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A Doomed Pilgrim in the Ruins of the Future.

A topic by Samantha Day created 94 days ago Views: 663 Replies: 36
Viewing posts 1 to 36
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I’m a warrior seeking peace and an end to bloodshed. I’m on a pilgrimage to the Temple to No Gods in the distant City of Gulls. My pilgrimage has brought me to the Gray Hills, inhabited by  the encamped army of a king who has sworn vengeance upon me. My goal is to pass safely through and continue my pilgrimage.

You, my friends online, play the world. Your goal is to see me to my doom, instead of safely on my way. You’re allowed only to directly answer my direct questions, though, so you might not be able to do it.

The rules: 
1. Only answer my questions. 
2. If you don’t already know the answer, make something up. 
3. Keep your answers short. 
4. If your answer’s disruptive, I’m allowed to ignore it. 
5. Otherwise, I have to go with the first answer somebody gives. I’ll like it. 
6. You may subscribe to this thread if you like. Please use the sentence ‘no gods watch over you’ to do so.

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I have the summoning-name of a ghost burned into my memory and instincts honed by a life of violence. I have been walking through the Gray Hills for two days, and I am packing up the meager camp I've made in some tall, stooped grasses in the shadow of a gutted sentry-tower. 

Something warns me of approaching danger. What warns me? Anyone should answer.

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A flock of witch-ravens--smart birds, not easily startled, used to the magic of these lands--take flight from thier roost in the tower, cawing a warning.

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I look up at the ravens and sigh. I've been avoiding the army's scouts for two days, but my luck had to run out sometime. Should I bother to hide my campsite thoroughly? 

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no gods watch over you

No, they ride swift-footed feathered lizards and will be upon you any moment.

The ravens flew northward, in the direction of safety from the king's riders--but the City of Gulls is far to the south, and to the south I must go. I start off cautiously down the narrow path, shouldering my pack and making sure my old knife is strapped to my belt.  Have the riders definitely seen me?

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Not definitely, no. A cracking of underbrush announces it a near thing with the outriders, though. They call and whistle, changing patterns as they, at the very least, know you should be within reach.

no gods watch over you

Yes. One of the riders was soul-bound to the witch ravens. This one bird sits on a gnarled bare tree, watching you, telling them where you are. 

no gods watch over you

I fought for the old queen’s army, I should know their whistles and calls, but their meanings elude me in my old age. The night was long and sleepless, and I am exhausted. I stay low and move slowly, but I can hear their beasts moving near, crushing the grasses under their massive feet. Is there a place ahead where I might lose them? 

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No gods watch over you.

Ahead, you see one of the gray hills. It is rocky and there are many shadows.

No gods watch over you.

The codes have changed since I was a young woman in the army, but the great beasts have not: inevitably, one of them becomes distracted by some passing breeze, its rider has to rein it in, and I take the chance to run for the low, rocky hill I see in the distance. I catch my breath. Two months on this pilgrimage, doing what penance I can, and I've been hunted like a dog  every step of the way. I served the young king's mother faithfully, I think--why has he sworn vengeance on me? 

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Through no fault of your own. The king's mother had jealous envy toward you and spoke ill of you to the king, poisoning him against you.

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As the scholar-poets say: sometimes it do be like that. 

I rest in the hollow of a rock and peek out at the two riders who have emerged from the grasses to hunt for me: the one whose beast did not become distracted is loudly admonishing her partner, the one who did. I begin scrambling up the hill--if I can lose them on the other side, perhaps I'll have another half-day before they can catch up to me.  Is there a place ahead where I might ambush them? 

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There's a point near the top of the hill where the boulders are more closely spaced and the old sentry road weaves right through them. They'll be forced to move single file and you might be able to get the drop on at least one.

I look up and see the point. I don't like my chances, but I can't risk losing them, only to have them come back en masse, and with some idea of the direction I'm heading. I think, briefly, on summoning the ghost I've bound to me--but the situation isn't that dire, not yet. 

And if I kill them, I can take their lizards. 

I'm going to kill them. It's nothing personal. 

As I scramble up to the top of the boulders and watch their approach, the focused scout looks around as though she wants to rein in her lizard and turn around. What has alerted her to the danger about to befall her? Anyone should answer. 

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You've lost your touch, warrior.

You'd have gotten your training squad latrine duty for a month if you'd left a single bent blade of grass in a tracking exercise back then... but an actual broken twig on that bush just off the track?

Well, you left sharp eyes more than enough to catch onto.

I look back and realize what I've done. I've got a choice: turn back, cower, and wait for them to pass, or face them down. If I can take the clever one quickly, the dull one may be too frightened to face me. I draw my knife and get into position above where their lizard-beasts will pass. What about the clever scout seems familiar to me, in the heartbeat before I strike? Anyone should answer. 

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It's the steel in her gaze as she looks ahead—hot as a forge and sharp as a sabre. Something in those hardened eyes reminds you of your sister.

My sister died at the Battle of Lion's Jaws. She was always a far, far better warrior than me, but I survived, and I watched her body burn with the rest.  

I put this aside.  We were just girls.

With my muscles protesting the strain I've put them through already today,  I choose my moment and drop down onto broad back of the clever scout's lizard-beast. The animal merely grunts at the added weight--but the scout, for once, looks surprised. My knife is drawn, and  I might be able to overpower her. Does she die?  

no gods watch over you

She dies so quickly that you are still braced for a struggle from her that never arrives. You've never seen the life jump out of a body that fast.

This is the first killing I've done since I embarked on my pilgrimage. I haven't lost my touch, I see. I take the lizard-beast's reins and pull it to a  sharp halt. How does the other scout react to their partner's death? 

You thought that by killing the clever scout quickly you would frighten the dull scout into submission. You were so very wrong. Before her companion is good and truly dead The remaining scout has her weapon drawn and her lizard-beast charging at you.  In this moment you are ever more certain that No Gods Watch Over You

Then gods never have. I barely parry the other scout's sword, and they knock me off of my lizard, so that we're both sprawling in the dirt. I might be able to fight free. I throw a handful of dirt in their eyes. Do they recoil and let go? Anyone should answer. 

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They hiss as their eyes sting, but they do not lose their grip on their sword or on your shirt.

They might kill me here. I throw my head back and howl the summoning-name of the ghost I have burned into my mind, and  it rises around us, ashen and terrible, ready to do violence to everything in its path.  Do I have a chance to get away? Anyone should answer. 

It grabs the scout, whose screams of terror are cut short as her body is rapidly drained of life, skin starting to flake away in wisps of ash and dust in the breeze. You can wriggle free, but now there's a murderous ghost on the loose.

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Well, as the scholar-poets say: sometimes it be your own mans.

I scramble to my feet and face down my ghost. How did its name come to be seared into my mind? Anyone should answer. 

How could you forget the name of your father?

No gods watch over you.

When I bound my father's spirit as an instrument of death,  I knew what I was getting into.  I was so sure of myself. I was a fool. "Baba," I say, standing firm against the storm. "It's time to sleep now."  Does he heed me and go quietly back to his rest? Anyone should answer. 

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How could he call himself a father if he did, returning to the Summerlands only to report to your sister and mothers that he left you in this world of danger and cruelty.

His duty demands that he take you with him.

No gods watch over you.

I've had a hell of a morning. I haven't even eaten breakfast yet. I don't care if Baba goes back to the third hell, he's going somewhere that's not here. So I eye up the two lizard-beasts, which are sitting quietly in the middle of the path, and decide that the one the clever scout was riding is fatter. Working as fast as I can, I cut its throat as blood-offering to my father. Does Baba take it and go quietly back to his rest?  Anyone should answer. 

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Your father accepts your offering, the blood from the lizard and from the slain scouts boil away. In a flash of fire your father is gone back to his rest. The bushes around you are burning now, the kings army will know where you are.

I look around at the fire and watch the plume of smoke rise into the sky.  That could have gone better. The "end to violence" thing is a work in progress--a few more lives to atone for, when I reach the Temple to No Gods. I mount my newly-acquired lizard-beast and reach into my bag to finally, finally eat my breakfast.

 When does the princess's messenger catch up to me that day?  Anyone should answer. 

At sunset, as you're crossing that ridge you saw in the distance, which turned out to be the skeleton of some giant beast, its ribs filled with crumbling dirt. Treacherous ground.

I'm on holy ground here. There will be no deaths as long as we stand in the ribs of the beast. The messenger approaches me warily, keeping their distance. They can't be more than thirteen, from the looks of them. I motion them over, impatient to be on my way.

I've never met the king's daughter--she was born well after my falling-out with the royal family. I know she's young, and I know she fights in her father's army like a common soldier, but hardly anything else. What ill-tidings do her messenger bring me? Anyone should answer. 

She explains that the hated king has dispatched his champion. They await outside the sacred site of bones, at the edge of the Gray Hills. The champion has drawn a circle and is challenging you to single combat. 

Oh, great. Single combat. That's exactly what I need. Wonderful. 

What do I know about this champion that worries me the most?