Duldrus Improvement Initiative Pt. I

The ranger Annabel leaned over the table, carefully analyzing the map of Oberin. The Hidden Vale insignia on her gray robe was clean and shiny, practically brand-new. She noticed a glimmer of movement in the corner of her eye, and let out an audible gasp as Sulovir stepped out of the shadow. He returned her expression of shock, with a hint of sarcasm.


"I wasn't expecting any rogues to be here today," she exclaimed.


"Well," he said with a devilish grin, "I wasn't expecting to be here today either, but you don't see me complaining!" He dusted off the dirt from his robes and made his way toward a plate of cookies that was resting on the table. "Also, from a distance, I could've sworn you were Rivvyre."


"Rivvyre will actually be meeting me here soon," she said, grabbing her orb of seeing, "but it looks like he's still pretty far away."


"Ah. I left a giant behind on the way here, we could go find him while waiting. He's somewhere East."


So the duo headed East. They found harpies and sludge beasts, among other critters, but didn't manage to find the giant. She used her orb again. "Rivvyre is close, let's head back." Once they returned to the guild hall, they all took their seats at the grand table, and she explained the purpose of their meeting. "I heard that awhile back, there was a campaign to open safe access to the portal to Duldrus, and I thought that was a great idea. Those stone golems are a pain."


Yes..." Rivvyre looked into the distance with sorrowful eyes. "Many reports of miners 'n their families being brutalized... even murdered by those crazed golem monsters 'n other violent creatures of the forest. The miners were trying to avoid the long journey overland to Andris – many of them having family roots going back several generations still living in the Andris mining community – while the families were seeking to visit their kin living around Duldrus. Their plight is dire... not to mention the grim fate that awaits those seeking healing or resurrection at the almost forgotten temple by the river."


"Yes, so many deaths that could have been avoided. I can’t believe so little has been done to protect the people of Duldrus. So," she continued, "Rivvyre and I are going to survey the area and make a list of spots that would make the most sense for access."


"Hmm." Sulovir nodded thoughtfully. "I did learn a lot about mining when we built this place. I swore I would never touch another axe again..." Suddenly he shot up from his chair. "Well, what are we waiting for?"



The three went out, maps in hand, and began to scout. West, East, North - they came up with three options.


"I like this spot the best," the young ranger suggested. "Not too far West of the Hall, and straight North."


Rivvyre shook his head. "The backyard is the closest to us and has less rocks to get through.."


"But," said Sulovir, "the backyard is full of lions, bracken, and sludge beasts." He pointed elsewhere on the map. "This spot makes more sense."


Rivvyre had one more option in mind, a bit further West and closer to the town.  The three agreed, this would be the most convenient place of access for all, and they made their way back to the Vale.


"Well, that's enough wandering Duldrus for me today. We'll have to report our findings to Jedd and the others to get their opinions and next steps. Thank you for coming with me!"


*The ranger returned to her map, and began scrawling.*

Comments

  • "I think I found the path you were speaking of, through the canyon." Rivvyre gestured to another tiny spot on the tattered map, where someone had already etched in a little arrow in ink.

    "Ah, very interesting," said Jedd, leaning back in his chair. "Actually... there is a different spot that I was thinking about. It's something I've had my eyes on for quite some time... years, in fact."

    Jedd looked up from the table and out the open window, where the full dancing moon shone brightly through the canopy. The air was chilly, but no more so than what would be expected for this time of year, and indeed it provided a most welcome relief from the heat and the ginseng smoke that inevitably results when so many people gather around the same crowded end of a dining room table. They probably should've relocated to the library an hour ago – dinner had long since concluded, but everyone who had partaken in the meal was still there, poring over a mess of maps and notes and sketches that lay scattered around the empty dishware.

    "So which area were you talking about then?" asked Sul. "I think we went to that spot, too."

    "Here." Jedd pointed to the spot on the map. "Here was the original proposed excavation site. As you might recall, we would've even tried to build the keep there too, had the area been wide enough."

    Rivvyre nodded slowly. "That is the place I thought would be easiest, but dangerous. We looked there today."

    "Ah, yes," said Jedd. "The wildlife. When we first thought of the idea, there were no creatures in there at all – that was before the mountain pass opened up in the earthquake... before the war."

    In an instant, those all-too-familiar pictures and memories started to dance before his mind again: the flash of steel and the falling of snow, icy blue scales in the wicked cold, the slithering speech of silver-tongued dragons, overgrown and crumbling temples that provided no solace, faces of comrades with hollow eyes, teeth that pierced his flesh like butter, claws that – but then suddenly, he heard Rivvyre talking, and the images were gone as quickly as they had come.

    "One good thing about the other spot..." said Rivvyre, "though it promises to be more mining, it is rather midway between the Vale and Duldrus. Closer to Duldrus for all the other folks."

    "Hmm," said Jedd, taking a few moments to process the lines and dots scrawled before him, "yes... but of course. This is brilliant. Clearly you all have undergone an exhaustive review of the options, and I stand corrected – closer to Duldrus would be more beneficial to all."

    "We thought so too," said Sul. "But wait." Suddenly he frowned. "Something just came to me, I don't think anyone's mentioned it yet. Maybe when we begin construction, the stone golems will get even more angry than they are now."

    "Sulovir is right, friend." Lans chimed in. "Perhaps a dose of realism is in order – our presence would not go unnoticed. I need not remind you of the pattern of poor behavior that they've exhibited in the past."

    At this, a swift gust of wind burst into the keep, ruffling hats and hair alike, and flinging the various maps and papers to the floor.

    "Indeed." Jedd stood up slowly from his chair, and stepped gingerly around the papers and the people scrambling to collect them as he made his way over to close the window. "We'll need to stay focused on the goal if we're to succeed. But as long as Duldrus has its defenders – be they from the Hidden Vale or the far corners of the world, then I believe we might just stand a fighting chance."

  • edited April 26

    DULDRUS GOLD


    This looks like trouble, the fighter thought. I'd better go alert the others. He pushed his reading material off to the side of the desk and scribbled out a note: "Report of brigands at the portal, if anyone's up. -J, 450/06/232. Late evening." He stood up and made his way back to the great hall, and over to the bell. He rang once – loud enough to be heard upstairs, but not enough to incite a mass panic or evacuation. Making sure to leave the note in a visible place on the table, he slid down to the floor and made himself comfortable in a nice open spot. And now, to wait.


    *****


    The fighter woke up on the cold stone tile. Where was he? When had he even gone to sleep? He picked himself up – quite laboriously – and took a quick glance about the room. He was still in the keep, right in the middle of the great hall, except now there was someone else there with him, a silhouette standing in the doorway to the kitchen.

    "Oh, hey," said the figure – it was Sul. "If anyone's up, right?"

    "Oh. Hello!" said Jedd, hoping that the darkness would hide his embarrassment. With practiced indifference, he bent his neck to the side, allowing the joints to pop and crack. "I must confess, that floor really isn't all that great for napping."

    "Yeah, I almost tripped over you on my way in."

    "Oops!" he said with a grin, before moving over to the table to gather his pack. Once everything looked to be in order, he turned back to Sulovir. "So... portal?"

    "Sure."


    *****


    The road to the portal – though it wasn't really a road, being devoid of paths and all – was dark and chilly, and full of the low rumbling sound of the golems patrolling the woods in their slow, somber march. As the pair passed through the first golem field, on their way to the river's mouth, the fighter nearly ran into their massive arms not once, twice, but three times. He wasn't sure if it was his lack of sleep, or the night's shadows playing tricks on him, but he could've almost sworn that there were a few more pairs of those eerie glowing red eyes than there normally were.

    "So dark out here," Jedd said in an attempt to dispel his anxiety, as he fended off a giant snake.

    "Heh. I drank night vision." The rogue disappeared into the shadows, and reappeared with a knife in the snake's back. "I'm a bit sleepy as well, knew I'd need it to stay awake."

    Then, more rumbling. The golems were catching up.

    "Ahh..." said Jedd. "Here we go again."

    "Never a dull day in Duldrus!"

    They pressed on forward, not stopping to rest until they put the river crossing behind them. The rapids were swift, but steady. And as luck would have it, the local nest of gapers was nowhere to be found. It almost made him more uncomfortable that way – not knowing where the beasts were, what devilry they might be planning... but in any event, they had reached safety, if only for the moment.

    Sulovir laughed as they crouched down to catch their breath. "I don't think I'm prepared for this."

    "Is anyone really?" Jedd swung his pack over his shoulder and unearthed an apple. "Here we are. Care for one?"

    "I'm content with my slightly stale roasted gaper stalks, thanks."

    "Suit yourself. Anyways, I forgot to add earlier, something about the message I got. It mentioned the hall by the portal – the Gold of the Gods."

    "Ahh. Haven't seen anybody there in years. But if they really have all that gold, then I see why the brigands are interested."

    Grinning, the fighter got back to his feet. "On that note, we'd best be moving."

    They set off once more, energy renewed. The last leg of the hike was, as usual, a good deal quieter than the first. Only the snakes were mildly interested in pursuing them, and naturally they never stayed interested for long. And so, in just a matter of minutes, the four spires of the Blue Portal came rising into view.

    They approached with brisk but careful steps. The air was rife with the odor of blood and ashes. He could've almost sworn that he could hear the clanking of metal, somewhere on the wind. The fighter kept his head on a swivel, as his old mentors had trained him to. He would be ready to strike and call out to Sul in a moment's notice (though to be fair, Sul would notice any assailants long before Jedd would). Seeing nothing of interest at the portal, they crept just a bit closer to the hall.

    "Bodies," whispered Sul.

    Sure enough, corpses lined the walkway to the old stone structure, barely illuminated by the dim torchlight. They moved closer. Jedd crouched down to get a better look – brigand uniforms. Suddenly, a figure emerged from the hall's doorway.

    "Hi!"

    Jedd shot up to his feet, gripping his sword, before realizing his mistake. This was no brigand. "Ah. A live one. Well met, sir—"

    Then, more movement – the scuffling of boots, several pairs – coming from behind.

    "Come on guys!" a brusk voice yelled from the direction of the portal. "Good thing we had pures."


    To be continued...

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