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 Episode Five: The Darkest Descent; Story

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Just_Irving
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PostSubject: Episode Five: The Darkest Descent; Story   Sat May 30, 2015 2:28 am

The Short Version: It's darker than you can ever hope to recover from.


Last edited by Just_Irving on Sat May 30, 2015 2:34 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Episode Five: The Darkest Descent; Story   Sat May 30, 2015 2:31 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: Re: Episode Five: The Darkest Descent; Story   Sat May 30, 2015 2:32 am

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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Dungeons and Dragons :: Irving's Campaign: Oh! What a Wonderful World :: Story Information :: Series 1-
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