Thera Awakening


Revision as of 04:23, 13 June 2012 by Trier (Talk | contribs) (Chapter Three)

Stonekeep was packaged in an elaborate gravestone-style illustrated box and came with a white hardback novella Thera Awakening, coauthored by Steve Jackson and David Pulver. It was also translated into German.

Chapter One

It is one month before the autumnal equinox. A caravan of a dozen armed men and four pack mules failed to return from their trading expedition from Khera Vale; a patrol had been dispatched from Stonekeep to look for them. They found a two-day old track — and then lost it. Watch-Master Hoth ordered ten soldiers of Stonekeep to find any tracks.

It is mid-afternoon and it is raining in a forest trail. A woman named Tam and the Watch-Second named Rathe are in a muddy track between huge oaks and birches. Someone startles them. It is Orvig the Dwarf, sent by Hoth to tell them to get back to the Fort Thunder before dark. Before obeying the order, Rathe thinks examining a nearby law hill 300 paces distant half masked by a stand of junipers. He things that the party should have fled there in case of danger. Indeed, they ascend the hill and find a dozen of butchered bodies beside mules, mutilated beyond recognition, including Master Trader Seth and his deputy Lara. At first they believe it was the job of mutant beasts, but the goods, and their weapons, are looted.

They rejoin Hoth's team an hour later than ordered. They are brought to the hill-top. The rain has stopped but flies buzz around the bodies. Hoth reprimands Rathe for being late. His men are sorting and burying the bodies, but there is no sign of the Dwarven representative, Jhen Stonemelter, Orvig's clan-sister. Hoth insists that savages made the work, marked it as an attack by mutant beasts, but Rathe is not convinced. Hoth says that Stonekeep will launch a retaliatory attack against the savages and Rathe will be a part in it. The burial took almost 2 hours. Rathe tries to comfort Orvig before setting out to camp some miles nearby.

They marched in single file. Rathe, Loric and Calvert were in the rear guard with Orvig beside them. After walking for some miles, an hour had passed and it was too dark to go on. They camped on a grassy knoll beside a stream a few hundred paces from the dirt road, and ate cold trail rations. Rathe noted that Loric had a cough and relieved him of duty. At night, under a light rain, Tam woke Rathe for his watch turn. She reported that the night was quiet but Rathe heard some slithering. He drew his sword and saw a wild woman, named Kel, who came to warn him. The caravan was butchered by the Tse'Mara, the Whispering Death, who would arrive against them at dawn. Dren, the other sentry, heard the voices and came to check. The girl fled without be seen.

The two soldiers woke Hoth who showed disbelief to the girl's story. Then, winged figures showed up from the sky and killed Hoth. Rathe ordered a circular formation and cover with their shields. Warren and a woman, Kaja, also fell. Tam and other who did not have the time to do so, were in the center. Rathe managed to kill some of the dozen insectoid flying creatures. One cut Dren's hand off and some entered the circle. Rathe cut one's head with his shield, but was hit on the head severely.

Rathe is walking in a dark echoing space, a huge columned hall, with stars above an altar. A female voice calls his name in his thought. He notes a pattern etched in the glass floor that glittered, leading to a doorway. The lines form an intricate rune. The voice tells Rathe that he is dying, but he must live and help her. She is trapped Outside. Then everything shakes and crumbles, stones fall. Rathe runs towards the door. A crack opens between him and the door and grows bigger, splitting the rune in two. Rathe makes a leap.

Chapter Two

Rathe wakes from his vision, finds himself with a cloth wrapped around his head, on a wooden bed. Tam is beside him, in the west guard tower of Fort Thunder. He has been out for a day and a night; it is the 4th hour after noon. Tam brings some water and tells him that most of their team is dead; Hoth, Warren, Kaja, Calvert, Nam was poisoned by a flesh wound and Dren bled to death. Loric and Quin survived, as well as Orvig, whom the creatures did not touch. The creatures fled after 5 of them were killed. Before dying, Dren described to them the mysterious woman who warned Rathe.

Loric shows up and tells Rathe that Orvig wants to see him in the southern barracks. He brings stew cooked by Quin in the kitchen. Tam jokes that it is cooked meat from the creatures but then laughs. Before going to see Orvig, Tam and Rathe inspect the Fort: When Tam had assumed command, they broke out the javelins from the fort's store but she kept everyone inside the west tower as a precaution. They cross the courtyard to the barracks hall and find Orvig performing autopsy on two bodies of the creatures. Orvig shows to Rathe a sign under the creatures' belly, drawn by human blood: someone used magick to make them attack humans. However, they did not touch Orvig, meaning that Jhen would have also survived the caravan massacre.

Orvig tells Rathe some things about magick, the rare art that has been forgotten since the Devastation 1000 years ago. Then Rathe narrates Orvig his vision about the black floor, the female voice and the rune. He draws the symbol on a parchment. Seeing this, Orvig produces a golden ring with an obsidian stone, with the shape of that rune inside. Frustrated, Rathe begs for an explanation.

Instead of an answer, Orvig makes Rathe to remember what he knows about the gods: the Younger Gods had been fooled by their brother, Khull-Khumm during the Devastation and put into orbs. Grace to the magick of Thera, the orbs were dispersed outside of his grasp and are orbiting the sun. Now nobody believes in the gods. However Rathe's mother, Rhea, was one of the few priestesses of Thera. When she came to Stonekeep she converted Clave, a human who had saved Orvig's life. They two married. But when Rathe was about a year old, Rhea had seen a vision and had to leave to serve Thera. Clave would never let her go alone, so they left Rathe to Orvig's keeping; they left Stonekeep and considered dead since then. Before leaving, Rhea gave that ring to Orvig saying that Rathe was the last of the old blood and would take over if they fail.

It is dusk and Rathe inspects Tam's defenses. The gates and the windows were shut and fire with ready torches will burn all time, in case the creatures returned. The soldiers took more of Quin's stew together. Quin had first watch and Orvig would be with him. Rathe's condition did not allow him to take an ordinary watch.

Before sleeping, Rathe tries to decide whether they should report the creatures to Stonekeep, or whether they should try to find Jhen. And who was Kel who saved their lives?

Chapter Three

Rathe is woken by Loric. Everyone wakes and Orvig prepares the stew for breakfast. Rathe studies a map of Khera Vale and is surprised to notice that the ring is in his finger, which he did not wear.

He orders Tam with Loric and Quin to carry word back to Stonekeep. He and Orvig will scout the forest northeast towards the savage villages, try to find anything about Jhen and see if the savages are on the move or if there is any connection. Tam insists that she should come with him, but Rathe believes that Orvig knows the woods better, and he is immune to the mutant creatures. They divide their supplies and each takes a torch and three javelins. After some final instructions to Tam, they set off.

Rathe and Orvig are on their way to the northeast. By afternoon they arrive at the grassy knoll where they were attacked by the creatures, and a swallow grave of their comrades lay. Half a mile away Rathe is worried to find the skin of a snake about 20 feet long. It has a complex pattern with huge diamonds alternating with stripes. After a few more miles of hard marching, they camp near a rocky outcropping. They pass the night taking turns standing watch.

Soon in the morning they pass the hill where the Seth party had fallen, and by mid-afternoon they have already left Stonekeep's logging trails amd are already deep into the forest, thick with cedars and junipers. When Rathe feels his legs aching, they arrive on the edge of a wide clearing with a small village, complete with 24 rude huts, vegetable plots, fenced pens for fowl and pigs, and a well. The village, which Orvig identifies as Adra, is like abandoned save some dragonflies.