Into The Thick Of It
[This is a low stake PRP for a personal plot, taking up to 5 people. You are welcome to write myself or Pasquale in order to join or check last minute].
June 1, 2023, 5 p.m.
Outside Arx - Oathlands near Artshall - Outside Arx - Oathlands near Artshall - A sunlit meadow
Comments and Log
With the fate that has befallen Artshall recently and the efforts of reconstruction, many visit the city in order to land a hand to the Laurents in their endeavor. The lands encompassing Artshall, whether it belongs to Laurent directly or to those who call them liege - is vast. There's forest, a lot of forest. Particularly in the Shadow-woods, there are also a lot of soldiers there, particularly with recent events, there are merchants passing through, moving their wares.
Those who stayed in Artshall during recent times and visit a tavern or two, might encounter some drunken ramblings and tales told when the mead is pouring freely. There are even rumors that the Laurents actually found that the tale is true and they are heavily guarding the location. Tales and tales. Who can tell when the bees keep all their secrets in their hive?
The tale tells of a place deep in the woods that has never been discovered before, with no path old or new to guide, some poor souls who attempted it left some markings behind for future groups, which is how our group who are traversing on horseback through thick scrub and fairly dense forest, find their way. A few days camping overnight has brought them to where they think, or so the scout indicates, that the bramble and meadow are to be.
Not that anyone sees brambles. Or meadows. Just trees. A lot of trees. Sun barely filters through it's so dense and the closer you get, it's evident that going on horseback will be impossible and one will have to lead the horses through. But the weather has held, cool but held and the day is young. The end is in sight.
Pasquale has been very quiet the last few days (verbally that is. The coughing is never quiet.). His attention turned almost entirely to the riding. The closer they get to their destination the more he starts paying attention to their surroundings. Yep, thats a tree.. and that is.. and that is too. "I wonder how we'll know which is the right tree."
Ian hasn't been around helping with the reconstruction, which makes his presence at Artshall (and on this trip) undeniably something that he's doing for Pasquale, not just because he's in the neighborhood. Although it almost certainly helps that Artshall isn't Arx. Ian has lately been ready and willing to volunteer for pretty much any kind of trip, just to have a "good reason" to get out of Arx.
He might have reason to second-guess his decision to go on this trip, though. Like many lifelong sailors, he's very clearly uncomfortable on horseback. Someone has found him a very, very patient old horse, a horse smart enough to have come to the reasonable conclusion that he's an absolute idiot and should be ignored. He's content to let this horse follow the others; this gives him the ability to focus all of his attention on the surrounding countryside. Life and painful experience have taught Ian to be paranoid of ambush in forestland, and he's forever scanning the surrounding trees, also very quiet. He doesn't offer an opinion on how to tell when the right tree has been found. Trees are also not really his specialty.
Eirene has volunteered to do some exploration this time around, and get away from her kids for a few days. She rides with the uneasy saddle of someone more used to a ship than a horse. Much like Ian. "Didn't someone say they marked a tree? Carving, or a shred of cloth?"
Titania:was glad she took at least some riding when she was younger, it was not much but enough to get by. Her eyes look around at the tree's as they move past them as they get thicker into the woods, much like her cousin she wanted out of the city even if she just got back not long about. She takes a breath in of fresh air and follows the others.
Mikani rides a very large horse. Some might say the largest draft horse you've ever seen. She pats the neck of the stallion as she seems to sit more comfortably than her other naval companions. "If not marked ... does it look different in some respect? Like a coloring of moss or has a face in it?" She asks as she looks about as they make it into the thicker woods. Her time in Crovane making her much more comfortable riding through dense forest. Mikani herself was happy to be out on an adventure even if she was a late addition.
Pasquale checks perception and investigation at normal. Pasquale is successful.
Mikani checks perception and investigation at normal. Mikani is successful.
Eirene checks perception and investigation at normal. Eirene marginally fails.
Ian checks perception and survival at normal. Ian is successful.
Look, a cool bird, thinks Eirene. Partially distracted.
Titania checks perception and investigation at normal. Botch! Titania fails completely.
Despite being in the midst of the Shadowood, gladly, our travelers do not need to worry about Shavs or other unpleasantries reserved for the natives. But the scrub is dense, it takes effort to go through and as they start to wade forward it's evident that the horses can't come with them and guards may have to remain behind with them, if there are guards. And within all that dense scrub, it is seen by Pasquale, Ian and Mikani: Brambles, Just like the scout had said. And they only get thicker, the thorns more vicious and poking at armor or any bare skin.
Titania spots the same bird that Eirene does and just kind of watches it, her head tilting to the side.
Pasquale has a beautiful horse. A fine rose grey warhorse that is clearly hating all these brambles. "We will know it when we see it." Pasquale says after he finally decides that this is all to much on the horses and dismounts. He spends a few moments securing his overcoat against the bramble hazard. "One of us should keep marking our trail."
Mikani pulls some chalk out of her holster at her hip. "I can mark the trail." This was after she dismounted and secured her own armored jacket to keep her skin safe from the brambles glad for leathers to not attract much more than that.
Ian slides ponderously off his horse; his knees give way when he hits the ground, and he has to hang onto the saddle to keep from collapsing. The horse gives him a Look, and then looks away. No rolling of eyes is even necessary; the meaning is conveyed perfectly. Seemingly immune to this silent equine judgement, Ian removes a couple of things from his saddlebags. A couple of basic supplies in a bag that he can wear hanging from a long strap across his body. His cane. And... yes, that's his scarf. He loops it and secures it at his belt like a horrible, horrible whip. "Those aren't going to be fun to wade through," he remarks. "But I can get us back. I've got a compass."
Ian gets ugly, singed, stained, multicolor scarf from Oiled leather bag.
Eirene also tightens her leather coat and adjusts her gloves to keep her hands good and covered. Leather is good for this kind of thing, especially the Cardian variety. "We can tie spare bandages as trail markers," she offers as an additional suggestion to Mikani and Ian. Her nose wrinkles at the sight/smell of the Scarf (tm).
Ian checks strength and medium wpn at normal. Ian is successful.
Mikani checks strength and small wpn at normal. Mikani is successful.
Eirene checks wits and artwork at easy. Eirene is successful.
Pasquale checks wits and artwork at easy. Pasquale is successful.
Titania slips off her horse securing the animal, she watches her cousin for a moment then turns to pull her closk tighter and gloves on snug. "This is going to be fun."
Mikani checks wits and artwork at easy. Mikani is successful.
Titania checks strength and medium wpn at normal. Critical Success! Titania is spectacularly successful.
Pasquale was prepared enough that he has a handaxe amongst his things. He takes it down, hands it off to Ian, and then starts carefully making his way forward, pausing every so often to carve a symbol into a tree with his knife. "When was the last time someone came this way do you think?"
Some people, are better suited to chunk through the brambles. Some poeple are better suited to walk through it too. As Ian and Titania manage to cleave through brambles with thier weapons, it falls with some effort. Eirene, Mikani and Pasquale are busy turning the forest into a possibly morbid scene of leftover bandages. Maybe they should add some blood, that would be entertaining to those who come later, all those little girls picking up mushrooms. Trauma is character building.
By the time the group manages to get through the bramble, by the time that dark almost black gnarled branches give and the group spills out into the meadow and the sunlight that spills and envelopes them all, those not wearing armor are bleeding from small punctures and long scratches. Those in armor have a few very small ones. But they're through the brambles and into knee high grasses and wildflowers and beyond, beyond and scattered are immense pale brown twisted and gnarled trees with low hanging branches and green leaves. Flowers, birds, butterflies, nature thrives in here.
Ian looks at the ax for a moment, and then hands it back. He draws the wickedly sharp alaricite blade from within his cane and takes point; the sword that has felled so many foes is easily a match for this one. He leaves Titania to follow him and very ably turn his thin carved path into something that can be easily traversed, like a boss. As they emerge suddenly into the meadow, he takes a moment to sheathe his sword and takes off his gloves so he can dig out brambles that managed to wedge themselves in the seam either under his gloves or up his jacket sleeves.
"Ain't this picturesque," Eirene drawls in her Lycene accent. "Those oak trees look positively ancient. And look, more of those neat looking birds." She points up above.
Mikani says a silent prayer to the spirits as they enter the area of the tree. Mikani softly moves forward as she takes in the tree more. "Gods and spirits." She whispers under her breath as she reaches out to touch the trunk of the tree. "You can feel the world in this place. Like Aion's dream is somewhat more vibrant here." Her dark eyes look up into the branches.
Titania pulls her sword out its not fancy like her cousins but if it could it tell some pretty nifty stories. She moves to follow Ian cutting the brambles down not finding it to hard to go along. "Prickly little...." she been hanging around Jan to much.
Pasquale pauses besides Ian to enjoy the look of the meadow before them. At a glance he seems to have escaped all but a scratch on his jaw. "Maybe it is one of those special places." he agrees after Mikani speaks. "I knew it would be something special." a smile curves his lips before he takes a step forward. "We should collect any interesting plants and maybe a few butterflies." he looks back to Ian. "You look as if you expect a monster to jump out from behind the daisies at any moment Ian."
Ian looks up from putting his gloves back on, and over at Pasquale. "We're in the middle of the forest," he points out, like this perfectly explains why he might be operating under that assumption.
Those are certainly ancient trees. Almost as ancient as Laurent who are clearly not guarding this place. Maybe. Maybe they are here. At the side of the clearing is a very very large tree, from which one can notice a glistening sap drips upon the side of the trunk. The sap from where one presumes a bug bored in or some other damage has made it produce it to protect itself. Thick, glossy, it looks almost like blood. The blue and black butterflies that gather around it flutter wins slowly back and forth as they seem to suck from the liquid. The tree otherwise looks healthy and fine. All of them do. Birds flit in branches and there's even the sight of a few rabbits far off.
Eirene checks willpower and survival at easy. Eirene is successful.
Pasquale checks willpower and survival at easy. Pasquale is successful.
Ian checks willpower and survival at easy. Ian is successful.
Titania checks willpower and survival at easy. Titania is successful.
Ian checks willpower and survival at hard. Ian is successful.
Mikani checks willpower and survival at easy. Mikani is successful.
Pasquale checks willpower and survival at hard. Pasquale marginally fails.
Mikani checks willpower and survival at hard. Mikani is successful.
Eirene checks willpower and survival at hard. Eirene is successful.
Titania checks willpower and survival at hard. Botch! Titania fails completely.
Eirene checks intellect and alchemy at normal. Eirene is successful.
Ian's attention had been focused on keeping an eye on the area in general, looking for anything that might be about to leap out of the brambles and attack. It's a moment before his gaze settles on the tree, and on the butterflies. He narrows his eyes slightly, like someone who's trying to place a memory. "I've... heard of something like this. Shit, who was it who..."
Pasquale heads over to that tree and spends several moments examining that spot of bloody sap. He touches it with his gloved finger and raises it up to his nose to test the smell before gently wiping whats left of the sap against the bark. "I think this is the tree." He half turns as he speaks, watching something move off to the side of the meadow. After a moment of watching whatever it is he saw he starts slowly walking over that way. As if he's stalking something that might run (fly?) away at any moment.
Raja checks willpower and survival at hard. Raja fails.
Eirene is always drawn to anything that resembles blood. It's the scientist and doctor in her. She scrapes a small sample into a vial from her belt of alchemy things, and holds it up to the light. "I think this is how Laurent makes their end up passed out on the floor vodka," she says as she shakes it to test viscosity. "If memory serves, it's also one hell of a hallucinogen."
Raja checks dexterity and smithing at easy. Raja is successful.
Titania blinks and is drawn to a tree, looking it over. " Could this be it?" she touches the sap with her gloved fingers. She looks up a soft gasp coming to her as her sword is tightened in her hand and she starts off in a direction she thought she saw something.
"It is," Ian sighs. He watches Pasquale start to stalk away. "I remember someone telling me about a place exactly like this. They were looking for a... cure for something? I can't remember, except they all hallucinated a lot, and didn't find the cure. Make sure they don't wander back into the brambles. This stuff probably won't kill them, but running off... Damn it." He starts after Titania.
Raja had been here the whole time! Honest! She was likely lagging behind, letting the others hack the brambles and navigate through all the bad stuff. As they make it into the field of butterflies, she pulls up short and her eyes go a bit wider. "Oh.. Oh wow.." Her voice is a bit mistafied by the tree. "Now, that tree.." She points to it. "That tree will make a nice bow." This is said as she pulls up alongside the group. An axe is hefted up and onto her shoulder. "Let's test a branch."
Mikani looks at Raja, they were partners in crime once. "Hey Raja let's not cut the pretty tree." Mika says as she moves to stop Raja from hacking at the tree.
Are those butterflies attacking Pasquale? Why is he running away? Where is Titania going? WHAT IS HAPPENING?
Eirene looks at her gloves and the substance. "Did I just get some on me? Shit... this stuff is pretty thick." And sadly, she has some tears in her gloves from brambles. She pulls away the glove and looks at the red staining her hand. She sniffs and makes a face. "Not blood, thank the Gods." She stares at it a long moment and sighs. "Why is it turning green? And yellow. Ah fuck..." she sighs. "I think it's affecting me a little."
Whatever it is that Pasquale is trying to track down is low to the ground and in the grass. He pauses to crouch occasionally, trying to edge closer and closer to the source of his fascination. "Shh" he hisses back towards Eirene. "You'll spook it."
Mikani checks intellect and agriculture at hard. Mikani is successful.
Titania is following something there is another gasp, "Look they are all dressed so beautifully!" her fingers run along trees as she passing them, " Oh look! " she moves to stand in front of a tree and bows. "Your majesty."
The tree bows back to Titania. Or so she thinks. Maybe Raja concurs.
Raja pauses to turn towards Mikani. "It's fine! Everything is fine!" Everything is not fine. She steps backwards towards the tree and hefts her axe. "I have to get a piece!" WHACK! The axe strikes the branch, upsetting a bit of the red sap, causing it to splash out. Of course, some of the splashed sap sprays across her face. One can see the moment it mtakes effect as pupils dialate to epic proportions. "Oh no..."
Ian draws up beside Titania, and stops with an air of resignation. "Hey, let's go back and join the others. The, uh..." He eyes the trees for a moment. "The... trees? have business they need to get back to, I'm sure." He's philosophical about what is definitely going to keep happening here, just trying to manage the chaos in such a way that nobody actually dies, and gentle about the way he takes Titania's elbow and tries to urge her back.
Mikani checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Mikani is successful.
Mikani growls and manages to dodge the red mist. "Raja." She grunts before moving to tackle the woman to get her to stop attacking the 800 year old tree. "The tree is older than ... well lots of things stop!"
Eirene watches her hands and the crimson sap on them. "Oh no. They're turning into ants. Fucking ants!" She starts scratching at her hands and arms before quickly unbuttoning and flinging aside her coat. "There's ants everywhere.... " A moderate hallucination. There are no ants.
Pasquale settles into a crouch "I'm not going to follow you again" Pasquale grumbles before lunging at something deep within the grass. Ending up sprawled and frustrated. "I just want to know why!"
Ian turns back for a moment, just in time to see the spray of sap that coats Raja's face, and nearly gets Mikani, too. That's the point where he snaps his scarf free from where he had it coiled like a whip at his belt and wraps it around the lower half of his face and down his neck, tucking it into the collar of his coat. the way a person would normally wear a scarf. It almost certainly smells like a face full of corpses, but the thick wool will act as a pretty effective filter.
Titania looks to Ian her eyes widen some, " What are you doing here? why did you go! You were suppose to come see them with me you promised!" she points to the trees and slips into a odd language.
The thing about trees that pretend to be kings, is that they ask you to dance. Also animals that are being asked for answers tend to not answer back due to being unreal. Too bad there is nowhere to dunk Eirene into. Like a pool. Or a ravine. Poor Ninja Ian is trying to be the adult while those disturbed by the sap just flutter off to go find some other flower or toward others tree's to alight upon. Butterflies flit, birds swoop and fly, chitter to other birds, it's a lovely cool late fall day and nary a bit of bad weather in sight. Honestly, it's downright pastoral here. If it wasn't for the ring of brambles that they'll have to go back through to get to horses. Eventually.
The axe falls from Raja's hands as Mikani tackles her! When she lands on the ground, she wriggles beneath the woman, turning to look upon her attacker! What Raja sees in Mikani's features is NOT Mikani herself. It is one of nightmare. "NO! NOT AGAIN! NO!" She shrieks out in terror and looses all of her senses about her. Her singular target is Mikani, swatting and pushing at the woman in an effort to get her off. "MY HEART IS NOT FOR EATING!"
Eirene checks willpower and survival at daunting. Eirene fails.
Mikani gets distracted when Titania calls out. She gasps and it's then she gets smacked by Raja. "Oy I don't want your heart!" She groans as she rolls off Raja and just looks at the tree. It's then she sees something as her eyes dialate from the sap getting on her from Raja. She starts to sob and speaking in the same language as Titania.
Mikani says in Marin'alfar, "I tried. I couldn't go with you. I wanted to!"
Eirene starts stripping out of her outer layers to get rid of that feeling infesting her skin. "Creepy, Six-legged, crawling, little shit-eating mother-- " she pauses to scratch violently at her neck. "Ow ow, they're starting to bite." She grabs one of the vials off her belt of many things and starts smearing a pungent salve on her skin as a form of bug repellant. "Ha! Suck on this, you little bastards."
"Um," Ian says to Titania, his voice a bit muffled by the scarf. "Look, they, uh... I'm here, right?" He sounds like he's taking some wild shots in the dark, as he continues: "Come on back with the others. If there are sharks, we'll stand a better chance, all of us together." He takes Titania's elbow and again starts to draw her back, in hopes of putting some distance between them and any dash for freedom that Titania might decide to make. When Mikani starts crying, he looks to Eirene in hopes of suggesting something to her only to find her frantically covering herself in something. He sighs.
A rabbit comes over and stands in front of Ian. Staring at him. He's quite real. Maybe.
Sprawled in the grass, Pasquale forgets all about what he was pursuing and instead stares up at the sky with an expression of absolute wonder on his face.
Raja is in pure panic/survival mode at this moment. When Mikani rolls off, Raja rolls over onto all fours and scampers away. "Fucking huntsmen possessed grannies.." She mutters to herself as she continues her flight through the flowers and butterflies. Curses are spewing from her as she retreats to the brambles. It's safer there. She hopes. Once she reaches the edge of the meadow, she hunkers down, wielding her knife and looking around with a crazed eye. Which, she happens to also be right next to Pasquale. "Don't worry.." She rasps out to him. "I won't let the hag get you."
Pasquale looks over at Raja. "She's beautiful. Why are you afraid?"
Ian is unconcerned with the local fauna, as long as none of it is trying to kill anyone, and doesn't seem to give the rabbit a second thought, other than maybe to use his cane to nudge it out of the way, if that becomes necessary. "Raja!" He calls out to her, his voice crisp, the voice he breaks out on the battlefield, when he's commanding soldiers. Even his scarf can't muffle THAT. "Stay with him! Right where you are. Keep an eye on him."
Titania looks to Ian as he takes her elbow, "They want us to dance, oh please cousin come dance with us!" she tries to stay but he is able to slowly bring her back, "please don't make me leave again!" but then there is a mention of sharks and her sword is brought up, "They come in packs!"
Mikani just continues to cry and mutter in the exotic tongue. She sits up and holds her knees to her chest as she rocks.
Mikani says in Marin'alfar, "Why? Why did you have to go? Why did I let you leave?"
Raja goes a little wide eyed. "Oh.. she must have her spell on you! That's what she makes you think! One moment she is helping the sick and destitute. She is even acting as an interpeter for freed slaves! The next minute she is tearing templars in half with her bared hands and screaming about drinking from my heart! Don't be deceived." She hears her name and she crouches down. "Fuck. They found me. They know my name.." She leans closer towards Pasquale, "We gotta go before the guard feed us to it."
Given that it's middle of the day, there's time to wait and see how long it will take for whatever the sap is, to wear off. However, if those in armor wished to cut a wider path through the brambles out so that these two can be guided out sooner, that's an option that might be available. Thorns, pesky brambles. They are no easier to get through this time other than there's already some cleared and so it's a lot easier to hack and break through them, but soon enough, with enough effort, Ian will likely make things wider for everyone to get out without risking being scratched further.
After they come down from it, all bloody or pained, or out of wits, they make their way back to the horses with the piece of wood they needed, cut quite carefully this time, RAJA. The conclusion is simple though, this is a very strange part of the Laurent lands and possibly a little insidious - weird Oathlanders.
Titania comes down from the sap, she is very quiet to the point she can not look at her cousin. She remains silent the entire time all the way back to where they are going.
"They do," Ian agrees with Titania, leading her away from the brambles. He's keeping away, well away, from the tree, clearly very wary of succumbing to what has taken over everyone else. "That's why we can't let anyone go off alone. They'll target anyone who's alone." Once able to plunk Titania down next to the frantically scratching Eirene and the sobbing Mikani, he goes to try and talk Raja down (or at least convince her that he's a comrade in arms). And so it goes for the rest of the afternoon, with nobody running off into the forest to get eaten by a bear (hopefully), and Ian VERY MUCH wanting a drink by the time the need for him to be sober is starting lessen.
Mikani after coming down looks as if she had been mourning for days. She sighs and collects some of the sap making sure to not touch it again. She walks back drinking from her flask and remaining silent.
After the hallucinogens wear off and Raja regains her senses, she has become rather silent. She silently helps collect some wood and also collects a sample of the sap. (Very carefully!) She can't seem to really look at anyone through the trip back through the brambles and to the horses. After a long moment, she breaks her silence with one simple sentence. "This is why I never messes with hallucinogens." She clears her throat.
Pasquale is, by contrast, almost happy. Strange how that goes.
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