaishen saw something set into her features that, all by itself, could have made this entire trip worth it. He saw confidence, a hint of determination, and a young woman ready to lead.

“I hope you caught that, because you’re our guide.” He said, putting a hand on her shoulder briefly, then nudging her forward with a grin. The two of them would dive deeper into this newly transformed Dolwoods and uncover its mysteries.
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Old April 11, 2016, 12:30 PM   #13 (permalink)
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The Dolwoods were a strange and fascinating place. Known as a place of many wonders by many and a death trap to some, it was keenly avoided and often times regarded with suspicion. The Church of Faith has recommended its destruction at least twice in the history of the Empire, and two times their covert operations failed utterly. For the Dolwoods were not without its protectors and guardians. Something the two dark-skinned humans were about to discover firsthand.

Porta sensed it first as she led the way, looking for the odd landmarks the froglok mentioned. The spiders on her person (which seemed to return regardless of how many baths she took) began to skitter away, fleeing. Then she heard the hissing.

Vaishen noticed serpent-like silhouettes coiling hanging from the leafless, glassy trees. Upon further inspection, the dervish saw that the crystalline vines were behaving extremely alive. In fact, a few tried to snake their way toward Porta like living nooses searching for a limb or neck to tie around!
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Old April 11, 2016, 08:04 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Ah, yes, here we go.

The previous mission had reported the phenomenon of vines snaking about and grasping, as if the trees themselves were alive. He’d almost lulled into complacency, thinking that whatever turned the Dolwoods crystalline had perhaps also stopped the twisted magicks that caused trees to seek harm upon people.

Nope. It’d just made death dealing slightly more pretty.

Vaishen had stuck close to Porta, and when the twisting serpents came he drew the hatchet from his belt -- then flipped it around, so the blunt side was his weapon. If these vines looked like crystal, perhaps they’d break like crystal?

“We’re not your enemy!” Vaishen shouted at the Dolwoods, giving the path of peace one futile attempt even as he grasped at Porta, pulling her back and away, while preparing to bring the hatchet down on any vine that dared to touch her. He wouldn’t strike the Dolwoods first, but if they touched Porta then he’d tear the whole godsdamned forest apart with his bare hands.
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Old April 11, 2016, 09:20 PM   #15 (permalink)
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With Vaishen’s hand on her shoulder, she felt a small surge of confidence at the idea that he was willing to follow her for once. We’ve got this, she thought to herself. And so they set forth into the foresaken woods.

Every environment has a pulse. The Dolwoods’ pulse felt foreign, alien, often hostile, and unlike the heartbeat of any other forest in the empire, but it was still there, and Porta tapped into it on instinct. So, it seemed, did her spiders, which scattered away from her person for the first time since the start of her eight-legged entourage a year and a half prior.

The hissing. The hairs on the back of her neck raised up, and she grabbed her sharpened rock, narrowing her eyes to watch the surroundings. "Careful..." she said slowly, watching. Quicksand? Wild roots? Bees? Pretty much anything was possible.

She knew these trees were capable of scheming -- sentient, to some extent -- and it was hardly surprising that the surrounding foliage would go on the offensive right off the bat. But Vaishen suddenly tugged her away from the encroaching vines, and she felt a small itch of irritation.

Well, that was odd. Why should she feel anything but grateful he was looking out for her? Meh, work that out another time.

“Talking doesn’t work,” Porta muttered, ready to start fighting these formidable opponents when they almost certainly wouldn’t heed Vaishen’s words. Oh, they understand what you say. They just don’t care. Sharp rock in hand, Porta looked at the crystalline vines, trying to see where they stemmed from -- the trees themselves, leeching life like a parasite, or from the upper canopies or the earth.
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