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 The Adventures In Aaralynn

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Just_Irving
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PostSubject: The Adventures In Aaralynn   Mon Sep 12, 2011 10:27 pm

This shall keep a running log of recapped and truncated re-tellings of prior Episodes and Gaiden Stories.
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PostSubject: Short Version: Almost everybody dies horribly.   Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:08 pm

Episode One
The Magnificent Ending

In the city of Hoshiko an event was about to occur that would bring about an unfolding story that would change the face of the world. Many were involved and not all survived. This is the story of that tale.

Everyone who was not Adrianne or Nagamasa were chilling out in the bar while Nagamasa was at a brothel and Adrianne was arriving in the city.

Nagamasa entered the bar and began playing cards with Jeremiah, Tharius, Iron-Claw, & Gellert as a pair of bar patron threw out a rowdy fat Desert Elven man.
Adrianne entered the bar under the guise that she was a singer and began to sing as Gellert left looking for work.

Iron-Claw relayed to Nagamasa that there was a government agent out to subvert his efforts and suggested they vacate.

As everyone began to exit the bar they passed Gellert and Caroline speaking to a trio of desert elves whom required help defending their town from marauding bandits.

Tharius, being a penniless monk made the way for his room at the inn by chopping wood for the innkeeper in the early night. While chopping apart wood a mysterious man garbed in black, shaven head and holding a katana took notice of the monk before going about his way.

While nestled at the inn, Adrianne attempted to follow leads on Nagamasa searching through the inn, unbeknownst to her Nagamasa was at the ready. After a short scuffle he knocked out his pursuer with a poison alerting Jeremiah to action elsewhere in the inn. Checking to find out what the problem was he proceeded upstairs as Nagamasa began to tie up Adrianne and hide her in his room.

Unbeknownst to Jeremiah, Tharius was following closely behind the paranoid mountain man. A creaking floor board tipped off Jeremiah to his presence however and he whipped around and shot the monk with his preloaded crossbow, alerting the innkeeper.

Nagamasa and Jeremiah continued outward to investigate the respective noises, and the two met and bluffed their way into not investigating each other further for fear the other would take action against them. The innkeeper was thoroughly confused and demanded that everyone return to their rooms, but that the local Paladin; Cascata Shiri would be by in the morning to heal Tharius.

By the time the morning came Adrianne had awoken and escaped her bonds just in time to see Nagamasa & Iron-Claw to notice when they came back to check on her, leading to another fight .

Tharius was healed by the distant, metallic paladin woman and offered to come along with her, Gellert and Caroline and aid them in defending the elven town, as Iron-Claw followed by Jeremiah emerged from the front of the inn, and Nagamasa ducked into the crowd of elves requesting help.

Adrianne followed from behind the inn hiding in a tree attempting to locate Nagamasa in the crowd. Her efforts were in vain since Nagamasa had been hidden under a poncho by a friendly elf, obscuring him from her vision completely. Her superior and councilman of Internal affairs in Aaralynn; Leonidas Sergisenn, accompanied by a mysterious man in a wide brimmed, flat crowned hat in a poncho with a buckler on his one arm both happened by while she was crouching in her tree and inquired why she was acting as such. After a short aggravated exchange and her refusal to come down from the tree, Leonidas left in a huff.

Another desert elf from the crowd approached Iron-Claw as the wolf-folk man was questioning Jeremiah for following him. The elf was attempting to use the sale of oranges as a cover to get him over to the crowd with his friend Nagamasa. Iron-Claw however did not understand the subtext of his inquiry and attempted to scare off the elf. The seller of oranges was not very bright and thought that he was not simply satisfied with just oranges and promised to bake them to enhance their flavor. Iron-Claw, defeated, sulked over to the crowd, only to be hit in the back of the neck by a knife thrown by Adrianne.

The sudden attack prompted both Caroline and Cascata to brandish their crossbow and longsword respectively at the still unknown people. Jeremiah and one elf reciprocated, leading Jeremiah to comment “Looks like we’ve got an elven stand -off.”
All of this action coincided with the innkeeper running outside angrily attempting to discern whom had ruined the upper rooms of his inn. Caroline, completely fed up with the proceedings simply opted to leave with the team they already had and rode out with the elves toward their village on her dog followed behind by the remainder of people in the square, even Adrianne.

During the 5 day horseback trek to the village, Adrianne had a chance to explain her actions and that her direct orders were to subvert Nagamasa’s alter ego “The Black Fox” for the councilman of Internal Affairs, she intended to recruit him to abscond with a piece of art from the city of Farrah for the councilman of Magical and Religious Studies; Foucault Durst. Along the way, the menagerie of people were able to tell a bit more about themselves to each other.

Upon finally arriving in the town the group was better informed on the coming danger by the elder of the town. A force of bandits at least 100 strong was impending on the town in two days, as they attacked annually to steal the town’s crops. Originally they thought it would be best to simply transport the villagers to safety. The elves themselves opposed this because they had always lived there and had no true other place to go, and the effort would be futile, as they had no carts and would not have the time to transport the entire town to safety before 2 days. The team of 8 devised a plan to protect the town; by breaking down the mill house to build a wooden fence around the town and digging pits to trap possible incomers.

The group took shifts in guarding the town by keeping look out from the bell tower. Caroline kept a near continuous lookout due to not requiring as much sleep through magical aid. The expected day finally came and an assault occurred on the eastern wall. A hole was broken in the fence quite quickly but, Caroline and Gellert fended off the main attack aided from the tower by Adrianne & Jeremiah. Nagamasa & Iron-Claw began over to provide more ground support just as soon as an unseen attack from the western wall. Two of the defending villagers fell unconscious after being struck by an unknown force. Tharius & Nagamasa quickly expedited to the western wall, only to find themselves under attack from a force hiding themselves in the alleyways. Nagamasa was temporarily hampered by a dagger to his leg while Tharius took the hiding forces head on.

While dealing with the hiding forces in the buildings Cascata located the threats through use of her paladin senses, however found herself in more trouble than she’d bargained for sustaining a flanking assault. Iron Claw arrived in time to aid Nagamasa and Tharius in quelling the forces down to the person leading them. Tharius recognized the desert elf in charge of the others sneaking around as the elf making a raucous a week prior in the bar. Despite their best efforts to exterminate the invaders one female elf and the portly elf leading them escaped into the wooded area around the western part of town.

Regrouping the group found themselves in dire straits, having taken significant damage in the fight on both ends of the town. Cascata did her best to heal those whom had been injured in the fights, but could not fully restore any one person. Their troubles had only begun as Jeremiah rang the bell in the tower in the center of town to signify that figures were seen o the horizon riding towards town. The group tried to mount a defensive trap by digging a chasm before the hole in the fence the hostiles were charging towards, but it was in vain, as their horses merely jumped the gap. Upon their arrival Caroline expressed fear saying only: “Oh no, it’s the Niho Brothers.” Her fear would be well deserved.

The Niho brothers were a famous pair of outlaws each heinous in their own right. Seeking opportunity, Nagamasa struck the elder brother, Ranfed, with a shuriken, only rousing his ire, but before the tower of a man riding a mountain of a horse could act Nagamasa quickly took cover. The Junior, Vayven, quickly dismounted his horse and began brandishing an axe the size of his already massive body, yelling crazily in the language of trolls. Although Iron-Claw stepped forward to meet the crazed grendle, Gellert told him to move aside stating him he had prior important business with the axe wielding man, and pulled out his own trusted flaming axe. A harsh battle raged on between the forces of the defending town and the invading marauders. Vayven insanely and harshly claimed the life of Gellert, with Caroline & Cascata, both badly wounded, stepping in to finish his mission slaying the terror of a barbarian. Nagamasa managed to avoid direct conflict with the enemy forces, relying on the sneaking tactics he specialized in by taking a note from the bandits prior hiding in the alleyways of the other houses. Both Jeremiah and Tharius met their end from a barrage of arrows from Ranfed on horseback. Iron-Claw fending off a pair of enemies was saved by fortune when the remainder of the attacking troops retreated due to the death of Vayven and a revelation by Ranfed about Adrianne. In retreat Ranfed fired a final arrow, wounding Cascata, making her pass out unconscious.

With heavy losses on their head, Nagamasa & Iron claw decided that a full scale evacuation was the only feasible solution, however upon attempting to rally the township, they found they did not react to their words as if though they did not understand. The two went to the elder to try and explain their plan, but they were only met with the elder saying “It has begun. The blackened man will be the harbinger of our end. The pair of you have failed.”

The words came upon them before Adrianne began ringing the bell once more signaling someone on the horizon. The figure walked into town robed in an intricately designed poncho with a buckler on his left arm. He began to speak to Caroline with the bounty hunting woman seeming to recognize him. After their chat, Caroline mounted Cascata upon the back of her horse and loaded up her cart with the bodies of Gellert and Vayven and rode off on her massive dog mount into the eastern horizon. The man came further into town motioning to Adrianne with his left hand for her to come down from the top of the bell tower. She complied due to a hint of recognition of the man. Upon arriving in front of him he simply asked “You can’t even do a simple busy work job right can you?”

“I guess not.” She said with no clue what he meant trying to placate the situation unfolding.

“Well, then you have lived out your usefulness now haven’t you then.”
Following his words was the quick whip of his poncho as he pulled out his right arm wielding a strange weapon that exploded with raucous noise in his hand sending Adrianne flying backward down to the ground, dead. The strange sight startled both Nagamasa and Iron-Claw, whom both began to flee only to hear the unknown man yell to them “Go ahead and run. You’re going to need to.” as he proceeded inside the bell tower.
End of Episode One


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PostSubject: Short Version: No one sees any of it coming, ever.   Thu Oct 13, 2011 6:39 pm

Episode Two: The Covered Canyon

The world is indeed a strange place. Adventurous souls traverse dangerous areas in the name of living life to its fullest.

An dry morning arose in the city of Maria. On its far east edge sat a bar known as the Whispering Serpent. A lone scout named Dolcetto Kessig sat outside asleep in his cart awaiting the time appointed for his next job to begin. He was awoken by Zakhar and the two began to converse outside the bar until they were arrived upon by Rafael. The three of them decided to take their conversation inside the bar and they sat together introducing themselves while drinking ale. An innocuous man slept at the bar top.

Caldear encountered Allesandra and attempted to strike up conversation as he parked his cart, only for her to ignore his words and continue into the bar, situating herself alone. Caldear was invited to join the table of the other adventurers and the morning waxed on. The sound of an approaching caravan drew everyone's attention to the door as the cloaked gypsy whom had hired them entered the bar greeting the all of them. She introduced herself as Noroyle, and awoke the man at the bar whom awoke with a jump, and a smile. He, "Sancho", too would travel with the group.

Their journey started off well enough as they all conversed with one another until the group encountered an argument being held just outside of the mountain pass they were set to traverse through. A tribe of Ibixians, and a tribe of Armands had come to a impasse concerning an accident that had occurred which resulted in the death of the Armand tribe leader's daughter. Noroyle wished to continue, however the tribes would not allow passage through the field before their dispute was settled. Zakhar frustrated with the situation he felt inane watched as Sancho demonstrated his prowess with the knives he had hidden under the covering of his horse. Zakhar was not amused. After realizing that the conflict had come about due to an accident, rather than malicious intent, Dolcetto relayed his own experience with familial loss to the Armand chief and the situation was peacefully resolved. Seeming distant after dredging up old memories, Dolcetto was unwilling to talk with Allesandra afterwards when she attempted to comfort him. With their path clear and group headed into the mountains. During the night the group saw what they believed to be a small creature.

The next day they continued through the mountain pass, as guided by Dolcetto and Rafael. The group encountered a strange merchant, who requested a favor of them. He asked that they deliver a weathered book, which seemed to be written in gibberish, to a man named Noyan Lerr Brett in the city of Ardith to the south. The group agreed, however the tome seemed to have a strange effect on anyone whom would read it. It called to them to peer inside its unintelligible pages. The group thought nothing more of it than a prank and continued on with their journey. During the night, the small creature appeared again. Both Dolcetto and Rafael went to investigate it. Their search proved fruitless, however Rafael revealed to Dolcetto that he had once been a part of a gang known as “The Fast Hands ”, however he was trying to turn over a new leaf, since their disbanding. Dolcetto opened up to the former bandit telling him of how his wife had taken her own life in depression after their child had been stillborn. The pair grew closer through mutual understanding of their hardships.

The next day and the caravan came upon a Harpy prison yard. While they were passing through one prisoner was about to be executed. Sancho, however stopped the execution, provoking the guards. An altercation broke out between the two groups however, when Noroyle bribed the head guard they were allowed to pass with the prisoner in tow, despite Allesandra's protest of bringing the creature she considered evil along. Further in the canyon, the group once again encountered the small creature. It appeared to be a goblin with glowing yellow eyes. It insulted the group and began to climb the canyon wall. Chasing after it proved unwise, as when it reached the top it set off a landslide. Allesandra, Rafael and Zakhar were momentarily buried underneath the rubble. The landslide had also blocked the path that they intended to travel.

Rafael however, you all can alternate path that the group could travel. It would take them through the drow city of Agatha, underneath of the mountains. The path would be dangerous, however it would be faster than moving the rocks that had toppled. Trouble indeed met them as they encountered a roper which began to destroy their carts during the night. They eventually arrived in Agatha, where Noroyle realized she required additional supplies.

She sent Caldear and Rafael into a store in order to retrieve the supplies that she needed. Caldear accidentally revealed Rafael, whom had been attempting to conceal his identity due to “The Fast Hands” having robbed the drow of their crown jewels before their disbanding. The drow guard quickly seized the opportunity to incapacitate Rafael. Allessandra had been sent in by the ex-prisoner to obtain new clothes for her. Allessandra attempted to aid Rafael as Caldear went to get Dolcetto’s attention to calm the situation. Allessandra was over powered, and Dolcetto was unable to gain Rafael’s freedom. Rafael made one final weak call to Dolcetto. However the scout realized they could only exit the city without hazard for the group by leaving Rafael and walked out leaving behind the only person among the group he empathized with. Rafael’s called out to Dolcetto as he left "Go to Hell just like your worthless family!", and the bandit perished in the city as the caravan left without him.

Stricken with grief, Dolcetto pushed on silently into the morning leaving the caves. Arriving outside the group encountered a strange cloaked man whom demanded that had him over their cargo. Noroyle removed her cloak to reveal herself as Caroline Kathe Coen and whistled to her trusted dog Infus. The man dropped his guise, revealing himself as Ranfed Niho. Ranfed and his men faced off against the caravan, however Ranfed’s men had been enraptured by the voice of the Harpy prisoner making the fight all too one sided. Caroline captured Ranfed and the group continued on to their destination the following night. The group had arrived in time for the Kulorei festival held to honor the coming of the Fall season. The group better for the wear would later continue on its journey southward to deliver the book to Noyan.

End of Episode Two


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PostSubject: Short Version: What are these Idiots doing?   Sun Mar 18, 2012 6:26 pm

Episode Three: The Bleeding Forest or 40 Ways to Defy Nature and Ruin Lives

Not all adventures are fruitful. Not all adventurers are heroes. Not all stories have a happy ending. This is one such tale of all of those things. It begins in the forest in the west of Aaralynn. Five selfish beings convened in the town of Sabel; Roadhouse, Teyren, Nikolai, Karl, & Kara, or so they all called themselves.

After causing a sizable ruckus among the elven townspeople, the five of them had all reached the bar in the center of town. Upon the bartender walking into the back room, a very strange grey cloaked man exited the room followed by a disturbing slender black creature with no discernible facial features, wearing a formal suit. The grey cloak held a symbol of a snake wrapped around a stick, with its head protruding through a ring. He declared upon all of them that they were now in his service, as he waved a tentacle appendage summoning a strange mark onto the hands of the five of them. He instructed them to locate six different statues located within the forest; a teal bear, a crystal hawk, a golden crocodile, a ruby viper, a silver penguin, and an onyx guinea pig.

He left them to their own devices instructing them to hurry in their pursuit of the items. The group was in no mood to co-operate with each other, and their quick fighting led them to find out attempting to injure each other would only lead to hurting the attacker, and that separating was not an option, due to the symbol apparently. Begrudgingly, the group of five started out towards the nearest town to the north. During the travel there they group was assailed by a swarm of stirges that cripplingly weakened Karl into near death. Along their travels they saw a flock of both ravens and doves flying above. Arriving in the elven town of Fia they were met Davis Yuvolle, the head guard of the town, who informed the group that the town was about to celebrate the coming of fall with a feast later in the day they arrived. Nikolai set up shop selling his wares, while Kara sought out a new target to drain. Teyren got right to work attempting to skulk around trying to find out more about any kind of statue which fit the description they were sent for. Karl ran into bad luck as he attempted to feed on one of the doves sitting in the large tree central of the town. As he strangled the bird, he was struck in the back by a poisonous shuriken that sapped his strength. Nikolai witnessed him fall from the tree and also a small shadow tumbled out from the tree as well and scurried away from sight.

Nikolai inspected Karl to find him incapable of moving. Hearing opportunity knock is what Nikolai does best, thusly he gave his bat-like traveling companion some “Herbal aid” that put the humanoid bat into a stupor but allowed him to walk of his own accord. All the while Roadhouse was acquainting himself with the leader of the town Sarah, and her bear companion. As Sarah excused herself to prepare for the feast later, Roadhouse conversed with her bear companion, learning from him that Sarah and Davis are romantically involved with each other, and that Sarah has a small bear statue in her belongings in the town’s hall. With this information Roadhouse informed Teyren of the statue and asked him to procure it during the feast. As Nikolai drew a bit of suspicion from the other vendors in the town, Karl began causing trouble in the town in his dazed stupor, eventually coming down from the effects of the “Herbal Aid” given to him by Nikolai.

Davis dragged him out into the main square as Kara was finishing her business with her target and exiting the target’s home. She dragged him back over to Nikolai’s stall as Teyren was forming his plan; he intended to distract the guard and town leader with a false fire in the school house. Kara followed along after he had started his distraction, but her presence tipped off Davis to their position behind the town hall, before Sarah noticed the “fire” in the schoolhouse. With the two of them dealing with the rest of the group’s shenanigans, Roadhouse took the opportunity to transform into his bear form to aid Kara whom was having significant trouble fending off Davis.

Karl “restored” to mobile ability, once again by Nikolai’s “Herbal Aid” robbed houses while the panic was erupting in the town. Sarah quickly diffused the situation in the school house, lapping quickly at the back of Teyren’s heels. Davis fled to safety after being heavily wounded by Roadhouse, whom had made his escape to change forms again in the woods to his common humanoid self. Kara had caught up with Teyren after he had escaped Sarah’s onslaught. Eventually the two crooks inside the town hall located the Teal Bear statue, as Sarah began to burn down the building to smoke them out. An attempted magical distraction yielded no result, and Teyren fled by flight while Kara attempted to jump out the second story window with a pilfered chest of unknown contents. Her attempt failed and she landed squarely in front of both the head guard and town leader. Roadhouse saw his opportunity to leave in “tracking down” Teyren, and joined with the rest of the group minus Kara at Nikolai’s cart. The contents of the chest Kara had taken had spilled out however in her jump attempt and a piece of art by Davis to Sarah had distracted them long enough for Kara to escape with the rest of the group unscathed.

Their travel continued through the Marsha Forest. That night, wanting to relieve some of the stress in her mind asked Nikolai for some herbal aid. Ready and willing to have another customer at his disposal, Nikolai administered to her a drink that promptly knocked her unconscious. This proved more harmful than helpful as during the night the group was set upon by cockatrices, which petrified both Karl and Kara in their sleep. Roadhouse dispatched the cockatrices after being awakened by Teyren after their two traveling companions had become stone. Moving on through the following day, a trio of thuggish bugbears attempted to impede the path of the traveling malcontents. Nikolai was quick to distract them with drugged tea as Teyren feigned counting out money for their “toll”. The drugs quickly took hold, slaying one of the bugbears while leaving the other two in a stupor. Their stupor yielded to Nikolai the wealth lining their pockets.

The three of them arrived at the fringe of the city of Adelle by the start of the night. They investigated a nearby bar to find a beautiful woman playing music as the night’s entertainment. Nikolai remained outside, only to encounter the pair of bugbears the group had left in the thicker parts of the woods. The pair of them came not in anger but fervor for continued access to Nikolai’s “tea”. Seeing as they had nothing left to pay him with, but refused to leave, he fed them over a lethal dosage of his drugs, ending the thugs’ lives then and there. Teyren remained hidden within the confines of the cart until later in the night when he agreed he would watch after the cart proper. Roadhouse helped himself to the hospitality of the bar, introducing himself to a nervous man called Vince. Roadhouse sat and drank with Vince attempting to calm his nerves with a drink. After her performance, the woman introduced herself to Roadhouse and promised to see Vince home that night.

That night would indeed change the status quo of the group as it was, or rather begin the change. During the night Teyren was visited by a curious child with a blue glow to his eyes. The child revealed himself to be their “employer” possessing the body of the child to berate and hurry the moth-man before leaving the unwitting boy at the mercy of the distraught insectile being. That did not bode well for the kid. Teyren quickly took out his rage at the robed tentacle man on the then fleeing boy, shooting him in the back with a crossbow, then attempting to construe a scene behind the nearby musical instrument shop using the corpses of the bugbears from prior. Only after he’d finished attempting to make the scene its best, did he realize he was covered in evidence of his own crime. He quickly awoke the other two still flesh travelers only to hear their collective disappointment. The pair fell back asleep as Teyren attempted to wash his hands quite literally of the boy’s death. While distracted with doing so, Kara’s statue was stolen out from under the group and Karl’s knocked to the ground.

The next day Nikolai escorted himself to the shop of a man named Bobert, whom sold the potion needed to cure Karl proper. Upon arriving he found Bobert was charging exorbitantly for said potions, capitalizing on his wife’s magical abilities and people’s need for ridding themselves of the affliction of the cockatrices plaguing the forest. He left the store unwilling to pay his own funds to the greedy man. In the morning, two officers from the local branch of The Internal Force of Criminal Subjugation arrived at the scene of the murder intent to reason out what had happened to the small boy known as Johnny. Roadhouse fled the scene after inciting the ire of one of the officers, and eluded his pursuit by transforming into his bear form in the nude and acting inconspicuous. The senior officer began to speak to Nikolai, who was in no mood to talk, about the incident but complied to smooth along the process. In talking to him, Nikolai learned that a Lizardfolk city to the north with a bustling gambling scene named Carmen was the probable place that Kara’s statue was taken to.

Teyren attempted to conceal himself inside the nearby bar, where the woman had sang the previous night, however the senior officer eventually happened upon him, and the moth-man’s appearance did not lend well to his story that was crumbling under the interrogative assault of the officer. Teyren found it almost impossible to escape the bar, but intervention from the hooded betentacled man allowed his evasion of the confused senior officer whom ran in search of the insectile being in vain. Teyren then hid inside of Nikolai’s cart for a majority of the remaining day. Around Noon the woman from the night before returned to the bar to retrieve her left behind guitar pick. She revealed her name to be Astrid Colbana, and offered Nikolai to buy the needed amenities for the group in exchange for them coming to her show that night. Nikolai agreed, and she purchased the potions for him. He utilized one to revive Karl from his petrification.

Roadhouse came out from his hiding to begin shopping around the nearby area, both for clothes to suit his larger form and smaller form proper, and found a pair of pets; a small slightly venomous snake and a tiny dog with a lot of bravery. Roadhouse however found no clues as to the next statue they sought. Karl still in a slightly drugged state from Nikolai’s amenities began to cause trouble around the shopping district at the edge of the city and quickly found himself underfoot of one of the enforcers of The IFCS. He eventually began snooping through Nikolai’s belongings looking for something which would soothe his problems, much to Nikolai’s rage. A short scuffle between the two broke out igniting the ire of the cloaked betentacled being, whom appeared in order to stifle Karl’s idiocy by quite literally zipping his mouth shut and inform Nikolai of the presence of the next statue was in possession by the singer. Armed with new information Roadhouse and Nikolai entered the bar where Astrid was set to sing. Teyren intended to follow but was deterred by the presence of the senior officer whom had returned to the bar that night to investigate the disappearance of Vince. Teyren quickly leapt back inside the cart until Nikolai & Roadhouse returned.

Astrid had invited the pair of “gentlemen” to her home for dinner after they had informed her they were just rolling through. Karl followed in behind in order to scout the area she took them to. Her home lied outside of the city to the northwest. After the trio had entered her home, Teyren flew around back to conceal himself within a tree, while Karl began to investigate the small shed that sat behind her home. It contained stairs that led down to a deep basement, covered in bones and viscera. As Karl slowly lit the way he happened upon a trembling Vince. After inquiring what was wrong, Vince pointed out the large mass of breathing fur that quickly revealed itself to be a feral three-headed Minotaur. Meanwhile inside, Astrid had asked the pair of men outside to help her in her shed. When they found the door open, the singer gasped in shock wondering what had happened.

Roadhouse entered the shed intent to investigate, while Nikolai remained back in skepticism. A strange voice called at him to go inside the shed, but he resisted its call. Suddenly, Astrid had disappeared from sight without a trace. Teyren came to Nikolai and attempted to sort out the situation at hand before they both descended to aid Roadhouse and Karl in slaying the Feral Monstrous Minotaur. After dispatching the creature, Nikolai, Karl, & Teyren all went to comb through Astrid’s home in search of the next statue they needed. Roadhouse went to console Vince however fell victim to a sudden strange magical compulsory effect. Astrid revealed herself to be the creator of such to the cowering man and werebear now under her control. She immediately had Roadhouse dispatch Vince, and told him to travel inside to do the same to his traveling companions. As Roadhouse exited the shed he saw a strange scene behind the shed. The flock of ravens and doves circled above a battle between the slender being that the group had seen before accompanying their “employer” and the shadowed creature which Nikolai had seen fall from the tree in the elven town. Strange metallic gonging noises erupted form the slender being.

Upon Teyren finding the Crystalline Hawk, Roadhouse entered the room in strange fashion. The other three were quick to notice the sociopathic Roadhouse was not himself and a fight quickly broke out. The fight itself proved to be meaningless given the magic binding the group prevented them from harming each other, thusly Karl simply tried to escape the bear-man’s wrath only to be met by Astrid guarding outside. As the fight inside raged, the duel between the slender suited being and The Shadow ended with the suited creature exploding into ribbons of black material with a raucous bang and the flock of birds dispersing into the night. The noise distracted everyone’s attention and The Shadow quickly then cut down Astrid relieving Roadhouse of her control. Confusing night aside, the group had progressed further towards their goal and set off to locate the stolen member of their group to the north in the city of Carmen.

To travel to Carmen, they would first need to cross the Marsha Lake which sat in the center of the forest they had been trekking through. Conversation was sparse between the tense group. After traveling straight from Astrid’s home until about noon the four men arrived in a port town and settled for a moment to catch their breath. The group met a strange half-orc fishing by the lake side in a small dinghy named “Chuck”, but also seemed to call anyone he met Chuck. Teyren began searching for more information on the way to travel to Carmen and happened upon a drunken paladin woman in the empty town. The woman, Anika Neschume, informed the cloaked moth-man that since the shipwrights were out on leave for the season that their best bet was the expensive ferry that routinely traveled around the lake picking up passengers to sail to Carmen.

Teyren left in thanks of the information only wondering how a shipbuilding business survives inside on a lake inside a dense forest. Roadhouse also happened upon Anika once Teyren had returned to inform Nikolai that all they could do was wait while Karl attempted to directly search the shipwright’s warehouse for clues. Roadhouse convinced the winged paladin to head out of the bar for her own ship that she might rest, and she obliged, leaving Orpheous alone in the empty bar. While passing the shipwright’s center Karl’s snooping attracted her attention and she went to investigate which incited a drunken altercation that Karl shuffled off from, due to still being in bad shape from his run of bad luck thus far. As Roadhouse searched for unattended liquor, a single dove and raven flew in the door and landed on a table to stare at him intently. Seeing it as an ominous sign due to their previous appearances, he took cover behind the bar top. After his duck for cover a small Kenku revealed herself to him. She referred to him with respect to Roadhouse’s surprise as he had never met her before. She explained to him her situation.

The clan of ninja assassins she belonged to was headed by a powerful Weretiger named Ichi Naara Kohagaito. The assassin clan had a prior contract from the Drow community to eliminate all of the members of the gang known as “The Fast Hands” due to the gang’s theft of the drow royal jewels years prior. Karl being one of the final few members of said gang had been the target of her efforts as of late. Ichi also takes it upon herself, and by extension the ninja assassin clan, to protect lycanthropes in the nation after the vigilante Van Horen had gone on a spree of slaying lycanthropes nine years prior. Thusly, the Kenku owed loyalty to Roadhouse simply by blood, and she requested why she was traveling with Karl.

Roadhouse was quick to explain that he held no true loyalty to Karl or for truth any other member of the traveling group since they had all been forced together, and that the Kenku should go on with her mission undeterred. She thanked the werebear and informed him that once his current mission ended that he should seek out her clan leader and master Ichi in the City of Farrah on the north coast of Aaralynn. The assassin disappeared into the shadows just as she had entered and the pair of birds exited as well. As Roadhouse returned to the group, the ferry to Carmen arrived. Complications began to arise when Karl didn’t wish to pay the price for travel and the ship began to sail off. The ominous flock appeared once again overhead as Karl heard a voice calling from the shadows asking if he needed help and to come towards it. Heading his better instincts he joined the ferry and paid double the proper price to travel.

After a full day and a half of nautical travel, the four of them arrived in the Lizardfolk city’s gambling district port, where upon they were made to hand over their weaponry if they intended to continue into the casino areas. Security was made up of 9 foot tall lizard men with black scales and the city sector lit up with a magical glow, with myriad types of debauchery lining the streets. Upon entering, the group took no time to begin gambling the chips they had purchased as part of their ferry trip admission. Teyren encountered behind a building the grey-cloaked figure that seemed weak and pained as he informed the insectile man of the last things they needed to do to complete their task. He engraved in Teyren’s arm carapace a checklist; 1. Find The Monk, The Maniac, The Nymph & kill her son, 2. The Book of Curses will find you, 3. Three of you must survive to complete the ritual, along with a timer that counted down four days.

Arriving in the largest casino and hotel the four of them quickly saw Kara’s nude petrified being alongside other disrobed statues being held as prizes for dealer’s cards. Inquiring further they found they needed to win a set of poker against the dealer and other players to win a dealer’s card. They would need three to win Kara proper. Karl however turned his attention to another prize lining the wall; a golden crocodile statue with a plaque that read “Property of ‘The Wiz’”. Further inquiry on his part led him to the drow slots prodigy known as “The Wiz”. Karl challenged the drow youngster for the crocodile and “The Wiz” obliged the challenge declaring quite loudly “Nobody! Beats! The Wiz!”

Roadhouse’s luck didn’t yield him well in the black jack tables as opposed to Karl whose luck shone through like a diamond against The Wiz. He had beaten the drow at his own slots game and won fair and square. The drow fetched the golden crocodile and handed both it and his title over willingly. Things were not flowing as swimmingly at the poker table as a high roller calling himself “Gambol” had been easily besting them in hands back to back. The dark skinned human showed an interest in Kara’s statue and revealed to the moth man and the drug pusher the hideous secret behind the statues on the prize wall. All the men women and children on the wall had once been people, and were all petrified at some point by a cockatrice. Their bodies were robbed of their belongings and they’re put on display for winnings along with a single potion to cure their status. Being that the hotel rooms existed on the upper floor, the high-roller let the pair come to their own conclusions. Now knowing this the two quickly convened and decided to let the man win her statue and find out about her draining abilities the hard way.

With that decision the pair threw their hands continually, Gambol redeemed his dealer’s cards to gain Kara’s statue and he brought her to his suite on the upper floor. Nikolai found a small fortune selling his wares to the people of the casino under the tables. Karl came along as he walked off showing off his statue warranting a look of uncaring disdain. Teyren asked him for the statue, but Karl wouldn’t give it away to his traveling mate without some kind of recompense. Teyren handed him over half of his chips, knowing now he didn’t need them since now they had the statue and Kara was about to dispatch her “captor”. Karl handed it over and proceeded upstairs behind Gambol to ensure his own share in Gambol’s coming misfortune. Roadhouse so fed up with losing had some pity taken on him by a black scaled guard whom gave him a strange grey book bound in what felt like flesh. Apparently it had washed up on shore and the guard had wanted to give it away for a reason he could not explain, almost as if the tome had possessed him to do so.

It was then that half the group’s luck took a turn for the significant worst. Karl had followed to just outside of Gambol’s room listening in to the conversation inside, when all of the sudden his anticipant glee turned to paralyzing horror. He looked out the window across from his position to see a raven and dove pecking at the window with a flock of both flying fast towards the glass in the moonlit night. He shot down the stairs quite literally like a bat out of hell, passing Orpheous as a crash of glass erupted in the hotel room hallway alerting the guards patrolling. Inside Gambol’s room Kara awoke from her petrification to the dark skinned man going on about how fun a time the pair of them were about to have. Quick to adapt, she began to get in just the right mood for what she thought was coming. To her surprise however, he snapped his fingers and his clothes warped from his body, and his body changed to a sleeker form of yellow skin tone and long slick brown hair. A pair of demonic wings then sprouted off of his back. “Oh this will be such great fun.” He grinned.

Her attempts to place him under her magical ability seemed to only blow past him as he gave an arcane wave of his hand to place her under his control. She was at his mercy, and he was no merciful partner. Roughly assaulting her in his sexual throes and constantly admiring himself in the act in the mirror while waxing on about how she reminds him so much of “her”. Roadhouse continued upstairs to find the Kenku assassin having had dispatched a cadre of guards and was stowing the bodies in closets. Roadhouse remarked to her that her attempt seemed very crass and hurried and she replied in explaining that she was motivated not only by duty to her leader but out of vengeance, as the Bathurian people had hunted the Kenku people for the sake of their bloodlust.

The Bathurians had been a horrible and vicious race of people intent on making those around them as miserable as themselves, and the assassinations of their kind had been a personal vendetta of both The Shadow and of her clan of ninja assassins. Roadhouse offered to aid the assassin in her vengeance kick, even if only to further his own desire to be freed of one of the people he’d been forced to travel with. He found Karl downstairs unable to leave the casino area due to the spell’s effect tying the five of them together and began to drag him back upstairs in order to quell the requests of the guards to keep him quiet since he was making a scene downstairs. Karl fought back, but due to his still weakened strength, he was no match for the werebear and could not even start to injure him. Upstairs The Shadow struck the humanoid bat with a shuriken laced with the same poison that had sapped his strength before, completely incapacitating him. She then went into a slow sequence of torturing the wretched creature as Roadhouse watched. She sliced open his throat, severed his ears, sliced off his wings, violently ripped open his arms with her short sword, put him in a poison induced nightmare that to him seemed to last for years before finally slicing him down the center skull to groin, slaying the thug. She asked if Roadhouse required anything more from her before she would disappear into the shadows. Roadhouse only pickpocketed Karl’s mutilated corpse and said “Nope, you’re dismissed” and the kenku hid the bat creature corpse and disappeared.

“Gambol’s” violent sexual assault of Kara was sapping her strength slowly and painfully until she could barely move of her own volition after he finally dropped her. She weakly asked “Who…are…you?”

“Sweetness, I’m your father.” The incubus hovering over her declared.

In a flash his clothes replaced themselves and he resumed his disguise. He told her to not worry about getting up, as he had a favor to fulfill. The half-succubus crawled weakly over to the side of the bed in the suite to try and cover herself in her pain, but her effort were in vain. Her father in his disguise had returned with a short scrawny well-dressed lizardfolk alongside two guards. “Gambol” informed the scrawny lizard that he felt Kara ought to be ample payment for the debt he owed, to which the small lizard agreed with a tongued toothy grin. With his exchange done, the high-roller left his daughter to her fate by the lizards’ hands. As he exited, the crooked disguised demon passed by Roadhouse whom he recognized from a gambling table from earlier. They exchanged goodbyes and Gambol left as Orpheous entered the room where Kara lay helpless.

Roadhouse explained to the reptilians that he only intended to watch which seemed to excite the scrawny one even more. As the three of the assaulters were distracted, Roadhouse reached for one of the guard’s unattended swords and slew the reptilian closest to him and ordered the one still holding his traveling mate to stop or he’d slay him too. The guard dropped the woman to the bed, on top of the scrawny no longer suited lizard, and the werebear jumped across the room to slice his head and torso in twain down the center. The confused trapped short one’s throat was no match for Roadhouse’s bear grip, as his eyes bulged out of his skull until the sorry creature died a miserable death. The conqueror of the room took Kara to the bathroom that she might clean herself proper and left downstairs to reconvene with Teyren whom had been playing Pachinko during the whole of the ordeal upstairs. The moth being inquired as to the whereabouts of Karl, but Roadhouse remained silent on the subject and just informed him and Nikolai that Kara would be down shortly. The broken and injured woman ambled downstairs wrapped only in the sheets of the bed on which her ordeal had taken place. The four remaining realized as the morning dawned that their time was ticking and that whatever had happened to Karl would ultimately resolve itself.

Moving on, the four of them found a cabin home in the forest which they attempted to rest at, but found it already occupied. While traveling Roadhouse began to explore the book he’d received in the Casino city finding all myriad of curses and strange summoning spells for odd creatures of amalgam nature. After a full day and a half of travel up the riverbank the group arrived in a backwoods town and encountered a woman named Rosalind who seemed eager to help them but would not offer any reasoning why. A trio of young men however happened across the still barely dressed Kara and seeing a perfect opportunity for herself to regain strength, she enticed them to join her in some “fun”. The three sixteen year olds obliged gladly, delaying their trip to the hill top to train with the monk atop it. They would never make it to their master for training, as the half-succubus drained them all of all their life force and left their husks of bodies where they’d lain in the room.

The group eventually gathered that “The Monk” in the checklist on Teyren’s arm may well be the one atop the hill outside of town. With nothing but time to lose they traversed up the hill to the small pagoda of a building, within sat a single blindfolded man before a ruby viper statue. He stood and challenged the all of them to show him their best as he absorbed the statue into his being. Upon attacking the monk, they learned that he had some strange ability to duplicate both himself and the inside of the dojo that he resided in claiming that the place and he were one, and as he grew so did it, and so did his power. Rosalind did not show much ability in their attack of the monk as her sword broke early into the fight, not yielding her to their trust in the slightest. Quick thinking on the group’s part thought that if they could not seem to damage the monk himself that the dojo itself must be destroyed. Their ploy worked and made the monk distraught to the point he attacked them directly after he willingly broke down the pagoda. Kara fell to his attacks however when they attempted to finish her off a strange purple barrier protected her unconscious form. Despite all the monk’s efforts, he was ultimately outmatched by Roadhouse’s superior strength.

Now with the fourth statue, the five of them continued to travel along until about noon the next day when they encountered a town that seemed to be under a strange curse. All of its citizens were stuck doing some strange action and saying some strange phrase for what appeared to have been days. Kara in her desperate and weakened state saw an easy bunch of targets, while Teyren robbed the houses spread around the town of Marla. Rosalind spent the day repairing her sword. Roadhouse in his search of the town gone mad found a talking horse whom said his name was Ed. Ed had allegedly gained the ability to speak when the strange event that caused the people in town to go mad about two days prior. A man wearing a purple cloak who spoke in an unknown tongue was being run out of town when from his body erupted and odd ping noise. After the noise, the people all seemed stuck in their trancelike state.

Informing Roadhouse that he ran to the west after the incident, Ed seemed terrified to leave the town. Roadhouse promised him they would go have marvelous adventures if the horse accompanied him. Ed obliged and introduced himself to the group. In his casing of the houses in town, Teyren came across an official paper in the town hall informing him of the Royal Intelligence Laboratory to the west of the town. Teyren and Roadhouse put two and two together and assumed the strange cloaked figure had gone to the laboratory and he might hold a clue as to the next statue they needed. Setting off in the early night the group arrived in the early morning after midnight and entered the abandoned laboratory. All of the faculties of the research building had been growing decrepit and decayed. After a short intense run-in with the purple cloaked being the group found itself lost inside the building’s massive hallways and corridors. Entering a test room, they heard a strange laughing. Before them five of them appeared the ghost of a half-elven man.

The ghost identified himself as Rad Odessa the former councilman of Magical and Technological Studies, and he was glad to see his former creation, referring to Teyren, Theo was alive and well. The ghostly figure laughed and danced around the adventurers and asked them why they’d come to the laboratory. Teyren was quick to inform him of their search for a statue of either a silver penguin or onyx guinea pig. With strange enthusiasm the ghost informed them that he’d help them get the penguin statue, if they aided him in return. Rad informed the group that to enter the living quarters where both the items they needed were kept, the group would need to split and deactivate the security switches on the opposite sides of the laboratory at the same time so that his ghostly form could lead them there. Wanting to hurry things along, Rosalind split with Nikolai going west and Teyren, Kara & Roadhouse went east.

As the group had been moving through the laboratory, a myriad of lab notes had been scattered about. Through reading them, Teyren had learned that he was indeed a creation of the laboratory and an improvement on a prior experiment. The insectile being had long wondered of his origins and now he had found them by chance. It all felt empty and meaningless after he found out, but he soldiered on nonetheless. In the west wing as Nikolai searched with Rosalind, the mysterious woman found the perfect opportunity to enact her plan. She turned her arrows to Nikolai in the dark while he was not looking and utilized her slaying arrows to cut down the man. She ran over to his corpse, and in her continued rage stabbed him viciously with her sword. Once she regained composure she left out of the broken window. The other three had reached the switch at their side, only to wait extensively for the pair of Nikolai and Rosalind.

Teyren headed back in their direction, as Roadhouse continued to study the book of curses, attempting to implement some of them in a terrarium space. This left Kara by her lonesome in the experiment housing wing by the switch. It was not long before the strange man appeared from seemingly nowhere, and the two were in a different dark room. The being was clearly mentally damaged, unable to properly express whatever he meant to do as he began to manipulate himself in front of Kara. His disgusting form reviled the half-succubus and she attempted to leave only for him to hold her still with some strange ability non-magical in origin. Before he could attempt to have his way with her however, his head glowed with a strange green light and he held it in pain. His body was flung around the room until he disappeared in a purple flash. With Kara free from his influence, she quickly located a door in the dark room and found her way back into the room with the button proper. She didn’t wish to remain there though and quickly found Roadhouse to inform him that the cloaked figure had attacked her while she was alone. With that, the two went to regroup with Teyren and the others.

Teyren had however quickly found out when he arrived at Nikolai’s body that Rosalind had been responsible. Out of a purple flash appeared the cloaked disfigured man, groaning in pain. Rosalind outside had taken to burning down Nikolai’s cart, which contained a large amount of intoxicating elements which sent of smoke of the ingredients down wind. On the cart were also the rest of everyone else’s effects, including some clothes Kara had picked up in Marla, and Roadhouse’s pair of pets. When Ed saw her begin to burn down the cart, he began to yell out for help. Rosalind quickly shot down the talking horse, silencing him. When Teyren began to try and speak to the horrid man, he screeched in his odd language and flung the moth-man against the wall. Force pushed Teyren in all directions, clearly being manipulated by the cloaked man.

The wretched disfigured being manipulated the forces on Teyren to rip out his left arms and the moth’s cloak in twain. Teyren howled in pain unable to stop the misfortune descending upon him. With the insect’s arms off came another light from the head of the being cloaked in purple and he was flung through another strange light. After the monster’s exit, both Kara and Roadhouse entered to find Teyren in massive pain and missing half of his arms. A quick explanation sent Roadhouse into a panic about the cart out front. The werebear ran to the front of the laboratory to discover all too late that his belongings had been burned down by Rosalind. In a fit of rage he asked why she had done all of it.

Rosalind with tears in her eyes explained that Nikolai had sold medicine to her ill family only for them to become hooked on the opiates in them and that he had essentially caused their deaths. She had been seeking revenge for years and she had finally caught up with him to take it, but had then lost all purpose in her life after doing so. Roadhouse, not caring about her plight, only caring that his pets were dead and that his promise to Ed then meant nothing viciously slayed her and severed her dead body’s legs in his anger. With his anger quelled, he rejoined Teyren and Kara. With all distractions out of the way, Roadhouse went to the opposite switch from Teyren and Kara and the security system was shut off. They three then found Odessa up ahead whom lead them all back to his private quarters. Along the way the man in the cloak continued to try and give them trouble. The former councilman explained to them that the being was an experiment just like Teyren. His name was Kalbalsh and he was an amalgam of many humanoid creatures like orcs, elves, humans, and gnomes with a built in psionic ability. When Kara asked why the laboratory people would create such an abomination of a being, Rad simply replied “Because we could.”

Their final encounter occurred in Odessa’s private lab which had been destroyed completely in exception of a large machine with many scratches and burned patches leaving is open to years of overgrowth. Once the trio had annihilated the psionic creature, Odessa showed them a safe where the silver penguin statue was held, and a smoking pipe Odessa had once owned engraved with many different odd symbols. Odessa’s favor constituted having one of the three deliver the pipe to either Evan Cortex or Chan Vanda. Roadhouse accepted and the former councilman disappeared into the ether.

With the next statue in hand the three continued upstream after Roadhouse used the curse book to divine their next path. They encountered a delta which held a small shrine visibly containing the final statue. Protecting the statue however was a nymph woman whom drew a short sword from the shrine’s lower cavity. They were quick to dispatch her and gain the final statue from the shrine. As the nymph’s body lay bleeding in the delta, the water began to transform itself to blood and the trees all gained a red hue.

Along came a man in a simple black robe on the back of a celestial giant guinea pig. Tied to his rope belt was a grey statue of a snake wrapped around a stick with its head through a ring. He trudged out into the water and began to cry at the loss of his mother. Once it became apparent to Teyren that this was the man they needed to kill from the list, the moth-man fired a bolt from his crossbow. The bolt only set to anger the man. He pulled off his robe to reveal himself to be a golden winged paladin of onyx skin, crystal hair and a glorious golden glow about his body. He demanded they all surrender, to which they refused knowing he was the last thing standing between them and their freedom.

As Roadhouse attempted to fend off the paladin, he quickly realized he was unable to even scratch the flying being. The werebear threw his weapon to the ground and bowed in surrender, allowing the paladin to utilize his divine ability to freeze evil beings in golden ice. He quickly turned his attention to Teyren whom did not give up fighting until he was unconscious. Kara, having witnessed what occurred to Roadhouse and Teyren, simply gave in to the paladin’s power and was frozen as well. The Paladin gathered the statues and the book and with a swift strike destroyed them under his fist. He buried his adoptive mother just off from the delta, and escorted the three to The Impregnable Prison of Farrah.

Upon arriving Roadhouse remembered what The Shadow had told him and spoke up demanding to speak to Ichi Kohagaito. His request was granted and a tall woman with extraordinarily long black hair began to speak to him after he had waited for about an hour. She instantly knew him to be a lycanthrope by his scent. She inquired to him as to what he did with his life. He had no real response for her. She offered him the chance to leave the prison and come to work for her. Orpheous accepted and they left the prison on full pardon from Ichi herself.


End of Episode Three


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PostSubject: Short Version: Trains Suck & Busting Slave Traders is more trouble than it's worth.   Tue Jun 05, 2012 12:54 pm

Episode Four: A Time To Be Thankful & Espionage No More


Adventurers always seem to have the time to help out someone in need. Our stories today begin in the City of Farrah; one in a coffee bar, the other behind a clothing store.

A Time To Be Thankful


A white haired woman known as “Faust” sauntered down the street early in the morning of the fourth day of the forty-third week of the year. She intended to aid a companion in need of an escort to Aradia. Out from the adjacent armory walked an inattentive woman with extraordinarily long black hair followed by a massive hulk of a man concealed in a robe. The white haired female jumped out of their way as to not cause a collision, and the pair apologized for not having watched their path, and went on their way. Faust, upon entering the coffee bar, not knowing exactly what the companion looked like decided to have a drink before she began to question people. Up to the bar approached a simple man from the former Iga Province. His name was Tobata, and he too had found interest in the job posted in Farrah’s Help center by the Companion. He too occupied his time by having a cup of coffee.

Already waiting inside was a wolf-folk man by the name of Kyru Siencyn questioning whether the halfling’s cooking was really region famous, while waiting to embark upon the very same mission both Faust & Tobata waited on. Outside a Gray Elf woman, Lirael Tathmieln, marched up on back of her companion Winter Wolf, Turin, encountering a man hitching his horse outside. Upon attempting to speak with the man, they found he was mute and could only speak through complex sign language. As Lirael entered the bar with him, she handed him a small slip of paper and asked his name and what he was up to as she was unable to properly understand his signing. He introduced himself as Roger Moreley and informed her that he intended to aid a companion in travel to Aradia.

As the elven woman read aloud the note, it prompted a man with brown hair in the back of the coffee shop to put down his book. Upon seeing the flock of people in the restaurant he inquired as to whom all were there to aid a companion in travelling to Aradia. The five adventurers’ intent to do so all made themselves known. The man became flustered as he introduced himself as Harmon Lujas and began to explain he was the very companion whom had posted the help request, but had only intended to hire a single person to aid him. As if by divine intervention, a large group of people marched past the coffee house making such a ruckus that it brought everyone’s attention to the commotion going on outside.

The group outside were all walking away from an aggravated man whom stepped with angered purpose after them, shouting all form of obscenities at them and ordering them to turn back. “You’re all under contract to remain on duty for the next three months! Now get back here now!” he clamored after them.

One turned back holding an official looking slip of paper between his fingers. “Yeah? Well try upholding a contract you don’t have!” they shouted back at the aggravated man whilst ripping the page before him in twain, leaving the aggressor behind.

The man following behind had thrown his hat to the ground and began stomping on it in his rage until he was approached by Harmon. “Frank, um, what seems to be the problem?” the companion inquired.

“You know this guy?” Kyru asked as he filed outside alongside the others.

“Well, yes, he’s the conductor of the train I was intending to ride to Aradia on.” Harmon replied.

“Well, not anymore. That was my entire damn guard crew. I can’t run this transit without having proper security on board.” Frank began to exposit “Ugh! I am going to have a mess of paperwork to go through.”

Inspiration instantly struck Harmon and he proposed to Frank that the group whom had all shown up to aid him could instead be the replacement guard crew for the train ride. The conductor inquired about their skills to Roger whom could not directly answer, but Frank still jumped on the offer as it would relieve him of much needed stress. He told them to show up to the train as intended and he would pay them all well for helping him out. The group disbanded temporarily to gather amenities for the trip and all reconvened by the boarding station. There Harmon explained the plan for which he had intended. They would be traveling to the city of Aradia for the tri-annual companion festival, but they would first be making a stop in the city of Otylia. Just a few hours walk outside of Otylia laid a temple of the temporal deity Ganzen, where Harmon intended to pray at before the festival. The companion told them that he could not pay them all as well as the guard job, but if they aided him he could bring them to the festival as his personal guests. With what seemed like a simple job and some R&R time to follow before them, the five of them agreed and began to gather themselves for the trip ahead.

Before embarking on the train at midday, the group met another person whom would be travelling along with them. A scatter brained Catfolk architect named Keiben Luvo. The group all boarded the train and agreed to begin taking proper shifts guarding the train. The guard group began to then socialize with the others riding the train; Shelly Kibent, a young woman selling souvenirs and snacks in her own cart, Marietta Firenza, an elven noblewoman whom constantly had her half-brother servant , Morris, carry a covered glass case, Alexander Esstman, the timid junior conductor of the train, Bart Demovire, a dwarven nobleman of some martial training, Robert Hartigan, a straight forward custodian whom headed up the back of the train carts, and Marcus Pilovich Vidat, the hot headed Halfling chef of the train.

In the early morning of the second day of their train ride, as Lirael attempted to convince Roger to not attempt to hitch his bedroll to the top of the train to obtain a better visual vantage point the pair of them witnessed a flock of both doves and ravens flying above past the train on its same path, some of which seemed to be carrying a strange object. The birds disappeared from view, and the two thought nothing more of it. As the day waxed on, Kyru grew more and more suspicious of Marietta’s covered case, until he demanded she reveal what was under it. Without true regard to his care she told Morris to reveal the cases contents; a well preserved black flower. Something itched at the back of the wolf-folk’s mind as if he’d seen the plant before, but he was unable to pin down precisely where he had seen it before. He left her quarters with his suspicion still aroused.

Faust was not like most other women. She used her time and effort to learn more like most other people, but her area of focus was the undead. More specifically, raising and controlling them. Thusly her “pet hummingbird” was no hummingbird. An evil creature of demonic origin, “Billy Jean” as he called himself, became quite hungry. With Faust walking through the mount car on her guard patrol, she noticed Roger’s horse just sitting idly by. The White haired woman left her pet to his own designs in the cart as she walked further down the way.

However before the Quasit know as Billy could have his hungry way with the unsuspecting horse, Roger came along on his watch’s shift. Seeing his horse being attacked by a strange creature set off the mute man to protect the one thing he still truly had, alas, Roger’s efforts were in vain. The horse fell paralyzed stuck between the panelings of the mount car’s stable due to the poisonous attacks of Billy. The demon left the equine creature to its fate, while roger sought out help.

Distraught and confused he attempted to enlist aid from Faust whom had been walking by, however upon her touching the horse it reeled backwards n pain, for no small reason as she had utilized her magic abilities to further injure it. Protective of his mare Roger began to assail the white haired woman as Lirael passed by. Lirael quickly broke the tow up shuffling Faust on her way and tried to understand Roger’s signing, to no avail. Fed up with no one understanding him and enraged at his circumstances, roger sliced open his hand with one of his daggers and began to attempt to write in his own blood to convey his problem. Finally able to understand Roger’s plea, Lirael tried to calm him down and assure him that Faust seemed odd, but it was doubtful that she scratched the horse up.

Tobata arrived in the mount cart alongside Kyru right then to see Roger waving around a blood soaked sheet of paper. Upon the pair of them asking what had occurred, Lirael explained that his horse had fallen ill due to an unknown cause and would soon die from being prone and crushed under its own weight. Tobata posited that it was no more than a horse and Roger need no get in a crazed fervor, which only set Roger off even further. The mute man attempted to choke the monk, prompting the martial artist to temporarily stun him, allowing Kyru to overtake him with his incredible strength. With Roger restrained they tied him up and began to deliberate on what to do with the dying horse.

In the meantime while all the other guards were either sleeping or in the mount cart deliberating, Faust was thinking of way to change her appearance, for reasons unknown. She encountered the shop girl in her cart and purchased some hair dyes and needed to visit a bathroom. She entered Keiben’s bathroom, in order to utilize the dye, but not before proper using its facilities. When she went to flush the toilet, it began to quickly overflow. She sought help from the custodian whom had been making his rounds cleaning and he had to shut off the magi-tech system powering that restroom due to the overflow, putting Keiben’s bathroom out of use.

Faust apologized to the custodian for the inconvenience and they were both on their separate ways. She reconvened with Billy whom informed her that his dinner was essentially sealed. Hearing this, Faust decided to use the newly bought dye on his feathers throwing some of the red dye out the train on her “bird”.

The group decided to put the horse out of its misery and throw it from the train so that it would not deteriorate. First they allowed Roger to proper take the horse out of its misery, and then they all tossed the horse from the train, in time for Kyru to notice a splotch of red dye fly by. The wolf-folk looked out to see Faust and her bird looking back from a few carts ahead. Both parties just ignore the strange sight and went back to their business.
The rest of the guards kept Roger penned within the mount cart due to his lashing out and strange actions. During the night however, Turin met with Faust while they were on patrol. Billy prompted Turin to speak seeing as Billy had been consistently aware that the winter wolf could speak. All them now knowing this, they decided to give Roger a good spook and make him believe he was going insane by having all of them say “We’re gonna get you!” to him and simply walk off as if nothing had happened. The plan worked as Roger’s psyche went further downhill.

Faust went to go visit Harmon and requested if she could be with him for the night and render her his services. He agreed as she was his guest to the festival as he would to any of the guards. As they finished their session, Faust was come upon by a vision of the Drow deity of Lust Leyna. The necromancer asked of the deity where she could obtain a greater power. The Drow deity told her of the Demi-Devil Deity Kazerabet and that she could locate a way to her in the capital city of Belva. That night during Tobata’s watch he nearly fell from the train severely injuring his legs, but he was able to tend to his own wounds before consequence came of his injury.

The next day would end up passing without consequence if not for the death of Keiben whom had died apparently after sitting upon Bart’s toilet. All of the guards, save Roger whom had been moved from being held in the mount cart to the guard quarter cart, came rushing to the scene to see what had happened. Due to her extensive experience with poisons Faust immediately recognized the poison to be that of the black lotus extract. With this knowledge out in the open, Kyru went to question Marietta on her ownership of a black lotus, which he had realized with the revelation of the poison. She revealed to him in an intensely displeased fashion that the flower was an heirloom of her family, and was of a non-poisonous variety. Kyru stormed off back to his job displeased with his findings and intent to unravel the mystery surrounding the murder.

The next day the guard crew set off to investigate the happenings of the prior day, intent to keep the remainder of the passengers safe. Bart put forward that he may be the next target due to the fact that the toilet that had been poisoned was his. Needing all the aid they could get, the other guards decided to let Roger loose and return to guard patrol. The other guards needed rest due to having been up longer than preferred. On his patrol during the morning Roger found a small pile of dust of unknown origin. He left it marked with a caltrop, and went back to his patrol.

When the other guards awoke later in the day after proper rest, Roger had become quite tired and returned to the guard cart without informing anyone of the dust he found. Ever her mischievous self, Faust at this point took it upon herself to attempt to further ruin Roger. Using her magical ability, she blinded him in his sleep. When he awoke he was intensely distraught and suffered massive panic attacks due to his new blinded status. Both Tobata and Kyru began to patrol during the night and with Turin’s help, they located a glove with Black Lotus residue in Marietta’s bathroom. They consulted the custodian as to a place they could put it. Robert allowed them to place it in the secret hold in the luggage area that also held official documents and part of the emergency brake for the train.

Along their way back to the front of the train, Tobata had a bit of a misunderstanding pertaining to Lirael, leading him to believe her to just realizing she was pregnant. Such was not the case, but the stress from the job and travel had been getting to the elven woman, and she decided she would be better off with a bit of rest. The sixth night of the train ride began to wax onward. Faust continued to search the train asking Robert if the rest of the group had happened upon anything. The custodian gladly gave her access to the lockbox in the luggage cart so that she could further investigate the glove, then he closed the box. Using Billy’s shape-shifting abilities to transform her demonic companion into a wolf, she began to attempt to track the scent of the residue on the glove. In the first class set of carts Turin was patrolling after hearing the noise of a struggle and came upon Bart whom quickly incapacitated the Wolf with a smelling salt pellet. The winter wolf had just enough time to send an empathic alert to Lirael from down the train which awoke her from her nap.

Lirael rushed down the train in order to aid her companion quickly followed behind be Kyru, Tobata, & Faust all of whom had seen her bolting down the way and assumed an emergency. Roger had begun wandering blindly down the hallway of the train attempting to discern what was occurring all around him due to the raucous noise; however he was of no real aid in the long run. When the guard crew arrived to Turin’s position, they found that Bart had already slain Morris and had made his way into Marietta’s room in order to attempt to assassinate her as well. They all broke down the down to quell the dwarven assassin, but not before he had landed his blow on the sarcastic elven woman and nearly escaped capture out the window.

They eventually subdued him and brought the elven noblewoman back from the brink of death, with no thanks from her though. The group then incarcerated Bart to the mount cart of the train and attempted to interrogate him as to his reasoning. It wasn’t until Faust began summoning undead monstrosities before him as a scare tactic that he spilled his ploy. He had intended to assassinate Marietta all along the train ride, having bribed the prior guard crew to break their contract. However when the new set of guards was hired in almost no time, he had to adjust his plans. He rigged Keiben’s toilet to malfunction, so that the cat-folk man would need to use his toilet, knowing that Marietta would be too prideful to allow someone else to use hers. He laced his own toilet seat with poison and killed the architect to throw suspicion from himself. Then when the guards were all distracted down the way he would make his final move and slay her. However with Turin’s interference, his plan failed.

In Marietta’s room as Lirael attempted to reorganize things, she heard a strange rumbling coming from the black bladed sword that Bart had dropped in the fight. She reached out for it and took it in her hand. As she wielded the blade it began to speak to her, inquiring if she was the new master. When she complied to its questioning it shaped itself into a kukri, Lirael’s weapon of choice, and informed her to “find them and feed them” to it.

With the train calmed down, the final day of the trip passed without consequence and the group arrived in the stop-over in Otylia. Bart was taken into custody by the IFCS along with the remains of Morris and Keiben as evidence. Frank expressed to the group that despite their slight bumbling, that they fared better than the prior guard group. He paid all of them the rate he had quoted them before, save for Roger, whom he made pay for the ride due to having contributed nearly nothing. The group then began the trek to Ganzen’s Temple just an hour outside of the city. Along the way the group began to question Lirael as to how she obtained the strange black kukri, to which she was very evasive. It caused a great deal of tension for Turin as its mental messages to Lirael were causing mental distress for the wolf as well.

Upon arriving at the temple, Harmon made his prayer to the temporal deity and then found a strange anomaly in the prayer chamber. A door had opened as his prayer went on, that he had not seen when he had visited before as a child. Curious, he asked the group if they would venture further into the temple. Seeing no real problem with doing so they all continued in, leaving Faust and Roger to watch the entrance. Faust took this opportunity to further debilitate Roger and deafen him, but removed his blindness, but she was prompted to bring him down further at the sound of familiar voices down below. Upon descending they found themselves faced with a large chess board and an illusory image of the temporal deity Ganzen herself with an outstretched hand. Harmon unsuspectingly shook her hand, and the group found themselves positioned in place of the missing pieces on the board playing a game of chess against the goddess of time herself, or at least a projection of which. Kyru began to give proper order to their side for tactics and led the group to win eventually.

The game was not without consequence however. During the course of the chess match both Turin and Tobata had been captured, and they were not given back to the group until the group questioned where they were minutes after the game had ended. Upon returning Tobata however, Ganzen placed a strange grey glow in his chest. To this the ninja monk replied “Thanks?”

“You won’t be thanking me.” The temporal deity told him as he returned to the land of the living proper.

The six of them continued forward into the temple and reached a long sanctuary like room, where a haggard man holding a severed hand was walking towards a strange sphere with a symbol of Ganzen inside. Lirael quickly shot down the strange man with a single arrow, revealing a ghost to be possessing him. The ghost then let out a long continued wail, at which the group began to fall into a slumber.

In their sleep all of the adventurers were stricken with horrid nightmares. Faust stricken by memories of her sister who slayed her family and village, Tobata by a previous failure in front of one of his teachers, Turin & Lirael frightened by visions of attack from each other, Kyru by visions of surreal armies marching by him, and Roger by odd recurrences of his life flashing by. Both Faust and Kyru used their wits and their will to resist the nightmarish visions. Tobata and Roger though try as they might were not proper able to completely shake them off, with Roger now partially blinded by an infinite abyss and Tobata wracked by visions of his disapproving superiors.

Whilst the group had been occupied with shaking off their terrors, the strange ghost with only one hand had possessed Harmon and began walking back towards the sphere at the front of the sanctuary room. Faust had quickly picked up the black bladed weapon that Lirael had dropped during her nightmare. The Blade began to speak to her asking if she was the new master, and she replied in the affirmative and it shaped itself into a scimitar for the spell caster.

The sword informed her that it could rid the ghost from Harmon, but would need more mental power than just her, so she grabbed Tobata and touched the scimitar to Harmon’s possessed body. The spell caster and the monk ninja both experienced strange visions as they delved into Harmon’s nightmare. They arrived before a burning mansion, and inside found a library full of drugs, and encountered Harmon cowering before a monstrous elven woman with an image of the ghost standing idly by laughing. The pair of them freed Harmon from the nightmare by slaying the ghost both within the dreamscape and outside within the real world after it was forced away from the companion.

With the ghost destroyed the group began to collect themselves back together. Faust picked up the severed hand that the possessed haggard man had been carrying and stowed it away from sight, sensing some strange property about it. As they began to leave however, the grey glow within Tobata grew bright and covered his entire body. A large gray sphere expanded before the adventurers almost instantly and died off just as quickly as it had appeared, leaving behind an attractive woman in scant clothing with long dark brown hair, sporting two small demonic wings at her back. She gazed upon the dumbfounded crew and companion with satisfaction declaring that everything had gone off perfectly for her.

Hot on her heels however, another gray glow expanded and disappeared this time leaving behind four people. One man with olive skin, sporting both a brown and black goatee, glasses and a scar running across his left eye, clothed in a loose fitting purple and black robe, shouted for the rest to seize her. The others were a woman seemingly made of golden metal components, clearly of construct nature, an adult fire giant whom sported a pair of wings at his back and was lit aflame, and another man tan in complexion with short brown hair, wearing a black leather jacket with an odd metal brace around his heavily tattooed left arm.

However, upon arriving the construct woman flashed with energy and fell to the ground seemingly inactive, and the woman with wings at her back simply disappeared in a flash. Upon the construct woman falling inactive the three men began to attempt to communicate with each other, but apparently could not, shouting in completely unintelligible words to each other. The fire giant went into a coughing fit and the flames surrounding his body dissipated. Completely dumbfounded the six adventurers tried to communicate with the three men. The olive skinned man stepped forward and cleared his throat to speak in a clear and concise voice with every word seemingly plotted out beforehand. He inquired as to who the all were. When the group introduced themselves individually, the man seemed to revile himself at the mention of Faust’s name.

He introduced himself as Yuri, and his companions as Shi Goto and Francis. After inquiring what country they were in, he began searching through his bag, asking that the group’s leader step forward. Kyru approached the man whom had pulled out about seven hundred platinum pages and whispered to Kyru to make sure no one mentions him and his friend’s arrival and for Kyru to slay Faust at his closest convenience. Kyru gladly accepted the money and informed the others not to speak of them, and the three walked out with the woman slung over Shi’s shoulder with Francis concealing the pair of wings on his back beneath his cloak. The group followed out behind them returning to the city to take up lodgings for the night at an inn.

They once again saw Yuri and his companions speaking to a young looking woman in front of an old residence. Tobata overheard Yuri mentioning the name Chan Vanda as they were leaving the house coming towards the inn. The Monk questioned him on whom Chan Vanda is, and Yuri reminded him that Chan Vanda is a mover and shaker in the magi-tech development sector, and to mind his manners by not eavesdropping on people’s conversations. The night passed without problem and the next morning around 8 the group convened for the train met by Harmon’s coworkers on the transit also traveling to Aradia for the tri-annual companion festival. Frank, whom had been filling out paperwork at the station due to the incident, also boarded the train as its conductor. The three men from the temple still carrying the metallic woman also boarded intent to travel to Aradia as well. While boarding Roger noticed a small creature of black textured skin with small teeth on its underside crawl under the train, but thought nothing of it.

Upon boarding, Yuri stopped Faust in the middle of the hallway to confront her. Faust was completely unaware of what he was so angered with her for, seeing as how she had never seen him before but he seemed to know all about her. Yuri began to become very violent with her and was only halted by Francis’ intervention, which spoke to him in a very strange dialect of the giant language, and made him lay off of his attack of Faust. All the adventurers sat around being merry for a job had been well done for their trip, socializing with the companions and drinking and being merry. However, their job was far from over.

The group awoke in the morning to the sound and feel of many small creatures crawling all around them in their rooms. The entirety of the group found themselves surrounded by the same small black creatures that roger had seen one of boarding the train the prior day. The rest of the passengers on the train had seemed to disappear as well. They all began fighting their way through the tiny beasts, while trying to discern what precisely was going on. The train lurched forward suddenly at an increased speed. The group split to begin investigating, Lirael, Faust and Roger going topside to find the source of the creatures, and Kyru, Tobata and Turin inside the train to discern the speed problem, first searching for the emergency brake piece in the hold. Upon arriving in the luggage area, they found the emergency brake piece missing from the now eaten through compartment on the bottom by the creatures.

Topside, Faust and Lirael found a large mass of the creatures that were red in color. Roger had fallen prey to the poison of the creatures, falling unconscious and pulled towards the large mass of the other passengers. The other passengers were all huddled together atop the train by the black creatures. Lirael fired an arrow upon the red mass of creatures inciting a horrid shriek, as the mass of tiny creatures began to conglomerate into a single massive unit the entire width of the train it stood upon. The passengers and Roger were alike pulled in. Faust began using her summoning abilities to call undead aid to the fight as Lirael attempted to get in closer. In jumping across the distance between the carts a mass of remaining monsters caught her foot as she leapt off causing her to fall to the ground between the train carts. She only barely managed to catch herself on the connecting piece between the train cars and pull herself up. She had lost her left leg in the fall and was trapped between the carts in immense pain being surrounded by more and more black creatures.

As Kyru headed topside to aid Faust, Tobata ran to the conductor’s cart and asked what Frank’s status was. Turin, hearing an empathic cry from Lirael, rushed to the junction where she was stuck and aided her in fending the beasts off. Kyru arrived topside and used his superior martial prowess to destroy the monsters atop the train. Frank informed Tobata in the conductor’s cart that the monsters were gumming up the works of the magi-tech engine, had broken the main brake access and that they needed to activate the emergency brake. Knowing the emergency brake part was gone, and having learned earlier from a talk with Frank on their way to Otylia that one of the machines in the conductor’s cart was part of the engine, he put all of his force into attacking the engine piece in hopes of dead-stopping the train. Doing so caused an explosion to backfire against him and Frank.

Upon seeing this, Frank quickly shouted that the part he destroyed was only the regulator and now the train would increase in speed. The train indeed started to scream down the tracks. Tobata asked what would happen if they were to reach their destination going this speed and couldn’t stop. Frank informed him that they would just crash, but seeing as how the sensors for the tracks were sending signals down to the next station, at this speed the IFCS would have been informed and would need to obliterate the train with magic in order to prevent as many civilian casualties as possible. Meaning in short, if they didn’t stop the train soon they would die by disintegration from the IFCS. Just as Frank finished his statement, they both watched some paperwork float by the front windshield being carried along by the mass of creatures. Quick thinking led Tobata to realize that the creatures may still have the emergency brake part up top, and he made haste to go search for it.

Inside the mass of creatures, Roger awoke from the poison to see the other passengers and some belongings floating around between the creatures being bitten at constantly, all unconscious. He saw the piece of the emergency brake and quickly reasoned out that since it resembled the machinery of the train it was of importance and began to move towards it to grab it in the mass. Tobata arrived to aid Kyru and Faust in destroying the mass of creatures topside, while Lirael and Turin fought back the vicious creatures from encroaching upon the one legged woman. Upon knocking away enough of the tiny monstrosities, the red core creature was revealed and with e swift stroke of his sword, Kyru obliterated the beast, and the huddled hive mind mass all melted away from the passengers and belongings with Roger holding up the emergency brake.

Roger tossed the brake to Tobata, and the monk and warblade ran down the train making haste to activate the brakes as Roger awakened and collected up the people back to the carts. The two arrived in the caboose to activate the e-brake just in the nick of time to avoid disintegration, and the train slowed to a stop just on the outskirts of the city. Entering in, their wounds were taken care of and amended due to having saved the train from crashing. All was right and the day had been proper saved. Faust had undeafened Roger; her fun finished, and went to go attempt to obtain magical components. Upon arriving the shop keep mistook her presence for her sister Priscilla’s. The man fled after realizing his mistake and shooting a line of black lightning at Faust and missing. He left behind only a coin with a symbol of an eagle flying over a mountain. The group joined Harmon and his coworkers in the festivities in the city for the festival as guests and all would be well.

End of Episode Four Part A


Espionage No More

Back in the City of Farrah, back on the fourth day of the week, Nagamasa “The Black Fox” Hattori was out on a mission. He’d accepted a job from a local help venter only described as highly dangerous espionage work. Excited to get back to his favorite kind of work, he proceeded through the shadows to the set upon location behind a clothing outlet in a commercial square in the business district. Camping out in the darkness he watched as a familiar face in the square.

Cascata Shiri, having recovered from the failed defense of Pahana, was mounted on back her trusted horse Siyavash deliberating down to a merchant. The man was purveying small art pieces depicting common images of both Mileni and Alastor engaged in the throes of sexual intercourse. Despite the sacrilegious imagery, the reason as to Cascata’s berating of the merchant was of her recognizing his seller’s permit was outdated and he was thus not allowed to sell in the square until he renewed his permit.

Through the paladin’s lecture at the merchant, three other people passed by the scene all of which were headed to Nagamasa’s same job. They were; Kizan Altar Mitsurugi, a ninja of the Setting Sun School of Ninjitsu the rivals of the Iga School of Ninjitsu, Kardia “The Scorpion”, another ninja of the same school as Nagamasa, the Iga, and a cloaked serious faced monk woman from the former Mondoe Nation named Asha. They all bypassed the sight of the merchant packing his wares without consequence.

Coming in behind Nagamasa was his traveling companion “Iron-Claw”, making sure to keep the coast clear behind them. The Wolf-folk man asked if this was really the best plan of action seeing as how they were barely aware of the job as a whole. The Black Fox calmed his accompaniment‘s worries by saying if they didn’t want to go through with the job, nothing was keeping them to it. Just as he had finished his sentence, out from the shadows arrived a familiar face to the ninja, “Orlando Innamorato Furioso” a fighter of almost mythic repute. He greeted Nagamasa with a smile surprised to run into him again.

After discerning that Orlando had arrived for the same job as the pair of them, the three made their way behind the clothing outlet. Entering into the back alley, Kardia instantly recognized Nagamasa but nonchalantly dismissed his appearance as unimportant. The small group all began to talk, save Asha as she refrained from removing her hood until Cascata came around the corner on her horse. Upon seeing Nagamasa again she hopped down and began to question him. “What happened after my incapacitation? Were you able to save the elves’ home town?”

The ninja replied “Well, not precisely. After that bounty hunter woman carted you off, things got a bit too heavy when this weird guy came up and almost instantly blew away that other ninja woman I kinda had to…..”

The paladin scoffed with disdain. “I knew I couldn’t leave such a task up to such an unscrupulous individual as you. Those innocent people are probably all dead, and for what? For you to escape?

The Wolf-folk Kensai piped in “Hey, he saved my life back there, and we did the best we could. Cut him some slack.”

His forceful toned gave the woman pause and she began to look around among the group, deciding now was the best time to call in the man whom had called them together. She pulled from her effects a small bronze whistle and from it emitted a clear and clean sounding low tone. Within a minute a man with a pair of golden wings, robed in a black cloak descended to the alleyway in which they resided. He pulled back his hood to reveal his onyx gem like skin and his form glowed with a heavenly light and he introduced himself as Chimelu Deo Naolin; an enforcer of Mileni of high repute.

Upon his arrival, he began greeting the group that had gathered save Cascata who had called him. He asked Asha to kindly remove her hood that the group might gain a better trust of her, to which she obliged revealing her scarred visage. The paladin man gave then began to inform them as to the reasoning he had asked them together. Due to the formation of The Internal Force of Criminal Subjugation (The IFCS), the jurisdiction of the Paladinry of Mileni had been overtaken by new law. The glowing paladins were no longer charged with protection of the people within the cities of Aaralynn, now replaced by the IFCS. The IFCS squadrons are known to be formed of mercenaries of possible ill repute, and are generally untrusted by the paladinry. Thusly, the glowing winged man had formed an idea. He recognized the fact that the IFCS was given jurisdiction of the cities due to enforcement by the paladinry could sometimes be attributed by religious law rather than federal law.

Knowing this, mercenaries are common to aid others and could feasibly be of aid to the paladinic force in use of perspective, teamwork and subversion. He had intended to set up a sting operation in order to capture the elven criminal and slave trader Geovanni Reyes. With the aid of the group of adventurers he had gathered, evidence could be obtained to incriminate the elven man proper. The group would infiltrate the warehouse where Chimelu’s information had led him to know that Geovanni’s next slave trading deal would go on. He lent them some equipment from the paladanic force; a magi-tech scrycorder, to capture the deal going on, and a flare, to fire once they had proper captured the deal going on.

Once they had the evidence needed, they would fire the flare in order to signal the flying man and the rest of the paladinry to close in and incarcerate Geovanni. If they could be successful, The Paladinry of Mileni could better rally to maintain their jurisdiction of the cities and Chimelu would come forward with his new initiative of working with undercover persons, with the current group being the first of those inducted into it. The group of six began to contemplate it amongst themselves questioning a few of the specifics as to where they would be, and what they would be up against. The winged man gave them all the information he was aware of, that Geovanni would have an accompaniment of four hobgoblins along with him and the address of the warehouse they would need to be at, and that the deal would be going on in four hours, however he was unaware of the person that Geovanni would be meeting. The group agreed to the job and began to prepare themselves. Cascata and Chimelu walked away from the group as Cascata whispered privately something she said was of importance to Chimelu.

Nagamasa set off to obtain disguises for himself, Iron-Claw, Orlando, and Kardia in order to feign being dock workers while they traversed down to the warehouse proper as Kizan climbed a building and sat atop it in order to meditate as Asha did the same on the ground. The hours passed and they began to formulate their plan of infiltration. Upon arriving Kizan & Kardia opted to climb a higher building next to the warehouse proper. Orlando & Iron-Claw guarded the only seen out door after Geovanni and his accompaniment entered, as both Asha & Nagamasa both infiltrated the warehouse through a sewer grate in the back.

Upon entering, they saw a strange tall woman with somewhat robed in red and purple speaking to a hulking goliath of a man. The elven man as he entered began to interact with her as it became clearer that she was his contact. From listening the group gathered that the woman was of some spell-casting ability. As their conversation waxed on, in were brought the slaves by a Halfling man leading a cart. Their plan seemed to be set in motion proper; however, the way the woman was speaking led them to believe they might have discovered them in hiding. They continued on spying but in Nagamasa’s head rang a message in the voice of the woman. “Run along little man. Go back to being insignificant in the world.”

They carried on as one slave woman was carted away by one of Geovanni’s guards to be raped. Asha used her abilities to intercept the hobgoblin before he could have his way with her. Just as the exchange of money was about to happened, the tall woman thrust her hand in the direction of Nagamasa and two magical snakes flew off her arm into The Black Fox’s neck, injecting him with vile poison. He quickly grabbed the magi-tech scrycorder and fled on fast heels. Before what could be discerned was happening, it was almost all over. Orlando had run around the other side of the warehouse, only to be intercepted and decapitated by the hulking man. Nagamasa had given the scrycorder to Kardia after the ninja atop the building had sent off the flare while attempting to fend off the virile poison that would end his life. Kardia was intercepted by assailing members of the IFCS whom had appeared from the shadows.

Kizan flew over the warehouse to attempt to aid Orlando but all too late as the large man had already dispatched with Orlando’s head. Despite his attempts to both summon a stag beetle upon the man, whom appeared to be a bear lycanthrope by his hands and the white bear claw on the back of his black robe, Kizan was eventually overcome by a lethal shock to the skull. Asha continued to fight through the guards as Iron-Claw was knocked into the warehouse by a wall of bones summoned by the tall spell-casting woman. Though dodging the woman’s magical entangling scarf, Iron-Claw was no match when she revealed herself to be a lycanthrope of the tiger variety and she cut him down with her immense new strength. Asha attempted to fight on only to be blown down by the hail of arrows assailing her. Just as the last breaths left Asha and Iron-Claw they saw as the tiger lycanthrope woman named Ichi then betrayed Geovanni, slicing through him with her blade.

Their lives had all seemingly been ended, but they all awoke to be face to face with the Councilman of Internal Affairs; Leonidas Sergisenn. As he filed through papers before them each individually, he appeared to predict all they would say as they thought it, through apparent experience examining people. He would inform them all that they would now be working for him whether they liked it or not, aiding him to accomplish his mission. When prompted by the confused newly revived adventurers as to what it was he simply told them: “Well, there came a day in which I decided that I would become instrumental in the destruction of this current world, and now you are my tool in doing so, you should feel honored.”

They once again now all awakened next to each other, surrounded by trees of a variety none had ever seen, extending tall and thin into the air. They awoke next to a man who introduced himself as Weasand Harlow; their new commanding officer. “That means I’m handing out the orders here. I say jump, you say how high. I say die-” as he stuck out two of his fingers towards Nagamasa in demonstration.

Nagamasa’s body keeled over wracked with a deathly pain. “- you do! I say get back up-” he punctuated with an upward lift of his flat palm once again in the direction of The Black Fox.

Nagamasa awoke again on the ground gasping for air, then back to life proper. “-and you will rise from the ashes. Now we’re off, we have no time to lose. Fly.”

He turned his back to them and jumped off through the tall tree stalks and sent them all a mental imperative to jump and do the same. As their feet sailed upward their lift continued and they began flying through the forest low to the ground as though suspended in air. Their journey had just begun

End of Episode Four Part B


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PostSubject: Short Version: How Dark is it?   Fri Aug 03, 2012 1:56 am

Episode Five: The Darkest Descent


Part I


The lives of adventurous souls always hang in the balance. In the city of Otylia the younger generation gains life experience every day. During the forty-third week of the year a few such youngsters were going through their everyday lives when the extraordinary struck.

Crimson Cortex nephew to the well-known engineer and inventor: Professor Evan Cortex had gone to check in on his uncle when the lights in the professor’s laboratory had flickered all at once. Upon entering, Lila Dawn Weaver; the professor’s pupil and laboratory assistant informed him that the professor was just fine and testing circuit connections with the magi-tech lighting in the laboratory. Charles Layton; a hard-working young man whom was building the west garden had also arrived in the laboratory curious as to the light flicker. The Professor emerged from his contained experimentation unit to assure them that he was just fine.

The professor then informed Lila and Crimson that he needed an errand run and that they needed to visit the companion house in the downtown area of the city, and retrieve a shipment of uncharged Magi-metal batteries from an Aradian woman named Camelia Sonrei. Lila, whom harbored a crush on Charles, asked him if he would like to come along. With all the day’s scheduled work completed proper Charles was glad to oblige. The pair of them encountered Albafica Recendal; the professor’s third assistant and religious consultant, and invited him along the errand as well. Crimson had started in the other direction moving through the basement laboratory, borrowing a wrench along the way.

Crimson emerged out of the stairs leading into the kitchen, where he encountered both Liberty Karla Kaufman “Libby” Brown; the professor’s second assistant, and Aderyn Reaha; the housemaid, gathering food for lunch from the pantry. The house cook; Anastasia Karninovna Silvasya, was out for that day celebrating her mother’s birthday with her family, thusly it fell to Aderyn to cook for the day. Crimson informed Libby of the errand he was about to go run, and she offered to aid him after she began munching on an apple. The group of five all convened just in front of the door before Crimson went to grab his katana and wakizashi from his room and fetch his riding dog Arcaten from his pen.

Out front as Crimson fetched his mount the tension between Lila and Libby was tensile. Both of them held affection for Charles, but either fear or animosity for the other. Charles however seemed unaware of this relationship between the three of them. Libby positioned herself next to Charles at the front of the cart drawn by his horse with Lila taking the back as it was all that was left. Once all were prepared, the group set off to the Ai Cloud. Along the way the group of them encountered Deacon Reagan, Neegan Heord, and Seabat Forgel; a trio of thugs that roll around the city causing problems seemingly scot-free due to the fact that Deacon’s father is the chief of the first division of the IFCS of Otylia.

Deacon attempted to challenge them to a horse race for 50 pages, and although Crimson seemed somewhat interested, Charles declined for the entire group leaving the three of them behind. Upon arriving at The Ai Cloud, they found that although Camelia works there, she was out at the moment visiting the companion house in the Shopping District; The Purple Satin Curtain. On their way to the next companion house Crimson remarked “Does it seem a bit weird to you guys that my uncle keeps the company of people who are kinda young?”

Liberty replied with “If that’s how he gets through his stressful days, then I won’t judge him” making her implication clear.

Traveling through the Shopping district the group continued to socialize before reaching their new destination. Charles opted to stay outside and Libby remained with him on the front of the cart. Crimson, Lila and Alba all entered and asked for Camelia Sonrei to come to the sitting room that they might retrieve their package. The reception boy went back to fetch her, and as they waited Albafica seemed to show some signs of discomfort. Outside both Charles and Libby began to talk pleasantly, with Charles mentioning that a bar he frequents quite often; Joe’s Flying Dog, lied just down the way. After the three exited they informed Charles and Libby that they had apparently just missed Camelia. She went to the companion house in the Entertainment District; The Lover’s Embrace, in order to talk to a friend of hers. Crimson had become a bit wary of wandering around the city, and informed the others that he would simply head straight back to the Cortex Residence, and see them there later.

Charles led his wagon towards the east to the Entertainment district, and all the way Libby continuously looked over her left shoulder back at Lila, sowing a good deal of discomfort in the air. Finally Alba broke the tension “You know, I’ve never felt comfortable in those places, it just seems so….. I don’t know, that profession just makes me uncomfortable”

Charles responded back with “Why’s that? They’re making a decent living, and it not like they just do one thing, to be a companion you have to know decent amounts of history, how to play an instrument or two and to sing, really they’re just decent people, doing a service,”

Lila and Liberty both contributed a sentiment of agreement. Crimson, as he continued north, once again saw Neegan and Seabat standing in front of an alley way. When Crimson mistook Seabat for a giant of some kind, the half-ogre angrily corrected him. While standing there Crimson noticed the man the two were standing in front of was being beaten in the alley by Reagan. When the young man asked the pair in front of the alleyway what was going on. Reagan was quick to inform him, that the man on the ground had lost a horse race to him and owed him fifty five gold pages.

Crimson tried to convince them to simply let the poor man go, but it only got him a slew of insults from Deacon, including a sexual remark directed towards Crimson’s mother. Looking inside his pockets, Crimson saw that he had just that much. He held out his money and said “Maybe I could cover him?”

As he said his offer, Neegan jumped down from Seabat’s shoulder, snagged the pages from the animal trainer’s hand, and responded “Pleasure doing business with you” and with the kobold’s remark the three of them began to saunter away from the alley leaving Crimson with a feeling of theft and loss.

Charles, Liberty, Albafica, and Lila arrived at The Lover’s Embrace, and once again Charles and Libby sat waiting in the cart while Alba and Lila went inside. Charles as he was speaking to Libby began to sharpen one of the axes at his belt. Upon noticing this, Libby also pulled out her sharpening stone and began to sharpen her switchblade alongside him. When the pair entered the sitting room, they found a woman speaking to the desk clerk holding a box. As she finished her conversation, both Alba and Lila had deduced that the woman before them was indeed the Aradian woman they had been searching for.

Camelia recognized the professor’s assistant and handed over the package and bid them farewell. Upon exiting the two saw Charles and Libby both sharpening weaponry and didn’t quite know what to make of the scene before them. Feeling uncomfortable, Albafica decided to head back to the Cortex Residence before the rest of the group. With their errand for the day completed, Lila suggested that they head back as well; however, Libby posited a different suggestion. A restaurant owned by her family was just a few blocks down the way, and she inquired to Charles if he would like to go dine there with her. Charles thought about everything he wanted to get done with for the day and felt he could do with eating something before getting back to work, and accepted. Lila, not having been invited, bid them adieu and was on her way back home.

As Crimson went to check on the beaten man, he noticed that the man’s horse was hurt in the alley with him. He asked the man if he was alright. The man replied that he was fine if a little bruised up, but that Reagan had cheated and slashed a wound in his horse’s leg and caused the man to lose. Thinking quickly, Crimson realized that Albafica was versed in the healing arts and could help the horse’s leg. He told the man he’d return shortly and then made haste to find the cleric, and by good luck he encountered Albafica on his way back to the Cortex Residence. He led his friend back to where the horse lie injured, and with some simple magical aid, the cleric healed over the horse’s leg, allowing it to stand proper again. The man thanked them heartily and was on his way. At this, both Albafica and Crimson began heading back to the animal trainer’s home. Albafica remarked that it is good to have friends you can count on, and Crimson shared his sentiment.

Both Charles and Libby went a few blocks down from The Lover’s Embrace to the restaurant known as “Karla’s”. Upon entering the hostess immediately recognized the daughter of the owners and was courteous to seat them on the patio. Charles noted that it was quite a fancy place for someone of his attire, which was naught more than simple work clothes that were quite dirty from working hard earlier. Libby ordered a cooked lobster and a glass of wine, while Charles ordered a simple plate of steak and potatoes. The two made small talk about their friends and lives until their food arrived. Libby asked of Charles if he would like to see something interesting. Charles obliged and Libby grasped her lobster dinner by the back of the crustacean, and suddenly a shocking jolt ran through it making it twitch ever so slightly. “Pretty neat isn’t it?” Libby inquired to her date.

“Hmm, that’s some simple magic right? You, Lila and The professor all deal in it right?” Charles asked back.

“Yes, yes, some are blessed with the gift of arcane art, others have to learn it”

“Well, I guess I don’t know too much about that kind of stuff, but it is interesting none the less I suppose,” Just as Charles finished his sentence he glimpsed Deacon Reagan sitting in the restaurant through the window. “Oh, huh you wouldn’t expect to see that guy here,”

Libby turned her head to see Seabat’s large personage emerging from the kitchen with a handful of pages. The half-hobgoblin looked back to see the half-ogre emerging and began walking out with his tall friend accompanying him. “I’ll have to find out what that was all about. Ruffians of that degree have no real place in a restaurant like this”

Charles looked down at his own clothing and armor and axes hanging at his belt and could only revel in the irony. Liberty called over the manager on duty at the time and asked why those two had come in. The manager explained that they had entered in seeking work in the kitchen and that the stack of pages was offering for the job. Libby didn’t question that they would do such a backwards and frankly dumb action and was sated by his explanation. The pair finished their meal and despite their meals being free, Libby still left a sizable tip for their server.

Upon Albafica and Crimson arriving back, Aderyn informed them that the professor had requested to see Albafica upon his return. The cleric obliged and went to the professor in his laboratory, while Crimson remained outside for a moment to put his trusted dog Arcaten back in his pen. While he was outside Crimson happened to notice a strange man, holding his left arm standing across the street. Albafica found the professor in his study and inquired as to what he needed from him. The tall man wearing a lab coat turned around to notice him and told him that he needed his opinion. He began to escort the cleric of Mileni up to his personal study. Professor Cortex said as he was about to open the door “Now, remember, we are going to keep this just between the two of us, understood?”

Alba somewhat unsurely answered, “Uh, yes sir.”

“Good, now step into my office,” he said as the door creaked open.

With their dinner finished, Charles offered to take Libby back to her home since the night was approaching. They continued their simple chat all the way back to Libby’s home. As she was about to embark up her yard’s walkway to her home, she stole a kiss on Charles’ cheek, and was on her way up to her house. At her home Libby sat in her room whittling with her switchblade.

Downstairs at the Cortex Residence, Crimson began to try and speak with the odd aged looking man. He spoke with a strange mumbling, repetitious demeanor. What Crimson could gain from his speaking however was that he was scheduled to see the Professor, tomorrow, at 5 PM. The man said he’d been standing outside for some time and apparently intended to stay there until his appointment tomorrow, despite Crimson’s offer to let him in from the elements. Crimson left him to his business.

In the Professor’s room, Cortex displayed a glass case holding a strange black creature with a row of teeth at its bottom, and a pair of giant eyes on a tiny black body. Its body was no larger than a man’s fist, and the skin that wrapped around from its teeth up was waxy, but mottled strangely. It made an odd whistling noise from its ‘mouth’ at its bottom. He informed the young man that he had created the creature through the use of magi-technology. The Professor then asked that, without thinking, what was Albafica’s reaction. The cleric did not have much to say other than it being incredible that he could bring life to such a creature. With his assistant’s opinion stated he was done for the day and the Professor shuffled him along his way, while reminding him to keep the creature secret.

By this time Lila had arrived home again, still wrapped in her thoughts about Libby and Charles together at that moment eating dinner. She wasn’t even affected by the new notes that the professor gave to her to add to her own concerning the creature capture spheres Crimson used. She retired to her room after eating some of the dinner prepared by Aderyn, until Charles came back to pick up his effects so that he could go home proper. As he began gather his belongings from the garden, Lila came out to greet him and see how he was doing. … Charles was on his way as Lila left back for the house.

Crimson, now flat broke went to go talk to his uncle. “Say, Uncle, is there anything I can do around the house to make some extra money, or work for another capture ball?”

“No Nephew I have no control over that, but follow me for now and then later I will tell you what you might be able to do.” The eccentric Cortex said as he escorted his kin to his private quarters.

A bit unsure of what his uncle was going to show him, Crimson followed none the less. Upon arriving in Evan’s room, he glimpsed the strange creature that his uncle had been working on. The creature made its whistle when Crimson entered. “I know I forgot your birthday this year… again, but I have created this animal just for you in place of it. You like animals yes?” The Professor asked.

“Yeah, animals are pretty cool, and this one seems interesting” He said as he looked at the weird black blob of a creature whistling and staring back at him “But what about my other birthday you forgot last year?”

The Professor had a sort pause. “Ah yes, I have that one as well, I’ll have it done tomorrow, just before I finish working on this fellow the day afterwards, well I’ll see you tomorrow then” He said as he shuffled his nephew out “And remember, keep this under your backwards turned cap”

The pair of them had exited the professor’s room and begun down the hall when Crimson interrupted “Uhh, so about earning extra money around the house…”

“Ahh, yes, see if Aderyn will let you help with the housework tomorrow for some scratch, now I must be back to work proper,” he said as his lab door shut.

Before he retired to bed, the young animal handler asked the housemaid as she donned a robe for her nightly walk if he could aid her tomorrow, and she agreed to the extra help but warned him that it would be strenuous. That night Crimson experienced a nightmare of his mother being taken carnally by the half-hobgoblin thug that had been bothering him earlier in the day only for it to be interrupted by the sound of the door crashing open loudly early in the morning. He hopped out of bed and looked out his room’s door to see his mother Doctor Naomi Cortex returning home from a long business journey. She rubbed his head as she went by and started up the stairs. As she ascended, her brother passed her by carrying a small box. He walked with purpose across the sitting room up to Lila’s door. His knocking awakened the half-elf and she answered the door only to have the box fly quickly towards her groggy self.

“Lila, urgent errand. I need you to run this to a man named Brottor Ungart to the address on the box in the Egerth District,” he said quickly pressing the words out from his lips “And be snappy about it, I need you back here so we can visit the Sewage Management plant at midday”

“Alright professor” She said still wiping the sleep from her eyes.

As he walked back to the stairs to return to his studies he turned for a split second to say “And don’t drink anything he gives you”

She quickly gathered herself up and went to the kitchen to grab a bite of breakfast before she left. Libby was on her way to the Cortex’s door when she noticed Charles working up a sweat in the garden. With her distracted by Charles momentarily, she almost ran into Lila as the half-elf walked out the door. “Oh, hi Libby,” She said with disdain.

Libby only scoffed and turned her face away from her and Lila shared the sentiment and was quick on her way. Inside Crimson was awaiting the return of Aderyn in order for him to help her with her maid duties for the day. As Lila was leaving off the front porch, both Aderyn and Anastasia were arriving at the house. The chef and the housemaid greeted each other fondly. “It is most pleasant to see you again Miss Reaha” the halfling said in her common polite tone with a small bow.

“And you as well Anastasia,” Aderyn replied “Tell me, how was your mother’s birthday, if you do not mind saying”

“Oh just wonderful, there was a big cake and much merriment to be had”

“Oh that’s wonderful, well today is a new day, back to the activities of the day then” the maid said as she held the door open for the young chef.

“Thank you ever so much”

Anastasia and Aderyn entered the Cortex Residence and were met by Libby and Crimson respectively, both noticing Naomi’s jacket hanging on the coat rack as they entered. Libby told the chef some things to make for breakfast before the second assistant went to go see the professor for her assignment of the day. Aderyn fetched Crimson a uniform and feather duster, so that he could aid her through the morning’s work. Upon reaching the Professor, Libby asked what they were going to be up to this day, only for the Professor to wonder as to why she hadn’t went with Lila on the errand he had sent her on. Before he sent her on her way, he told her he required some field testing for his new mask-like invention which converted odorous smells to more pleasant ones. He told her the address to reach, and hurried her along out the door, but not before reminding her that she needed to meet him at the Sewage Maintenance Plant.

As Libby left she waved goodbye to Charles still working hard in the garden, and he reciprocated in courtesy. Albafica arrived shortly after Libby had left and upon the Professor catching a glimpse of his third assistant not on the errand with his other assistants, he ravenously shuffled the cleric out the door and told him where he would need to be at midday after catching up with Libby and Lila. After significant pace work, both Libby and Albafica caught up with Lila as she was reaching the outskirts of the Ergeth Neighborhood. They found the address of Brottor Ungart and were greeted by a woman with her face covered by a shawl.

At the Cortex Residence, Anastasia went to go find out from Naomi what she should prepare for dinner. The night’s order was that of roast, fruits and potatoes. The young halfling began making preparations for dinner while working on a small lunch for Charles, his sister, and brother in law, whom had accompanied Charles that day to help in the construction of the garden, Aderyn and Crimson whom were all working hard. The Professor left as some lunch sandwiches were being served out to everyone.

At the home of Brottor Ungart, Lila informed the woman that they had come to see the owner of the home to deliver a small package. The woman told them to follow her. They strolled through the very luxurious house, passing through the dining room and by some servants cleaning up what looked like breakfast. The three were brought into a room with a window looking out into the back yard of the house, with some very prestigious looking dwarven men sitting about. Among them was a dwarven man with his head covered by a cloth wrapping. The woman leaned down and whispered to the covered man. His voice was clean and strong “Ah, thank you Veronica, please you three, have a seat” as he waved his hand to across the two open seats.

Albafica took a seat despite nervously looking around the room. Libby seemed significantly more at ease and sat down comfortably. This left Lila nowhere to stand, but she sufficed with just standing. The dwarven man opened the case and handed what looked like a small magi-tech battery to Veronica as he began to speak, “Would any of you like something to drink?”

“A glass of wine would be lovely” Libby said coolly.

“Uhm, just some water” Albafica replied with a quiver in his voice.

“Nothing for me, thanks” Lila said in monotone response.

With a wave of his hand, the dwarven man sent Veronica to proper fetch the drinks. As she exited the room, Brottor turned towards the three youths and spoke with sincere gravity. “I should hope the visage of my face won’t startle you,” he began as he removed the covering from his face, revealing a swath of burns covering a majority of his face “but misfortunes often happen”

He removed another of the batteries from the box, and placed it within a strange collar wrapped around his neck. With its just audible click, came the visual transformation of Brottor’s face. His facial features seemed to disappear for just a split second and reappeared as if though his burns had disappeared. Just as he had done so, Veronica stepped back into the room, her own face now uncovered, carrying the drinks they had requested. As Libby swirled her glass of wine, she asked of the dwarven man “How did that occur?” in reference to his burns.

“That’s a bit rude to ask, isn’t it?” said Albafica after taking a calming sip of water

Libby did no more than roll her eyes at the simple cleric, turning her attention back towards Brottor. “We really ought to get going, we need to meet the professor at the waste management plant at noon” Lila chimed in.

“Worry not about your prior engagement, I’d be glad to have one of my workers give the professor’s assistants a ride wherever they need to be” the regally dressed dwarf said “and as for this” he said with a motion of his hand before his face “Sometimes you train a pack of wild dogs to be domesticated and not to bite the hand that feeds them, but every once in a while, those dogs of society just don’t learn and they bite back none the less” his colleagues giving small laughter as he finished.

“I believe I understand what you mean,” Libby said as she cast her gaze over her left shoulder towards Lila for just a moment before turning her attention back to sipping her little glass of blood red wine.

Lila simply ignored the other assistant’s offhand jab, but in doing so, looked outside to notice a large crop of fillsillia plants growing in his back yard. Fillsillia is commonly grown to be smoked as a relaxant in Aaralynn. “Seems like the work you do in pretty dangerous, “Albafica said now relaxed back in his seat.

“Oh, but some danger can be quite enjoyable every now and again,” Libby answered for the dwarf.

“Really now?” Brottor said as he leaned forward in his chair ever so slightly “would the three of you then perhaps like to partake in a bit of ‘little danger’ for just a moment then?”

A sudden unease came about Libby, and she along with Lila and Albafica all declined him. Although somewhat irked, the older dwarven man brushed it off and allowed them to leave, telling Veronica to inform the man out front to give them a ride to wherever they requested. The three of them once again followed Veronica, now back to the door and met with a man in the front of a horse drawn cart. Albafica asked that they first stop back at the Cortex residence so that he could proper retrieve his horse.

At the Cortex Residence, Crimson continued to studiously work with Aderyn, though the work was quite tiring for him. Their work finally finished and Aderyn paid him the agreed fifty gold pages for his services for the day. She told him to go get some rest during the rest of the day and that she would wake him later at the start of the night to accompany her on her regular nightly excursion where she told him he would be able to gain a bit more. The animal training young man retired to his room after getting dressed in his regular clothing, before going to sleep. The assistant group arrived for a short time back at the house and then quickly departed for the Sewage Management Plant. Anastasia had prepared a small platter of snack foods for both Charles, his sister and her husband outside and Aderyn and Crimson inside. She then took the small platter out to the garden workers she looked out to notice the same strange aged man that Crimson had noticed the prior day. “Charles, did you happen to see that odd fellow over there?” the halfling servant asked.

“No I hadn’t” Charles replied “what do you suppose he’s hanging around for?”

“I have no real idea Mr. Layton,” she said with a shrug “Would you be ever so kind as to find out from him?”

“Guess so,” he responded frankly.

Charles walked over to the strange man and asked his name. The odd vagrant informed him that his name was Dom Bertfelln. Although their short exchange shed light to why he was there, the man said he would remain there until his meeting with the professor no matter what happened. Charles shrugged it off as not really something to concern himself with, but Anastasia took to keeping an eye on him throughout her work for the rest of the day. Upon the assistants arriving at the Sewage Management Plant, they met with the professor who explained to them many of the inner workings of the reformatted Magi-Technical Sewage System. Its controls lied in the management plant and ran all throughout the different districts of the city. The pipes used to cart away the waste utilized the space within the tunnels below the city. During the explanation, all but Libby with her mask of scent ripening held their breaths due to the overpowering smell. With their field trip finished the four of them departed from the plant, with Albafica leaving for his own home now that their business was finished.

As the professor led his cart to Liberty’s home to drop her off for the day as well, both she and Lila started to once again work each other’s nerves. Their short arguing however caught the professor’s attention “You think you’re working each other’s last nerves? I have to hear this bickering all day every day you two are together, it’s just undignified really, how old are the pair of you anyway now? 19? 20 years old even?”

“Professor I am but sixteen years old,” the raven haired second assistant said.

“I’m only going to turn seventeen in three weeks sir,” Lila answered.

“Oh, carry on then….. WAIT!! No, don’t carry one, Libby; we’ve arrived at your home”

“Oh, thank you sir” she said awaiting a response.

“Well, get along then Ms. Sixteen.”

“Oh” she began to gather her effects from the cart, as she walked up her home’s path she turned around pointing out the mask at her neck from earlier in the day “am I to keep this then or…?”

“No, wait, you’re right, nearly slipped my mind” the lab coated man said “I do need that back from you”

She returned the item and both Lila and the professor were on their way back to their residence. On their way returning Lila asked The Professor as to why she shouldn’t have drank anything Brottor offered, to which the professor replied that his quality of drink was just awful. After which he began to fiercely question Lila as to her desires concerning Charles, to which she only rebuffed that she wished to be friends with him. The Professor was not convinced, but he dropped the subject as they arrived back at the residence to see Charles and his family still working hard in the garden. The three of them were invited in to join the Cortexes for the dinner by Anastasia. Dinner passed by quietly with Lila visibly tense.

The three garden workers thanked them for dinner and began walking outside again. Both Olivia and Josh said that they would be on their way back to the Layton Residence in Little Root an hour out of town, but Charles said he would finish up some specifics and stay in town for the night. Lila stood up after a few minutes to go talk to him as the Professor traversed up to his laboratory. Anastasia headed off to the servant’s room to go to sleep as Aderyn was exiting the room in a dark robe, about to embark for her nightly jaunt. The maid went to wake Crimson and handed him a similar robe. She asked him if he had any business to attend to before they left. He realized he still needed to retrieve his “present” from last year from his uncle.

Lila arrived outside and approached Charles slowly. “Hey Charles, how have things been for you lately?”

“Oh, just fine. We got most of the finishing touches on the trellises done today and started laying out the stepping stone path. I wanted to get more of it padded out though so I’m still hanging around doing that.”

“Oh that sounds like fun, seems like you’ve been working hard both today and yesterday then?”

“I reckon so, despite yesterday’s bit of a detour.”

“Oh, right, you went with Lila to her parent’s restaurant for dinner, how was that?”

“Eh it was alright. Steak was a little dry for my tastes though. Nothing special really.”

The last comment perked up Lila’s mood. “Really?” she said with renewed perk.

Charles seemed a bit confused by her slight upswing of mood “Uh, yeah.”
Crimson arrived in Professor Cortex’s Laboratory to find him working on something. “Um, uncle, I don’t mean to interrupt you-”

“Ah, just the youngster I wanted to see. Finished your present,” he said as he turned around revealing what he was looking at.

What he held in his hand was a katana, but no ordinary katana. It was outfitted with a small magi-technical engine at the top of its hilt and its blade was surrounded by small razor teeth that seemed to run in a chain all around the blade. With a quick flick of the Professor’s thumb, it roared to life and the razor teeth began to spin along the blade making all form of raucous noise. “I call it the “Chainsaw”. Made it like that kind of awkward too long for one hand, too short for two hands sword kind you like,”

“Oh Uncle, that’s so cool!” the young man exclaimed.

“Here you go, catch!” the older Cortex said with a swift throw of the blade towards his nephew.

He caught it perfectly through sheer luck. It rumbled and shook in his hand before he flipped the switch to turn it prone and was on his way out thanking his uncle for the gift. The young man caught up to Aderyn and the pair was on their way with Lila noticing for just a second. On their way through the city on back both Arcaten and Aderyn’s horse; Marian, the maid explained to Crimson that housework was not her only job and that during the night she was the hostess of a small gambling house. At the Cortex Residence, both Lila and Charles were still having a heartfelt talk as Charles explained he would simply stay in town for the night rather than trek all the way back to his home. He mentioned that it would work out better because it would mean he could get to the bar called Joe’s Flying Dog for the annual axe competition. As he started to think on where a nearby inn was, Lila offered up that he could simply stay at the Cortex house, and not have to spend his pages on an inn.

With a bit of polite reluctance, Charles accepted and the pair went inside, only to find the guest room locked. The professor had traipsed downstairs to get a small snack for himself and saw the pair of them attempting to open the door. “Oh, Professor,” the assistant said startled “I was just trying to open the guest room so that Charles could stay the night, you have a key don’t you?”

“Yes I do Lila,” he said as he held up a handful of molten metal “but alas I melted most of my keys this morning in a lab experiment, you’ll just have to get the key to the guest room from Aderyn,”

“But hasn’t she left on her nightly stroll?” asked the half-elf.

The tall lab-coated man tilted his head back for just a moment in thought to remember that the maid did take nightly strolls to gods know where. “He can sleep in your room then, a big strong friend can keep you safe from whatever night horrors you might have” he said without irony in his voice as he moved past them to make his way into the kitchen.

Charles smirked with a bit of surprise in his eyes as Lila began to stammer with blood rushing to her face. “Uh, that seems a bit inappropriate sir; couldn’t we just get the key from Aderyn?”

“If you can catch up to her or find her. Only Alastor knows where she treks to each night.” He said as he sliced himself some bread from a loaf “But if you do, just make sure you guys stay safe out there”

“Right sir”

“Don’t work Mr. Cortex, we’ll be right back” Charles said after wiping the silly expression from his face.

The pair headed out the door and started off in the direction that Lila had seen Crimson and Aderyn and inquiring from late night passersby as to if they had seen the pair. They eventually caught up to Crimson and Aderyn, completely out of breath, as the cloaked pair arrived at a small gambling house. Aderyn relinquished the guest room key to them. “Make sure you’re protected” Aderyn said to Charles as she embarked inside bringing up a bewildered and embarrassed look on the both of Lila and Charles.

As they started back for the Cortex Residence, Crimson called out to them. “Wait, you guys are gonna come all the ways out here and not even enjoy yourselves?” he inquired motioning towards the gambling house.

After a short pause to think Charles said “Eh sure I could go for a little bit of monetary risk for some thrills”

“Could be fun” the half-elven girl chimed in.

The trio entered the establishment to see at most of the tables were seated patrons playing Liar’s Dice, and the large span table in the back held a larger game of dice with about ten people playing. One of which was Deacon Reagan. A second look around the room they saw both Neegan and Seabat playing a game of Liar’s Dice against two other patrons. The three of them paid no attention to the ruffians and began in on gambling. Things were going solidly for the group and Lila had fetched a pair of drinks for herself and Charles. After a while however, the kobold cohort of Deacon approached them. By this point in the night, the drinks had been getting to Lila a bit more than she had intended, making her a bit tipsy. Neegan, the greedy little kobold, had taken notice of the three after they had been playing for a while, and had approached their table after their fourth player excused himself for the night. “Seems like you’re on a hot streak” the lizard like short-stack said.

“Pretty well for a first time I guess” Charles said with a bit of pomp in his voice.

“It’s so much fun” Lila replied with blood welling in her cheeks from her slight inebriation.

“Why don’t we step up the stakes a bit” the kobold said reaching into his small cloak.

Crimson stood back without remark as the kobold pulled out an axe that Lila almost immediately recognized as having some magic property to it. “I’ll bet you this exquisite axe here for say, twelve hundred gold pages. Just you and I. That’s a solid deal, right?”

“Seems a bit pricey for one axe, eh pal?” Charles said with disdain in his voice.

“One magically enhanced with fire axe” Lila corrected him.

“Where did you even get that thing?” Crimson questioned.

“I know you’ve got it on you pal” Neegan said with a look of greed in his eyes ignoring Crimson’s comment “I can always here your pages clinking around when you walk.”

“Since I don’t even know if it’s worth it, I’ll bet you three hundred against that axe”

The kobold’s eyebrows dropped with a look of annoyance. “You know rough-and-tumble, I’ll take you up on that” he said as his hands slid over to the dice to start rolling.

Charles joined in, and for the first three rounds the carpenter held up the advantage, all the way with a smile across his face. Then all of the sudden, Neegan’s calls were perfect as if he knew, leaving Charles without a single die and out three hundred pages in a short five calls. “Pleasure doing business with you” Neegan sneered as he counted out the pages before he trio.

“Charles, was that a lot for you?” Lila said without proper sentencing, still sipping a drink.

“No, but it’s probably time we started heading back Lila. You’re out of already, you need some sleep.”

“Oh, okay then, whatever you think we should do then”

“You two can go ahead, I’m going to stick around for a little while longer” Crimson said finally voicing his thoughts as the two were standing up to leave.

“Have a good night, and be safe then Crimson” uttered Charles

“You too” Lila said the effects of her alcohol getting a bit of the better of her.

Crimson couldn’t help but chuckle at her response as Charles help Lila out the door. “You seem ready to keep on playing” Neegan queried to Crimson.

Crimson turned his head to nod in agreement and acceptance towards the kobold. “Alright then” the scaly man started off “I’ve been making terms all night, you set some up, what do you have to bet against me?”

The animal trainer hesitated for a moment. “A favor” he said finally.

Once again Neegan’s eyes contorted to display his annoyance, but he simply shrugged and pulled out a set of four of finely crafted knives from his cloak and set them on the table. “How much are those worth?” Crimson asked genuinely.

“Worth betting some measly favor” the kobold said as they started their game.

It was much more evenly matched than that of Charles’s game, and it eventually came down to one die. They both placed a guess on the other’s one die and Neegan named Crimson’s die roll spot on, leaving Crimson then indebted one favor to the short draconic man. “I know just the thing” Neegan said while placing his daggers back within his cloak.

Charles supported Lila’s walking on the way back to the Cortex residence. In her drunken state Lila spilled her opinion on her fellow lab assistant. “She’s just so horrid to me all the time. She unnerves me when I look at her.”

“She’s not a bad person or anything though Lila. I think it’s just her upbringing; she’s just a bit different from most other people. She didn’t even really mention you the other day when we were out for lunch the other day.”

“That’s just it! She doesn’t even really care about you! She’s only acting like it to try and hurt me!” the half-elven girl erupted with tears welling in her eyes.

Charles and Lila had stopped in the middle of the street. Charles could only look on to her taken aback by what she’d said. Lila still affected by the alcohol looked up at him, before realizing her stomach was rejecting the alcohol more directly now. She held her hand in front of her mouth and turned away as not to vomit on her friend, as Charles quickly reacted to hold her hair back.

Neegan leaned in close to inform Crimson of the favor he’d have to accomplish. At the table the kobold had sat at prior, Seabat was still playing against a pair of other patrons. All Crimson needed to do was stand behind the pair of them and convey to Neegan the dice they had rolled, in order to cheat them out of a large bet. The two walked over to the table to see the men winning against Seabat, whose skills at Liar’s Dice were minimal at best. Neegan sat down and proposed the new bet to the men which they accepted with haughty reassurance as Crimson slipped behind them. They both put forth a large sum and began to play unaware of Crimson’s presence. Being a man of his word Crimson indeed aided Neegan in hustling the pair of men, much to their clear disdain. After the match, the shorter of the two with a short sword at his side turned around to see Crimson sitting behind them and even in his slightly inebriated state put the puzzle piece together. “Hey this guy’s been sitting back here behind us. You punks cheated us!”

The shout brought about the attention of Aderyn the gambling house’s enforcer, and she made her way over quickly to settle the dispute. “What is the problem here sir?” she said to the enraged patron.

“This kid back here” he said with his finger accusing Crimson “just cheated me out of a fortune of pages, by telling the ones across the table my hand.”

Aderyn simply looked towards Crimson, her expression hidden by her hood, and then turned back towards the aggravated man. “Don’t be ridiculous. Just because you’ve lost, doesn’t mean you can go around accusing people of cheating you, especially when you have no evidence. If you had any, you would have already presented it to me, now wouldn’t you?”

“Well, I….” he stammered looking around.

“You need to leave sir” Aderyn commanded as Crimson, Neegan and Seabat looked on with focused looks about their faces.

Her quarterstaff and dagger lent well to restraining the man, as the housemaid by day pushed him out the door with a forceful drive. His taller companion apologized and left behind him of his own accord directly behind. With the disturbance quelled, Aderyn returned to the center of the room, back to her normal position, awaiting possible trouble from unruly patrons. The short lizard of a hustler thumbed through the thick stack of money he had just won off the unwitting pair. He portioned out bills equaling two hundred, not quite a sixth of what they had obtained, and handed them off to Crimson saying it was his cut for his work. Although Crimson attempted to refuse it, the kobold forced it into his hand, telling him that his hands were then just as dirty with or without it, as both he and his slower witted half-ogre of a cohort walked over to Deacon at the far table.

The drunken pair had walked home in silence before Lila broke it. “I’m sorry I said that earlier, I didn’t mean-“

“It’s fine you’re drunk. Everybody gets a little emotional when they’ve had a few more than they can stand. Well, we’re back now.”

“Alright. Hey Charles?”

“Yes, Lila?”

“The real thing I wanted to talk to you about before this little escapade happened was,” she paused “Well, would it be okay if I came along with you tomorrow to the axe competition at Joe’s?”

“Sure Lila, go right ahead” he said as he took the keys from Lila to the house and began walking her to her room.

“As more than just friends? Like a date?” she asked as she slumped onto her bed.

“That’d be just fine Lila.” Charles responded as he left the room and walked over to the guest chambers with the key he obtained from Aderyn.

Crimson left out the front door in attempt to console the enraged man. He met the pair of patrons out front and offered them the two hundred pages Neegan had handed him. This only made the short drunk man even madder as he unsheathed a short sword, with his tall companion wielding a spear in anger as well. Crimson attempted to respond calmly, however with them both attacking him he had no choice but to defend himself. He grabbed his new weapon and attempted to fend off the assailants carefully, but luck was just with him that night, or not with him. The drunken short man slipped on the edge of the street in their fight and into Crimson’s chainsaw katana slice, fully ripping through the man’s lower abdomen and knocking him to the ground grievously wounded and almost assuredly dying. The spear wielding taller patron ran off in inebriated fear as Aderyn arrived outside to see what had happened. “What’s going on here Crimson?”

The animal trainer could only stammer as he knelt trying to stabilize the bleeding man. Aderyn moved him out of the way as she used her expertise to prevent further blood loss. With a heavy sigh she told Crimson to just take Arcaten and return home. The young man did as she asked and left the gambling house with his head held low and shoulder pushed inward. The next day would erupt a series of events for all involved that changed their lives forever.

The next morning the sun rose through the hazy blue clouds as Charles rose from out of the guest bed. He made sure to place the key to the room on the table in the living room. Aderyn arrived back at the residence as Anastasia began preparing a light breakfast. Lila awoke soon afterward and met Charles outside to watch him work and make light conversation. Crimson awoke and began to make his way to the kitchen before he was stopped by Aderyn. “Young Mr. Cortex, what has happened has already happened. I do need to know for my own sake; did you cheat that man in a game of Liar’s Dice last night?”

Crimson began to try to explain but was cut short by the maid. “Yes or No, did you aid the kobold in an unfair way?”

“Yes.” He said in a small voice.

“Then I suggest you not return to that dice parlor, as I will have no choice but to expunge you with impunity if you do.”

With a nod he said “I understand completely ma’am.”

Aderyn walked away towards the living room as Albafica arrived in the door to see Crimson with his head low. “What’s wrong Crimson?”

“Oh nothing really.” He replied with a lie.

Anastasia brought out a plate of breakfast to the pair in the garden on a plate she handed up to them over her head. Libby had also arrived at the Cortex residence outside walking her pet snake. Seeing both Charles and Lila talking merrily gave in her a rise of jealousy, which would interrupt her walk of the pet, leading her to enter the garden to confront them both. “So, what’s going on here?” She said with smug assured tone.

Not long after the two had convened inside the residence, both Albafica and Crimson were met by the Professor, tightening some knob on his magi-tech glove which was giving a slight degree of electric feedback to him periodically. The older Cortex told his sister’s progeny and third assistant that he had received a request for the help of his nephew by a farmer by the name of Mac who lived on the outskirts of the city. The man’s horses had gotten loose and he needed an animal expert to aid in finding and returning them. With the prospect of a reward and an excuse to leave the angered atmosphere of the housemaid for Crimson, and the chance to hang around with Crimson for Albafica, the pair of them left out to go aid Mac. Crimson hitched up on Arcaten as Albafica readied his horse watching as Libby came into the garden to speak to Charles and Lila as they left.

Charles replied to Libby “Oh, nothing, Anastasia’s just brought some breakfast out.”

“Yeah, that’s all.” Lila voiced softly.

“Oh is it?” Lila answered back her gaze now fixed on her fellow assistant.

Anastasia spoke in Halfling, knowing no one present in the garden would understand, saying “I’m leaving this wagon wreck waiting to happen” turned, and walked back through the garden to the west door.

“What does it matter to you what we were talking about anyway?” Lila tried to defend.

She was met at with a hiss from below and a quick motion up from out of the grass. Libby’s snake gave Lila a fright with its raring back and she gave a startled jump back in response. “Ah! What are you carrying that thing by a leash for?”

Libby bent down to raise her pet and familiar up to eye level with Lila. “Oh, you don’t like him, he’s just my little pet.” She said in mocking tone inching her snake threateningly towards Lila as she spoke, its small head menacingly showing its tiny fangs.

Anastasia came inside to see Aderyn walking away from the Professor, but the eccentric man’s attention quickly turned towards the halfling. “Sir Cortex, Miss Liberty has arrived.”

His head turned towards the window facing the garden “Perfect.”

“Hey, there’s no call for all of that Libby.” Charles interjected.

“Oh, you seem awfully nervous don’t you Charlie?” Libby turned her attention towards him still holding her snake, now closer to herself.

Before things could devolve even further, there was the sound of glass crashing, and electricity crackling. Bursting out through the window was the professor himself propelled by some strange magi-technical boosters at his heels. He flourished mid-air and landed on his feet, standing tall adjunct to both Lila and Libby. He picked them both up by the collar “You two! The time has come for this week’s lesson in magi-technical studies.” He turned about face to walk towards the house “Time for lab exercises.”

“What about the window?” Libby said as her teacher opened the door with a swift kick.

“Oh, I’ll just have that amazing handyman the two of you love so much, Charles, fix it up later!”

Charles simply turned back to his work in the garden. Upon arriving at Mac’s farm the aged farmer explained the situation as he knew it to both Crimson and Albafica. One night a few days prior, a part of his fence had been broken down, and the previous night after he had put up a stop-gap measure to fix the fence, all of the horse in the enclosure had left. Crimson and Albafica told him that they would go on the search for them, and try their best to recover them. A bid of tracking led them to find a large amount of horses in a clearing, grouped around a large black horse. From what the pair could gather, the black horse had leaded the others away from their pen to this clearing, for an unknown reason.

Inside his laboratory, the Professor delved into a long-drawn out lecture over the connections between magi-tech cords, cores and circuits, only to visibly confuse his two students by the prospects of optimized use of circuits to cores and links between cords. After the confounding lecture, the Cortex administered a test in review. The pair of assistants not having understood the concepts of what he had been proper speaking about failed said test. The failure of his students to pass his nigh impossible test clearly dismayed the professor. A thought jumped through his head as he reviewed their work. “I know just what I’ll show the two of you” he said as he went to fetch something from his private quarters.

Back out by Mac’s farm, Albafica utilized his cleric training to attempt to calm the equestrians with magic, while Crimson released his pet bird Lux from his capture sphere at his belt, and had the talking corollax distract the large black horse. Their ruse lasted only momentarily, and the large imposing horse soon turned its attention toward Albafica, who was still herding the smaller horses away. It started into a full on charge towards the young Milenian Cleric. Crimson was quick to act, utilizing one of his empty capture balls to ensnare the horse inside. Albafica was truly thankful to his friend as was Mac when the pair returned his horses, saying that his full payment would need to come later, giving them a bushel of apples he had recently picked. They thanked him and departed back to the Cortex Residence.

The Professor returned to his two assistants with a glass dome covered by a cloth “Now, we’ll undoubtedly get somewhere” he said with enthusiasm.

He set the glass dome down before his laboratory assistants. With a quick flick of the wrist the cloth was removed, and before them sat a small strange toothed creature with a mottled black body. The same two eyes that had peered out at both Libby and Lila as had stared out at both Crimson and Albafica a few days before. “Very interesting professor,” Lila said attempting to ease the Professor’s awkward air of anticipation “But what is it?”

“This? It’s a synthetic life-form that I have made.” The professor responded.

“Oh, like those ones from the second Royal Intelligence Laboratory?” in the 40’s?

“Yes, yes, you’re on top of your magi-technical history Lila.”

The conversation stopped abruptly there with Libby shooting a harsh look towards Lila from behind their teacher’s back while his proud attention turned back towards his creation below the glass.

Arriving back, both Crimson and Albafica were met by Charles working in the garden and somewhat less familiar face. Ronald Vargas, a slightly temperamental Kusawa with psionic abilities, had arrived at the Cortex Residence for a regular check in with the Professor for research. With his arrival, Anastasia called out to Charles in the garden and Crimson and Albafica on the street that the lunch she and Aderyn had prepared was ready. The three of them came in while Ronald made his way to the lower laboratory.

Back inside the laboratory, the professor’s pride in the silence soon again turned awkward, to be interrupted by him asking “Well, any more questions?”

After another shorter awkward silence Libby piped up “Uhm, what does it eat?”

“Excellent question! Its diet primarily consists of hair. Of the thus far stimuli it has interacted with hair material is what it has consumed with its digestive tract. A sample if you would?” his words were followed by him materializing a pair of scissors from within his coat, handing them to Libby.

With a simple shrug she reached over to Lila to clip a lock of hair, to Lila’s indignant surprise at her audacity. The professor instructed “From both of you if you would please”

With an annoyed sigh Libby clipped a smaller piece of her hair from her own head and handed the shears and locks to the man in the lab coat. He replaced the scissors within his coat and removed the dome to quickly place the hair next to the creature. Its bugged eyes looked to the follicles, then back to the three staring back at it. “Strange, it was eating my hair yesterday” Cortex said as he leaned forward in curiosity.

Awkward silence erupted between the three of them once again, this time exacerbated by the professor’s apparent impatience with them growing larger. He turned around with an angered look branded on his face “What’s wrong with the pair of you? When there’s nothing on the line but the affections of a fleeting fellow you two can talk and bicker for hours on end, but when it comes to matters of inquiry to things that matter to the whole of the land, you can’t be bothered to think past the basics!”

Lila weakly attempted to calm him “Sir, you seem a bit angry, it’s-”

He cut her short “I know I’m aggravated!”

Libby bit back “What do you want from us?!”

“I want you to-”

“Cortex!” the Kusawa who had walked up to the mid-level laboratory broke the professor’s rant prematurely with his own loud voice “Am I just going to stand downstairs all day, or are we going to get something accomplished?”

His focus broken, Evan calmed himself and said, “Yes, pardon the wait Ronald” he turned back to his students “I’m….. very sorry about that outburst you two, just go on for the day, uh” he turned around to the table, picked up some notes and handed them to Lila “add those to your notes for the day if you would” he focused his attention towards the Kusawa and began to walk towards the stairs “Yes now Ronald, today we’re going to be trying…” his voice faded as the pair of them traversed downstairs and Libby and Lila exited through the upper level of the laboratory.


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PostSubject: Short Version: Darker than you could hope to recover from.   Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:14 pm

Episode Five: The Darkest Descent


Part II


In the kitchen and dining room, all the youngsters convened to eat the lunch that had been set out by the house staff. Libby however when she saw Lila sit down adjacent to Charles, her mood sunk and she opted to eat some of the iced cream from within the cold box. She took it and a spoon and sat at the further end of the table. Charles started light conversation with everyone as she did so, “SO, what were you two up to? I don’t think I heard.”

“Oh we were helping out old farmer Mac get his horses back. He gave us these apples” Crimson said pointing out the fruit sitting alongside everyone’s plate.

“Yeah, Crimson even saved my bacon when a really intimidating horse was barreling towards me” Albafica recounted to everyone.

Charles bit succinctly into the red fruit “Mmm, juicy.”

Lila’s apple slipped from her hands, down next to Charles’ foot as Libby looked on at them through dagger slits of eyes. The garden worker leaned down to pick up her dropped fruit and chuckled softly “still a little tipsy from last night?”

The jovially flirty comment cut Libby like a sword. Her reaction of anger distracted everyone from the comment in the first place as she bit through the wooden spoon she was eating the iced cream. The loud snap brought everyone’s attention to her, before it was robbed by a loud crash and shout from downstairs “Gods Dammit!” Ronald’s voice expanded out from the door.

He came storming up the stairs out into the dining area with a smoke coming off the fur at the back of his neck. His psionically formed blade still at his hand, he was ranting and raving in anger “I’m not just some guinea pig you can destroy with reckless abandon! Get an actual giant guinea pig for that!”

As he finished his storming to the door the Professor arrived up the stairs with an exhausted look about his face “And that’s that!” the otter of a man finished with a slam of the door.

Anastasia attempted to console her employer “Master Cortex, what happened?”

“Just a miscalculation, another in a long series today.” His gaze shifted up to the still broken window.

With a flick of his wrist magical energy replaced the window to its normative state. Professor Cortex’s voice was heavy with exasperation “Well, with that fixed I’ll let you off early today Charles,” he said while walking towards his quarters.

Libby was beginning to replace the iced cream in the magi-tech cold box after the professor walked out of the room. “Uh, what’s up with the professor today?” Charles inquired to Lila.

“He’s disappointed in some people.” Libby answered while staring down Lila.

“Hey,” Lila replied “I’m not the one who was shouting back at him” while moving over closer to her.

Aderyn removed herself from the dining room while Anastasia attempted to move between the pair approaching each other. “Oh, so just because I’m not one to weasel and snake around with words, like you clearly were, I’m at fault then?”

“You know, I’m really getting sick of how you act around me” the half-elf said with small confidence rising in her voice.

“Now let’s all just calm down here.” Anastasia started to try and mediate “I don’t need you two fighting inside the kitchen here.”

Albafica joined in her attempts from the sink as he and Crimson took their plates over to it “Yeah, just try to parse things out calmly”

Libby continued on “You know, I don’t know why you don’t get along with my snake. You act just like him with everyone else around you.”

Charles finally stepped between the pair of them “Okay Libby, that’s just out of line. There’s no reason to be talking to each other like that.”

Libby snapped. “Oh that’s out of line? How about this?” she punctuated her phrase with a punch to the groin imbued with draining magical energy “Two-timer!”

Charles reeled from the strike to his crotch but shook off the magical attack. “What the hell are you doing?!” exclaimed Lila.

Libby’s hand became magically lined with an acidic substance. She brought her hand up in an all too familiar swing “Shut up you dog!” rang out of her mouth as her hand met the exposed side of Lila’s face.

The hit threw Lila into a panic. She let out a massive scream and quickly ran off to the bathroom to wash the ichor off her face. “Lila!” Charles exclaimed as he followed behind her.

As Charles rushed off, it only made Libby’s anger grow. She was audibly grinding her teeth, while Anastasia had pressed her up against the cold box. “You’re not going to win anyone over by attack them Ms. Libby.”

All of the ruckus had apparently disturbed Naomi, as she had come downstairs in a subdued anger. She began ordering everyone out of the house, staff included. Aderyn left in a flash obtaining her purse from her quarters. Libby fell to the floor feigning a seizure as Anastasia made haste to the door with Albafica. Crimson asked to his mother “Even me?”

“Yes even you.” She barked as she directed out Charles and Lila

“But I just got here mom,”

“I don’t care right now, this is too much ruckus for the condition your uncle’s in. Just don’t you all come back for the next few hours, understood?”

“… Yes mom” he said as he walked out of his room to hitch up on Arcaten joining everyone else outside save Libby.

Outside with the fiasco inside apparently over, Charles suggested they head to Joe’s Flying Dog, since the axe competition he was to compete in would be starting in a few hours. Everyone agreed with nowhere better to go. Back inside Libby kept up the act of medical distress until Dr. Naomi walked over to investigate her. “You’re not having a seizure, get up and get out.”

The bite in her voice told Libby to stop and she regained her composure and left out the front door. She came out to hear the others walking away mentioning the axe competition, and tailed behind them from a far distance. Following along behind them, Libby bought a cloak from a wares shop to hide herself when she would arrive at the bar behind them. Joe’s itself was bustling with activity. Charles was recognized on sight by the bartender “Patches! How’s it going?!” she shouted out to them as they walked in.

“Goin’ great Courtney!” Charles replied back with enthusiasm.

The five of them sat down to an empty table and Courtney was over soon to pick up all their orders. Not too soon after they had ordered, a young fire giant had come over having recognized Charles from the previous year’s competition. He introduced himself to the group as Shicksall Nussman, and the five introduced themselves back. Despite the fact that his Common was not too great yet, he said he did know one phrase that his cousin had taught him. “What is it?” asked Crimson.

“It goes ‘I came here to fuck bitches!’” the young giant said “I don’t know what it means, but my cousin said it would make me sound cool.”

Crimson quickly attempted damage control for the seven year-old and the rest of the group began to snicker “actually to sound really cool, you should replace those last two words with ‘make friends’, that makes you sound the coolest.”

“ ‘make friends, I came here to – make friends.’” He repeated back “Thanks Crimson.”

“No problem.”

With their food arrived, and Charles having eaten all he intended to, he went to go find the owner of the restaurant and bar, Joe, himself. Crimson came with him, since the animal trainer decided he would try his hand at the competition as well. On their way, they were stopped by someone who recognized Charles from the previous year. The man who stopped them introduced himself as Richard Beador. He wore a cloak that bore a symbol which resembled a ‘z’ within a pair of ‘o’s’. “Say, would you care to hear a joke?” the man in the cloak.

“Sure.” Charles replied.

“Why did Sally fall off the horse?” Richard began.

“Why?”

“Because she had no arms and legs.” Richard said.

Charles replied with “Uhm?”

“Knock knock.” Richard said.

“Who’s there?” continued Charles.

“Certainly not Sally!” Richard finished with a snap of his fingers and a smarmy grin on his face.

The punch line got naught but and stifled chuckle out of Crimson, and a surprised stone face out of Charles. “No good?” Richard asked.

“No.” Charles said as he walked out the door to the back yard of the bar to speak with old man Joe about signing himself and Crimson up.

Libby had slipped into the building under the hooded cloak and positioned herself at the bar. Courtney walked over to her to greet her. “What’ll you be having stranger?”

“Oh, just a cheap drink.” Libby replied

“You seem kind of down girl, I can tell these kind of things. Tell me what’s up will you?”

As the bartender slid her drink to her Libby relaxed and broke down what was going down. “I just lost a guy I had just gotten after so long of trying.”

“How long of trying?”

“A few months give or take.” Libby said back.

“Did you actually own him?”

A quizzical look popped to Libby face before she shifted back to her previous demeanor “Kinda.” She replied.

As the sorceress took another sip from her drink she noticed that Lila was walking over to the restroom as Albafica and Anastasia put back some more drinks. “I’m going to excuse,” Libby started before she realized her bartender was focused elsewhere in space “Nevermind” she said as she stood up. “Ditz” she muttered as she walked towards the restroom to confront Lila.

Back at the table sat Anastasia, Albafica, and Shicksall waxing on about day to day life. “That Lila and Charles, they seemed really friendly, like to each other. Are they like, dating?”

Anastasia answered “well, I certainly think she’s trying, but what do you know about dating though? Despite the fact you’re twice my size you’re half my age?”

“Oh, well there’s this girl in my classes, I don’t think you would know her, but she’s really pretty. I can’t even look right at her whenever I see her.”

Albafica and Anastasia both replied with a heart-warmed “Aww.”

“That’s why I asked my cousin to tech me some stuff, like some phrases in Common.” He continued.

“I’ve kind of got my heart set on someone myself, but I don’t think they even notice me.” Albafica responded.

“Oh, anyone I might know?” Anastasia inquired.

“Oh, it…. No, … I,….” Albafica began to stutter before being interrupted by a hiccup from Shicksall.

“Have you been drinking Shicksall?” Anastasia asked him

Albafica responded for him “Well, I’ve been sneaking him sips of mine, I figure it can’t hurt.”

The mood was too good for Anastasia to care to disagree and then they had a small toast, before Shicksall excused himself to go outside to compete. In the restroom as Lila began to wash her hands, Libby made her presence known to her fellow lab-assistant with a clearing of her throat. Lila turned around with a start. “What are you doing here Libby?”

“I guess I did get a bit out of hand back at the professor’s house a few hours ago.”

“You guess?”

“Okay fine, think what you please, but I just want you to do me a favor here” she said as she reached into her pocket beneath her cloak.

The fast action gave Lila another startle, but out from her pocket she pulled a small whittled axe. “I made it for Charles for good luck today, but I’m guessing he doesn’t really care to hear much from me now.”

“Oh,” Lila hesitated “Alright then.” She took the small wooden axe from Libby and began to walk out of the bathroom to go outside to watch the about to start competition. She turned back to say to Libby “You know, you don’t have to act the way you do to make people think you’re strong” and then walked out into the restaurant.

Outside as Crimson and Charles spoke to old man Joe, his winged dog, Falsius, strode up to them with a friendly hello to its master. While outside Charles was approached by yet another fan of his. An elven woman with a heavy tan, suggesting her ancestry was from the desert, approached him to introduce herself as Rio Amarante. They started up a sociable conversation but were interrupted by Lila walking up. “Hello Charles” the half-elf started.

“Oh, who’s your friend Charles?” Rio asked.

“Oh, this is Lila; I came here today with her, and some of my other friends.” Charles answered.

“Oh, so the two of you are,” with a slight pause “dating then?” with an inquisitive point of her finger.

“Well, I guess, you could say this is like a date.” Charles said while Lila held a look of slight nervousness with her cheeks blushing to match.

Rio snapped her fingers with an exhale to accompany. “Ah, just missed the boat. Well, you two enjoy tonight, and best of luck tonight Charles.” She waved as she walked off to her station for the first event.

“Uhm, well,” Lila broke the short silence “I have something for you,”

“Oh?” surprise was in his voice.

“From Libby,”

“Oh.” deadpan infiltrated his speech.

She held out the small whittled weapon in her hand. Charles looked down to it, picked it up from her hand with his, and studied its details. It perfectly resembled his largest axe, that he commonly carried on his back to ‘manage weeds’. He looked back up for just a minute to see Libby standing outside in her cloak trying to be inconspicuous among the other contestants filing out. He looked down to Lila as he put the axe in his pocket “Thanks.”

The competition started in with Joe announcing the rules for each of the three legs of the competition. There was the throwing section, the carving competition, and finally the strength test. The competition was a close heat, with Richard scoring exactly equal to Charles in the throwing, carving a near exact replica of the city alongside Charles in the carving competition, and finishing on the exact same instant as the garden worker in the strength test. The end result left Shicksall in eleventh of sixteen, Rio in seventh, Crimson in fifth with Richard finishing just one point under the first place competitor Charles. Richard gave his better a rousing round of applause along with everyone else, and his prize for winning was one of Joe’s old throwing axes with an ivory blade and a black leather handle.

At the table Lila took a moment to examine it and recognized it to have some indeterminate magical property. The five plus their new friends sat at their table in celebration while Libby still confined herself to the bar. Charles excused himself at one point to go over and speak to Libby, but when he approached, the tension could be cut with a knife. Courtney took notice of the situation between the two. “Oh, do you guys need to talk alone, Okay I can ignore you then.”

She covered her ears and began to sing over their conversation to herself  “La la la la la la la la la la la la la la- la la la la la”.

They both gave a confused look as she started to distract herself, but then Charles focused his attention towards Libby. She tried to look at him, but found herself staring at the ground. People were filtering out of the restaurant with the night close approaching and the tournament over. Rio had left, along with a quite drunken Shicksall and a calm and collected Richard. Charles tried to start into what he had to say “Are you at least going to look at me?”

All Liberty could respond with was a rush of blood to the cheeks. Her gaze didn’t shift. “Fine then,” Charles said as he started back to the table “it’s of no matter anyway”.

Back at the more jovial table, the five of them enjoyed each other’s company, and continued to drink into the night. Crimson excused himself to leave first, before he was beyond the limit of buzzed. He rode home on Arcaten and after sometime traveling into the night, he reached his home. To his shock however the door was wide open and a trail of blood lead from the house. He met Aderyn attempting to analyze the scene at the steps. “What happened Aderyn?” He said with urgency.

“I don’t know Crimson, I’m trying to find out myself, I haven’t yet ventured in, I just arrive not one minute before you, you’re more adept at tracking than I am, can you follow that trail?”

“Yes Ma’am”

“Alright then,” she stood up now grasping her dagger in one hand, her quarterstaff in the other “I’m going in to find out what’s happening, stay protected young Cortex”

He gave a pushing kick to Arcaten “I will,” he declared as he rode off.

Back at the bar, Anastasia and Albafica were next to excuse themselves, heading back to the Cortex Residence in a happy drunken stupor, laughing continually and loudly at the silliest things they kept telling each other. As they were walking, they saw a large flock of ravens and doves passing overhead in formation together. Anastasia took the opportunity to say “I guess the world of birds isn’t black and white!” to which the pair erupted in laughter.

At last, when the pair had finally had enough merriment at the bar, both Charles and Lila left out the front supported on each other’s shoulders to steady themselves in a four legged beast of questionable balance. Libby turned back to Courtney as she watched them both leave. “Courtney, do you ever get the worst feeling about certain things?”

“Oh yeah, all the time, like after I’ve eaten chili and then I realize I’m meeting my boyfriend later” she said irreverently “just awful thoughts cross into my mind”.

“Thanks,” Libby said with sarcasm that dripped off her mouth like the foam from her liquor.

Libby finished her last drink as the two were exiting and decided to follow in behind them. It wasn’t too long into their walk that Libby approached the pair of them with her short sword drawn. It prompted a still drunken Charles to think she intended to attack them and he started to drunkenly miss reaching for his axe while all too happy. “Oh, we’re doing this dance again?” he said.

“I’m not here to attack you guys, it’s just dangerous out,” Libby said.

“Like you care,” Lila said hunched over onto Charles.

Just as she finished, a fog began to flow into the street up ahead obscuring the path’s view. Charles, now shut down from what he was expecting walked forward into the fog alongside Lila, prompting Libby to give a condescending sigh. She moved up alongside the two on their outer side trying her best to watch around the corners of the obscured street.

Crimson’s search had lead him to the southern end of the city, near towards the mainly dwarven neighborhood of Ergeth, by a certain point however he gathered that he had lost the trail proper. He went to make sure no one had passed through by visiting the only house within the neighborhood with a light still on. It was the abode of Brottor Ungart, oddly enough the door stood slightly ajar. He entered to hear the sound of cutlery on a plate.  His furthered investigations lead him to find the owner of the house Brottor dining very late in the night. “You are not who I was expecting, but you came in here expecting something, what is it?” he said to the animal trainer poking his head in.

“Well, something apparently went down at my Uncle and Mom’s house and I was just trying to follow a trail that leads down south, but I think I’ve gone the wrong way”

“I can assure you, I recognize you, you’re the nephew of Cortex, and that none of the people I am associated with, inclusive of this entire neighborhood, would have had anything to do with the fouling of your state of affairs. Your uncle is a respected man for good reason, and that respect is held here as well.”

The sincerity of his voice rang to Crimson as true “Alright, sorry to have bothered your dinner, or breakfast, or whatever”

“No bother at all, try and try again, until you find the source of the disruption to you, then eliminate it. That has always been my own motto.”

“Alright then, Good night.” The young man said as he left the presence and abode of the dwarf, and began to back track to his home to try and begin again.

Albafica and Anastasia arrived back at the Cortex Residence, slightly sobered from the walk, but still giddy at most comments. They found Aderyn outside sitting on the steps in exasperation. “What’s wrong Ms. Reaha?” Anastasia said trying not to trip over her words.

“Oh, it’s just awful Ana, I just, I just can’t, ugh” her words just wouldn’t seem to materialize.

“Just tell us, it’ll be no big problem” Albafica tried to console.

Aderyn gained her composure and spoke clearly “I can’t find the Professor, and his room has apparently been broken into and there’s a large mess inside.”

Albafica and Anastasia stood stone faced before Al said “I guess I stand corrected”, causing a fit of drunken snickering and tears from the pair.

Aderyn held her head against her hand, “Things are just getting worse and worse.”

As the last three advanced through the fog that filled the streets, their footsteps seemed to be the only noises audible in the silent night. The fog took their vision from directly where they were walking, but it would not be in front of them that would hold their undoing. As Libby watched from their left side, Charles watched from their right. A quick peer into the alley on their right however yielded a glint of silver that flashed in the moonlight piercing the ground-bound cloud. The silver sight was a blade, just the size of one’s forearm; a forearm that plunged squarely in between the patches of Charles’ constantly reworked studded leather. It mattered not that the blade held a sleeping poison, it mattered more that it had pierced the young man just a little more than he could handle. When it unsheathed from his body, a spray of his blood erupted out from the force of the strike. His body, life slowly draining away from it, spun around and landed upon Lila in the center of the group. His death was punctuated with a guttural laugh from a voice that would be familiar to Charles that declared as it trailed away to the south “Tell the Professor he’ll be next!”

The drop of Charles’ body made for the exact moment Lila needed to be ripped out of drunken stupor and she pierced the night with a scream that grew in pitch as the fog began to dissipate. Libby looked on in shock at the scene before her and only one question continually fell from her mouth to the now bloodied half-elf “What happened?!”

Whether it was a moment of perfect clarity, or perfect insanity, an idea infiltrated Lila’s head. With all her might, she lifted her deceased love, and barked to Libby to follow her back to their teacher’s home.

Arriving back on his trusted dog’s back, Crimson found Aderyn still outside now awaiting his return after shuffling the drunken pair inside. “What did you find out Crimson?” she said with desperation in her voice.

“I got off on the wrong path, what happened here?”

“There’s the signs of a struggle in your Uncle’s room and I have no idea what’s happened to him.”

The news prompted Crimson to run upstairs to see for himself. Upon arriving he saw that the trail of blood lead down from his private quarters. The window was broken outward and the lock was broken in. On the roof ledge outside his uncle’s window was a large array of both dove and raven feathers. He picked up a gathering of some of them from the ledge before he noticed that the case that had held the odd creature his uncle had created was broken open. Crimson collected his thoughts in a flash and with renewed drive he ran downstairs, hopped on Arcaten and rode off following the trail once again.

Returning in a fervor drummed up by the prior events, Lila carrying Charles followed on her heels by Libby arrived to see Aderyn standing outside having bid Crimson a safe journey a few moments prior. Lila asked Aderyn to wake the professor as she rushed in leaving only Libby to hear of the missing status of the Professor. By the time Libby had caught back up to Lila, she had already entered the laboratory and begun grabbing magi-tech wires and cores after laying Charles out on the work table. “What do you intend to do Lila?” the mentally exhausted sorceress asked.

“Go fetch Albafica,” the preoccupied half-elf barked.

“No”, Libby crossed her arms “Not until you inform me as to what you’re doing.”

Lila stared directly through Libby with her half-gaze granted by her one functioning eye. “I’m helping Charles, he’s not too far gone, I need both your help and Albafica. Now. Go. Get. Him.”

Libby left to go grab Albafica from his drunken state on the couch and bring him into the lab.

Crimson’s renewed resolve lead him on the trail perfectly despite its partial dissipation from time. He arrived in the slum area in the southwestern end of the city to find Richard from the competition haranguing Dom. Blood was splattered on Dom’s left hand. He had the homeless man grabbed by his dirty coat shouting “Where is it? You said you’d have it”

“What’s going on here man?” Crimson said while dismounting Arcaten and pulling his hand to his weapon, but maintaining a solid distance.

Richard turned his attention towards the young Cortex, “Look kid this isn’t any of your damn business, now just go along and play”, his finger pointed accusingly to Crimson.

Crimson hit the switch to activate the function on his chainsaw katana. “Oh, I think it does” he said returning the point to Richard.

“So be it” Richard replied.

Both Crimson and Arcaten attempted to lay into the assailing man, but neither could seem to land a solid hit on him, but with one hit, Crimson succumbed to the knock out poison on Richard’s blade. He awoke later in fervor, only met by Arcaten who had dragged him away from danger after he had become unconscious. “I knew I trained you just right,” he said with a reassuring pet to his dog “now lets’ go find that dick.”

When he had returned to the slum area, he was unable to locate neither Dom nor Richard. The night’s events had worn hard on the youngster, and he struggled to keep his eyes open, until he realized any further searching in his state would yield nothing. He sleepily hopped back upon his trusted dog’s back and headed for his home.

In the Laboratory of the now missing Professor Cortex, Lila Dawn Weaver prepared alongside Liberty Brown and Albafica Recendal to perform an operation not yet known to have been attempted by other researchers. Wires and cords of magi-technical current were weaved into Charles’ body by Lila, and she prepared to add the final piece of the operation, an uncharged magi battery built for large machinery. She positioned it within the mount she had put into his chest. “Now, we need to charge the battery with specific magical energies, Libby, you focus on synaptic relay, Albafica, you focus on metabolic repair, okay?”

The pair of humans before their other lab assistant partner in unintended unison said “What?”

“Ugh! You focus on electric zapping” she turned her focus from Libby to Albafica “and you do your healing technique, got it?”

They nodded in tandem and their magical focuses converged on the battery, which sent its energy through Charles’ body, in a flash of an instant springing him back to life. Every nerve shot out in pain, every muscle acidic with over-action, every thought racing through his mind, all Charles could do was exclaim in horrid pain. His scream was heard by Crimson as he rode up to home. Lila after the initial shock of her operation being a success, heard the calls of Libby and Al to make Charles stop and removed the core from its mount still charged, but left his body a lifeless corpse once again.

Lila sent the other two off; now knowing that the battery could be proper charged needed to calculate the exact parameters to which it needed to be charged without causing distress to Charles. Albafica entered the sitting room and plopped down on the couch in his tiredness, while Libby found her way to the bed in the guest room adjacent. Aderyn told Crimson he needed to try and get some sleep, because the next day would be very taxing on everyone, and the young animal trainer retired to sleep in his room.

Lila sat diligently over Charles body, calculating and crunching numbers while tooling with the battery. She eventually found herself asleep against Charles’ body on the table. All the youngsters and the housemaid with what little sleep they had awoke just before midday, Anastasia made a small brunch to get everyone’s energy back up to snuff. Lila still slept in the laboratory when she was approached by Libby and Al. when they moved to awaken her she informed them that she had finished the calculations to charge the battery proper. She needed them both to focus their ability with all their attention to the synaptic and metabolic responses respectively. Libby however took the advantage to leave a small extra within his reactions. With all their energies focused, they once again revived Charles. His awakening began with a startling shout followed by labored breathing. “Charles? Are you okay?” Lila leaned forward to check his status.

“Ugh, yeah, I think,” there was a pause as he sat up. He looked down to his augmented chest, “What the hell is this on my chest?” then down to his stripped body “and why am I naked?!”

“I, I had to bring you back, you were almost dead there.”

“Sure feels like I was dead, if that’s what being dead is like.” His demeanor shifted unsure of himself “I guess I should get up though”

As he stood he saw Libby and a synapse jumped through his head and a smirk jumped across his face as he put his bloodied clothes and armor back on. The hole in his studded leather fit around the battery mounted at his chest. Libby, now somewhat aroused by the now moving, breathing, and naked Charles asked him the question that had been burning in her mind. “Did you see who did it?”

The guy who put me out? Yeah, it was that Richard guy from Joe’s,” he reminisced. “I’m pretty hungry though” he abruptly changed subject “Ana make anything to eat?”

Albafica tried to start explaining the situation as the four of them started out towards the kitchen “Charles, the professor is missing.”

“Oh, that’s unfortunate I guess” he said without real gravity in his voice. A comment it seemed he could have thrown away in his own opinion.

Libby pulled Lila back as the two young men met everyone else in the kitchen. “What did you do to him? He can’t keep a single thought straight.”

Lila bit back, “I could say the same of you! Really? A synaptic smirk? I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you”

The two women were cut through by the doctor as she walked down the stairs from behind them making her way to the kitchen, now followed behind by both Lila and Libby. Arriving in the kitchen to find Charles, Albafica and Crimson filling their growling stomachs, she inquired as to what was going on. Naomi Cortex is a notoriously heavy sleeper, and had not heard any of the ruckuses from the previous night. With the situation fully explained to her with Lila leaving out Charles’ death, she addressed everyone with “Well, do you know what you need to do now?”

Everyone simply shook their heads. “You need to fix it” Naomi said, “Anastasia and Aderyn, the two of you go file an official report to the IFCS office, and you five,” she said pointing out everyone else before her “go track down his little experiment, I’ll stay here and watch if anything comes up”

With no better plan, everyone packed together what they would need for the day and set out slightly after noon. Anastasia and Aderyn arrived at the First Office of the Internal Force of Criminal Subjugation of Otylia. Inside was a hustle and bustle of men and women robed in black with insignias of falcons adorning their clothing and armor. Some waiting led to them filling out paperwork, followed by more waiting, taking a majority of the day. As the day waxed on they watched as a few criminals were brought in through the library, including an austere dwarven man in black armor and nobleman’s robes with a braided brown beard. Near the fall of night, they were finally interviewed by an officer as to all of the events of the previous day.

Crimson suggested that his best lead would be to try and find the weirdo guy Dom Bertfelln, whom he had seen the previous night being harangued by Richard, in the slum area of the city. He seemed to be the only link they could try and follow at the moment. All the while they were walking southwest, a strange whistling noise echoed in Charles’ head. “Do you guys hear that?”

“Hear what” was the general question before Charles dropped the subject.

Arriving in the slums, Libby gained a disgusted look across her face. She looked upon the dirty and deranged people as if though they were smears of dirt on her clean shoes. Albafica attempted to be sociable and gather information about Dom only to find that it was getting him nowhere slowly. Before he could continue to offer help in exchange for information to the homeless in the area, Libby pulled him aside by the arm and loudly told him “Do not feed or tease the animals any further”.

Happenstance lead Crimson and Charles to encounter Dom, with blood stained on both his forearms on the wall of a dilapidated shack of a house. The weathered man seemed slightly more cogent than before and decidedly more evasive of questioning, and the both of them were about to attempt to subdue the strange man before they both heard a familiar whistling. The whistle came from the wall of the shack, and through a small hole they saw the small creature from under the glass dome now reddish in color. Though their first attempts to capture the creature outside the shack were unsuccessful, upon entering the building with Lila, Libby and Albafica accompanying, the creature willingly came to Charles. It seemed to take a liking to him, perching itself on his shoulder. Having found the creature before too long in the day had passed, they decided it would be best to attempt to gain a better ground on things. Arriving back at the Cortex Residence, Charles realized his family might be worried about him seeing as how he had not returned for two nights, while he only intended to be away for one. Lila and Libby then accompanied him and the small red creature.

Albafica and Crimson decided to do some more investigation in the professor’s room, but it yielded nothing new. They did however find a set of notes regarding ingredients in remedies for common poisons. Deciding that it would be better to be prepared for any eventuality, the two of them embarked to Albafica’s Family’s Herbal Shop. A smaller shop in the market district, but sufficient to sustain a small business. “It’s cozy,” Crimson said when they entered the shop made cramped by many supplies.

“It’s not much but it is home” Al replied. “Okay, we’ll mainly need dry supplies if I’m not mistaken?”

“Mhmm” Crimson confirmed “You sure it’s okay to do this though?”

“My parents will understand it’s a precautionary measure” Al assured.

An hour outside the city sat Little Root, where Charles and his close family lived. Arriving in as such a strange state as they did though was not met well. Upon Charles very bluntly explaining his death and revival, both his sister and mother fainted. It left only a dumb-founded look upon his brother-in-law Josh, while throwing his father into a panic. Lila attempted to calm them down and explain the specifics of what happened, but his rage got the better of him and he slapped her mid-way through. Josh could only stand and say “I just saw you the other day,” repeatedly, his understanding of life partially shattered.

Charles’ father had still not yet calmed down and as Libby attempted to use her own brand of calming, which was only exacerbating the situation, only lead to Libby getting slapped as well. Her rebuttal consisted only of a disgusted look and an empty threat of “My father will hear about this”.

Charles’ father demanded an explanation as to why Lila had done what she did, but cared not for what she had to say punctuating their encounter with “You didn’t have the right to take my son’s life into your hands”

He finally kicked the three of them out of the house after the awful experience, disowning Charles alongside it for being a ‘half-assed magi-tech experiment’. Charles attempted to apologize for his father’s actions towards both of them as they walked back into the city. The sun began to set on the horizon as they were entering town with an uncomfortable discussion of existence hanging off their mouths. Libby broke away from them, to return to her own home so that she could contemplate speaking to her father about the previous day’s events.

Both Crimson and Albafica continued to travel around together discussing what their next move should be. They went to the public bath relaxation house to discuss the best approach to things. While sitting in the main room, soaking in the warmed water, Crimson’s demeanor took a down slide yielding Albafica to scoot closer to him and give him a reassuring word. His resolve renewed he stood up proud ready to take on tomorrow, no matter what it would bring. The two of them grabbed a small bite to eat before they split for their separate homes. Albafica agreed to come back over to the Cortex residence the next day despite the Professor’s disappearance.

Lila arrived back with Charles to meet Anastasia and Aderyn having just finished speaking with the IFCS, at the Cortex house. Crimson followed in shortly behind putting Arcaten in his pen before retiring for the night. Lila informed Charles that the battery consumes large amounts of energy and needs a refractory period every night where it’s not in use. In essence, she needed to remove the battery to let it recharge every night. Although a frightening concept, Charles braced himself for the removal, and Lila watched as his yes went cold on the able when she did so. The battery began recharging its energy as Lila wept over Charles body.

Crimson came inside to find his mother packing some belongings, when she packed her effects it meant she was about to embark in another business venture. “Are you leaving again so soon?”

“Yep sport, places to be things to accomplish”

“But you just got back” he said in a small voice.

“Yes, and now I need to go again. You’ll be okay here with Aderyn; she’s been paid in for the next few months”

“But I-” he was cut off by a knock at the door.

Naomi moved to answer the door. On the other side of the wooden portal as she opened it stood man with olive skin, sporting both a brown and black goatee, glasses and a scar running across his left eye, clothed in a loose fitting purple and black robe, an adult looking fire giant who seemed a bit short for his age in armor that seemed to resemble a regal silver robe, and a third man, this one shorter with a tanned complexion carrying on his left shoulder, the arm to which was heavily tattooed and encased in a strange ornate metal brace, a woman made of golden metal. “Hello Miss,” the man in purple and black began in a very clear concise and calculated voice.

“What do you need?” she was not one to beat around the bush.

“Ah- Yes, well is Evan Cortex at home?” he continued

“No he is not, and I don’t know when he’ll be returning”

“Oh, well then alright then”

“Do you need anything else?” she said with calmed impatience.

“No Naomi, we will just take our leave then.”

“Goodbye” her word was punctuated with a controlled close of the door.

She turned back around to continue packing. “Did you know those people mom?” her son asked.

“Never seen them before in my life”.

“Wait, then how did that man know your name?”

“I don’t know, and frankly don’t care. He knew your uncle’s name I supposed he also knew mine before he started talking.”

“But isn’t that at least a bit strange?” Crimson continued to query.

She turned her attention just to him in a level fashion. “Look son, sometimes there’s things you can’t do anything about, you just go with what’s happening until it’s affecting you and you need to fix it yourself and you keep on going through life otherwise,” she went back to packing “that’s just how things go”

Crimson stood there looking on at his mother for just a moment before he returned to his room to gain some much needed rest. Her words stuck in his head as he drifted off to sleep.

At the Brown residence where Libby called home, the sorceress came home to find Deacon Reagan sitting across the short legged table from her father in the sitting room. “Oh, hello father” she greeted.

“Good evening Liberty,” he said without care “How have you been?”

“Just fine and yourself father?”

“I am in the middle of speaking to an associate,” Reagan gave a simple wave “Please, if you would go to your room so that we may have some privacy” her father ended.

With silent compliance, she began to walk up the stairs to her room, but stopped short of it atop the stairs to listen in on her father and Deacon’s conversation. Deacon called out to the hallway between the sitting room and the stairwell “Is she gone?”

“No,” a small scratchy voice emanating from Neegan whom had been hiding in the shadows of the unlit area “She’s just kind of hanging atop the step waiting”.

“Liberty, come down here if you would” her father called up to his eavesdropping daughter.

Libby complied and walked down the stairs past the grinning kobold into the room, now facing both her father and his half-hobgoblin associate. “If you want so badly to know what your father does, then you need to be prepared for it” he said staring authoritatively into her eyes “Do you understand?”

She nodded. He gestured for her to sit down next to her on the seat of the couch he sat on. He turned back to Deacon “Now, where were we?”

Deacon reached inside his jacket “The presentation of product, was where we were” as he sat down a package of small size that fit just in his hand.

Mr. Brown pulled the bag forward and pulled out his switchblade. It was ornate in its make but held a single scratch along the blade. Not easy to see from afar, or even close, but only if one knew where it was. He knew it was there. With a simple prick, he punctured the bag to inspect the slightly off-white powder that lay upon it. With a look he approved of the drug’s consistency, “Since my common tester is away, and Liberty seems so eager to participate,” his gaze shifted to his daughter as he began to pour out a portion of the drug on the table “If you would please dear”.

Libby gave an assured nod. She pulled from her pocket a single gold page. With the gold edge piece she portioned out the drug into a line, and then rolled the bill with the gold strip facing outward. A quick motion and focused inhale, she had consumed the drug laid out on the table. Her muscles relaxed, and her thoughts slowed. Her perception gave into euphoria and she let out a pleased moan. With the quality confirmed, Mr. Brown excused him to obtain the payment for his drug contact, leaving the two of them alone in the room. Watched by Neegan, Deacon began to put out the rest of the packages of drugs he intended to sell to the nobleman. He shifted his gaze towards the now very relaxed Libby, “So, you’re in it to run with the riding dogs?”

She responded with a cool nod of her head. “It seems like it could be fun, especially if guys like you are involved”

His thick eyebrow rose in aroused interest “You know what else could be fun?” he said whilst he unhitched his belt to pull out his member.

Libby looked down to his little friend with a seductive face, then shifted her eyes back to the half-hobgoblin himself, “I didn’t bring him out just to get some air” he said in the slickest voice he had.

She swayed over in front of him, and knelt down between his relaxed legs. She took him in her silkily smooth hand. Although her hands were much more used to making arcane gestures, she was no virgin to what she was about to do. She began to fellate him whilst moaning sensually. He neck motions mimicked those of her pet snake, undulating her head against his unit. The half-hobgoblin pushed her bangs out of the way of her face as she continued. Libby father entered back into the room with the money in hand saw the scene at hand and simply said, “Make sure you clean up whatever mess you make”. He picked up the drug packages leaving the money and walked out of the room.

Deacon leaned down to softly blow into her ear “I’ll bet your little gardener boy doesn’t ever treat you like this” to which Libby gave a satisfied giggle as she continued to tongue his length.

Deacon’s finish came after a few solid minutes, that Libby held in her mouth before releasing it onto the table. The color of his seed on the table mirrored the color of the drug remaining on the opposite side of the table. He calmly collected his payment from the table, fixed his belt back and whispered a short thanks to Libby still knelt on the floor. He left out the front door with his kobold cohort, as Libby retrieved a pure blue rag from the kitchen to wipe away the white stain on the table. It smeared before she got up the rest of it.

The next morning began as many previous others had, with everyone convening at the Cortex Residence. Lila revived Charles for the morning, however was unable to move the small red creature from him. It seemed to want to remain with him. All throughout the morning as people arrived at the house, a strange tinny voice kept calling to Charles in his mind, and calling in what he could understand meant ‘join’. Everyone had arrived, the cleric, the animal trainer, the sorceress met the housemaid, the house chef, the lab technician, and the gardener. Inside the house they decided that today they would attempt to start looking for Professor Cortex, but as they were doing so, the reddish creature at Charles’ shoulder began the whistle loudly and shrilly and rhythmically, as it turned a bright pink color, hopped off his shoulder and out the door into the garden. They all followed outside to find it meeting up with three black creatures of its same kind. The prospect came as a shock to all, the possibility of multiple creatures had not occurred to them until that point, and by that point they had formed into a cohesive blob to create a larger being. They quickly looked around to find that more of these combinations of creatures were attacking the street up and down causing mayhem.

Acting quickly they began taking to the streets assailing the monsters as they attacked the people and their property. While going down the streets they quickly found the creatures exuded some form of narcotic poison that became more powerful as the clusters of the creatures became bigger. Ronald ran by waking up Charles with smelling salts in the nick of time whilst he was fighting a large cluster. The Kusawa was in search of the homeless vagrant Dom thinking he had something to do with all the monsters. He warned Charles to watch his ass as he left some of his smelling salt with him to awaken unconscious people. They then soon ran across Deacon, Seabat and Neegan fending off a large group of the miniature conforming monsters. After some debate between everyone they decided to aid them, right before Seabat carved a large clearing through the group of monsters leaving with Neegan and Deacon with the others quickly becoming overrun. Just when things began to look their worst, the shrillest screech came ringing out causing all of the monsters in the nearby area to the group to convene forming a colossal mob, focused on them.

Their situation was quickly saved though by the officers of the First Office of the IFCS coming to their aid including the sergeant Deacon Falcon, Reagan’s father. The officers quickly cut down the colossal mob with a combination of their collective psionic, Ki and martial powers.  From around the corner, Reagan called out to his father as he and his cronies came around the way seeking shelter. Falcon met Reagan with a tight clench of his son’s hand intended to incapacitate the younger half-hobgoblin while his full blooded father berated him “What did I tell you last night!?” he shouted “I give you every chance in life to succeed, and do my best to make an honest living for our diminishing family and all you do is throw it away breaking the laws and pedaling drugs”

The elder Deacon’s face had been menacingly inching towards his progeny’s until he was just an inch away. He reared his helmeted head back and slammed it forward in violence towards his son. Both of their heads reeled back from the impact. Reagan’s in pain, Falcon’s in intended continuation of assault. Falcon’s leg pulled up to kick his dishonored son away from him and he let loose his death grip on his son’s hand and rolled backwards to catch himself standing. “Don’t come back home you disgrace”.

Libby went over to help up Deacon, but he only spurned her help as he lifted himself up and ordered his lackeys away, as the IFCS officers aided the group getting back up to snuff. As the officers left to go continue their assault on the menaces in the city, Charles lifted his head in surprise. Something in his mind began calling out now not to join, but to descend, he found the nearest sewage grate and began trekking into the sewer system and the connecting cave system followed behind by his friends, save for Crimson, whom were all concerned for his safety especially Lila and Libby. Within the sewer system they encountered a map etched on the cave wall that revealed a treasure and a danger in a pool ahead.

Crimson had walked back to his house to find it still well intact and Aderyn cleaning up the mess that had been left behind by the menaces. He searched around for his mother only to have Aderyn tell him that she had already left, but she had left a note on the kitchen table for him. He walked over to read the note.

'Bought some more feed for your animals, in the shed
-i love you
'

He had seen similar notes to it before. Notes like it were few and far between. Always punctuated with that last phrase. Written grammatically incorrect and seemingly tacked onto the end. He had never heard her utter those words with her own voice. He crumpled the note at his side and a single tear ran down his cheek as he stood there. He sniffed it back, wiped his face and moved with determination out the door to Arcaten’s pen who was surprised to be going again so soon. He hitched the extra feed to his dog and rode off to catch up with his friends.

They encountered the underground aquifer from the map just as Crimson caught back up with them. Albafica used his clerical abilities to create a bridge over the water, while Anastasia sought out the chest under the water from the map. As the cleric walked over his bridge, up from the depth arose a massive crocodile arose engulfing him and breaking the bridge over the previously placid water. Charles dove in to attempt to fend off the reptile in its own turf as it began to tear Albafica apart. Crimson quickly came to his friend’s rescue by utilizing his last empty creature capture ball to magically contain the crocodile. After being saved, Al quickly expressed his gratitude with a powerful hug to the animal trainer. He remained close to young Cortex as they all continued through the cave system.

Charles’ burning influence to go further began to wear on the others and Libby and Lila attempted to overtake him, but their attempt missed, but right as they came upon a strange crystal exuding bright light. Surrounding it was an island connected by three small land bridges, and in its center surrounding the crystal laid lush thick blue green grass. Knelt in the enter before yet another small mottled creature, this one dark green in color, mumbling in his common fashion but clearly dismayed was Dom Bertfelln. “I’m sorry, I just don’t, I never meant”

The green menace creature answered back in a strained voice that spoke in Common “Why, why does it hurt so much?”

The group was dumbfounded by their discovery, but only even more so by Ronald’s sudden appearance “You! I knew you were the source of all this damned malarkey” the otter-folk said as he angrily approached the weathered man grabbing him by the fringe of his tattered coat “Why?! What the hell is wrong with you?!”

The confused mumbling man shouted back “No! Stop! Stop touching me as the crystal in the center began to glow brighter. The group of five moved closer to try and break up the altercation only making the glow more apparent. Just as they approached in from the last bridge walked, quite confused looking, Deacon, Neegan and Seabat. Arcaten, sensing danger quickly grabbed Crimson by his backpack and whisked him backward into the prior cavern away from the expanding light. The glow grew brighter and brighter until consumed the large group of people and a feeling of displacement rushed over the entirety of them. Crimson returned to the bridged room to find his friends, & enemies had disappeared along with the glowing crystal. Confused and distraught, he searched desperately for them to no avail. He resigned himself to having lost his friends to the mysteries of the universe as well. His uncle missing, mother away again and friends gone without a trace Crimson returned to his home seeking the council of Aderyn. Upon returning to the home of his family however he found the maid missing as well.

Panic rushed through the young animal trainer. A week prior, his life was simple and on track, now any of the people he could care about were either missing or gone indefinitely. His panic lead his eyes to an old charm in his room. It was the only objected related to his absent father. He packed his effects and the dog’s face charm and left out on Arcaten, heading out of the city and to the west. Where his travels would lead him only fate knows.

The feeling swept over the five of them for but a moment, but in that same moment they found themselves faces down inside a cave filled with strange bluish algae, and glowing mushrooms. Water dripped down around from the stalactites into small pools at the floor of the cavernous room they were in. Charles, Libby, Lila, Albafica, and Anastasia all found themselves grouped together with no sign of Deacon, Seabat, Neegan, Ronald or Dom. They all looked around to attempt to get a bearing on their situation, but found they did not know where they were. Upon a ledge in the cavernous room they did however see an exit from their landing spot. Standing in the glow of a mushroom was a small furry long-eared creature about the size of a halfling staring down in amazement of the group that was now staring back at it.


End of Episode Five
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PostSubject: Short Version: Wandering through the goddamn desert for-goddamn-ever.   Thu Jan 01, 2015 1:50 am

Episode Six: Cracked Castles and Siphoned Souls



The “Caught Light Caravan” had traversed through the Tarin Mountains and learned a bit more about each other in the process. Having passed through the capital of Giants, Cora, they made their way southward to the Kelly Desert. Caldear had purchased himself a new mount in Cora, the signature of giant riders; the giant guinea pig. He dubbed it Fluffy. Mira was able to locate a harpy peddler in the giant capital and Caroline paid for some simple harpy clothing for her. Light and translucent, not covering anything commonly considered obscene, but the thin cloth seemed to put Mira at ease. The caravan had stopped at a bar built to cater to both giants and smaller folk named Der Klotz in Mitte dem Strasse.

The night air was calm as the group arrived. Mira sat outside in “The Caught Light”, whilst Allesandra, Dolcetto, Zakhar, Caldear, Sancho, and their prior employer all entered and made themselves comfortable. Caroline sat across from a woman with heterochromatic eyes of gold and turquoise and brown hair with blue and red dyed bangs named Claire Lionheart. The pair of women sat playing a game of liar’s dice when a rough looking man by the name of Harald Parker McSheen approached the table to join the game. Sancho danced around the bar with a smile plastered across his face. Midnight had turned the previous day to the next and that day was the desert elf’s birthday. He waltzed around dancing merrily up to Dolcetto who sat drinking at the bar top by himself. Although he tried to cheer up Dolcetto from them losing Rafael a few days prior, Dolcetto simply brushed the elf off to remain in his mood.

Caldear sat a few seats down from Dolcetto thumbing through the pages of the strange book of innumerable pages. He blindly turned to an image of Sancho with a smile on his face but some dark liquid sliding down his face. The merg had a double take back from the image, looked over to Sancho, now moving over towards Zakhar, who sat even further down the way of the bar top in the section of larger chairs for giants. Caldear simply took it as an illusion, and continued to attempt to find sense within the strange book. Claire was winning a majority of the dice games as the three of them sat there shooting the breeze. Sancho began to tell a joke to Zakhar, but the desert elf could tell by the Wolf-folk’s demeanor that he was in no mood to hear one. Sancho simply went to tell his joke to an Ice Giant sitting by himself in the corner of the giant sized portion of the bar. The jolly birthday man jumped up on the table and asked if he’d like to hear a joke. The Ice giant simply sat with a gruff look of indifference on his face as Sancho talked about how a Stone Giant’s favorite drink in always on the rocks. The massive man was only stirred when Sancho pointed out loudly how he resembled the face of a wanted poster on the wall across from him.

The sedentary goliath of a man jumped up from his seat with a start, pulling his mithral club into his hand as he did. With a swift blow, he had brought the weapon down on the desert elf that had just effectively alerted the entire bar to his wanted status, crushing the table below him as well. The caravan group startled by the quick sequence of events made quick to react. Dolcetto shot a bolt into the ice giant’s side, as he tried to escape the bar, being halted by Zakhar attempting to hold him in place. Caroline ran outside to fetch a rope to tie him with, as Allesandra guarded the only door out. Caldear went over to check on Sancho’s status, but found him dead beneath the remains of the table with a trickle of blood going down his face frozen with a smile on it, just as he had seen not a minute prior in the book. The scene floored Caldear for a time while both Harald and Claire jumped into the fray. The woman jumped up and formed a blade with her mind as Harald utilized his own psionic powers to hamper the giant.

The group eventually subdued and hogtied the man. Caroline coldly told him that retrieving his bounty would be a pittance to her, and allowed a steeled expression Dolcetto to execute him. The leader of the caravan went to go pick up her fallen friend and brought him outside. The rest of the group began to gather themselves. As they did so, Claire went to ask Caldear what had brought the all of their group together. Caldear explained to her their trip through the mountains, but it left Claire wondering as to why they were still traveling together, as Harald came over to find out what the pair of them were speaking about. The merg then showed them the strange book that had been calling to the all of them. The book sent out a psionic message to the pair of psionically adept adventurers.

Caroline met with Dolcetto at ‘The Caught Light’ to express her concerns over the strange book that was urging them on their current course of actions. She turned her attention to Caldear as he showed the book to Claire and Harald and scolded the merg for exposing the pair of strangers to it, and retrieved it from his possession. She made her way over to Pimono, Sancho’s horse, removed the equine creature’s covering holding Sancho’s knives and set him free. She moved further then along the road, carrying her fallen friend’s corpse off into a field in order to fulfill his wish for a funeral pyre within a ring of his throwing knives. The rest of the caravan joined her in the service, as Claire and Harald watched the group do so.

Both of the psionically adept adventurers convened to question the other as to what the caravan’s intentions could be with the strange book, and came to the conclusion that what they may be up to might not be a beneficial decision. They agreed to follow the group from a distance behind to observe what they were doing, but it was in reality the influence of the book calling to them making them follow. The entirety of the group began to make their way to the southern Tarin Mountains to make it their destination in Ardith. Caroline and Dolcetto led the group as Zakhar rested, with Allesandra and Caldear taking up the rear, while Harald and Claire followed behind at a distance.

Travel along the way became tense as Caldear revealed having seen the visage of Sancho dead in the book moments before he was slain by the fugitive ice giant. The reveal prompted Allesandra to attack him for not acting or saying anything when he had the chance. Dolcetto went back to them to see what the problem was, but it only resulted in him threatening Caldear for not acting when he had the chance. Claire and Harald jumped into the fray, in an attempt to better understand what was going on. Caroline finally came back to them and quelled the situation, reminding everyone that it didn’t help to fight amongst themselves when they were bound mysteriously to follow the will of the book, and the caravan continued onward, with the psionic pair now accompanying.

After the scuffle, Mira began to violently berate Caldear about his cowardice from inside his cart. Asking how he could call himself a real man, when he just let everyone else walk all over him. Caldear just took the insults with a muted smile. Further along the way the caravan encountered a strange older dirtied, calmly dancing human who invited them to his brother’s house up the way for dinner, as his brother would soon be returning for dinner with the family. The old man was disquieting to look upon, and Zakhar, Dolcetto, Allesandra, & Caroline all declined. However, Mira, Harald, Caldear and Claire all chose to accept his offer, and went up the hill whilst the others began to set camp for the night further down the road. The four of them entered the mansion atop the hill led by the strange old dancer, and he went to the kitchen to finish his preparations. Claire found a book detailing the Ignan Language, and stowed it into her belongings while Mira began playing a game of billiards in the front room. Harald entered the dining room, to find every seat at the dinner table filled with freshly excavated corpses at nearly every seat, sat upright and dressed formally. This revelation set off a clear red flag to the former farmer.

As camp was being set up a strange half-elf, smelling of death and decay wielding a sword which seemed to be crafted out of flesh passed by murmuring about how he would soon be back home for family dinner. Allesandra sensed an evil air about him and demanded at point of her sword to explain himself. The man began to dash away from the over-zealous paladin, and she gave pursuit on foot. Zakhar & Dolcetto gave pursuit after them to make sure she, and the others in the mansion by extension were not in over their heads. The flesh-sword wielding man entered the home locking the door behind him. He entered the room filled with corpses and met his brother while he animated the dressed corpses. He turned the newly made undead upon the dinner guests and escaped to the upstairs as Allesandra & Zakhar viciously beat down the doors.

Caldear escaped with Mira out the window back to the safety of the caravan with Caroline. Claire began to fence against the dirtied dancer and set the dining room on fire, emolliating the walking dead. Zakhar, Allesandra & Harald all tried to give chase to the half-elf through the mansion, while Dolcetto waited outside to attack either the crazed brothers should they try to escape. The dancer escaped from Claire’s reach as his brother finished a necrotic ritual, which summoned a skeletal left hand from the crevasse to the side of the mansion. The group made their escape from the mad house as the skeletal hand dragged the building into the dark expanse it spawned from, with the pair of brothers laughing and dancing atop it, exclaiming they were off to the capital.

The caravan decided to cut their losses and return to their mission. The group stocked themselves for their eventual travels through the desert, and entered the southern Tarin Mountains. Traveling through the mountains didn’t ease concerns among the group, especially Allesandra. Dolcetto tried to ease her mind by opening up to her about himself one night while camp was being made. The pair of them realized they’d both been closed off about their lives and goals in attempts to not be hurt, and decided to try and confide in each other. Caroline spoke with Caldear, telling him that she would be trusting him with Mira’s safety for the trip, and the merg acquiesced to his new responsibility.

Traveling further into the mountains, the caravan found a tribe of Goblin warriors torturing their prisoner, a hill giant by the name of Rasend who was hogtied upside down to a wooden gallows. Allesandra demanded to know what the situation was that lead the Goblins to attack the hill giant with silver short swords. They claimed that he had destroyed their crops in the form of a giant boar and that he was a known were-boar lycanthrope. The giant admitted to being a lycanthrope, but pleaded his innocence. Allesandra sensed an air of evil emotion within all of the Goblins and were-boar and attacked them by herself, only to be quickly surrounded by the little warriors. With quick, precisely laid blows they had significantly bloodied  and weakened the paladin in a matter of seconds, causing her to retreat to her traveling companions, leaving the huddle of defending goblins on guard with on crying out “Is there anyone else?! Is there no one else?!”

Zakhar, hearing the distressed calls of the hill giant discerned that he was not the culprit the goblins were searching for, at which point Dolcetto shot the rope holding the hog-tied lycanthrope with effortless precision. The called shot was in vain as the goblins had exhausted their captive to the point of near paralysis. Zakhar and Caroline struck a quick deal with the miniscule warriors, if they could find the real culprit before sundown, then the goblins would allow the innocent man to go. The goblins agreed, and Dolcetto, Zakhar, Claire, & Harald all set off to search for a different giant boar, while Caldear, Mira & Caroline all remained behind to watch the ailing Allesandra. Mira painted a giant grin across her face at Allesandra’s pain as the Aasimar lay attempting to rest in the Caught Light.

After an extended search as the day grew late, the four adventurers encountered a towering boar the size of an aged tree. Its hoof-prints matched the prints they had encountered whilst searching. With a newfound fire in her mind, Claire manifested a whip of flame to aid slaying the massive boar. The beast stood mightily against their blows until a psionic attack on the creature’s brain by Harald cut its life down. The four of them hauled its carcass back to the goblins, who accepted it as proof of the other boar and left the caravan to release the hill giant. The lycanthrope was very grateful to the group and introduced himself as Rasend Ruhigester. He gave to Caldear an emblem emblazoned with the hoof of a boar telling him to use it when times get tough. The giant went along his way, and the caravan set up camp for the night.

They exited the mountains the following morning and arrived in the desert outpost of Sabrina. Seeking more information on Noyan, the group learned of an instance of him defending an oasis outpost in the Kelly Desert from a horde of giant scorpions summoned by a mage known as Karramash. He slew the mage, and the scorpions disbanded, but some may still roam the desert sands. The group resupplied and began their trek outward in the desert, spellbound with intent to reach Ardith and deliver the book of sands to Noyan. Through the desert they marched, learning more about each other. Harald told of his experiences growing up as a farmer and struggling with fitting in his psionic abilities, which surprised Claire, a daughter of the Lionheart Alchemists of Isa, whom had received special attention concerning her own ability. A pair of upbringings more opposed one would be hard-pressed to find. Dolcetto opened up to Allesandra while she was skulking still recovering from the beating to her body and ego in the mountains, and in turn she revealed more of her own past to him. She told him of the fall of Vanessa and the loss of her parents, and he in turn told her of his late wife’s suicide after their lost child.

The group made their way through the desert over the course of two and a half days. Their travels were not without problem as they encountered a massive scorpion which was missing the stinger from its tail. The scar showed that it had lost it years prior. Zakhar made short work of the partially crippled scorpion.

The group finally came to the city of Ardith, the home of Noyan Lerr Brett. Gathering information they found that he lived with old man fitting the description of the man who had given them the book in the Tarin Mountains, by the name of Olamide Bai. His house was opulent, with well-made works of art for furniture. The caravan was met by a small orange haired Halfling boy. He introduced himself as Beshoorchaka Bai, the young porter of Olamide. The young boy seemed to take interest in Mira, as he had never seen a harpy before. Allesandra was wary of the young boy, attempting to sense if his intentions were evil. She sensed no ill intention in the child. He informed the party that Mr. Noyan had left to pray at the ancient castle about an hour outside of the city of Ardith. They decided that they would make haste to catch up to Noyan to end their feeling of enslavement to the book.

Along the way to the castle, Allesandra sensed the presence of another being of slight evil intent in the back of the wagon alongside the familiar evil glow of Mira. Upon investigation she found Beshoorchaka had stowed away in the back of The Caught Light. Although concerned about the sudden spark of evil within the young boy Alessandra allowed him to stay, feeling that finding Noyan was a more pressing matter and that she would be able to deal with it later. She informed the rest of the group and they continued onward agreeing with her logic. They arrived at the ancient castle and took in its fallen grandeur. Upon the walls were partially destroyed depictions of sand dunes and an image as the Deity of Patience, Tatacey. Leaving Mira to watch Beshoorchaka as the two bonded; Caroline, Alessandra, Dolcetto, Harald, Zakhar, Caldear & Claire began to delve downs fails following footprints they guessed to the Noyan’s.

Scorpion swarms wandered throughout the broken building, as the seven of them searched for the mysterious man. They reached an inclined hallway and glimpsed a man with a shaven head turn down a corner. Dolcetto called out to him traveling down the sloped hallway, but found his voice and all sound cancelled in the hall. The group continued down the way to catch up, as they did though they realized the walls of the thin hallway were beginning to close in on them, as the entrance to the room closed behind them. Moving quickly up the steep grade, Dolcetto reached the end of the hallway with not much effort, as the others struggled against the sand covered slope. At the end of the way, Dolcetto spotted a metallic pole about the length of a quarterstaff. With no better options to attempt to save his travelling companions, he wedged the staff lengthwise between the closing walls.

The strange metal pole, red in color held the weight of the heavy enclosing walls without effort and stopped them in place wholesale. The rest of the party moved down the hall and continued further down, taking them to a large room with a pair of sand dunes standing quietly. The large intricately decorated doors at the end of the room sat slightly ajar, with a bright light flickering behind them. The group could hear a whispering prayer from behind the doors and moved towards them. As they travelled across the sand filled room however the sand dunes stopped standing still. The pair of piles of sand formed into elflike forms resembling both Rafael and Sancho Roval. The two sand-made sentries assailed the group with strange sandstorm forming powers and exhausting strikes from their sand form scimitars. Rafael’s attention seemed focused upon Caldear as Sancho’s attacks centered on Dolcetto. Quick sword work from Zakhar ensured that the sandform Sancho was stopped in his tracks, but it soon became apparent that attacking the two sand men was not going to remain effective. The group quickly dodged the attacks of Rafael as they ran towards the open door. Caldear was last to enter and was struck in the back by the thrown scimitar of Rafael, which sunk into the back of the long haired merg. Within the connecting room the group found a man sporting a shaven head, garbed in black robes with a gold lace overlay, wielding a katana at his hip. Within their minds, they all knew this man had to be the man named “Noyan” who they had been searching for.

Their task completed, Caroline relinquished the strange book to the surprised man with relief. Upon opening it, Noyan exclaimed that it was the “Book of Sand” that he had been in search of for so long. With a joyous laughter, a bright light began to exude from the tome in his hands as the pages began to fly loose in a wind seemingly rising from below the ground in the subterranean room. A brilliant surge of light filled the room, and the walls around the group began to collapse into sand around them as a pitch rose in all of their minds. The sensations ended in a flash and the group was suddenly looking upon a clear sky with mounds of crystals of sand at their feet. Noyan’s body began to glow with an unearthly light, as his pair of eyes merged into a single wide slit stretching across his face. The new portal on his face opened slightly as he spoke some strange language and floated away into the sky.

Upon his departure, a dense cloud of sand began to whirl around the group as a light sandstorm began to roll in. The group gathered themselves together and made their way towards the Caught Light and the remainder of their vehicles they saw sitting atop the sand, no longer housed in the completely disappeared castle. Beshoorchaka had been talking to and playing with and speaking to his newfound harpy friend all along, learning new things about the world. The group arrived back and met with their pair of passengers. Leaving out from the area in the direction they had traveled, the group saw strange lights glowing in the sand below them, moving in the same direction towards the city with them. Upon getting closer some of the lights began emerging from the sands. What rose up were sleek, hairless humanoid creatures wearing clothing that fit close to their form. The group attempted to speak with one of them but found its method of communication impossible to understand, full of clicks and harsh hisses. Fed up with the strangers, the creature continued onward past them towards the city.

Arriving back to civilization, they found themselves displaced from where they had previously been, now evident by the fact that none of the group could understand a word being spoken by anyone in the town they had arrived in. Caroline went to park the mounts and carts leaving the protection of Mira and Beshoorchaka to Caldear. Upon moving further inwards the group was approached by a formally dressed man carrying a strange case made of metal held by a single handle at the top. He began to attempt to converse with the group but both sides found they could not understand each other, and that the man carrying the case had a case of mistaken identity, as the group he was awaiting pulled up soon afterwards. Riding in a metal sledded cart, pulled along the sands by horse sized hyenas, came a group of terrifying looking bandits, led by a being wearing a black and red cloak, with a strange suit of interwoven tubes beneath it, whose feet hovered inches above the ground. The formally dressed man opened the case before the tube suit wearing being, revealing it to be filled with gold bricks. The tube suited person then in an unearthly deep voice ordered the others of his group to commence with the water trade after they took the case.

As Allesandra stood by, she began to feel violently ill and cough uncontrollably. All of a sudden her energy began to feel as though it were slipping away from her, as her normal impeccable form, caused by her stalwart devotion as a paladin gave way to her natural physique and appearance. Her skin turned from alabaster to a common pale complexion, her hair went from a copper sheen to simple brown, and her eyes turned from a sapphire sheen to simple blue pupils in her white sockets.  It appeared to all Aaralynnian eyes that her deific connection had been weakened if not completely severed. As she recovered from her coughing fit, a vision leapt into her eyes; A being completely covered in strange tube-like clothing emerging from a silver pool as a young girl of pale skin, blue eyes and blonde hair descended into the pool.

Caldear at the side of the group noticed a young man scratching names off of a list on a posting on the side of a building with a strange black blade. A sudden rumbling that shook the ground at the edge of the town panicking the townsfolk to scatter and prompting the bandits to end their trade early, apparently without the full transaction completed as the formally attired man began to seem to beg and plead with the leader of the group as they were beginning to load up. The rumbling intensified and came to an abrupt stop when a massive centipede emerged from the earth scattering the party with a massive force. The mega centipede made short dinner of the formally attired man, as the bandits made their escape. Caldear noticed that the death of the man with the case full of gold sent the young man with the black blade into a rage. The young man dove at the centipede, the blade crackling with energy, and delved it deep into the carapace of the creature, sending a loud crack through the air. A black beam extended both back and forth from the blade shooting through the young man and the centipede, slaying the both of them. The people of the town took it upon themselves, to take the spoils of the creature and the now dead man’s belongings in a hurry. Caldear hurried along to the center of the square and picked up the strange black blade in the chaos. Holding it in his hands allowed him to understand the foreign people surrounding him, chattering about how the death of the megapede was a great omen of change.

Caldear had been so distracted by the spectacle in the middle of the square that he had taken his attention away from Mira and Beshoorchaka. He dashed back to the caravan only to find the pair of them missing with only a trace of the escaping bandit’s cart to follow. He sped out of the town upon his mount only to find further down the path Mira’s thin shoulder cover. It occurred to him that his failure to watch after them had put them in serious danger. He made a solemn vow to himself to bring them both back to safety. He shortened his hair with his dagger and returned to where his travelling companions were. Nearby Zakhar stood another young man, bowing and speaking very excitedly. Zakhar attempted to ask him what he meant, but reached no further than he was before asking. Caroline, Dolcetto, Allesandra, Harald, and Claire all gathered around attempting to make heads or tails of what was being said by the seemingly helpful young man. Caldear returned to bear the bad news of his folly, but found he could perfectly understand the excited young man. Though Caroline was especially troubled by the turn of events, Caldear informed the group that the young man was willing to aid them believing that Zakhar was the son of the deity of death, Corbin, who had disappeared many years prior. The young man took them to his adoptive father’s home where he bore the news to his dwarven father.
Zakhar had no reason for thinking he was a divine being in any fashion, and the young man was set straight by his father who informed the over excited teenager that the son of Corbin was born half Asherati, and that the wolf folk Zakhar could not possibly be the son of Corbin. Distraught, the young human ran from his father’s home leaving the Caught Light Caravan group in the presence of his father. The dwarven man explained in thickly accented Aaralynnian Dwarven that their coming had been foretold, and the current situation of the desert, Keifel, they now found themselves in. He told them the name of the floating being leading the raiders was an inhuman being was Gaul. Gaul was one of the leading men in the dominating force in the Desert; The Zohera.  The group left the abode upon hearing a loud ruckus outside only to find the dwarf man’s son being butchered in the street by a group of four Asherati, the same type of creature they had encountered upon entering the town. The elderly dwarf spoke his last words and died standing before the caught-light group.

After some deliberation they decided the best course of action for them would be to obtain more supplies, and equip their vehicle to travel over sand. Through some searching they located a skiff garage. Allesandra remained outside as the rest of the group negotiated by force the necessary provision they would need to travel after the criminal group who had stolen their two friends, The Zohera. With their new amalgamated vehicle, dubbed “The Chimera”, the seven of them began to make their way to the next town. The black blade however began to speak to Caldear with the voice of a young girl. It asked him if he would find her sisters, within the dune winders. The discovery unsettled Caldear and he informed the rest of the group none of whom could hear the voice until they too touched the black blade. They asked the blade why they should help it, but it could only truly respond that it would aid them with fighting in return.

As they kept making their way along the group encountered a massive worm with a rending maw of teeth, grey in color with many spikes covering its body. The black blade made its usefulness known informing the group of the capabilities of the massive worm, one of the dunewinders. The knowledge aided the traveling companions, but didn’t prevent the devastating ability of massive worm as it thrashed and grievously wounded the group. Following its death throes, left behind was another small black blade, along with the underbelly of the creature etched with bizarre symbols. The second blade also spoke in the voice of a young girl to its holder and the pair of them begged their wielders to unite them. The group complied and the weapons merged gaining malleable transforming capabilities and a limited magical quality. Seeing it as a benefit to continue gathering the black blades, the group continued to keep an eye out for the remaining parts, especially Claire whom had taken a strange interest in obtaining their power.

Their victory with the dunewinder was short lived as after the joining of the blades together, Caldear began to be swarmed by sand which transformed him into the visage of Rafael Roval. He became enraged and attacked the rest of the group with a scimitar made of sand, and lashed out viciously against Dolcetto especially. Eventually they subdued Rafael and the sand fell away from the merg’s body, but by extension they had beaten Caldear within an inch of dying. The outburst came from an unknown source, but Caldear postulated that it was due to the sandform version of Rafael in the ancient castle striking him as they escaped. Caldear vowed to himself that he wouldn’t let it detract from his personal vindication to rescue Beshoorchaka and Mira.

The seven of them continued on weathering the periodic perils of sandstorms and heat snaps. Allesandra continued to receive the same strange vision in her dreams at night as they traveled. Continuing west towards where Gaul had apparently stolen off with their friends, they encountered a meeting of Zohera forces trading cargo be they food, water, or slaves. Seeing their opportunity present itself, the Chimera Caravan made their stake and attacked with Zakhar, Claire & Allesandra providing cover and melee support to Dolcetto & Caldear as he shot from range. Harald laid psionic interference by laying down roiling walls of psychic force from the back of the monstrosity of a sand skimmer that was The Chimera, driven by Caroline. Upon reaching range of Gaul, Allesandra attempted to reason with him to attempt to work out her strange dream that Gaul had been appearing in, but her words seemed to fall on deaf ears. Although their attack took the Zohera by surprise, and allowed them to capture a grunt of the forces, their attack was ultimately thwarted when Gaul used a strange psychic jamming dagger to disable Harald’s psionic capabilities, and the main skiff lifted off the sands through channeling psionic power through the apparent same type of red metal as the rod in the dilapidated castle, and it sped away. Allesandra was flung from the skiff after an extended period of her attempting to keep hold as not to let Gaul escape. Upon tumbling to the ground her vision faded from the escaping vehicle to another vision.

In her new vision, Allesandra saw Gaul cradling the same young girl, with her face reflected in his glass domed faceplate. The rest of the party caught up to the delirious paladin murmuring about her dream. They began to question her stability. Further travel would push the limits of the entire group, as the sun sweltered and more of the massive worms and Zohera forces assailed them. Claire seemed to be adapting well gaining an aptitude towards fire, as Caldear seemed to be losing control of his agency as more incidents of his transformation arose as more pieces of the blade were recovered from the innards of the dunewinders. The group had decided against uniting all of the pieces since they seemed to trigger Caldear’s episodes. Claire had begun holding some pieces of the blade, and the voice of the blade conveyed to her that Caldear had lost a part of his mind to doubt and the presence of Rafael’s sandform version had taken safety in the recesses of the merg’s mind. When Claire asked the blade why it didn’t oust the presence of Rafael in Caldear’s mind, it replied that it was more enjoyable to weaken his mind further and feed off him slowly.

Upon arriving in the more stable plains-like southwestern area of the Keifel desert the group had become desperate for supplies. Dolcetto had taken to swindling merchants behind Allesandra’s back as he knew that theft and dishonesty would incite her rage despite its necessity in their situation. It seemed that the presence of slaves had diminished, whereas the population of Asherati had increased compared to the east. The Chimera Caravan learned of where the Zohera had stationed their base; within the crag of a deep canyon, rich with the red metal, known as Aionis. Their main vehicular base was stationed on the ground level while the nervous center of the base was underground. They reasoned that without a significant distraction to the main forces stationed aboveground they would need to cut through the thick of the forces. Caroline volunteered to be that very distraction. She gave them a window of time wherein, she would attract the attention of the main forces while they crept undetected in behind to knock out the epicenter of the base and rescue Beshoorchaka and Mira. Caroline began to arm herself and dropped the group off on the outskirts of the vision of the base, and left on her assured suicide mission.  The distraction was exactly what was needed as the main force cut through the small reserve left behind within the base with ease. They were only slowed by a dwarven man whom spoke in perfect Aarlynnian Dwarven, with a strange grey glow within his chest. He claimed that his father was a fool for believing ancient philosophy and he used his superior martial arts abilities and ability to manipulate temporal space to combat the group. His power proved too great for Allesandra, as all at once he struck her throat and neck with such force that her life was quelled in an instant. It disheartened the group in a startle to see her drop to the ground lifeless. If not for Harald quickly working his psychic ability to its limits, the paladin would have remained among the deceased. With her life restored to her, she wildly ended the time manipulating dwarf’s life in a violent outburst rending him with her bare hands and sword.

The six continued further into the bowels of the base through mining equipment and slaughtering the miners that assailed them. Caldear was overtaken by a sandform Rafael upon being disarmed of the black blade, however this ended poorly for the thieving Zohera thug. Caldear was returned to normal after an extended struggle against Rafael’s influence. The stolen Black Blade was absorbed by Claire’s and was taken back from the thug. Eventually they came to the heart of the processing center; a room filled with fine sand-like grains of Aionis metal. A brown skinned Asherati beckoned at them to stop their foolish assault and die quietly. When the Chimera’s Riders refused he began to unleash all manner of hell in the form of psionic bolts shot from both his hands and the cannons manned by a pair of underlings within the room. When they began to close in on him, the Asherati sank into the sand like Aionis and evaded them succinctly. He resurfaced to continue his firing. His tactic was yielding him great results, the Chimera group were unable to properly attack him while he manipulated the environment to his advantage. Allesandra had run ahead attempting to locate the harpy and the young Halfling, but instead found the main control and surveillance room to the facility. Upon one of the monitors, the paladin saw Caroline fighting and covered in viscera against a trio of cowering Zohera underlings. She began to question her own stability when she saw a quartet of Carolines follow in behind the first. The five Carolines quashed the three grunts quickly and moved on to causing further havoc in the vehicle hangar. Allesandra put the bizarre sight out of mind and attempted to utilize the smatterings of the common tongue of Keifel and shut down the magnetic force within the processing room where the others were still battling the asherati known as Riejieth Ooshtoo. The lack of magnetic energy between the Aionis particles rendered the ranged asherati essentially helpless and at the mercy of the Chimeric Terror. They had no mercy for the man who had shot them on the run. Zakhar ran him through with his sword with extreme prejudice.

Upon further examination, the Chimera group found, that not only were there no slaves being held at this base, but they had been being tracked by their psionic output. Nothing though could prepare them for the sight they beheld in the main power facility of base. The room was filled to the brim with many glass cylinders all glowing with psionic energy. Within all of the cylinders was held the naked body of a Halfling, funneling psionic power outwards. The Halflings of the land of Keifel had been captured and enslaved to be used as tools of psionic energy and power, trapped forever. Upon examining the catatonic beings further, the group found that the cylinder was also serving as a life support system, if the Halfling were freed, they would die shortly afterwards. Harald, who was depleted of his own psionic energy opted that they utilize the Halflings for their power in order to allow him to heal the group. Allesandra came to a point of cognitive dissonance. She didn’t wish for the Halflings to be exploited and abused for their psychic energy, however she also didn’t feel it was right for them to die just so they wouldn’t be used. She argued impotently against Harald, Dolcetto and Caldear before she acquiesced to idly stand by as Harald utilized their energy to refill his own.

Dolcetto had a sudden change of heart upon further reflection. Just before Harald was about to operate the apparatus which would pour the legion of Halflings psionic energy to refill his own, Dolcetto smashed the console controlling the flow of energy, rendering the Halfling batteries useless with the beings inside soon to die. The act was met silent confusion from Zakhar, Claire and Caldear. Enraged and exasperated, Harald exited the chamber housing the now dying Halflings and aimed the last of his psionic power in an attacking thrust at Dolcetto before collapsing from exhaustion. Allesandra, enraged and confused pushed the marksman up against the metallic panel demanding to know why he killed the Halflings after arguing fervently against it. He only responded with “I had a change in heart.” Tensions settled as the group realized that Caroline was still fighting tooth and nail in the hangar alongside her 4 copies. They quickly gathered their effects and took anything of use from the room, including a map of the desert, trade records of the organization and several ingots of Aionis. Upon arriving topside they found the Zohera hangar massive wreck and nearly deserted save for dozens of bodies in Zohera underling garb, five separate Carolines, and a massive vehicle that sat on rolling tracks. Dolcetto and Allesandra explained to Caroline that although they had not located Mira and Beshoorchaka, they now knew where they had been taken: The Zohera base located in the northeast of the desert near to the Schriemann Mesas. Caroline informed the rest of the group that splitting into multiple copies of herself had drained her greatly and she would be forced to become comatose as a result. The multiple Carolines assimilated into the one speaking to the group, until they were just the one. She removed the necklace, handed it sluggishly to Dolcetto saying “keep this safe for me,” before she fell to the ground unconscious.

The all of them decided to recuperate from their wounds in the now cleared lair of the Organization for a pair of days. They became familiar with the workings of the large skiff-tank which had been marked as Overskiff Φ, renaming it ‘The Big Tray’ and learning the basics of how to pilot it. They positioned The Chimera within the tank’s large cargo area along with their surviving mounts. During their rest, Allesandra again dreamed of the young blonde girl and Gaul, her crying face reflected in the glass of his domed face cover. The stress of travelling began to wear harder on Allesandra motivating her to attempt to destroy the Psionic batteries which contained the Halfling people. The remainder of the group retaliated by restraining her with rope until she calmed her nerves a few days later. It would take them at least two if not three weeks to reach the Northeastern Zohera Base, however with The Big Tray in tow, the trip would be greatly eased.

A few days out into their travels the group of adventurers came across a band of Gnolls who traveled on the backs of giant hyenas. They excitedly acknowledged Zakhar as a being called “The Marru”, some sort of messianic figure, and asked that he would lead them. Zakhar was very confused by the development, having never traversed the Keifel Desert before, but both Harald and Dolcetto agreed that some extra muscle would be appreciated and Zakhar played along. They introduced themselves as The Ragnat Gnolls; Holdirt, Muukuu, Sandusk, Chesst, & Agatesun. They operated the ballistae atop The Big Tray. Caroline awoke to find Allesandra still restrained and she did not protest upon hearing the reasoning. The stresses of the dreams and being held had mentally exhausted Alessandra to a point of being consistently closed off and unresponsive to talking. Before a week and a half of travel had passed, after having fended off a smaller overskiff marked α, it was at this moment that again Caldear was overtaken by Rafael, this time even more viciously intent to slay Dolcetto. Without their combined efforts, he might have succeeded. The Voice of the Black Blade callously informed Claire that a part of Caldear’s strength of will when the blade was taken from him in the Zohera Base. Claire chose to keep this knowledge to herself.

The next day before the others had awoken, Caldear spoke to Caroline concerned that if Rafael continued to rear his sandy head that she should not hold back in killing Caldear as a result of stopping Rafael. Claire awoke to hear part of this conversation and be informed by the black blade that they were coming close to the nest of the Dunewinders, and another part of the blade lied there. Claire then opted to inform both Caldear and Caroline about both these facts and what she had learned the previous day from the blade. Caroline informed them that she had no intention to go anywhere near a nest of the rending heat shooting worms and said the group wouldn’t be interested in doing so either. Caldear and Claire opted to go as a pair and risk it for the safety of the rest of the group. The two departed and Caroline watched as they rolled out across the dunes, then she began to ready The Tray to continue travelling. Harald released Allesandra upon them reaching the outskirts of a city called Ekagna. They were greeted by a magistrate who at first mistook them for members of The Zohera Organization. Upon clearing up the misconception, the magistrate allowed them to enter the city given a condition. He returned to the city, and while doing so Allesandra regained her bearings and walked out from The Big Tray towards where Zakhar and Dolcetto were waiting. The Ragnat Gnolls laughed happily atop the vehicle. The magistrate returned with a short humanoid with glassy skin, two small horns atop his head and bound wings with his hands tied behind his back. The magistrate explained that the being next to him was a salt mephit, explaining further that they come from a mountain made of salt to the northwest and are known to corrupt water and required that they slay it.

When Allesandra inquired why, the magistrate informed her that the only reasoning was that it was a salt mephit. Allesandra began to get into a heated argument with Dolcetto who had acquiesced to killing the mephit. Zakhar, however drew his sword and slaked the prisoner before Allesandra could proper halt him. Her reaction was a retaliatory strike at the wolf-folk man. This attack on Zakhar however prompted the Gnolls atop the big tray to fire the ballistae at Allesandra. She was then knocked unconscious by the magistrate’s psionic backhand. With the situation calmed down, the magistrate explained to both Zakhar and Dolcetto, that if they intended to destroy The Zohera Organization that it could create a large power vacuum which would undoubtedly be sieged upon by the salt mephitis who have been held at bay by the Zohera. He asked that if they managed to topple the Eastern Zohera Base that they also quell the threat of the salt mephitis for the good of the desert. They both agreed and returned Allesandra to The Big Tray and once again restrained her.

Upon her awakening, Harald, Caroline, Dolcetto and Zakhar all communally told her that the outbursts she was having were detrimental to them all getting home and that though they weren’t in the best of situations trying to stand up for what she felt was right was not helping their situation. She said that she would no longer set aside her morals for the rest of them and that she intended to separate from them and find her own methods of returning to Aaralynn. They untied her and she gathered her belongings and set out on her horse Faress without a word to the others. Setting off that day after gathering supplies in the city Allesandra found the desert harsh to deal with without her paladin abilities. The remaining four of them purchased their own supplies and left out from the city later that night.

Allesandra was faster on her own outside the hulking tank of the Tray, however her supplies began to run thin as she reached the next settlement, Ern, having no food for the day of the night she arrived. Outside of Ern she came up to Gaul standing beside an overskiff, at first unaware of her until she spoke. Allesandra noticed a tome with a symbol of her deity, Mileni, on the spine. When she approached and questioned him about the book, even the demonically deep voice couldn’t mask that Gaul was tensely nervous. Once Allesandra told Gaul that the book was emblazoned with a symbol of her deity, he psionically rushed off into the overskiff and it began to speed away, leaving Allesandra behind. That night Allesandra’s dreams changed once again. Now the young blond girl sank into a pool of liquid metal before Allesandra reached her hand in to save her before she drowned. Rather than pull up the blond girl however she pulled out Gaul by the hand with both their forearms were covered in the liquid metal.

Without Claire talking to the Black Blade, Caldear transforming into Rafael, or Allesandra antagonizing their efforts, things were relatively uneventful Caroline noted as she piloted the Skiff-Tank over the sands. The Big Tray was intercepted by a pair of smaller, more maneuverable Overskiffs marked σ and τ. From the pair of overskiffs a cadre of Zohera forces led by Gaul assaulted The Big Tray. Harald caused himself significant bio-psychic damage as feedback from attempting to help better the Tray during the assault. Gaul formed a psionic wall enclosing himself next to the engine of the machine and began to destroy it. Zakhar managed to break through a portion of the wall, but Gaul continually psionically deflected the Wolf-folks attacks. Having done significant damage to the engine of their craft Gaul psionically warped back to the smaller ships which were being attacked in return by Dolcetto and The Ragnat Company. Gaul gave a signal to abandon to the overskiffs, and struck a section of the machinery as the remaining Zohera began to board sand sailing skiffs. The Zohera and Gaul escaped from the two smaller skiffs as the adventuring party returned to their own craft in the nick of time. The σ and τ  Overskiffs crashed into the sand dunes, mechanically failing. The damage to The Big Tray’s engine was great indeed, only trudging along at a quarter the previous pace. As The Big Tray continued past the wreckage of the σ and τ, the Ragnat Company warned the adventurers of the Infamous Overskiff ω, An overskiff twice the size of The Big Tray that once annihilated an outpost that stood in opposition to The Zohera. It supposedly was positioned to guard the eastern base. This information did not come as good news as The Big Tray rolled into Ern functioning just enough.

Allesandra’s efforts to learn more information in town had not fared well due to the cultural divide, and some still present language barriers. Two days had passed by without her learning anything of value on either the Zohera Organization’s technologies, or sources of knowledge where she could find out more. By the afternoon of the next day, The Big Tray had parked outside of Ern, sending a column of smoke into the open sky. Allesandra’s curiosity overwhelmed her pride, and she decided to approach Dolcetto upon seeing the Big Tray pull up. Caroline, Harald, and Zakhar eventually came out from The Tray. Their collective conversation was strained but non-confrontational as they both explained what had occurred to themselves. They decided that their chances of survival were probably only viable if they remained together regardless of their ideological differences. As their conversation was finishing Harald noticed a large cloud of dust fast approaching the town. Upon closer examination, the group noticed that at the front of the cloud was Claire and Caldear both carrying small worm-like creatures in their arms, followed behind by another larger Dunewinder than the last they had seen. They could tell the pair were wounded, but they both held a part of the Black Blade. They all turned to each other and eventually all looked at Caroline with a look saying ‘we need to do something about this’. The bounty hunter sighted audibly and exasperatedly said “These people…”

Though the merg and mind-blade were both moderately wounded from their venture, they lent their efforts in keep away from the adult Dunewinder as the others assaulted it with fervor before it could devour the two and destroy the town. Caroline commented that their reunion was so convenient that it must have been divinely influenced. The infant dunewinders were quick to become material to trade for in town. The foreman at the garage informed the group that The Big Tray would be completely out of commission for an extended period and the repairs would be intensely costly. Dolcetto spoke frankly to him informing him that their friends had been captured weeks prior and that they needed all haste to rescue them. The man said he didn’t have any other real options he could offer, and provided worse news, saying that if their friends had been taken as slaves, there was a great likelihood they had been traded into the neighboring country of Schriemann. Dolcetto left the man’s office at his wit’s end, but another worker, Rejj Addar Zamin had eavesdropped on the conversation informed the now reunited group that he could provide them with supplies and mounts to re-outfit the Chimera with sails to help it cross the dunes quicker in exchange for a favor from the group. His sister had been a psionically gifted girl and was stolen away by The Zohera Organization and sold to a noble in the Schriemann Mesas named Bavarra Huell Jo Yurrara. He wanted them to bring his sister back safe and sound. They agreed and he provided them with the supplies and effort in upgrading The Chimera to be run by a pack of giant hyenas, and with sails that caught the wind. It truly now did resemble the multi-headed beast it was named for. Soon word had spread from the town of “The Chimeric Terror” that was the all of them.

The Chimera encountered yet another Dunewinder before long in its path paving towards The Eastern Base, but its reckless abandon in attacking was its undoing. It didn’t take advantage of its surroundings as the others that had come before it had, seemingly enraged, and the group gained yet another part of the black blade again. Though Muukuu had perished in the death throes explosion of the Dunewinder, the Gnolls didn’t seem to mourn death, and were strangely happy. Not because she was dead, but because she would meet Corbin. They were a strange lot the Ragnat Gnolls. The group was but two days away from the location of the eastern base before they were met by the Overskiff marked ω approached them on the dunes. The group prepared to have to fight to the death to even make an effort to quench the massive tank. Gaul stood atop the Overskiff next to a cannon that began to glow with a bright pink energy, before there was a loud rumbling emerging out from the ground. The Overskiff ω began to float unevenly out into the air, toppling around as the sound of crunching metal echoed out from it. It was clear that it was shrinking not of its own volition, and Gaul psionically teleported far away from the tank that began to fold in on itself. As it floated higher, the rumbling began to increase in intensity and volume, and it folded yet again, faster and faster until it was no more than a crumpled blood soaked husk one hundredth of its former size. The rumbling intensified until out from with the ground emerged a black silver and red Dunewinder with a giant purple crystal encrusted in a deep scar on the front of its head. It turned around to address the Chimeric Terror telepathically. It informed them that they had slain all the other adult Dunewinders leaving it the sole survivor of the species, as the larval Dunewinders were unfit to fend for themselves, and would die. It explained that it, Aphgemgo, had been appointed sentience and certain responsibilities of the desert by Corbin years prior. Aphgemgo conveyed to them that he was soon to perish as well and needed the deific intercession of Corbin’s son, Noyan and asked that they obtain Noyan’s help to right the situation. Once again, the group agreed to give a favor of their effort. In return Aphgemgo relinquished the part of the Black Blade which it held, and in addition summoned the other Companies of Gnolls that roamed the Keifel desert to aid the Chimeric Terror in assaulting The Eastern Base. The group left with renewed drive to topple the Zohera Base.

Just outside the city of Emeena, the group saw as Gaul ran injured by a psionic jamming dagger, being chased by a group of Zohera thugs. Although the situation was unclear, Allesandra leaped out from the vehicle to run to the aid of Gaul, jumping between the injured elocator and the oncoming thugs. A bright beam of light descended down from the sky as Allesandra’s body began to glow bright and she felt her paladinic abilities return en masse to her. Both this divine intercession and the group of about forty gnolls approaching closely behind prompted the assailing thugs to flee back to the city. Gaul nervously thanked the paladin as she helped to dress the masked man’s wounds. The rest of the group approached at the ready to execute the being that had caused them so much pain. Allesandra asked them to hold off before removing the mask of the former Zohera cohort to show it was a woman of blond hair beneath the suit.

Allesandra told them that her goddess had been sending her visions telling her to save the woman, and that slaying Gaul would first mean dealing with her. A touch confused, but still tense the group discussed with her what was going on. The woman told them her name was Rethett Gaul, and she hid her identity to avoid being oppressed or sold as a slave, however she had been found out by Bandall Forth Corbo and after her numerous failures to stop the Chimeric Terror, she was ousted. She explained to the group how the Eastern Base was set up as a communications hub and that she had already seen “the winged one” be transported off to the Nation of Schriemann, but that “the non-psychic Halfling” was in the ownership of Bandall Forth Corbo, the second in command of The Eastern Base. She said that assaulting the base would be near suicide. Undeterred, the Chimeric Terror continued forward with their plan to assail the communications base. Caroline remained on The Chimera just outside of the city to watch over their new “friend”, and Zakhar borrowed The Petal Necklace.

The garage of the first floors was made quick work by the dozens of Gnolls and the main group slid past the main guarding force in the chaos of the assault. Rising into the slave quarters they were faced with children being psychically controlled to attack them. Though they were weak, there were many and they were vicious and the group was forced to cut down a majority of them, before reaching their controller. A Portly man that confirmed himself to be Bandall Forth Corbo the head slaver and master of the mind-controlled children stood at the entrance of a door laughing only interrupted by raucous coughing. He was flanked by a trio of oddly strong elves. It occurred to them that they had yet seen an elf in their travels through the desert. During their struggle, though Caldear held a part of the Black Blade, Rafael began to form out from his body once again at the most inopportune time. Caldear found himself trapped within his mind struggling for control of his body against Rafael. Just when it seemed as though Rafael would overtake the merg, a vision of Caldear’s mentor Duncan appeared from the recesses of Caldear’s psyche. His reappearance gave Caldear the drive to realize that it was his guilt overtaking him, rather than truly Rafael’s soul magically overtaking him. Finding concentration and inner calm, Caldear dissipated his guilt and the form of Rafael slipped away, not to return. Upon being able to strike the now wildly coughing Bandall, his blood leaked slowly and thickly like a black tar. He seemed to be afflicted by a strange disease which he could not stop coughing from. He was cut down quickly only for the group to find his innards had also been apparently rotting into the same black sludge his body was leaking. Inside the room on the bed sat Beshoorchaka huddled together who spoke with a stiffened voice on the verge of crying only wanting to know if they had found Mr. Noyan and if they could go home yet. It was clear his status was not stable, as he began uncontrollably crying. They found a record of the trades of slaves into the Schriemann Mesas.

Ascending through the main communications tower they reached the zenith of the building met by a man in a strange cold room filled with many Psionic machines. He was dressed in a mechanical suit which formed around his entire body covered in psionic diodes apparently. His name was Volster Eikolgo Umar. He turned to them to chastise their efforts at overthrowing the power structure of the Keifel Desert. He finished with “What good is all of your effort to bring “right” to the land when it will be no more than a single grain of sand in an endless desert?”

As the group made themselves prepared proper for combat Dolcetto replied simply “What more is a desert than a collection of grains of sand?”

The fight was intense as the man formed strange walls and spears of ice, walking through the air using his psychic powers. Through the sharpshooting of Dolcetto, and Caldear, the sheer strength of Allesandra and Zakhar with his four copies, the fire spouting psychics of Claire, and the healing capabilities of Harald they bested Eikolgo. With a final sword strike Zakhar struck the man dead and he fell to the ground deceased. Upon removing the Petal Necklace Zakhar fell into a deep sleep as Caroline had prior. They found a letter he was writing with nothing more than ‘To my dear son” written at the top. They left the base a ruin riddled with the bodies of the Zohera and disabled the communications capabilities of the building. They returned to Caroline and Rethett knowing that their next objective would be to travel into the neighboring country of Schriemann.

End of Episode Six
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