Author Topic: Tales of Dewclaw - by Beastlord Dewclaw  (Read 5493 times)

Offline mac173

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Tales of Dewclaw - by Beastlord Dewclaw
« on: January 02, 2004, 02:48:37 AM »
“Balance, my son.... balance.”

Dewclaw’s inverted form tensed slightly as he concentrated on the task before him.
Handstanding upside down and precariously balanced on two round granite spheres, the
Vah Shir male forced himself to relax. Slowly.. ever slowly, the young Beastlord’s right
arm came up to a horizontal position, leaving him holding his entire 7 foot 315 LB frame
with his left hand. The round granite ball shifted slightly as Dewclaw’s center of gravity
changed, but the feline youth compensated almost effortlessly. His father, watching from
the corner of the room, nodded his approval. It was time for the next test.

“Now...”, the elder Vah Shir said.

With an almost imperceptible flex of the muscles in his left arm, Dewclaw hopped
about a foot and a half to the right, still clasping the polished stone sphere. There was a
small clacking sound as the grasped round stone in his right hand landed on top of the
other. Now the young Beastlord’s concentration narrowed on keeping himself balanced
on the TWO stone spheres. Again... after a second of adjusting for the change in balance,
Dewclaw easily held his inverted single handstand. A smile of satisfaction crossed his
fathers strong features as he slowly stepped towards his son.

Without a word, the elder Vah Shir produced a darkwood staff from behind his
back and aimed a blow at the youths left arm. Swinging the staff in a two handed
lightning fast strike, the whistling weapon impacted....

... air.

Dewclaw had flipped backwards away from his father and landed lightly on his
feet, ready for the next attack which he was certain would come. He wasn’t disappointed.
A blur of spinning attacks with the staff pressed the young Beastlord into a series of
spinning and flipping defensive moves. One of the strikes from the staff missed his face by
only a fraction of an inch. Suddenly Dewclaw executed a leaping kick that evaded a
brilliant series of attacks from his father, and impacted the staff about a foot up from the
older Vah Shir’s grip on it. The staff flew from his father’s grasp, spinning across the
room... to land in a weapons cabinet along the wall, in the only empty slot there. The staff
clattered into it’s customary storage spot... as if placed lovingly there by the cleaning
maiden. Now the feline features of the older Vah Shir Beastlord beamed with pride at his
young son’s progress. He was truly ready for the Quest.

Without a word, Dewclaw’s father sat cross-legged in the center of the Dojo..
followed by the young Vah Shir Beastlord. They sat in silence for a what seemed like an
eternity as they meditated on the meaning of their latest training session. Finally the older
Vah Shir Master spoke quietly to his only son, the pride in his voice almost overwhelming
him.

“My treasured son.... it is time for your Tah Ma Tal. Your Weapon Quest. You
have learned all you can from me. It is time for you to enter life’s Grand Design.. to find
your place in nature’s balance. My heart goes with you, my son... no father could ever be
prouder than I am of you... of the person you’ve grown into.” Dewclaw’s father trembled
slightly as he struggled to keep his emotions in check.

Dewclaw reached over to his father.. clasping his shoulder in the Vah Shir gesture
of deep respect. He had waited his entire life for this moment, for the transition to
manhood in the feline race’s culture. He quickly came to realize how woefully unprepared
he was for this turning point in his life.

“Father, where do I start? I have no idea where to begin in the search for my Tah
Ma Tal...”. His voice trailed off as he gazed at the floor, feeling as if he had just failed the
greatest test of all. His father chuckled and stood, turning to walk over to a large storage
cabinet on the far side of the Dojo.

“Ahhh , my son. I asked the same when it was time for my Weapon Quest. Your
Grandfather told me, as I am telling you now... Remember the Balance. Go forth into
Life’s grand plan, and she will take you to the weapons of your fate. You will know.. you
will know.”. With that, the elder Vah Shir opened the large cabinet, revealing his carefully
stored and preserved armor. He had been a soldier in the King’s armies.. fighting against
the hated Grimlings. The dark crimson banded armor carried both the lions head crest of
Shar Val and his family’s own rampant jaguar coat of arms. It was in incredibly good
condition, considering it had seen the better part of one hundred battles through two wars.
Dewclaw was speechless... this armor had incredible sentimental value to his revered
father. The honor that this gift carried was beyond measure.

“I’ll wait for you outside.” his father said simply, as he turned and strode out of the
Dojo into the warm morning sunshine.

Dewclaw began to put on the acrylia reinforced leather armor, admiring the high
quality workmanship and ingenious design of the pieces. All the dark crimson colored
armor was tailored with maximum protection, light weight and minimum restriction of the
wearer’s mobility in mind. Soon the young Beastlord was suited up and ready to take his
place in the Grand Design. He reached over to a small table and picked up his other
treasured possession.. his Ta Ma Tha pouch. Slinging the medicine bag’s strap across his
chest and tying down the bag’s cinch cord around his thigh, the pouch rested comfortably
on Dewclaw’s right hip... ready for any situation if needed. Dewclaw took one last look
around the Dojo.. then stepped outside to join his father.

Dewclaw’s father stood upon a small rise a short distance from the Dojo, looking
out upon the lush valley of Hollowshade Moor. The world of Norrath was a huge blue
jewel lighting the sky with it’s reflected light as the sunrise in the east began to spill it’s
orange tinge across the valley. Such a beautiful scene was a good omen to the lifequest
that the young Vah Shir was about to embark on. Dewclaw approached his father quietly
and waited for him to break the silence.

Dewclaw’s father turned and looked at his son. Tears streaked his proud visage
and made damp the tawny fur of the elder Vah Shir’s face. The words would not come.
The Beastlord again placed his hand on his fathers shoulder in a sign of respect, then
turned without speaking and began the longest walk of his young life...






Three years later Dewclaw was no closer to finding the weapon of his Life’s Quest
than he was that fateful morning in Hollowshade Moor. The Beastlord had traveled
across the moon of Luclin and the various lands of the world of Norrath. He had seen
many strange and wonderful lands, met both friendly and downright dangerous people of
all stripes and races. In a hole-in-the-wall bar in a rundown corner of Freeport nearly a
year into his travels, a drunk Militia Sergeant named Slate found himself of the wrong end
of sound thrashing... all over a barmaid that Dewclaw wasn’t even interested in. But for
every case of intolerance or stupidity, Dewclaw found humanity, kindness and compassion
one hundred times over. He had learned much about himself and his place in the world,
and he also learned much about his natural affinity for the Earthmagic of his class. The
young Beastlord had a control of nature and animals that bordered on the uncanny... and
his physical strength and dexterity had reached almost superhuman levels. He had found
the balance that his father had told him of.. but the Tah Ma Tal lay ahead of him
unrealized.

Dewclaw’s tall frame had grown another 7 inches and he had packed on another
50 LBS of solid muscle as he passed from Vah Shir adolescence to manhood. His spotted
fur had slowly faded to the tawny russet coloring of a cougar, and his formerly slate gray
eyes were now a deep shade of blue. He chuckled as he gazed into a crystal clear stream
he was drinking from at the moment... the spitting image of his father.

The citadel of High Hold Keep was a short way up the mountain trail Dewclaw
was traveling, and he picked up his pace a bit to try and make the mountain stronghold
before dusk. He had no desire to be caught in Kithcor Woods after dark, as these haunted
woods had a well earned reputation for causing the disappearance of many unwary
adventurers. Soon the high white walls of the keep were in sight, and the Vah Shir
relaxed a bit. To avoid the stares of the mostly human populace of the keep, Dewclaw
pulled a finely tailored hooded gray cloak from his pack and put it on... concealing his race
somewhat. He appeared to be nothing more than a 7 foot tall traveler. He had not had
problems in High Hold Keep the two previous times he had stayed here, but you could
never be too careful.

A creature of habit, the Shar Val native made his way to a nondescript tavern in a
quiet area of the keep that he had patronized before, selecting a dark nook towards the
door and ordering two huge bowls of steaming meat soup. Dewclaw hadn’t realized how
hungry the journey had made him, and he paid the shocked innkeeper another gold piece
for a third bowl and a huge loaf of steaming bread. It was devoured within 3 minutes. It
was only then that the Beastlord noticed the two unkempt trappers at the bar giving him a
long look. Dewclaw’s prescient senses began to thrum with danger as the two swarthy
human fur traders approached his table, filthy hands fingering the hilts of their viscously
sharp looking short swords and overconfident grins on their ugly faces. The bigger of the
two... obviously the brains of this particular team, approached in such a way to block off
the doorway while his smaller toady companion worked his way around the inn to cut off
Dewclaw’s escape options to the rear. “Lord Brain” nonchalantly grabbed what remained
of the bread from in front of Dewclaw and popped it in his mouth before speaking.

“I don’t believe I know you, friend... and I know all from these lands. You just get
here, then?” The malice in his low voice had stopped all conversation in the tavern as the
half a dozen patrons stopped to observe what looked like to be a good two-on-one bar
fight in the making. Dewclaw did not respond, but seemed to be whispering to himself.
Brain’s hair-trigger temper tripped like an overstretched lute string.

“What! I’m not good enough for polite conversation then, friend? Well, I think
I’ll introduce you to something that will loosen your tongue a bit, eh!”, Brain exclaimed
viscously as he started to draw his sword. Dewclaw calmly looked up for the first time,
locking his feral eyes into those of this would-be bully, who froze at the sight of the
Beastlord’s feline features.

“And I have somebody I’d like to introduce to you, also...”.

A low rumbling growl stopped both men in their tracks. They both slowly turned
to see the largest tiger either had ever seen, standing on the bar and looking at the trappers
as if they were two huge rats trapped in a box for kitty to play with. Both brigands
blanched noticeably while Toady lost control of his bodily functions and wet himself like a
newborn. Dewclaw allowed himself a small smile at the two cowards as he stood and left
the Inn... his huge tiger warder in tow. Some things never changed on Norrath, the young
Vah Shir mused as he began to walk down the wide plaza.

“HEY BEAST! This isn’t finished!”. Dewclaw sighed as he realized that some
lessons took a lot longer to sink in than others. Brains had gone and scraped up his
remaining friends in High Hold.. all two of them. The four grubby trappers stood in a
rough semi-circle, nasty looking short swords at the ready. “I plan on making a fine rug
from your little friend there, eh.”. Brains chuckled before continuing, “.. and Lord S’Daq
will pay me handsomely for you. You’d make a nice addition to his collection of Vah Shir
slaves, eh.”

Dewclaw’s angry glare choked off Brain’s laughter instantly. The Beastlord had
removed his cloak, revealing the crimson leather armor of a Vah Shir soldier. He began to
calmly walk toward the motley rabble of fur traders while his feline warder padded ahead a
few steps at a comfortable trot. The four trappers suddenly began stumbling backwards
looking for an escape, but the huge tiger had cut off the exit from the plaza, leaving the
brigands trapped.

“We shall see whom finishes whom, wretched one....”, Dewclaw’s low, dangerous
tone stated simply.

One of the most valuable possessions of a Beastlord is his Ta Ma Tha pouch, his
medicine bag. This simple looking pouch is in actuality a small dimensional pocket the
size of a large room that holds all the things a Beastlord needs to cast spells, hold weapons
and food, or store things large and small. As Dewclaw reached into the dimensional portal
of the medicine bag, he concentrated on the spell component he needed to cast a spell on
the four treacherous dogs before him. The wards of the Ta Ma Tha pouch instantly
summoned the component to his hand, and in less than one second the young Vah Shir
had begun to cast his first spell. The spell component, a small bag of enchanted dust,
glowed weakly in the Beastlord’s clawed hand. With an almost nonchalant flick of the
wrist, the small bag arced across the plaza and landed at the four trapper’s feet. To a man,
they stared dumbly at it... until it exploded in a blinding flash of light. The four attackers
reeled in pain and stumbled blindly about as Dewclaw and his warder calmly approached.

A spinning back kick knocked one of Brian’s cohorts into unconsciousness in one
blow. The second “friend” of Brain was blindly waving his short sword in front of him...
with his back to the Vah Shir Beastlord. Dewclaw suppressed a smile as he tapped the
lout on the shoulder to inform him of his improper orientation. As the swarthy trapper
spun around, Dewclaw flipped up and away from the flailing sword, kicking friend number
two squarely in the jaw with both feet. He crumpled to the plaza pavestones, out of the
fight and minus three of his half rotted teeth.

Dewclaw’s tiger companion had Toady pinned to the wall with a massive paw on
his scrawny throat. The warder leaned in close to the worm’s terrified face, and let lose a
mighty roar. Toady emptied the rest of his bladder and fainted dead away, his dirty short
sword clattering to the pavestones unused. The young Beastlord thought he could see an
almost human-like grin on his warders muzzle as it padded away from the wretch and
circled around Brain’s flank. The massive tiger held it’s attack, and Dewclaw stood
calmly in front of the remaining trapper until the effects of the Blind spell wore off.

Brain shook his head as his vision slowly began to return, although his long range
vision was still blurry. He looked up to see the tall Vah Shir standing in a relaxed manner
in front of him. Dewclaw looked at the wastrel with a mixture of pity and contempt.

“Tell me of this Lord S’Daq . You’ve peaked my feline curiosity with this
foolishness.”. Dewclaw could sense that Brain wasn’t quite ready to tell all, so he waited
for the required attempt at a witty comeback from this wretch and then the obligatory
sudden attack. It wasn’t long in coming....

“You know what they say, Beast... curiosity kills the cat!”, spat the trapper, as he
sprang from a half crouch with his short sword in his right hand and an ornate dirk
(obviously stolen... no common cutpurse would have such a fine weapon) in his left.

Dewclaw was mildly impressed with Brain’s skill with his two weapons. For petty
street scum, Brain had formidable speed and dual wielded his two weapons well. The
Beastlord stood his ground and blocked four rapid slashing attacks with forearm and knife
edge hand blocks. Unfortunately for the brigand attacker, the series of attacks left his ribs
undefended for an instant. More than enough time for Dewclaw to smash his knee into
Brain’s left side with stunning speed. The air rushed from the lungs of the trapper in a
great whoosh as the young Vah Shir struck the center mass of Brain with a front kick that
sent him sprawling into the corner of the deserted plaza. The would-be Vah Shir Hunter
struggled to his feet, trying to regain his breath as Dewclaw slowly closed the distance.
The Beastlord wore a tired expression upon his face.

“You will tell me what I wish to know, foolish one...”, Dewclaw said calmly. “...
as you are overmatched. You can make this easy or hard on yourself, it makes little
difference. If you tell me where I can find this Lord S’Daq, and tell me quickly, you will
walk away from here with but a few bruises to gain from your stupidity. If you try to fight
on, you might not walk away.”. Dewclaw’s keen animal senses knew the scum’s answer
almost before he did. Very well, then.

A thrown dagger that had been concealed in Brain’s boot whipped across the
plaza, cutting across the space that Dewclaw had been mere seconds before. As the blade
sank harmlessly in the wall twenty feet away, the Beastlord completed a triple flip and
landed lightly behind the trapper. A knife edge strike from Dewclaw’s right hand
impacted the outlaw right between the shoulder blades... and Brain wobbled and collapsed
like a puppet with it’s strings cut. Dewclaw motioned his warder over to the prone
vagabond, and the tiger leaped upon the trapper with unrestrained glee. The huge cat
clamped it’s powerful jaws around Brian’s neck, applying just enough force to get the
criminal’s attention. A low growl of the huge feline warder reverberated through the
outlaw’s spine.. all the way down to his dirty toenails. The filth covered criminal began to
shake uncontrollably.

“Start speaking... or my friend snaps your neck like a brittle twig.”

The fur trader told Dewclaw all he knew... in record time.

The young Vah Shir was about to clout the brigand into unconsciousness when he
heard the sound of the approaching city watchmen, their armor clattering as they raced to
the plaza. Obviously some bystander had reported the disturbance and the city guard was
investigating... and quickly. A hand signal was all that was required to have the large tiger
release Brian (who remained very.. VERY still) and step over to where Dewclaw was
standing. The Beastlord reached into the medicine pouch, pulling a shining crystal sphere
from it’s magic depths. Dewclaw shattered the globe in his powerful grip, then threw the
crystalline dust into the air over them. As the sparkling dust shimmered down about them,
the Vah Shir Beastlord and his warder faded from view, cloaked in an aura of invisibility.
The only thing the city guard found when they entered the plaza a few moments later were
the pummeled forms of four vagabond trappers and a small pile of shimmering dust that
was quickly dispersed by the mountain breezes.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

The subtle light of the everlasting dawn bathed the Twilight Sea in subdued colors,
actually creating more shadow amidst the rugged landscape than it revealed. Craggy, low
mountains and cliff faces surrounded the sea on all sides, while myriad islands dotted the
surface of the small sea (technically a very large lake) showing only their silhouettes in the
dim sunlight. The outlines of many settlements and even a castle or two could also be
discerned on many of the islands. Under the light of a handful of stars that managed to
shine through sunset/sunrise-without-end, Twilight Sea quietly stood as one of the most
beautiful areas of the moon of Luclin. It was probably the reason that the incredibly
wealthy Lord S’Daq had chosen it as his home, thought the young Beastlord bitterly.

Dewclaw had traveled a long and hard journey from the mountainous High Hold Keep on
Norrath to the tranquil beauty of the Twilight Sea on the Norrathian moon. As the Vah
Shir gazed across the serene water to a large island roughly a mile offshore, his acute
feline eyesight could make out the long awaited destination of his travels even in the
semi-darkness.... the castle of Lord S’daq. The Fortress of Graytalon.

To say that S’Daq was a rich man was a huge understatement considering the fortune it
must have cost to build Castle Graytalon, mused the cloaked Beastlord. The island itself,
having roughly 100 foot white hued granite cliffs on all sides, created the base of the huge
fortress. The four whiterock spires of the main castle itself rose another 75 feet, giving
S’Daq’s militia (which was numerous, Dewclaw sources had told him) an unobstructed
view of every possible approach to the keep. A formidable 50 foot wall surrounded the
entire fortress and blended seamlessly with the cliffs, making any attempt to scale the cliff
side to gain entrance a fool’s errand.

The Vah Shir Beastlord, hidden from casual observation from the large boulders on the
waterfront of the Twilight Sea, sat staring at the citadel for a long time... attempting to
ascertain the best method for infiltrating S’Daq’s lair. To his right, Dewclaw’s warder
lounged upon a huge boulder and absently swatted blueflies with her long tail. The
massive tiger stretched and yawned, sending ripples of powerful movement up and down
her mighty frame. Another yawn informed Dewclaw in no uncertain terms her opinion of
their current quest.


“Hecate... I promise we will act soon.”, Dewclaw intoned quietly, eyes never
leaving the shadowy outline of the castle. “All it takes is one small opening in S’Daq’s
defenses...”


The bored warder was about to quietly growl her feelings about that particular point of
view when a slow moving object captured her undivided attention. The outline of a ship
had cruised from behind another island and now was making straight for S’Daq’s bastion.
Dewclaw and his faithful companion’s acute feline senses locked onto the vessel like a
steel shackle as it traveled the short distance to a small quey carved into the living rock at
the waters edge. Slowly and carefully reaching into his Ta Ma Tha medicine bag,
Dewclaw pulled a small onyx figurine from the small dimensional pocket. The polished
black stone surface of the carved raven figure was covered with softly glowing intricate
runes that gave off a subtle blue hue.


“I need your eyes, my small friend.”


The cloaked Beastlord uttered a guttural incantation as he tossed the figurine high into the
Luclin sky. The blue aura instantly warped the small raven into a full sized raven... but a
raven consisting entirely of shadow, nearly invisible to all. It circled once and then made
straight for Lord S’Daq’s keep as Dewclaw concentrated on the mystic apparition...
seeing what it saw as if it’s vision was his own.

The shadowraven soared above the ship, showing Dewclaw a small frigate, it’s three
square sails supplemented by a single row of oars on each side. The rails and hull of the
vessel were gilded in dim gray metal armor... dull... drab... but effective in a fight, along
with not reflecting the sparse sunlight and giving the ships position away (not taking into
account a Vah Shir’s superior feline sight, of course.). The rowers on the starboard side
were locking their blackwood oars in an upward position so that the line handlers on the
quey could finish mooring the ship to the pier. Through the ravensight spell, the young
Beastlord could see on the maindeck the purpose of the galley and it’s journey.... a handful
of Vah Shir, clustered together under guard in iron hand and foot shackles.

A slave ship.

A deep feral rage seethed in Dewclaw at the sight of his brethren in bondage. His anger
overwhelmed his concentration to the point that the ravensight flickered and winked out...
but the young Beastlord hardly noticed. As the cloaked Vah Shir struggled to get his fury
under control, his childhood memory returned once more.



Icarys and Dewclaw had been close friends almost from birth. From the time that
Dewclaw had taken his first tottering steps as a cub, Icarys had been there at his side.
Closer than brothers, one complimented the others abilities and temperament... so that
together, they were able to accomplish infinitely more than either could have
accomplished on their own. Dewclaw was a large, physically gifted child with almost
unheard of reflexes and a imbued talent for the earthmagic of the Beastlords. Icarys was
the “thinker” of the two, able to look at any situation and determine a course of action
(usually the correct one). He was more lithe and graceful than his counterpart, with a
natural talent for musical instruments and a singing voice that was widely regarded as
the best in Shar Val... remarkable for one so young. They were destined to take their
place as leaders of the Beastlord and Bard societies of the Vah Shir, respectively.

That was, until a slave raiding party happened upon the two adolescents in
Shadeweaver’s Thicket that fateful summer day. As both young Vah Shir tried to make it
to the guardposts outside the main gates of Shar Val, Icarys split from Dewclaw in an
attempt to draw their pursuers away from his best friend. Of the five slave attackers, four
went after Icarys... so in a way he was successful. Unfortunately, they caught up to the
aspiring Bard and easily overpowered him. Dewclaw might have been captured as well,
but managed to summon a stinging swarm of insects with his earthmagic. The lone
slaver pursuing him was left in a swollen, bleeding heap. The future Beastlord made it to
the guards of the Vah Shir city and breathlessly informed them of the slavers... but it was
too late. Icarys was gone... and the sole slave trader left behind died from an allergic
reaction to the stings before any information could be taken from him. Numerous
hunting parties were organized to track down the perpetrators, but no trace of them or
Icarys were ever found.

The Vah Shir are a feline race that pass on their knowledge from generation to
generation through song. For the Vah Shir to lose a child of immeasurable singing
talent was a loss to their society that could not be put into words. Three days of official
mourning were ordered by the King of the Vah Shir... almost unheard of for a child. But
the city’s anguish paled to the pain, hurt and rage that stirred in Dewclaw. They had
been brothers in all but blood, and he had sacrificed so that Dewclaw could escape. He
would never be forgotten... not by the Shar Val... and not by the Beastlord Dewclaw.


The pain of that day was as fresh in Dewclaw’s heart as the day it happened. Looking at
the handful of his race being herded like so many cattle to appease the whims of this Lord
S’Daq nearly overwhelmed Dewclaw’s reason.... but the young Beastlord heard the
calming voice of his father, drilled into his subconscious by uncounted repetitive training
sessions, telling him to control the anger.. to channel it to his use.. to master it. Slowly...
ever so slowly, the Shar Val brought the rage under control, and he began to formulate a
plan to bring S’Daq to account... and quite possibly to give Dewclaw and the memory of
Icarys some peace at last.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------




With a look of detached interest, Lord S’Daq sat sprawled across his gilded throne as the
music lightly filled his audience chamber. The huge hall was constructed of expensive red
hued marble, and the polished black onyx floor contrasted perfectly with the numerous
rosewood tables and the elaborate crimson silk banners adorning the walls. Three Vah
Shir slave-bards performed upon a raised dais immediately to S’Daq’s right, their
instrumental performance filling the vast luxurious hall with a delicate refrain tinged with a
touch of sorrow.

S’Daq closed his eyes and took in the beautiful music with a slight smile. All around him
in the huge circular chamber, Vah Shir slaves prepared for the evening’s festivities while
S’daq’s taskmaster Morticus looked upon the progress of the banquet set-up with a
critical eye. The Taskmaster’s viscous looking Cat-o-Nine-Tails twitched evilly in his
right hand, ready to meet out cruel justice to any slave transgression (real or imagined).

The Lord of Graytalon was a handsome and somewhat vain man. Standing a little under 6
feet tall, S’Daq had an easy grace to every movement that seemed almost fluid yet
managed to radiate a quiet power as well. He sat resplendent in his dinner finery, his dark
blue leather breeks contrasting with his turquoise leather tunic and the dark blue thorn
patterns stitched along the seems. A black steel circlet with a single set sapphire held back
S’Daq’s long, straight jet black hair which flowed otherwise unhindered to his shoulders.
At his waist hung two sheathed ornate daggers of magical origin, a soft glow of eldritch
power surrounding both weapons and completed the image of a rich and powerful Lord of
the Graytalon Citadel. Not known to the general populous of Luclin, however, was the
fact that S’Daq was also one of the most successful assassins to ever draw a breath. His
killing fees provided for this life of luxury and then some.

Morticus towered over his sovereign, standing nearly 7 feet tall and solid as a castle wall.
His golden etched tunic strained to contain his barrel chest, while his pale yellow leggings
resembled two massive lemon-colored tree trunks. Light tan calf high boots of a soft doe
leather covered the monster-of-a-man’s feet, while his heavily muscled and tattooed arms
were bare. His only weapon was the ever present Cat-O-Nine-Tails... it’s lengths of
leather strap embedded with razor sharp bits of metal to inflict a maximum amount of
damage and pain to it’s target. Morticus’ bald uncovered head swiveled this way and
that... always on the lookout for trouble... or a slave misstep of some sort. After giving
the room a final once over... The hulking Taskmaster turned to his liege.


“The banquet preparations are nearly completed, M’Lord.”


S’Daq took in the haunting melody a few seconds longer before turning to the towering
Taskmaster.


“Excellent, Master Morticus. This truly will be a night to remember.”




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



The Beastlord Dewclaw turned to his faithful warder as he prepared to leave the rocky
shoreline.


“You need to stay here, Faithful One...”, Dewclaw began, cutting off Hecate’s
disagreeing growl before it could begin. “I need you to stay in a position to aid me if I
become a prisoner, and you can only do it by staying uncaptured yourself” The huge tiger
rubbed her head against his hand, pleading in her silent way for the Beastlord to
reconsider. Dewclaw playfully pulled his warder’s ear. “I’ll be fine, Hecate. The only
one you need to be worrying for this night is S’Daq.”



Dewclaw took one last look at his devoted companion, then turned to face the silhouette
of Graytalon Keep, standing out from the sparkling blue waters like a huge shadowy
sharkfin. From his medicine pouch Dewclaw pulled a small dried batwing and a tiny
crystalline sphere. Closing his eyes and softly chanting the ancient vocal runes of
Earthmagic, the batwing was consumed in a shower of magical power that engulfed the
young Vah Shir and suddenly caused him to begin to float two feet above the rocks. At
the same time, Dewclaw crushed the sparkling sphere in his clawed hand and threw the
resulting dust into the air above him. As it shimmered down about him, the crimson
armored Beastlord faded from view.

Floating and invisible, Dewclaw began to run towards the distant fortress... hovering
above the tranquil waters and moving with supernatural speed. He covered the distance in
no time at all, arriving at the quay with the moored slaveship before the Vah Shir slaves
had even been offloaded. Moving over to a rocky outcropping off to the right of the ship,
the young Vah Shir Beastlord struggled to keep the rage from overtaking him as the five
Vah Shir were trooped down the gangplank Still hidden from normal sight by the power
of the invisibility spell, Dewclaw waited until his brethren were herded into the cave-like
opening carved into the living rock, then he fell in behind them.

The invisible Beastlord noticed a number of guards in the passages of the keep, expensive
scarlet armor reflecting the guttering torchlight and finesteel weapons in tooled leather
scabbards slung on the hips of all. Their demeanor was of wary confidence, and they were
attentive of their duties. Dewclaw began to consider that this undertaking may be more
difficult than first thought. He had thought that S’Daq’s hired mercenaries would be
common thugs and brigands, but they seemed to be professional soldiers to a man. The
invisible Vah Shir continued to follow the slave entourage through the winding bowels of
Graytalon Castle, thanking fate for not having his invisibility fade at such an inopportune
time.

The slaves were eventually led to a huge kitchen, where preparations were well underway
for a huge banquet. The five newly arrived Vah Shir were immediately put to work in the
hot, steamy oven areas as their guards took the shackles and left. Dewclaw’s invisible
brow furrowed as he looked about and saw no guards in the kitchen area at all. His feline
gaze fell upon the huge blackoak carved doors leading out to what the Beastlord assumed
was the Main Hall. With deadly stealth and determination, the still invisible Beastlord
entered the vast chamber.

Upon entering the huge hall, Dewclaw’s attention was immediately drawn to the
elaborately clad Lord S’Daq. He sat nonchalantly on his throne, whispering to his huge
bodyguard occasionally. A quick survey of the hall revealed a multitude of Vah Shir
slaves, but not a single guard. The young Vah Shir’s acute sense of smell could only
detect a faint scent of the militia members, telling him that they were a good distance
from their Liege. Definitely far enough that a commotion in this hall would not draw their
attentions. Dewclaw’s brow furrowed... why would he put his protectorate so far away?

Looking upon the smug visage of this arrogant human sparked the answer in the mind of
the feline adventurer.... this overconfident fool put entirely no trust in his hired army, and
all of his trust in his own prowess and that of his bodyguard. That trust would be put to
the test soon enough, mused the young Vah Shir. Still cloaked in magic invisibility,
Dewclaw began to make his way slowly and carefully to the raised dais of Lord S’Daq.

Dewclaw failed to notice the hulking Slavemaster suddenly grab a round metal serving
platter from a startled slave and hurl it with unerring accuracy straight at the young Vah
Shir Animist. The heavy spinning missile struck the Beastlord in the chest, knocking him
sprawling across the polished floor and disrupting the invisibility spell. Dewclaw
struggled to his feet as his massive form shimmered back into view. Vah Shir slaves
scattered to hiding places throughout the hall, afraid that this invader would bring painful
retribution on them all. Seemingly not impressed by the sudden appearance of the crimson
armored intruder, S’Daq chuckled a low, deadly laugh as he gazed down upon Dewclaw.



“I’ve been expecting you, young one.”, purred S’Daq as he absently picked lint
from his sleeve. “News of your exploits preceded you by months, and I have not survived
all these years by ignoring information, especially when it pertains to me. Did you not
think that a person of my worldly experience would not be prepared for your invisibility
aura?”. The assassin calmly tapped the circlet on his brow... it’s magic aura twinkling
subtly with a bluish glow, revealing its anti-invisibility vision enchantment. The groggy
Vah Shir noticed a bluestone earring on the Slavemaster with the same glittering aura.



Morticus had cautiously circled behind Dewclaw, Cat-O-Nine-Tails twitching dangerously
in his massive grasp. A large circular dancing area had been cleared in the center of the
hall for the nights festivities... now it would become a combat arena.



“I had considered making you one of my fine collection, Dewclaw. But seeing
your temperament, no good would come of such an arrangement. I would spend a good
deal of time keeping you in line, along with trying to keep you from fomenting rebellion in
my slaves... and I that I cannot have .”. S’Daq’s tone and manner conveyed mild interest
in his quarry. “I’ll just have to be satisfied with your hide adorning my bedroom floor.”.



“Bards! Accompanying fighting music... if you please.” S’Daq stated with mock
politeness and a satisfied smirk.



The three Vah Shir bards (who hadn’t run and hid like the rest of their brethren due to the
heavy shackles chaining them to the dais) began to play a low, quiet martial tune.
Morticus carefully advanced on the now clearheaded Beastlord, testing his adversary’s
defenses. Dewclaw attempted a standing sidekick to the bald human, but the
Slavemaster’s agility (shockingly good for such a huge individual) allowed him to easily
dart clear while spinning his viscous weapon in a tight attack that ripped open the Vah
Shir’s banded thigh armor. The magically sharpened bits of metal in the Cat-O-Nine-Tails
had rent the reinforced leather apart like paper. A small trickle of blood began to seep
down the Beastlord’s leg as he warily circled the huge human.

Morticus feigned a strike with his weapon, causing Dewclaw to spin away... straight into a
offhanded attack from the Slavemaster that sent the Vah Shir sprawling into a massive
stone pillar. Before the crimson Beastlord could crumple to the floor, the hulking human
bodyguard was on him, clasping his massive free hand around Dewclaw’s neck and lifting
the powerful Animist into the air with one arm. The bard’s music began to quicken in the
background as the young Vah Shir struggled mightily and his vision began to dim.
Dewclaw’s right hand found his medicine pouch almost by instinct.

A surge of clarity and anger welled up in Dewclaw as he concentrated with all his
remaining strength on his Ta Ma Tha bag. The dimensional portal produced a small
amount of fine green dust that the crimson armored adventurer threw with all his lasting
might in the face of his massive foe. Morticus screamed in choking agony as the magic
induced Malaria surged through his system, sapping his strength and causing him to drop
his nearly unconscious opponent. The huge taskmaster’s eyes had swollen nearly shut as a
greenish brown tint surged across his skin in unhealthy streaks, ravaging his body in an
aura of sickness.

The bard’s music surged in a chorus of quiet triumph as Dewclaw’s vision quickly cleared.
The intricate melody lifted the battered Beastlord’s spirit as he once again reached into his
medicine pouch and removed a glowing sliver of ice from it’s dimensional depths. In the
ancient language of the Vah Shir, Dewclaw summoned the Hoary Ice Spirit. The Old-One
materialized in the Animist’s hand, taking the form of a glowing blue ice spear in this plane
of existence. Intense cold radiated from the intricate weapon in blue waves of power, the
chilling effect pulsing like a frozen heart.

Morticus had struggled to his feet and scowled at the feline adventurer through his puffy,
watering eyes. The disease spell had run it’s course, and even incapacitated, the gigantic
bodyguard was a dangerous adversary. With a viscous flick of his wrist, the ends of the
nefarious Slavemaster’s weapon coiled around Dewclaw’s left wrist like bloodthirsty
serpents. The embued razor-sharp shards of metal bit deep through the Vah Shir’s bracer
and tore into the flesh of his forearm. A roar of pure pain echoed throughout the dinner
hall as Morticus pulled the handle of his weapon away from Dewclaw and the metal drove
deeper into his arm as the leather straps pulled taut. In desperation, the young Animist
hurled his ice spear at his tormentor.

The radiant spear of gleaming ice struck the massive taskmaster in the center of his broad
chest. A look of confused pain spread across his blunt features as the spear sank halfway
through his torso, then pulsed in a flash of magical blue radiance that encased the giant
human in a thick coating of ice. With the Cat-O-Nine-Tails still firmly dug into his arm
and blood streaming from dozens of wounds, Dewclaw staggered to the now glacial
Morticus and lightly struck the dead center of the human iceblock. The viscous
taskmaster’s frozen body shattered into a billion gleaming pieces. Dewclaw painfully
removed the now deceased Morticus’ weapon from his arm and hurled it in disgust across
the vast chamber as S’Daq sputtered in rage.




“ I will see you writhe in agony for this outrage, whelp.” S’Daq spat in
unrestrained fury. The indignant Lord was standing two steps in front of the still-playing
bards, the two ornate daggers now unsheathed and shimmering with magical energy in his
grasp. S’Daq turned his head to the playing minstrels in agitation. “ Play fighting music,
you pathetic hack. I will have your fingers severed one-by-one, Icarys... just as I had your
tongue ripped out for your insolence.”



Icarys.



Dewclaw looked incredulously upon the lead bard, and despite his adult markings and
multiple scars marring his fur, one look into his eyes and Dewclaw knew that his friend had
lived. Lived for many long years in this S’Daq made hell. Lived to have his beautiful voice
silenced by a tyrant. Maimed on the whims of cruel animal. Lived through pain and
torture and humiliation....

...and yet the pride in Dewclaw’s actions this night shone like a beacon through Icarys’
eyes.



I had your tongue ripped out for your insolence.


The rage of all that Dewclaw had observed at Graytalon Keep exploded in controlled
animalistic fury. Purposely striding towards S’Daq... ignoring his wounds and fatigue, the
suddenly viscous looking Vah Shir began to climb the steps to his prey. S’Daq took a
tentative step back, a small semblance of fear peaking through the arrogant demeanor of
the Lord of Graytalon as the Beastlord continued his resolute approach. Dewclaw’s razor
sharp claws were extended in unfettered rage as he attacked the assassin with three
lightning quick hand strikes. S’daq backed away from the Vah Shir, his two glowing
blades rapidly spinning in series of defensive moves that cut Dewclaw in a dozen places.

The music suddenly stopped.

S’Daq managed to turn his head a fraction before the sharpened end of Icarys’ lute
erupted from the assassin’s chest from behind. S’daq had stepped too close to the dais
with his back to his imprisoned minstrels, and Icarys had taken advantage of his distraction
with the Vah Shir Beastlord. The vain Lord’s baffled look of agony tried to comprehend,
as his body no longer was responding to what S’daq’s brain told it to do. Dropping both
magic daggers to the steps, the Lord of Graytalon staggered two paces before his brain
finally realized that it was dead. S’daq toppled to the stone steps and moved no more.

Dewclaw’s adrenaline rush faded and he, too collapsed in a heap on the polished stone
steps. Blood matted his fur and exhaustion washed over him like a crashing wave. Vah
Shir slaves timidly approached to see if he was still alive, while freeing the three bards with
keys removed from S’Daq’s corpse. Icarys ran to his friend’s side, using water and dinner
linen to bandage Dewclaw’s wounds. One of the more brave Vah Shir slaves picked up
the two enchanted blades S’daq had dropped and gave them to Icarys, who could sense
the powerful sorcery raging within. The freed bard placed a dagger in each of the
unconscious Beastlord’s hands, and as he had hoped magic power began to flow into the
wounded Dewclaw. The prone Vah Shir suddenly opened his eyes and began chanting in
the ancient language of his race, casting the healing magicks almost out of instinct. The
blue aura of one of the daggers flared and the red aura of the other flickered as magic
energy flowed into Dewclaw, powering the healing process and covering the top of the
dais in a blinding blue glow.

When the aura faded moments later, Dewclaw slowly stood before his brother Icarys.
Tears of joy matted the fur on Dewclaw’s face as he grasped Icarys shoulder in the sign of
Vah Shir respect and gratitude. Icarys wept also.... but for another reason.

The healing regeneration of Dewclaw’s spell and the magic blades had healed the
multitude of scars across Icarys’ body. His white fur was whole and unblemished, and the
magic had restored what S’Daq had so cruelly taken away. Quietly at first, then louder
and with a conviction of the ages... Icarys’ restored voice soared in the dining chamber
and touched the soul of every slave in Graytalon Keep. Their spirits empowered and freed
by the chorus of Vah Shir... the slaves simultaneously rose up everywhere in the castle
against the militia that had enabled their servitude and slaughtered them to a man.

The rage of the children of Shar Val had awoken.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



The young Vah Shir Animist, with his warder Hecate and the rescued brethren of
Graytalon following his lead, strode through the Grimling Forest towards home. The Tah
Ma Tal Daggers... his Life’s Quest weapons, hung in their scabbords on each thigh. One
dagger’s blade was magic crystal steel and radiated a cold aura in pulsing blue light. It’s
name was “Bora” (it had whispered it’s name to his mind, as had it’s sister blade) which in
the old tongue meant “Cold Northwind”. The other dagger’s blade consisted of magic
laced rubicite and flickered in enchanted flames and heat. It’s name was “Zephyr”... the
old tongue name for “Hot Desert Wind”.

Fire and Ice.

Weapons of Equinox.





He had found the balance. And in freeing his people... he had freed himself as well.

Offline Hornet

  • Mr.
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Re: Tales of Dewclaw - by Beastlord Dewclaw
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2005, 12:32:49 PM »
Wow! What a story, kept me on the edge of my seat most of the time!

Offline Tardar

  • Arch Animist - 75 Beastlord
  • Savage Lord
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Re: Tales of Dewclaw - by Beastlord Dewclaw
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2005, 07:49:05 PM »
Very Very well done.   Absolutely exhilarating

Offline Tigrah

  • Arch Animist - 75 Beastlord
  • Animist
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Re: Tales of Dewclaw - by Beastlord Dewclaw
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2006, 05:58:50 PM »
very stirring story, well written
Savagespirit Tigrah Battlebeast of The Rathe.  85,

Whillowawhisp. Druid, currently 40

Archfiend Gravrrobrr Tombraidrr my crazed Drakkin SK

Tirienth Spiritcaster My unintentionally retired Shamy

Fear the mighty ball of yarn, for I shall chase it, and leave chaos in my wake.