Episode One: The Warning Lamp
Rian frowned at the bubbling mixture in the larger cauldron. Something was not quite right. He found some tarmis bark and scraped off some of the inner layers into a pestle, then crushed a handful of myar berries onto the powder. The resulting paste looked a lot like fresh blood, if a little thick. He poured it into the cauldron and the potion darkened. He chanted for a moment, smiling as he felt the spell take root. This would be an especially potent batch of feverbrew.
He moved the cauldron to the edge of the fireplace, where it would slowly cook down. In a few hours, he would chip out the dried sludge and grind it into a powder that was the best-known relief for fever. In the meantime, he had to cook dinner and prepare paper packets for the feverbrew. Jora would be irritated that he had used their best pot for his alchemy. She hated the taste of feverbrew.
He grabbed their spare pot and headed toward the well. It was later than he expected, with the sun just barely peeking above the horizon. The dawnward sky was already a deep, rich blue. As he scanned for the night’s first stars, he noticed a twinkle on the mountain ridge. A sickly yellow-green light glowed from the watchtower. The king’s watch soaked their coal in special oils to produce a variety of colors, each with their own meaning. The poisoned emerald hue spelled plague.
Rian sighed, knowing that Jora would want to pack up and head straight towards that trouble. Her thinking was that disease meant goblins, goblins meant orcs and orcs meant murder. She had sworn an oath to kill as many orcs as she could. Rian often wished to retire and leave the fighting to the younger, less scarred warriors, but Jora would have none of it. She viewed the peaceful days on the farm as nothing more than the lull before the next storm.
She had intended to plow the fields towards the river, so he had not expected her to be back until well after dark. He should have known better. He found her in the barn, the horses already combed and fed. She was testing the belts for her breastplate, leather strips already cut and holed for when she found wear. Rian hated everything about the armor. Yes, it was magical, but it could still be pierced.
What he really hated, however, was the enchantment that had been laid upon it. The wearer would not grow weary and could feel no pain. Worse, they could not die so long as the tiniest shred of will remained. They could be hacked into bloody chunks, unable to move or breathe, yet still trapped within their ruined body as long as they still felt purpose.
They had been married a less than a year the first time she fell in combat. An orc had gotten behind her and driven his spear into her armpit. She had turned and killed it, but not before the beast had twisted the jagged blade within her chest. Her last breaths had covered her chest in a bloody froth.
He had been certain that she was beyond his help, but she fixed him with those terrible, unflinching eyes and he had reached down into the depths of his gift. He chanted through the night, long after the battle had ended and all but a few had fallen down in exhaustion. His lips grew chapped and bloody, the words losing all meaning save as a focus for his plea to the Healer. Other clerics came to beg him to stop or to offer to relieve him for a while. He ignored them all.
The sun was well in the sky when her chest heaved like a drowning man gasping for air. When she could speak again, she cupped his face in her hand and thanked him. From then on, it seemed that she was badly hurt at least once each summer. The other warriors both feared and respected her, calling her “deathless” behind her back, though she would not have minded the name, even had she known. Rian had long since lost the ability to make sense or order of her many wounds… save one.
Four years earlier, at the battle of Bheren’s Creek, a mountain troll had clouted her across the back of her head. While she was dazed, an orc had done its best to sever her head. That was when Rian had discovered the limits of his power. He could force breath back into her lungs, he could will her heart to beat, but he could not knit her severed vocal chords. Her last words to him had been, “Fear not, love,” as she kissed his forehead and held him close.
Now they spoke with secret signs in a language they had made up together. It amused her to make him blush with lewd suggestions while they were in public, though it also aroused her, as well. It had served them well to be able to speak silently and in code.
* WATCHTOWER * FIRE * SICKNESS *
“Yes, I saw it too,” he replied. “I have some feverbrew on the fire. I will finish it tonight and we can leave in the morning.” He could see that she was not going to budge on going.
* NO * TONIGHT * Her signs were crisp and irritated.
Rian sighed. “We can’t leave tonight. We need someone to come watch the livestock. The horses are lathered. I haven’t packed.”
* TONIGHT * NOW * Jora’s face was stony and cold.
“Not without an explanation.” Rian crossed his arms.
* DREAMS * FEAR * DEATH *
Rian was shocked. Paladins received many powers from their patrons, but mostly in the form of strength and courage. Jora served the Honorable Warrior. For her to have been gifted with a premonition was exceedingly rare. Rian worried that this was a bad sign.
“Fine, we’ll go, but you’ll have to gather our things while I finish up the feverbrew and make us something to eat.”
*ACCEPTABLE * There was a long pause. *SORRY *
They went into the house. He noticed her watching the watchtower as they walked.
It was well into the small hours before they were ready to leave. As they were about to mount up, Jora turned to him and signed, * GRATITUDE * ME * DIFFICULT * YOU * ALWAYS *
He kissed her and it was good, like it always was.
Okay, so here’s how this works. The more people that respond to this, the better the bennies I give to my Wednesday 4e group. Think of it like KickStarter. I have reward tiers at 1, 3, 6, 10 and 20 respondents. This story takes place in the same setting as that group and will have an effect on that world.