Saturday, September 21, 2019

Master of Strings Ch99: The Unseelie Swamp

Zilo, Tess, and their little sprite guide pushed to the east of the forest deeper into unknown territory. Night had reached it's peak with silver rays of light slipping through the above forest tree barrier. As they advanced their way forward, the trees slowly had their bark darken and the leaves above turned much more dense.

Zilo glanced about and spoke to the sprite, "So those... Quicklings they're called? They live around here?"

The sprite continued to flutter along, but spin about to fly backwards and address Zilo, "No. The quicklings might be fey, but they have no allegiance, they scatter about and live in all places of the forest. Neither the Seelie or Unseelie court will suffer their presence for long. That said when either court deems so, they'll call on them for a task that their speed equips them for."

Tess moves forward in the marching line to address the sprite closer, "Wait, then where are you taking us if they live all over?"

The sprite indignantly places his hands on his hips and continued, "Well like I JUST said, the two courts hire them to do stuff, otherwise they just kill intruders and take their stuff on the spot. Since they didn't kill your friend and-"

Zilo finishes, "and Sayulati didn't hire them, then these... Unseelie must have. So you're taking us to their court." The Sprite nods with a grin as Zilo finishes his train of thought. Zilo puts his hand to his chin and says, "by the way, you folk have been going on and on about Seelie and Unseelie, what exactly does that mean?"

The Sprite slaps his forehead in disappointment and says, "And here I was almost proud of you. Who in Mab's name walks into fey lands without knowing about the fey courts!?" Zilo blushes as Tess places a hand to his shoulder and speaks, "It was an accident you little squirt! Zilo, think of it like how elves and drow do stuff. The Seelie are the mischievous good fey led by Titania, and the Unseelie are the evil sneaky fey led by Mab."

"Oh, got it, well why do the Unseelie want Zatrian?"

"That would be a question for them." Says the sprite holding out his hand for them to stop. Past the few trees in front of them there is a noxious odor that wafts toward them of rotting plants and wildlife. The treeline split into a clearing with a some sort of  giant swamp spanning a few hundred meters around. The moonlight covered the surface of the water to show some sort of creatures rumbling around just under the surface of the mud.

The sprite speaks, "This is as far as I can take you, I wish you luck in finding your friend."

Tess and Zilo give the little guide a quick nod as it flew back the way they came from. The two move to some of the trees to hide themselves as they look to the movement in the liquid-like mud. They scan the surface before Tess suddenly and sharply gasps. Zilo looks to her and she points to the middle of the swamp.

There on the surface of the swamp faces toward the night sky is a face, with it's eyes closed and a pained expression upon it. After looking a bit longer, the face looked to be that of Zatrian, trapped by the mud all around him and with whatever is moving below the surface of swamp between them and him.

Zilo breaths deeply and forms Harmony into it's longbow form. At the same time, Tess takes out her blade staff and begins to shift her skin and eyes to that of a copper dragon. Once both have prepared themselves they shot out from around the trees and made their way to the edge of the swamp.

Tess speeds ahead as Zilo sets up at the edge and aims his bow around her. Tess leapt from solid rock to rock to avoid getting stuck in the mud. Suddenly a child sized creature erupts from the mud and right toward the charging elf. The creature was covered in matted muddy fur and had a long ugly face, as well as lanky arms ending in sharp claws. Among the fey this being was known as a boggart.

As the little monster flew toward Tess it is struck out of the air by the silvered shaft of Zilo's bow. Tess continued hopping forward with more and more boggarts leaping toward her. Zilo shot down as many as he could, but as Tess got farther away he began to miss some of the shots. Luckily Tess was more the swift enough to slash them from the air with her blade.

Tess steadily advanced with Zilo covering her, but as she hopped to a new rock, a boggart laid in wait next to it, and as she landed it swiped up at her calf and despite it's small size managed to sweep her off the surface of the rock and into the muddle swamp. Zilo lurched forward trying to see what was happening as bubbles popped on the surface where Tess had been dragged.

The boggarts began to split off, now, half making their way to Tess and the other half making their way to the shore where Zilo was. The bard tried to fire some arrows below the surface and stop them, but without a direct target he missed all but 2 of them.

The bard reverted his bow back to it's musical form and played two quick strums on his violin, casting Cat's Grace followed right away by Bull's Strength. After that he retrieved his new Songsword into his right hand and rose aloft his buckler.

6 of the little beasts shot out of the edge of the swamp at the fetchling at the same time. Zilo swung his blade with an immense amount of magically powered force and accuracy and cleaved one of them in 2, and as another drew close he cracked his buckler into it and batted it away from him. The other four he had no answer for, and was forced to hop back and hope they were scared from his assault.

The 4 did not scare easily and advanced flanking the bard on all sides. He managed to stave off two of them with his sword and shield, but the other two leapt in and with their claws they slashed at Zilo's chest and his left thigh.

Zilo grimaced from the attack, and knelt down, but he then tried to strike back and cut down the ones he could reach. He felt the blade in his hand willing him to move faster and faster with magical speed as he swung, making his cuts fast enough for the boggarts to lose any chance of reacting. With 3 back to back slashes his mad mince meat out of 2 of the boggarts that made the mistake of striking him, but the other two backed away after seeing this.

The boggart Zilo had knocked away finally got back up and charged at the bard, not having seen it's allies get diced up. Zilo once gain was clawed in his shoulder before flicking the blade around and cutting off the fey's head as it stood behind him. The two fey in front of the bard looked full of fear now, but Zilo needed them to begone so he could move to help Tess. He flicked his sword forward and reached to his hip.

Zilo reach down to his side as he pointed his blade forward, and in a flash his scorpion whip lashed out and grabbed one of the boggarts and yanked it off it's feet toward Zilo. The bard spurred on by his new blade's speed, thrust his blade and pierced the little annoyance. The last boggart used a bit of it's fey magic to become invisible and fled into the treeline, never to be seen again by the bard that night.

Zilo looked back to see if Tess was alright and he saw that she had managed to fight off the boggarts on her, only taking a few claw marks, but nothing fatal a she continued to make her way frantically toward Zatrian. The boggarts behind her didn't look to be chasing her out of angry though, they looked distraught and full of fear, like the last one Zilo had scared off.

Tess reached her submerged companion and with one lift of her draconic strength the elf was free and spooked awake. The boggarts behind the elves stopped in their tracks and began making their way back into the water. They looked to be fleeing for some reason.

Zatrian's eyes were wide with horror as he looked to Tess then back to where he was trapped. He looked back to Tess and spoke, "We must leave immediately, befor-"

As the words left his mouth the entirety of the swamp lurched up for a moment, then collapsed back down, with the surface of water lowering about a meter or so from where it was moments ago, showing more rocks than previously.

Zatrian looked down at the water and in a fearful voice whispered, "He's coming."

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Master of Strings Ch98: Dancing Blade

Zilo and Sayulati square up over the water surface at the edges of the pool. Sayulati puts out her hand and the water begins to stream up in a line to her downward facing palm. The liquid curves and condenses until it forms into a long sword with intricately woven Mythril designs and holes all along the blade's spine in a flowing pattern.

Zilo looked to the Nymph and asked, "I thought you said this match would be one of performance, not blademanship."

The mistress grins and gracefully sweeped the blade, and the air filled with a whistling noise that changed in tune as she angled a new swing. She would catch the edge of the sword to the ground in a rapid movement making a earthy tick over and over to make intricate patterns. All the while her body moved in one with the blade like a ballerina upon the stage. She ended her dance with the blade faced to the bard and spoke,

"This is Scherzo, an enchanted Songsword whose design was gifted to the Elven song blade warriors. They never quite could make one as refined as those used by their masters though."

She flicked her blade about before bringing it down to rest and Zilo swallowed his nerves before asking, "Are you prepared? Sayulati nodded and Zilo's somber playing began. The song echoed and rippled the water as Zilo played. The surface revealed that only a thin surface of water in the pool, and so the bade began to dance forward as the song kicked into more rapid notes.

Sayulati flicked her blade about in the air to a low tone to match with Zilo's as she strutted about before marching forward to meet with the bard. While Zilo's boots touched through the water's surface, the Nymph danced above the water, not even altering the surface.

Tess on the sidelines had had enough of hiding her eyes, and looked to the two of them, luckily proving hearty enough to avoid going blind from Sayulati. The Nymph's attendant noted her interest and crossed his arms, looking back to the two performers. Tess clapped to the song along with Zilo's notes.

The two performers mimicked each other note for note with the whistling air and the chords of the string. They both twirled in dance and both landed back to back and spun about each other before separating out. Zilo's spin kicked up a flash of water that he deftly spun and hooked with his bo, flicking the water at the water Nymph.

The Nymph's face was speckled with the droplets and a flinch before they sunk in and she grin maliciously before beginning to nick her blade faster along the surface of the water and making a deep drum-like noise that rattled through the base of the water. Her movements much wider than Zilo's were becoming rapid and quick, showing no less speed than he did with his simple back and forth of his bo.

She pirouetted forward and her blade sharply began to stab at the bard along with the sharp stings of the wind. Her speed was incredible, Zilo blocked the first stab with his buckler, but the next series left cuts all along the edges of his frame. He spun to his left and kicked inward at his opponent.

Sayulati rose her blade and cushioned the blow, but her light mystical frame made it so she flew back a few meters from even such a light kick. The surface of the water rose up into the air to catch the Nymph and as she slid back down the water, she cut into it, and separated the mass into sections.

When she landed with a sharp whistle of the blade the water sections spread out and impacted the water surface letting lose the spell Cresting Waves. Zilo through his Violin into the air and was blasted to the edge of the pool by the incoming waves. Luckily for him, a quick casting of Mage Hand made his violin continue it's playing in the air.

With his ghost performance underway, the soaked to the bone bard stood, and produced his silver long sword with a flourish. his violin flew down into line with him and his charge.  Sayulati, not wishing for her dance to be stopped touched the water's surface and Summoned Nature's Ally at 4th level to create a human sized Water Elemental.

The elemental powered on by the water below it surged forward and slammed into the bard. Zilo fell back, barley able to keep his performance going before reaching to his bag. The elemental set upon him before Zilo snapped out his Wand of Lightning Bolt and blasted the elemental into vapor. The electric current lit the water up and both performers were stunned. Both just barely stayed able to keep their songs going through the shocks.

By this point more fey in the tree had heard the song and began to worm their way between the glowing branches that made up the walls of the giant chamber. They looked upon the battling bard and Seelie noble. They heard Tess clapping to the violin beat and they slowly began to join in the clapping.

Zilo lept from his downed stance and cast Cure Moderate Wounds on himself as his violin came to his side. Sayulati spun with another whistle and rapid beat, also casting the same spell on herself. The two narrowed in closer and connected blades.

The beat Sayulati was making on the ground now was made from connecting blade to blade as Zilo began to get better at reading her rhythm. Her speed still put his to shame and she began to force him back. She grinned seeing that the bard was only biding his time. Zilo tried to even the game by casting Cat's Grace and while it helped it didn't let him overtake her.

Zilo rose up his hand while defending with his blade and his violin's tune suddenly erupted with a magicked song of Inspiring Greatness. Zilo's blade skill hadn't sped up to match Sayulati, but his blade's force was on a whole new level, that seemed to bounce and repel Sayulati's blade with ease.

Her blade was sent flying out and away before embedding itself in the chamber's wall and the Nymph's dance was halted. Zilo flourished and sheathed his blade as his violin rested on his shoulder and he played the finale to his performance.

The watching fey all erupted in applause and even Sayulati clapped at the bard's magnificent playing. She flicked her hand toward Scherzo and a streak of water retrieved the blade for her and she spoke to the victor.

"Well done noble bard, as promised I shall grant you my boon. I shall grant you a guide into the Unseelie parts of the wood, but that is not all I shall grant you." She held out the blade she had been using toward Zilo and continued, "I would wish that a bard worthy of Oberon also carry my blade as he makes his legend across the realms of mortals."

Zilo takes the blade and hefts it about getting use to it's weight before Sayulati snapped her fingers and a curved sheathe to hold the blade manifested at his hip. Zilo flicks it and sheathes it next to his silvered blade before bowing and says, "It would be an honor my lady, and thank you for your assistance. My companion and I must now be off to save our friend."

Sayulati bids him farewell and motions for a Sprite to accompany him and Tess down to the base of the fey tree.

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Saturday, September 7, 2019

Master of Strings Ch97: The First Bards

Zilo and Tess are guided into the center of the great tree's branches. As they get closer the weaving wood begins to come together and make walking along it much more stable. the wood looks to naturally frame niches and walkways as the branches weave around and guide them further in.

The set up is rather maze like, but with the eldarin warrior guiding them they manage to find the center chamber. The room looks similar to that of an audience chamber with smaller branches and leaves streaming up from the center of the room to round about into walls and a ceiling. The leaves on the walls glow a greenish golden hue, shining upon a reflective surface in the center of the room.

Upon entering the eldarin looks to Tess and Zilo and tells them, "You'd best avert your eyes, my master's appearance can sometimes be too much dustlings like you two." Tess grumbles and places her hands to her face, but Zilo speaks.

"I wouldn't think of it. How would I learn about them without laying eyes on them. Not to mention It would be rather rude, and as the face of my team I can't be rude to the public. Least that's what my boss says." The bard gives an oblivious smile as the eldarin shakes his head and calls out, "Sayulati"

The water in the center of the room begins to crest upward and lift into a form. A womanly figure shapes out of the water floating upward before it solidifies and produces a gorgeous young lady. She has crystal blue hair that streams down in a dozen or so hair tails down to her knees.

Her face looks young and joyful, but her jade eyes stare with wisdom beyond ages. Her ears extend high, much higher than any elf would go, reaching a few inches above the top of her head. Her figure is lithe and soft, but notably lacking in modesty, which makes the pale skinned bard begin to blush.

The woman tilts her head making her hair shift as well, but the tails remain together unnaturally. She addresses her curiosity, "A normal man to gaze upon a Nymph would be Blinded, let alone Sayulati of the Seelie Court."

"Uh... yeah, um that's a- yup, I'm no normal fella. Do you think that maybe you can do something about your um... bits?"

Sayulati glances down a moment and giggles before more of the water below slithers up along her legs and forms into a silken golden sundress adorning her shoulders. She then looks Zilo over and makes out his bow, Harmony, hooked to his violin at his side. She smiles and walks forward, speaking,

"You wield Harmony young bard. Have you any idea what you hold?"

"I-I... No this bow was given to me by a sphinx deep in the deserts after overcoming it's challenge."

"That bow is none other than the bow of Oberon, King of the Fairies and Husband to Queen Titania of the Seelie Court."

Zilo takes Harmony from his side and stares to the bow and his face becomes one of shock and awe. He responds, "Even in the Plane of Shadows we've heard of Oberon. And I've just had this?"

"The King of the Fairies lies dead now, the bow left in the stores of the Court, but it seems that you obtained it because of this Sphinx's blessing."

Zilo begins to walk forward but Sayulati motions for him to stop before she continues to speak.

"The fact you can use the bow means Oberon claims you as a worthy bard. Until his return he would have no qualms with you guarding it."

Zilo gives a curt bow before he speaks up, "If I may, lady Sayulati. My companion and I came here in hopes that you may be able to help us find a friend of ours who was taken away into the woods less than an hour ago."

Sayulati looks to her knight and the man speaks, "It was a band of Quicklings at the base of your tree my lady. They absconded with an elf likely into Harinta's domain."

Sayulati turns her gaze back to Zilo and she thinks for a moment. After a few moments her face forms into that of a grin and she begins,

"Dustlings like yourself think that the fey only gave you the power of the land, bard. But are you aware of the other gift we gave?"

Zilo tilts his head as he rises from his bow. Sayulati shakes her head and points again to Harmony, "We gave you the charms and musings that formed the beginnings of bardic songs. I know many a man who wrote songs laced with power because of a chance meeting with my sisters and their beauty."

Zilo lifts his violin nodding a few times before looking back to the Fey.

"I myself might be low in the lordships of the Seelie Court, but I, on occasion, can be afford opportunities to advance. And you might be just the bard to help me lay claim to a larger domain. If I bested a man worthy of Oberon's Harmony then I will be the talk of the Court."

Zilo smiles and responds, "You wish for a competition with me."

The woman flicks back her hair and gazes to the bard with a hungry smile and speaks, "Last one playing loses, simple and straight to the point. We may interfere with one another, but no killing. T'would shame me if I killed one of Oberon's worthy ones. defeat me, and you'll have my boon."

"And if you win?" asks the bard. Sayulati giggles once more and says, "I've told you my prize already, but if you offer more then I suppose I'll need to think on it."

Zilo grins and rests his violin on his shoulder before addressing the Nymph, "Then let's begin it would be an honor to play with one of the original bards."

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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Master of Strings Ch96: The Offspring of the Fey

Zilo and Tess took off into the treeline in the direction that Zatrian was elf-napped in. Just as they broke the first few rows of trees, they both stopped still and looked to each other. Zilo broke the tension and asked, "Hey Tess, any idea how we are gonna track down those little fellas?"

The dragon's eyes went wide as she responded, "You're the professional hero. I was just following your lead." The bard stops and looks up.

"Maybe the other invisible folks can help?" Tess looks up to the sky and tilts her draconic head questioningly.

"Zilo, who are you talking about?" Zilo walks back and points up to the giant tree and explains. During the fight there were more than just those guys hiding from sight, a few more things were hovering up near the branches of this here tree.

"Don't you think the last thing we need is more invisible forest folk?" Said Tess with a shrug. Zilo shakes his head and says, "Absolutely not, but I have no idea how to track those little jerks, so this is our best chance." Zilo is hoisted up on Tess's back as she steps forward into his stance and she says,

"I know, I know, but I can't help but distrust it. This forest is starting to give me the creeps."

Tess flies off into the air and begins to approach the tree branches. As she does Zilo's eyes flicker again and he shouts,

"Tess fly right! Now!"

The dragon cranes her neck back to question, but as she does, she hears the sound of a bow releasing an arrow. She releases a burst of air to change her position in the air and narrowly dodge a magical arrow fired from above the branches. Tess was immediately assailed by a flurry of more arrows. She twisted and flew her way around the upper section of the tree trunk.

Zilo did is best to call out the shots with what remained of his magic eyes, thankfully Zatrian's spell was robust and would last for another few hours, but his own detect magic spell was all he could do to help the locate arrows themselves for Tess.

As he began to zone in on the sort of magic the arrows held he saw what the archers were intending. He leaned down to Tess and told her.

"Tess those arrows are endgame for us right now, unless you can get me close to the tree line."

"Copy!" Tess does a spin roll to her left and hugs the base of the tree trunk as more and more of the arrows come flying in the lightning quick dragon proved more than a match for most of the arrows, but a few were nipping at her tail as she flew up. Then as she seemed just about ready to hit the branch divide all of her forward momentum was neutered.

Her dragon form was forced back into the form of an elven woman as she reached for the lowest branch on the tree. She looked down and saw the long fall back to the ground, as the arrow that shook her free of her draconic power fell to the ground after it bounced off her scales.

But then she feel her body gripped by the waist and looked back up to see Zilo's whip gripped around the branch she feel short of. He was holding it strong trying to swing the both of them up to the tree line.

Tess smiled as she found she wasn't meant to die yet and reached up to help Zilo pull his way up. With her dragon strength it was a simple task. The two of them balanced above the tree line and
Zilo kept his balance easily from his training in dance, but Tess looked to have a issues.

She was gripping the branch all the way around like like a dwarven child would grip it's mother out of stubborn fear of the first day of their apprenticeship. She was shaking and refused to move.

"Tess, come on, we need to move before they find out where we are."

"Absolutely not, my wings up and vanished a good 200 feet up, this is not a moment to just smile and keep going."

"What does that matter?! We made it, but we won't if we don't move!"

"I will okay! just give me a second, I swear you younger races are too quick to want to rush life like this!"

"ARROWS SHOT THE DRAGON OUT OF YOU! I think now is the perfect time to rush things."

"Gav ma siluir?" Spoke a deep but silken tone from behind Zilo. Zilo turned to see a man who by all accounts could pass for a common elf with waist length silver hair. His eyes were deep and full with a silver white color pigment that glistened with the rays of moonlight that poked through the trees. He wore a tight leather stained silver jerkin and matching pants with a longsword hooked on the side and a majestic mythril bow aimed right at the bard.

Zilo recognized the language, he had read a bit about it in his studies. It was sylvan the language of the fair folk of the Feywilds, a extra planar realm that exists secret on the material plane. It's denizens, the Fey, are The unimaginably powerful beings who the elves came from and the druids learned to emulate. Zilo couldn't speak the tongue, but he could see that this man had a gaze that could pierce a tower shield. Zilo raised his hands as the elf danced gracefully along the branches like a cat and stood before the bard.

He gripped the surrendering bard and looked him over, but as his gaze fell to Zilo's Violin the elf spoke, "Harmony? Ho."

Zilo couldn't hold back the question, "You know of my bow?"

"I know a great many things dustly." Spoke the man in perfect common with a very condescending tone.

"Normally I'd have no qualms with throwing you and your woman from this tree with your magics naturalized, but my master had been wondering of late what became of that bow, and so you may yet have a chance to finish your short life."

"But-"

The man in a flash had both his fingers to the bard's mouth and said, "Do not waste my, your, or most unforgivably my master's time with idle questions. Gather your girl and follow me."

Zilo looked down to the ground from how high up he was, and shrugged without much of a choice so he looked back to Tess who had managed to stand herself up and having heard that little exchange spoke muttered, "Damned-able Eladrins giving orders like they matter more than air."

"Eldarin? You mean that wasn't an elf like you?"

"Trust me, eldarins and elves may look similar, but we elves are closer to human than we are to them."

The two began to follow along the tree line with Tess not shifting her gaze from Zilo as she spoke.

"You know much about the Fey, Zilo?"

"A bit, they are ancient beings of nature who the elves came from and who druids base their magic in."

"Both true, but elves weren't born of the Fey, we were born of the eldarin, a hybrid of the forces of nature that is a Fey and the mortal guise that is what elves are today. Eldarin are the Fey's hand past their courts, pretending to be mortal."

"Pretending to be mortal?"

"Fey and eldarin don't age, they can still die, but some of the greater Fey won't even let that stick. Suffice to say eldarin treat us like little misguided animals, who could never match up to them and their 'eternal status'."

"Don't take this the wrong way Tess, but that sorta sounds like how the elves treat the rest of us."

Tess steams at Zilo for a moment before her eyes drift back over to the eldarin guiding them to the tree. She sighs and says, "And its views like that, that are just the sort of thing elves like me and Zatrian fight every day to make disappear."

Zilo and Tess silently follow the mysterious eldarin warrior, hoping that maybe he and his master could be the key to saving Zatrian.

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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Master of Strings Ch95: Following the Path

Tess, Zatrian, and Zilo sit around a campfire made up outside of an owlbear's cave with a chunk of the fallen creature's meat cooking over the flame. Tess rubs her chin and remarks,

"So Jin and May are playing decoy so we won't need to deal with our assassin, I like it." Zilo nods confirming. The bard finishes laying out his tools to season and serve the meat, while Zatrian lifts the map and says,

"The path is already laid out, we just need to follow it before I' Sereg'wethrin can catch on." Zilo finishes serving up the first plate and lifts it toward Tess past the campfire. Tess stands up but her pants begin to slide down to her knees. She grabs at the falling trousers and glares at the bard. Zilo glances down to his waist sheepishly and stands to deliver her plate in front of her and begins to undo her belt he took earlier.

She snatches it back and begins to cinch it back into place as Zilo explains, "I thought that with your belt I could more easily carry you until you recovered. How was I to know you needed a mere 5 minutes to get back to your feet?"

"Be happy I like you bard! The last man to attempt such things ended up shocked 6 meters out the door he had his back to."

Zilo bows apologetically as he sits back down on by the meal and serves some to both him and Zatrian in turn. They all eat their meals and begin trading off keeping watch for the night. The morning after they all take to the road.

With the poison leaving lasting effects on their bodies they move at a rather slow pace as they move, but thanks to the trail mapped out by Zatrian, the time is about average for if they were poison free. About a day into their journey when they set up for camp again they take shelter beneath a wondrous marvel of nature.

A gigantic tree looms over their campsite, standing at minimum  of a few hundred feet tall. Zilo and Zatrian both begin to write in their journals about the sheer size of it, one thinking of it's lore, and one composing a sonnet of it's majesty. Tess simply shakes her head and begins to set up camp.

As the sky began to darken after laying out the tents, she set about sparking up a campfire. Suddenly the flint she was using vanished from her hand and she grunts in shock. Zilo turned to her to see her jaw was taut and her expression was of surprise.

"Tess, you all okay there?" The dragon disciple opened her mouth and out came the flint she was just using before. She began spitting out and cursing in elven. Zilo chuckled and remarked, "I get you're hungry Tess, but we gotta get the fire going first."

Tess turns to the bard and takes out her two sided sword, flicking it about saying, "Something put that in my mouth, Zilo. Something I couldn't spot."

Zilo furrows his brow and says, "What could have don't tha-" In a flash Zilo's Hat suddenly is pulled down tight in front of his face as something cracks into the front of his shins and forces him to perform a full somersault forward onto the the collected firewood in front of Tess. Tess shouts for Zatrian to form up between Zilo and Tess.

The bard stands back up and takes out his bow as the Chronicler stands between the two warriors. Both look around the forest environment they are in. Zilo casts Detect Magic to sweep the area and pick up what might be hiding if it is using magic.

"Tess, this place, it's really got magic surrounding a lot of it."

"What sort?"

"No idea, but it seems like the only source I can hone in on is the plants, but there's something else moving too quick for me."

Tess closes her eyes and replaces them with her Bronze Dragon eyes, which begin to dart all around the area. She snaps out her sword and sweeps to send a blur of a tiny humanoid figure hurtling by into a bush. Zilo had barely managed to glance at it, and he turned back to see Tess' eyes already flicking back to her left with a spin and a thrust.

This time she missed whatever it was, but Zilo saw faint leaves rustle from the ground area she attack toward, signalling that something dodged away and veered off and away. The bard turns to his scaled companion and asks,

"How can you see them? My eyes are giving me zilch!?"

Zatrain waves a hand to cut off Zilo and says, "She has a dragon's Blindsense Zilo. The mere presence of something is all she requires to know where it is."

"But these little jerks are fast! This is still tough!" Shouts Tess, beginning to get taxed.

"OH I have just the thing for this! Hold tight!" Says the scholarly elf.

Zatrian reaches back into his backpack with a smile as Zilo continues to do his best and glance to whatever is out there when Zatrian speaks and throws him a piece of paper. The bard looks at it and sees a spell inscribed on it. The bard reads and suddenly he feels the entire area shine in a golden green tint from See Invisibility.

There it was, a tiny humanoid being zooming and blurring its way around the bush line, with a half dozen others just like it, waiting for a chance to flash in. Zilo could see everything. He raised Harmony and snapped loose a flurry of arrows.

Zilo was a crack shot with his silvery streaks in the night and though the poison had hurt his stamina, his aim was unaffected as one by one the little creatures fell. Just as quickly though more and more seemed to surface in the fight.

"Damnit Zilo, your arrows are just attracting more of them!" Growled the female elf.

"I'm waiting on a better plan if you got one. Can you try and scare them off!? You can be rather scary when pressed!"

"I'll take that as a complement. Okay bard, hit the deck!" Zilo drops to his belly holding Harmony horizontal shoot and give Tess some cover. As the bard heard magical and meaty noises from his six, he suddenly saw a long bronze covered tail flick over his head and wings beating behind him.

Tess now changed and reared up into a full 8 foot tall dragon let out a roar that shook the forest and blasted a bright streak of electric energy into the sky, obliterating and burning plenty of the branches and leaves above them, leaving only an ash burn hole through into the night sky.

The small creatures did just as expected and zoomed off at full speed into the forest past the giant tree rather than face a dragon. Zilo stood back up and ran his fingers along Tess' new emerald green fin along her spine and spoke,

"Nice, they're gone!"

The dragon woman growled, "Yeah! They... th-! They aren't the only ones Zilo!" The dragon craned its neck around in a  panic, and when Zilo did the same he realized why she was on edge suddenly.

"Zatrian's been Elf-napped!" Yelled Zilo and Tess in unison.

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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Master of Strings Ch94: Those who Diverged

Zilo and Zatrian trudged through the forest off the trail, while Zilo carried Tess on his back. They had made their way away from the cart after I' Sereg'wethrin faded into the night after May and Jin. The Elf and Fetchling's eyes glowed with the tint of dark vision as they moved between the trees before Zilo fell to his knees, breathing heavily.

Zatrian turned and placed his hands on his hips saying, "Come on Zilo, May said that your strength should still be fine after the poison." Zilo grimaced and said,"Strong or not, my endurance is shot, we need to take a break, besides you don't look much better." Zatrian shook his head and sat with his back to a tree as Zilo laid Tess down lightly on some groved ground.

Zatrian takes out a map and begins to look it over, It seemed like the trail May and Jin are on would lead around the forest and southward toward the Wood Elves. Zatrian takes out a quill and his eyes glaze over and the quill begin darting all across the map. In addition the quill begins to show a faint glow as streams of ethereal sparks jut down the feather and focus at the tip.

Zilo had just finished placing a blanket over the invalid Magus before his eyes came upon what the Chronicler was doing. The quill lightly stroked across the map from one point that seemed to be the spot on the trail that the group split on. Zatrian's quill made glowing lines throw the Forrest south of the point, but one by one the trails fade and he goes back to the original point to trace a new one.

Slowly the trails get longer and longer until eventually Zatrian has traced a full glowing path through the southern woods and connected to a Wood Elf settlement the Trail glows and sinks into the map forming a silver glowing trail on the map, and the Elf's eyes and and quill returns to normal.

"What...What was that?" Asked the Bard. Zatrian smiles and answers him.

"It's a technique used by Chroniclers known as Pathfinding. I can use a map and discern direction and trails where there may not be any. It will make the trek to the Wood Elves much quicker, faster than if we took the trail since we'll be cutting through the forest rather than going around with the constructed trail."

Zilo looks the map over and remarks, "Incredible, I can see why the Wood Elves would want a skill such as this, so how long would it take for us to reach a the Elves?"

"If we were at our peak, less than two days, hopefully we can get there before Tess succumbs."

Zilo looks down at the Elven Maiden, her skin still discolored from her health being struck with the poison.  He reaches down to her and begins to undo her belt.

"Oh! The dishonor! And here I had thought you an honorable man Zilo. I shan't let you sully her this night!" The Chronicler rose and put up his fists before Zilo raised an eyebrow at him before his face shifted to surprise saying, "Sully her?  What do you-? OH!!! No no no! you misunderstand, Tess told us at the arena that she wears a Belt of Giant Strength! I was just going to borrow it while carrying her!"

Zatrian's eyes widen and he pounds his hand with his fist and says, "AH! Smart idea, That should make the trek far easier." Zilo cinches the belt over his sash and he feels his muscles bulge as he goes to heft the woman off the ground. Zatrian raises his hands and says, "Hold on, let her rest, she finally got comfy. Maybe you should make some food so we can keep our strength up.

Zilo leans back and says, "I picked up skill in Alchemy in my academy days, so I'm not too bad of a chef, but you will need to gather some stuff for me. I'm not to good at survival out side of a city."

Zatrian looks to him confused and says, "didn't you hunt that deer though" Zilo looks to the elf and gives him a sarcastic look as the elf recalls how the deer shouldn't be a point on Zilo's scorecard. The Elf nods and walks a bit off into the woods.

Zilo begins to set out his Alchemy supplies then as he lays everything out his eyes shoot wide and he stands "I completly forgot! Magic might not be the only answer! If I can put together some Antitoxin then maybe I can help Tess recover!"

Zilo begins laying out the few alchemy supplies he thinks he might have to put together some antitoxin. He begins to mix and crush different herbs and breaks them down and mixes it all together. it forms into a green liquid which he holds up in a vial he kneels down to Tess and holds her jaw open before pouring some of the liquid down her mouth.

Tess seems to struggle against the liquid out of instinct coughing a bit. Zilo's improved strength was formidable, but Tess's natural dragon strength was too much for him as she rolls away and Zilo's grip on the vial fails, making his mixture shatter on a rock. Zilo curses and looks back to his ingredients when he heard a shout from the woods.

"ZILO!!!!!" It was Zatrian from a few dozen meters into the woods, Zilo snatched his blade, bow, and violin running toward the shout. He darts between the trees to come to a cave embedded into a small hill that looked to descend down into a shelter dug by an animal, possibly the animal he saw in front of the cave.

Reared up was the form of a bear, but it had the head of an owl. This beast was well known for it's viscous tendencies, the ferocious Owlbear. Zatrian was trapped against a wall by the beast. The bard snapped out his bow and released a silver clad arrow, putting a hole into the beast's ear as he missed his aim at the monster's head.

The Owlbear spun and roared now focused on the bard. It charged at Zilo, and the Bard went to block with the buckler that he realized he had left with Tess. The bard was ripped into by the monster's claws and thrown to the ground with a gash across his shoulder.

Zilo tried to roll away, but the beast halted his roll with it's other claw. With no way out, Zilo went for broke, hoping that his new belt's strength would see his blade strike true. He stabbed with his silver longsword, and jammed it into the ursine bird's haunch. The beast growled in pain before biting into the Bard's hip with it's beak and flinging him 3 meters into the edge of the cave next to Zatrian.

On any other day, Zilo would be able to stand back up and continue, this was the bard who out did  both a lich king and master hobgoblin swordsman, but with his body still suffering from the lingering effects of the king's sleep, he was barely able to remain awake.

Zatrian looks to reach for a backpack, but he also left his gear at the camp,and just as the owlbear looks to be upon them, a bolt of lighting fires out from behind it, and the Owlbear crumples forward into a smoldering pile next to the two of them.

There standing in the origin of the lighting stood Tessa'ladra Hare'nela with the discolored green shade of her face replaced with the faint sheen of bronze scales and her eyes lit deep emerald green. He mouth sparked with the remnants of a breath attack as she lean on a tree and she says, "So who wants to explain why we are in a forest and my pants are loosened?"

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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Master of Strings Ch93: Running from the Blade

Zilo falls back and winces as the cart began to speed off along the trail. Once the cart has gotten a fair distance down the road, May looks to her side and curses that she forgot her book on poisons. Zilo makes his way to the front and says, "May, I need you to give me a look really quick. I have a hunch."

May side glances the bard and casts another instance of Detect Poison and she smiles saying, "You're cured, you must have worked it out of your body." Zilo presses his hand to his chest And says, "I thought I felt better, the damage is still there, but it hasn't worsened."

"Good we need to do something before that guy catches up with us, can you fix up Jin?" Zilo nods and climbs into the back of the cart. Jin was shaking, trying to sit up, but struggling.

"He looks paralyzed, The assassin's strike must have rattled his system terribly, he should be good after a minute or so." Zilo turned in the back of the cart and spoke again, "Hey May, can you check Zatrain for poison? His color looks like it's returning."

May hands the reigns over to Zilo and casts the spell again a few times to test everyone and says, "Zatrian looks fine, but Tess and Jin are still dealing with it."

"What's the point in giving us poison that we can over come with a bit of luck and bed rest?"

"It isn't about killing with the poison, its about setting up a kill to ensure no resistance. If I had eaten that deer too then we'd have lost that fight back there." May sits back in the front and Jin finally regains his ability to move.

"Well dat sucked" Said Jin, reclined in the back finally speaking. The vanarra followed up with, "Tell me you two got a plan for how to stop dis guy."

Zilo motions to his side and says, "Ask May, you got any idea how we shake this guy?"

"You both could let me think for a minute, and I'll get back to you." The cleric assassin quietly thought through a lot of scenarios before finally speaking up.

"Okay, without knowing what he has I can't guarantee much, but I've got some ideas. The most ideal is that Presto and Vivace can keep this pace for a week straight so he never has the chance to catch us."

Zilo looks at May like she is crazy and she cuts him off saying, "I said ideal, I know that no horses can do something like that. Next option is that we stand and fight, as long as Zatrian is free of the poison then getting there fast isn't as much of a priority, but that risks Jin and Tess's chances."

Jin grimaces, "Do you think we could take him?" May shakes her head and says, "No idea he knows we can't keep this pace, so he might expect us to fight. Meaning he's likely ready for that showdown and will have the edge."

Zilo looks at May, waiting for a third, best option, but she remains silent and the bard asks her, "Is that it!? Only two?"

"Gimme a break, I'm not Maldrek. I only know how I would react if my targets did something. Option one would be the most annoying if you could pull it off, I would expect option two knowing how good your horses are."

The three of them silently accept the dark reality of this decision they need to make with Jin breaking the silence saying, "Well we better get ready to fight him soon." He motions to the horses and continues "Pulling all five of us and the cart isn't doing these two any favors."

Zilo's eyes burst open wide and he looks over to May and asks, "May, how would you react to something like this?" May looks up at the bard, her own somber mood fading for a moment.

The assassin was not making enough of a pace to over come the cart. He came across an odd sight the cart he chased had stopped and the bard who had shot him stood outside, arrow drawn. Luckily for the assassin the bard couldn't spot the broad side of a barn and he could easily stealth around him and arrive in the cart.

Once he was in the cart he saw that there were only two figures in bedrolls and the two horses were gone.

The assassin spoke, "Cut the loose ends to finish the mission? Cold, I like your style."  Zilo spun around toward the voice aiming his bow saying,

"Huh!? When-! Get away from Zatrian!?"

The assassin chuckles and says, "Cute. I have no time to play with you, I have an elf to kill." In a flash the assassin dodged the arrow pointblank and returned to the treeline to chase after the two horses running from the abandoned cart.

May rode astride Vivace with a slumped figure wrapped around her and with Presto following behind her. With less weight distributed Vivace was well able to carry the two of them much easier. As the day began to dawn and Vivace was running out of steam, Presto had rested enough to have the two of them transfer to the fresh horse.

The pace was astronomically better with less people and a cart along with swapping horses every few hours to let each rest. But it still was not ideal and after a few days like this the four of them had no alternative other than resting for a while. Unfortunately I' Sereg'wethrin was more than just an assassin, his profession before hired killer was that of a ranger who favored terrain in forests.

Within hours of  May picking a spot to rest The assassin descended on them. He stalked over to the hooded figure on the ground and saw May breathing tired after days without rest he grinned then waltzed over to the figure a few meters from her, he knelt down and whispered.

"You were a troublesome target Zatrian, but your time has reached it's end." He took out a small dagger and pulled back the hood. He knelt there, shocked beyond movement, for the being he knelt over was not Zatrian, It was one Jin-Shi Wukong.

Following his shock he immediately coughed up blood from a Death Attack by May, who had pretended to be sleeping. The attack had not his vitals and he managed to shrug off the fatality of the attack. The assassin spun and slashed with his dagger at May throwing her to the ground.

She was exhausted and only had enough in her for that last attack, she was not getting up. The assassin's eyes flared.

"You little wench! You tricked me!"

"To be fair, not my idea," said May smiling from the ground. The assassin took out his blade as he clenched his teeth in rage. He walked over and lifted his blade above the woman's chest, ready to plunge his blade deep.

Jin sprung to action leaping in and spinning in the air, landing a solid powerful Drunken Strike cleanly onto the assassin's jaw. The assassin had now taken two devastating injuries. He found standing to be a trial, as Jin lifted May off the ground, saying,

"Dis guy interrupted me nap, Poison or not, he don't get tah live now." The assassin stood straight as he looked at them. May had gone days without rest and Jin looked to still be fighting the King Sleep in his system.

I' Sereg'wethrin stood straight and breathed calmly, "I have a job to finish, you two don't concern me." He faded into the tree line as May touched a small mark left on her chest and with a smile said, "Seemed pretty concerned til now."

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