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    Taras in the Otherworld
    Posted on Tue, October 09, 2001 by Toran
    Taras relives the events of his life as he makes a journey though the land of the dead to try and find a way back to the lands of the living. Along the way, he relives terrors from his life, and makes important discoveries...

    [Editor's note: This is NOT about Taras Guarhoth]

    Author: Tempest




    The Tale of Taras in the Otherworld

    by Tom Roberts (tempestblindam@SHAW.CA)
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.


    There was no more pain.

    That was uppermost in my mind as I swam back to consciousness after the Hag's attack. Someone must have saved a healing potion, I think. Then I open my eyes.

    The rolling emerald hills that surround me are not the land where I fell, nor any land I have ever passed through. I have gone to Cheer Nan Oge, the Annis killed me. The shock sets in and I wander the hills alternately enraptured by their beauty, and despondent over their meaning. How long I wandered I know not for time flows oddly in Otherworld, where the sun rests between setting and rising. I became aware of a presence, soon or late, who could tell? What difference did it make?

    "Hello my Son."

    "Hello Ceridwen."

    For it was Danu in her guise as the wise old woman, but why she was there I knew not. The only cure I could see for my fey was a return from Otherworld, one of the few gifts the Goddess would not grant.

    "Why do you still cling to your mortal memories my Son? Come, drink from the Caldron of Blood and forget these painful things, you have been chosen to come here to Cheer Nan Oge to dwell with me and my Chosen. Do you wish to insult me?" she queried.

    "I only understand Mother, I cannot leave my life behind. Things were just starting to get interesting when I died. That's not how it was supposed to be. How could you let me die like that!" I demanded.

    "My Son all things happen for a reason. Your death is the event that forges your friends into an unstoppable force, capable of overcoming the Darkness threatening the area known as Grandwood. You were sacrificed to that goal."

    "Could you not have found another way? One where I could have stayed for a least a little longer?"

    "Not in the time required Taras, it had to be done this way, it was agreed upon."

    "Agreed upon? By who?"

    "Those who are involved in this matter. A piece needed to be sacrificed to stop the Black Glen, I agreed with the others that you be that piece."

    "WHY!?"

    "I told you once. Sometimes I am your mother and hold you. Sometimes I am your sister and befriend you, and sometimes I am your lover who will stick one in your back."

    Then Danu turned from me with that non-answer, I followed her but She vanished into the hills and I was left alone again with only the echo: "When you are ready, seek the Cauldron and join your siblings, at my Court."

    I wandered again, looking for something I knew I could not find. A way back to Oerth, to SouthKrypt and the friends closer to me than my family. Once again I felt a presence nearby.

    "Hello Halio."

    "Taras, what are you still doing out here? Get to the court, your life is just beginning!" the ferret chattered at me.

    "No Halio, my life is over. The Hag tore it from me and Danu will not allow me to reclaim it."

    "Nothing truly dies Taras, Birth and Death are but thresholds we cross over. You of all people should know that!"

    "But why now? Things had just begun to really happen. The others will have a glorious adventure!"

    "Bunk."

    "Huh?"

    "You heard me. Bunk. It's not going to be glorious, you think that you're the last to die? Your friends may be headed this way before this is over. Before that happens some will actually WANT to be here. Others that you've never met will die, by the thousands. Some already have. What's about to happen will be 'glorious' only in the Bard's tales, once it's finished and those who lived it are dead or seeing through a haze of time.

    Y'know, I don't think all that's happened to you has been able to make you grow up has it? Travels across the realm, fights against the Darkness, your own death, even back at the beginning, the deaths of your family..."

    "Enough! That was a low blow Ferret." I interrupted.

    "Yeah? Tough! Grow up boy! If you go back... " He shot back.

    " IF? You mean Danu might let me?"

    "Your friends are hard at work on that right now. Dariene in particular. Exactly what she's up to we don't know and that makes Mother very nervous. Still we can't have you moping around here, giving Cheer Nan Oge a bad name. Danu doesn't just love you Taras, she likes you too. I think she's looking for an excuse to put you back on the board. The game's a lot more interesting to her with you in it."

    "You were right about one thing Taras." he said, the badgering tone in his voice fading.

    "What's that?"

    "This is the part where it starts to get interesting! And I wouldn't want to miss it for the world!" he grinned at me.

    "But you just said it won't be any fun at all!"

    "No, I said that SOME things would be before this was over. But that doesn't mean none of it will be fun for you, or entertaining as hell for us spectators. You've got to stop trying to make life all of one piece Taras, that's what growing up is all about. Not getting all serious and dour, until you lose touch with the Light, OR losing yourself in hedonistic pleasures, denying that you're afraid of the Darkness. It's about doing the things that need doing. Holding things together any way you can, not just so you can enjoy them, but so others can too. You'll find true joy is an exponential emotion."

    "So what happens now?"

    "Why do you keep asking me? I don't know! This is your Westwalk, not mine. What do you want to do?"

    "I still want to go back, even if..."

    "You know what might happen?"

    "Yeah."

    "Taras, I was your guide in life, but for where you want to go you will need another."

    "So where am I going?"

    "Did you sleep through Sister Maeve's lessons? Or is your death starting to affect your memory? It's not a where, not really. More of a what and a who. You've got to pass through Sythraul to Krom-Kruach. Only the worm can take you back, if you are indeed allowed to return."

    "When do I leave?"

    "Jeeze you ask a lot of questions. You've got to start answering them yourself. Trust your instincts, Taras. They are the gift of the Goddess. I'm not going to tell you when to leave, if you don't know when the time is, you'll never get through Sythraul. Good Journey Taras. Trust in yourself."

    The ferret vanishes into the green. I wait another few century-minutes. I notice a white crow perched on a branch nearby. She regards me with a tilted head that seems to say: "Boy are you going to get moving or do I have to yank you by the hair ?" I take Halio's advice to heart and decide that this must be my guide. I rise and she flaps down to perch on my shoulder.

    "Cawwn." I think that means "Get moving you Idiot! Haven't got all of time for you!" I set out across the land, searching for the way home.

    Gradually the land changes. The temperature drops, the grass browns, and the trees lose their leaves. The air grows heavy with the scent of decay. For now it's only the smell of early winter, but if Sister Maeve spoke truly it will get worse. I feel a weight on my left shoulder and notice that a black crow has silently perched there. I try to shoo it but both crows caw at me to desist. Apparently Black Crow is part of my journey too.

    My travels bring me to a black swamp. All the vegetation appears dead and rotting. Black Crow and White Crow fly ahead and perch on the bare skeletons of trees, guiding me along the path. Shadows seem to be following me, but when I look for them they vanish. Reappearing in the corner of my eye when I continue my journey. I lose sight of the Crows, but struggle through the sucking mud to where I think they last were. The stench of decay is much worse now.

    "Not that way Brother."

    I whirl to see who called me and see Rayne standing not 20' from me, longbow in hand, hood pulled low over his face.

    "Rayne?!" I say in a low voice, afraid of what his presence here means.

    "This way my Brother." He says, not answering my question, setting off through the swamp. "This is almost as bad as that time you took us to that Gods-forsaken Pit. Let's see if I can't bail you out of this one as well Taras. Follow me."

    I race after him, trying to keep up and ask him what he's doing here, or how he came to be here. The pace he sets leaves me breathless but he doesn't even seem to be breathing hard. The swamp keeps trying to pull me into it's eternal embrace, but my pursuit of Rayne gives it no chance to do so. Finally after some eternal time when all has dissolved into the grey world of the need to pull one foot out of the mud and put it in front of the other Rayne stops.

    "Ahh, your Guides have returned Taras. And now I must leave. Keep the knowledge of your own worth Taras, neither Elf nor Man are better than you. You need only be you and do what you can do, nothing more and nothing less, know that."

    I look up but Rayne is gone. White Crow and Black Crow are regarding me from a nearby tree, they seem to say "Wake up and pay attention Taras, there will be a test on this." The swamp is behind me. I am now knee deep in a bog on the moors. I wade out and collapse on the hill's slope, recovering my strength. My footfalls raise the stench of rotting meat from the bog. Despite it I almost fall asleep but the shadows return just as I am about to nod off.

    The crows' call pulls me to my feet. I see them silhouetted against the pearl-grey sky. They are in a tree at the top of the hill. When I rise they flap off. I reach the top of the hill and see them waiting, circling the next hill-top. I walk from hill to hill for what seems years when I become aware of a voice. Singing.

    Angelica. I do not see her but I know she is near. The Crows vanish again. Angelica walks over the hilltop beside me. Her wordless song of beauty fills my soul. She smiles and my aches and pains retreat to the edge of my awareness. I know now that she is somehow related to my test, and I briefly wonder who's next.

    "Hello Taras."

    "Hi Angel."

    She winces at the nickname she hates, I wonder if anyone else could ever get away with calling her that. Perhaps Darien, or Pansy. I grin at her discomfort, even here in the land of the dead she can make me smile.

    "It's good to see you can learn Taras, but you're wrong. We are not the test. We're your study group. Each of us has something to teach you. These lessons should be transformed by you into the answer you'll need at the end of this when you meet Krom-Kruach. My lesson is simple. Taras, friends are the family you choose, and that makes them doubly precious. Especially to those like you and me who have lost their families, or never knew them in the first place. You don't have to be alone if you don't want to, just let in those you care about Taras. Anyway that's all I can tell you. I have to go now."

    She fades into a shadow before my stunned eyes and vanishes into my peripheral vision.

    The Crows have returned, teasing me forward. The wind now blows, like the last breath of a dying man. The moors have faded into stony badlands, the rock carved by the insane hand of the wind. The sweat dries on my skin as fast as I can make it. There are no trees any more and the Crows perch on rock formations or simply circle above me like vultures.

    There is no warning this time. The shadows do not play at the edge of my vision. I simply fall, exhausted and dehydrated. In that state someone approaches. I am now the shadow, watching my own memories.

    Smokeraven throwing an idol, glowing with darkness, into a lake. He knows he is saving us from it's evil curse.

    Smokeraven giving his potion of extra healing to Jocasta, saving her from death's cruel embrace.

    Demanding 'Sir' Erilrec explain his actions, trying to bring him to account for slaying the elves on Vesicant's isle.

    Asking us why we pursue revenge against the Flaming Fists, and then why we seek profit by it.

    Turning the single book he took from Bard Keep over to the high priest of Boccob, because his faith demands it.

    Steeling himself to confront his most dread foe. Spiders, and the Drider Karazina.

    Aking for Jocasta's hand in marriage, knowing he will be rebuffed and mocked.

    Making peace with the Flaming Fists, recruiting them to help us win back the elf king, Thernan.

    Spider Climbing down into the pit after Ramos.

    Standing in single combat with Shar-Kee, defeating him. Attacking the remaining hobgoblins.

    Pulling me off the ladder for the long fall down, the timber that would have crushed my skull landing but a few feet away.

    I awake in the middle of a desert. The crows are pecking at my hair and hands. Blood, thick from lack of water, has begun to flow. The pain brought me back. I rise to my knees and look around for some water. I see none. Staggering to my feet I am aware of nothing but the need to walk. That and a constant grey ache. My sweat comes in sheets now, drying to salt until it crusts my skin. My lips have begun to bleed when a shimmer in the air resolves itself into Dariene, on Smokeraven's horse. She's galloping down a road. Grief lines her beautiful face. I know it is grief for my fate. She blames herself. She thinks that if she hadn't dragged me off on this quest I'd still be alive. She's going to do something impulsive and dangerous to absolve herself. I shout at her.

    "It's not your fault I'm here. If it wasn't this I'd have gone off with someone else, at least this was a noble cause. I chose to do this, I led me to my death, not you and certainly not your decisions. I'd walk through fire for you. Don't DO this! This could get ALL of you killed, and I that would be past my power to endure. Damn it don't you remember all the times I almost threw my life away for you, for all of you. You were what made it worth living for, instead of just dying for."

    She slows to a canter and I almost think she can hear me, even through the veil of death. But then she picks up the pace after resting the horse. She rides away, faster than my staggering lurch can pace.

    I've seen them all now. Krom-Kruach must lie just ahead. The thought of my goal urges me to a quicker pace. I don't notice the crows have vanished until I pull up. I'm in a salt flat. The stench of a man dying of a punctured bowel drifts to me. But this time it's different, this time it's got a source. A small cottage on the shore of a wooded river.

    No, not that place. I can't face that. I almost turn back but what then do my friends fight for?

    First I try to drink from the river, but despite it's pure appearance, it's filled with blood. For me this spot of the river will always be filled with blood. This is the house where I really first met death.

    This was my childhood home. As I approach it my thoughts wander, like wild horses, into territory best left to nightmares.

    In the beginning it was a happy home. I had three older siblings, and a younger one. The troubles began when I was 9. My father felt it was necessary to move to the East shore of the Javan river, to show the Grand Duke the progress the rangers and woodsmen were making against the humanoids. My mother was nervous at first but for 5 years all was calm. Too calm in fact. Fool child that I was, I ran away from home and my mother's training. I sought adventure. Little did I know how lucky I was to be found by the Cult of Danu before being devoured by some loathsome forest creature. I spent a year with them, learning their ways but keeping up my lessons, begun by my mother, as an apprentice mage as well. Sister Maeve had insisted. I took to the teachings of Danu like an otter to a stream, and after but a single year, was celebrated as a full Horned One. I returned home, unsure of which reception I'd get, tearful reunion or stern warning never to do it again. I got neither. This is when the troubles truly began. I found that my family had adopted a human boy of my age during my absence. He had been orphaned by some dark force in the Dim Forest that had slain his entire family. I also noticed a few changes in the family. Father had become positively grim, scarred in, or possibly by, my absence, I thought. He was unable to share with mother, and I found him spending more and more time away from home. Mother retreated into her room in response to my father's absences, strange lights flickering under the door. My brothers and sisters could all sense the mood, but would not tell me anything. They began to grow dark, depression interspersed with fits of anger and rage. My adopted brother rarely spoke, usually looking about in either melancholia or terror. I think he knew what was coming.

    I open the door on automatic, knowing what I will find inside. This time and in this place though there is no shield of shock or horror to draw a veil across my mind. I see my brothers on the floor, one with his throat slit, the other sitting in a pool of blood, the reek of a punctured bowel about him. A long blade still stands above his hip. My older sister is on the floor, legs splayed, skirt mercifully thrown over her face. She does not appear to have died easily. My younger sister is in the bedroom. Bound to her small bed, her naked body bears mute witness that she also was not allowed a quick release. These scenes are not what disgusts me most however. I turn to my parent's room. Inside is the corpse of my mother, her eyes still glazed with unmistakable lust, she appears to have wanted to continue the unspeakable acts but her body was clearly unable to take more of what was inflicted upon it. The trail of the scourge is visible down under the blanket with which someone has covered her. Grimly I go to search for my father. I find his body in the study, squatting over a pile of burning books. My mother's library and spell books. He hears me and turns. A crimson flame slides across his pupils, vanishing into his tear ducts.

    "Ahh, Taras. I wondered when you'd be home boy."

    I can't respond, I'm terrified of what he's done and what he is about to do.

    "I'm all finished with your sisters and brothers, and your slut of a mother enjoyed her end. But then she was training for me. Now it's your turn Taras, come here." He draws a jagged sickle from behind his back and lunges at me.

    All I actually remembered of this was an explosion of fear, hate, and a core of deep, burning rage. When I 'awoke' I was on the west bank of the Javan, with the house afire behind me. Now I actually witness what happened that evening.

    The emotions I was feeling burst some wall within me, I called to Danu and she answered back with rage amplified ten-fold. I had a warp-spasm. The power of the Goddess filled me and shaped me into a killing machine. The adult sees the teenager transform. My cheeks pull back from my jaws until my gullet appeared and my lungs and liver flopped about in my mouth. Rising up from the center of my skull is a gout of black blood as I furiously twist around in my skin. Spurts of fire flicker red around me from the malignant gasses I give off. The thing that was my father was not impressed, it came at me with it's saw-toothed sickle. I grasp up the door and rip it from it's hinges, striking my father a single blow to the head, dropping him to the floor with a shattered skull. The crimson flame flees his eyes and my father seems the self of my childhood.

    "Taras? My head hurts." Then his eyes widen as he seems to remember what had happened. "Pelor, what have I done?" I don't pay any attention, winding up for another swing of the door. It lands with a sickening crack as I smash my father's skull.

    The gasses from the warped creature I am set the house afire, with help from the burning books. I flee into the night, swimming across the Javan as my spasm begins to fade.

    "Danu, I killed my father!"

    I sit there, the adult me now fully aware of his crime, unable to move. Weeping for my family, my father and myself. For the first time I realize that my adopted brother was not amongst those in the house. If I can return I must find him and know what he knows. For my family, both old and new, I must return to Oerth. I must face the pain of life.

    The house fades, and darkness enfolds me.

    The worm, Krom-Kruach, rises before me. It's transparent skin revealing the undulation of grey muscles underneath. It's blind mouths, filled with sharp grey teeth, questing for anything edible. Tentacles like veins flail the air about it, seeking warm flesh to shove into those orifices. The bottom of the giant maggot is still entombed in the barren earth. I can feel the pain of my guts spread before me now. It seems a small thing compared to the other pains I have found here.

    Krom-Kruach speaks directly to my mind. "If you would return, tell me the secret of death."

    I trust my instinct, and I respond.

    "It's not death if you refuse it. It is if you accept it."

    " I refuse this. Take me back Krom-Kruach. I will not accept this, take me back!"

    The Worm swallows me through one of it's orifices and the pain returns as it's digestive juices envelop me. A hundred times more than the regeneration of my finger, a thousand times more than death. Knowing that I have to endure it until my friends can find a way to bring me back makes it worse, but I must weather it. Or all their sacrifices are for nothing...



    Note: Aerdy, Grandwood
     
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    Re: Taras in the Otherworld (Score: 1)
    by Man-of-the-Cranes on Fri, November 09, 2001
    (User Info | Send a Message) http://www.ManoftheCranes.com
    I like this.

    As I began reading it, I was a little put off initially by the seemingly low GH content, obviously Taras is dead and not on Oerth, but with the Celtic gods it seemed to lack the feel of a GH story, even with a few place names dropped here and there. But I perservered. I have often tried to write about death, resurrection and the interim period in my stories, and on occasion tried to play them out in my games. I believe that it gives a little more impact to a players death, and stops them from complacently using resurrection spells to bring back their characters.

    It is not an easy thing to do though, I often found my own writing becoming too vague and surreal which makes it confusing to the reader. Tempest does a pretty good job here though, and manages to pull it off better than I have done. As Tara is watching his memories flash before him, it may seem a little vague or be confusing to one who doesn't know the characters backstory or past adventurers, but it works ok here. The character is literally seeing his life flash before him, and the scene manages to dangle the carrot leaving us wanting to know more about his history and his companions.

    Overall, this is not a bad piece of work at all. A well thought out story and vision of an after-life that hopefully doesnt end there, a bit low on GH content for some, but big on Celtic mythology (of which I am a fan).

    Closing comments, "He didn't think it...enough", give us some more...



    Re: Taras in the Otherworld (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Fri, April 12, 2002
    You mean he didn't think it too many. I kept waiting for Ukko to show up...



    ]


    Re: Taras in the Otherworld (Score: 1)
    by Man-of-the-Cranes (manofthecranes@canonfire.com) on Sun, August 04, 2002
    (User Info | Send a Message) http://www.ManoftheCranes.com
    Yes that is exactly what I meant...bring on the Slaine d20!

    Cheers
    Man of the Cranes


    ]



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