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Author Topic: Blood and Bewitchment Logs  (Read 28329 times)
Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #195 on: August 24, 2014, 03:02:32 PM »

Update on the old logs: I have found a ton of old log files on my external hard-drive, but they're, like, hideously disorganized and without coherent titles or dating. So it's a bit like sorting through Tarim's journal to find what I'm looking for. Hopefully I will turn the missing logs up.
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Giant Space Hamster
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« Reply #196 on: August 24, 2014, 04:43:35 PM »

So it's basically like looking for something in Crepuscle's maze... excellent. Let us know if your tongue starts tingling. ;)

In all seriousness, thanks for looking.
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« Reply #197 on: August 26, 2014, 07:43:17 PM »

Well, I can't speak for Steerpike's tongue, but the good sir did send me another log-batch (which have since been edited) covering the battle at the hagmen's shrine.
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« Reply #198 on: July 28, 2018, 04:02:57 PM »

It has been a while...but Steerpike, any chance you could please post Rose of Vellum's edited part? I assume the other parts would take far more work, but the part Rose edited presumably is in ready to go format?
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Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #199 on: August 05, 2018, 07:00:57 PM »

Oh sure!

The Pale Legion

Riddled with mosquito bites and the puncture-wounds of hagman darts, the party lingers at 'The Frenzied Tarantula,' a rickety inn in a miserable town somewhere in the southern swamps, perched on one of the innumerable tributaries of the Gland River.  Having joined with a squad of Pale Legionnaires in order to procure passage on a boat heading to Lophius, you have endeavoured to retrieve the squad's stolen standard, filched by hostile hagmen who dwell in the swamps and claim the Legionnaires have polluted their territory by driving leechkin into it.  Things became complicated when Legionnaires and party members were poisoned during hit-and-run ambushes by the hagmen; at considerable risk you have procured an antitoxin (after Tarim used the Collar of Cadaverous Communion to interrogate a fallen hagman, who also sketched out details of the temple where the standard is being kept) - the moss of a Bloodwood Tree - and have returned to tend your wounds, only to find that the squad's serjeant, unjured in an earlier attack, has succumbed to the venom.

The serjeant's corpse is horribly disfigured by the hagman poison, features blackened and contorted, veins swollen grotesquely.  Salamander, the squad's acting leader and magus, has inscribed a glyph of repose on the corpse to preserve it for proper rites back in the Legion camp outside the City of the Lamprey.  Now the group plots their next move, hunched over a crudely sketched map of the area.

Kryz, you've become lost in the swamps, trying to make your way back towards Macellaria and the Slaughter-lands.  Without the pull of the Man-in-Armour to guide you, you swiftly lose your way.

Up ahead, you can see lights amongst the trees, windows like glowing yellow eyes resolving out of the mist: a settlement of some kind.

* Kryzbytn wanders aimlessly, growing more fearful as the days passes

* Vetter amuses himself by twirling his cane through the clawed digits of his graft while the other consult the map

* Kaius  peers out of a shuttered window into the mists of the swamp

Kaius - We should set out to retrieve your standard soon. I mislike this swamp.

You see a figure approaching out of the mist...

Kryzbytn, you approach the settlement - a handful of huts and an inn, the 'Frenzied Tarantula.'

Tarim- Now that we have secured antidote components, we should take the time to process them. Better to have that stuff ready at hand.

Kaius - Are you up to the task, Tarim?

* Kryzbytn sighs in relief, then makes his way towards the entrance

Maimer groans.  He has been vomiting into a bucket intermitantly.

Kaius - You had best see to our companions, first.
* Kaius  crosses his arms and leans against a wall

* Tarim works on the antidote components

You improvise a poultice for Kol, Tarim.  Koldobika, your wound is immediately soothed. You duplicate the results for Maimer.

* Vetter stops playing with his cane to watch anxiously as Tarim ministers to Kol, then looks away with seeming approval as he finishes.

You prepare antitoxins in advance, Tarim. Koldobika assists Tarim in preparing the antitoxins.  These are bottled in phials supplied by Salamander.

Kryz, you enter a common room crowded with riverboat crewmen and locals drinking dark ale.

Tarim- That'll be all we can use without another trip to the trees. So do try and avoid getting poisoned.

Vetter- I will do my utmost

"So... what's our plan of attack?" Salamander asks. “Any of you have any brilliant ideas?"

Koldobika- (Flicker) The Koldobika and the Maimer remain very unwell. The Koldobika and the Maimer should rest for the time being.

Tarim- We'll need to locate the temple and attack, preferable with the advantage of surprise on our side

* Kryzbytn walks up to the bar and attempts to order a drink

"Agreed... but how to approach without being detected?  Perhaps a distraction?"

Tarim- I suspect that will be unlikely, given that we're on the hagmen's home marshes

The locals eye you warily, Kryz, and some mumble about "more strangers," but they pour you a drink once anyway.

Tarim- A distraction might draw them elsewhere, though it would also make them alert, no?

Kryzbytn- Excuse me, bar tending one, but might I know just where I am?

Salamander - "True.  What would you suggest?  We're not exactly a stealhy bunch."

Bartender - "You're in Drahd's Landing."

Vetter- (holding up his graft and smiling) Distracted or no, we shall do killings upon them, bright red violences...

Kryzbytn- And what is that near?

"Lophius is to the south.  Mayhap you could book passage on the Lucidity - boat in the dock.  Might want to talk to the Legionnaires about it - they're upstairs."

Tarim- Perhaps we could find allies? I understand that the leechkin might delight in the prospect of a raid on the Hagmen temple...

* Kryzbytn sips his drink daintily with his mandibles
Kryzbytn- Ah, thank you!

"Leechkin're all dead or fled," Bodkin says.  "Besides, we're assigned to kill 'em, not make friends with 'em."

* Kryzbytn makes his way upstairs

Kryz, you hear voices coming from a door, slightly ajar...

Koldobika- (Flicker) Everything wants something. There is a value upon the banner to the hagmen.

* Kryzbytn knocks politely on the door with the blunt end of his scythe arm, drink in hand

Vetter- Kol says we could trade for the standard. He can be so dull sometimes.

"You suggest we try to treat with them?" Salamander asks, watching Kol's fingers.  "Isn't it a little late for that?"

Koldobika- (Flicker) The banner was taken for a reason. I do not know the reason.

* Vetter goes to answer the knock, puzzled

Kryzbytn- Pardon me, but - V...Vetter one??

* Vetter gingerly opens the door with the tip of his cane

Kryzbytn, Vetter now has a top hat and cane...

Vetter- I'll be buggered! Kryz!

Kaius - I favour a frontal assault. These hags cannot stand and fight.

* Kaius  turns to the door

The Legionnaires half-reach for their blades when they see Kryz, but Vetter's reaction reassures them somewhat.

* Tarim raises a brow, seeing the mantid standing in the doorway

Kaius - Kryzbytn. Another chance encounter. Serendipitous.

Vetter- What're doing here, mate?

Koldobika- (Flicker) Convenient.

Kryzbytn- Very much so, Kaius one. If I could smile, I would.

Tarim- A surprising turn.

"Friend of yours?" Salamander asks.

Kryzbytn- Tarim, Koldobika!

Vetter- Damn right, and a useful one in a fight. They calls him the Reaper, see?

Kryzbytn- It is excellent to see my friends again... I had feared the worst what with the plagues of Macellaria

Kaius - The plagues have been dealt with, yet the city is not safe. That is why we are here.

Kryzbytn- What issues have we now?

Vetter- Big army thing.

* Kryzbytn stares at Vetter's top hat and cane

* Vetter poses

Kryzbytn- Have you lost the use of one of your better legs, Vetter? Or is such a staff eldritch in nature?

* Kryzbytn crouches down and examines the cane

Kaius - The city is threatened by wasteland barbarians. We seek the services of a mercenary company currently engaged in menial work for the city of Lophius.

Vetter- (grinning) Yes, an ancient artefact of significant power

* Kaius  gestures towards the Legionnaires

Vetter- it came into my, ha, possession... by sorcerous means involving the very blackest of magickery.

Tarim- Well, since he is here now, we might as well take him along.

Kryzbytn- We should need assistance it would seem. It is in good fortune that you have that staff, Vetter one.

* Koldobika rolls his eyes.

Vetter- I'm havin' you on, Kryz, it's just a normal cane. Makes me look posh, doesn't it?

* Vetter swaggers back to his original place

Tarim- Perhaps by foxfolk standards

Kaius - We will be venturing into the swamplands soon, Kryz. To confront the hags that have stolen the standard of our new ... friends. Your scythe would be welcome.

Kryzbytn- Oh, I see. It might look better with a blade at the end of it. I imagine it would be more useful then

* Koldobika is pretty certain that the foxfolk don't even know what the hell 'posh' means-- and he is one.

Kryzbytn- Then my scythe you shall have, friend Kaius

* Kaius  inclines his head

Vetter- As handy as you might be with blades, Kryz, I prefer to rely on being... just plain handy.

* Kaius  blinks slowly

Kaius - Salamander. Do your men need to rest before we set out?

"You're welcome to join us, ah, Reaper - every blade will help, and I see that you have many," the head Leagionnaire - a Skeinborn man with a long, curved sword - says. He turns to Kaius. "I suggest we rest here tonight, give Koldobika, Maimer, and Rankle a chance to recover.

* Kaius  nods
Tarim- Back to planning, now. If we cannot hope to approach the temple undetected, then at least we should strike swiftly and hard. Storm them before they have time to organize.

Kaius - Sensible.

Kryzbytn- Hmm, my haze field generator will be of use, then

Kaius - These hags are not defenders. So long as we strike at their temple, they will have to face us man to man. A fight they cannot win.

"Perhaps the stealthier of our group can range ahead, try and disable any sentries?"

Kryzbytn- Though I cannot guarantee the most silent of advances...

Tarim- If I am given time to prepare, I will assist any advance scouts with some glamers of mine.

* Koldobika is stealthy, but is also not eager to face more of the hagmen's poison.

Kryzbytn- Hmm, glamers... I do not with to experience those again...

* Vetter resumes twirling his cane, happy to let others work out the plan as long as he gets to kill something by the end of things

Tarim- I cannot render them silent, merely unseen. And they still must take care not to reveal themselves by carelessly disturbing the vegetation.

"Better than nothing."

Kryzbytn- Do we know how many of these hags there are?

"At least eight or nine - probably more."

"Alright.  Let's take the evening to recuperate and prepare.  We'll move out tomorrow."

Kryzbytn- An excellent idea... I am very tired

* Tarim pays the host and heads to his room, not wishing to waste any sleeping hours before such a dangerous undertaking

* Vetter also pays and retires

The next day, those of you heading back into the swamps gather in the common room.

* Vetter has abandoned his cane and stripped off his customary chainmail, retaining the top hat along with the ragged scraps of clothing he wears beneath his armour.

Salamander goes over the plan once again.  Bodkin, Wraith, Kryzbytn, and one or two others will eventually split off and range ahead to try and eliminate sentries; the rest of you will follow and storm the temple directly.

Back into the swamps' sweltering heat you trudge, through thick, clinging mist.  The marsh stinks with a thousand repellent odours; the twisted vegetation makes your progress agonizing slow.  Strange toadstools and other fungal growths festoon the gnarled trees and rotting logs; gigantic black pitcher plants grow in enormous clusters; banks of bladderwort and fanged flytraps flourish in abundance.  Sinister blood-red ibis eye you unpleasantly, while stunted, albino monkeys with too many limbs scuttle from tree to tree, occasionally leaping on unsuspecting squirrels or bog-rats and murderously disembowelling them with fangs and wicked little claws.

After a time you reach the body of the hagman Kaius slew, now half-eaten by maggots. You continue onwards, following the directions the dead hagman gave you.  A malformed stone idol emerges from the undergrowth up ahead, carved of green stone and covered in moss.  It resembles a hagman with many arms, all holding weapons.

* Vetter gives the idol a mocking wave

* Kaius  keeps a hand on the hilt of the Cereblade, as he scans the undergrowth for movement

"Looks like we're getting close," Salamander says.  "Alright.  Any more volunteers for advance scouts?"

* Kryzbytn has his scythe out

* Tarim protects himself with a hex of Harden the Skin. He carries his repeating rifle slung over the shoulder, his eyes constantly darting at the surrounding wilderness, expectant of an ambush to spring at any moment

Bodkin- Hmph. How many of us you plan on sending in? Send too many, and you might as well just charge in naked and screaming right now.

Vetter- Then let's do that!

Salamander gives Bodkin a withering look.

Bodkin- And that Fox-thing don't count. He'll do it anyway.

* Vetter grins at Bodkin, exposing his sharp teeth.

"Alright, the rest of us will remain here while our infiltrators range ahead," the magus-warrior continues, ignoring his caustic subordinate.

Kaius - Return to us when you have ascertained the way is clear.

Kryzbytn- It shall be done

* Tarim works his witchcraft, concealing Bodkin and Wraith with glamers of Vanishment

Tarim- I understand that you can render yourself likewise undetectable, Kryzbytn

* Kaius  sits against the trunk of a tree, the Cereblade across his lap

Kryzbytn- Yes, that I can

Wraith lopes off into the undergrowth, silent and now obscured by Tarim's glamer.

* Kryzbytn activates his generator

* Kaius  wipes his scattergun down with an oiled cloth. He inspects the breach, and then loads two slugs

Bodkin, up ahead you see a hagman concealed in the underbrush, skin daubed with mud, a spear at the ready.  The creature blends inalmost perfectly with his environment. Kryz, though you see no sentries, you move with the utmost stealth; Bodkin, the hagman guard doesn't appear to have seen you.

 * Bodkin skillfully makes his way through the dense brush, careful to keep his eyes open and ears alert for other sentries. He carefully begins to flank around the known sentry he has already seen.

There is, however, a rough path through the trees up ahead, Kryz.

Vetter- (under his breath) So how long do we wait, eh?

The sentry stands still as a statue, Bodkin. Somewhere off in the mist you faintly hear the soft whirr of one of Wraith's arrows. The sentry doesn't seem to have noticed.

* Bodkin grimaces. Damn. He let Wraith get the first kill. He halts for a moment, sizing up and assessing the hagman in its position before closing in behind it for a kill of his own.

Kryz, up ahead you see what must be a hagman temple. The shrine is built half in and half out of a scum-filmed lake, fashioned of stone blocks mortared together with what looks like hagman slime.  Other portions of the structure are made entirely of this revolting muscal resin.  You see a hagman slipping into the water, and another slithering up a coiled ramp which leads up to the temple and down into the water below; it has four above-ground levels.  A pair of trident-wielding braves guards a great arch of green stone standing at the edge of the lake.

* Kryzbytn looks behind him to see if his companions are following

* Bodkin grumbles wordlessly to himself-- the hagman blends in too well for him to figure out exactly where its vitals are. However, he knows where it is, and so knows where he needs to stab it until it dies from it. Bodkin finds that the Hagmen are not so dangerous when they are the ones being jumped and ambushed in their damned, bloody jungles-- it takes a great deal of effort for Bodkin to keep his mouth shut as he rapidly begins stabbing into the hagman's back-- trying only mildly to hit something vital. He's more interested in enjoying making the kill.

The hagman gasps in pain as your blade plunges into his flesh, Bodkin! Kryzbytn's slits the throat of one hagman with his sycthe, then whirls and slices at the second.

* Bodkin feels the loathsome creature still squirming under him. He continues stabbing it, hissing in a mixture of glee and anger until the abomination finally becomes motionless. He stabs the thing a few more times just to make sure. As he rises from the corpse, he spits on it.

] Bodkin- Tha's for the Serjeant, you sick bastards.

The guard twists in alarm and pain, and an arrow takes him in the throat.  Wraith materializes from the mist, smiling grimly, a finger to his lips, and hurriedly kicks the corpses into the lake.

* Kaius  still waits beneath his tree

Wraith and Kryzbytn return, Kryzntyn's scythe dripping.

* Bodkin checks his ego at the door, hunkers down, and continues forward, trusting both his own skill and Wraith's to get this done. The bug? He's not so sure about the bug.

Kaius - I see you found some hags.

You don't see any more sentries.

Kaius - Is the way clear for our advance?

* Bodkin grumbles meekly. Seems the way is clear already. Only one for him. He begins to creep back towards the meeting point.

Kryzbytn - Indeed, Kaius one.  We eliminated the guards.

Tarim- Let's not waste any time now. If no one's noticed anything yet, it may not take long till they do.

Kaius - Good.

* Vetter gives a short yap of glee and starts to move out

* Kaius  stands, unlimbering his shield, and keeping the Cereblade at the ready

Bodkin- 'Ey, found one of the fruggers layin' about in the muck. He's full of holes now. Keep an eye on the muck; they seem to like it there.

Salamander nods. "Let's move out, then." He unsheathes his blade; Rankle, Fiend, and Maimer do the same.

Bodkin- 'Ey, Wraith. How many you get?

Wraith flashes two fingers.

* Bodkin grumbles and turns away, dejected.

Bodkin- Cheating frugger...

At last you approach what must be a hagman temple: a great arch of green stone marks the entrance.  The shrine is built half in and half out of a scum-filmed lake, fashioned of stone blocks mortared together with what looks like hagman slime.  Other portions of the structure are made entirely of this revolting mucal resin.  There seems to be a submerged platform leading up to the above-water entrance, so you can wade up to the temple.

* Tarim invokes Entropic Shield, blurring his visage with an eldritch haze as the group draws near the temple entrance

* Vetter as he moves into the bush his aspect changes. The top-hat no longer seems comical, merely a disturbing contrast to this feral hunter with a deadly gleam in his eyes

* Kaius  pauses before the submerged walkway.

Kaius - Would someone lighter care to lead the way?

* Bodkin favors a sneakier approach-- he saw how good the rotter was at hiding, so while he trusts his eyes, he's not so sure what other trickeries these things may have waiting.

Wraith has taken over against the arch, an arrow at ready.  Salamander stands at the other side of the arch.

* Vetter favours Kaius with a grin and advances

Bodkin- 'Ey, the fox-thing's gotta be pretty light. He can go.

Vetter, the water feels disgusting, but the walkway holds. It seems the hagmen haven't noticed your advance - with the sentries dead, the temple's inhabitants are unsuspecting.

* Vetter says something over his shoulder in what sounds like Zerda; perhaps he's forgotten Shambles in his excitement. Then he presses eagerly onwards.

Vetter, the above-water entrance to the shrine leads into a hall of mucus-mortared stone upon which hundreds of ideograms in Hagspeech are engraved.  Past this curved hall is some sort of central stair-room.  No sign of anyone within.

* Kaius  hesitantly puts a foot out onto the walkway

* Bodkin waits to make sure nothing looms out of the water to eat the fox, then carries ahead next.

* Vetter presses on into the stair-room, trying to move quietly despite his urgency.

Vetter, as you enter the shrine the ideograms on the walls begin to glow, and suddenly you can't see anything.

* Kaius  exhales in a hiss as he sees the impatient Zerda pass the temple's threshold

Wispy- aaarraaagghh..
* Wispy vomits out of the sky, wings slightly charred.

Oney runs towards the group, barking merrily.
Wispy- "gnath."
* Wispy spits out water.
Wispy- "aaagh. "gnath" ugh.

* Vetter barks in shock and recoils

* Bodkin readies his daggers, eyes wide as *something* comes streaking out of the air right nearby him and the others. He wonders if this makes three kills...

* Kaius  has suddenly developed a painful headache, the zehrer spasms within his skull

Wispy- Glad you fellows are still alive.

The_Bloodletter- Oney barks again.

Wispy- Especially you Tarim, most of the gravespawn are dead, did you know?

Kaius - Bird.
Vetter, you hear splashing, barking, and talking.

Kaius - What an unpleasant surprise.

* Bodkin hisses angrily
Bodkin- What the hell is it, and why should I not STAB it until it DIES from it!

* Tarim glares at the birdman with glowing eye-lenses

* Vetter paws at his eyes, panting desperately, hunched over

Wispy- So, what's going on here? Is Vetter all right? He looks like he's got something in his eye.

Kaius - It is a never ending pain that afflicts me like a horrible clinging fungus, flaring up at the worst of times.

Bodkin- ... So, uh, Kaius. Does that mean I should kill it?

* Bodkin glances at Wispy questioningly.

Tarim- I don't know what brought you here on this blighted day, jatayi. And I don't care to find out. Just stay out of our way. So much for stealth. Now we must attack!

"What in the Hells?" Salamander says.  "What is it with you people?"

Kaius - Leave him alone unless he does something unforgivably stupid.

Vetter, you hear soft chanting up ahead, and what sounds like something slithering towards you...

Bodkin- ...You mean like give away the fact that we are trying to ambush the hagmen in their home?

Tarim- That plan's already blown. Now press the attack while we still can.

* Kaius  turns to look at Bodkin and Wispy in turn, but says nothing.

* Vetter gathers himself and attempts to charge at... whatever it is... claw-first. Blind.

* Kaius  continues to wade across the walkway

Bodkin- Then we should be moving. Now. Right? Unless you have more... *friends* waiting

* Tarim looks at the mercenaries expectantly
Tarim- After you...

Vetter, you plow into a living body, slimy in texture.  You hear a grunt as you wind the creature, interrupting its chant! The being recoils and renews its chanting. Salamander raises his sword and the Legionnaires move in.

* Tarim follows in their wake

* Bodkin gives the bird-thing a withering glare-- and Kaius a very concerned one, before joining his kin in the advance on the temple.

You reach the entrance and see Vetter casting around blindy while a hagman draped in shamanistic talismans slithers backwards and chants the prayer the dead brave taught Tarim.

* Bodkin basically mumbles the prayer.

* Kaius  speaks the words as clearly as he can as he steps into the temple

* Tarim stops at the threshold and levels his rifle at the hagman

The other Legionnaires mutter it was well.

* Tarim releases a screaming round at the hagman

The hagman takes a bullet to the chest! It slithers back into the depths of the temple, bleeding profusely.

* Bodkin makes to pursue, hoping to cut off the hagman before it can muster any other defenses.

Kaius - Fool of a fox. You should have waited.

An arrow whizzes past you, Bodkin, and takes the fleeing hagman in the neck.

* Tarim utters the prayer to holy Agnath and proceeds past the threshold

Wraith grins at you from the thresshold and holds up three fingers.

Vetter- Gleet you Kaius! You asked me to go first!

* Bodkin turns around and glares grumpily at Wraith

Kaius - Do not blame me for your own impatience. Speak the words, perhaps your affliction will leave you.

Wispy- So I can't just cross this threshold without saying a prayer?

Vetter- What words?

Wispy- Oney, what do you think about this?

Bodkin- Oy, we all said 'em. Can't you hear with those big ears?

* Kaius  rolls his eyes

* Tarim whispers the words in Vetter's ear
Tarim- repeat them. exactly

Wispy- Oh, I have an eidetic memory, I certainly know it- but why is it important?

Oney whimpers.  It seems reluctant to enter the temple.

Vetter- I happened to be a bit gleeting distracted what with trying to fight while gleeting BLIND! How come you all know these gleeting words anyway?

* Vetter repeats the prayer after Tarim

Wispy- And does Oney also have to say it? He seems concerned.

Oney pads backwards.

Bodkin- Yes. Yes he does. So you should just stay here with him.

Tarim- Your dog is smart to stay off. You should learn from him.

Kaius - And what does that say of us, Tarim?

Wispy- Okay. Surprised you're calling yourself a fool, but fine by me. I'll write an epic about it if you don't come back

Tarim- Us? We are well-informed.

Bodkin- Speak for yourselves. You think any rightly-thinking fool does what we do?

* Kaius  turns and proceeds deeper into the temple

A coiled ramp leads down into the water and up to other levels of the shrine here.   There are also three additional doorways leading to other chambers on this level.

Kaius - Perhaps.

Vetter- Still gleeting blind. GLEET THIS! Why did none of you bastards tell me?!

* Vetter swipes in a random direction with his claw

Bodkin- We did. You were probably too busy playing with your cane to pay attention.

Tarim- Tough luck, zerda. Try to manage. I can probably remove that hex from you later, when we get back to the camp.

* Vetter spits invectives at Tarim in Zerda

* Bodkin grins and continues forward, glad to leave the bird-thing and fox-thing behind. And the bug-thing. That too.

Incense smoulders at the altar of a large jade idol depicting a many-armed, long-whiskered hagman androgyne. Weird mucal sculptures are evident on either side of the shrine.  The attendants at this shrine are androgynous, like the statue.  Their skins have been stained with elaborate henna designs, and they carry curved bronze daggers; all are poised defensively!

* Bodkin points arbitrarily at one of the attendants.
Bodkin- That one is *mine*, Wraith, you thieving bastard!


When we last left our heroes they had just entered a hagman temple in the depths of the southern swamps, eliminating the sentries by stealth.  Vetter has been stricken blind by a protective ward on the entrance hall. Kaius Alexander has just entered a shrine on the ground level. Half a dozen adepts protect the shrine with long bronze blades.

* Kaius  points the Cereblade at the shrine attendants threateningly as he advances towards them
Kaius - Give us the standard, or die.

* Tarim enters the shrine after Kaius

* Vetter sits down dejectedly, rubbing at his useless eyes

They hiss in Hagspeech.

"You have polluted our land, tainted our temple with blood!  You must pay for your sacrilege!"

* Kaius  cocks his head to the side and turns to Tarim

The Legionnaires crowd inside, blades and bows ready.

Kaius - I assume that was a no?

Tarim- They are rather upset about our entering their holy grounds, yes

"Begone, or I shall pronounce the curse of Agnath," one of them spits, again in Hagspeech.
Tarim- Now that was an actual threat. We better make sure he does not get to see it through. I'd rather not bear a curse.

Kaius - So be it.

* Vetter starts crawling towards the voices of the others

Bodkin hurls a dagger at an adept speaking a vodun hex, but the hagman dodges aside. The hagman attempts to strike Kaius, but the Insomnolent pulls back just in time. A hex rebounds off you; you shrug off its effects with little effort. The other hagmen slither forwards, brandishing their blades.  Two flank Kaius; another two assail Tarim. Kaius' armour protects him from their attacks. Tarim’s shield protects him from harm, the chaotic energies of the hex deflecting the hagman blades. Fiend yells, his voice cracking, and charges forwards, skewering an adept with his blade. The creature hisses in pain.

* Rankle grunts, hefts his sword, and goes to swing at one of the hagmen harassing Tarim

Your blow wounds the hagman badly.  It squirms backwards, towards the idol. Maimer steps in and finishes the hagman Rankle wounded off. Wraith takes aim at the hagman who made the threat of speaking a curse.

* Tarim hurriedly evades his assailants' attacks, invokign a protective hex

Three Tarim-clones manifest out of the aether, to the bewilderment of the hagmen.

* Tarim with replicas of himself suddenly appearing, retreats from the melee

* Kaius  brings the Cereblade back up with a vicious diagonal slice. He rips the Cereblade out from under the Hagman's chin where it lodged, blood cascades from the wound, and the Hagman collapses. Kaius turns slowly to confront his second assailant.

Salamander speaks an incantation in Hellspeak, and a ray of black Netherflame arcs from his hand towards one of the hagmen, but the creature dodges aside. One of Bodkin's daggers lodges in the hagmen fighting Kaius. The hagmen who spoke hexes before entwine together, coiling their bodies around one another.  They speak a Hagspeech hex, and the henna designs on their bodies begin to glow.

Fiend stumbles backwards, jaw slack, an imbecilic expression on his face.

* Kaius  drops his shield and shakes his head slowly, he stares strangely at the Hagman in front of him.

Rankle decapitates one of the dagger-wielders. Only a single adept with a knife remains, apart from the two entwined casters. Maimer slashes at the remaining hagman, giving it a light wound.
Wraith cackles incoherently, overcome by madness. He drops his bow, draws his sword and lunges at Bodkin!
Bodkin grunts in pain as Wraith slashes his arm, scratching his flesh.

* Tarim determines that the hexwielders at the back of the hall pose the greatest threat. He moves forth weaving a wicked spell. When he finishes the incantation, the mucal structures of the temple shake as slithering tentacles force their way out from the stonework.

The tentacles slither round the casters, choking them and grasping their limbs!

* Rankle smiles grimly, sensing imminent victory

* Kaius  blinks

Salamander yells in alarm and attempts to subdue Wraith. Salamander grabs Wraith's sword arm and attempts to bear him to the ground. He crushes the ghul against the wall. Bodkin joins the grapple. Bodkin disarms Wraith, taking his sword. Wraith yelps surprisedly, a lost look in his eyes.

The hagmen attempt to speak a spell, but Tarim's eldritch tentacles slither down their throats and around their necks. Fiend continues to stare absently into space.

* Rankle lunges at the last dagger-wielder with his longsword. He grunts as he yanks his sword out of the wet mess that used to be the hagman's head

Wraith is suddenly overcome by frantic fear, and tries his darnest to break from the grapple. Wraith breaks free of the grapple. He attempts to flee from the hall, screaming like a little girl. The ghul is now at the spiral staircase running through the middle of the shrine.  The corridor leading out is nearby. Wraith has been struck blind! Everything goes black as the ideograms carved into the corridor walls glow.

* Tarim watches as the hagmen caught by his tentacles are struggling to invoke more hexes. Fearing that they might succeed, he unleashes another eldritch spell upon them, calling forth a plague of rats. The vermin come scuttling out of every crevice on the walls above-water, swarming the hagmen.

The hagmen shriek as the rats gnaw on their flesh. You hear bones cracking and breaking as the tentacles begin to tear the adepts limb from limb!  One has its left arm ripped from its socket.

* Kaius twitches, and steps towards the entwined Hagmen.

 Maimer follows. Maimer has been ensnared! Kaius, you brush off the tentacles. Your blow takes one of the hagmen in the heart and it dies instantly. The other begins to beg for its life in Hagspeech. Rats begin to swarm over Kaius and Maimer. Salamander runs after Wraith, hastily chanting the necessary prayer as he exits the temple. The Legionnaire sends another blade into the badly wounded adept, slaying it instantly. Fiend begins to shake violently and exits the shrine, wandering away from the bodies.

* Kaius  stands over the corpses of the dead hagmen, blinking slowly. Maimer is still trapped by the summoned tentacles.

* Rankle moves to stand guard at the head of the downwards ramp, shield up and sword ready

Maimer groans as the tentacles begin to wrench at him.

* Kaius  idly bats the grasping tentacles away

* Tarim frowns as he observes the trouble this eldritch confusion has sown. He wander away from the mess of tentacles and rats, eyeing the scene warily

Bodkin heads out, following Salamander, to try and subdue Wraith.

Tarim- Nothing much I can do to help you. Both hexes should wear off eventually.

* Kryzbytn watches from a distance, concerned, but afraid that intervening would harm his allies

Fiend sinks to the ground, staring at his hands.

* Kaius  seizes a rat telekinetically and floats it up, slowly pressing it into the ceiling

* Rankle stays put, looking back and forth from the chaos behind him to the water below, alert for trouble

Maimer tries and fails to win free of the tentacles.

* Kaius  starts grabbing at the rats both with his hands and telekinetically, crushing them into rat paste

Wraith just babbles blind and incoherent while Salamander and Bodkin subdue him again.

The tentacles grasp you tightly, Kaius, ensnaring you.

* Kaius  blinks again, unconcerned by the tentacles

Rankle, a hagman female in diaphanous garments and jewellery slithers towards you.  She seems unarmed. Fiend lies down and does nothing. Maimer struggles free of the tentacles and heads towards Rankle, blade ready.

* Kaius  tries to struggle free of the tentacles

Rankle, your attention was so focused on the new intruder you didn't notice Fiend getting up behind you and charging with his longsword.  You feel a short, sharp pain as his blade slides neatly through a gap in your armour and into your torso.

The tentacles hold Kaius tightly, not letting go.

* Rankle gathers himself, gritting his teeth, willing away the pain of the wound

Maimer runs in, sword drawn, and looks from Fiend to Rankle in bewilderment, not knowing what to do. Wraith continues to mumble like a circus freak show mutant

* Tarim hastens to join Rankle, but is alarmed to find Fiend attacking him. Hesitant to involve himself in the struggle between the legionaires, he levels his rifle at the hagman and fires.

The hagman female dextrously slithers back with a hiss. The hagman begins to writhe lasciviously while chanting in Hagspeech - a prayer to Myx, the fertility Aspect. Her convlusions are hypnotic. Tarim, your jaded gemstone gaze seems to protect you from her lewd spell. Rankle, you are utterly transfixed by the display. Fiend seems to shake it off, but Maimer is likewise fascinated.

* Rankle 's face contorts as he watches into something between a leer and a grimace...

Fiend yells as he comes out of the previous hex.  He slaps Rankle, trying to break the fasciation effect, but it is useless. Bodkin is returning to the temple. Maimer likewise sits gaping. Wraith cries out,  “H-hey! What is going on here!? I can't see damn thing!” Salamander answers, “You got hit by that damn ward, fool.” Wraith flails around wildly but impotently

* Kaius  floats sedately on a bed of tentacles

Kryzbytn is looking at Wraith's eyes, trying to see if he can treat them.

* Tarim swears in hellspeak and fires another shot at the hagman enchantress

* Kaius  blinks again, and shakes his head, coming out of his daze.
Kaius - Witchery.
* Kaius  attempts to struggle free of the tentacles

You win free of the grasping tentacles.

* Kaius  retrieves his shield and strides out of the room heavily

The hagman speaks a spell, targeting Rankle. Bodkin hurls a blade at her. The knife scratches her face. Fiend awakens Maimer from his fascinated stupor.

* Rankle 's mind is clear, he knows what to do. He steps forward and thrusts at the hagwoman with his sword

She slithers backwards but your blow catches her arm. He cuts her down brutally.

Rankle- Are the hexes done? Sound off.
Maimer - I'm fine.  Gods above and below...
Fiend shakily catches his breath.

* Kaius  ducks back into the shrine room

Tarim- It must be kept deeper in the temple

Rankle- Where have Salamander and Wraith gone?

"Rankle... did I... did I do that to you?"

Salamander and Wraith reenter the shrine, Salamander leading a blind Wraith. They speak the chant as they enter.

Rankle- Forget it, comrade, you were not yourself. It's a mere scratch.

"Bloody Hells."

Bodkin collects his knives.

You don't find any sign of the standard, Kaius.  You do see that the adepts had several scrolls with them.

Tarim- We must move with haste. The longer we take to find the standard, the more time we give the squirmies to summon their kin.

Rankle- I'll stand guard, go check the other rooms.

* Kaius  glances towards Vetter
Kaius - Are you staying here then, Fox?

Tarim- Those who cannot fight should wait for us outside. The mantid can help them defend themselves

Vetter -What else can I do, Kaius? What bloody good am I like this?

Kaius - Tarim will see to the restoration of your senses when we are done here.

* Vetter will go with Kryz.

Wraith follows them outside. Salamander leads them back outside while everyone else regroups.

* Kaius  steps out of the shrine, and proceeds over to another room.

This chamber's walls are covered in mucus, in which hundreds and hundreds of hagman skulls are embedded.  In the middle of the room a plinth of stone and revolting resin into which smouldering candles are fused displays a bone talisman resembling an eel eating its own tail, strung on a cord of sinew.

* Kaius  calls out

* Tarim follows in after Kaius. He observes the talisman with interest.

Kaius - Tarim. There is something.. curious in here.  Is it warded?

You have no idea what this weird gewgaw is, Tarim.

Kaius, you find nothing hidden in the room.

* Tarim invokes Sense Witchery to study the room. The charm radiates witchery.

Tarim- It is hexed at least

Kaius - Best to leave it alone, then.

Tarim- Aye. It is not what we came here for.

Kaius - There is nothing here.
* Kaius  turns and exits the room, proceeding towards the next one.

These look to be the priestly quarters - a small suite of chambers with sleeping nooks, stone desks and chairs, and walls graven with Hagspeech prayers.

Kaius - Tarim. Interrogate the hagwitch. Perhaps she knows where the standard is.
Tarim- Good idea

* Tarim returns to the corpse of the hagman enchantress and uses the Collar of Cadaverous Communion

Kaius, you find three more scrolls

The female hagman revives, coughing blood.

"Why have you drawn me from the Aeon-Worm's glorious carresses?"

Tarim- Where are you keeping the stolen standard of the pale legion?

"In the shrine of Eptaar, abomination."

* Kaius  watches the interrogation curiously

* Rankle observes the interrogation with a mixture of fascination and disgust

Tarim- And where is the shrine within these temple grounds?
"It lies two levels above us: now!  Let me return to the embrace of the All-Encompassing!"

Tarim- Is the shrine guarded? Is it warded or trapped?

Rankle- What's she... it saying?

"The adepts of Eptaar will be keeping the shrine itself safe from intruders, but the trophy room will have but a single guard... you need fear no wards."

Tarim- Is there a back entrance to the trophy room? Or a roof access or the like?

"Only a single entrance - the first to the left.  Foolish creature!  Your blood will cleanse our temple of your polluting influence!"

Tarim- Go back to being gnawed by your aeon-worm, wretch.

The strange mixture of compliance and hatred is disconcerting.

* Tarim removes the collar

She sighs as if at a lover's touch as she collapses back into death.

* Kaius  raises his visor

Kaius - What did she say?

Rankle- Well?

Tarim- Well, either we get in without a fight, or we kill those guards.
* Tarim translates

Rankle- Right. We know where it is, let's move.

Tarim- Let us ascend

* Kaius  strides up the ramp, ahead of the others

* Rankle heads up the ramp quickly but warily

This level of the temple smells of incense and perfume.  There are four doorways leading to chambers adjoining the stairwell, which continues upwards.

Tarim- Nothing of interest to us here.
* Tarim carries on upwards

* Rankle waits for the others to pass, then follows them up, guarding the rear in case of any threats from that floor

Four more doorways are evident on the next level; there is one more level above you.

* Kaius  throws the first door on the left open, brandishing the Cereblade

This chamber is crowded with a strange collection of objects, predominantly arms and armour, but none of them look to be of hagman make.  You see everything from Erebhite fire-spitters to Marainainese scimitars to jatayi hand-crossbows to repeating mantid-made wheellocks; there are also pitted steel breastplates, gently rotting vests of studded leather, cuirasses of crocodile-hide, even a suit of spiked, ceremonial lilix armour fit to accommodate spiderfolk arms.  You also spot a suit of bone armour, as worn by the Pale Legionnaires.  There are other items here as well: fetishes similar to the ones the leechkin shaman Kaius killed was wearing, articles of clothing, oddments of jewellery... and a battle-standard of the Legion, made entirely of rune-etched bone and surmounted by a skull marked with the numeral for '14.'

A pair of hagmen braves with heavy bronze falchions guard the chamber.  As you enter they mutter prayers, and their muscles swell prodigiously!
Logged


Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #200 on: August 05, 2018, 07:02:25 PM »

I think there is some material missing from this, but it may be lost forever. Think of it like that burned patch in Beowulf or a missing reel.

Lophius

You are on Greenfang, in the desolate backstreets of Vespergate, not far from the Brooding Bridge.  Only a few blocks away should be the Street of Mists.  At this time of night, the streets are empty save for thuggish individuals with cruel blades and obscene tattoos prowling the alleys for easy prey, as well as a smattering of drug-dealers and a few ghilan drunkards.

Clotfeeder crouches low in the gloom. Vetter, badly scalded and covered in wounds, limps along behind the party.

* Kaius keeps his right hand on the hilt of the Cereblade.

 Kaius -We will reach the camp soon, Clotfeeder. Your safety is nearly assured.

The air is chill and clammy.  You turn down an alley of crumbling brick scrawled with Hagspeech graffiti.  Several leechkin vagrants shelter here, pressed against the decaying walls in slumber. The leechkin "beggars" suddenly stand, throwing off their filthy tatters to reveal tribal scars and ritual tattoos exotically stained.  They murmur and gesticulate, beginning to cast a hex of some kind!

 * Kaius rips the Cereblade from its sheathe and charges them.

Vetter and Lhars suddenly become rigid, stuck in place and paralyzed.

* Tarim stays a few paces behind the Clotfeeder. Seeing the band of leechkin, he raises his arms high and barks arcane words, calling a hideous swarm of bats, descending from the night sky upon the leeches.

* Kaius swats the bats out of the way with his telekinesis, then charges the nearest leech.

You slash at the leechkin and it leaps back with startling agility, avoiding the brunt of your blow.

Two shamans close in on Kaius, palm-mouths muttering. You feel a horrid sensation come over you as if your essence were being drained, your vitality sapped.


* Kaius exhales in a hiss.

The leechkin who struck you bloats horribly, its body swelling up, stomach inflating like a balloon.

* Kol takes the ambush in stride, bounding low across the ground, rushing as quickly as he can towards the leeches that look most prepared to stand back and cast hexes, making an effort to silence them before they can cast any further magic.

You stab one of the leechkin in the thigh and it gurgles in pain.

The leechkin strikes back with one palm-mouth while speaking a spell with the other.  You feel your blood and vigor drain away as its tiny teeth sink into your flesh. The leechkin bloats hugely. Clotfeeder roars angrily and growls a hex of its own. One of the shamans, struck by the spell, turns and flees, loping into the night. You slash at the creature and it twists away; your blade catches its arm. You slash at its legs, nearly tripping it up, but it continues to flee, and is soon swallowed by the urban gloom.


* Tarim takes aim with his rifle and lets loose a shot at the leechskin Kaius is currently fighting

Your bullet takes the creature in the shoulder.  It yowls in pain, blood flowing from the wound.

Kaius - Enjoy your meal, leech. It is your last.

* Kaius lashes out in a flurry of blows

Your blade descends in a glimmering arc and embeds itself in the creature's head.  It slumps to the ground, twitching.

* Kol does what he does best, skimming around beneath the Leech's legs, waiting for the moment to strike upwards, into the lower back of the leech, aiming for the closest vital spot he can reach.

Your blade plungs into its swollen belly and there is a huge burst of blood as it begins to drain, punctured by your sword.

The creature's tattoos glow as a second strike drains your vitality further.

* Kaius grunts, and his movements seem to slow, if only by a bit

You feel an abominable sensation suffuse your limbs as the creature speaks its curse, but you shrug off the spell.

Another leech steps forward and flails at Kaius, to no effect.  The remaining shaman steps backwards and speaks a spell.

The creature's muscles bloat and its grows in size.  Its yellow eyes blaze suddenly red, and its palm-mouths roar horribly.

Clotfeeder speaks another hex of its own. The paralyzing hex on Vetter and Lhars aburptly dissipates.

* Tarim turns his attention on the leechskin Koldobika is attacking, taking anothe rshot with his rifle

Your shot grazes its head.

* Kaius  continues his assault, but his motions seem more guarded, lacking his usual recklessness.

You slash open the shaman's swollen stomach.  A huge torrent of blood gushes all over the alley, filling the cracks between cobblestones.

* Kol takes a swipe at the leech in front of him before darting away to the sidelines of the fight, deciding that he'd rather the big, really-ugly-leech looks towards Kaius over him.

The leech avoids your blow.

* Vetter suddenly moves again, a caricature of a shiver wracking his body as he breaks free of the paralysis. His eyes narrow, his breath hisses, and he moves to seek revenge!

You plunge your claws deep into the creature's torso, crunching through bone, and rip out the creature's beating heart. Its palm-mouths vomit blood everywhere in sanguineous jets as the leechkin collapses.

Vetter- (as he casually tosses away the heart) Now you be still. Forever.

The leechkin Kol was fighting chnats in an eerie-double croak, and twin tendrils of crimson puissance uncoil from its palm-mouths, twisting towards Kaius. The tendrils snake into your helm and down your throat, and you feel fluid bubbling up in your lungs, but you fight back your gag reflex and swallow, forcing the rising liquid down.

The huge leechkin charges you, but you dodge nimbly aside and the monstrosity hits the wall with a thud, sending brick-dust flying everywhere.  It stumbles backwards, momentarily staggered.

Clotfeeder moves to attack the muscular leechkin, but the creature fends it off.

* Tarim slowly backs away from the bloated leechskin, noting it's obviously formidable strength. He croaks a hex and points a clawed finger at the creature, sending a black beam of crackling puissance at it.

The bolt hits the brick wall, sending debris flying.

* Kaius  moves to confront the beastial leech

You slash at the creature and carve off chunks of its flesh, spattering the walls with yet more blood.  By now the alleyway here looks like an abbatoir.

* Kol decides that with the incredible bulk distracted, now is the perfect time to resume harassing the remaining hex-caster
You leap and tumble through the alley and jump towards the leechkin.  With a swipe of your sword your cut off the top of the shaman's head, shearing through its skull halfway up its face. The amphibious humanoid takes a step or two backwards, palm-mouths croaking, before it slumps to the ground. The bats swooping round you distract you from the combat. The leechkin, seeing that your attention is diverted, turns and moves towards you, roaring. It swipes its arm at you, sending you flying through the air.  You hit a brick wall hard.

Clotfeeder hastens to help you up.

* Tarim won't risk wasting another one of his few remaining spells, figuring a bullet to be more expendable. He once again brings his rifle to bear and fires a shot.

Your bullet takes the creature in the middle of its face, dead center between its six eyes.  It blinks stupidly, not aware it's dead yet, then begins to fall. You step backwards just as the creature thuds to the ground.

* Kaius slides the Cereblade back into its sheathe
Kaius - Hmph.

* Vetter slowly picks himself up off the ground and coughs

Kaius - We must continue. There could be more of them about.

"The zoth/kchaal's minions," Clotfeeder says.  "Lying in wait.  They must have scried me."

* Kol stabs the bodies a few times, just to make sure they are dead.

Tarim- They will haunt us as long as we remain on these streets. Let us get going.

* Lhars clenches a harpoon in his hand, milky eyes darting back and forth warily

* Kaius  makes for the Brooding Bridge

* Lhars slithers after him

* Vetter limps hastily along with the others

You head out in the Street of Mists, all but empty at this time of night.  Distantly you can hear the sounds of music and laughter from the dockside taverns, still thronged even at this gods-forsaken hour.  You cross the Bridge hastily, eager to get out of the city before more trouble catches up with you.

The camp of the Pale Legion lies just ahead, torches glimmering in the pre-dawn darkness.

* Kaius  approaches the gate

Rankle appears to be on guard duty.  He waves his sword as you approach.

"You lot look to have been busy," the Legionnaire grunts.  "Who's the leech?"

Kaius  -Rankle. We seek safety in your encampment, we have the Clotfeeder, and are pursued by the minions of the Lordly Leech.

* Kol hopes the damn leech is worth it.

* Lhars takes up the rearguard, guarding the bridge

"Ah.  best get inside the camp then."
He ushers you in.

* Kaius  nods to him

* Vetter tips hit hat as they pass

You enter the camp.  Except for those patrolling the perimeter it is quiet. The central pavillion is dark, but there are two guards there anyway.

* Tarim steadily strides toward the pavillion

"The Legatus is sleeping," one of the guards says.

Vetter- you lot go on, I'm just gonna have a... little.... sit down... for a minute...

Kaius - We have obtained the Clotfeeder. There is no doubt that the Legatus would wish to be woken to hear what it has to say.

* Vetter collapses on the ground as the others head for the pavillion

The guard nods and goes to fetch the commander as Vetter collapses. Clotfeeder bends to examine Vetter's wounds. "Here," it says, taking out herbs from a pouch.  "Press these into your hurts.  They will speed your recovery."

* Vetter mumbles something probably grateful

* Lhars curls up somewhere, tending to his wounds

The Legatus appears, unarmoured and grim-featured.

* Kaius  stands stock-still as his injuries knit themselves shut beneath his armour.

"So.  You have found Clotfeeder.  Inside the pavillion, then."

* Kaius  inclines his head and steps through

* Tarim bows solemnly before the legatus

Clotfeeder follows the Legatus in. A guard lights a brazier to illuminate the pavillion.

* Kaius  raises his visor

"Might as well get straight to the point.  Clotfeeder," the Legatus growls.  "Where is the zoth/kchaal?" The leechkin croaks. "The zoth/kchaal is not hiding in the swamps but is somewhere in Lophius itself; I do not know where."

Kaius - How many are still in his company? What is the strength of his guard?

"It has sleeper cells scattered throughout the city, troops posing as beggars.  Impossible know how many.  Hundreds, possibly more.  They have been infiltrating the city by water and land for weeks."

Tarim- Perhaps the activities of the Lordly Leech's followers could reveal the location of his hideout? Do you know of any details that could give us a lead?

The shaman nods its head.  "Even now its labours to call the Gore-Child from the depths, spawn of a Beast God, to bind the spirit with fell witcheries.  With the infant godling under its control it will give the signal.  Its troops will cast off their rags and rise up against the folk of Lophius.  The City of the Lamprey will fall, and the City of the Leech will rise in its place."

Kaius - This 'Gore-Child', what are its capbilities?

Kaius - What does it still require to summon this godling?

Kaius - Why has it not done so already?

Tarim- Interesting. I would speculate that the summoning of such an entity would require a ritual very much beyond ordinary fare. Unusual objects of occult nature might be required as foci.

Kol- (Flicker). Pearls seem appropriate to the ritual.

"Vast quantities of blood are needed.  The beggars in the streets are harvesting it by the day, then use some secret way to reach the summoning pit, to vomit the collected blood into the pit.  Once enough has been ammassed... the zoth/kchaal will offer the blood as a sacrifice."

* Vetter starts to snore quietly outside

It shrugs its shoulders.  "These pearls you speak of may have a part to play of their own.  I do not know all of the rite's details."

Tarim- Hm. These followers could perhaps be tracked, or scried on.

Kaius - Then it is simple. The gang-bosses must simply issue a decree to forbid the charity of blood.

The Legatus shakes his head.  "The leeches will starve.  They'll become consumed by the thirst, rebel."

Kaius - Then, cull the leeches, and there is no threat.
Kaius - Initiate a pogrom.

Tarim- If the zoth/kchaal realizes that it's presense in the city is known, it might escape and hide int he swamps, only to resume it's plans in there

"No!" Clotfeeder cries.  "Many innocents will be killed!  Not all of the leechkin in Lophius are the zoth/kchaal's minions!  You would be murdering thousands!"

* Kaius  shrugs

"Gah, this is why I did not want to come here, why I fled to the deep-dwellers.  You Pale Ones and your friends are just as monstrous as the zoth/kchaal itself."

Kaius - Then it seems our only solution is to do things my way. There are two pearls left, as I have already delivered the Grey to the Beldam.

* Kol puts a paw to his face and shakes his head.

Kaius - She will scry the leech, and the legion will eliminate him.

* Kol gives Kaius a withering look.

The Legatus continues his question.  "Why did you defect, Clotfeeder?"

"The zoth/kchaal will lead to my people's destruction, one way or another.  It meddles with powers it cannot hope to control.  If it succeeds in summoning the Gore-Child... there will be no paradise.  There will be only death and devastation; the sea will turn red with the blood of the slain, and my people will not be spared.  Once the Voracious One is unleashed, there will be no stopping

* Tarim frowns

Tarim- A good reason to be out of this city before that, should it succeed

"Here," the shaman says, as it unfastens the bone fetish round its neck - a large fang carved into a monstrous semblance, the effigy of a Beast-God, perhaps.  "Take this token.  If you seek to scry the zoth/kchaal, this will help - it bestowed the talisman upon me, carved with its own hands."

Kaius - You are always quick to cowardice, Tarim. I tire of it.

It offers up the fang.

Kaius - If you wish to flee, then flee. I will keep my promises.

* Kaius  takes the fang from him

Tarim- Is it cowardice to back from a fight you cannot win? Would *you* wish to take on the spawn of a beast-god? On a second thought, don't answer that...

Kaius - It will not come to that. I will deliver the pearls, whether I must do it myself or not.

Kol- (Flicker) Delivering the pearls is not a guarantee of stopping the beast-god.

Tarim- Regardless, far as I am concerned, I have done more than enough for the Plae Legion now. I am not bound to do more, not without due payment.

The Legatus shrugs.  "We cannot leave Lophius till the Lordly Leech is slain.  It is as simple as that."

Kaius - Without payment? Have you no sense of duty? We represent the City of Bodysnatchers. It is our task to ensure that the Legion reaches the City in time.

"What would you consider appropriate payment, witch?"

* Kol barks a sharp grunt of a laugh.

Kaius - Pay him not a drachma, Legatus. He is not worth it.
Kaius - I will do as I have said. You do not need him.

Tarim- Money would be the simplest form, of corse. But any eldritch materials you may have acquired as plunder from your many fights might interest me more.

Kol- (Flicker) The Pale Legion will die with Lophius or Macallaria. Do not badger the Legion, Kaius. Allow the Legion to choose the doom desired.

The Legatus smiles.  "That may be so," he says to Kaius.  "But I have a certain respect for a fellow solider of fortune.  We have little in the way of arcane trinkets or plunder.  But you are welcome to any spoils you find in the zoth/kchaal's lair, if you assist us.  And I will pay you a freelancer's fee - five hundred drachmi apiece - for your help."

* Vetter stumbles into the pavillion looking drained, dusty, singed, thirsty, tired and smelling of... everything he's been through recently, which is to say a lot

"Would this be acceptable?"

Vetter- I feel much better now. What are we doing?

Kol- (Flicker) Kaius is being Kaius.

Vetter- I wish he'd stop doing that.

Tarim- For 500 drachmi, I will assist in locating the lair of the Lordly Leech.

* Kaius  hisses

The Legatus nods.  "Very well.  Clotfeeder, you can remain here under our protection."

Kaius - You see? He will not lend his aid even in the confrontation.

"We can handle the fighting if you locate the zoth/kchaal."

Tarim- It is not my battle to fight, unless I am properly hired for it, Kaius.

Kol- (Flicker) Reconnaissance is this one's specialty.

"Of course, if you sit the battle itself out, we will take the spoils for ourselves."

Tarim- Perhaps I will decide to assist the legion is the assault itself. I will reserve that decision until more has been learned of just what we'd be getting into.

Vetter- How many men do you have in this legion o' yours, sir?

Kaius - You have been promised payment. The Conclave awaits us in Macellaria. I say again, Legatus, I will do as I have said. I will bring to you the knowledge the Beldam gleans.

Kol- (Flicker) The blood must remain pure. The caverns beneath Lophius flood. There are places the tides do not flood.

Kaius - I will speak with you again, but now I depart, to do as I must.

"All in all, we are nearly four thousand strong," the Legatus says to Vetter.

* Kaius  storms from the pavilion

Kol- (Flicker) Kaius hides from Kaius too much.

"When you have learned more, return here as soon as possible," the Legatus says.  "Clotfeeder, I have a few more questions for you, but they can wait till morning.  I bid you all goodnight."

Vetter- (as Kaius goes, basically unfazed) so, why not send a few of your boys to each entrance to the under-city you know of and start searching? it might save some time if the, ahem, other methods don't turn out so speedy

* Tarim bows to the legatus and exits the pavillion

He turns around on his way out.  "There are simply too many entrances.  We don't even know most of them exist.  And I'm hesitant to dep[ly too many troops in the city: the locals are starting to resent our presence.  But I will dispatch guards to those entrances we know of, at least the major ones."

Kol- (Flicker) Vetter will be met my Kol later tomorrow evening. That time will be discussed the matter of slavers. Kol has business to see to now.

Vetter- Business?

* Kol grins a toothy grin.

Kol- (Flicker) Vetter will be met at the Inn.

* Kol scurries from the pavilion.

Vetter- Gah, you cheeky [insert mild insult in Zerda here]. See ya on the morrow.

Vetter is left alone with Clotfeeder, Lhars, and the guard.

* Vetter goes to find a drink and somewhere warm to curl up for the night

You retrace your steps back to the caverns of Skullford, a maze of half-flooded barrows and tidal caves.  Using the scratch-marks Tarim made you locate the rough-hewn chamber where you found the jatayi woman named Sibilant-Ululation-of-the-Gloaming.  She is gone, but you pick up her scent - a strange mixture of bird-smell, human sweat, and the cloying-sweet reek of her infected wound.  You follow her scent to a series of carven stone steps that terminate in a large door vaguely visible in the darkness.

Kol- (Well, he's done that a lot, but this would be the morning/afternoon before we went to seek out Clotfeeder)

* Kol sniffs at the air again, just to be certain. He glances around him, checking to make sure that nothing worrying has picked up his own trail and made to follow him. Once he is satisfied, he cautiously creeps forward to continue onwards.

The stone door, slightly ajar, is etched with letters in a tongue you do not know.  Images of cephalopod deities are engraved around the edges, their tentacles intertwined with skulls and bones.

* Kol grimaces. He hates insects. He pushes the door open just enough to squeeze through, trying to move as silently as he can.

Inside is a broad foyer with three doorways, each leading off into pitch darkness.  The jatayi has been here, but you cannot pinpoint her scent perfectly.  The walls of the chamber are adorned with weapons: rusty cutlasses, sabres, knives, scimitars, and ancient flintlocks.  The floor is covered in dust, but you can vaguely make out some kind of mosaic - a series of images depicting naval battles between bloodthirsty, piratical figures.

* Kol wonders who has the time-- and lack of aesthetics-- to want to put murals in places like this. Then again, with half the apparent population of lophius being part aquatic, he may very well have stumbled into someone's living room. He checks the floor for signs of any recent passage.

There are a lot of tracks through the dust, but they are very confused.  Some lead to the doorway on the left, others to the central door.  More criss-cross the chamber.

* Kol shrugs and picks the center door.

The long hall beyond the doorway is draped with mouldering flags from various ships, bearing a diverse array of insignia and colours.  You spot the triple-headed Chimera of Crepuscle, the Moth of Skein (the edges of the flag embroidered with Hellspeak sigils, the mottoes of the city), the bat and skull icons of some of Somnambulon's Revenant Houses, the spidersilk flags of Dolmen's slave-ships, the scripture-covered flags of Maraineien bearing various holy symbols.  At the end of the hall is a huge stone door, slightly open.

* Kol has to admit that he is quite impressed at this point-- and quite certain that he is not eager to run across the being responsible for gathering these icons, on the off chance that they were gathered through conflict, not opportunity. He continues on, still wary for any other beings.

Past the door you enter a long tomb-chamber, its walls covered in niches, each marked with a name and bearing a skeleton clutching a cutlass to its breast.  More bones are strewn about the chamber, along with a few broken weapons.  At the end of the crypt is a doorway leading to an adjoining room.

* Kol pauses for a moment. He nods his head and tips a hand to his mouth, paying the deceased individuals some measure of respect. They may have been right bastards in life, but to have a tomb, here, means they were no doubt highly-skilled individuals. Kol makes a conscious effort to avoid touching anything.

* Kol decides that he might as wlel see what's beyond this chamber before turning back, so he continues onward to the next chamber.
A very large chest dominates this round room.  The walls are adorned with more images of corsair exploits, now faded and dusty.  The chest has been smashed open, its contents looted.

Whoever looted the tomb must have dropped a few coins - you notice a couple of ancient silvers and a gold doubloon on the ground, half-covered by dust.

* Kol avoids going in any further, deciding that he would rather not be mistake for a grave-robber for a few pitiful golders. He back-tracks out to the main room.

The hall beyond this doorway is adorned with countless figureheads of every type and description, affixed to the walls.  The standard voluptuous carven maidens and mermaids are amply represented, but you also see the skeleton-figureheads of the Sleepwalker's City, the demoniac succubi of Skein's vessels, and the diseased-looking copper figureheads of Marainein, to name a few of the more common; there are also gargoyles, a two-headed woman, a woman with a toad-head, a leechkin carved from Bloodwood, a hagman in female form, an ebon gorgon, and dozens of other grotesques and beauties.  At the end of the hall is a shattered stone door.  Cobwebs lie thickly over everything.

* Kol wonders what the hell this part is about.

You hear a shriek of terror from the room beyond!

* Kol sighs heavily and rushes forward-- to, at the very least, figure out what the hell is happening.

Sibilant-Ululation-of-the-Gloaming lies collapsed in the middle of this chamber, having tripped over a gnawed skeleton.  This is a tomb-hall much like the previous one you entered, though its occupants seem to have been uniformly disinterred, their remains scattered about the room.  The source of Sibil's fright is obvious: an enormous mutant spider, bristling with far too many legs, scuttles towards her with glistening chelicerae dripping venom on the floor.  Thick webs cover the walls and ceiling, some holding huge egg-sacs.
Sibil picks herself up and turns, running towards the doorway.

The monstrous spider crouches and tenses itself, then scuttles forward in a pouncing leap, trapping the one-winged jatayi beneath its foul, mottled bulk.

Sibil flaps her wing, and the spider, momentarily startled stumbles aside.  The jatayi woman rolls to one side.

* Kol rushes forward to attack the multi-legged beast, deciding that his plan would be significantly better off is the Jatayi ends up as a spider-snack. He is, however, quite displeased about this turn of events and plans to have a word with Sibil after. He attempts to drive off the creature by stabbing it until it dies from it.

You slash at the creature and cut off one of its many legs at the joint.  This appears to annoy the massive arachnid.  It turns away from Sibil and fixes it globular black eyes on you.

Sibil crawls into one of the empty niches on the walls.

The spider lunges, fangs snapping, but you roll aside.

* Kol rolls his eyes. Great. A thief and a coward, too. Now, how does that remind Kol of? He growls angrily at the giant spider and strikes at it again!

* Kol tumbles beneath the chittering monstrocity- finding a moment of respite as the creature wheels above him, trying to relocate him. The breath of time is enough for him to find a segment in the spider's carapace, and he deftly drives his blade up into the weak segment. He rips the blade free violently, tumbling away before the creature can easily trap him.

The spider stabs its clawed legs downwards at you but you are far too fast.
You hear Sibil whimpering.

* Kol grumbles to himself, something about wondering if a giant, multi-legged spider at all tastes like its smaller relatives-- and if it needs to be broiled or roasted to pop the inedible chitin plates off. Kol lashes out, trying to claim another appendage for a future snack.

You hack off a second limb.  Unfortunately the creature seems to have enough extras to support its revolting bulk.

The huge creature squirts a mass of webbing at you from its spinnarets.  You slash and weave, dodging aside and cutting through strands of the sticky stuff.

* Kol continues the battle of attrition, staying on his toes as quickly as he can, choosing to whittle down the spider's defenses-- and limbs-- instead of chancing a riskier approach for a killing blow.

Another limb goes flying.  The spider squeals as its blackish blood leaks from the wound.

It makes another lunge with its fangs.
You run rings around the creature, too fast for it to reach you.

* Kol continues staying at the edge of the spider's effective range, granting himself precious moments to read the incoming attacks and either dodge aside or turn them into counter-attacks of his own. He counts himself lucky, so far-- the beast seems sluggish and slow. It must not have been expecting a fight. Judging my Sibil's participation, it seems right.

The spider scuttles backwards from your slash.  It is learning that you are a force to be reckoned with despite your tiny size.
The spider gathers itself up and springs again, with startling speed.  Its fangs close round your torso, sinking into your flesh.
You feel a vile poison course through your veins, sapping your strength.  Your sword is suddenly hugely heavy.
Sibil, seeing you in trouble, scrambles out of her niche and grabs a bone, using it as an improvised club.
She batters uselessly against the thin'g swollen abdomen.

* Kol yelps in pain and anger, though the sound is distinctly Un-Zerda-like. He takes a moment to back off from the chittering horrow, clearing himself a moment of space to recoup and recover. He's annoyed that Sibil chose to run back in instead of running AWAY from the beginning. Kol activates the patent energy of one of his tattoos.

Sibil continues her futile assault and is ignored by the spider, which scuttles after you, hungry for your tasty zerda flesh.
It snaps at your legs but you are too quick.

* Kol renews his assault, bolstered by protective magic, despite newer problems.

You stab your blade into the creature's eye cluster.
It sqeals again and withdraws slightly, scuttling backwards.  Then it begins to climb up the wall, picking its way quickly across its webs, making for the ceiling.
Sibil rushes over to you and whispers eldritch words in jatayi, runs a gentle hand across your wound.
Abruptly your strength returns.

* Kol nods his thanks, carefully observing the spider. He isn't inclined to hang around if it wants to leave or-- if in other words-- it's decided to try some new tricks.

Kol- Sibil should run now. It is doing something new.I will cover you.

Sibil nods and makes for the door.

The spider squeals and shoots a gob of webbing at her.
She struggles, stuck in the sticky web.

The creature attempts to leap down atop you, but you roll aside.  Without all of its legs, it cannot brace its fall as effectively, and it hits the floor hard.

* Kol rushes forward to attack now that the spider has once again returned within range of his sword, and he seeks to claim more valuable prizes from it, now that it has begun to truly annoy him.

You plunge your blade into the creature's bulk and tear, ripping open a nasty gash.
The creature makes a horrifying sound and scuttles away.
 You slash at the arachnid as it flees, wounding it again.  Its ichor makes the floor slick.
It continues to withdraw, making for the adjoining chamber.

* Kol is damn sure not planning on letting this go now, after what it's been busy putting him through. He pursues it with his infamous Zerda speed and a pointy stick!

* Kol does something different for once-- instead of tumbling and skittering across the floor, he drops to all fours and breaks into a flat run to pursue the fleeing abomination-- despite his small size, he moves quite fast, easily catching up to the wounded spider. He springs into the air in a high, arcing pounce, leading with his sword. The bone blade pierces through the spider's throax, where Kol leaves it, as he turns his teeth and claws onto the beasts vulnerable cluster of eyes, biting and tearing, and growling angrily until the wretched creature collapses under him and finally stops moving.

The spider shudders and twitches, then lies still, leaking noisome fluids.

Just ahead you see another room similar to the treasure-room you saw earlier.  This chest, however, has not been smashed.

* Kol goes back to find Sibil. The last thing he needs is to deal with another trapped chest. Besides, maybe Sibil has a clue on how to open it. Besides smashing it, anyway.

Sibil struggles and flails, entangled in the spider's webs.
"Cut me free," she says.

* Kol motions for her to be still and moves in with his sword, intending to carefully free her form the webbing.

You cut the webs loose and she disentangles herself.
"Thank you," she says.  "I thought that thing had me."

Kol- Sibil is alright? You must be the plunderer. More in that room there.

She shakes her head.  "I didn't come here to plunder.  I got lost down here, couldn't find my way out.  I thought this place looked deserted."  She shudders.  'Clearly I was wrong."

* Kol tilts his head skeptically.

Kol- Spider ate last one. I have reason to seek you. Loot first, speak later.
 * Kol grins and leads her in the direction of the unsmashed chest.

She follows.

Kol- Can you open it? I could, but it may be trapped. What thoughts do you have?

"I have little skill in such matters.  But one moment."  She whispers a sing-song hex and her eyes flash with witchery.  She looks around.

"The chest is not warded," she says.

Kol- Mechanical Traps? A lack of wards is helpful. But no guarantee...

She shrugs.  "I don't know.  I'm no adventurer."

* Kol inclines his head to back up a few steps, then checks to see if it is indeed locked. Failing the simple solution, he takes a few swings at the chest, to see if there is any hope of him breaking it apart.

The chest is locked, but you can hack it open without too much trouble.

* Kol decides to make it quick before any more locals show up.

A variety of coins spill out - you spot currencies from several different Twilight Cities, and many older coins as well.

* Kol hurriedly tosses them into his pack, figuring its the least he deserves for the whole spider-incident at the moment.

* Kol turns back to Sibil. When he opens his mouth, the words that come out are not Shambles at all. They are, in fact, Jatayi. Mostly. Though heavily accented and pronounced uncertainly as one unfamiliar with speaking a language, his words are undeniably Jatayi.

Kol- I must speak to you. In a safer place than this.Please, follow me now.

She nods.  "You speak the jatayi tongue," she says, wonderingly.  "Where did you learn our speech?"

* Kol taps his ears and smiles.

Kol- Ears are not for show. Close your mouth to listen well. Learn from what is said.

Kol- The surface is safe. I would speak more with you there. A deal to be struck.

She nods, her eyes wide.  "Yes.  The surface... with you, I do not fear the cultists who pursue me."

Kol- If matters end well, then your cultists will be gone. You can then be free.

As you cross the threshold you feel a strange sensation pass over you, making your hackles rise.  The air is filled with a strange charge, and suddenly the room is intensely cold.  Then you hear it - the clatter of bones, the scrape of steel against stone.  The bones strewn across the floor stir and recombine, forming skeletal figures.  The skeletons grab notched cutlasses and other weapons from the floor.  The grave-spawn pirates move towards you, reanimated by some fell witchery, their lipless mouths shrieking corsair-curses in Filchspeak!

Sibil screams.

Kol- (Flicker) Run. Kol distracts. Don't get stabbed.

Kol- Step forward, cowards! Turn now and know my face! Your treasure is mine!

She runs, weaving around the skeletons as best she can.

The skeletons don't seem to be even remotely interested in Sibil.  They close on you slowly, blades gleaming.

The pirates slash at you but you parry, dodge, and tumble away.
They pursue you angrily.

* Kol gives Sibil a few moments to clear the tomb before he himself makes the mad dash for the exit of the tomb, diving past the legs of the skeletons, and heading for the exit, sibil, and hopefully more of Tarim's trail markings.

You dash out of the tomb-chamber and back into the Hall of Figureheads, the skeletons in close pursuit.  Sibil gets to the doorway and makes it into the foyer.  Then the leading grave-spawn pirate shrieks a command word, and a portcullis hidden in the doorway begins to descend!

The porcullis clangs shut, with you on the wrong side!

"Come here and fight you sharkshit breach-loader!" a skeleton shrieks as you struggle to squirm through the bars.

Sibil tugs at your arm.

* Kol figures that, so long as his head fits through the bars, the rest of him will, too. Eventually. The question is whether he can get through before being stabbed repeatedly.

You continue to wriggle and squirm, to no avail.  The pirates are closing fast.  They will be atop you in moments.

You almost make it through, but your pack is stuck.  The pirates close on you, grasping yor bag with bony fingers.

You and Sibil tug at the bag but the pirates have a firm grip on it.  Several of them stick bony arms through the portcullis and fire flintlock pistols at you.
You dance away from the shots.
The pirates continue to swear and pull at the bag.

They have firm grasp of it.  They continue to fire.
Unfortunately some of those ancient firearms don't seem to be working very well.

* Kol thinks that is more than quite fortunate those firearms aren't working

The skeleton pirates pull your bag through the portcullis.

Then the leader speaks the command word again and the portcullis raises.

* Kol wastes no time, simply moving in and attacking the leading skeleton-- the one that apparently has the ability to raise and lower the portcullis.

You cut off the pirate's arm at the elbow.  The bag drops to the floor.
You parry their attacks and dodge the rest.
Another of them levels his pistol and fires.
You dodge the shot.
The bag is on the floor, clutched by a skeletal hand, arm-bone severed at the elbow.
You snatch the bag, dodging a flurry of blows, parrying more.

"Throw it to me!" Sibil says.

* Kol snactches the bag, amidst the jumbled pile of stabbing swords, then tumbles along thorough their feet, bypassing them before they even know he's gotten close to them. as soon as he clears the portcullis, he chances an act of his own and shouts out the same command word the captain used to lower the gate-- hoping it can buy him a few more precious seconds

The portcullis clangs shut, shattering bones as several skeletons are crushed beneath it.

Sibil runs for the exit.
* Kol grins, and gets ready to get into a yelling match with the good 'captain'.

The captain shouts the command word again.  "You briny gribble!"  It curses.  "Get back here!"
Skeletons rush out of the tomb in pursuit.

* Kol utters the close command

Some fire shots, but you zigzag away.  The portcullis closes again, but at least six made it through.

You reach the exit of the tomb.  The pirates stop short of the door.  They seem unable to leave the barrow.
"Sharkshit!  Craven!"  They shout.

* Kol makes funny faces at them for a moment, then makes good on the escaping before they remember how to reload their guns.

You flee the tomb with Sibil close behind, making your back toward familiar tunnels.

"That was close," Sibil says.
You come to a fork in the path.  You think the correct passage is to the right.
Soggy beams support the ceiling.

* Kol grimaces at the beams.

We are not safe yet. This is the way to the end. The roof is unsafe.

The beams creak and the ceiling groans.  Some dust spills down on you.
She looks worriedly at the ceiling.

Kol- (Flicker) The passage is unsafe. Other exits are not known to Koldobika.

"Well, it's held so far... what are the chances of it giving way right now?"

* Kol gives her a look and shrugs.

Kol- (Flicker) Sibil does not have good luck. Koldobika suggest moving quickly, then.

Further along the passage, several enormous barnacles are evident, protruding from the wall.
She nods and hastens onwards
The barnacles, as you near, flick out with obscenely long tongues.  Sibil shrieks and draws back - stumbling into a wooden pillar.
The pillar snaps.   The ceiling groans.  A cave-in is imminent!
Sibil dashes forwards as the passage collapses.  You follow, but a huge section of the ceiling falls, blocking the tunnel.  You can see her through a narrow gap in the stone.
You try to squirm through, but the space looks too tight.

"What should I do?" Sibil asks.

* Kol grimaces. He quickly retrieves a small length of rope from his pack, he tosses one end through and ties the other to his pack.

You make the toss.
You hear something scraping on stone behind you - sounds like claws.
Attracted by the noise, two gigantic crabs, black and evil-loking, scuttle towards you.

"Alright!
* Kol hurriedly scuttles into his back.

Inside the bag the air is stifling.  Youd distantly hear Sibil's voice saying "it's stuck!"
"Got it!" you hear her say.
She opens the bag.
You're on the other side.

* Kol pops out of the bag like an evil rabbit in a magic show, gasping for air. Damn, that was uncomfortable!

Kol- (Flicker) Thanks to Sibil. Resume running.

You continue onwards through the tunnel.  The passage groans again as you leave, and you hear another loud crash as more of the tunnel collapses behind you.

Kol- (Flicker) Koldobika told Sibil.

Up ahead, you can see Tarim's claw-marks on the wall.

* Kol just wants to get the hell out of here. He's wet, soggy, dirty, covering in black ichor, blood, bone meal, and just wants either a bath, or a nice, sandy desert for once.

You follow the claw-marks through a maze of passages back to the surface. You're in the ghetto of Skullford now as evening approaches.  Ghilan vagrants and the occasionally shabby shade eye you and your distinctive companion.

"Thank you again for saving my life," Sibil says. "Now, you had some sort of proposal for me?"

Kol- *Nods* A deal to be struck. You receive aid for your wing, and a means from here.

"And in return?"

Kol- A favor I ask. I may have a fragile thing. Take something with you.

"I see.  What sort of thing?"
Kol- On boat, you will go. Into the depths, it must go. A dangerous pearl.

She nods.  "A pearl, you say.  I see.  Drop it into the sea as I leave.  Do you have it here?"

* Kol shakes his head.

"I see."
Kol- I have not found it. One may find me very soon. Please, dispose of it.

"I agree.  But I will need somewhere to stay in the meantime."

Kol- I offer a boat. I also offer money, to care for your wing.

* Kol nods again.

Kol- I rented a room. You may rest there, and eat too. All within reason.

"Alright.  Thank you.  First I should see a healer.  Where are you staying?

Kol- I will see you freed. The pearl may not be in tow. Gift without request.

Kol- The Rotten Goblet.

She nods.  "Yes.  I have told tales there.  I know of it."

Kol- *The Rotten Goblet. Third room from stairs, second floor. It is found i Skaumn.

* Kol plucks a few of the bands of jewelry from his ears, offering her a few of the bands. (about 50gp)

Kol- To pay a healer. More, when I assess the value, of the pirate coin.

She nods.  "I will seek out a healer and then hasten to the Goblet."

Kol- Oh, do not worry. The one-legged zombie is ours. He guards our new friend.

She cocks an eyebrow.  "I will... keep that in mind."

* Kol bows politely and heads back to the inn to make himself presentable for dinner.

You make your way back to Skaumn and climb the stairs to your room.
As you enter your chamber you hear an ominous click to one side of the door - the sound of a gun being cocked.
"Don't try anything clever now, little zerda," a familiar female voice says.  "I've got Penitence trained on you.  Even you can't move faster than a bullet."  Sister Abra steps from the shadows, her red leather coat tattered with bullet holes, a bandage round one hand.

* Kol sighs heavily. He rolls his head languidly in a 'what now" manner.

"I know you took Absolution.  I'm bound to the pistol, can feel its presence, know where it's been.  It led me here.  Now, very slowly, I want you to take the pistol out, put it on the ground, and step back from it.  Then we're going to have a little conversation about your friend, Kaius Alexander."

* Kol shrugs the back from his shoulders, plant sit on the floor, and opens it. Considering he knows what he wants, he doesn't need to sift through the piles of other random crap he has in there. Absolution is waiting right there. He takes it out and makes to hand it over.

"On the ground."
"Put the pistol on the ground."

* Kol sits.
* Kol puts the pistol on the ground. He is not overly concerned right now. Sure, she might be a pain in the ass bitch, but she doesn't seem unhinged enough to shoot him without provocation.

She picks up the pistol and kicks the door closed.  Red light streams through the window as twilight approaches.
"Thank you, little zerda.  Now.  How long has your friend had that sword of his?"

* Kol considers the question.
Kol- (Flicker) Koldobika does not know. Kaius has possessed the weapon since Koldobika first met him.

"Hmm.  You ever seen him do anything strange, like raise the dead?  Or breathe fire?  Or moving things just by looking at em?"

* Kol nods.

She smiles.  "Thought so.  How long have you known him?  Where's he come from?"

Kol- (Flicker) Koldobika has seen the guns be used. The Koldobika is not stupid. The Koldobika would like to sit. The day has been a pain in the ass.

"I won't shoot you.  Not unless you give me good cause."
 
* Kol nods. Very, very carefully, he unfastens his sword belt, gently setting the weapo nto the ground. Once done, he carefully moves over to his bed and sits. He lets out a contented sigh when he manages this, at least.
Kol- (Flicker) The Koldobika has shared the company of the Kaius for... a small number of months. On and off. Not every day is spent in the company of Kaius. Most. Not all.

"I see.  Know anything about his background?"

Kol- (Flicker) Koldobika knows very little. Kaius comes from Somnambulon. Kol does not know if Somnambulon is the origin, or previous stop.

She nods.  "I'd be willing to wager that's where he was born.  Little zerda, did you know you were travelling with a Revenant?"

* Kol shakes his head.
Kol- (Flicker) Impossible to know what Koldobika does not know about.

She nods.  "Figures he'd keep it secret.  He must be an exile, a renegade, but only the Lords Revenant carry swords like that.  Cereblades, they're called.  Ancient heirlooms, passed down from host to host."

"Could be he killed one.  But you say he has other powers as well.  He must be one.  Is he here now?"

Kol- (Flicker) Koldobika does not know. Koldobika is recently returned from business without Kaius.

"I see.  Well.  That's all I needed to know - for now."  She makes for the door, still aiming one pistol at you.  "This will be our little secret, now, won't it little zerda?  You won't tell anyone I'm in Lophius.  That would be a bad idea."

Kol- (Flicker) Koldobika concurs. Koldobika wishes a means to contact Sister if necessary. The Sister is better informed about events than Koldobika is.

She smiles.  "If you need to get hold of me you can leave a message at the shrine of Striga in the Driftwood District.  I'll come find you."
She opens the door and slips out.

 
* Kaius  fast-trots through the streets of Lophius, intent on securing the Red pearl.

Kol, you follow Kaius through the dripping, dim streets of the city as he winds his way back towards Skaumn.

Kaius, a familiar figure waits for you in the sanguineous pre-dawn gloom by the Elder Bridge which leads to Crooked-Finger: red-coated, black-spectacled, and white-haired, two huge revolvers at her waist and the blood-drop icon of Striga round her neck.  Sister Abra, the Red Templar, favours you with the dim ghost of a smile as you approach.

"Hello there, Mr. Alexander," she says, making sure that you see her hands are nowhere near her weapons.  "I'm just here to talk."

* Kaius  halts before her

* Kol thinks that the crazy lady didn't exactly wait very long to make her presence known. She is, apparently, not one for subtlety.

Kaius - Sister Abra. I had wondered when I would be seeing you again.

"Let's not play games then.  I know what you are.  Don't try denying it.  I've seen that sword you carry.  And you've been making quite a stir here already.  Heard you raised the dead down in Bregm.  Also hear you're a man of your word."

* Kaius  inclines his head
Kaius - Ah. It seems I am.. discovered. Guilty, on both counts.

"So, here's what I propose.  I got nothing against you personally, but I have a code that compels me to act.  I imagine you'd respect that.  I suggest we meet at the Bridge of Bravoes, tonight at midnight.  Settle things properly.  You against me.  A fair fight."

Kaius - I have no quarrel with you, Sister Abra. I do not wish to fight you.

* Kol rolls his eyes. Well, isn't this lovely.

"I don't particularly wish to fight you either Kaius, not after seeing what you can do with that blade.  But my wishes don't enter into this.  It's Striga's wishes I'm concerned with."

* Vetter heads back to the tavern to pass the time until morning

Kaius - I see. And Striga demands my destruction, then?

Vetter comes whistling out of the fog and comes upon Kaius and Sister Abra speaking on his way.

"Of all your ilk.  Nothing personal."

Kaius - All my ilk.
Kaius - What if I were to make you a proposition?

* Vetter stops and glances from one to the other

"I'm listening.  But I doubt I'll be amenable to persuasion."

She nods to Vetter as he appears.

* Vetter tugs at the brim of his hat in acknowledgement

Vetter- Evenin' all.

Kaius - There is another. Konstantine. He has taken something very dear to me, and I intend to see him suffer for it. I freely admit, his power eclipses my own. Would you not find such quarry... more appealing?

"Konstantine?  I thought he was only a legend.  Is he here, now?"

Kaius - He is gone from the City. He returns to his Fortress on the Silent Isle.

"I see.  Well.  Let me counter your proposition with another of my own.  We go to this Silent Isle once you're finished your business here.  We take this Konstantine out, together.  And then, if we're both still alive, we fight to the death.  How's that sound?"

* Kaius  inclines his head once again

* Vetter chuckles to himself at their agreement

Kaius - I accept.

"Very good.  Been a pleasure, Mr. Alexander.  I'd give you the blessing of Striga if it wouldn't burn your flesh.  I'll be at Her shrine in the Driftwood District when you're ready."

* Kaius  nods
Kaius - I will find you there.

She tips her hat and walks off into the early morning mist.

* Kaius  resumes his jog towards the inn

Kaius reaches the 'Rotten Goblet,' Vetter behind, Kol still following stealthily.

* Kaius  ignores everyone in the common room and stomps up the stairs to their rooms

* Vetter goes straight to the bar when he arrives, waving a brief greeting to the others as he does

The dog-faced zombie watches you.

* Kaius  opens the door to the prisoner's room

* Tarim waves back at Vetter

The prisoner is still inside.

Kaius - It is time.

Vetter- Ale, if you'd be so kind.

"Good.  Getting tired of waiting."

* Vetter pays, drinks, wanders over to Tarim.

* Kaius  walks over to him, and secures the manacles about his wrists.

Tarim- Took you surprisingly long to find your way back to the bar
* Tarim chuckles

Vetter- It's been a long ol' night.

* Kol makes his way back into the tavern. He is not open with the group, and tries to favor a position not as openly visible as the bar.

You ensconce yourself in the shadowy recesses of the common room, Kol.

* Vetter flops into a seat and puts his feet up

Tarim- So, you're still set on taking otu the slavers tomorrow?

Vetter- Well, getting killed has never really seemed like much fun to me. So yes, I'm gonna try to take out these slavers.
* Kaius  pulls the prisoner to his feet, guides him down the stairs, through the common room, and out of the inn.

Tarim- I'll make a point preparing some hexes that should make success slightly less improbably on your task

* Kol waits until Kaius leaves, then quickly approaches the group at the bar. He lightly smacks Vetter to get his attention.

Kol- (Flicker) Kaius takes the prisoner. Koldobika is going.

* Kol goes after Kaius, with or without the others.

Vetter- Dreadful kind of ya, Tarim.

Vetter- Prisoner? Kaius? Going? What?

* Vetter downs the rest of his ale and scurries after Kol

Tarim- Watch your backs out there.

The penultimate tier of Crooked-Finger, Pelloch consists of a winding circular street with numerous side-ways and alleys, lined almost exclusively with chance-houses, Imbroglio parlours, dice-halls, and every other variety of gambling institution.  All of them are painted and decorated lavishly, in an array of vivid colours: saffron yellow, sunset pinks, electric blues, blood reds.  Moneylenders hover like vultures at the entrances of these establishments, eyes peeled for those who look down on their luck.
Murals and carved ornaments festoon the various casinos, as do advertisements beseeching passersby to enter or promising them fabulous riches.  "Splatter-Chess: the Game for YOU!" one poster insists; another beseeches you to try your hand something called "The Wheel of Torments"; a third says "No coin? Wager your memories instead, and win the exquisite sensations of your opponents!"  This lattermost poster is pasted to the wall of a place called 'Mnemania.'  The casinos all have similarly outlandish names: 'The Kiss of Fate,' 'Virtus!,' 'The Laughing Eye,' 'The Hall of Chaos,' and 'Thought-Heap.'  There are also numerous fighting pits where, if the signs are to be believed, one can watch an eight-foot tall leechkin wrestle a pair of alligators, or a pair of nude hagman women fight with knives in a pool of mud, or a free-for-all between four zerda slaves (variously white, black, brown, and shaved).
Most of the folk here can be divided into roughly two varieties: laughing, giddy individuals quaffing liqueurs from long flutes or munching on the fried scarab beetles common to various food-vendors (commonly believed to impart good luck on the eater), and forlorn-looking despondents staggering out of the gaming halls with despair or rage written across their downcast faces.
Also prevalent are the local gang, a band of flamboyantly costumed warriors with porcelain masks, painted fingernails, and glittering scale armour.  These sentinels wield a profuse variety of weapons: double-blade swords, punching daggers, bladed bracers, wicked scimitars, and jagged throwing stars, to name a few.  One has an enormous crawfish claw-graft in place of his left hand, another some kind of symbiotic attack-fungus writhing across half of her body.  They seem to be everywhere, ready to respond to any disturbance: when a drunken gambler angrily attacks a moneylender refusing to loan him more coin, a pair of the colourful guards are there in an instant, one subduing him with a whip, the other jabbing him with a stiletto knife.  I a moment the man is either unconscious or dead, the poison on the blade having down its work.  The masked men nod apologetically to the moneylender and drag the drunkard into a gloomy alleyway to do gods-know-what with him.

Kaius - Which of these houses belongs to the Dame?
 
"'The Laughing Eye'," the prisoner responds.

Kaius - Then we go to the Laughing Eye.

Vetter- (flicker) The Vetter fails to understand. The Vetter is here regardless. The Vetter aids the Koldobika Nthanda.

You notice a crestfallen zerda moping out a place called 'Animosity' - it is none other than Ekwanesu Ndi, the perpetually unsuccessful foxfolk trader you encountered in Macellaria.
 
* Kaius  pays no heed to the Zerda and heads straight for the Laughing Eye

Kol- (Flicker) Kaious seeks the pearl of his own initiative.

Ekwanesu, however, smells zerda, sniffing the air.  He spots you and an expression of delight lights up his face.  He hurries over towards you.

* Kol grimaces. This is just too bloody convenient.

"What is this?  Nehmett is not so cruel after all!  He has delivered my old friends here in my time of need!"

Vetter- (grinning somewhat unconvincingly) Ahhh, Ekwanesu old pal! How are ya, mate?

"Vetter!  I am... well, if truth be told, times have been hard."  He takes a deep breath, like there's a long torrent of words coming.

Kol- (Flicker) The need of Ekwanesu can be remedied. (Points forward) Go annoy Kaius. You shall be granted payment.

Vetter- Tell me ab... wait, I mean, hasn't it been hard for us all, eh?

Kol- (Flicker) Kol and Vetter be not mentioned.

"What?  Are old friend Kaius is here as well?!?  Praise Nehmett!"
He looks around, quickly spots the armoured warrior, and ducks through the crowd towards him.

* Kaius  grimaces

Kaius, you are suddenly assailed by a very small, very bedraggled zerda practically clinging to your legs, alternatively praising the gods and begging for your aid.

Kaius - What do you want, troublesome fox?
Kaius - Leave me be. I have no time for your games.

* Vetter is starting to think it was worth coming, just to see this

"No games!  Only a chance for mutual profit!  Great riches will be ours!  And I will be delivered.  Kaius, do not desert me!  You are the source of my salvation!"

* Kaius  grunts

Kaius - I sense that I cannot dissuade you. So speak.

* Kol would be laughing his furry arse off if he wasn't trying to keep hidden.

Kaius - You have one minute.

Ekwanesu nods.  "I find myself once again in some trouble... With the money we gleaned from the sale of those grave-goods in Macellaria I was able to pay off most of my debts, and after gambling a sum on the mantid now known as the Reaper, I made a great deal more - enough not only to satisfy the moneylenders but to begin a new business selling combat drugs to would-be gladiators.  The new trade was just beginning to pick up - until the plagues began to wrack the city, and looters broke into my shop and stole my wares!  All of my money was tied up in the merchandise; I was left penniless, bruised, and without a hope of restarting my business.  Desperate, I joined a group fleeing the city, slipping out moments before the militia quarantined the gates.

"It was an arduous journey.  Once I nearly died of swamp-fever; another time quicksand almost claimed my life; but eventually we made it here, to this accursed city."  He spits on the street-stones contemptuously.  "I had no money once again, and I could not work as a labourer, as we zerda are too small for such strenuous work.  The drug-trade proved difficult to break into, as well...
« Last Edit: August 05, 2018, 07:04:10 PM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #201 on: August 05, 2018, 07:05:22 PM »

Lophius Part 2

Eventually I found work as a message-runner, scampering through the streets and over the bridges, but this was tiresome and perilous work, for some of the messages displeased those who received them, and often I was forced to flee as some madman tried to vent his aggressions upon me with knife or pistol!

Kaius - And?
"I quit this horrible job and borrowed money to begin a new business, for in my heart I am a trader.  This time I invested in selling prayer-candles to pilgrims in the Driftwood District.  This proved successful, at first.  However, there are other candle-sellers and knickknack peddlers in the Driftwood District - a gang of mean-spirited, malignant children who resented my business.  They formed a mob and threw my wares into the sea, and would have thrown me in as well, but I ran from them and escaped.

"Thus I found myself once again without goods to sell and in debt to moneylenders.  Remembering the money I made betting on the fights in Macellaria I came to this place, to try to turn my bad luck into good."  He spreads his paws.  "Nehmett, however, proved unkind in this regard... I am now worse off than when I arrived, and from what I hear, the moneylenders here are even more vicious than those in the City of Bodysnatchers.  They will dip you in a tank of piranhas, I hear, with only your nose above water, and let the fish nibble you to death; or they will sell you to the fighting-pits themselves.  I feared a dire fate awaited me... but now, you are here, and my prayers are answered, for I know a way not only to remedy my ill fortune but to help you turn a profit as well!"

Kaius - ...And?

"When I ran from the children - I cannot swim, you see, and was afraid that if they threw me into the sea I would surely drown - I took shelter on a certain shipwreck into which I knew they would not follow me, a vessel called the 'Licentious Hellion.'  Humans and their odd names!  Why does a boat need a name, I ask you?  Names are for living things... in any case, everyone in the Driftwood District speaks of this 'Licentious Hellion' as a cursed ship.  It is said that once the ship had a shrine on it, dedicated to the Barnacled God, sometimes called Shuddegoth, one of the beast-gods known to slumber beneath the sea.  Corsairs used to bring a portion of their ill-gotten treasure to the shrine in order to incur the Barnacled God's favour; the hierophants stowed these riches in the ship's hold.  One day, however, one of the clerics grew greedy and tried to make off with a particularly beautiful gemstone.  The Barnacled God was greatly angered and cursed the hierophant, transforming him into a brinegeist, a sea-phantom; the creature lurched into the shrine, vomiting forth tainted water, and any whom the water touched were turned into brinegeists themselves.  The ship was abandoned and wards set about its doors and hatches, to prevent the creatures from leaving, but the people of Lophius dared not burn the vessel, for fear of inciting the Barnacled God's wrath once again.
"Of course I thought this story nothing more than a silly superstition, but when I crept down into the hold to hide from my tormentors, there I saw the fabled treasure, heaped in piles!  My eyes doubtless grey large as dinner plates, but as I moved to seize the silver and jewels, I heard a dreadful moan and saw a malformed figure lurch towards me from the shadows.  Instantly I fled the place, fearing for my life, and had to run from Murmur Isle to the Viper's Head to shake the angry children waiting outside for me!

"I dare not return for the riches on my own - they may still be cursed, after all!  But surely such a skilled sorcerer as Tarim (is that excellent ghul still with you?) could lift the curse, and I know you to be a stout warrior, more than capable of putting the foul spirits of the 'Licentious Hellion' to rest.  I could lead you through the wooden maze of the Driftwood District to the right ship, a task which would take you many hours without a guide... I ask only enough to repay my debts and start a new business; the rest is yours."

He pants a little after this long story.

* Kaius  appears supremely nonplussed

Kaius - If what you say is true, there is potential for great profit, which I am not unamenable to. My current business is pressing. We will discuss this later.

He nods vigorously.  "Where can I reach you?!?"

Kaius - ...You will find myself... and Tarim, at the Rotten Goblet.

Kaius - He is there now, if you wish to see him.

"Excellent!  I will go there at once and tell him of my proposition!  Nehmett favour you, Kaius!"

* Kaius  grunts
* Kaius  continues his course towards the Laughing Eye, prisoner in tow.

The interior of 'The Laughing Eye' is lavish in the extreme, built of opulent materials - red marble floors from the Chelicerae Mountains, crystal chandeliers, lamps of stained glass.  Niches on the walls hold statuettes of gold, jade, and ivory - gods and goddesses of fortune as well as those dedicated to wealth, from the amorphous hagman Aspect known as Nemoch to the Faceless God of fate and doom to the Archdemon Mamonas to the mischievous zerda deity of Nehmett and dozens of others besides.

The entire casino is ellipsoid, built in the shape of an eye.  The outermost layer of the chance-house consist of curving gaming tables where patrons throw bone dice (some of them very oddly shaped) or play at cards or roulette-games.  Arched doorways around the periphery, in-between the various statuettes, lead to private chambers, Imbroglio rooms, and staff-only offices.
The center, or "pupil," of the casino consists of a fighting pit, a ring around which gamblers have congregated.  A woman you take for Dame Fortune herself sits above the pit on a golden throne, flanked by masked guards in red leather suits who cool themselves with wickedly razored fans.  The woman in the chair is also masked; in her sumptuous velvet dress, she resembles a magistra of Skein, though she has no demoniac familiar.  She also wears a black leather choker in which a huge, crimson pearl is set.
Three combatants currently spar in the fighting pit in a confused, constantly shifting melee.  One is a shadowmancer, a wiry bravo with ink-black skin who seems to flicker in and out of materiality, momentarily merging with the shadows of the pit only to manifest suddenly and attack with an Erebhite sickle-sword.  The second is a hagman retiaria armed with dagger, net, and trident, who slithers around the pit blocking attacks with her bracers, looking for an opportunity to ensnare an opponent with her net.  The third is a huge man, of a height with the mountainous Servius Izar but with a massive belly.  He fights with a huge halberd, and his bronzed flesh is armoured with metal plates which have been grafted to his skin.  Though his head is encased in a battered steel helmet, you recognize the third fighter as Tormbolge, an adventurer you met on your way to the jatayi eyrie of Shan-Szut.  You spot his partner, the eternally prepubescent ghul called Lucius, smoking a cigarillo and watching the fight below with interest.

* Kol continues following with Vetter in tow. Kol grows more concerned.

Kol- (Flicker) Kaius is here with no support. Kaius possess either no plan or a new plan. Vetter has a thought on this matter.

* Kaius  grasps the prisoner's manacles firmly, and moves to watch the fight

And who do you think will win, pit fighter?

Vetter- (flicker) The Vetter has no thoughts. The Kaius is beyond the Vetter.

"The big one.  He may look slow, but watch.  I've seen him before."

*Kaius puts 5 drachmae on Tormbolge, placing his bet to a passing attendant.

The bout takes several minutes to run its course - the warriors are either evenly matched or are putting on a good show.  In the final moments of the matchup the hagman female hurls her net at the cumbersome Tormbolge, but the grafted fighter suddenly begins to quiver from the effects of thrum and darts aside with preternatural nimbleness.  He hooks the retiaria's trident skilfully, then swings his halberd in a downward chop, slicing off her dagger-hand; he finishes the gladiator off by thrusting the spearhead of his weapon through her throat.

* Kol knows better than to gamble.

Kaius, Kol, you notice the red pearl around Dame Fortune's neck flicker briefly as the hagman fighter dies.

* Kaius  raises an eyebrow

* Kol grimaces unhappily.

Meanwhile, the shadowmancer, who had been skirting the edge of the pit, darts in and hacks at Tormbolge's back.  He gives the warrior a nasty scratch before the gargantuan man slowly turns, parries a blow with the steel haft of his weapon, and body-slams the dark-skinned bravo into the wall, winding him badly and causing him to drop his sword.  In a flicker of steel Tormbolge's halberd is poised at the shadowmancer's throat; the Erebhite raises his palms, yielding, and the throned woman declares Tormbolge victorious.  A smattering of applause (and a few moans of despair) accompanies the victory; Lucius is visibly pleased, collecting large numbers of chips.
* Vetter looks around, trying to estimate the number and locations of guards in the place

* Kaius  presses through the crowd with his prisoner, approaching the dais of Dame Fortune.

* Kol tries to get close enough to be able to hear Kaius' words clearly.

Probably a dozen guards, three near the entrance, five or six walking through the crowd and around the periphery of the room, and the rest stationed at other doorways.
You spot an unguarded door in one corner from which staff occasionally emerge carrying trays of food.

Kaius, you approach the dais.  The two bodyguards attending her eye you suspiciously.

* Kaius  approaches one of the guards

Kaius - I return this prisoner to Dame Fortune. I claim the bounty.

The guard says nothing but takes the prisoner in hand and gestures for you to step forward.  Dame Fortune looks down towards you.

* Vetter snares three drinks from a passing tray - one vanishes down his gullet immediately, the other two he starts sipping alternately

* Kol figures that Vetter is probably more than happy to hit free drinks. The problem may lie in dragging him away from the bookies.

"So, you stole a contract from that scabrous thief-taker I hired, did you?  And what would you like me to pay you for this creature's return?"
She gestures contemptuously to the clawed pit-fighter.

Kaius - My proposal is unorthodox. Perhaps it should be discussed in privacy.

* Kaius  inclines his head

"Hmm.  Very well, you have intrigued me."  She gets up, and the guards gesture for you to follow her towards a back-room.

* Kaius  does so

* Kol narrows his eyes. His trust for Kaius is quickly evaporating.

* Vetter will follow Kol's lead

A curtain is parted before you, Kaius.  Ahead you see a backroom, genteelly appointed, with a side-table laden with decanters of fine liquor.  You distantly hear screams, previously muffled by the sounds of the casino.

* Kaius  pays them no mind

Kol- (Flicker) Vetter will wait near the exit.

"Don't mind the racket," Dame Fortune says.  "Unfortunately some of my patrons have it in heir heads that they can cheat in my establishment."

Kaius - Ah. How unwise of them.

Kaius, suddenly three guards push their way very hastily through the crowd toward you.
"Stop right there!" one of them hisses. "That man is a thief!"

Kaius - And what do you accuse me of stealing?

One of the guards in front of you interposes himself between you and Dame Fortune.  "We've been told you plan to steal from the Dame.  Where's that zerda..."

* Kol creeps closer to the newly-delivered gladiator.

Kaius - There is no truth to this accusation.
Kaius - I have no desire to steal from Dame Fortune. I wish to negotiate.
Kaius - Who has lied to you so greivously?

"None of your concern.  Negotiate, is it?  We'll be taking your weapons.  Then we'll be asking a few questions."

Kaius - Perhaps this decision should be left to Dame Fortune. This is her establishment, is it not?
Kaius - Is this your desire, my lady?
Kaius - I intend no harm to your person or property, this I swear.

* Vetter starts to sidle over to the unguarded door he saw earlier

Kaius - If you have been informed otherwise.. well, there are many who would see me undone.

You see Koldobika skulking in the shadows.

* Kaius  raises an arm, and points

Kaius - There is a zerda there. Is that who you seek?

* Vetter swears horribly under his breath

The guard who accused you nods.  "Yes.  Zerda, come forward."

* Kol steps forward.

* Kol looks about to see who wishes to address him first.

She's watching this unfold, an intrigued expression on her face.  "Bring them both in, and take their weapons."  She looks to Kaius.  "They'll be returned if you truly do intend no harm.  Of that *I* swear."

* Kaius  inclines his head

Kaius - As you wish, my lady.

Kol, Kaius, the guards move to divest you of weaponry.

* Kol hands over his one sword.

* Kaius  raises his arms, and allows them to take his guns and cereblade

You are shown into the well-appointed back-room.  The screams are dying down now, reduced to feeble whimperings.

[This is where the gap seems to be]
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« Reply #202 on: August 05, 2018, 07:06:09 PM »

Lophius Part 3

You're entering a backroom of the Laughing Eye casino to have a private talk with Dame Fortune.  The pit fighter ghnar is with you, in bonds.  Kol, having been apprehended by the Dame's guards, is also present.
The gangboss gestures for you to sit on one of the plush divans in the backroom.

* Kaius  inclines his head, and takes a seat.

"So.  Explain yourselves, gentlemen," she says.

Kaius - Dame Fortune. I have come here to treat with you on a matter most urgent. Allow me to explain myself.

* Vetter attempts form a humanoid smile in what he hopes is an ingratiating manner, and waits for the others to do the talking

Kaius - I am a lawfully appointed envoy of the Conclave of Macellaria, in Lophius on official business. My City seeks to engage a contract with the Pale Legion, but as of yet that is impossible. They are detained here by the unfinished business of their previous contract with a consortium of... leading citizens of this City - yourself among them, I am told.

Dame Fortune nods.  "You have been informed correctly."

* Vetter nervously loiters by the door they went through, wondering how useful he could be if things go wrong... and if he even should be useful

Kaius - The Zoch/Kthaal continues to evade their grasp, and as long as it lives, they cannot depart. For obvious reasons, I seek to aid the Legion in the destruction of this.. Lordly Leech. An effort I am sure you wish to see succeed.

Kaius - At the behest of the Legion I have treated with the Green Beldam. She has agreed to lend me the aid of her vision, but there is a price. And so I come to you, Dame Fortune. I have returned your fighter to you as a gesture of my own good faith, and ask only that you consider my entreaty. As for this Zerda...

* Kaius  turns to Koldobika, and narrows his eyes.

* Koldobika flashes you a dark look.

Kaius - His accusations are false. I could not say why he seeks to set us against each other, but it is plain that my undoing is his only motive here. There was a time when we were companions. But it seems that time is past.

* Koldobika begins to sign.

Dame Fortune holds up a manicured hand to cut him off.

"You will have a chance to explain yourself," she assures him.

Kaius - As for the price that the Beldam demands...

"Now.  What is the witch's price?  How does this involve me?"

The jewel about your neck. The Red Pearl. This is her price.

The Dame puts a hand to her neck.  "And you expect me to part with the pearl to help your little errand?  Are you quite serious?"

Kaius - ooc: clotfeeder told everyone about waking a beast god, right?

Vetter, you feel a strange sensation - like something just passed close by you.  You didn't see or hear anything, but your hairs are all on end.

* Vetter nervously licks the point where his grafted claw joins his wrist, eyes darting about him

Kaius - The Zoch/Kthaal seeks to summon an infant godling from the depths. With it, he will consume the City of the Lamprey, and bring about the City of the Leech.
Kaius - You will die. The City will die.

The Dame opens her mouth to respond, a frown on her face.  Before she can speak, something seems to materialize behind her.  The hairs on the back of your neck stand up - there is some witchery being unravelled, a glamer peeling away.  A gaunt, near-skeletal figure steps out from a shadow, the Vanishment ward that concealed it dissipating as it moves.  The intruder is a shade, its embalmed flesh tanned to leather; it holds a pair of black daggers in its hands formed from glyph-etched ur-bone.

Kaius - If you do not believe what I say, send a runner to the Legatus -
* Kaius  bolts to his feet
The black daggers flicker out so fast that you can't quite follow them.  The assassin slices the blades in a horizontal sweep, sliding them past one another.  The razor-sharp edges cut neatly through the Dame's neck, effortlessly passing through skin, muscle, and spine.  There is almost no sound.  For a moment the Dame sits perfectly still, her head still atop her shoulders; then she twitches, and her head tumbles forwards and hits the ground with a crack.  Her head was severed just below her choker.

* Kaius  winds up with a right hook

The guards lunge towards the assassin but the shade is already darting aside.  Koldobika bolts for the back exit.

* Kaius  stumbles as the shade evades him
Kaius - The pearl!

* Kaius  tears off after the assassin

* Vetter stands slack-jawed for a second, then curses happily and scampers after them

The shade runs nimbly through the crowd, while the guards are slowed by those in the way.

Vetter- (shouting to anyone who cares to listen) What happened? What happened? Why are we chasing him?

Kaius telekinetically snatches up your sword.

* Kaius  scrambles for Dame Fortune's severed head

The guards ignore you, Vetter.  The shade seems to be making not for the door but for a shadowy corner of the casino.  As it enters the gloom, the darkness seems to envelop it, and suddenly it is gone, having somehow used the shadow as a door to - somewhere else.

The head rests in a pool of blood.

* Kaius  rips the choker from the stump of her neck

The casino is in chaos - people jostling to get away.

* Vetter wheels around when he sees the shade vanish and makes for the back room, trying to get there before the guards notice

You duck through the crowd to the backroom.  Kaius stands over the Dame's headless body.

Vetter- Did you...? Wait, no I'll wager it was the shade what did her in, no?

* Kaius  stares at the pearl

Kaius - Yes.

Vetter- Where's Kol?

Kaius - He left.

The pit fighter growls at you.  "Cut my bonds."

Vetter- What way?

* Kaius  shrugs and slices through them
* Kaius  points towards the back exit

The former slave heads down the back-way.

* Vetter bolts off after Kol

Kaius - I suppose we had best leave.

* Kaius  shrugs again as Vetter runs off

You find a corridor that leads to a back door, open to the alleyway.  There's no sign of Kol.

* Kaius  follows them at a brisk walk

Vetter- Gleet's sake...

Kaius - It seems we are doing things my way after all, Vetter.

* Kaius  claps him on the shoulder

Vetter- ha! That it does

Kaius - Come. Back to the inn.

Vetter- I just hope Kol's come to no harm...

Kaius - I have a pearl to deliver.

* Vetter follows Kaius

You return to the Rotten Goblet.  Tarim and Lhars are in the common room.

Vetter- You two seen Kol? He ran off.

Tarim- He hasn't been here since you left

* Kaius  sits down next to them

Kaius - Two down. One to go.

* Kaius  opens his palm for a moment, revealing the red pearl.

Blood drips through your gauntleted fingers from the gem.


Tarim- Truly? I guess the Dame Fortune was worthy of neither her reputation nor her namesake

* Kaius  smirks, and secrets it back on his person.

Kaius - Ah. Our work was done for us. A mysterious benefactor.

Kaius - I laid not a hand on her.

Tarim- A stroke of fortune, then? There is some wicked irony to that, that I find to my liking.
* Tarim flashes a smile

Kaius - Lhars. I have need of your boat.

Vetter- What he means is some hexed shade shanked her up right properly. Her head was clean off on the floor.

Kaius - I must deliver this pearl to the Beldam. Immediately.

Lhars- where do you wish to be taken?

Kaius - Yes.

Lhars- Do we not need the final pearl?

Kaius - Perhaps we will find it on the way.

Lhars- True, although I would prefer to be the one laying the ambush when facing that black beast
Lhars- So be it then. Who is coming?

Kaius - I am no swampbeast, to lie in wait for such a creature. If he comes to us, he comes to us. If not, then not.

Lhars- I can hear you are not much of a hunter, friend

Vetter- I'll come,

* Lhars nods

Kaius - And you, Tarim? Has your lust for coin been sated?

Tarim- If you wish for my aid in hunting for this beast, the answer is the same as with Dame Fortune: until I've had time to recover from the recent ordeal, I'll not move an inch from this inn.

Tarim- I would not *be* of much assitance otherwise, anyway.

Kaius - Time is not a luxury I possess.

Tarim- Good luck with your hunt, then

Lhars- Sleep well

Lhars- If we do not encounter the beast we will come back to pick you up

* Kaius  rises from his seat, and turns to exit the inn.

Lhars- You can rest on the Eel if you will, but I'm afraid I cannot offer much comfort

* Vetter follows Kaius, checking and loading his pistol

Tarim- The rooms here are far more comfortable, despite the leaky roof and rotting walls

The swamps are as you remember them, Kaius - the waterways are clotted with a loathsome sallow discharge, a slick of foul-smelling pus floating on the surface.

Kaius - Blackscales has been this way, it seems.

* Vetter seems even more surly than usual on the journey to the swamp

You locate the Beldam's cave with little difficulty.  It seems almost that each time you come here her lair is easier to find.

Lhars- as long as he is not here now

* Kaius  steps from the boat, and proceeds to the cave.

* Vetter also enters the cave

The Green Beldam awaits you, her expression inscrutable.

Vetter- Well met, milady Beldam.
Kaius - Beldam. I return again. I bring you the Red.

"Excellent.  And now, I imagine you desire to learn more of your comrade, the woman on the ship?"

* Kaius  opens his palm again, revealing the pearl.
Kaius - I do. Tell me.

Lhars- (whisper to Vetter) I thought we came to know more of our adversaries?

Vetter- What woman on... Oh, yes, the strapping beauty from the slave-markets, eh?

She reaches for the pearl and begins chanting in a weird, ululating language, some backwoods dialect of Hextongue with strange rhythms and glottal chirps.  The red pearl shimmers.  Within its sanguineous depths, images begin to form.  You see a chamber of dark stone.  Eugenie is chained to a wall; the two Gray Matrons linger nearby, watching her intently.  Konstantine steps from the shadows, looking vexed.
"I will ask you once more, before I begin draining your blood," he growls.  Sounds are muffled, as if you were hearing them from underwater.  "Where is the Arkanum?"

* Vetter frowns

Lhars- (hisses) what is this?

Eugenie spits on the floor.  One of the Grey Matrons hisses and touches her, and black puissance courses through Eugenie's body.  She convulses, back arching, then lies back, shivering, breath coming in short gasps.

* Kaius  stares into the depths of the pearl, a hard look on his face.

Konstantine sighs.  "Very well.  Agnes, a syringe, if you please.  We will learn the truth if we have to drain her dry."

Suddenly he seems to look straight towards you.  "Ah.  We are observed.  I will tell you again, Mr. Alexander.  Stay out of my affairs.  This is your final warning."

* Vetter chuckles cruelly at this turn of events

* Kaius  growls deep in his throat

The pearl glows suddenly brighter.  The Beldam shrieks and drops it; it rolls cross the floor.  Her hands have been horribly burnt.

Vetter- I warned you, Kaius, I warned you, don't say I didn't. That Konstantine is not to be trifled with.

Kaius - Eugenie.

* Kaius  drops his hand to the hilt of the Cereblade

Kaius - I must go to her.
Kaius - Now. I must go now.

Vetter- Then you go to die.

* Kaius  shakes his head

The Beldam pants, staring at the pearl in horror.

Kaius - Does it please you, Beldam?

She stares at her hands, not seeming to hear you.  She seems shocked at what occurred.

Lhars- Who is this woman?
Kaius - I know you could so easily find the leech. I know.

"You made an agreement with me.  Three pearls, and I would find the leech."  Her composure is regained.  She clasps her burnt hands in her lap.

Kaius - But your price has not been paid yet, has it?

Lhars- Kaius. You disrespect the Beldam!

"It has not."

* Vetter goes to the beldam and offers water from his waterskin to sooth her burns

Kaius - A third, then. I will get it for you now. Where is Blackscales? Where does he hide and lick his wounds?

* Kaius  looms over her

She allows you to bathe her hands, saying nothing.  "You have wounded the beast; it has retreated to its lair.  Follow the trails of pus; they will lead you to it."

Lhars- How do you plan to kill him? He is not easy prey. Many have died trying to catch him.

Kaius - I will not be one of them.

* Kaius  snatches up the red pearl from where it lies on the floor

Kaius - I will bring this back when I have the Black.

The Green Beldam glares at you.  "No!  Leave the pearl here!"

Kaius - Do you desire the Black? There is power in this Pearl, I can feel it.

She says nothing.  Her expression is defiant.

Vetter- Kaius! What do you gain by keeping it from her? You intend to give it to her eventually anyhow.

Lhars- Of course she does, and you were fool enough to make this bargain. What is done is done. Let us finish this and save my city before it is too late.

Kaius - I do not keep it from her. Blackscales is no easy prey. I need every advantage.

She shrugs, as if she doesn't care at all.  "Do as you will."

Vetter- And what advantage is that hexed trinket, eh?

Kaius - Do you object, Sara Scumblood? Do you not think me capable? Do you fear the loss of this Pearl? I have given you my word, and I will do as I have said.

"Very well.  Bring me the Black, and the Red with it.  Go."

* Vetter shakes his head and, with a nod to the Beldam, departs from the cave

* Kaius  turns and leaves

Kaius - Lhars. Return to the City. I am loathe to say this, but perhaps we need that witch.

* Kaius  grips the Red Pearl tightly
* Vetter dozes in the boat on the journey

You pole them back to Crooked-Finger, Lhars.

* Kaius  takes the empty thong from his neck, where once he incubated against his own breast. He looks at it for a moment, and binds the Pearl.

* Vetter enters the Rotten Goblet

Vetter- Tarim! We're going to kill a lizard! Coming?

* Kaius  stands silently at the door

Tarim- Hm, I thought that's what you were going to do. No luck with the hunt so far?

Kaius - We returned a pearl. We return for you to seek another.

Vetter- We went to see the Beldam, she scryed Konstantine, Konstantine saw us, Kaius and the Beldam had an argument. Now, the lizard.

* Tarim rolls his jewel-set eye implants at Vetter's report

* Vetter shrugs as if to say "I don't see why we didn't go after Blackscales straight away"

Kaius - Time presses. Presses. Presses.

Tarim- As luck would have it, I am finished with my preparations

* Kaius  grips the hilt of the Cereblade tightly.

Tarim- So yea, I will accompany you

Vetter- Ain't that just delightful. Let's be off then.

Kaius - Then let us waste no more time. Come. The boat waits.

* Tarim stands up from his chair and streches, evidently in no hurry

You return to Lhars and the Eel.  Once more you set off towards the Maw.

Tarim- Alright. I better leave the rotting hound here. No need to offer a snack to old Blackscales

The putrid slick leads you deep into the depths of the marshland.  As you follow it, the pus-trail thickens and grows even more malodorous.  Clouds of infected blood swirl in the water below you as well.

* Tarim bends over the boat's side and heaves

The stench of the infected discharge is truly appalling.

* Vetter chuckles at Tarim's predicament

Tarim- This marsh is one gleeting cesspool!

* Kaius  purses his lips, his face somewhat greyer than usual.

Up ahead you can see a small lagoon.  Gouts of pus float on the brackish water, which is stained a dark red colour.

* Vetter draws and cocks his pistol

Kaius - Footing is unsure regardless of where we stand, aboard this craft, or on the land.

* Kaius  shakes his head, as if clearing it of some unwanted influence

* Vetter looks around at the others, as if awaiting their decision on what to do

Kaius - We are out of our element, and in that of Blackscales. Lhars. You are familiar with the terrain.

Vetter- Oh, come on! We're dithering like old women! We must decide, now! Must I decide for us?

* Kaius  grabs a rock from the shore nearby via telekinesis, and brings it to his hand.

* Vetter how far are we from the lagoon?

* Tarim busies himself with hexcraft while the others argue for the best course of action. One of his tattoos bloats, the ink spreading to cover his skin from head to toes, transforming it to hardened leather.

Lhars, you cast around and see several positions where you could tie your boat up safely, including a small island with moss-grown cliffs along one side.  You can also help the party avoid any sinkholes and the like if you venture ashore.

Kaius - Take us ashore.

Lhars- So be it

Kaius - The creature is at home in water, perhaps less so on land.

Lhars- I will take to the water and see where he is hiding

You tie up at the egde of the lagoon.

* Kaius  picks his way around the barrier ring

You skirt the egdes of the lagoon.  Despite his immense size it is initially hard to see Old Blackscales, as the enormous crocodile is half-submerged and partially concealed in a mass of water-reeds, its gigantic black form further obfuscated by mist and darkness.  The beast is given away by the mass of pale maggots feasting on the suppurated wound at its neck.  The savage injuries Koldobika and Kaius gave the creature have festered, and the throat-wound is now a half-healed mass of semi-coagulated scab matter, oozing blood, crusted pus, and squirming larvae.  The monstrous beast lies perfectly still; you might almost think it dead until it lazily opens its massive green eyes. The creature eyes you warily, but makes no movement.

* Tarim stares warily at the monstrous beast, whispering the words of a hex.

[2012-01-30 14:22:46]  * Vetter levels his pistol at it and waits for it to come closer

* Tarim 's legs suddenly lift off the ground and he slowly ascends, hoping not to startle the beast with too sudden a movement

The beast ignores you.  In order to keep the creature visible you will not be able to fly too high - the mist is too thick here. Still, you can ascend some distance.

* Vetter sighs and takes out his other pistol, loads it, cocks it, and aims that at Blackscales, the first pistol laid on a rock near at hand
* Vetter sees Kaius moving up and follows him with a pistol in each hand

* Tarim calls to the others as loud as he dares: "Let us all be ready, and strike simultaneously"

* Tarim ceases his approach of the old Blackscales at what he considers a reasonably safe distance. He invokes a tattoo, which lights his eyes with eldritch glow. Once everyone seems ready, he lets loose a spell of black puissance, shooting out from his clawed hand.

As Vetter approaches the beast, it moves with speed that is shocking for its enormous bulk, a black blur of scales and teeth and monstrous green eyes.  It lunges at the tiny foxman with jaws gaping, its breath unbearably foul, yellow teeth glistening, slaver dribbling, the wound at its throat seeping pus.

* Kaius  's visor flies open. His jaw pops hideously as it opens impossibly wide. Smoke pours out from his throat. A roaring gout of flame flies towards Blackscales!

The flames sear the creature's underbelly, black scales crisping.  The bullets hit it full in the face while Tarim's hex causes its sinews to shrivel and wither.  The black horror ignores this assault contemptuously.

The creature, marginally slowed by the attack, lunges towards Vetter, but the zerda manages to dodge aside after discharging his pistols.  Blackscales thrashes his tail towards Tarim, but the ghul magus is too high.

* Tarim darts quickly out of the beast's enormous tail as it lashes like a whip at him. He begins to circle the site like a vulture above a carcass. Even as the arcane flight carries him through the misty air, he works the motions and words of a spell to hasten himself and his comrades with preternatural speed

Blackscales twists and lunges again, snapping Vetter into his mouth.  Then he turns, striking Kaius with his tail and sending the armoured warrior flying.

* Kaius  grunts as the air whooshes out of his lungs

You are sent into shallow waters, landing amidst a mass of pus and blood.

Vetter is jostled madly in the beast's mouth, and one shot ricochets off a tooth, but the other buries itself in Blackscales' skull.  The creature roars in pain.

You leap from the beast's jaws.

* Kaius  rolls to his feet, takes a few running steps, and coils as if to strike.

* Vetter shouts invectives in Zerda as his flies through the air

The beast swats you again with its tail as you leap through the air.

* Kaius  twists in the air like a cat as the tail wallops him, he flies towards Blackscales, all his weight bearing down on the Cereblade.

You drive your blade deep into the creature.  It roars again, thrashing. You manage to stay on top of the beast.

* Tarim withdraws to a safer distance from the battlefield, where he can just make out the silhouettes of old Blackscales and those of his fighting comrades through the fog. Hovering in mid-air, he raises his arms in a ritual gesture and croaks rasping words that create ominous ripples in the murky swamp-water beneath him. In answer to his unwholesome call, an abominable form appears at the fringes of the lagoon, swimming toward the fight.

A leviathan beast - not as big as Blackscales but gigantic nonetheless - breaches the pus-covered surface of the lagoon and lunges at Blackscales.  It could be that the beast has children - this may be one of its monstrous offspring, urged by Tarim's hex to attack its own sire. Its jaws fasten round the beast, fangs digging deep into its flesh.

You are thrown off Blackscales to the ground below. You hit the ground hard, but you manage to land on your feet.

* Vetter dashes away from the battling monstrosities, sliding into cover behind a nearby rock and scrambling to reload his three-barreled pistol

Your first two harpoons embed themselves, but Blackscales ignores them. Your third harpoon hits the creature in the eye.The harpoon quivers this way and that, humours leaking from  the injury.

* Kaius  lays into Blackscales belly with a savage flurry of blows.

You hack at the creature, wounding it savagely.  Blood sprays everywhere, spattering your armour.
* Tarim closes in somewhat and opens fire with his rifle

Your bullet ricochets off the creature's scales. The beast turns, swiping the other crocodile with its tail and lunging to snap its jaws at Kaius. It closes its jaws round your waist while sending the other crocodile lurching backwards into the lagoon.

Tarim's hexed beast gathers its strength for another attack.  It springs towards Blackscales, teeth glinting, and rips out the creature's throat.  Maggots and infected tissue spew from the wound as the beast feasts on Blackscale's flesh. Gradually the huge crocodile falls still.

* Kaius  sheathes the Cereblade, breathing heavily.

Kaius - The pearl, the pearl, the pearl.

* Tarim descends to land. Quickly inspecting the carcass to make sure it's dead, he orders his summoned beast to back off a bit.

The creature growls but turns aside from its gory meal.

* Kaius  starts cutting into the beast's stomach

* Vetter pokes his head out from cover, and surveys the scene.

You move along the crocodile's belly till you sense the pearl's presence.  You cut open its belly and a massive stream of steaming entrails burst free.

Tarim- Don't take too long. My control over this lizard will not last forever.

Rooting around in its viscera you eventually find the pearl, embedded in its innards.

* Kaius  picks it up, holding it between two fingers, his gaze flicks over it.

* Tarim gestures to let the smaller crocodile resume it's meal
 
The party stands over the corpse of Old Blackscales.  Kaius has just cut the black pearl out of the beast's entrails.

Kaius - And now, three. Come, the witch awaits.

Lhars- You are sure of this?

Kaius - Why would I not be?

* Kaius  starts heading back to the Spatter Eel

Lhars- Many in this party have voiced... concerns over the intentions of the Beldam

Kaius - Irrelevant.

Lhars- You included

Kaius - I have not.

* Vetter dusts himself off and follows Kaius

Lhars- You were less than respectful of the Beldam last time we visited. So you have no concerns?

Kaius - None.

Lhars- Do you have any idea what kind of power you are placing in her hands? This is ancient magic –bad magic perhaps. I have seen its like corrupt before.

Kaius - That is not my concern.

Lhars- Then what is your concern Kaius of Macellaria?

Tarim- So long as her intentions do not interfere with our mission, I see little point concerning ourselves with them.

Lhars- Last time you asked little enough questions concerning our actual goal.

Kaius - To secure that services of the Pale Legion. That is all.

Lhars- Who was that girl you spoke of?

* Vetter shifts from foot to foot as the others argue, then squints into the sky, trying to gauge the time of day

Kaius - My business.

Lhars- We acquired the pearl together and yet you spent her good will on your own goals, not our common ones.

Vetter- I see you've met Kaius then, Lhars.

* Tarim raises a brow at Lhars' words

Kaius - Your memory fails you, Lhars. I acquired the Red Pearl. No other.

It's hard to say what time it is - the sky is a haze of grey.  You'd suspect the day is getting on towards evening.

Kaius - I also acquired the Grey Pearl. As none of you would aid me.

Lhars- Yet your intentions are clouded

Kaius - They are not. Your brain is clouded.

Lhars- You say you've come here to my city to help Macellaria and, in turn, Lophius yet I have only seen you help yourself so far. I'm not voicing discontent, yet, only concern

Kaius - If you knew me, Lhars, you would not doubt what I say.

* Vetter rolls his eyes

Lhars- I do not wish to see my city suffer because of your thirst for a vengeance or whatever that thing was all about

Kaius - Konstantine is no threat to Lophius. As I have said, he and the woman are my business.

Lhars- Mayhaps, but what is the Beldam?
Lhars- (to the others) What about you? You have no concerns about all of this? Yes, we take our problems to her, but we have never trusted her.

Tarim- As I said, my concerns lie chiefly with the business I've chosen to engage in.

Lhars- She is a mystery, like many things that make their home in these swamps

Vetter- My Concerns, as you would put it, friend Lhars, are mostly to do with the Queen of bloody Chains right now, if I'm entirely frank.

Kaius - The Beldam's mystery does not matter. She will locate the Lordly Leech, the Legion will kill the Lordly Leech. Your City will be safe.

Lhars- If you say so.
Kaius - We waste time. Take us to her.

Vetter- This pearl business is a right gleeting mess, but it ain't top of my list right now, know what I mean?

Lhars- I just didn't want to let the matter go unsaid.

Tarim- Or as 'safe' as a city in this corner of the world can be, anyway.

Lhars- Your other companions seem to trust you, so I will do the same.

* Lhars sets the Spatter Eel in motion, and he speeds them swiftly through the swamp towards the secret home of the witch

The Green Beldam's cave is but a short distance away.  You steer through the misty waterways and moor the Eel at her den.

* Kaius  hustles out of the boat and into the cave

Lhars- Now let us go see where our choices have brought us

* Vetter follows distractedly, his thoughts now turning to Kol and his possible fate.

* Lhars follows Kaius as swiftly as possible, not wishing to let him out of sight

As you enter the cave, the Green Beldam appears from out of the gloom, a hungry look on her face.  "You have retrieved the final pearl?" she asks; then she sees Tarim, and her eyes go wide.  "The Foetal Godling!" she cries, looking away.  "Your destinies... they twist the skein of fate around you."

* Tarim halts in his steps and stares at the crone warily.

* Kaius  cocks his head to one side

Kaius - Yes. Two more makes three.

Tarim- What did you just call me...?

"The Yet-Unspawned, the To-Be-Born.  The shadow of your future lies long across time, Foetal Godling."

* Kaius  holds out his open hand, both pearls sit on his upturned palm.

* Vetter gives Tarim a puzzled look

Kaius - Take them, and let us conclude our business together.

Her gaze travels to the pearls, and her hungry expression returns.

Tarim- I have been born already, of that I am sure.

* Lhars watches from the corner, puffing on his pipe

Tarim- And whatever shadow my future may cast, that is to be seen.

"You have been born twice, you mean," she says, still looking at the pearls.  "The third birth may yet come... or it may not."  She extends her hands to take the pearls.

Lhars- Heed her words, friend. Many have found there to be a grain of truth in them.

Tarim- Indeed? I know not what witcheries you command that should warrant speaking of things to come with such confidence. But your reputation is undeniable, so I will consider your words carefully.

The Green Beldam caresses the nacreous orbs with her long, delicate fingers, now healed by some preternatural means.  "With these I will learn secrets lost to the earth, remembered only by the sea... But first, your payment.  I will cast the spell you require... however, I will need something the leechkin once possessed, or at least touched.  Anything will do: it merely needs to bear its imprint.  Bring me such an object, and I will locate the leech for you."

Lhars- Do we have such a thing in our possession?

* Kaius  retrieves the talisman given him by Clotfeeder
Kaius - This should suffice.

Lhars- Ah, always good to be well-prepared

She takes it in one hand, holding the red pearl in the other.  The black she has stowed in a pouch at her waist.  "This will do."  She begins chanting in a weird, ululating language, some backwoods dialect of Hextongue with strange rhythms and glottal chirps.  The talisman begins to glow, and the red pearl shimmers.  Within its sanguineous depths, images begin to form.

Vetter- (muttering) Here we go, then... finally should be done with...

The Beldam gazes deeper into the pearl, and the chant increases in volume and speed.  The images begin to congeal within the orb; they flicker on the walls of the cave, projections.  Mists within the orb part, revealing a view of the city.  The view pitches towards the smallest of the Teeth, the demon-haunted crag known as Hunger Rock, desolate save for a dim lighthouse.  The floating eye of the spell zooms through one of the cracked windows of the lighthouse and down a series of spiraling steps, deep into the earth.  The view zigzags through a series of underground passages hewn into Hunger Rock itself, finally arriving at a chamber.  Here half a dozen leechkin sit cross-legged, their palm-mouths muttering soundlessly, while another half-dozen speak to one another round a stone table upon which is spread a map of the city. Those chanting are arrayed around a huge circular pit carved out of the floor - a pit which seethes and bubbles with half-coagulate blood and witchery.  As you watch, several leechkin, some wearing rags, approach from the darkness of a side-tunnel and vomit blood into the pit from their palm-mouths, adding to the crimson store.  Before they leave they deposit a handful of drachmi in a great heap in one corner of the room - it seems the Lordly Leech's followers are saving coin as well as blood.
It is hard to distinguish which of the leechkin is the Lordly Leech itself.

Kaius - It seems our bargain is complete, then, Beldam.

"Yes," she says, the images flickering and dying within the pearl.  "You have done well."

* Kaius  inclines his head ever-so-slightly

Kaius - I expect we will have no future business together. Enjoy your… treasures.

"You have my thanks, Fated.  So many of you together - it is hard to look at you.  Some great or terrible destiny has brought you together, I think.  Soon I will look into the black pearl, and Glimpse the shadows of the future in all their awful clarity.  Mayhaps I will see you there."

Tarim- If there is no more business to be conducted here, we'll take our leave

Lhars- Do we sail to the Legion with the news?

Tarim- With all haste

Vetter- Aye, we should.

Kaius - Do not look too deeply. I have heard such things can consume a mind.

* Kaius  turns, and makes to leave

* Lhars slithers off to ready the boat

* Vetter tips his hat to the Beldam, "Farewell, milady."

* Tarim bows coutrly to the witch and departs the cave

You make for the camp of the Legion near the entrance to the city. Rankle, the muscular black Erebhite you travelled with for a time, is one of the gate-guards. "You look like you're in a hurry," he says, eyebrow cocked.

* Kaius  approaches
Kaius - Yes. We have determined the location of the Leech. We must see the Legatus.

"Indeed!  Go on in."

Vetter- Are you ever not on sentry duty, mate?

* Kaius  makes for the Legatus' pavillion

"It certainly feels like I'm always on bloody sentry duty."

Tarim- You might get to see some action soon enough.

* Tarim follows Kaius to the pavilion

* Vetter hurries after Kaius

The Legatus and several other high-ranking officers are bent over maps of the city and moving small tokens around them, presumably representing patrols.

"Yes?  Have you learned more?"

Vetter- Hunger Rock.

Tarim- The Beldam has revealed to us the hideout of the lordly leech

Kaius - Are your men prepared? The Leech dwells under the lighthouse, a cauldron of bubbling blood before it.

"Hunger Rock?  I thought that place was haunted... but of course, the Zoth/Kchaal has probably bound the demon there to its will!"

Kaius - I would see you take up the contract tendered by my City as soon as is possible.

"My men are ready.  We will move in immedia -"  He is interrupted as a Legionnaire enters the pavilion, out of breath and bleeding from his side.

"Legatus!" the man gasps.  "There is fighting in the streets!  The beggars... dozens of them have risen up, and no one knows which are the Zoth/Kchaal's followers and which aren't!  It's a bloodbath.  I've heard that half the gangbosses are dead, killed by Shroud assassins."

Kaius - Ah. Clarification.

Vetter- (excitedly) Which gangbosses, exactly?

* Kaius  mutters to himself
Kaius - Ah. Yes. Beneath the lighthouse, a great store of coin. The Leech must have purchased the services of this Shroud.

"I don't know.  Reports are confused.  Those who aren't dead are either holed up in their little dens or out fighting the leeches in the streets."

Lhars- The same group of assassin who took out Dame Fortune, is my guess

* Kaius  looks around idly

Kaius - I am surprised an assassin has not been sent for you, Legatus.

Lhars- Who says one hasn't? How did it strike last time? We should be on our guard

Vetter- invisibly.

* Kaius  stares silently at Lhars

Lhars- Then even more so

"Even the Shroud would have a hard time escaping from our camp.  But thanks for the warning."

Kaius - In any case, will you be dispatching shock-troops to eliminate the Leech?

Lhars- I can take a small group of soldiers by boat, if you do not have your own -but the leeches must be subdued

"I will assemble the Legion.  We march on the city; I'll lead the attack on the Leech myself, with a group of the best the Legion has to offer.  You've proved yourselves more than capable so far.  Come with us and there'll be gold for you at the end of it."  He looks to Lhars.  "The seas may not be safe.  My men have reported brine elementals in the Lordly Leech's service.  Leech-flesh we can cut through; seawater we cannot."

* Tarim ponders the offer

Kaius - I will go, the sooner to see you take up the standard of Macellaria.

Tarim- There will be gold alright, I saw that hoard with my own two eyes, artificial as they may be

Vetter- I'm up for it.

"You'll get your share.  We're already being paid for this.  Whatever you find in there is yours."

Tarim- Very good

Lhars- Hmh, yes, we fought one before. I do not want to risk yet another battle against one of those creatures when we are so close to ridding the city of the Leech

Kaius - Call your banners, Legatus. It is time to make an end of this.

He nods and begins issuing orders.  Legionnaires begin assembling outside the camp, forming up into squads.

* Lhars mumbles a small prayer to the hagman gods. Lhars grabs all his weapons and armor from the box in his boat and dons it. "Do you have any of these?" (shows a harpoon to one of the legionnaries)
 
A man heading towards the armoury looks at the harpoon.  "Afraid not.  Plenty of javelins and spears, but nothing like that."

Tarim- My stocks of alchemical grenades have quite diminished since I left Macellaria behind. Mayhaps the legion has these in stock?

* Lhars rummages through the armory for a few good javelins for good measure

You check the armoury and find several suitable grenades of similar composition, Tarim.

* Tarim grabs a few 'nades from the armoury before rejoining the group

* Kaius  waits silently for the carnage to begin

Kaius - I will stand at your side, Legatus, if you would have me. It would be well, I think, to observe the capabilities of the man I would hire firsthand.

The Legatus issues orders to the different cohorts of the Legion, assigning each one of the Teeth.  He heads up a band of hardened veterans, a motley crew with more variegated weaponry than the rank-and-file.  "Stick near us," he urges.

* Kaius  falls in with them

Legionnaires begin filing across the Brooding Bridge, blocks of soldiers marching in formation.  You are near the front of the group. The Street of Mists is awash with blood, the corpses of merchants and other citizens strewn everywhere, marked by circular bite-wounds.  Legionnaires and leechkin shamans fight up and down the length of the street.  Hexes sizzle through the air, which resounds with the wet sounds of blades and teeth slicing flesh.  Near the Brooding Bridge you see a pair of leechkin feasting on the blood of a dying Legionnaire, his skin turning as pale as his armour as the shamans bloat.

* Lhars readies a harpoon and a net and keeps a pale eye on his surroundings

"Gods above and below... it'll take us ages to fight through this," the Legatus curses.  "And if the Lordly Leech has given the signal to attack it must mean its plan is nearly complete." He looks to you. "Suggestions?"

Lhars- I assume our priority is Hunger Rock?

You know a set of side-streets that will lead to Crucible.

"Yes.  We must reach the lighthouse as soon as possible.

Lhars- I know a shortcut,  I will scout ahead

* Kaius  surveys the street

Lhars, you and Vetter head down the alleyways and side-streets towards Crucible, the Legatus and his hand-picked men following close behind.  You manage to avoid the majority of the fighting and bring the men to the Iron Bridge, a hideous modern construction of wrought iron and girders.

Kaius - I doubt this rabble could stand before your men. Have your blocks press through in shield wall, heading directly for the lighthouse. Just so, the Guard made short work of the defenders of Kiergard when the walls were breached.

* Tarim stays with the Legatus' squad, figuring his presence might be useful if something unexpected happens

"Even so, fighting our way through will take time.  We'll follow the squirmy."

* Kaius  inclines his head

Kaius - As you say, Legatus.

Up ahead, both of you see a group of leechkin shamans chanting over what looks like a steaming pile of viscera, pulled from the bodies of the slain.

 Kaius - Legatus. Leech-shamans. They prepare.

Tarim- They should not be allowed to finish their spell

"Damn.  No way around them.  Maybe we can interrupt their ritual.  Hurry!"

Kaius - Advance at the double, disrupt with missile fire?

"Agreed!"

The shamans are riddled with arrows from the Legionnaires' archers.  Others charge towards the chanting leechkin with melee weapons ready.  Only one of the shamans fall, even as others are injured by the barrage.
One harpoon clatters on the metal bridge.  The second grazes one of the leechkin.

* Kaius  draws the Cereblade, and charges with the Legion.

The shaman's concentration has been disrupted.  While they continue chanting, their rite has been delayed.

* Tarim takes a few more running steps before yanking the socket off the grenade and hurling the explosive at the pile of viscera

The pile of organs explodes in a shower of gore.  Fragments of sizzling cruor spatter the leechkin shamans.

The Legionnaires charge in. The Legatus hacks with his glyph-graven axe, wounding one of the shamans. The shamans look as if they're going to retreat, scattering now that their ritual is spoiled.  Legionnaires slash and stab at them as they flee.
Lhars strikes another shaman, slowing its retreat.

* Kaius  makes to spring over the heads of the pursuing Legionaries, Cereblade poised to strike.

You leap some distance ahead, landing amidst the fleeing leechkin. You slice at one of the bloated leechkin; blood sprays from its punctured belly.  The creature gurgles, wounded but alive. Vetter makes rude gestures at the fleeing leechkin and draws his pistol. The wounded shaman snarls and begins invoking a hex, Kaius. You slash at the shaman but it leaps back, still chanting, and you only graze it.  It darts forward again, hand extended. You shrug off the curse. The remaining leechkin flee, scattering into the alleys of Crucible.

Kaius - As I said, Legatus. Rabble.

"Indeed.  But crafty rabble.  The leeches have no concept of honour; they see no need for courage.  They will always flee when superior might threatens them - but they survive, slip into dank cracks and regroup.  Come - we are near to Hunger Rock."


You have just slain the foul demon known as the Ravener.

* Vetter is still struggling to remove one of the sets of jaws from its corpse

The Legionnaires are alive, if somewhat injured.  One is bleeding from a bite-wound at his neck.

Kaius - Are your men prepared to continue, Legatus?

"Aye," the Legatus says, his face grim.  "Each moment that passes the Lordly Leech gets closer to summoning the Gore-Child.  Let us press on."

Vetter- One moment....

* Vetter gives one final wrench and, with a sickening wet noise, the jaws come free

Tarim- Wouldn't want to face yet another demon the same day.

* Vetter slings the jaws into his pack and then nods to the others, signaling his readiness

The staircase terminates in a round chamber with a doorway hewn out of the rock of the island.  Down the corridor beyond you can hear the echoes of ritual chants.  Torches flicker in wall sockets, illuminating the roughly carved tunnels.

* Tarim shakes his head at Vetter. "That's going to rot and make your pack stink, you know."

* Kaius  grips the hilt of the Cereblade tightly, steeling himself for battle

The corridor extends for some distance and then branches in two. "Hmm... which way?" The Legatus says.

* Vetter sniffs at the junction, seeing if his keen sense of smell can provide any clues

Vetter, leech-stink is omnipresent, but you think you smell something rotting down the left-hand passage.

* Vetter gestures left. "Dead stuff that way."

Tarim- I think we should concern ourselves with the living.

You spot a couple of blood droplets along the left-hand passage.
Kaius - He is right. We go left.
* Kaius  indicates the blood

Tarim- Alright then

Follow the smell and the drops of blood you make your way down a series of passages deep into the earth. Presently, the tunnel ends in a square anteroom with a huge iron door.  A pair of towering, roughly humanoid figures guards the entrance, both formed out of coagulate gore.  Huge slabs of scab-matter serve as armour for these monstrosities; their torsos and limbs are made from masses of pulverized viscera and oozing blood lashed together with entrails and sinews; a frame of shattered bones holds the vile beings together.  Their heads are small, rudimentary things surmounting their enormous frames.  Both drip and seethe with blood and witchery; they make no hostile move against you.

Vetter- Any ideas, Tarim?

"Gods above and below... what are those things," the Legatus says.

These are viscerementals, a type of twisted gore golem.  They are all but immune to witchery.

* Kaius  raises his visor, and opens his eyes wide. He gestures at one of the viscerementals, and aether-threads of his thought coil towards it.

Tarim- Curious things. They are made by eldritch means, but can hardly be touched by hexes.

Your aether-threads are repelled by the creature.  It shifts and shakes its crude head and limbs, spattering the walls with blood.

Tarim- It doesn't seem wise to provoke them. They've yet to move against us.

* Kaius  glares at the other visceremental, teeth clenched in a snarl. He gestures with both hands, and a wave of thought rushes towards it!

Again you are repulsed, your mind sent reeling.  The viscerementals stand firm.

Kaius - Allow me to be more direct, then.
* Kaius  grips the Cereblade firmly and strides towards them

As you approach the door the gore golems stir and prepare to attack!

* Vetter tuts and draws his pistol

The Legatus charges with his axe, laying into the nearest construct with abandon. He hews off a great chunk of the being, axe cracking through scab-armour and slicing the tender half-coagulate gore within. Tarim’s shot explodes in a blossom of bone and blood. One of the golems is thrown back slightly, bumping the door and leaving an ugly red stain.

* Vetter simply opens fire

Your shots thud into the golem with a sickening sound, burying themselves deep in the grotesque meat-creature. The remaining Legionnaires follow their leader into battle. One of them sinks his blade into the nearest golem's thigh, to little effect. The golem fighting the Legatus reaches down and smashes the commander with a sanguineous fist, driving him into the floor.  The Legatus gasps in pain. Another strikes Kaius.
* Kaius  grimaces as the creature's massive fist pummels into his armour. He reacts quickly, flowing around its grasp, and lashing out with the Cereblade.

You slice off one of the being's limbs.  It hits the ground with a wet squelching sound; almost instantly, a part of the being's body flows towards the stump and re-forms into an arm. The Legatus, stunned, picks himself up and renews his attack, this time guarding himself more closely. The creature deflcts his blow and sends his weapon flying.  He grunts and makes to retrieve it.

* Tarim continues to fire at the visceremental, trusting his rifle to do what his spells cannot against these hex-guarded beings.

Your bullet hits the creature's head and leaves a large hole, spattering gore across the door.  A moment later the hole closes as the being regenerates.

* Vetter fires the third barrel then switches to his other pistol

You too punch a large hole in the golem. The Legionnaires continue their assault. Turning their attention to the Legionnaires the gore golems begin to pummel the veteran warriors methodically.

* Kaius  lays into the Golem relentlessly, flashes of gore streaming from the Cereblade.

You hack off huge chunks of the golem you are fighting, sending gobs of viscera flying everywhere.  The being lurches, losing body-matter quickly. The Legatus retrieves his weapon and engages once again. His axe cuts through the being's flesh effortlessly.

* Kaius  hisses at the creature

* Tarim fires a third time at his target

You graze the visceremental.

* Vetter pops off a shot with his secondary pistol before dropping it to rush into the melee

Your shot cracks one of the bones protruding from the golem's flesh. The Legionnaires plunge their swords in and out of the constructs. One of the gore golems picks up the nearest Legionnaire in its massive hands.  It proceeds to crush the man to a bloody pulp, bone armour cracking and splintering, flesh bruising, blood dribbling on the floor.  As you watch, the Legionnaire's body merges with the gore golem's! The other gore golem sends the Legatus flying.  He hits the wall hard.

* Kaius  growls deep in his throat, and lunges at the golem, blade poised.

You renew your attack in an effort to deplete the regenerating golem. The Legatus gets to his feet and once again charges into the fray. He hews off a leg, sending one golem down.  Of course, it picks itself back up immediately, its leg already re-forming.

* Tarim fires at the beast the moment it rears it's ugly head again

Your shot goes wide.

* Vetter flies at the nearest golem, claws flailing wildly

You rip out great hunks of the creature's body, shoveling quivering lumps of flesh aside. The remaining Legionnaire, seeing his comrade in arms crushed to death, launches himself at the gore golem responsible and sinks his blade deep into the construct's torso, slicing off a huge hunk of it. He takes a blow for his trouble but stays on his feet.

* Kaius  continues his attack silently, intent only on hacking the creature before him into quivering lumps.

You hack the creature nearly in two.  With a series of disgusting moist sounds it knits itself back together.

* Kaius  exhales in growing frustration
The Legatus, frustrated with his apparent lack of progress, throws all caution to the wind and begins slicing wildly. With a series of vicious, determined blows he hacks the gore golem to pieces. It disintegrates, losing its bodily integrity, suddenly dissolving into a pool of blood and mutilated meat.

* Tarim shifts his sights at the visceremenetal still standing

The bullet blows the golem backwards.  The door clangs as it hits it.

* Vetter leaps at the reeling golem and savages it

You wrench off one its arms and pulls strands of intestines from its body in a frenzy of gore. The Legionnaire hacks and hews, thrusts and slices, chopping at sinews and bones. The visceremental shudders, near dissolution. It grabs the Legionnaire and begins to squeeze, and the man cries out in pain, but remains alive.

Kaius - You end now, slime.
* Kaius  lays into the monstrosity. He hews the golem's legs out from under it. As it collapses to the floor, he leaps atop it, stabbing and stabbing and stabbing. His blade plunges one final time into its quivering mass, and the creature stills, before silently drifting apart into an inchoate mass of gore.

"Damn.  Another man down.  This is not how I wanted to face the bloody Leech." He turns to you.  "Should we await reinforcements, or are you lot ready for another battle?

Kaius - Our numbers will have to suffice. The Leech must fall, there is no other course for us.
* Kaius  says calmly as the blood coating the Cereblade is silently consumed, and his tissues knit themselves back together.

The ritual chanting on the other side of the door grows louder. The Legatus nods.  "Very well then.  Help me with these doors."

Tarim- There is not much point waiting for reinforcements if the ritual is about to be completed. It's fight or flight for us.

He nods and prepares to push open the doors.

* Kaius  heaves his body against the door alongside the Legatus

* Vetter hurriedly reloads his pistols

* Tarim invokes Mirrored Images, surrounding himself with decoys. Tarim also reloads, after finishing his hex

Through the door is the chamber you glimpsed in the Beldam's vision - a huge stone vault with a stone table along one side covered in a map of Lophius and a massive, rough-hewn pit at the center filled to the brim with a slurry of brine and simmering blood.  The near-boiling stew of seawater and gore fizzes and smokes with red steam; each time a bubble pops you seem to hear a Hellspeak word, a guttural demoniac mewl, as if the crimson mixture were speaking.  Crouched around the lip of this infernal orifice are half a dozen tattooed leechkin, palm-mouths ceaselessly muttering.  Half a dozen more are arrayed near the entrance, awaiting you, poised to gesticulate vile hexes.  In the background you can see a great heap of coins near a side-tunnel where even now leechkin enter from the tunnels beneath the City of the Lamprey.

One of the leechkin shamans steps forwards. "So, you have found us at last, Pale Ones," the Zoth/Kchaal says.  "And I see you have brought allies.  Before you throw your lives away needlessly, allow me to make several things clear.

The Legatus grunts, axe in hand.

"The City of the Lamprey will rise; the Gore-Child will be summoned.  If you side with your current employers, who even now are dying at the end of Shroud knives, you and all your men will die, consumed to feed the Gore-Child.  However, as you can see, we have a great deal of wealth at our disposal."  It gestures towards the pile of coins.  "Side with us and you can leave the city before the summoning is complete, withdraw your troops and spare their lives, and be paid a generous bonus as well.  Oppose us, and you will perish alongside your erstwhile employers."

The Legatus pauses, but shakes his head.  "A contract is a contract.  The Legion is bound to complete it, even if we perish in the attempt."

The Zoth/Kchaal turns its heads towards you.  "And what of you?  Why are you allied with the Pale Ones?"

Kaius - That is the business of the City of Macellaria, not yours.

Vetter- I just don't like you.

* Vetter , with that, shoots at the Zoth/Kchaal

* Kaius  's muscles coil, as he prepares to leap towards the Lordly Leech.

The leechkin flinches and swerves.  One of your bullets buries itself in its torso; the other grazes its scalp. "Your flesh will feed the Gore-Child, beast!" the leechkin croaks.

* Kaius  depresses a button in his gauntlet. The adrenal glands integrated into his armour contract, and the amphetamine mixture they have been altered to produce pumps into his veins. He inhales slowly, and his pupils dilate.

* Tarim is already busy chanting the words of a hex whilst the sounds of Vetter's gunshots still echo off the chamber's walls. He stares coldly at the leechskin shaman arrayed against the party, pointing a crooked finger at them as he unleashes the spell.

Two of the leechkin shamans gibber in terror and flee towards the exit!  The Legatus raises his axe.  "For the Legion!" he bellows, charging into the massed leechkin. He hacks off one of the shamans' limbs. The Lordly Leech weaves a hex in the air, then spits the spell with both palm-mouths towards Kaius. You feel a fell power invade your mind, but your zehrer symbiont jealously repels the alien presence! Vetter’s third shot hits the creature in the leg.  It hisses with both palm-mouths.

* Kaius  leans forward, and suddenly launches himself through the air at the Lordly Leech, Cereblade held to strike.

The Lordly Leech howls in pain as you stab your blade deep into its body.  It pulls itself free, staggering backwards. Instantly the remaining shamans fixate on Kaius.

Kaius - Your plan falls to ruin before you, Leech! I will see you die!

The shamans gesture, speaking their hexes. The Legatus hacks at the leechkin nearest him, but the creature ignores him despite the grievous injury he deals it.

Suddenly everything goes black - Kaius has been blinded!

* Kaius  hisses

The shamans chanting the ritual are reaching a crescendo! The Legionnaire rushes forward to aid his Legatus. He cuts down one of the shamans. The leechkin at the far side of the room hiss and charge forwards, palm-mouths gnashing!

* Tarim cuts across his own palm with his claw, hissing the commands of a spell. He gestures with the wounded hand, and a sanguine ray of blood shoots forth from it, aimed at one of the leech shaman.

The leechkin ducks and the blood-spray hits the ground. The Legatus continues his rampage. He wounds another shaman badly. The Lordly Leech hisses and retreats rapidly.

* Vetter drops his pistol and sprints after the retreating Zoth/Kchaal

* Kaius  looks about blindly, his world faded to nothing.
* Kaius  turns sharply, his questing tendrils of thought tasting the swamp-magics of a leechkin shaman
Kaius - Your petty hexes cannot stop me!
* Kaius  roars

You feel your blade connect and hear a satisfying double-shriek as your sword hits leechkin flesh.

The shaman hisses a vile hex. Your interrupt the creature's hex by hacking off one of its hands. Another shaman gibbers a spell of its own. The Legatus gasps and clutches his chest, then goes rigid, suddenly paralyzed. The Legionnaire cries out and strikes at the leechkin who cursed his commander. The creature grunts in pain as the Legionnaire's blade grazes its scalp. The leechkin at the far side of the room cluster around the Lordly Leech.  Two of them offer up their bodies for the Zoth/Kchaal to feed upon.

* Tarim strides forth, his clawed hands tracing the arcs of eldritch gestures as he does so. Nearing the chamber’s entrance, he croaks a word of power, calling for a hideous swarm of spiders from the nooks and corners of the tunnels. The mass of vermin homes in upon the leeches huddled by the blood pit.

The Legatus is held in place, paralyzed. The Lordly Leech feeds on two of its followers, drawing strength from their blood.
The swarm of spiders seethes and writhes, covering the leechkin round the pit. There are about eight leechkin around the Zoth/Kchaal
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« Reply #203 on: August 05, 2018, 07:07:25 PM »

Lophius Part 4

* Vetter bares his teeth in a snarl, his mind suffused by a kind of chill madness. The death of the Ravener proved something to him; he has taken power from his graft, he is becoming a demon! It is the only explanation. As the realization overcomes him, an ice-dark battle-rage descends, and rushes to attack the Zoth/Kchaal, only one thought in his mind - KILL!

You rake the Zoth/Kchaal across the chest, gouging its body with your demoniac claws!  It staggers back, terribly wounded, blood oozing from the vicious claw-marks across its chest.

*Kaius swings blindly, his blade cuts the empty air.

The shaman croaks another hex.

* Kaius  sweeps around him with his blade, for a moment seeming directionless. His movements change subtly as the words of the hex spill from the shaman's mouth. He twists around, and the Cereblade slides smoothly through the shaman's head. It slumps to the floor, dead.

One of the shamans is distracted by the spiders; the others, locked in a state of intense concentration, ignore their bites. The remaining shaman still facing you spits a hex at the nearest Legionnaire, striking at him with a palm-mouth. The Legionnaire grunts in pain as wounds form all over his body - tiny round bite-marks, as if dozens of leechkin were savaging him. In response he steps forward, blade swinging. He decapitates the leechkin.  Smirking, the veteran wipes his blade on the creature's corpse.

The leechkin vagrants mob Vetter, attempting to pick him up.  He claws one away, sending it reeling, and hurls half a dozen others off, but one of them seizes him round the torso and begins dragging him towards the pit of blood.

Vetter- UNHAND ME MORTALS FOR I AM BECOME THE DEATH THAT STALKS THE DARKNESS BEYOND WORLDS!

* Tarim steps over to the nearest leech-corpse, drawing his wickedly serrated dagger. He hunches vulture-like over the cadaver, whispering diabolic formulae whilst cutting symbols on its skin. The ritual is brief, ending in an imperious utterance by the Ghul-witch: "I call upon you Torrim-Pazzun, Wielder of Black Lightning! Accept this sacrifice and strike down my foes!"

The demon materializes with a thunderclap!

* Tarim points at the leeches in the chamber. "There! The bloodsuckers must die. The Zerda is my ally, so help him if you can."

The Legatus, recovering from the hex, charges at the leechkin chanting over the pit. He hacks at one of them, wounding it savagely.

The Lordly Leech gesticulates towards the Legatus, attempting the same hex it tried on Kaius. The Legatus shakes off the hex. The spiders continue to assail the chanting leechkin. Vetter attempts to break free, but the leechkin holds him fast.

Vetter- THE POWER OF THE VOID SHALL STRIKE YOU DOWN IMPUDENT ONE! MY WRATH SHALL TORTURE AND SAVAGE YOUR SOUL UNTO THE LAST DAYS OF CREATION!

* Kaius  stumbles towards the shamans near the pit

You can hear the crackling of flames, the chants of the leechkin.

* Kaius  moves to attack as he reaches out towards the flames with his mind, sending them spilling over the lip of the brazier towards the nearest shaman.

You hear a yelp of pain as the fire scorches the shaman. You swing blindly, but cut only air.

Torrim-Pazzun, a crackling shape of blackish-purple lightning, speeds towards the leechkin carrying Vetter. It strikes at the leechkin but the creature avoids the attack, still carrying Vetter towards the pit. The shamans, ignoring the spiders and realizing their imminent danger, break off their ritual to defend themselves. Three lash out at the Legatus. He cuts one in half for its trouble. The others target Tarim and Kaius. A double-hex spat by one of the shamans strikes you, Tarim.  Instantly your pores begin to ooze blood!

* Tarim shrieks but grits his teeth, glaring at the shaman

* Lhars charges and tries to impale a shaman on his harpoon

You stab at a leechkin, thrusting your harpoon into its leg.

The leechkin holding Vetter hurls him into the pit of boiling blood and seawater.
He catches himself on the lip of the summoning pit, holding on with his demoniac arm.

Vetter- I WILL GNAW YOUR BONES AND WEAR YOUR GUTS AS-aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!

* Vetter catches his top hat with his free hand as it slips from his head

* Tarim snarls and unleashes a black surge of puissance at the shaman that wounded him

The bolt of energy strikes the floor.

The Legatus swings his axe in a wide arc, striking several shamans at once. The disciples shriek and gibber as his axe draws blood. The Lordly Leech attempts his spell once more. Once again, the Legatus shrugs off its effects. The spiders still seethe and swarm. 

* Vetter jams his topper back on and lurches up to grasp at the leech

You hurl the leech down into the steaming pit.  Instantly it is swallowed by the boiling blood.  The pit sighs and begins to bubble more rapidly.

Vetter- VENGEANCE!

* Vetter hauls himself up out of the pit

* Kaius  flails at the burning shaman wildly with the Cereblade

Your flames continue to scorch the leechkin. The demon continues to strike out at the leechkin, providing a distraction if nothing else. The Legatus cuts a leechkin down, but two of the shamans, in desperation, rush him and push him over the lip of the pit! The Legatus grabs the edge of the pit, barely holding on. The shaman Kaius is fighting croaks another hex, but he lashes out towards the sound and impales it with his blade, killing it instantly.

* Kaius  whirls about, sensing for another target, flames already scuttling onwards

The Legionnaire cries out in anger as the Legatus is hurled down into the pit, and charges wildy, but in his wrath he misses his swing.
You hold the leechkin in place, twisting the harpoon mercilessly. The leechkin is thoroughly ensnared. Several leechkin mob the Legionnaire, but he holds them off. One of them is slain as it charges him, impaled on his blade.

* Tarim decides to ignore the annoying shaman for the time being, seeing the peril the Legatus has gotten in. He turns his attention on one of the leechskin trying to plunge the man into the pit, weaving a subtle curse.

The shaman shakes its head, shrugging off the curse.

The Legatus hauls himself up and, with a mighty bellow, embeds his axe in a shaman's skull. The Lordly Leech mutters a hideous spell and a stream of blood vomits forth from one of its palm-mouths, directed at Vetter. He ducks the stream of blood nimbly. Tarim's spiders continue their depredations

* Vetter rushes the Zoth/Kchaal and attacks!  He batters aside the Lordly Leech's attempts at self defense and thrusts a talon into each of its eye-sockets and exerts pressure, steadily pushing them back into the leechkin's brains until it finally stops twitching

The Lordly Leech gurgles from both palm-mouths, thrashing wildly, then falls still.

"Your leader is dead!" the Legatus bellows.  "Stand down, or perish!"

* Kaius  menaces the shamans with a roaring wall of flame that dances about them

The leechkin shamans, craven beings at heart, do as the commander instructs, while the beggars flee the caverns.

* Vetter straightens from the Zoth/Kchaal's corpse with a maniacal laugh

Kaius - You! Shaman! Undo your work, or die. You have blinded me.
* Kaius  points slightly to the left of one of the shaman menacingly

One of the shamans mutters a hex.  Your vision clears.

Lhars- "What of this foul pool? Do we just leave it?"

Without the shamans to finish the ritual, the bloody pool gradually ceases to boil.

* Tarim approaches the blood pit, laying an inspecting eye on it

* Kaius  blinks slowly, glad to have his vision back, and approaches the Legatus.

The pool still simmers and spits, but the witchery seems to be dissipating.

Kaius - It seems Lophius is saved, Legatus.

The Legatus nods at you, badly winded.

* Vetter licks the blood from his claws and saunters over to collect his discarded pistol. "Job well done, eh?"

"That remains to be seen.  Hopefully the city will be intact when we get back to the surface."

Kaius - You and your men did good work here. I am impressed.

Lhars- "So now you will all return to your own city? Or will you stay?"

* Kaius  withdraws two copies of the potential Macellarian contract from his pack.

"I'm impressed myself.  If any of you ever have any desire to join up, the Legion could certainly find a use for you."

Kaius - Now. I believe we had a prior arrangement? If you would sign here, and here.

"Indeed."  The Legatus signs.  "Once we've mopped up the rest of the Zoth/Kchaal's forces in the city we'll move out."

* Kaius  nods
Kaius - Most excellent. The Conclave will be pleased.

* Tarim looks around for the treasure hoard

The treasure hoard is massive.  This will take quite awhile to count, let alone transport.

* Lhars searches the Zoth/Kchaal

* Kaius  approaches the massive pile of coins

* Tarim begins to fill a haversack with the loot, a greedy light in his eyes

Kaius - Now, you did say we were free to whatever we found down here?

* Vetter goes to join Kaius and Tarim, smiling ear to ear

* Kaius  smirks slightly beneath his helmet

The Zoth/Kchaal had a fetish round its neck, and its skin itself seems to have served as a grimoire - its body is covered in Hellspeak tattoos.

"Indeed.  The gold is yours."

Lhars- Tarim, come here!

Tarim- I am busy at the moment.

* Tarim continues to pilfer the treasure

Lhars- "there are runes written on the skin of the Lordly Leech. I cannot decipher them. I assume they are spells and incantations"

* Kaius  gathers up a rough quarter of the coins, and begins to stow them in a series of sacks.

Tarim- Hm. Then we better flay the corpse. Those scribblings may be valuable.

Kaius - Vetter, Tarim. I am give to understand you have unfinished business of your own in the City. I have my own to see to, and will be leaving as soon as possible. I will meet you at the isle of Blaspheme.

Lhars- "I will get his skin off then."

* Lhars draws a blade and starts carefully peeling off the leech-kings enchanted skin


You stand before the shrine of Striga in the Driftwood District of Lophius, an ornate church incongruously emerging from the bare wood of a barnacle-encrusted ship, 'The Chime of Eternity.'  Statues of fanged seraphim grimace at you from the steeple, as if daring your profane flesh to enter the hallowed space within.

* Kaius  narrows his eyes at the structure, and proceeds within.

Inside, red-robed priests meditate in an incense-clouded sanctum bedecked with the lurid iconography of the blood-goddess, statuettes and symbols of gory glory.  Sister Abra, clad in her tattered red leather coat, steps from the shadows of the apse, a round niche adorned with images of wicked-faced grave-spawn being incinerated by the righteous fires of white-faced angelic warriors.
"Greetings, Mister Alexander," the Red Templar says.  "Ready to leave?"

Kaius - Yes. My business in this city is done.

"I've taken the liberty of hiring a ship, the 'Queen of Ashes.'  Striga willing it hasn't been damaged during the uprising.  It's docked over in Bile-Mire."

Kaius - I hope your Church was untroubled by the recent.. events.

"The Driftwood District seems to have been spared the brunt of the attacks.  Competition for coin is stiff here - the leechkin prefer the marketplaces."

Kaius - I appreciate your forethought, Sister. Let us be off then.

She nods, speaks a few words to the attendants, and leads the way out of the shrine.

Lophius has been scarred by recent events.  Bloodstains spatter the streets, and many corpses - leechkin, Legionnaires, gang-members, or simple citizens - still lie sprawled in the shadows of buildings.  Here and there grisly puddles of innards mark where viscerementals fell.  Here and there, gunshots and screams attest to pockets of fighting as the Pale Legion mops up fleeing bands of leechkin insurrectionists.

Kaius - An unfortunate business. Though it is good that the Legion has routed the leeches.

"Indeed.  Striga would surely not allow such abominations victory."

Kaius - ...Of course not.

"I heard rumours they sought to summon some creature of the Bloodletter, arch-enemy of the faith."

Kaius - The rumours are true. They worked to bring forth the birth of the Gore-Child, some godling or other.

"I see.  One of the Beast-Gods, yes?  Kindred to Hirud, the Ravager-Worm, whose unholy blood the Bloodletter used for his foul baptism. In any case, here is out ship."

Kaius - Ah.

The 'Queen of Ashes' is a former lilix slave-ship, docked at a ragged wharf: a vessel carved in the eerie organic style of the spiderfolk, its lines reminiscent of chitin plating, its spidersilk rigging resembling a huge, intricate web.  The ship is crewed by a ragtag band of men and women, many of them with the pallid skin of lilix slaves; they are rounded out by bronze-skinned Lophians and a handful of others.  Many of the ex-slaves now sport grafts and tattoos, and they wear the buccaneer rags and armoured oddments typical of most sailors and corsairs.

A tall, sinewy man, white-skinned and grim-featured, crosses the gangplank towards you.  His arms are criss-crossed with scars; he wears a broad-brimmed hat and a frock coat, and a curved sword hanged at his waist.

* Kaius  examines it with a critical eye. He inclines his head to the man

"You must be Kaius," he says, his voice accented with the chittering inflection of a Chattelchatter-speaker.  "I am Captain Xallschizirr; welcome aboard the 'Queen of Ashes'."

Kaius - I am. Thank you. I trust she is a worthy ship.

"A former lilix warship. Some years ago I was a slave aboard her."

Kaius - Hm. A destestable circumstance, I am sure.

"I thought so as well." He gestures for you to come aboard.

* Kaius  ascends the gangplank

"I'll have someone show you to your quarters.  If you have any questions about our route or anything else, come find me."  The Captain nods and takes his leave. Sister Abra heads to her own cabin.  "We shall speak soon."

Kaius - Of course, Sister.

A lean albino crewman leads you to your cabin, which is in the forecastle.  Your quarters are small and the contours of the room eerie and unnerving, dark wood ornamented with strange designs and twisted, vaguely arachnoid carvings.  There is no bed, only a kind of sleeping niche.  A chest, table, chairs, and a few ragged wall-hangings, all strikingly incongruent in style with the organic architecture, are the only other furnishings.  There is a round window which resembles a puckered orifice. It looks as if Sister Abra's cabin adjoins your own, and the Captain's and other officers' quarters are nearby.

Kaius - Hm. Acceptable.
* Kaius  places his gear down heavily, and ensconces himself in the niche.

You slip quickly into your preterslumber. You close your eyes and enter the trance-like state of condensed rest; when you open them, however, you are not in your own body but in a woman's, garbed in white livery with your sigil, the black fist quartered with crosses, embroidered on the front.  You are in the study of the Tower of Moans.  Unlike your first vision, you actually seem to have control in this one - you can move your limbs, look around, and otherwise move as if the body was your own.

* Kaius  turns his(her?) head around in some confusion

Pellucid appears, climbing up the stairs.  The demon's tentacular hair twitches and it peers intently at you.

Kaius - Pellucid.

The ghastly necrotic rattle that issues from your throat is hideous to hear, but you can form words adequately enough.

"Master Alexander?  Is that you?"

Kaius - It seems I am somehow transported into this body, for the moment. Yes. It is me.

"Hmm.  Most curious."

Kaius - How is the Tower? Does work progress?

"It has been difficult to obtain the required materials for your improvements to the Tower, but I have persevered.  Workmen should be completing your modifications soon."

Kaius - Excellent. And of the City? Herruku's army?

"Things have been... chaotic, since you left.  The fetch have not yet been eradicated, but they have been contained.  Whole districts of the city have been barricaded, walled in by the militia; tunnels in the Catacombs have been collapsed to prevent the murderfolk from escaping beneath the walls.  It is said the barricaded zones are places of utter horror.  The fetch have established fiefs, they say, with the cruelest and strongest of their number ruling each zone as petty chieftains, replaced on a near daily basis by usurpers.  These chieftains have organized the other fetch to some degree, and placed non-fetch prisoners in cages and cells, to be tortured and eaten later.  The screams keep half the city up at night.  Occasionally groups of the murderfolk assault the barricades, but so far the militia have kept them penned in.  There have been attempts to set fire to the fetch-zones, but the last time the flames got out of hand and took out a good portion of Resurrection Row.  The militia won't risk fire again for fear of burning down the city."

Kaius - Unfortunate. Perhaps this will have to be rectified upon my return. The fetch of course cannot be allowed to remain indefinitely.

"As for Herruku's army, I know less.  The militia are organizing a volunteer army, but most efforts are being concentrated in rebuilding the city after the fetch devastated it.  I am not privy to any other intelligence, so I cannot say how far away the army is at this point."

Kaius - I will be returning to Macellaria soon, I should hope. I still have some minor business to attend to in the vicinity of Lophius. Your work is, as always, exemplary, and I am thankful for it.

"You are most kind.  My previous master was not so gracious, at times. Seeing as I, ah, have you here, I wonder if I might ask you something."

Kaius - Go on.

"The collapsed passage in the basement level - may I begin clearing it?  There are levels to my former master's laboratory below the Tower.  By the time you return, they might well be accessible."

Kaius - Ah. Yes. I had intended to work on that myself at some point. But if you would begin, that would be most suitable.

"I would, of course, ensure that nothing unwholesome crept up from the Catacombs, for the lower levels do intersect with the city's crypts."

Kaius - Be mindful. I would not have you come to serious harm in your service to me.

It smiles toothily.  "Worry not."

Your vision is beging to blur.

Kaius - I.. feel myself.. beginning to slip. Farewell, Pellucid.

"I see.  Farewell."

You slip back out of the preterslumber and awake back in your cabin on the ship.

* Kaius  opens his eyes with a start

Kaius - Curious.

The ship rocks gently to and fro.  You are clearly underway.

* Kaius  sets to work on his armor’s improvements

You make excellent progress on your armour. You begin augmenting your armour with environmental sealing when a knock resounds against the cabin door.

* Kaius  looks up from his work
Kaius - Come.

Sister Abra enters. "Busy at work I see."

Kaius - Yes. I have neglected my craft for some time.

"I thought we might discuss tactics.  What to do once we reach the Silent Isle.  I've never hunted with a Revenant's aid before... I figure you'll have some insights into what to expect."

Kaius - I might. What did you have in mind?

"Well, I reckon our first task is to get inside Kontantine's fortress.  I suggest we go ashore by rowboat and try to find a surreptitious way in.  Once we're inside we should try to take out any Grey Matrons or other powerful servants first: we don't want to face them and the Revenant together."

Kaius - A wise course of action.

"You've fought Revenants before, I imagine - otherwise how'd you get that sword?  You're not a Lord, I can tell that much."

Kaius - I have. I defeated Lord Vladmir beneath the Slouching-Devil Mountains. It was a very near thing. You should know that my primary objective is to secure the safety of a former companion of mine. Konstantine's death is secondary.

She frowns.  "Well then.  That changes things a bit.  Who is this companion?"

Kaius - Eugenie Zenov. A woman formerly of the Insomnolent Guard. We served together.

"Ah.  Another piece of the puzzle fits into place.  Why'd Konstantine snatch her?"

Kaius - Of that, I am unsure. He suspects that she possesses knowledge of potential use to some scheme of his. Whether he is correct, I could not say.

"Schemes, is it?  What's the bastard got planned?"

Kaius - Truthfully, I do not know. Seeking some power, most like.

"Well, whatever it is we've got to stop it.  Sounds like our objectives aren't incompatible.  So long as he ends up dead, Striga's satisfied."

Kaius - And does Striga still demand my own death?

"Aye.  She does.  Not for us mortals to decide these things.  It's not your deeds that matter, it's what you are.  I don't make the rules, I just enforce them."

Kaius - An unfortunate perspective. But we will settle such matters once Konstantine is dead. Let us not worry over them presently.

She opens her mouth to respond, then closes it.  "Very well."

Kaius - As to the combat of Revenants, I am no particular expert. Though I grow each day, I have not yet reached maturity. Konstantine still surpasses me.

"He's powerful, I'm sure.  Hopefully Penance and Absolution can help even the scales."

Kaius - One would hope.

"I'll leave you to your work - we can talk more about strategy later."

* Kaius  inclines his head
Kaius - Until later, then.

You complete your work sealing your armour.

* Kaius  glances over to his clockwork assistant
Kaius - Acceptable.

Dawn light streams through your window by the time you have completed the task.

* Kaius  closes his eyes against the harsh glare, and proceeds to put his armour back on. He steps from his cabin, and goes in search of the galley

The putrid green-yellow expanse of the Sallow Seas stretches in ever direction, reeking of rotting seaweed.  The crew of the 'Queen of Ashes' have the intense discipline of former slaves, working almost mechanically.  Most wear hats or scarves to keep the bloated red sun from scorching their fair skins.  Some have replaced parts of their flesh with grafts from other beings, presumably to ward off sunburn: these individuals have a strange patchwork look, tatters of tanned or ink-black flesh incongruous against their otherwise white bodies.

You head to the galley and have a passable meal, then make to return to your quarters.
You see a shape on the horizon -another ship.

* Kaius  calls out
Kaius - Sail on the horizon!

Captain Xallschizirr peers through his spyglass.  "Damn," he says quietly.  "Corsairs.  Looks like the Misshapen."  He shouts orders, hoping to evade the pirates.  He turns to you, his expression sombre.  "We'll try to outrun them, but it will probably come to fighting," he says.  "The pirate-clansmen make sacrifices to the Beast-Gods to summon favourable winds.  It's rare for their prey to escape their clutches.  This particular clan are especially notorious.  In recompense for their profane reverence the slumbering deep-devils have given them dark gifts.  Their bodies are warped by the influence of the gods of brine and darkness."

Kaius - Ah. I will make every effort to ensure the security of your ship, of course, Captain.
* Kaius  pats the hilt of the Cereblade

As you speak a monstrous groan, impossibly loud, sounds in your head, a sound like a thunderclap but a hundred times louder.  The sound is so loud, so extreme, that your nose and ears begins to bleed; you feel the zehrer in your head writhe in agony.  A moment later this colossal moan is echoed in the physical world, as sound catches up to the ripple in the aether.

"Endless Hells," the Captain curses.  "They've got an Utterer with them, a Prophet of the Beast-Gods.  They pray to the deep-devils to be ventriloquised, to speak with their voices... Verlum knows what that one just did."

* Kaius  clutches his hands to his head and stands painfully still. He exhales in a long hiss

Kaius - He will die first.

As if in answer the previously inert sky, clear of cloud, abruptly turns gunpowder-black and crackles with lightning.  The waves, a moment earlier gentle and regular, become suddenly berserk, the churning sea tossing the 'Queen of Ashes' this way and that.  Soon thick, black rain begins to fall from the sky, a viscous slimy torrent more like squid-ink than water.  Where it touches flesh, the rain burns and sizzles like acid.

* Kaius  watches the ship as it comes ever closer.

The maleficent storm worsens.  A lightning strike followed immediately by a great peal of thunder rips through the sky and strikes a mast of the 'Queen of Ashes,' lighting it on fire.  Crew-members rush for buckets of water while trying to protect themselves from the caustic, inky rain.  Meanwhile the corsair ship grows closer with alarming speed.

You try to calm the flames with your pyrokinesis but they are too chaotic to fully dampen.  Though you provide some assistance you fail to fully dowse the fire. Meanwhile the corsairs gain on the 'Queen' with preternatural rapidity.

* Kaius  stalks the deck, waiting for the pirates

Sister Abra stands in the cover of the forecastle, grimacing, her revolvers in hand.

The enemy ship is now close enough to see - a grotesque vessel that has been parasitized by a monstrous sea-growth, a fluttering, pulsating ooze whose tendrils cling to the barnacled planks and strangle the masts and prow.  The cannons are embedded in masses of this mottled, throbbing tissue, pivoting this way and that, guided by the growth's sinews.  A voice booms over the waves, magnified through witchcraft:  "Prepare to be boarded.  Lay down your weapons and your lives will be spared."

"Only long enough to be sacrificed later," Captain Xallschizirr mutters.  "Everyone ready weapons!  Get cannons loaded and ready to fire!"

As the ship closes in you can see its name - 'Excruciophile'.  You can also make out individual corsairs for the first time, the Misshapen themselves: a hideous collection of freakishly malformed men and women dressed in chitin armour made from the carapaces of various gigantic sea-creatures.  Many bear a loathsome boon, abominable mutations which almost resemble grafts.  One man lashes the air with a mass of suckered tentacles while another gnashes an enormous squid-beak; a woman toting a pair of triple-barrelled pistols oozes across the deck, her lower body that of a huge sea-slug; a pirate clambering up the rigging has a mouth overcrowded with rows of sharp teeth like those of a shark; another corsair has no mouth at all, only a giant barnacle that tastes the air with feathery cirri.

In addition to these horrific crewmen the corsairs have several brinegeists with them, floating figures covered from head to toe in sea-life - scuttling crabs, seaweed, coral extrusions, and starfish.  The grave-spawn resemble drowned men, their flesh puffy, their eyes fish-eaten, their hair and skin dripping constantly; they seem to leak water from their pores, dribbling onto the deck.  These monstrous beings are fettered by the wrists and ankles to the deck.

As the 'Excruciophile' draws close its parasitic sea-growth extrudes a series of tendrils towards the 'Queen of Ashes'.  The spidery ship is grappled, its mast and deck snared by barbed tentacles which begin to drag it towards the corsair vessel while the pirates lay down planks and prepare to swing across onto your deck. Cannons blaze on both sides, targeting one another; splinters fly and smoke abruptly clouds everything.

* Kaius  opens his visor with a telekinetic snap.

A tall corsair with a pair of viciously serrated swords charges across a gangplank nearby and begins slaying crewmen left and right while shrieking gibberish prayers to the Beast-Gods and snapping orders from a hideous lamprey-mouth.

Abra opens fire upon him. Bullets richoet off his carapace armour but one grazes him and another his him in the upper arm.  He ignores the wound, a look of mad glee in his eyes.

You hear a damnable voice, the same as the one that roared so titanically before, echo across the gap. It sounds like it's coming from the crow's nest of the enemy ship. You feel a horrible clammy sensation creep over your flesh but shrug off the hex. A brinegeist floats over a gangplank towards the 'Queen,' goaded by corsairs behind it.  Its bloated body churns and it vomits seawater everywhere, a gush of brine dense with sea-life - crabs and tiny prawns and other creatures as well.

You dodge the stream of seawater, though other crewmen are not so lucky.  They fall to the deck, water gushing from their mouths, infected by the brinegeist's taint.  Meanwhile swarms of tiny crabs scuttle over their bodies, pinching them incessantly. Your armour protects you from their small claws.

* Kaius  opens his jaw impossibly wide as smoke begins to trail from his mouth

You hear a shriek of pain as your flamespew lights the crow's nest and much of the rigging on fire. Nearby, the fire on the 'Queen' is now spreading rapidly, though you calm their flames significantly with your pyrokinesis.

* Kaius  snaps his visor shut, and moves to confront the enemy captain, Cereblade held at the ready

Half a dozen corsairs, toting pistols, cutlasses, scimitars, and tentacles, swarm over the gangplanks towards you. Bullets whistle past you or bounce harmlessly off your armour. Two corsairs engage you directly, charging towards you, screaming to the Beast-Gods to bless them. The two corsairs quickly flank you and begin hacking away, viciously striking out with their cruel swords.

* Kaius  lets out a low hiss at them

You hear Sister Abra grunt in pain as the pirate wielding two swords slashes at her, wounding her slightly. She retreats, firing as she goes. Unfortunately the corsair`s armour protects him, absorbing the brunt of her shots. You hear the fell voice again and abrutply the fire from your flamespew is doused as a wave crashes onto the 'Exruciophile's' deck, summoned through hexcraft. One of the brinegeists drifts towards you and lunges, clawed hands extended. Your armour protects you from its claws.  However, it tries to pull you into its grasp to grapple you. You push it off easily. Some of the crabs have gotten into your armour and begin viciously attacking your flesh.  You ignore them completely.

With renewed effort, the flames are smothered by your pyrokinesis. The pirates parry your blows, but one gets through, slicing through a corsair's armour and into his belly.  His blood is as black as the inky rain. The pirates sink their blades into your flesh, attacking the joints of your armour.  One of them stabs you somewhere deep.

In the smoke and chaos, Abra and the Misshapen captain becomes lost to Kaius’ vision. Another word of terrible power ripples through the air, a guttural snarl.  It sounds as if it came from somewhere deep underwater, even though it emanated from the crow's nest. You resist the puissant Utterance, fighting down a sense of creeping despair that steals into your mind.

The brinegeist lurches at you but you jump aside, avoiding its clutches. You slice off a corsair's arm, and his inky blood spurts everywhere.  The warped man howls in agony. The uninjured pirate slashes you twice with his sword while another corsair, this one sporting a cluych of writhing tentacles in place of her left arm, attempts to trip you up with her mutation. Her tentacles loop round your leg and pull you off your feet.  You hit the deck hard.

* Kaius  grimaces in annoyance

The Utterer speaks another puissant word, and a group of crewmen nearby scream in pain, thrashing around on the deck. You're not sure what's happening to them. Other crewmen - those hit by the brinegeist's spray - are rising as geists themselves. As you attempt to get up the brinegeist throws itself up you. It wrenches your visor open with its claws and, its cadaverous mouth gaping, attempts to administer a macabre, watery kiss, to fill your lungs with seawater! You shove the creature violently off you. You establish control over the creature, your mind dominating its imbecilic collection of drives.

Kaius - Destroy the corsair scum, slave.
* Kaius  whispers as he stands

Another corsair rushes in to take the place of the one who fell. Your armour deflects their blows.


Mounted on Rutter's back, you soar above the desert, gaining speed on thermals.  You can see the dark, jagged outlines of the Shadowglass Steppes to the south.  Soon you will pass from Dour Erg into the Mewling Moors, where the Centaurs should be stationed.  Your companion stops irregularly to feed on more carrion he smells down below: a dead dire maggot, a sand-ray corpse bereft of its goreflies, a dromedary already half-eaten, crows feasting on its eyes and decomposing organs.  As you fly over the waste you see its movements and patterns, the twisted, unstable ecosystem of the Slaughter-lands.  Pods and herds of squirming putrevores crawl across the Erg in the wake of roving banks of Rotmist, feeding on the sludge the necrotizing fog transforms all living beings into; the oozing, translucent things contend with packs of hyenas and flocks of mutant vultures, expelling noxious gases to deter other scavengers.  Geists wander aimlessly about, gibbering or flailing uncanny appendages, sometimes pursuing bedraggled humanoids that might be fetch, infecting new victims.  Haunts shamble in eerie platoons, hounded by dire maggots hungry for dead flesh, themselves beset by gorefly swarms.  Marrowmoths gnaw the bones of enormous monstrosities protruding from the earth while blindly meandering fleshtree groves snatch at the fat white insects with their arm-branches.

Several days of this pass.  Having flown over the parched vastness of Dour Erg and the steaming, simmering plains of obsidian to the south, you now fly over the Mewling Moors - a damp highland region north of Marainein plagued by bilious Rotmists and strewn with scattered marshes and ghostgrass savannah.  To the west you can distantly make out the corpse-grey expanse of the Fevered Ocean. Somewhere in this wretched badland the Centaurs are said to be escorting caravans northwards from the City of the Wasting God.  Now you just have to find them and present them with Macellaria's offer.

Down below, moving across a one of the few patches of ground not obscured by mist, you see several small shapes - what look like horses, or mounted riders, from a distance.  They seem to be keeping pace with a series of larger shapes, probably wagons.

* Eareg_Maar taps rutter on the side and points to the shapes

Eareg_Maar- lets get a closer look I'm curious

As you descend you can see the figures more clearly.  Each is a man or woman, but their lower bodies have been replaced with those of horses through fleshcraft, the transition between human- and horse-flesh unsettling incongruous.  There are about a dozen of them in total, escorting a caravan laden with slave cages in which branded men and women lie sullenly.  Seeing Corpserutter the Centaurs ready bows and other weapons, alarmed at the creature's sudden appearance.

* Eareg_Maar waves to them and points off to the side. He grins smartly

You set down.  Almost immediately a strange whispering fills your ears - the sound of the ghostgrass rustling, speaking with eerie dead voices. You ignore the wheedling, mournful voices. The Centaurs swiftly surround you and Corpserutter.  Suddenly bows and guns are all trained on you. Corpserutter snarls, baring his teeth.

* Eareg_Maar raises his hands showing open palms
Eareg_Maar- Easy boys we're not here for a fight
The Centaurs still seem suspicious.  "Who are you?  What are you doing here?"

"We just came from sodomizing your mothers," Corpserutter says.

* Eareg_Maar smacks corpserutter on the top of the head
Eareg_Maar- now's not the time for that
* Eareg_Maar turns to the centaurs
Eareg_Maar- I am searching for a group matching your description. The people who sent me have need of warriors

The one who spoke trots forward, a muscular, heavily scarred man with the lower body of a black warhorse, in full armour and barding.  The grafted mercenary is missing an eye and carries a sword and an intricate crossbow.

"You wish to hire the Centaurs?  For what purpose?  Who do you represent?"

Eareg_Maar- I represent the city of Macellaria. My... associates have a desire to hire most capable mercenaries such as yourselves

"I represent the forces of buggery and mindless violence," Corpserutter adds.

Eareg_Maar- I'm sure they can see that quite well

"Indeed.  Macellaria - a city of thieves and scavengers, robbers of the dead.  Why does the City of Bodysnatchers need a mercenary company?"

Eareg_Maar- This most foul mouthed creature here is Corpserutter... a bit of a pain but wings even those attached to a smartass make a use in the wastes

"They want to use you for pony-rides, worm-brains."

Eareg_Maar- A certain Herruku the Flagellator has set his sights on the City of Bodysnatchers. Said city does not appreciate his gaze and would very much like to put out his eyes.

Corpserutter looks up at you with a look that seems to say, "Look how much I'm helping."

* Eareg_Maar gives Rutter the evil eye

"Ah, the warlord of Flense Veldt.  You should speak to the Mare, our leader. Currently she pursues a tribe of the headless, vile creatures who wander the lands to the north, waylaying caravans and harassing local settlements.  The anthropophagoi are maggot-herders as well as raiders: you should be able locate them from the air by looking for their charges.  The Mare should be nearby."

* Eareg_Maar nods respectfully to the centaur
Eareg_Maar- Many thanks
* Eareg_Maar mounts up on rutter

The Centaur nods in return and gestures for his company to put up their weapons.

Eareg_Maar- If all is well you will perhaps have your chansce to ride down the warlord’s men.

* Eareg_Maar motions to Rutter to take off
Eareg_Maar- Come on bird brain
* Eareg_Maar jabs him playfully
"We're off to deflower your sisters," the thanatosphinx says cheerfully to the Centaurs.

You once again take to the air, heading north this time. After several hours of flying you hear gunshots and, more distantly, cries of pain and savage war-cries from somewhere down below. There's too much cloud and fog right now to make out details.

Eareg_Maar- care to take a closer look?
"Sounds like my sorta party," Rutter comments. He swoops lower.

* Eareg_Maar smiles

Eareg_Maar- Lets crash the party then

Down on the ground, squirming across the vast plains, you see a great writhing tide of pallid flesh - a huge column of undulating, scuttling, chittering dire maggots.  As you grow closer you can see smaller figures surrounding the enormous creeping carpet of dire maggots - swarms of grey-skinned humanoids and smaller groups of Centaurs.  They appear to be engaged in a running battle: you can see the flash of gunfire from those Centaurs with firearms and the shadowy effervescences of hexes hurled by anthropophagoi witch-doctors.

Eareg_Maar- Seems our friends are having fun without us, dancing with anthro's and not even asking us if we wanted to join in
* Eareg_Maar brings Meteor to bare and lines up one of the foul hex hurlers. There's a double boom as fireballs streak out from the barrel.

One bullet strikes the ground, but another finds its target! The witch-doctor curses as the bullet hits its shoulder, sizzling as it bores into the creature's grey flesh.

* Eareg_Maar shouts as he swoops past

It bellows a hideous hex, targeting Corpserutter.

Corpserutter snarls in confusion.  "I'm fucking blind!" he shrieks. He is currently plummeting towards the ground.

* Eareg_Maar shouts directions to him trying to steer him towards the centaur group

You shout directions, but in his panic Corpserutter fails to follow them.  He is about to hit the ground!

Eareg_Maar- Bloody hell

* Eareg_Maar takes the precious seconds to chant an eldritch phrase, gray-green light envelops his body

As you descend stray bullets whistle past you.  The battle is a brutal mobile melee, a gruesome series of skirmishes and engagements.  Centaurs dart in towards the herders with guns and crossbows, harassing the headless humanoids from either side.  In response the anthropophagoi, huge mouths bellowing vicious battle-cries, hurl spears and throwing axes and hideous spells.  As you watch a trio of Centaurs lunges towards a large cluster of anthropophagoi with rifles blaring, filling the air with the crack of their firearms and the wet smacking sounds of bullets hitting meat.  In response a witch-doctor at the forefront of the tribal band of barbaric creatures utters a horrible primal screech which instantly flays the skin from one of the Centaurs, reducing the mercenary to a twitching, screaming mass of bare muscle.  The grafted warrior, still alive, collapses in a heap of flailing horse-limbs.

Corpserutter hits the ground hard. You leap off his back nimbly and roll, avoiding serious damage. Corpserutter is unconscious, having hit his head.  He's still breathing, though.

* Eareg_Maar stands up and checks his surroundings, then heads over to Rutter

Three anthropophagoi warriors are hastening towards you with nasty looking axes.  They are accompanied by half a dozen skeletal warriors - human bones carved with necromantic glyphs and lashed together with sinew cords.  These crude grave-spawn clutch spears. The skeletal warriors charge forwards on bony legs, spears leveled.

You shake the thanatosphinx vigorously and it perks up.  "Wha... where the fuck... what happened?  Why is everything black?"

Eareg_Maar- you're blind dipshit and we're getting charged by angry partygoers

He snarls and gets to his feet.  "I can't see!  How am I supposed to kill things and defile their corpses if I can't see?!"

Eareg_Maar- You can smell can't you? These things stink like hell you sure as hell should smell them

"I can smell about two hundred dire maggots streaming past us not to mention a lot of rotmist.  But maybe I can smell ‘em once them get closer."

* Eareg_Maar tries to help him at least face in the right direction

Speaking of which, the anthropophagoi themselves are now closing in too. One of them bellows a war-cry. Though a moment of panic grips your black and shriveled heart you shrug it off. You've been through worse than this, after all.
Rutter bares his teeth and leaps in the direction of what he thinks are the skeletons. He lands amongst them with a clatter of bones. One skeleton is clawed apart completely by his pounce.

Eareg_Maar- Now that's what I call dancing you sorry sack of meat

One of the skeletons plunges its spear into Rutter's flesh. Two more approach you, charging. Your hex deflects their blows easily.

* Eareg_Maar levels Meteor at one and fires. You are jabbed in the ribs with a spear as you fire, and your shots go wide. The headless warriors approach, two attacking Corpserutter, one assailing you.  Their eyes - roughly in place of their nipples - are filled with mindless rage. Corpserutter gnashes his teeth in agony as one of them hacks a chunk out of the sphinx's side. Rutter paws at one of the anthropophagoi, raking it with his claws and snapping at the creature's limbs. Corpserutter is again skewered by a spear.  The thanatosphinx is not doing so well - it is badly wounded. Another spear-blow grazes your side.

* Eareg_Maar takes a 5 foot step back from the attackers before pale blue lines on his right arm blaze to life -with a wink he blinks into the ethereal

The headless slashes at you ineffectually with its weapon.  It howls with frustration as its axe passes through your body. Rutter snaps at a skeleton and crunches bone. "Fuck this," he snarls, taking to the air. The skeletons fling their spears, however, and the thanatosphinx goes down, bleeding everywhere.  It is once again unconscious, and likely dying.

Eareg_Maar- Damn it

As it plummets groundwards, four Centaurs charge towards you, firing crossbows and rifles. The anthropophagoi attacking you is hit twice, snarling in pain as bullets strike its thigh and shoulder.

* Eareg_Maar ignoring those next to him picks out the most dangerous target near Rutter and gives it hell

You hit one of the skeletons in the head and it collapses into a pile of inert bones. The skeletons, ignoring Rutter, charge towards the Centaurs, bony hands contorted into claws. One of the Centaurs is assailed by the two skeletons, who drag it groundwards. A skeleton is nearly blown to bits by the Centaurs, but in the chaos, many of their bolts and bullets miss.

* Eareg_Maar moves to put himself near the centaurs before his ethereal protection wears off and then, turning back to face them sends a bullet soaring towards one of the headless near Rutter
* Eareg_Maar yells at the headless
Eareg_Maar- Come on slime come and get some

The headless oblige, charging towards you. Two of the anthropophagoi ruthlessly butcher the Centaur being grappled by skeletons, chopping it into pieces with their axes. One of them swings at you, but you duck the blow. One Centaur is being mobbed by skeletons, fending them off by rearing up and kicking with his front hooves. A spear breaks off in his flesh, however. Now engaged in a melee, the Centaurs draw blades. One of the anthropophagoi is run through and them trampled to death.

* Eareg_Maar takes a 5 foot step back and points Meteor at one of the baddies that charged him -black tendrils snake from the rifle's barrel and tether it to the creatures face. A flaming streak crosses the distance pulling a shockwave of sound and fire behind it there is a flash of blood followed an instant later by a massive explosion as it rips out the creature's back in a blast of gore

The remaining headless warrior charges towards you, snarling horribly. The creature is slashed and cut viciously as it moves towards you, but stays on its feet. Several dire maggots in the nearby herd seem to have scented your delicious grave-spawn flesh and now approach the battle, breaking off from the column of scuttling creatures. A Centaur is beset by a skeleton raking at its flesh with its claws. The anthropophagoi savaging you is cut down by two Centaurs. One of the skeletons is beheaded by another.

* Eareg_Maar notes the dire maggots approaching and with a wave of his hand and a black word changes his scent to as best as possible mimic that of an anthropophagoi.

The dire maggots wriggle their heads to and fro, confused, then scuttle back to join their fellows. One of the skeletons is trampled to death.  Only a couple remain - they will soon be destroyed by the Centaurs.

* Eareg_Maar runs to Rutter to try to stabilize him

Using your first aid gear you quickly staunch the worst wounds and stabilize the thanatosphinx while the Centaurs crush the remaining skeletons.

Eareg_Maar- Come on you bastard you're not allowed to die, not until I'm safe anyways

The battle seems to be dying down - as mist and gunsmoke clear you can see that the Centaurs have slaughtered many of the headless.  The bones of their skeletal thralls are strewn everywhere, and the dire maggots stampede mindlessly into the Moors, some of them corralled swiftly by the Centaurs.

Corpserutter moans as he regains consciousness.  "I feel like I got raped by a fucking Gorgefly."  He retches, vomiting blood all over you.

* Eareg finally feels the full force of his wounds and fatigue with the battle calming down Eareg finally feels the full force of his wounds and fatigue.

Eareg_Maar- no gorgeflies... you did get boned pretty hard by some skeletons... you're fortunate that their masters were unable to give you head
* Eareg_Maar chuckles roughly and lets out a cough

Rutter laughs, coughing up more blood.

Eareg_Maar- You still blind?

The sphinx nods, unpleased.

A band of Centaurs approaches, firing bullets and quarrels into the bodies of fallen anthropophagoi. Based on the orders she is issuing the Centaur leader - the Mare - would seem to be a muscular woman with the grafted lower body of a huge roan horse, at the head of the group approaching your position.  She wears a metal breastplate dented and scarred in a hundred places, and wears a heavy sabre at her waist.  Her right hand has been replaced with an elaborate graft, a repeating pistol with half a dozen barrels, fused to the stump of her wrist.  Her hair is buzzed short, her scalp tattooed with military insignia designating rank - she is carrying her helm in her left hand.

"What's this?" she asks, idly discharging half a dozen bullets into the body of a moaning witch-doctor nearby.  "A thanatosphinx and a lone ghul..."

* Eareg_Maar turns as she approaches standing erect but holding his side where a spear punched through his armor

Eareg_Maar- I appreciate the help very much there
* Eareg_Maar spits out some blood

"You two look like you've seen better days, wormy."

* Eareg_Maar chuckles

"Now, if you don't mind my asking, who in the bloody Hells are you?"

Eareg_Maar- A messenger who got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was told by some of your men where to find you. Macelleria has need of capable warriors

"Ah, I see.  A contract.  What's your offer?"

* Eareg_Maar returns to Rutter and pulls the chest of coins and the letter from his pack and returns to the Mare. He drops the chest at her feet and opens it

Eareg_Maar- a small token to show that we have the bones to spend
* Eareg_Maar hands her the letter
Eareg_Maar- and verification that we are who we say. We have 500 more chests like that for you if you take it and look to hire as many of you as we can.

She checks the letter.  "I see.  What would be required of us?  Why does Macellaria need aid?"

Eareg_Maar- A certain warlord by the name of Herruku, I'm sure the name is familiar with you... has decided to pay the city his respects, and Macelleria has no interest in permitting him to do so

"Ah, the Flagellator.  A proper challenge... not like these scum."  She punctuates her remark by shooting a groaning headless in the chest.  "I'll summon the herds and see how many we can spare.  Consider us hired."

* Eareg_Maar bows respectfully

"Looks like your... companion... was hexed.  We've got some fleshcrafters back at our camp who might be able to fix that.  Patch you up, too."

Eareg_Maar- That would be appreciated

* Eareg_Maar adjusts his hat and helps Rutter to his feet

She whistles and some Centaurs approach with a wagon to bear Corpserutter.

Eareg_Maar- Come on old filthpit, lets get you patched up

* Eareg_Maar helps him up into the wagon


Lophius slowly slouches back into normalcy in the wake of the leechkin insurrection.  The City of the Lamprey smolders; citizens scrub bloodstains from the streets; tattooed bodies are burnt, while those who died in defense of the city are given sea burials, or else interred in the catacombs of Skullford. The Legionnaires, of course, are gathered by their comrades-in-arms, the bones of their officers fashioned into new armour.

You leave the Ravener's jawbone with Maimer, who excels in such craftsmanship.  He assures you he'll have a piece ready before you depart the city.  You can borrow some armour in the meantime from the Legion armoury.

* Vetter picks some mail roughly equivalent to his usual byrnie and suits up, ready to pursue his mission

The mail is overlarge on you, but it will be serviceable. You get some rest in the Legion camp away from the dwindling battles in the city.

You approach the Shacklers' headquarters in the slave-markets of Bregm.  The squat, bald-headed man with the cat o' nine tails graft glowers at you. "You ready to make restitution to the Queen?"

Vetter- That's right, mate. Just point me the right way.

* Tarim hangs back, observing silently.

"Got a boat tied up in the dock.  We'll take ye, make sure you an' yer school do the job proper.  Come along then."

* Vetter raises what passes for an eyebrow at the suggestion he might not do the job properly, but follows readily enough

The Shackler makes a motion and two others follow him to a small, barnacle-encrusted vessel bobbing amidst several others.


The Utterer in the crow's nest, scorched but alive, snarls another dreadful word, speaking with the vocie of a Beast-God! The corsair gurgles as you counterattack, your blade taking him in the belly.  He staggers backwards, groaning, blood trickling from his mouth and insides. A clammy sensation fills your lungs, but you successfully fight against the hex. The brinegeist you turned launches itself at one of the corsairs, clawing at him and pulling him away from your position.

The corsair fends the creature off, but is now distracted. Other bringeists, former crewmen of the 'Queen of Ashes,' are floating about the deck and attacking their erstwhile comrades! With a single swipe of your sword you behead the vile corsair!  The corsair fighting your brinegeist runs it through.  The creature moans dully, seawater gushing from its wound instead of blood.

The Utterer speaks another word, and the decapitated corpse at your feet twitches and rises, limbs jerking like a puppet's.  The brinegeist ineffectually claws at the corsair butchering it. The zombie slashes with its sword, cutting you deeply.  However, as it tries to pull the blade out the sword gets caught on your armour and falls from its grip. You hew off one of the zombie's arms.  Its neck is still gushing blood.  The grave-spawn totters, off balance.

The corsair finishes off your brinegeist, hacking it to quivering, watery pieces. The Utterer snarls a dreadful word, and a lightning bolt lances down from the sky, striking the ship itself. Fortunately the deck is too wet for another fire to start. The zombie lurches to retrieve its sword. It blindly gropes for the weapon with its remaining hand. You hack it nearly into two.  It collapses, the necromantic spell animating it dissipating into the aether.

* Kaius  turns, brandishing the Cereblade. He steps towards the remaining corsair.

The man sports a writhing mass of tentacles in place of one arm.  He turns towards you after wrenching his blade form the brinegeist's quivering remains. You slice through several tentacles, which fall to the deck, squirming.  The corsair shrieks and disengages, cutlass poised to parry additional blows.

A bullet pings off your helmet, fired by a pirate on the corsair vessel - a woman with the lower body of a gigantic sea-slug. Meanwhile, the tentacles of the 'Excruciophile' bring the 'Queen' even closer, and another cannon-volley rocks the ship. You manage to keep your feet despite the slipperiness of the deck. The Utterer sends bolts of dark puissance down towards one of the 'Queen's' crewmen, turning the albino sailor into a pile of steaming blood and liquid gore.

You scan the deck for the Captain but in the chaos of the fight, you cannot locate him.

* Kaius  storms across the gangplank onto the Excruciophile

As you run across the gangplank one of the tentacles gripping the 'Queen' detaches and encircles you, trying to keep you from boarding the enemy vessel. You manage to evade its probing grasp, though the caustic agents it secretes sizzles against your flesh, eating through your armour.

* Kaius  vaults over the grasping tentacle and onto the deck of the Excruciophile. He sweeps low, cutting the legs out from under the tentacled corsair. He slams his boot down onto the corsair's head, pulping bone and brain, as he steps towards the gunslinger.

The woman frantically fires, almost point blank. The bullet ricochets harmlessly off your shield. Another tentacle detaches itself, and both grope across the deck towards you. The tentacles seize you, one constricting, crushing your chest brutally, the other tugging at your leg, nearly dislocating it.

You wrench yourself free of the tentacles!

Another bullet pings off your armour. You hack through the pirate's armour, plunging your blade deep into her flesh. The tentacles lash at you viciously. The tentacles try to trip you, but you stamp them away. The corsair puts up her hands.  "I yield!  I yield!" she cries. Her weapon clatters to the deck. You brain the woman with your pommel and she slumps to the ground, blood oozing from her scalp.

You leap high in the air, landing part way up the mast in the rigging. The Utterer, seeing you below, cries out in alarm and begins weaving a hex.  Below you, the tentacles grasp where you stood in futility. Suddenly, pain shoots across your body as hundreds of tiny sores, like the markings of a squid's suckers, blossom across your limbs and face.

* Kaius  hisses in pain. He shimmies carefully over to the mast, and begins his ascent.

The Utterer is a scorched, bedraggled wretch with hair like seaweed.

Kaius - I have had enough of your loathsome utterings, wretch.

The corsair priest opens his mouth to intone another Utterance.

* Kaius  reaches out with his cold gauntleted hands, and seizes the Utterer about the arm and neck. He lifts him high into the air, over the lip of the Crow's Nest. Beneath his visor, his lips twist into a smirk as he heaves with all his might, and the Utterer falls to the deck below.

There is a sickening crack as the Utterer's skull strikes the deck, dashing out his brains.  The conduit to the Beast-Gods is broken and the wind begins to die down, the waves to cease their churning.  The caustic ink-rain likewise ceases, and the clouds overhead begin to clear.

With their divine aid suddenly denied them, the corsairs beat a hasty retreat.  You spot the captain limping over the gangplanks, badly wounded.  Abra fires left and right, slaying corsairs as they flee.

You leap, but it looks like you're going to fall short and tumble into the water.  Your hands scrabble against the edge of the 'Queen of Ashes' but your grip falters. A tentacle writhes towards you, lashing round your body.

* Kaius  grips the tentacle tightly, and rips it from his body. He thrashes in mid-air, attempting to secure purchase on the Queen of Ashes. This time you land firmly on the deck.

The tentacles detach from the 'Queen' as the last of the pirates flees across the gangplanks, lifting them up as they reach the other side.

* Kaius  sheathes the Cereblade, and turns to glare at the fleeing ship.

Sister Abra squints and fires off a series of shots at the ship.  The pirate Captain is busy issuing orders when her bullets reach him blowing his head into bloody fragments.  He continues to stand for a half-second, then slumps lifelessly to the deck of the 'Excruciophile.' She blows smoke from the barrel of 'Absolution.'

Kaius - A fair shot.

"Glad to see yer still alive, so to speak anyway," she says.

Kaius - I am not so easy to subdue.

"I can see that. I must say, I don't look forward to facing you later."

Kaius - Then perhaps you should choose not to.
Logged


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« Reply #204 on: August 05, 2018, 07:08:23 PM »

Lophius Part 5

"Not a matter o' choice, I'm afraid."

Captain Xallschizirr limps over towards you.  "The 'Queen' needs repairs," he says, blood streaming from a cut on his scalp.  "We'll put in at Gargoyle Island for the night, make the repairs tomorrow and be on our way."

* Kaius  inclines his head to the Captain
Kaius - The safety of your ship is of paramount importance, I would not see it suffer from damage unattended.

The Captain nods.

Damaged but still vaguely sea-worthy, the 'Queen of Ashes' sets sail again, on a modified course. Presently you approach a medium-sized island in the midst of the Sallow Seas.  As you near its cliffs you can see that perched along its entire perimeter are gargoyles - hundreds of stone grotesques leering down at the water or staring out to sea.  Each seems uglier than the last, some resembling demoniac creatures or oneiroi, others strange hybrids of human and animal.  The 'Queen' makes for a sheltered bay along one side of the isle; here a small town clings to the waterside, rickety wooden buildings tottering against one another or slouching like drunken waders into the water.  Towering above them is a gargoyle of remarkable size, an enormous winged figure with a writhing beard of stone tentacles and a distinctly fish-like tail.

"Some say it's the statue of a Beast-God, others a petrified Archdemon from the Membrane Wars," one crewman confides in you, seeing you look out at the town and the gigantic statue above it.  "Sailors claim that docking in its shadow blesses a voyage but that any who touches it will fall sick and die.  The usual superstitious babbling, of course."

Kaius - Of course.

You continue your modifications on your armour while the crew conduct their repairs throughout the next day before setting sail once more.  Days of tedious sailing pass.  Were it not for your work on your armour and your intensive training you would be bored nearly to madness by the endless waves and the dull monotony of the ship’s routines.  Fortunately, hours spent as a child standing in one place for days (to be beaten if you dropped unconscious or spoke, if you moved so much as to scratch your nose) have inured you to all dullness.

Presently the Midnight Isles become visible on the horizon - a great swathe of cloud black as a moonless night sky, shrouding an archipelago of gloomy rocks, devoid of vegetation save for uncanny white seaweed.  As you look out at the islands you experience something you thought yourself no longer capable of feeling - a sudden spasm of ominous foreboding disturbingly close to real fear.

As the 'Queen of Ashes' sails beneath the shroud of black cloud that swathes the Midnight Isles in eternal darkness the air grows cold and sounds seem eerily muted.  An insidious fog, dark grey and wraith-like, quickly envelops of the ship, pouring under doorways and through cracked portholes, caressing the rigging with ghostly tendrils.  The fog seems to possess a strange, funerary scent, like embalming oil and leather.

* Kaius  leans on the rail, peering out into the fog.

You are looking out into the fog when you catch the briefest glimpse of something dark - a ship?  An island?  It was too shadowy, to obscure, to make out fully. Shadows flicker in the mist.  You hear something hiss softly behind you!

* Kaius  wheels about, hand falling to the hilt of the Cereblade.

Stepping from the shadows of the 'Queen' comes a tall, thin shade wearing an incredibly large and flamboyant black hat and a long black frock coat.  A long, scraggly black beard trails from the grave-spawn's bony chin.  In one hand it holds a large flintlock and in the other a cutlass whose tenebrous blade twitches and flickers like a hungry thing.

Across the deck of the ship, other figures begin emerging from the fog.  They move with jerky, marionette movements, while their skins, tanned to dark leather, squirm and pulse with unsettling subcutaneous motion.  Some of them have bizarre grafts not of flesh but of shadow-stuff: amorphous, flickering augmentations likely culled from tenebrals.  Others wear armour or carry weapons that seem to be made of the same tenebrous material.  All of them have pitch black eyes.

Kaius - Queen of Ashes! To arms! We are boarded!

* Kaius  rips the Cereblade from its sheathe.

"Easy does it, you scaly bastard!" the shade says in a sibilant, rasping croak.  "Drop that sword sharply or I'll be gumming up that fancy armour with blood."

You hear Abra gasp somewhere off to one side.

* Kaius  sets himself into a defensive posture "And why should I do that?"
"Because your ship is trespassing in our waters.  You'd best be explaining your business here, and providing some fairly compelling reasons as to why we shouldn't slit your throats right now and divest your little boat of valuables."

Kaius - Our purpose is one of vengeance and liberation. I have set out to come to the Silent Isle, in order to destroy the Revenant known as Captain Konstantine, and to free a comrade that he has taken from me. I will ask you to depart from this ship. I do not wish blood to flow.

"Konstantine!?  That cur who struts about calling himself the 'Master of Shadows'?  And you say you're enemies of that misbegotten worm?"

Kaius - I am, though I did not wish to be. He has made himself so.

"Any foes of Konstantine's are friends of the Gloom-Reavers," the shade says.  "It would seem introductions are in order.  Name's Captain Hush." It sweeps off its hat and bows low.  Its crew lower their weapons.

* Kaius  sheathes the Cereblade hesitantly, and inclines his head.
Kaius - I am Kaius Alexander. It is good that we did not come to blows, Captain Hush.

"Indeed!  And well met.  You'd best be dining aboard the 'Nighttide' this evening.  We have much to discuss."  The shade gestures into the fog and you suddenly see a ship of black wood drifting out of the fog, incredibly close to the 'Queen of Ashes.'  More Gloom-Reavers aboard the vessel lower a gangplank onto the 'Queen.'  "Ah, look at the time," Captain Hush continues.  "Evening already!  This way then."  It gesticulates enthusiastically with its weapon, urging you across the gangplank.

Kaius - Ah. I would be delighted to accept the invitation, then.

Sister Abra, pistols in hand, moves over towards you.  "Are you insane?" she asks in a low voice.  "You want to go aboard that grave-spawn hulk?"

* Kaius  looks at her quizically

"These fuckers can't be trusted.  I say we attack now, while their guard is down."

Kaius - It would be rude to decline. I see no reason to refuse. If they wished harm upon us, they would have done so when the opportunity was ripe.

"Rude to decline?!?  A bunch of walking corpses slip out of the mist using dark arts and draw blades, and now you want to have a spot of supper with them?  Is that thing in yer head eating yer brains?!?"

Kaius - Sister Abra, your hostility is unbecoming. As you are so often wont to point out, I myself am 'grave-spawn'. If you can lower yourself to work with me to further your own goals, surely this is no greater obstacle.

"Striga damn it... I can see you're not going to be talked outta this.  Fine.  We'll go eat with the dead people.  First sign of trouble that Captain's getting a bullet to his wormy face."

Kaius - It is possible that their aid would make Konstantine's destruction all the easier. Come then, let us enjoy the hospitality of these Gloom-Reavers.

* Kaius  makes to join Captain Hush

She grits her teeth and follows you aboard.

You are courteously ushered through a wooden door and into a broad dining chamber, with a long, antique table of Bloodwood at its center, ornately carved chairs arrayed along its length.  Captain Hush barks orders for a meal to be prepared and politely indicates for you to take a seat.  The shade seats itself at the head of the table.  Sister Abra, Captain Xallschizirr, and his first mate, a pallid woman with hexed tattoos covering half her face and body, seat themselves as well.'

"Welcome aboard the 'Nighttide,' friends!" Captain Hush expostulates, necrotic tongue licking its lipless teeth.  "You must pardon the wait - strictly speaking our kind don't need to eat, so we're a bit irregular about our meals..."
Kaius - Ah. It is no trouble, Captain.

"So, how exactly are you fine folk acquainted with that black-hearted bastard Konstantine!?"

Kaius - For my own part, as I indicated, Konstantine has abducted a comrade very dear to me, and I would see her liberated from his clutches, and would see Konstantine regret his actions most sorely.

"Why's he got this comrade of yours?"

Kaius - To speak truly, I am uncertain. His claim was that she possesses knowledge that he has long coveted.

"I see.  Well, we can certainly get behind making the villainous wretch 'regret his actions,' as you say."

Kaius - And you? In what way does Konstantine trouble the Gloom-Reavers?

"Our enmity with him goes back a long ways.  Once, you see, the Silent Isle was our base of operations.  For near three hundred years we pillaged and made our berth in the Sussurant Fortress, gathering spoils for the pure, black joy of plunder.  While we roamed the seas in search of prey, however, Konstantine and his whorish lieutenants stole into our stronghold and slew the few crew we'd left behind.  When we returned the cannons of the battlements were manned by zombies; the 'Nighttide' was nearly sunk.  We retreated and tried to Shadow-walk into the Fortress using the gifts of Atramentia, but Konstantine had already warded the ancient stones against such incursions."

As the shade captain speaks Gloom-Reavers enter the hall with large silver platters, which they place before you.  Lifting the lids, they reveal plates covered in heaping, squirming, undulating, writhing piles of live octopus tentacles. "As I said, we shades don't need to eat," Captain Hush says.  "But some of us enjoy the wriggling feeling as the tentacles go down."  The shade forks several tentacles and shoves them into its mouth.

Sister Abra looks with distaste at the tentacles but reluctantly eats.  The 'Queen's' crewmen eat willingly enough.

* Kaius  gazes askance at the tentacles, but reaches out to spear one with his fork nevertheless.

Kaius - An.. interesting texture.

Captain Hush nods sagely, writhing tentacles sticking out of its mouth.  It slurps then down with gusto.

* Kaius  chews slowly

Kaius - I expect, then, that you might have some desire to reclaim your former home.

"Of course!  Our attempts so far have been unsuccessful... but if you seek to slay Konstantine, the Gloom-Reavers will do all in our power to help you.  If you approach the Silent Isle in your ship you will surely be dashed to splinters by the cannons, but if we draw the zombie gunners' attentions with the 'Nighttide' then perhaps you can get close enough to the Isle to slip in unseen.  There is a secret way that likely only we still know - a hidden cave on the southeast side of the Isle, with a tunnel leading up into the dungeons of the Fortress via a secret door.  We will give you the key to the door.”

"Once you're inside, if you can dispatch the gunners than we can bring the 'Nighttide' in and help you storm the Fortress.  Or, if you simply kill Konstantine, the Revenant bastard's little puppets should perish alongside him."

Kaius - A better plan than I had previously held. Tell me, Captain Xallschizirr, is the Queen of Ashes capable of slipping in swiftly while the Nighttide distracts the guns?

"Hmm.  Depends on the size of this cave.  Might be better to get in close and then send you in by rowboat.  I didn't sign on for an assault of this Fortress - not without more money, anyway."

Kaius - Very well. If you can get us close enough, we will go ashore by boat. Your services so far have been commendable, and I will not ask for more aid than you can give.

The captain nods.

"That's settled, then!" Captain Hush declares.  "I'll see about drawing up some maps for you."

Kaius - Captain Hush. Your proposal finds me in agreement. When the guns fall silent, know that it is time to strike.

The shade nods.  "Aye.  We'll be waiting."

* Kaius  frowns slightly, shrugs, and spears another tentacle, delivering it into his waiting mouth.

Having been conveyed to the den of the slavers by the Shacklers, you are deposited by the riverside.  The Gland flows into a black cave in the rocky face of a large, greenish hill protruding from the muck.  Your guide gestures to the cavern-entrance.  "Those breech-loading scum are holed up in there.  Took us ages to find 'em.  Clear 'em out and come back here, an' yer debt'll be square."

Vetter- Alright.

You'll have to clamber carefully on a slippery ledge if you want to avoid wading into the cave.

Tarim- I will not join this fight as it is yours alone, but I have some hexes with which to shift the odds more in your favour

Vetter- Much obliged to ya, Tarim.  Course, it ain't mine ALONE, really is it?
* Vetter mumbles a string of barely-audible profanity that might or might not end with the word "Kaius"

* Tarim begins to chant resting a clawed hand on Vetter's shoulder. The zerda is soon coated in a thin layer of rock that conforms to his features and gives way to his movements

"By the way," the Shackler grunts.  "Don't be freeing any godsdamn slaves ye might find in there.  Leave 'em fer us, got it?"

* Vetter waves the Shackler's command away with an imperious gesture and begins removing his mail

* Tarim enhances the foxfolk warrior with another hex that further toughens his hide

Tarim- This illusion will render you unseen to their eyes, which should be most useful if you intend to take them by surprise. Mind that it will be shattered as soon as you so much as lay a claw on any one of them

Vetter- Understood. I owe you for this, Tarim.

* Tarim casts Vanishment on Vetter

Tarim- It will also do nothing to silence your steps. it's up to you to keep quiet. Good luck in there!

* Vetter hands Tarim his borrowed hauberk for safekeeping and turns his attention to the climb to the ledge

* Tarim folds the hauberk and places it in his haversack, just in case something comes up that forces him to leave

You slip and splash into the water.  It's shallow for a human - but for a zerda that means it comes up almost past your neck. Fortunately the current isn't strong.

* Vetter goes to climb out and try again

You scramble back up onto the slippery ledge.  Up ahead, you can see a light growing brighter round a bend in the tunnel. You hear some vague echoes and what might be footsteps.

* Vetter moves closer to the light, careful not to make too much noise

A rickety jetty juts out into the water within the cave.  The water disappears into a low tunnel up ahead, too small for a boat to enter.  A ramshackle fanboat is tied up here.  Another tunnel, this one on dry land, winds up from the jetty deeper into the caverns.  A bedraggled man in patchwork leather armour is standing on the edge of the jetty, a lantern in one hand and a blunderbuss pistol in the other. The ledge you're balanced on will lead to the jetty and the tunnel if you follow it further. The man doesn't seem to have heard your approach.

You reach the jetty and the tunnel.  The man grumbles to himself and turns around from the jetty - it looks like he's heading back towards the tunnel.  He mumbles something about swamp-rats.

* Vetter waits to see if he will enter the tunnel, and quietly follows him at a distance if he does

He passes into the tunnel, ignoring you completely. A dingy lantern lights a long natural passage shored up with wooden supports; the tunnel descends at a slight slant.  Up ahead it turns round a corner. The slaver follows the passage round the corner ahead. There are also some strange cave-paintings on the walls, depicting what look like leechkin - dark figures with yellow eyes and stylized mouths on caricatured hands - as well as various beasts, predominantly reptiles and amphibians. Several images also seem to depict other denizens of the swamps, prominently including hagmen and Bloodwood Trees and their crimson offspring.  Filling a large portion of the wall is an eerie painting of an amorphous being, dark brown in colour and only semi-solid.  This entity towers over a number of leechkin figures, several of whom seem to be communing with it somehow.

* Vetter ignores the cave paintings for now and keeps following the slaver

A mangy-looking man with yellow teeth, a missing eye, and a rusty carbine sits on a chair by a padlocked, crude wooden door up ahead.  The slaver with the blunderbuss pistol approaches him.  "Dunno what it was," he grunts to the carbine-wielding guard, taking a vacant chair and setting down the lantern.  "Big bloody fish or somethin'."

In the gloom, it's hard to make out any details.  You think you might see a keyring on the carbine-wielder's belt.

* Vetter slinks forward, trying to get right up to the first slaver without being heard

You slink quietly towards them, making barely a sound, until you accidentally nudge a loose stone.  The one-eyed slaver looks up, a vexed look on his face, but seeing nothing, he relaxes.

* Vetter bounds the last few feet and tries to sink his talons into the slaver's jugular

"Jumping at every fucking noise," he swears, spitting, as you bound towards him.

* Vetter becomes visible just at the moment that his claws remove the man's throat from contact with the rest of him, blood spurting over his at-first-invisible form as it materializes beneath its fresh, sanguine coating. He then turns to gaze balefully at the second slaver.

The man, covered in a spray of arterial blood and blinking stupidly at the creature who just materialized before him, fumbles for his weapon.

* Vetter wastes no time in wheeling on the next man and delivering a furious assault. He bears the man to the ground and methodically butchers him before searching for the key he thought he saw

The slaver doesn't even have a chance to fire off a shot before you rip out several organs he was using.  You retrieve the key from his eviscerated remains.

* Vetter rummages through the two fresh corpses, looking for anything else that might be useful or just valuable

Apart from their firearms and ammunition, a couple of rusty knives, and a smattering of drachmi, they have little of any obvious utility.

* Vetter goes to the door and tries to unlock it silently

You ease open the door.  It squeaks, but fortunately the chamber beyond is fairly loud already.  Following a short tunnel, a large cave, its walls covered in more tribal paintings, its ceiling bristling with stalactites, opens up before you. Oddments of furniture - tables, chairs, bedrolls - are scattered about, along with two large heaps of likely stolen goods: crates, barrels, chests, and piled bits and pieces.  A dozen ill-kempt humans and hagmen lounge around the chamber dicing, drinking, cleaning weapons, and taking inventory.  You see a cask that looks to be full of madwine. Oil lamps provide illumination; there are two rough chambers adjoining this one. A third tunnel winds away into gloom.

You enter the cavern as stealthily as possible, but one of the slavers abruptly notices you slinking through the shadows.  He utters a wordless cry and grabs for the pistol at his waist! The slaver fires off a shot with his wheellock pistol, but it is repelled by Tarim's hex. The other slavers hasten to arm themselves.

Vetter- Buggeration.

 * Vetter dashes to the nearest oil lamp, snatches it up and hurls it across the chamber, aiming for a cask of madwine

You hurl the oil lamp and it smashes open, spilling its contents everywhere and striking the cask of madwine, which overturns and catches alight.   The flames begin to spread to nearby casks, crates, and chests.  Some of the slavers, alarmed at this development, turn their attention to retreating from the flames rather than putting bullets through your skull.

Bullets whine off your hex and the cavern walls, utterly ineffectual.  Two slavers step forward with blades drawn. You effortlessly avoid their blows.

* Vetter rounds on one of the swordsmen and rakes at him with his claws. He starts to grin as the slaver dies. This is actually sorta fun!

An exceedingly tall, broad-shouldered man steps from the flames, holding a very large, cruel, serrated sword in one hand.  He is covered in hexed tattoos, tentacular designs which seem to squirm and twitch under his skin.  Snarling, the slaver-captain strides towards you; his tattoos glow, and his muscles bunch and swell.

The slavers, astonished, continue to empty their weapons into you.  Bullets whine off your stony body or are deflected by Tarim's hex. One swordsman brings his blade down against your skin, but it bounces off.

* Vetter attack the remaining melee fighter

You claw the swordsman nearly to shreds.  He staggers back, dropping his sword. The muscular slaver with the serrated sword charges towards you, wreathed in smoke from the fire you set. His blade is hexed, cutting through Tarim's hexes with ease.  The serrated sword tears into your flesh, and blood wells from the wound, trickling down your stony skin. Several other slavers move in, abandoning their ranged weapons in preference for knives and swords.  They slash at you, but your ward protects you.

* Vetter turns his attention to the slavers' captain and launches a rapid flurry of swipes

The man grunts as you rip into him, though his piecemeal armour protects him to a degree. He lunges again, swinging his sword in vicious arcs. You duck his blows, dodging around him.

The fire is now spreading, the madwine fumes - sallow clouds of smoke - filling the chamber. You shake off the effects of the fumes - you go through far worse in an average evening at the bar.  Some of the slavers, however, begin to act very, very strangely.  One begins removing articles of clothing.  Another launches into a nonsense-poem while twirling his sword in the air.  A third begins conversing with non-existent beings, while a forth, hands shaking, starts aiming his pistol at his comrades, paranoia in his eyes. The flames, meanwhile, continue to spread. A good portion of the room is now ablaze.

Another slaver manages to dent your stony flesh. You tumble round your opponent, and in the haze he seems uncertain of your location.  He twists around, trying to follow you. You slash at your opponent with your claws, and he cries out in pain. He's now dripping with blood from several wounds.

The slaver makes a vicious overhead slash, tearing off one of your ears almost completely.

* Vetter fights through the pain as his vision starts to dim and his limbs become numb and heavy, launching one final bitter salvo of raking claw attacks. He feels, through his wounds and the onset of oblivion, a dark power stream through him and through his grafted claw as it comes up, almost of its own volition, in one final strike. As Vetter shrieks with rage, pain and final effort, the demoniac talons rend through the swordsman's armour and then his solar plexus, before penetrating his core, to his heart. Vetter rips the skewered organ from the man's spasming body, then collapses in a dead faint

The slaver vomits a gob of blood and collapses, even as the fire spreads.  Madwine-addled slavers, some of them on fire themselves, dash around the room.  Those few retaining their wits flee the flames as their leader falls.  After a moment of oblivion you regain your senses, coughing and spluttering in a room now filled with yellowish smoke.

Vetter- I..... AM..... IMMORTAL!

* Vetter grinning, stoops to snatch up the hexed sword and examine it

Its a viciously serrated sword etched with strange geometric designs.

* Vetter stows it in his pack and backs out through the door, slumping in the guard's chair to catch his breath

Smoke billows out through the door.  Orange flames crackle and spit.

* Vetter uses the sword to shove the door closed from his seat

* Tarim observes warily the haze of smoke emanating from the cave entrance

With the door closed the smoke no longer pours so thickly into the tunnel.  You can hear the shrieks of several madwine-addled slavers within.

* Vetter also leans over to lock the door

Tarim, as you watch, a fanboat roars out of the cavern, several smoke-blackened men atop it.

Tarim- Hm, looks like some rats are trying to escape

The Shacklers watch the slavers go.  "Looks like the dregs.  We can't catch them in this.  Let 'em go."

Vetter, you've recovered some of your strength, though your ear is still mostly missing, blood streaming from the wound.

* Vetter finally stirs from his seat and cautiously unlocks the door and nudges it open

There were several loud bangs - presumably casks of gunpowder catching alight. A dense plume of sickly, bilious vapour billows out of the door. You cough and try not to inhale the insanity-causing fume too deeply.

* Vetter pulls his bandana up over his snout to protect against the fumes and heads through the hellish doorway

The main cavern is a smoldering mess of burnt furniture, dead bodies, and thick yellow smoke.

* Vetter, eyes watering, pokes around to see if there's any salvageable loot

Each lungful of air is torturous.  Much of the smoke isn't madwine-tainted at all, just plain suffocating woodsmoke. In the smoke you find little of value.  Searching a couple of the bodies you turn up some coin. An armoury of sorts can be found here - casks of blackpowder, rough wooden shelves stocked with pistols, racks of knives and hatchets, and a handful of swords, machetes, and longarms leaning against the stony walls.  These have been spared the flames. More cave paintings adorn the walls.  The strange, nebulous being you saw earlier is presented here again.  This time, leechkin are depicted hurling struggling sacrifices into a pool; the being seems to arise out of the pool, devouring the sacrifices.

* Vetter goes to look in the next room

Dozens of slaves of every species are crowded into pens of bone and wood dominating another cave here.  Many look unwell or emaciated.  The majority of them are unconscious; one or two cough and splutter weakly.

* Vetter leaves them and heads down the third tunnel

A short passage leads into a cavern dominated by a large pool of steaming, bubbling mud.  The air here is very moist.

* Vetter goes back to Tarim and the Shacklers

You return to the boat.  "Heh, still alive!  I'm actually a bit impressed," one of the Shacklers says.

Vetter- Alright, calm down. All done, your lot can go in and get the slaves now.

"Hmph, alright.  We'll send a bigger boat to pick 'em up.  Consider your debt repaid.  Now let's get back to Lophius."

Vetter- You know, before they died, funny thing happened.... They threw all their gold down into this big muddy pool, all bubbling-like, in the back cavern....

Tarim- You look like you've crawled through a chimney, but it's good to see you again.

* Tarim grins

Vetter- Why'd they go an' do that, d'you reckon? Cheers, Tarim.

"Uh-huh.  Sure they did.  I think that smoke addled your brains." You do see a glint of greed in the man's eyes...

Vetter- 'Ere, Tarim, take a look at this.
* Vetter shows him the sword

* Tarim examines the blade curiously, his clawed fingers tracing the etchings on it
Tarim -This is a Wounding Bastard Sword; its name is Gutrend

You put in at the docks of Crooked-Finger.

Vetter- Actually, now that I come to think of it... I have this other sword and all...

Tarim- A right nasty blade. The hexing on it cuts deeper than steel alone would.

* Vetter shows Tarim the sword he took from the eidolon beneath the brothel in that swamp-town.

Tarim- That one will have to wait. Unraveling the enchantments woven in these items is not trivial.


Mr. Carver, you have been sent by the Cult of the Bloodletter on a pilgrimage as part of your formal initiation.  In the Sallow Seas, on an island now known as the Wounded Isle, the Ravager-Worm Hirud, god of the cestoids, tunneled up from whatever chthonic realm it once resided in and burst onto the surface, boring a hole through the world's skin. Some same the Wormgod was summoned, others that it gnawed its way up from the Earth's heart of its own accord; whatever the case, the site of its emergence left a crater so profound, so blasphemously injurious that it bubbles eternally with elemental blood.

It was here, in this pool of ever-flowing and unholy crimson liquid that the Bloodletter baptised himself, bathing in the Earth's primal issue. You must journey to this unscarred injury and repeat the Bloodletter's ritual, tasting of the world's primordial discharge. The way is perilous, as the Liber Necatoris, the Book of Murder, describes, telling of tribes of barbarians who swap their skins with those of sharks and dwell on the semi-coagulate clot-rafts that float about the Isle, of vampiric coral reefs riddling the surrounding incarnadined waters, of the Brawnwoods and the crazed Sinew-Smith who dwells within their moaning depths, of lamprey-headed hydras and swarms of flesh-eating jellyfish, of feral blood golems and dire mosquitoes, of carrion-jinni and their tamed pain elementals, of the water-hardening Scabtides.

To reach the Isle at all you must pass through Lophius, a place perilous for Cultists of the Bloodletter to travel to, for you have now learned of the Cult's bitter and longstanding feud with the Shroud, a rivalrous enmity stretching back for centuries. The shadowy assassin's guild of the Corsair City are obsessed with death itself, rather than the taking of life, fixated on the principles of nothingness, of the void, of silence and mystery, rather than the life-affirming act of killing, the sublime enormity of transgression.

To complete your pilgrimage you have been supplied funds from the Cult's coffers - one thousand bone obeloi.  While in Lophius if the opportunity arises to sabotage the Shroud in any way, you are encouraged to take the initiative and undermine the rival guild's activities if you can.

Maimer has fit the demon's jawbones to your armour.  He presents you with the modified hauberk.

* Vetter offers Maimer 79 Drachmi and 71 Obeloi

"Generous of you," Maimer says, accepting the fee.

* Vetter goes in search of a physician or, failing that, a drink

The Legion have plenty of surgeons able to dress your wounds, Vetter.

After asking around Crooked-Finger, Tarim learn that Chelke, the topmost tier, is the best place to unload alchemical substances and arcane drugs.

* Tarim heads to Chelke, ascending the tiers of the isle

The topmost tier of Crooked-Finger is gaudy and colourful, packed with merchants and slaves and shoppers. Upon entering the wrought iron gates you are quickly assailed by hawkers selling a variety of arcane oddities: nectar, charms made from glyph-etched fossils, scrolls written in nereid ink, gloves made of still-living demon-flesh, alchemical grenades from Erebh, live scorpions, xsur eggs, shrunken hagman heads, a jar of grave-dirt, a beetle-headed statuette, a reanimated bird-skeleton in a golden cage, and dozens of other bizarreries.  Bookstores, glyph parlours, tissue-shops, and nectar dens line the streets; order is kept by a gang of men tattooed from head to toe with eyes.

* Tarim looks around for any stall that appears to specialize in combat drugs

You find a booth where a tall, heavy-set lilix woman sells a wide variety of drugs and poisons. The statuesque spiderfolk merchant regards you with eight crimson eyes.  Two of her arms are missing at the elbow-joint and have been grafted with obviously human replacements, the skin-tones mismatched.

* Tarim approaches the merchant
Tarim- Greetings

"Greetingss, deadman.  What do you need?  The venom of the sspider?"

* Tarim digs into his pockets and produces vials of yellowish liquid, displaying them to the lilix. "I have some thrum I would like to sell. Macellarian stuff. Good for pit-fighters and the like, as you surely know. I have no need for it, myself..."

"I ssee... thrum is alwayss in high demand.  How much?"

Tarim- I'd part from these for, let's say, 420 drachmi apiece

She makes a peculiar chittering sound which might be laughter.

"You are funny for a deadman!  I give you on hundred apiece.  A good price."

Tarim- Ha! You must take me for some clueless tourist to be ripped off. I'll forgive that, I *am* an outlander, after all. Now 390 would be a realistic price, wouldn't you agree?

"Let me inspect the goods."

* Tarim holds one of the vials up, allowing her to get a closer look

She examines the vial carefully.

"This is good sstuff.  I'll give you three hundred a dossse.  I can ssee you know your busssinesss."
Tarim- Make that 360 and it's a deal. That's my final offer.

"Fine!  Three-ssixty."

Tarim- Deal!

* Tarim exchanges the three vials for the coin, which he carefully counts. He then heads off looking for a tattoo parlour

* Carver follows Tarim surreptitiously

You locate a tatooist, a scrawny bog-ghul covered in all manner of glyphs. The walls of the parlour, incidentally, are covered in manskin scrolls, all of them adorned with glyph tattoos.

Tarim- Greetings. I require your services.

"Have a seat.  What is it you require?"

Tarim- A rather potent hex imprinted on my back. It will be quite a piece of work.

"Do you have a design in mind, then?"

* Carver watches the transaction from the street

* Tarim describes the tattoo: a pair of wings not unlike those of a vulture, spanned out as if a carrion-bird taking into the flight

Tarim- I can provide the necessary hex, if that one is not know to you

The bog-ghul makes notes and writes out the appropriate formulae for your consideration.  Everything seems in order. He gestures for you to lie down on a slab, where he can get to work.

Tarim- The price, of corse, will be notable. I will make arrangements to have the money delivered.

"If payment is prompt and in full, we shall have no problems."

Tarim- Let us begin, then

He begins tattooing. You hear the bell to the parlour ring, but can't see the door. Footsteps approach.

* Tarim lies as still as a corpse, being by now rather used tot he stinging of needles on his skin

* Carver leans in over the slab, admiring the fledgling masterpiece of the tattooist

The tattooist looks up briefly.  "I'll be at this awhile, sir, if you care to come back later."

Carver- "ah, I'm just admiring your work if you do not mind." (a familiar voice says)

* Tarim raises his head just slightly hearing the voice

Carver- "My my, old friend, that is some piece you are having done. Wings, I reckon? I of course would prefer the real deal, but to each his own, I guess. Took me a while to track you down."

Tarim- Carver? I was not expecting to find you in Lophius.

Carver- "Ah, you recognize me! I am glad to hear that. Neither was I, initially, but our ways have, what should we call it... a tendency to cross."

Tarim- I see. What is it that you need of me?

Carver- Need of you? My dear Tarim, I seek nothing but your company and cheerful disposition. If I recall correctly, we also had something of a common financial venture in this here region. That being said, it is not the sole reason I am here. Who is still alive of our old companions? The stoic and stodgy tin can?

Tarim- Ah, that job. You have a good timing, for we are soon to depart for the destination.

Carver- Our once-mute-once-loud furry comrades?

Tarim- As for the old gang, they all live far as I know.

Carver- Had a little vacation have we? Or are you to blame for the fresh blood in the streets?

Tarim- Of course, one cannot be sure of such things in this town. It seems that sudden death lurks areoudn every corner here. The blood? You can blame that on the local leeches.

Carver- Which part of the blood-spilling should I blame them for? The shedding or the spilling?

Tarim- They had something of a fanatic cult here, started an uprising.

Carver- Hmm, how unfortunate. Why does religion so often lead to murder in this twisted world we inhabit, I wonder.  The tattoo is coming along nicely in case you were wondering. But I will gladly accompany. For old times' sake, and for the money as well of course.

Tarim- Good to hear. So, you're going to join us on the planned sailing trip?

Carver- If you do not mind, I would like to make a small detour on the way there, though for the trouble I will gladly fund the journey. I am sure it will require more than pocket change to get a captain to sail to those cursed isles.

Tarim- Your assistance would be most useful. Kaius has gone off to some ill-adviced quest, as he is wont to.

Carver- Ah yes, he was never one for deliberation. A man of action he was, mayhaps is.

Tarim- I am in the dark as to details, but it apparently involves a red-headed slave-girl that was being auctioned on the market when we arrived in town

Carver- Uh, that sounds unusually hot-headed! And here I thought he had no heart to speak of.
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Gelatinous Cube
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« Reply #205 on: August 06, 2018, 05:33:32 PM »

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I think there is some material missing from this, but it may be lost forever. Think of it like that burned patch in Beowulf or a missing reel.

ha.

Thank you greatly!

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Kaius - You! Shaman! Undo your work, or die. You have blinded me.
* Kaius  points slightly to the left of one of the shaman menacingly

One of the shamans mutters a hex.  Your vision clears.
Ah, the imperiousness laugh
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« Reply #206 on: August 07, 2018, 09:17:52 AM »

Now that sure brings back some fond memories.
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¡ɟlǝs ǝnɹʇ ǝɥʇ ´ʍopɐɥS ɯɐ I
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