A 9th Age Tale: Eddic and the Stone, chapter 1

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    • A 9th Age Tale: Eddic and the Stone, chapter 1

      Authors Note: I'd written this story some time ago, but Ive adjusted it as the background came out as best I could. This is the first installement and Ive more written, but Im curious to see what you all think of this. Its not really a grand tale or story of battle, but more of how one man's life is changed forever after witnessing an event he was never meant to see. If theres anything that seems 'Not consistent with the background' its because it probably is not! But I have made an effort to keep things as close as I can. Without further ado, here you are.



      Eddic and the Stone


      The wind flew across the surface of the sea, dancing as it spun across the waves. On the deck of the Sea Drake, Eddic stood and watched it lazily, leaning his slightly muscled frame onto the railing. At the beginning of the trip, he'd have been a bit more leery of coming this close to the edge. It had taken him a few days to get his sea legs back under him, but he managed. The body was a wonderful thing, remembering old habits that the mind forgot.

      Breathing in slowly, he let his mind wander. It had been a rather uneventful trip which suited him just fine. The sailors were a talkative bunch, and they quickly warmed up to Eddic. Each night, they'd dice and drink and tell tall tales and swap rumors. They liked Eddic most for his stories. He'd been a lot of places, seen a lot of things, and had a bit of a way with words despite his hoarse, damaged voice. He liked them most because they were a great way to glean some information about the place he was heading.

      Port Hallow. The far edge of Civilization. Perhaps here he could finally stop and rest...maybe put down roots. A smirk came to Eddic's face at that, the corner of his chapped, sunburnt lips coming up ever so slighty. Roots indeed. He had been traveling for as long as he could remember, never staying at a place for more than a few months. Gascone, San Genoveva, Nevaz Vanez...he'd been to all these places and more. He'd even called the island city of Aldan home for the space of a year.

      But no matter how fascinating the place, how friendly the people, how exotic the locale, Eddic would leave. He'd wake up one day, pack up his stuff, and just wander off along the road. When he was younger, he decided to try his hand as a sailor. That lasted for longer than any other occupation. His smile grew as he recalled those days...full of excitement and wonder. For a decade he sailed from port to port exploring the world and making a living. Yet in the end, he'd even walked away from that life.

      He rubbed his calloused hands together as a particularly strong gust sent a spray of icy sea water onto the deck, splattering him and causing him to shiver despite the warm sun. Sighing, Eddic let the smile that was forming on his lips die as he noticed the splotches and wrinkles just coming in at the back of his tanned hands. Time to face facts. He was getting old. Maybe it was time to set down his burdens. The landing was, after all, far away from his troubles. He could make a life there. He could be safe.





      *****************************************************************

      That night, Eddic awoke with a start. Sweat covered his body and soaked the hammock in which he'd been sleeping. Breathing heavily, unable to recall more than vague snippets of whatever nightmare he'd been having

      <<A sharp knife, glinting in crimson moonlight...a young girls scream....whispers in the shadows

      Eddic stumbled out of the hammock and wiped one trembling hand over his face. Why was he so terrified?

      Looking out the porthole, he saw the sea was calm. Gentle waves lapped against the hull of the ship and the moon shone bright and full, giving the water a gentle, silvery sheen. He glanced around the room. Several sailors were bunked here, sleeping peacefully in their cots. Nothing seemed out of place, nothing seemed amiss. So why was he so tense? Why this sudden, heart-wrenching fear? Eddic shuddered, hugging himself against the wet chill of the cabin.

      He knew he wouldn't be going back to sleep anytime soon. His pulse was racing and every instinct he had developed in his 50 years was screaming at him to hide, to run, to scream

      <<a low, terrible voice calling as he ran Yes manling...scream, cry out, none can save you. Everything will be as dust

      and crawl under the deck boards with the rats and not come out again, but he couldn't for the life of him figure out WHY.

      Maybe he just needed some fresh air. The salty, ocean air always helped to clear his mind. As softly as he could, Eddic made his way up the ladder to the deck, his footfalls overwhelmed by the loud snoring from Beckam, an old sail hand that had won a good chunk of Eddic's spending money last night in dice. There was little wind, and not a cloud in sight. Suddenly, Eddic felt how far from anything they were. How utterly alone he was on the deck of this small vessel.

      <<Footsteps, deep and heavy and dreadful, A howling wind carrying the scent of burnt flesh, dark words etched In a living book

      Tonight was a night for dark thoughts. For remembering things he has tried to forget. To remember what set him on the road in the first place...to remember why he kept moving from place to place. Wanderlust was only part of the reason. The other was that he was running. The ship rocked gently with the ocean swell and Eddic breathed deep, remembering...



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      "Race you!"

      Laughing, a young and spry Eddic flew across the soft grass, feet pumping wildly as he chased the girl, her laughter floating high and light amongst the trees. The spires of Avras stood high in the distance, reflecting off the clear lake, the day bright and sunny.

      "Hey no fair!" he cried, voice ringing clear.

      <<It's been so long since I could speak without pain.

      "Wait up! You're going too fast!"

      It was true, he noted to himself as he stopped to catch his breath, leaning against a strong oak. Eddic was young, but he wasn't near as quick as the beauty that was disappearing off in the distance. Her name was Kea'lani. She was his best friend and they had known each other since they were babes. Eddic was 14, still young but old enough to be a man in the eyes of the law. A fishermans son, his family struggled each day to make ends meet. No one shirked. Everyone helped. So the times he was able to sneak away with Kea to the lake were rare and treasured. This was their place. The lake was so far off the roads, involved a lot of climbing and bushwhacking, that no one ever came there. It was their private paradise.

      Kea'lani's family made candles and were not much better off than Eddics own. Still, the two families got along well enough and met every third week for dinner. While he and Kea'lani werent betrothed or anything of the sort, it was generally understood that they would be one day. Maybe in a few years after they had matured a little, Eddic would propose and she would accept. He would have a ship of his own and fish, like his father before him. It would be a good life.

      <<Ah, what might have been. I miss her.

      But such thoughts were for the future. And, young as he was, the future was something far away. Something distant and barely seen, it's vague outlines sometimes pressing up on his thoughts in his more reflective moods. Today, the sun was bright, the birds sang and the cool water beckoned. Grinning, Eddic stood up and renewed his chase. It was a game they played often, racing amongst the trees to be first to the lake. When they got there, they'd splash and swim and generally have a good time until dark, and then they'd make their way home until next they had a chance to steal away.

      Eddic laughed softly as he made it to the treeline, planning to tackle Kea into the water causing her to yelp, as she generally took her time acclimating. She hated when he pushed her in before she was ready. Eddic grinned wider at the thought. Taking a deep breath to bellow a mock warcry, Eddic burst through the tree line and froze, breathe coming out in a quiet woosh as he stood, shocked, staring at the scene before him.

      Scholar Rhyme stood at the lake shore along with his bodyguard, a dark eyed ranger of some small notoriety that went by the name of Whisper. At their feet sat Kea. Even from this distance, Eddic could see the dark bruise across her normally flawless face. Unable to move, unable to think, Eddic could only watch and guess at was being said. The wind brought him only small snatches of conversation: "...how DARE you interrupt...," "filth, you'll pay for..," "...damned runt. This ritual was.."

      Rhyme's voice was easily recognizable. He was a very wealthy Scholar, reknowned for his work on the Old Naptesh Kingdoms of the south and priesthoods of Sunna. He was well known for being generous and virtuous. Indeed, part of the shock holding Eddic in place was the incongruity of what he had seen of the bookish man and the scene spread out before him. As he spoke, the Scholar moved forward and casually back handed the girl again, causing her to cry out in pain.

      This was too much to bear. Eddic couldn't understand what was happening. He and his family had been privy to Rhyme's generosity in the past. He could remember standing with his father, smelling of fish, in line to receive a gift of bread and goods from servants wearing Rhyme's crest. As his mind boggled, Eddic began to notice other things. There was some kind of lump in the water. Squinting, he could...wait, was that a...yes. Yes it was. His blood ran chill. Young as he was, even he knew what a Mummy was. It wasn't moving and Eddic could guess why.

      Rhyme wasn't done crafting it yet. Creating an Undead. It went against all laws, all social customs. It was unheard of. Scholar Rhyme sighed, in obvious irritation, and the next words came clear and strong to Eddics keen ears: "Your sacrifice will serve to appease Setesh, and the ritual can be completed." Rhyme drew a knife and walked forward, chanting.

      Eddic's paralysis flew away in a flash. He rushed forward, yelling in earnest, and leapt...hoping to tackle Rhyme into the water. It was a vain hope. Rhyme was a mage of immense power. Rumor said he had single handedly fought off an Orcish incursion in one of the small villages. But that didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was protecting Kea. He WOULD protect her. Somehow, if he could manage to pin his hands, maybe he would - Such thoughts became dust as Eddic felt an arrow thump into his shoulder. He crashed bodily past Rhyme and into the...the THING in the water.

      Blackness. A coppery taste in his mouth. Water swishing in his ears, lapping over his body. His left arm was numb and he had trouble breathing. Each breathe came in gurgles, and he heard a soft, muffled cry and a thump as something landed next to him. Opening his eyes and managing to turn his head only barely, he groaned as he recognized the bright, shining eyes of the girl he had loved for his entire life. The life in them was fading slowly.

      Eddic tried to speak, to provide some sort of comfort. But he couldn't. Instead, he spat out blood into the brackish water, tasting salt...whether from his tears or from the water, he didn't know. He couldn't hear anything anymore...water surrounded him, holding him up. He wanted nothing more but to sink beneath the surface and die. So he sank. Opening his mouth, he took a breath. Water filled his lungs. Pain. He couldn't do it. He couldn't die this way. His body lurched and his head broke the surface and he fought for breathe. He had breathed in something sharp with the water, and it tore at the insides of his throat as he coughed and hacked. He heard a soft 'plop' in the water, and his strength failed him as another arrow slammed into his chest. Once again, he sunk into the water.

      It was then he felt it. The metallic sharpness of the jagged stone brushed past him. Eddic gripped it, the sharp edges cutting into his flesh. Eddic breathed out, trying to clear his mind, and waited.

      Splish. Splash. Splish. Splash. Footsteps, coming closer. Eddic tightened his grip. A shape bent above him, and two light fingers touched his neck, feeling for a pulse. Ignoring his pain, Eddic leapt out of the water and struck with what was left of his strength. Luck was with him and Whisper grunted in pain as the blow connected with his head, blood gushing from the large wound. He had to escape. Had to get away. Had to let someone know. Maybe the priests could help. Maybe they could bring Kea back to life. So he ran. He ran as he had never ran before. Gasping, panting, the wound in his shoulder like a bright burning inside of him. Each step was agony. But he had to get away. For Kea.

      As he made the tree line, he stumbled on a root. Where his head had been, a horrible crackling bolt of dark energy sped out, tearing off the limbs of some unfortunate tree. Eddic didn't stop. He didn't think. He kept running.





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      A particularly large swell forced Eddic back into the present, struggling to keep his footing against the tilting of the small wooden ship.

      That had been over 3 decades ago. Eddic had made it to the temple. They bandaged his wounds, but laughed at his story. They were sure he was delirious from blood loss. No one believed him. As he continued to be insistent, they grew angry. How dare he, a boy, accuse the great Scholar of such a thing? Why, Rhyme had made many sizable donations. He was beyond reproach. They insisted he stop speaking such foolishness, and when Eddic angrily stated that if they were so sure why not come out to the lake to check, one of the more burly priests slapped him.

      Eddic held a calloused hand to his cheek. All humor gone, the dark thoughts ran through his head. Thats when he knew he had lost Kea. Thats when he knew no one would ever believe him. He had to get out of there. It was not a place he wanted to ever return. He had, of course, on occasion. But always in disguise and never for very long.

      In his heart, he knew that one day Scholar Rhyme would find him. That one day he would feel Whispers arrow pierce his heart. For he had something important. What it was, he didn't know. But the rock, smooth now, but still carved with runes that writhed and shifted and burned his hand if he held it long enough, must have been important to the High Lord. How he knew this, Eddic couldn't say. He simply did.

      As he swam through such memories, Eddic idly reached into the hidden pocket in his tunic and brushed the stone. As his fingertips ran along it, something flashed inside his mind

      <<Blood Fire Pain Scream Hate Hate Hate Hate EYES AS BLACK AS COAL WATCHING WAITING PATIENT YES YES ALWAYS

      and Eddic yelped in pain. The stone was scalding hot. Staring across the water, Eddic shivered. No. He would never be safe. Not ever.

      Conceptual Design Team