Arcanis: Gonnes, Sons, and Treasure Runs (COMPLETED) - Page 48
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    The Last Resort - Part 8a: News from Home

    “Tell me more about your works,” said Ilmarė, fluttering her eyes in faux interest.

    Talbot, already well into his cups, continued to regale her. “Oh, I’ve written quite a few romantic horrors. There was The Haunting of Agatha Mae, about a young woman who is the only one that can see what happened to the previous owners of a country home.”

    “Fascinating,” said Ilmarė.

    “Then there was Evilroot, about an eldest daughter possessed by the spirit of a Khitani princess whose tomb was uncovered by her archaeologist father.”

    “This Yellow Sign…have you written anything else about it?”

    “Oh, yes,” said Talbot, swaying a bit. “I recently wrote The Revenant King. It was a bit of a departure for me. It included Cassilda, the Pallid Mask, and Hali.”

    “I’m quite the performer myself you know.” Ilmarė stroked Talbot’s arm. “I’d like to give you a private showing, if you’re interested.”

    Talbot blinked. “I’m always interested in new talent,” he said with a wicked grin. “I don’t have a room here, but…”

    “Not to worry,” said Ilmarė. She threw some coins at Bobbin, who promptly handed her a key. “I’ve got one.”

    “You’re very resourceful. I like that in a woman.”

    “I’m sure you do,” said Ilmarė, struggling to conceal the disdain in her voice. “Tell me, do you have plans to write anything else involving The King in Yellow?”

    “As a matter of fact, I’m working on a new book called The Yellow Sign.”

    Ilmarė nearly stopped short. “Well, here we are.” She opened the door.

    Talbot stumbled in and immediately began taking off his shirt. The problem was that he forgot he was wearing a mask. He only got one arm free before he realized his predicament. Momentarily blinded and thoroughly drunk, Talbot decided to let his budding new actress help him get undressed.

    There was the soft thud of the door closing.

    “Hello?”

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    The Last Resort - Part 8b: News from Home

    Kham hopped lightly from window to window. He had to remember to thank Falthar for his excellent potions.

    He was about to make the leap to Edward’s window when he saw another darkly garbed figure leaping from windowsill to windowsill ahead of him.

    Incapable of resisting, Kham gave chase.

    He landed on the sill without making a sound…and nearly fell out the window at the sight of of a looming, hawk-nosed face. It was the nobleman’s mask Kham had seen before.

    Inside, a snoring Thralen val’Ossan was asleep. Emric Ossan-Drac slumbered in a bed next to him. Between them stood the female assassin.

    Kham pulled two pistols from his overcoat. He took careful aim…

    The ensuing gunshots rattled the room. The assassin spun as the pistol blasts strafed her. Emric and Thralen bolted straight up out of their beds.

    “Get down!” shouted Kham as he reached for two more pistols.

    “That’s two Kham,” the assassin whispered in a husky feminine voice. “There won’t be a third time.”

    One moment, she was crouched like a cat. The next, she was a black blur, whistling past Kham so fast that he lost track of her.

    He looked out the window. She landed without making a sound, two stories below, and disappeared into the alleyway.

    “Oh no you don’t.” Kham clambered up onto the windowsill. “I’m not losing you twice!”

    There was a horrible strangled sound behind him.

    Kham turned back. “You okay Thralen?”

    Thralen was hunched over Emric. “It’s Emric!”

    The boy was gagging. He clawed at his throat, his eyes tearing.

    Kham turned back from the window. He rifled through his jacket. “Falthar always said this antidote would come in handy.” He pulled out a dark green vial. “Here.” Kham tossed it to Thralen.

    Thralen forced the liquid into Emric’s mouth. Eventually, his convulsions subsided.

    “Poison,” said Thralen. “I thought no one knew we were here.”

    Kham looked back at the window. “That was Jesswin,” said Kham. “If she was out to kill you, you’d be dead already. I think she was planning to use Emric as a distraction. She wasn’t after him.”

    Thralen brushed away Emric’s matted hair out of his face. His breathing was shallow but steady. “Then what was she after?”

    “She was doing something with your hand…”

    “The Ring of Drac!” Thralen gripped his ring finger. “It’s still there. Looks like you got here just in time.”

    Kham coughed into one hand. “It’s the least I can do after…well, after last time. But now you have to get out of here.” Kham dug through his pockets and offered Thralen two more vials. “Drink these. They’re invisibility potions.”

    “Now?”

    “Right now. Gather up your things.”

    Kham opened the door with his other hand. Shouts of “fuco aspergo!” and “the Unspeakable One shall have his revenge!” reached his ears.

    “There’s enough chaos outside to cover your exit.”

    Thralen took the vials. Then his hand gripped Kham’s. It was, to Kham’s surprise, a handshake.

    “Thank you Kham. I know we’ve had our differences in the past. You saved Emric’s life yet again.”

    “You can pay me back by keeping him alive.” He flashed Thralen a smile. “If there’s going to be a Sea Lord, I want it to be a Drac who owes me.”

    Thralen drank the potion and disappeared. “And what of you?”

    “Me? Believe it or not, I didn’t even know you were here. I was going to break into someone else’s room when I came across someone with the same idea in mind.”

    And with that, Kham leaped out the window.

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    The Last Resort - Part 8c: News from Home

    Beldin was wiping his axe on one of the bed covers when two large orcs appeared in the doorframe.

    “Where’s Egil?” asked one of them.

    “Not here,” said Sebastian. “Something I can help you with?”

    “Yeah,” said the first thug. “Finn wants to speak to him. Where is he?”

    Sebastian watched Ilmarė enter a room with Talbot across the hall.

    “I’m not sure.”

    “Listen,” said the other thug. “Either you tell us where Egil is, or we decide you’re Egil and get the money that way.” He thwacked a fist into an open palm for emphasis.

    Behind them, Ilmarė came back out of the room and closed the door behind her. She caught Sebastian’s eye and nodded to him.

    Sebastian nodded back. “I understand,” he said to the orcs. “It’s that room there,” he pointed at the room Ilmarė had just left. “Egil said you wouldn’t be here until midnight.”

    “We like to be efficient,” said the other thug with a fanged grin.

    One of the thugs turned to go. The other looked around. Bloody sheets covered the bodies of eight dead Yellow Sign cultists. “What the hell happened in here anyway?”

    Beldin slapped one fist into an open palm. “They owed us money,” he said.

    The orcs quickly left.

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    The Last Resort - Part 9a: Cultural Treasures

    Kham crept through the window to Edward’s room. Edward was snoring peacefully next to a medium-sized sea chest and a large wooden crate. The man could sleep through Bahamut roaring, he decided. It was probably from having to be on board a ship with the very boisterous Captain Baldric.

    He padded into the room. The crate was jimmied open. Edward had revealed its contents, probably to a buyer.

    Kham rapped lightly on the side of the crate with his knuckles. “Cal? Are you in there?”

    There was no response. Kham took a deep breath. He was being paranoid.

    He carefully lifted the lid off and, with no small effort, lowered it gently to the ground.

    Kham peered into the crate. Inside was a python-headed serpent with clawed humanoid arms. It had smooth scales, marked with black and brown bands.

    “Definitely not Cal.”

    Its arms were crossed in pharaoh-like fashion, one wielding a huge falchion, the other holding a bow. Its bracelets were intricately carved. They were easily worth a fortune. Enough to pay off Egil’s debt…

    Kham reached for it. His skin barely brushed against the flesh of the mummy.

    Almost instantly, there was a horrible tearing sound as the skin on Kham’s arm ripped off its moorings and crawled onto the mummy. Blood and veins snaked of their own accord to nourish the withered corpse.

    Kham shrieked at the top of his lungs. There was a wet snap as what was left of his arm pulled away from the thing. He fell backwards over Edward’s bed.

    Edward bolted upright, his nightcap flopping over one eye. He blinked, turning to take in Kham, who was staring at his skinless, bloody arm in shock.

    “What have you done!” shouted Edward. “You touched it? Why would you touch it? You’ve doomed us all—“

    Edward’s rant was cut short by a flash of metal. His head tumbled forward as the creature slowly uncoiled, rising to its full height. It loomed over Kham, who could do little but stare at it, agape.

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    The Last Resort - Part 9b: Cultural Treasures

    Everyone was gathered in the center of The Last Resort, staring at the great clockwork face that clicked its way towards midnight.

    “Ten!” shouted the crowd.

    “You think they’ll kill him?” asked Ilmarė.

    “Nine!” shouted the crowd.

    “If we’re lucky,” said Sebastian sourly. “Talbot really said he was going to publish another book?”

    “Eight!” shouted the crowd.

    Ilmarė nodded. “He’s bound and determined. Talbot sees nothing wrong with the fact that people go crazy over his art. In fact, I think he enjoys it.”

    “Seven!” shouted the crowd.

    “Where’s Kham?” asked Beldin.

    “Six!” shouted the crowd.

    “I have no idea,” said Sebastian. “Last I heard, he was going to visit Edward’s room.”

    “Five!” shouted the crowd.

    “And Egil?” asked Ilmarė.

    “Four!” shouted the crowd.

    “Still huddled in his room,” said Sebastian. “The Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign apparently thought he was The Chosen One.”

    “Three!” shouted the crowd.

    “There were two rival cults after the same target,” said Beldin. “Seems the Brotherhood is very disorganized these days.”

    “Two!” shouted the crowd.

    “Aren’t all religions?” Ilmarė said with a sneer.

    “One!” shouted the crowd.

    People cheered as they lifted their masks and shouted at the top of their lungs. Some guests tossed their masks into the air. People hugged and kissed. Henry was in the middle of finishing up his game of Three-Dragon Ante with the remaining actors.

    Then a huge crate exploded through the doorframe. Kham landed on top of Henry’s table, managing to not dislodge a single chip. With another leap and trailing a lot of blood, he dove out the front door.

    The crowd cheered. Then it stopped cheering when a ten-foot tall giant snake-man smashed through the railing overhead, landing in the middle of the floor. It snaked after Kham.

    “A samat, here?” Ilmarė shouted.

    “Well, now we know what happened to Kham,” said Sebastian.

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    The Last Resort - Part 10a: Dirty Business

    Much to everyone’s surprise, Captain Baldric hobbled out of his room to survey the damage.

    “Well, now that’s a sight ye don’t see e’ery day,” he said.

    “Baldric.” Ilmarė climbed what was left of the steps to greet him. “What are you doing here?”

    “Checkin' in with me first mate, o' course,” said the crusty pirate captain turned politico. “But he nere showed.”

    “Oh, he showed up.” Beldin tossed Edward’s head at Baldric’s feet. “Just not all of him.”

    “Edward was here earlier.” Sebastian watched the crowd slowly gather to look outside. “We think he stole something from Sulfurmarsh and was trying to sell it in Freeport.”

    “Judging by the damage,” said Ilmarė, “I’d say that something wasn’t too happy about being sold.”

    Baldric looked down at the gaping head that was Edward. “Oh Edward, ye stupid fool. I trusted ye with me ship an' me men! Avast! This be what ye did with it.”

    Kham came back in, soaking wet and panting. He had wrapped his arm in a piece of his shredded shirt. Kham slowly slogged his way up the steps to join Baldric.

    “Somehow, I’m not surprised that you’re alive,” said Ilmarė.

    Kham uncorked a potion with his teeth and took a swig. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “That’s better. I managed to lose it in the docks.”

    Ilmarė shook her head. “If the samat was after you, you’d be dead already. It wanted to escape. We’re going to have to find it before it causes more trouble.”

    “Sure,” said Kham. “Later.”

    Egil crept out of his room. “Did you pay them then?”

    “Not exactly,” said Sebastian.

    “Pay who?” asked Baldric.

    “It’s a long story.” Kham peered into the gaping hole that had once been a doorway into Edward’s room. “There’s Valossan artifacts in that sea chest. A lot of them.”

    “We'll sort it out in the m'rnin',” said Baldric. “This old sea dog needs some rest. I'm goin' back t' bed.” Baldric hobbled back the way he came.

    “So you don’t have the money?” asked Egil, his voice rising.

    “I have seven thousand gold doubloons—“ said Kham.

    “That’s not enough!” interrupted Egil.

    “Calm down,” said Kham. “I’m trying to think.”

    “Wait,” Egil looked around. “What happened to Finn’s men?”

    Beldin coughed into one fist.

    Egil crept closer to Sebastian and Beldin. “What did you do to Finn’s men?”

    “We sent them to talk to you,” said Sebastian.

    “I didn’t talk to anybody!” said Egil.

    “They sent them to talk to Talbot Estus,” said Ilmarė. “After the thugs beat him to a bloody pulp, they came back to Sebastian and Beldin and…”

    Egil looked desperately from Sebastian to Beldin. “And? And? And what?!”

    “We were forced to explain that we didn’t have the money,” said Sebastian.

    “One of them called me a fuzzy stumper,” said Beldin.

    Egil slumped to the ground, one hand on his forehead. “That’s it. It’s over. I am so dead.”

    Kham was about to say something when a scream of pain and terror came from Baldric’s room.

    “Doesn’t anyone actually sleep here?” asked Ilmarė.

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    The Last Resort - Part 10b: Dirty Business

    Beldin smashed the door open to discover Captain Baldric pinned to the bed with his own cutlass. A pulsing, transparent pirate hovered over him.

    “Give me back me treasure!”
    it shouted.

    “A pirate ghost.” Kham slapped his forehead.

    Baldric coughed up blood. He choked out, “Krubach…”

    “Krubach?” said Ilmarė. “Captain Wendron Krubach?”

    Krubach turned to face her. “Ye! Give me back me treasure!”

    “Oh great, he remembers me too,” said the elorii.

    “Sorry, we haven’t met,” said Sebastian. “Let me introduce myself: magicus telum!

    Three darts of magical energy sliced into the apparition.

    Krubach howled in response. “Ye’ll pay fer that!”

    Beldin stepped forward. “I know how to handle ghosts.”

    Krubach retaliated by drawing his own ghostly saber. Beldin swung his axe, but it passed right through him. When Krubach slashed downwards into Beldin’s flank, blood gushed from the wound. He staggered backwards.

    “Me too,” said Kham. His eyes glowed from beneath his lenses.

    “Give me back me treasure!” Krubach shouted at Kham.

    Kham poured the contents of a vial into his ammunition pouch. “Don’t look at me, I want my own treasure back.”

    Krubach swung his saber; it bounced off of a force field that shimmered in front of Kham’s face.

    “I don’t suppose you know Black Dog?” Kham loaded a pistol. “He looked a lot like you. Said the same lines even.”

    Ilmarė sneered. “Only you thought he was an illusion.” She drew her bow and fired two arrows in quick succession. One flew right through the spirit. The other tore a rent in his form. Krubach howled again.

    Kham finished loading his other pistol. “Angry ghost, meet the ladies.” He took aim and fired.

    Smoke filled the room. When it cleared, Krubach was gone.

    Ilmarė yanked Baldric’s cutlass out of his shoulder. He yelped.

    “He’ll live,” she said.

    Kham holstered his pistols. “Good. I’ve got a business proposition for him.”

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    The Last Resort - Part 10c: Dirty Business

    Cleaning crews went from room to room. The damage was extensive: much of the second floor railing was destroyed. Two rooms had burn marks from Sebastian’s magic. Not to mention the blood, which was everywhere. The samat had left a trail of destruction and at least one body on its way out.

    “So this is him?” asked Sebastian.

    Talbot Estus was tied to a chair.

    “Yes,” said Ilmarė. “What are you planning to do to him?”

    “I’m not sure.” Sebastian’s face was emotionless, but his dark eyes burned into Talbot. “We can’t let him go. Not after what he said. We should have let the thugs kill him.”

    “Torture won’t get you very far,” said Ilmarė. “Hit him enough, and he’ll tell you anything.”

    “I didn’t say I was planning to torture him,” said Sebastian. “We need to be left alone.”

    The elorii locked gazes with Sebastian for what seemed like an eternity. “Okay,” was all she said. Sebastian closed the door behind her.

    “Alone at last.” He slowly turned his head towards Talbot. “Now where were we?”

    “I told you,” said Talbot. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m just a playwright trying to make a living!”

    “You bought a play from Livius Carbo. I was there when Carbo tested his play on thousands of people. I saw what his ‘art’ did to them. Innocent people suffered. Children too. They went mad. They massacred each other. An entire village was burned to the ground.”

    Talbot’s eyebrows shot up. “That’s what Livius told me. I thought he was exaggerating!”

    “Now it’s exaggeration?” Sebastian sighed. “You seemed proud of that before.”

    “Well, I can’t help it if people are deeply affected by my talent. That’s art, that’s—“

    Sebastian slapped Talbot across the face. “You killed people with your art. Now, I’m not going to ask you again: where’s the book you bought from Carbo?”

    Talbot spat blood. “It’s in my right front pocket. I carry it with me everywhere I go. I’ve read it at least twenty times.”

    Sebastian rifled through Talbot’s vest. He procured two small books. One was labeled The King in Yellow. Sebastian flipped through the second book and his face went pale.

    “Where did you get this other book?”

    “I bought it,” said Talbot. “Fascinating reading, really.”

    Off in the distance, they could hear men talking loudly to each other as they cleaned up. They were moving from room to room. They would come knocking soon.

    “Your new project, what’s the name of it? “

    Sebastian pulled out a knife from his belt. Talbot watched the blade.

    “The Yellow Sign,” said Talbot. “I was inspired after the opening celebration of Milton’s Folly. It will be—“

    “You must not write it. To write that book is to spread the taint of the Unspeakable One’s madness. You’ll kill more people. Maybe thousands. And you might inspire another playwright.”

    “Then I’ve done my job,” said Talbot. “Is it not the artist’s role to inspire? And by so imitating, create a new form of art?”

    Sebastian grabbed a chair, placed it in front of Talbot, and sat on it.

    “You’re not listening to me. You can’t write that book.”

    “You’re not listening to ME. I must write it. Writing is my life.”

    Sebastian stared into Talbot’s face. “I don’t want to do this, Talbot. You understand what you’re forcing me to do?”

    Talbot said nothing. He just stared back at Sebastian.

  9. #479
    Ah, the old "conveniently leave the prisoner alone with a party member who has very situational ethics" tactic.

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    Yeah, I was frankly shocked by what the player decided to do. I started a gradual shift in his alignment as a result. I took this particular incident to implement my own sanity rules -- and then watched those rules backfire. I made Sebastian lose one point of Wisdom damage, and didn't realize one can go out and just pay a cleric to remove the penalty. In fact, that precipitated me writing an article for Pyramid to make stat loss a bit more painful.

    And that was the last time I decided to just make up sanity rules on the fly.

    I also used this incident as an opportunity to precipitate Sebastian's slow descent into a moral quagmire. It's the beginning of when his alignment begins to drift. There will be a weird kind of synergy at the climax of this campaign, involving Sebastian, that brings him full circle regarding the King in Yellow and just how much of his humanity he's willing to sacrifice to stop the spread of the play.

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