Author Topic: A Tale of The Darkest Tome  (Read 164 times)

Description: A Tome City DnD story.

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Offline Saint

A Tale of The Darkest Tome
« on: October 28, 2018, 07:16:48 PM »
“I will tell you a tale, adventurers.  A tale of Dungeons and a tale of Dragons.”

The kobold stared at the old man.  He clearly did not want to indulge.  The sorceress beside him, however, was looking on with admiration.

“I see your companion wants to hear me out.  They say mistakes are the best teacher, but why make them yourself when I can impart you mine?”

The kobold remained silent, but his sorceress friend had already dropped a gold piece down between them.  The bar around them all was quiet, but any moment now the work day would end and the tables would fill up with exasperated dwarves from the mines and forges.  Surely this pathetic old man would harrass one of them and be out of their hands.

“One gold piece each,” he persisted. “I will not tell my tale to those who don’t want to hear it.”

The sorceress placed another gold piece down, but the old man pushed it away.

“He must pay.”

The kobold growled.

“Very well.  I shall leave,” the old man proclaimed, turning his back to the pair’s table.  “I’m sure someone else will buy the tale of how I took the lost treasure from the dead hands of a dragonborn soldier.”

He waited.  The sound of gold hitting the table echoed.  He turned.

“Tell me, adventurers: Have you ever heard of The Darkest Tome?”

:owlhr:

Sit back, readers, and enjoy.  This will be my NaNo story this year, so expect it to die out anywhere between 2,000 and 20,000 words, depending on how enticing Black Ops 4, Spyro the Dragon, and Fallout 76 are.


 
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Offline Saint

1
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2018, 08:18:30 PM »
[Unproofed, as it's a nano entry.]

1

I never used to believe the stories.  I mean, they had to come from somewhere, I’m sure, but when my parents told me to eat all of my vegetables so the Youngwraiths didn’t claim me, I rolled my eyes and slid my brocolli down to Vladmir, the family’s wolfhound.  The Youngwraiths abhor disobedience, or so they say.  Every village had some variant of the tale, with some even claiming to know a child who’d been taken.  It always struck me that if such a creature existed, they’d be hunted down by a wayward group of adventurers, seeking the glory, perhaps a bounty, or even just the treasure that came along with hunting, as many groups are wont to do.

For all my time travelling, I never actually met anyone who’d seen one for themselves.  There were many claimers, by circumstance, but the stories always differed.  If I were to believe them all, the Youngwraiths were spectral corporeal primordial entities who floated along the ground in a thin mist while walking on all fours and bipedally, scanning for disobedience with their single eye, third eye, eighteen eyes, or with the top of their head covered with a blindfold because they were completely blind and relied on their acute sense of hearing, an echolocation-esque radar, or by touching the surrounding to simply sense misbehaviour.  They could be contacted through ritual, through simple magic, through simply saying the word wraith, and also by waiting until the high moon in the thirteenth hour, but they also heeded no man nor beast, coming only when they desired, or even when their master bade them.

You can understand my scepticism then, when I was drinking in a bar one day and spied on the noticeboard a bounty for this ever-ellusive beast.  I’d have passed it over in favour of the bullywog culling call beside it, but the reward was gold pieces in four figures.

“I wouldn’t,” the bartender hummed, spying me eyeing the sheet.  “The woman is mad with grief.  Recently came into a small fortune, though, so I suppose she’s trying it on again.”

A tall man, a little too tall to be 100% human, but a little too intimidating to ask about his parents, was standing there, polishing glasses.

“Her child was taken?” I enquired, taking the bill down and sliding into a seat.

“Her only girl died, six years gone.  I saw it happen, such a tragedy.  Lovely kid, had the spirit of adventure in her.  A bunch of us used to go around and mop up the bounties on that board that no-one else took.  The lower pay stuff that adventurers ignored because it wasn’t a dragon and the town guard ignored because they were huddled in that corner getting drunk,” he huffed, nodding to a table with five men in full plate armour.  “Her dad, Andara, was a strong wizard.  He’d let her tag along sometimes under a shield spell.”

“I hope I’m not out-stepping my boundaries by pointing out how foolish that sounds on paper.”

“Believe me there’s not a day pass that I don’t wish I’d made my objections clearer.  It was only the real trivial stuff she’d come with on.  Rat culling, herb gathering, house painting.”

“House painting?”

“Owner claimed it was haunted.  Paid a pretty penny though.  We never took her on anything that was actually dangerous.  One day, though, she did as children do and snuck out after bedtime.  We were on a wolf hunt, big pack was getting too close to the town for anyone’s liking.  Sort of thing the town guard should have taken care of,” he said loudly and looked over to the table.  One of them noticed him looking and gestured for another round.  I didn’t speak dwarven, but I recognised the curse words he was mumbling under his breath in it as he poured out a round and passed a tray to his barmaid.

“The pack was bigger than we expected, but we were dealing with it okay until her dad noticed her.  As soon as he did, so did the wolves.  None of us were quick enough to...”  He trailed off.  I ordered a drink, to give his mind something else to work on.

“We buried her later that day.”

I offered an internal prayer to Pelor and let a moment pass.

“So then what, may I ask, is the basis for the bill?” I inquired, holding up the notice I’d pulled from the board.

“Patty never let it go.  It tore the two of them apart.  The wolf that actually killed the girl got away, and she began obsessing over some theory that it was actually a Youngwraith and the girl had been taken, not killed.  We didn’t take bounties on very much after that, but Andara went out to track the wolves every now and then.  One time he didn’t come back and we never found remains.  That was enough to convince Patty that he’d found the Youngwraith.”

I let the information settle a little and took a big swig of my drink.

“You think it wasn’t?”

“I know what I saw.  Nothing but a wolf could do… could do that much damage.”

As rowdy as the bar was, there was an empty silence that hung in the air between us.  I finished up and paid my tab for the night, throwing in a few extra silver, but he caught my attention again as I grabbed my duster and headed for the door.

“You’re going anyway, aren’t you?”

I turned, and smiled at him as gently and innocently as I could.

“No, I’m tracking a ghoul who I think passed near here.  Whatever has her convinced that this is a Youngwraith may actually be clues to my own hunt.  Thank you for the story.”  This was a horrible and blatant lie, but he didn’t challenge it, so I guess he bought it.  In my defense it was only half untrue; I was indeed in town to rest up before a ghoul hunt, but I had already gathered information on that and was almost certain that it was unconnected.  In truth I’m not sure what it was that drew me to this quest in particular.  The high bounty caught my eye, for sure, but the allure of the Youngwraith also hooked me.  Perhaps it was the mystery of the missing father, or the chance to help a woman who was undoubtedly very much in grief.  I think, ultimately, I got just the tiniest tickle of a feeling that it would be a story worth telling.

And now here I am telling it, so I’ll let you be the judge of that.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2018, 08:22:52 PM by Saint »
 

Offline Saint

Re: A Tale of The Darkest Tome
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2018, 07:00:57 PM »
[unedited, as it's a nano entry]

2

The province of Anshall was neither what I’d call large or small.  It rested pretty southeast of High Tome, near a river that connected a few other provinces of similar sizes.  The fact most pertinent to this story, though, was that this river, after a few miles, flowed directly into The Darkest Tome.  Even though it was a good day’s ride away, Anshall was possibly the closest province in any direction.  I was still very sceptical of the Youngwraith story, but if there was going to be a reported attack, then this was definitely the place for it.

The streets were starting to darken under the shade of encroaching night, and I can’t deny there was something off about the way the moon shone over Anshall even before the night had really begun.  It hung up there in the sky, a full bright orb with a scattering of stars surrounding it, but the sun was still straddling the horizon.  I hadn’t checked, but I got the feeling the moon was just as visible at noon – there was just something ever-present about it.

Some businesses were still open, some were just closing. Luckily for me the library was one of the former – in my time here I don’t think I’d seen it closed; it seemed to me like the librarian lived there.  I know there was a nearby academy, as when I stepped through the large oaken double doors there were both elderly scholars and young upcoming students lining the tables.  I’d been in here a few times before, so I nodded a greeting to the librarian, an elf who, by the nature of elves, could be anywhere from 25 to 250.  He was a knowledgable fellow from our conversations, so I’d definitely throw my bets at the higher end of that spectrum.

I didn’t need his help this time, so I proceeded through the library to the section I’d been studying in the previous night.  The library was beautifully designed and had that old rustic charm that many of it’s ilk held.  The carpets were red and gilded, and cleaned often enough that they still gave some spring when walked on.  The walls were stone, but with mounted wood panelling in order to support the shelves.  Books split themselves between two floors, the bottom was dedicated to the arts and trades, while the top floor, which was more of a raised balcony, was where the more arcane texts resided.  There was a staircase at the back which lead me up the section I needed, and where there probably should be bannisters there was simply a ledge.  There were a few teens sitting on this ledge, dangling their feet off the edge while their noses were buried in books.

The books I’d been reading the day before were still where I left them, in a small pile against one of the stacks.  They were a scattered collection of local history, backdated newspapers, and any and all books on ghouls I could lay my hands on.  I’d been having a lot of trouble hunting down the ghoul, and had hoped there was something in here I wasn’t thinking of.  A whole day of reading hadn’t yielded nearly as much results as my trip to the tavern.  I read the bill a few time over on my way there, but it contained no extra clues.

In my research I recalled reading a paper on a claimed Youngwraith attack, written as part of some history student’s studies twenty-something years prior.  I dug the paper out now and skimmed over it to refresh my mind of the details – I’d glossed over them when I first read it because I was still just looking for a ghoul.  According to the paper’s author, the creature took on the form of a huge spectral bear.  At the time it had been assumed to be a ghoul who’d acquired the power to shapeshift, but the author presented some strong evidence that it was not so, and suggested in conclusion that he suspected the creature to be a Youngwraith.  Two people died in the attack, both children, and once their bodies went limp, the bear left town “without a care for the guards who pelted it with slings and arrows the whole way.”

This rang true with the story the barkeep told me, and as I read on I recalled similar facets to a ghoul attack reported in a newspaper from only a year ago.  This one, according to multiple witnesses, was definitely a ghoul, but again only a child was attacked, and once dead the ghoul left the scene.

Then there was the other bill in my pocket.  The mark I was actually tracking.  It was from another town further up the river, where a hunting party had run into a ghoul while working.  It had attacked them on multiple occasions, with its final attack being the one that prompting my hiring – the youngest member of their group, a fourteen-year-old ranger, was fatally injured.

I had four cases lined up now, all with very similar circumstances.  One was over twenty years ago, one was six, and then two were inside this year.  From this I came to one of two possible conclusions.  Either the ghoul I was tracking had a grudge against children and had been killing for at least twenty years, or Youngwraiths actually existed, and something in this area was aggravating one.  Neither answer sounded all too appealing to me, but both of them seemed to point me towards the bill of this woman Patty.  I turned the paper over and noted down the address; at least I knew my next stop.

Offline Saint

Re: A Tale of The Darkest Tome
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2019, 06:25:59 PM »
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  • 3

    The house was near the outskirts of the province, about twenty minute’s journey from the library.  It sat on its own, separated from any neighbouring dwellings by a decently sized field.  The place looked like it had been built by hand a few generations ago, but hadn’t had any upkeep for the last few years.  On the side was a small fenced in area with three cows, healthy and strong looking in stark contrast to their surroundings.  The fence itself had actually broken away on one side, patched up hastily with what looked like an old door.  The animals had a water trough, but it was dry as a bone, with instead six buckets situated around the pen, three with water and three with what looked like grain.

    I wasn’t sure if she’d open the door to my knock at this hour, as the sun had long set by now and that immortal moon was shining down on the land with the glow of a cold night.  As I trekked the path, however, the door opened before I could even climb the steps to the porch.
    A woman stepped out in a tattered dress with a fabric tied at the waist which her hand was resting in.

    “I don’t get visitors,” she called to me, “but I can throw a knife a good distance and I’ve never missed a target, so turn around and leave me in peace.”

    “You misunderstand,” I responded, raising both hands and making sure her bill was in one.  “I’m here about your wraith.”

    I’ve never seen a temperament change so fast.  She was at my side in seconds, eyeing the bill with every huge stride.  Her hands were out of the fabric, and I could see now that there was no weapon in there.  Her eyes darted between the paper and my face, opened wide enough that I could see the whites clearly.

    “You believe in the Youngwraiths?”  I have no doubt, with intensity that she was staring at me, that if she did have a knife it would be pressed right against my chest.

    “I’ve never encountered one,” I said, choosing my words carefully, “but I have a theory, and if I’m right then the creature that took your daughter-”

    “-The Youngwraith.”

    “If I’m right then the Youngwraith has struck more than once before.”

    Her arms dropped, and her intense expression just suddenly died.  Her fiery eyes dulled, and I could swear I saw her chestnut hair begin to gray on the spot.  She walked back towards the house without another word, and I followed in tow.

    The insides of the house were better maintained than the out, but not by very much.  It was habitable in there in the very barest sense of the word.  The house was a single floor, with the front door leading into a seating area and kitchen and two rooms at the back, both doors shut.  There was a blanket and pillows on the sofa, and I’d guess she hadn’t opened either door for a long time.

    “You know,” she said solemnly as she moved the blanket and indicated for me to sit, “There was always a little part of me that hoped it was all in my head.  No-one knows what happens to a child who’s been taken.”

    “I don’t know for sure that it’s a Youngwraith,” I cut in before she could continue.  “All I know is that there may be a shapeshifter targeting children.  I was wondering if you could tell me about your daughter so I can see if I can find any clues.”

    Her face washed with a mixture of sorrow and excitement.  This woman clearly hadn’t had anyone to speak with for the longest time, and although the topic was morose and brought back some painful memories for her, she sat there for a good two hours at least, telling about the life of this little girl.  Her name was Ciara, and she was fourteen when she died.  Just like the barkeep had told me, she was adventurous and mischevious, always at her father’s side.  Even when she wasn’t on a hunt with him, she’d be researching the monsters, learning how to fight.  To Patty’s disapproval, Andara had even bought her her own shortsword, and he’d been teaching her how to use it.

    Through all the stories she told me, Patty went into so much detail that I felt almost as if I knew Ciara myself.  I couldn’t finger any ironclad similarities between her and the other children, mainly due to lack of information on the others, but there was one thing I did recognise that I daren’t share with Patty.  In chime with the Youngwraith lore, all of the children misbehaved.  Not only that but from what I could tell, they each had a penchant for going against at least one parent.  For all she told me about Ciara, and event though all the love in every word, it was clear that she was her father’s girl, and Patty’s instructions were little more than suggestions.

    “You mentioned she researched the monsters?”

    “Yes, she loved the library.  She brought books home all the time, and stayed up late reading them.  If Andara was hunting something, Ciara knew all about it.”

    “Do you know if she was researching the wolf pack?” I asked tentatively.

    “She researched everything.  I know there are some newspapers in her room.  You’re welcome to check, hers is the room on the left.  You’ll forgive me if I don’t join you.”

    I nodded in understanding.  She didn’t even look at me as I walked over and nudged the door open.

    The room looked like it belonged to a student at the local university.  Bed, bookshelves, wardrobe, desk, and a chair, with walls lined with notes and the floor piled with books.  The desk was the cleanest part of the room, not that the room was messy, but it was definitely an aspect of order amongst the pillars of otherwise.  On the desk were three newspapers, of varying dates throughout a few years.  Two featured wolf attacks in the headlines, but one was unrelated and yet somehow familiar to me.  I started with the two wolf attack stories.  The first, from eight years ago, two before the night she read them, described a wolfpack not unlike the one the barkeep told me of.  They accosted a caravan of supplies, injured the driver and one of the horses, and made off with some salted meat they were transporting.

    The second was much more relevant to my investigation; seven years ago what looked like the same pack had reportedly crept into town at night and attacked a house.  A man was injured, but the wolf pack left before any serious harm was done to him or his family.  The paper heralded him as a hero, the saviour of his wife and seven year old son.  The third paper was much older, and upon studying further, I realised why I recognised the date.  The headline of the paper was about the forming of a new Tome, something that hadn’t been done for at least a hundred years, according to historians.  No prizes for guessing which one that was.  If it weren’t for such a momentous occurrence, however, there would be no doubt that the story on the third page would have been front and center.  It was the bear attack which formed the basis for the history paper I’d found during my own research.

    There was no way this was a coincidence.  I’d been to the library and the stories in these papers were very hard to come by.  If she had this story then it was something she’d searched for, not something she’d stumbled upon.  That meant that she’d come to the same conclusion I had, and while that may not be a Youngwraith, she definitely knew that her dad wasn’t hunting an ordinary wolf, but one that could shift it’s shape.  And if these were on the desk, that means she was probably studying this just before she died.  Just before she went to risk her life so that Andara knew what he was fighting.

    “Hey Patty,” I called, joining her in the main room again.  “Was Ciara taking anything to her dad?  I think she may have figured out what he was fighting and was taking him a book.”

    Patty looked up to me, shock dilating her pupils.

    “Taking him a book?  No she was sneaking out to join the hunting party.  All she had on her was the shortsword her and Andara trained with.”

    “May I see it?”

    She looked a little apprehensive, but she walked over to a cabinet on the side of the room, pulled a key from a nearby drawer, unlocked it carefully, and let the door swing open.  Inside were two swords, and she handed me the shorter one.  It was definitely built for a child, lightweight and balanced for one without as much strength in their arms as your average warrior.  If I had to guess I’d say her father had this sword made custom for her, which wouldn’t have been a cheap feat.  The blade was iron, and despite the fact that the blade was clearly custom built, the iron was very old, and had taken many hits.  This blade looked both unused and eternally battleworn.

    I looked at the other sword.  That one was definitely the sword of a mage if I ever saw one.  Fine silver blade, runes engraved on the handle, and if my own magic senses were anything to go by, somewhat enchanted.

    “This was her father’s sword?” I asked.

    “Yes, he didn’t use it much after…” She couldn’t finish the sentence, so I took over for her.

    “Did he not take it with him on the night he disappeared?”

    “No, he had a new one made.  He said it was important that he have an iron sword, just like Ciara’s.  It was noble of him to be so sentimental, but I told him to take his silver sword, to ward of the evil.”

    “No,” I hummed, as I looked at Ciara’s sword again.  In all of Patty’s stories, Ciara had been a sensible girl.  She wasn’t the girl who’d rush out to fight something so dangerous just after she’d figured out what it was.  My initial hunch was right, but she wasn’t taking her father a book.  The sword, so old looking and yet so new, was forged in a style I’d seen once before.  It was iron, but it was unforged.  Instead of being smelted and shaped, it was taken raw and beaten repeatedly into the blade, which was why it looked so aged.

    The process was called cold-iron forging, and it was the weakness of one brand of creature which I hadn’t even considered until this point.  Andara had left his silver sword at home because he wasn’t hunting a spirit.  He was hunting a Fey.

    Offline Saint

    Re: A Tale of The Darkest Tome
    « Reply #4 on: March 11, 2019, 06:39:28 PM »
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  • Interlude 2

    The old man took a big gulp of his drink and dropped the empty cup on the table.  He leaned back in his chair, put his hands on his belly, and waited.  The adventurers, one staring on with wide eyes and one stoic with arms crossed and a stern stare, let the gap persist until:

    “So?” chimed the girl.

    “So what?”

    “So what next?”

    “Oh I’m sorry my dear, I can’t possibly tell the story with an empty cup.”

    The scaly nostrils of the kobold flared.

    “We’ve paid you,” he huffed, “Go buy a drink.”

    “Well then how would I make my money if I spent my fee on supplies?” laughed the old man.  “No, no, I’d ask you kindly to fetch the next round, so that my throat doesn’t dry up from all this talking.”

    “And what makes you think we even want to hear your babble any longer?  We were promised information on the Treasure, so far you’ve simply told us of a ghoul hunt.”

    “Every story starts somewhere, my boy.  This particular one starts with a grieving mother and the Youngwraith that took her girl.”

    “So the Youngwraith is real?” the girl cooed.  The old man winked at her and tapped his nose.

    “Of course the Youngwraith isn’t real,” scoffed the kobold.  “None of this is.  This whole thing is just a ploy to keep us listening so we’ll pay his bar tab for the night.  I bet you haven’t even heard of the Treasure, you just overheard us talking of it.”

    “And by what logic do you draw these conclusions?” the old man challenged, playing with the rim of his tankard.

    “What possible experience could a man in such tattered rags have with beasts like ghouls?”  snapped the kobold, clearly aiming to wound the man’s pride.  No such wound was made, however, just a wry smile dancing on the corner of his lips.

    “The years have not been kind to me, but then who have they favoured in our times?  I see your scales, and I know what you used to be, or more importantly, what you still pretend to be.  Surely you have stories of your kingdom, but if you were to tell them I would not accuse you of lies simply because that kingdom is gone.”

    If this bothered the kobold, he didn’t show it.

    “Very well, convince me.  What do you have to show me that all of this isn’t simply a childish dream that you’ve glorified for profit?”

    “Oh you want to know of my dreams?  Well I can tell you boy, at the beginning of my tale I had none.  I was at the pinnacle of my life, a Paladin of Pelor, with armour so lustrous it even reflected the darkness.  The wisps of grey you see on my head now were a long and full blonde mane, my spindly arms had muscle and tone, I could out-fight almost any man or beast to challenge me, and I roamed the Tomes, combing bounty boards to help out those truly in need.  That was the life I lived, and that was the life I wanted.”

    At this point, the man gestured to the scabbard on his belt.  While his clothes were dirty and tattered, the sword was clearly an artefact of a better time.  It wasn’t perfectly kept, but it was definitely in better condition than anything else he owned.

    “Your proof of my worth is here,” said the man, as he drew the sword.  A lot of eyes darted over at the scrape of metal against sheath, but they went back to their business when the weapon was simply placed on the table.  The blade was sliver on one edge, but the other edge had been set with a duller metal.  The adventurers recognised this plating as cold iron like the blades the old man had described in his tale.  The hilt was gold, wrapped in leather, and set with a single blood red jewel beneath the inscription:

    “Broshildha?”  the girl hummed.  “I recognise that name.”

    “As you should,” confirmed the kobold, “Broshildha was the sword of The Black Paladin.  He’s wanted for war crimes in six of the seven Tomes.  Are you honestly trying to convince us that you’re a wanted fugitive, and you’re willing to risk revealing yourself to the seven Tomes now after all these years just because you want a drink?”

    “Believe me or don’t.  You asked for my credentials and this sword is as close as I have.  And no, I’m not doing all of this for a drink.”

    “Oh sure.  Why are you doing this then?”

    “My story needs to be told.”

    “And why us?”

    “Because I believe you two may be the ones who can change the ending.”

    “Flattery gets you nowhere,” spat the kobold as he stood, clearly preparing to leave.  “You’re not The Black Paladin, I’m not buying you another drink, and we’re done here.”

    The man stood and placed a hand on the kobold’s shoulder.

    “The Black Paladin is wanted in Red Tome too, you know.  History is written by the winners, my boy, and I lost.  Hear me out, please.”

    The two shared a glance.  The kobold had no doubt with that look that the man had been shamed by Red Tome, just as he had been himself.  He waved to the barkeep and signalled for another round.

    Offline Phoenix

    Re: A Tale of The Darkest Tome
    « Reply #5 on: April 12, 2019, 07:25:05 PM »
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  • So many Tome's?!
    You may need to do a rundown of what they are and stand for ect.

    Very well written so far Saint!  :read1: Definitely curious to see what happens next.  :thumb: