Arcanis: Gonnes, Sons, and Treasure Runs (COMPLETED) - Page 46
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    Cut Throat's Gold - Part 6b: The Lair of the Necromancer

    The horrible cloud reeked with sulfur. Vlad and Sebastian were incapacitated, retching helplessly as the stench overcame them.

    “Bijoux!” choked Sebastian. “As we rehearsed!”

    The fihali spread her arms wide and closed her eyes. “Onara is displeased.” A deep purr emanated from Bijoux. “She will not tolerate your desecration, necromancer.”

    The undead corpses flailed as the creepers and vines that had suffocated the crumbling masonry sprang to life. Long-dead limbs were entwined; some of the dead were lifted up in the air like helpless marionettes.

    Tomas sputtered in rage. Half his army had been decimated in mere moments. “I’ll show you desecration! Atrum pampinea!

    Rubbery black tentacles sprang forth from the earth, entwining Ilmarė, Cal and Dril.

    Kham dove to the side as a tentacle sprung up and then flipped underneath another one that nearly decapitated him with a violent swipe. He navigated through the briar patch of weeds and vines, sidestepping just in time to avoid a trapped skeleton’s swing.

    He landed on his feet. Kham looked up, only to see a hunched man in gravedigger’s attire. “Don’t tell me, you’re the lackey.”

    Herbert’s arms were over his head, gripping a large shovel. “Hnnnnh!”

    Then the shovel came down on Kham and he didn’t see anything at all.

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    Cut Throat's Gold - Part 6c: The Lair of the Necromancer

    Beldin spit bile out of his mouth and charged around the brambles. Two large, very dead ogres stumped towards him with huge clubs in their hands.

    “Come on!” shouted the dwarf with a feral grin. “I know how to fight your kind!”

    The first ogre slammed downwards, but Beldin rolled tightly in a ball to the side and came up next to its leg. With a mighty swing, he nearly hewed the ogre’s foot off at the ankle. A living ogre would have been fatally incapacitated. But these were no living ogres.

    The second one swung at Beldin, but it was too slow. Instead, it ended up smashing into the other ogre. Beldin took the opportunity to roll out of the way.

    When he rose up, the dwarf hurled a throwing axe at the back of the head of the other ogre. Again, it would normally have been a killing shot. The ogre spun, Beldin’s axe still protruding from its head, and moaned in a feeble approximation of rage.

    “I could use a little help!” shouted Beldin as the two ogres turned to face him.

    There was a primal roar as Cal’s earflaps sprang up. The tentacle strained and then was torn in half as he burst free from its confines.

    The ss’ressen turned to Dril, who met his gaze with eyes wide.

    Cal advanced on him. Dril’s arms were pinned. He was helpless.

    Claws ripped into the tentacles. With a mighty burst of black ichor, the tentacle squeezing Dril gave out. It twitched wildly and then fell to the ground as Dril slipped out of its grip.

    A long claw, dripping in black goo, pointed at Ilmarė. “Help her,” said Cal. “I’ve got work to do.”

    Dril watched in disbelief as the enraged ss’ressen barreled straight towards Tomas, heedless of all the obstacles in between. With a mighty swing of his tail, the remains of a wall were slapped out of the way. Two corpses moved to intercept, but Cal swept them aside with a slash from his two-handed axe. A third looked up at him and moaned pathetically before Cal bit down on its head and worried the corpse like a dog with a bone.

    It was all the second ogre could do to block the ball of reptilian rage’s axe with his club. The force of the blow dug up furrows at the ogre’s feet.

    “Better,” said Beldin. He dove between the first ogre’s legs and hacked upwards, cleaving its hipbones in twain. The dead ogre split apart at the seams, collapsing in a pile of dusty bones and leathery skin.

    With another bellow, Cal hacked the head of the ogre clean off its shoulders. It too collapsed into its component parts.

    Beldin was too busy watching Cal’s feat of strength to notice Herbert creeping up behind him. He caught a glimpse of a shovel whistling towards his head. Then all was dark.

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    Cut Throat's Gold - Part 6d: The Lair of the Necromancer

    Kham decided being six-feet under wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Thanks to his ring, he was completely unhindered; by tentacles, by brambles, by dirt. It gave him time to focus.

    Kham concentrated as he was briefly slicked with a translucent, shimmering substance. His heart pounded with new energy as his entire metabolism sped up. He was going to need it.

    With a mighty leap, Kham launched himself out of the shallow grave, Fleshripper in both hands.

    Tomas’ back was to Kham, but as the val came down he stepped aside. “You’re not dead? Vell, let’s fix dat.” He pointed at Kham. “Pavor!

    Kham felt a momentary wash of fear flow over him. It passed as quickly as it had come. “I’ve fought gods before,” said Kham. “I’m not going to run away from a wuss like you.” He took another clumsy swing at Tomas.

    The necromancer stepped out of the reach of his blade. “You are really beginning to irritate me. Terreo!

    Kham felt another moment of panic for a split-second. It was enough to make him miss Tomas with another swing, but it wore off immediately.

    Tomas blinked. “Let’s see how you react to de chill of de grave! Exanimus attingo!” The necromancer’s hand crackled with black energy. He reached out to touch Kham…

    But was stopped short by an invisible shield. Kham swung Fleshripper in a wide arc, nicking Tomas’ armor. A piece of bone chipped off of it.

    “Damn it! Vhat de hell are you?” Tomas pointed at Kham again. “Sopor!

    This time the spell took hold. Kham blinked and fell to his knees. Then he fell backwards, unconscious.

    “Finally!” Tomas whirled, aggravated. “Dis is taking too long. You minions are useless! De only one I can rely on is Herbert. So let’s find another use for you.”

    He extended one hand, and one by one, the corpses who were entangled in Bijoux’s briar exploded into dust. Black bolts of energy surged from the evaporated bodies into Tomas.

    “Much better.” He flexed his hands with renewed strength. “And now, Herbert, it’s time you cleaned up dis mess.” He pointed at Herbert and a crackled bolt of necromancy flew into Tomas’ minion.

    The much smaller Herbert blocked the blow from Cal’s axe with ease. The ss’ressen looked on in disbelief as the sewn-lipped henchman batted him aside with his shovel. Cal collided with a piece of masonry that collapsed on top of him.

    Vlad finally broke Ilmarė free of the last of the tentacles. “Kham’s down!” She gasped for breath. “But he’s not dead. He’s asleep.” Kham had collapsed right behind the necromancer. “If we can wake him…”

    “Bijoux!” shouted Sebastian. “You’ve got to summon something to wake Kham!”

    The fihali, ears flat against her head, was balanced on one of the ruined walls. “Onara’s creatures shun this place. I have no magic that will…wait a minute.” She reached into her belt pouch to pull out a small green snake. “Espion. I would ask for your help.”

    The snake bobbed its head in response.

    “Go,” she said, dropping it to the ground. “Find Kham and wake him.”

    “That’s the best you can do?” said Dril in disbelief. “You sent a snake to save us?”

    “Yig works in mysterious ways,” she replied.
    Last edited by talien; Thursday, 17th April, 2008 at 11:18 AM.

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    Cut Throat's Gold - Part 6e: The Lair of the Necromancer

    Tomas pointed at the cluster of enemies in the distance. “Acervus adfero vulna levis!

    A black blast of energy exploded around Cal, Vlad, Dril, Bijoux, and Ilmarė. They fell to their knees as the necromancy sapped their vitality.

    Sebastian pointed two fingers at Herbert, who stumped towards the helpless Cal. “Ustilo radius!

    Two entwined rays of fire engulfed the undead servant. “Hnnnnh!” said Herbert. Then he fell into a smoldering heap.

    “Nooo!” shrieked Tomas. Beldin struggled out of the ground as Tomas raised one palm. “You killed Herbert! You vill pay for dat vith your LIFE! Algor…

    From across the field, Sebsatian knew he was doomed. He had seen Tomas use that same spell on his enemies before. A blast of ice would spew from his palm, flash-freezing anything in its path. And the only thing in its path was a dark-kin with no magic left to protect him.

    …conus!” Beldin charged into Tomas’ line of sight just as the spell went off.

    It was as if Tomas held a snowstorm in the palm of his hand. Ice and sleet blasted outwards, creating windswept icicles in Sebastian’s direction. And yet, he was alive.

    Tomas blinked down at a jagged blade that jutted from his ribcage. Kham stood behind him. The necromancer fell to the ground, dead.

    But it was too late. A frozen statue stood in front of Sebastian, shield up in front of him, axe at the ready. He glistened in the sunlight, completely encrusted in ice.

    “Beldin!” Sebastian ran over to the dwarf. The others gathered around him.

    Dril kneeled down to inspect Beldin’s body. He rose slowly and shook his head. “I’m sorry,” he said to Sebastian. “No one could survive that.”

    “He sacrificed his life to save mine,” said Sebastian, tears in his eyes. “I’m so sorry.”

    Vlad put one hand on Sebastian’s shoulder. “It’s not too late,” he said softly. “We may still have a chance.”

    “What?” asked Dril.

    ”Of course!” Sebastian hopped to his feet. “Quickly, gather all the healing potions you can find. We must administer them to Beldin.”

    “He’s gone,” said Ilmarė. “We must honor his death by accepting it.”

    “You don’t understand!” Sebastian wiped the back of one sleeve across his eyes. “Beldin can come back!”

    “How?” asked Dril.

    “We must heal him before the day is out. His soul is in his soul shard. If we can heal his corpse before sunset…” Sebsatian patted himself down and pulled out one small vial. “It’s not…” he poured it into Beldin’s mouth. “It’s not enough.”

    “The sun is setting…” said Vlad.

    Sebastian looked around, pleadingly. “Please. We owe it to him.”

    “He sacrificed his life to save my people.” Cal tore a gourd off from the rope that acted as the belt for his loincloth. “For that, I will be forever grateful.” He threw it at Beldin’s feet. Bijoux silently added another gourd from her own belt pouch.

    “He’s saved my life more times than I can count.” Vlad dropped a vial at Beldin’s feet.

    “What he said.” Kham dropped what looked like a tiny wine bottle to the collection.

    “I didn’t know him very well,” said Dril. “But I saw enough to know that he’s a good man worth saving.” He tossed a vial into the mix.

    All eyes turned to Ilmarė. She took a deep breath. “When elorii die, our souls are reborn in the womb of another elorii. Poor Beldin is trapped forever in this form. Here is my contribution.” She placed a delicate vial in Sebastian’s open palms. Then she closed his hands around it. “May it find you both peace.”

    “I hope this works,” said Vlad.

    “It has to!” Sebastian bit his lip, overcome with emotion. “Help me pours these vials into his mouth. We haven’t much time.”

    Dril and Sebastian set to work removing administering the potions to Beldin as the fading light disappeared over the Sulfur Marsh.

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    Cut Throat's Gold - Part 7: Conclusion

    “You have returned!” said Krisharr. “Asss wasss foretold by the prophecy!”

    Cal returned to the village triumphantly, with Bijoux at his side. The corpse of Tomas Hariot was slung over his shoulder.

    Next came Vlad and Dril, carrying sacks over their shoulders.

    Kham sauntered by, along with the ever-graceful Ilmarė.

    Finally, two figures brought up the rear. Sebastian helped a limping Beldin into the village.

    “Squeak!” said the little ssanu, hopping up and down at the foot of the Yig temple. Krisharr stood next to him.

    Cal dropped the corpse of Tomas at the foot of the steps. “I have killed the enemy.” He bowed low. “We are free of the Cancerite.”

    A cheer went up around them. Or rather, strange, sibilant hissing that the non-reptilians assumed was a reasonable substitution for applause.

    “Rissse, champion,” said Krisharr. “You and your companionsss have done well. We have but one lassst tasssk.”

    Dril and Vlad exchanged nervous glances. They just wanted to go home.

    “The parentsss mussst name our young sssanu.”

    “Squeak!” replied the ssanu enthusiastically.

    “Parents?” asked Dril.

    “Yesss.” Krisharr waved his staff towards Kham. “You are asss much a guardian as Calactyte.”

    Kham pointed at himself. “Me? No way, I’m not…” he looked nervously over at Dril, who was staring at him with narrowed eyes.

    “Do you not carry the amulet of Yig?” asked Krisharr.

    “Well, yes, but—“

    “It wasss foretold that he who carriesss the sssign of Yig would be rousssed from hisss ssstupor in a time of need by a ssserpent. Did thisss not happen to you both?”

    “Yes,” said Cal. “I was attacked by a kri’kla while I slept.”

    Kham bit his lip as he considered lying. “Well, yes, something did bite me, but Hariot knocked me out—“

    Bijoux’s tail flicked back and forth. She made no comment.

    “Then it isss sssettled. You are hisss,” he said a word none of them could understand. “Choossse a name.”

    Cal straightened up. “We have decided on Emric.”

    “What?” asked Kham. “But that’s…ah, forget it. Fine.”

    Krisharr nodded. “Emric it isss. Bow before Emric, Chosssen One of Yig!”

    The other ss’ressen kneeled in supplication, chanting “Emric” over and over.

    “Squeak!” said Emric.

    “I don’t believe this,” Dril said to Kham. “Are you that thing’s parent now?”

    Kham shrugged. “Stranger things have happened.” He turned back to Krisharr. “There’s someone I’d like you to speak with in Freeport, my home. His name is K’Stallo. You can communicate with him through Sulfurmarsh Sendings. Hariot was plundering your heritage, ancient Valossan secrets that he was going to give to the Cancerites. It’s more than we can possibly carry back. Ask Alissstar to translate whatever you find. It’s high time we brought this tribe up to date.”

    Krisharr nodded. “We will alwaysss be in touch,” the squat ss’ressen said, nodding at the amulet Kham wore. “Yig hasss great thingsss in ssstore for you.”

    “That’s…great,” said Kham. “Well, I’m going to get out of Milandir. I think we’ve spent enough time out of Freeport that things should have died down. And I’d like to show this stuff to K’Stallo.”

    “So you’re actually helping the scalebacks now?” asked Dril.

    “No,” said Kham slowly. “I’m helping my friends.” He smiled over at Beldin and Sebastian. “They’re few and far between.”

    “We will stay,” said Cal. “Bijoux can help heal their wounds now that the Cancerite’s necromancy is no more.”

    “What was that word Krisharr used to describe Kham?” Bijoux asked Cal.

    “In Low Coryan it means ‘father’,” he replied.

    “There’s one thing I don’t understand,” said Ilmarė. “If Kham’s the father, then what does that make you?”

    Cal grinned a crocodile’s grin. “MOMMA’S COMING!”

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    Chapter 25: The Last Resort - Introduction

    This is one of a series of adventures in Tales of Freeport, "The Last Resort," written by Graeme Davis and (loosely) set in the Arcanis setting. It also includes elements from “Tatters of the King,” a Call of Cthulhu adventure written by Tim Wiseman. Finally, Three-Dragon Ante is an important part of this adventure. You can read more about Arcanis at http://www.onaraonline.org. Please note: This adventure contains spoilers!

    Our cast of characters includes:

    • Dungeon Master: Michael Tresca (http://michael.tresca.net)
    • Beldin Soulforge (dwarf fighter) played by Joe Lalumia
    • Ilmarė Galen (elf bard/fighter) played by Amber Tresca
    • Kham Val’Abebi(val rogue/psychic warrior) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://www.ninjarobotstudios.com)
    • Sebastian Arnyal (dark-kin sorcerer) played by George Webster

    This adventure is actually a combination of two adventures, combining the prologue of Tatters of the King by Time Wiseman with The Last Resort. It required some tweaking.

    First, I had to get the PCs back to Freeport. This commenced with a letter from Egil imploring Kham to return and act as a character witness on Lucius Roby’s behalf. It turns out that Lucius’ brother, Grahame Roby, accused him of the murder of his father and sister. Egil hopes Kham’s influence in Freeport can bail Lucius out from life in the Tombs.

    As a result of Milton Drac’s death, the owners of the Pale Plate have finally had a turn of luck. Drac hated them, knowing that they sometimes harbored Freeport dissidents. When he died, the pressure was off and business boomed, such that the owners (Bobbin Brandydale and his brother, Edgar) decided to buy The Last Resort.

    As a favor to the Brandydales, Countess d’Amberville (a madam of the Salon du Masque) decides to generate some of her own business. She proposes a masquerade at The Last Resort to kick off the grand opening of a new play debuting at the Freeport Opera House by Talbot Estus, titled “The Queen and the Stranger.” Since the play ends with a masquerade, and the Countess never takes off her mask, this seems fitting.

    To start with, the adventure is very much a character piece, so I wanted the characters to be memorable. Rather than introduce a slew of NPCs that would be quickly forgotten, I decided to combine and replace several plots.
    • Plot 1: Thralen Vodric val’Ossan and Emric Ossan-Drac have returned, in secret, to lay claim to the Sea Lord’s throne. These two replaced a King and his daughter from some random nation.
    • Plot 2: Aljandros Haddon, who was last seen running for his life, moved to Freeport only to discover that his wife Imelda is having an affair with Thomas Rhymer at The Last Resort.
    • Plot 3: Henry Tranco, the only named NPC to remain basically unaltered from the original adventure, is hosting a high-stakes game of Three-Dragon Ante as a favor to the Brandydales to attract rich clients.
    • Plot 4: Two rival cults of the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign believe Egil to be the Chosen One, someone whom they must sacrifice at midnight. Their lack of coordination shows just how badly disorganized the cult is with the loss of Milton Drac.
    • Plot 5: Speaking of Egil, we finally discover how he’s managed to pay the PCs up to this point. Hint: He borrowed the money from the wrong people, and said people want it back…with interest. Egil’s flat broke of course, so it’s up to the PCs (who technically were the beneficiaries of the money originally) to help him pay it back.
    • Plot 6: As proof of Emric’s claim to the throne, Thralen wears the Seal of Drac. The ring is not easy to duplicate. Little does he know that someone already knows he’s at The Last Resort and plans to steal it.
    • Plot 7: Captain Baldric, who happens to be staying at The Last Resort, is about to find out that Captain Wendron Krubach is not so forgiving about the theft of his treasure. Even though he’s dead.
    • Plot 8: Edward, who took over captaining duties of the Shrike, got his hands on something from the Valossan city (where Calactyte lives) that he shouldn’t have. He plans to sell it. The cargo has other plans.
    Whew! I get tired just writing about it.

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    The Last Resort - Prologue

    The Shrike sat languidly on the docks of Sulfurmarsh as Kham reread the note that Egil had sent him. He had taken off his lenses in a rare unguarded moment, enjoying the glittering trail of the setting sun on the ocean’s surface.

    His pupiless eyes scanned Egil’s tight scrawl: “…a terrible incident occurred and Lucius’ father and sister were left murdered. His brother only recently arrived in Freeport and accused him of the murder, whereupon Lucius was committed to The Tombs… I know you are a friend of Lucius, as am I. Together, perhaps we can save him from certain death in The Tombs.”

    “You must really be a good friend to Lucius,” said the dark-kin, Sebastian, over his shoulder.

    Kham shrugged. “I owe Egil a favor,” he said. “Besides, deep down, Lucius is a good kid. I don’t believe he really killed anybody.”

    Sebastian nodded. “You’d be surprised what we’re all capable of, when pressed,” he said solemnly. “But I understand your loyalty,” he smiled distantly at his dwarven companion, who was busy trying not to get sick at the other end of the boat. “Good friends are hard to find.”

    Kham put his green lenses back on. “So why are you going?”

    It was Sebastian’s turn to shrug. “I have Shield business in Freeport.”

    “Right,” said Kham. “Forgot about that. Well, you probably won’t see very much of me. I’ve been away from Freeport for too long. I’ve got my own business to take care of.”

    “Of course,” Sebastian said with a smirk.

    “That doesn’t explain why the elf’s going.” Kham nodded in the direction of Ilmarė, who stood wistfully at the front of the Shrike. “She almost looks sad.”

    “I think the elorii had to make a difficult choice,” said Sebastian. “We have not heard from Quintus in some time.”

    “Yeah, life’s tough,” said Kham. He patted Fleshripper, the bloodthirsty blade that never left his side.

    Sebastian was about to say something when several men clambered up the gangplanks behind them. He turned to watch Edward, the temporary captain of the Shrike, usher his crew up the gangplank. They were all winded and sweating.

    “Well it’s about time,” said Kham.

    “We had some last minute cargo to stow,” said Edward in his usual monotone. “We’ll be off in a few.”

    “Good,” said Kham. “We need to get to Freeport quickly. A man’s life may depend on it.”

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    The Last Resort - Part 1a: Opening Night

    Ilmarė crossed her arms, aggravated. They were standing in line to see a play at the Freeport Opera House. Judging from the fliers tacked up all over, it was titled “The Queen and the Stranger.”

    “This play better be good,” she said. “Kham said Egil was going to meet us outside here, but I’ve seen neither hide nor hair of him.”

    “Me neither,” Beldin looked around. “Not that I could pick him out of the crowd.” The audience was drawn from all social classes, dressed in their best.

    “I know,” said Ilmarė. “Humans all look the same to me too.”

    Beldin frowned. “That’s not what I meant.”

    The doors finally open. As they entered, Beldin and Ilmarė were handed a playbill along with a cast list.

    The interior of the theater is gloomy, with illumination coming from lamps evenly set around the red-painted walls and from the foot lamps below the stage’s edge. The theater was less than half full—there are about a hundred people present.

    The elf and dwarf were ushered in, pressed by the expanding crowd. Ilmarė’s eyes scanned the page.

    “Oh no,” she said.

    “What?” asked Beldin. He looked around, hand resting on the axe at his belt.

    “Look at the cast list.”

    Beldin stared at the piece of paper still in his hand. It read: “The part of THE KING IN YELLOW will be played by MR. TALBOT ESTUS.”

    “We’d better go.” Beldin stood up to move, but then the orchestra stuck up a tune, the curtains rose, and the audience could do nothing but watch.

    In the first scene, Queen Cassilda discussed matters of succession with her three children: Uoht, Thale and Camilla. The sons argued and complained to their mother, but Cassilda did not give them the attention they wished, and in the end she wearily sent them away.

    In the second scene, Cassilda read aloud from a scroll a report that named her city as Yhtill and her kingdom as Hastur and talked of an ongoing war against the Kingdom of Alar. A child with jeweled fingers entered. It was unclear if the child was another of the queen’s sons, although he talked to her with familiarity and even bullied her. They spoke of Carcosa, a wandering dream-like city which is a place of several unusual aspects: it appeared overnight, it is either on or beyond the waters below the palace, Hali; the towers of the city slip behind the moons at night and on seeing the city, one knows its name. A fifth singularity, no one spoke of.

    In the third scene, the queen greeted a white masked stranger, who appeared indifferent to her status. It was then that the stranger threw up his arms to reveal the Yellow sign painted on breast and sleeve.

    Behind them, someone screamed.

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    The Last Resort - Part 1b: Opening Night

    “We should leave,” said Ilmarė. She put her hand on the hilt of her thinblade. “Now.”

    “We can’t,” said Beldin. “There’s too many humans in the way.”

    A couple of audience members appeared to have been overcome by mild hysterics and there was muffled sobbing from more. One or two gentlemen were conversing rather loudly about the play in deprecating terms as though seeking support. But many other audience members appeared to be spellbound.

    She snorted. “So? We’d only have to kill a few to get out…” Before she could finish speaking, the curtains rose again.

    A masked ball was taking place on the palace balcony. The guests were finely dressed, intricately masked and they moved to music played by the house orchestra. It took a moment to see the Stranger; he wore a bone white mask and moved stiffly and without gaiety.

    After awhile the revelers began to take off their masks. Their eyes looked bright and their actions were extravagant, unrestrained. The stranger kept his mask—rather, he wore no mask! He grasped the Queen by the arm and she collapsed.

    Another figure appeared in tattered robes.

    “The King in Yellow,” snarled Ilmarė.

    He was huge and he held a sword and a torch that emitted smoke but no light. He talked with the Queen and the priest. From asides amongst the revelers it was clear that all had seen the Sign, all must wear the mask—Yhtill had become Carcosa and they were no longer entirely human.

    The King disappeared. Out of the crowd of fear-stricken guests ran the child. He went to the Stranger, who himself had fallen to the ground, and took him by the hand to follow in the wake of the King. The final lines of dialogue petered out somehow, distorted and lost.

    The curtain fell and suddenly all was uproar. With the ending of the play, it was though a spell had been lifted.

    Two men rushed forward toward the curtain, where they were met by stagehands; three others turn on the audience.

    A woman scratched and clawed at Ilmarė. Her elven thinblade was out in a flash, slicing a thin red trail across the woman’s arm. Heedless of any injury, the woman leaped forward, pressing her heavier bulk against the much lighter elf.

    Beldin batted the insane woman aside with the flat of his axe. “I can’t hold them all off!” he shouted.

    Another man next to him bashed Beldin over the head with a bottle. The bottle shattered with no effect on the hardheaded dwarf. Beldin used the haft of his axe to smash the man in the gut. He crumpled in a heap.

    The Sea Lord’s Guard was already making their way through the crowd, beating people with clubs indiscriminately. People turned from attacking each other to running and screaming. What little order was left in the Opera House dissolved into utter chaos.

    “The guard finally arrives on time for a change.” Ilmarė ducked the swing of a man’s cane. She vaulted herself onto the chair of one of the opera house seats and then flipped over the frothing man. She landed lightly on her feet…

    Only to have one hand cuffed by a pair of manacles.

    “Hey!” she shouted, but two other guardsmen grabbed her roughly by the arms and slapped the other half of the manacles on her wrists.

    “Cor, we gots a wild one!” Three guardsmen closed in on Beldin. A fourth guard held the side of his bleeding head.

    “I’d leave him be if I were you,” said Ilmarė. “Solani dwarves are sworn to protect humans. If he wanted to hurt you, you’d be dead by now.”

    “Izzat right?” said a particularly ugly guardsmen with a sneer. “Well let’s see if the lil fuzzy stumper’s got any life in ‘em then?”

    “What did you call me?” roared Beldin.

    Ilmarė sighed. “I told you not to do that.”

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    The Last Resort: Part 2: A Riot

    Kham caught sight of Egil gesturing at him from across the confused mob that spilled out into Freeport’s streets in front of the Opera House.

    “Meet you at The Last Resort!” shouted Egil. Then he disappeared into the human morass.

    Kham crumpled up one of the posters advertising “The Queen and the Stranger.” He threw it over his shoulder.

    Fortunately, Kham had enough foresight to call for the Sea Lord’s Guard before things got out of hand. But it always paid to be cautious. He downed a jumping potion as one guardsman dragged Ilmarė out in manacles.

    “She’s with me.” Kham flashed the symbol of the Order of Drac, a medallion with a ship on it.

    One of the guards squinted at Kham, then at the symbol, then at Kham again. “You can have the bit ‘o fluff,” he said, shoving the elorii towards Kham. “She’s a bit too cold for me tastes.”

    Ilmarė glared over her shoulder. “You’ll pay for that, human.”

    Two guards dragged an unconscious Beldin out, bleeding from gashes on their arms and legs. It was a credit to Beldin’s restraint that none of them were dead.

    The guard who had arrested Ilmarė spun on his heel. “Whatcha gonna do about it?”

    Kham inserted himself between the guardsmen and Ilmarė. “Let him go, he’s with me too.”

    One of the other guardsmen that held Beldin wiped blood off his chin. “Oh yah? I don’t care if he’s Milton bloody Drac, back from th’ dead and here t’save us all. The stumper nicked me good. He kin rot in the Tombs for all I care.”

    Kham reached into his overcoat. “I had a feeling you’d say that.”

    There was the loud double retort of two pistols unloading their ammunition. The guards to either side of Ilmarė’s assailant fell backwards.

    Ilmarė cocked her head and smiled at the remaining guard. Then with a small hop, she moved the manacles to her front. “I told you you’d pay for that.”

    The guard drew his sword, but Ilmarė caught it in the chains of her manacles. With a twist, she whipped it away. She kicked upwards, hard; heel connected with stubbled chin. The guard went down.

    More people screamed and yelled, adding to the confusion as guards tried to arrest everyone in sight. At the sound of the pistols firing, all the guards turned on Kham. They lifted crossbows and slowly advanced on him.

    “By th’ order of the Sea Lord’s guard, yer under—“

    Two more pistols were in Kham’s hands. “’E’s gonna fire!” shouted one of the guards.

    The retort of two pistols firing reverberated through Freeport’s streets and alleys. And yet, none of the Sea Lord’s Guard were harmed. When the smoke cleared, Kham was gone.

    “Cor!” shouted one of the guards. “Where’d e go?”

    “Now’s our chance,” said Ilmarė to Beldin, who didn’t react because he had been beaten unconscious. She grabbed Beldin by the feet. “Let’s get out of here.”

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