Tales from Norrath
These tales from Norrath are inspired by our own lives in Norrath and by the lives of our friends. At the moment they are nothing but short prologues to further adventures, but they can give you a taste of life in Everquest. Pull up a chair and read by the fire light.
Prelude To A RaidA ghostly gathering of mist swirled and sighed across the murky waters of Dagnor's Cauldron as the sun rose, pale and sickly, over the twisted rocks circling the lake. Here and there the hunched shape of an aqua goblin could be seen scuttling about, and the scattered squeaks of rats greeted the gloomy daylight.
The mist swayed in the cold, dank air, being twisted into new patterns by a sudden gust of wind which also fanned the flames of a small campfire near the entrance to Unrest, where a motley group of adventurers was just rising from an uneasy night's sleep.
Standing stiff as a statue away from the small-talk and good-mornings exchanged by the others was Azrael Deadlight, the group's leader, who had been awake long before anyone else, or perhaps he had not slept at all. In any case, his robe was as smooth and free of wrinkles as though it had just been pressed, but maybe that was simply due to the magical properties of the garment. His dark-elf eyes were fixed on the water, his expression revealing nothing.
Far below the surface, out of sight, deep in that wet, cold darkness, lay Kedge Keep, the abode of the last of the Kedge and his attendants. It was a place of untold riches, where glory and victory could be found in abundance, but where death in many forms always lurked nearby. Rumours spoke of giant sharks, invincible seahorses, terrifying and beautiful mermaids and other horrors of the deep. It was a place that had become a watery grave for many, and it was the place where Azrael was leading his group today.
Suddenly breaking his immovable pose, Azrael sneered at the rising sun, curling his lips to bare white, sharp teeth. His earlier calm gone, he flashed an impatient glance at the halfling bathing his hairy feet close by. Judging from the halfling's outfit, he was a druid and he was singing a jaunty drinking song while splashing water every now and then for extra emphasis on words like "bottoms" and "bosoms".
"Fyndhorn you maggot, may the sharks and hidden creatures of this hell-hole bite your smelly toes off! Or better yet your head."
The halfling instinctively pulled back from the water before he caught himself and blithely continued stirring the waters with his toes.
"Bah!" he exclaimed. "I have washed my feet in worse waters than these. Why, once when I was in the bowels of Splitpaw I put my feet in the snakepit pools and..."
His story rambled on but noone seemed to listen. Around the campfire the party was busy getting ready for the day's raid, sharpening their weapons, eating cold rations or strapping on their armor. Faces were tense but calm: the dangers of battle were nothing new to any of them, though the prospect of fighting under water had made some question the decision to come here.
Thallen, the Halas' rogue, was already dressed and practicing his backstabs, swinging his arms precisely and quickly at an imagined foe, a small smile brightening his scarred face beneath the eye patch.
"Put your back into it!" Bareni barked at him, laughing and tossing her blond hair as she hungrily dunked another piece of bread in some mead left over from the night before. There was an old Northern saying that only two things were bigger than a Barbarian woman's chest: her heart and her courage. And indeed, in spite of the foreboding landscape and the knowledge of what awaited them beneath the waves, Bareni's freckled face revealed nothing but joy and exhiliration at the day's activities as she donned her crafted breastplate.
The group's two shamans, Drakor and Talador, sat together beside the fire, chewing their food and talking quietly in Barbarian while their grey wolves stood watch nearby: dark, wary predator-eyes seeing all. When Talador eventually rose and walked down to the water's edge, he towered head and shoulders over the half elf Solandril who stood there, leaning on a rocky outcropping, sniffing the air with a worried look on his face. His green armor glimmered in the rays of sunlight coming through the fog, but his face was gloomy.
"What's bothering you ranger?" Talador asked.
"I don't know. Nothing. Everything. This place. There are too many twisted creatures here. It's not natural."
"The half-breed thinks that all things have to be beautiful to be natural," Azrael mocked, clearly enjoying the elf's discomfort. "As though evil and horror were not just as natural as pink flowers and pretty butterflies. But then the mixed bloods have always been soft."
"Don't test my patience inky..." Solandril began, reaching for his Ykesha, but Talador put his hand on his arm.
"Twisted creatures is right ranger," the shaman chuckled and shot a mischievous glance at Azrael. "One more twisted than the other."
Azrael's scowl turned to laughter, a chilling sound that made a nearby rat flee for its life.
"I must take you to Neriak sometime, Solandril," the dark elf said. "I could show you some creatures so twisted that your heart would shrivel up like a leaf in autumn."
Solandril looked like he was about to say something but another voice cut him off.
"Enough of this waiting around!"
This exclamation from the usually quiet Drakor grabbed everyone's attention and they turned to look at him, but he was already busy putting out the fire, slinging his charred guardian shield over his shoulder.
"You heard him my minions," Azrael ordered. "Get ready for the descent!"
"I'll die down there," muttered Fyndhorn unhappily as he dried his feet, but he put his shoes on none the less and hurriedly gathered his things, preparing himself to cast the necessary spells before they entered Kedge.
"Lay your magic on me finger wagglers!" Bareni whooped, swinging her large axe playfully as she spoke. "It's time to gut us some fish!"
As the party dove into the cold, rippling waters, they left no traces behind but a thin tendril of smoke rising from the extinguished fire. Soon, the wind whisked the smoke away, mixing it with the foul mist and grey fog settling into the Cauldron, and though the sun struggled, it could not penetrate that shroud.
The Ranger And The TrollIt was always the same in her dream. She was standing beneath the large trees, the vault of their branches spanning the air high above and from somewhere came a song, carried to her on the warm breeze and the fragrant leaves, elven words light as mist and sparkling like starlight.
She was moving towards the singing but it never got any closer, it constantly eluded her, moving away as she approached, always out of reach, always just far enough away that she couldn't catch the words, just the distant sound of the familiar and yet unknown voice that came to her in so many of her dreams.
Then she awoke and knew she was far from home. And Kelethin, where she hadn't been since she was young, angry and running away from it, seemed more distant than ever before.
So, she was definitely not in Kelethin. She was awake and it was raining and she was wrapped in a threadbare blanket, protected by a rocky outcropping, but in spite of this shelter her clothes and bedroll were miserably damp. The small fire from last night was nothing but wet coal and ash now, it's warmth long since gone. With a sigh she sat up, peering through the rain drops at the rocks and fog. Even the rain was different in this godforsaken place, just like the smells, the sounds, the grass and even the light were different. Different and somehow harsher.
Kunark. Even the word seemed harsh and barbaric. Kunark: the lost continent rediscovered, vast lands filled with treasure and untold riches, wonders beyond imagination and evil so deep and so ancient it went into the bones of the earth, into the rocks and the dirt itself. Even the plants walk here, and even they are evil, she thought, shivering slightly as she sat up and reached for her swords: it was never wise to leave your weapons far away in this inhospitable place.
The troll was awake already. He stood a short distance away, the rain pouring off his crafted helmet and wide shoulders, seemingly not bothering him at all. Maybe he likes it, she thought, maybe it reminds him of home. Being wet and miserable in Innothule with all those slimy frogloks.
They had hunted this area for weeks now and knew it a little better than before, though she still found the craggy landscape confusing, even for a ranger like herself. And there were beasts unlike any either of them had ever seen before in their travels: Cats with long, sharp teeth, rhinos with hides thicker than an elephant's, birds with tails like lizards and of course the wandering plants, narrow yellow eyes glinting harshly through the thorns when you attacked them.
"Is there something out there Barogog?" she called out to the hulking shape in the rain.
He was good at keeping watch, those long ears twitching at every sound, his large nose able to pick out the scent of an approaching creature from half a mile away. But this time he shook his head.
"Nar, nutting. Jest tinking."
"Thinking were you?"
"Yar. Tinking of da swamp."
So it was home he was thinking about.
"Mes likes it here. But it nut as guud as da swamp."
He turned towards her and she caught sight of his expression in the misty, grey morning light. It was always hard to read a troll's emotions as the scaly, hard skin and rough features hid most subtle expressions, but she had known him for a long time and she knew that he felt homesick and maybe even a little sad.
"It's not as good as Kelethin either, mind you," she agreed, sharing his feelings. "The trees are so thin and strangelooking, something about the way the branches move... I don't know. I'm a woodelf and I don't even know trees anymore."
Something in her short tirade seemed to have lifted Barogog's mood.
"Hey Tay, ya know why da elfies live in trees?"
She sighed. This was an old joke from when they had first met each other, and he still liked to tell it, already chuckling under his breath at the punchline.
"No Barogog, tell me. Why do elfies live in trees?"
"It 'cus da trollies scared dem up dere and den dey never dared cumm down."
He broke out laughing, a roaring sound that echoed against the rocks.
She pulled a long-suffering smile and picked up her belongings, pulling on her boots and tossing away some of the foraged food she had found the day before. Really, what was frontier stink beetles? and who in blazes would ever eat it? She looked at the unappetizing worms and some slimy weeds she had found also.
"Barogog, you hungry?" she asked and handed him the whole mess.
The troll's brute face broke open in a wide, toothy grin which was slightly unsettling but always sincere.
"Ooooh, Tay always saves da best fer me!"
As they started walking, the rain cleared, the fog lifted and the view of the wild, untamed landscape stretching out before her seemed suddenly exhilirating. Taking a deep breath of the cool, foreign air, she said out loud, as if to shake off her earlier feelings of unease:
"But by Tunare, there is adventure to be had here!"
Barogog just nodded, still munching on his breakfast.
Encounter In The Great Divide
Twilight fell as Tayrina walked across the frozen snow drifts of The Great Divide. Stars were coming out of the darkness above: tiny glimmers of light in unfamiliar constellations.
Even the stars are different here, she thought to herself, that’s how alien this land is.
Nightfall brought an even more biting cold than she had experienced during the day, with the icy wind picking up and stabbing the exposed skin of her face like pins and needles. She tugged at her white cloak, trying to hide inside its warmth.
She had spent the whole day searching Thurgadin to no avail. Thurgadin. She shivered at the thought of it now, because even though she would never have admitted it to anyone the town had frightened her a little. The dwarves were so different from the dwarves of Faydwer, more stern and apprehensive of elves, their gloomy eyes following her every move as she wandered the streets. Walking around the taverns and shops, she had wished many times for Barogog’s company, someone to watch her back in unfamiliar surroundings, but ever since he had taken up fishing it had been well nigh impossible to drag him away from whatever waters he currently found himself at.
A tiny smile warmed her cold face at the thought of Barogog, wielding his fishing pole in the forbidding halls of Karnor’s Castle. Only he would find time for things like that in such a place.
She was getting hungry now too. The supper she had eaten in one of those dwarven taverns had been good and filling, though that ulthork stew did have a strange flavour to it. But that had been quite a while ago, and now she had been wandering this frozen, alien plain for a very long time, dodging giants and wyrms, cloaking herself in invisibility most of the time to avoid detection.
At least they have proper taverns in Thurgadin, she thought, thinking with disdain of Firiona Vie where such luxuries were not yet so readily available. Firiona Vie, pride and joy of the elven court, with the incessant noise from construction, the preaching by those useless pilgrims and the grand statues of Firiona herself resplendent in the sun… it was enough to drive her mad and remind her of why she had left Faydwer once upon a time. The haughtiness of the high elves and her own people, their blind conviction that they would bring civilization to the new lands made her want to throw up. As if the drolvarg or drachnids would ever be civilized. As if the Iksar would ever turn away from their own religion and traditions. No, spreading civilization always meant killing, for a good cause naturally, always a good cause. The same good cause that would have had her kill Barogog instead of making him her friend.
The anger rising in her chest at the thought of Firiona took her mind off her search for a moment but not more, soon the unease was back, the thoughts she dared hardly think.
Where could he be? She had received word that he was in Velious and that he would meet her there. It had been such a relief to hear from him since they had not seen each other for so long. There were mornings when she awoke with a frightful anguish in her chest, knowing that somewhere out there, far beyond her reach, he was in danger. She knew it and could do nothing, could only wait for the premonitions to pass. He was always in danger, as was she. It was the way of things in this world.
“His wolf will protect him,” she said out loud, her lips stiffening in the cold. Please let him be alright.
But no sign of him in Thurgadin, just some dwarf in one of the shops who thought he had seen someone fitting the description pass through town some days before. But there were so many new travelers these days, many of them shamans from Halas.
The cold was biting deeper into her flesh and bone now. She could hear the howls of dire wolves in the darkness, lonely and haunting sounds, like something from a nightmare. At one time some giants passed so close to her that she could hear the creaking of their armour and their voices: deep, throaty sounds she could not understand.
Suddenly, a sound. She swung around with her blades at the ready, cold steel glinting, edges sharp.
Before her in the dark night stood a gigantic white bear. Its fur was thick and lustrous, glittering with frost in the faint starlight. A bear, but like no bear she had ever seen in all her travels. Its eyes looked upon her with understanding, like it knew her.
“Are you going to shave me with those, or just skin me?”
His voice. The blades dropped from her hands, so great was her surprise and shock. She looked around, but there was no one there except her and the bear.
The bear. The voice again, from right in front of her:
“Is that how you greet me after all this time apart?”
And then his laughter, unmistakably his, except that it was the bear laughing. She took a small step forward, staring in utter confusion at the bear who seemed to be smiling at her, it’s dark eyes full of mirth at her hesitation
“How in the name of Tunare…”
“I have learned some new magic, wife.”
She tried to collect herself, tried to steady her senses, but still her voice trembled.
“You have indeed. Never, ever, in the whole of Norrath have I seen anything like it.”
She reached out gingerly and touched him, feeling the fur around his ears, and it was thick and warm, just like a bears. Then he suddenly shed the spell and stood before her as the tall barbarian she had married almost exactly a year ago on the shores of Lake Rathetear. They embraced and held each other for a very long time, not speaking, since they knew each other’s thoughts without words.
Then the calm suddenly shattered in a sudden blood curdling, terrifying shriek from the darkness.
“A wyrm!” she called out and grabbed her blades, still lying on the ground.
“Stand back!” Drakor called out, right before the scaly creature fell upon them…