Arcanis: Gonnes, Sons, and Treasure Runs (COMPLETED) - Page 54
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    Cold Visitor - Prologue

    “Someone’s coming,” said Ilmarė.

    Faint barking reached their ears through the roaring of the wind. A blue-green light bobbed closer.

    A small, scowling man entered the clear. He was armed with a blunderbuss and illuminated by a blue-green torch that burned without paying heed to the whipping winds all around. Three large dogs were in tow.

    “Take them,” he shouted, waving at the monoliths with his rifle. “I want no more of your money. You’ve had your imperials worth. Take them! Off with you!”

    “What?” asked Vlad. “What are you talking about?”

    “You know what I’m talking about,” the man said. He cocked the blunderbuss. “Those things brought on this storm, and I want it to stop.”

    “Calm down,” said Dril. “We just recently appeared here ourselves. Where are we?”

    “Where are you?” the man shouted back. “You’re in Milandir!”

    “We are?” asked Vlad.

    “In that case…” Dril pointed at Vlad. “You might be interested to know that this man here is Vlad Martell, Bailiff to Duke Adolphos val’Tensen.”

    Vlad nodded. “If someone put these things on your land, they did so without permission. I can help.”

    The farmer looked Vlad up and down. Then he lowered his weapon. “The name’s Jennings. Someone gave me two imperials three years ago to let him use the hill. Then they gave me another imperial to leave all this stone here until he needed it.”

    “Who?” asked Dril.

    “I don’t know,” said Jennings. “Didn’t look at them much. But since the things have been here, it’s been nothing but bad luck. The land around the copse stopped yielding—crops come up swollen, sweet, and rotten. And then there’s this damn snowstorm…”

    “Just like last time,” said Beldin.

    Jennings pointed a path out of the copse. “Everyone out. I’m going to bring blackpowder down here and blow these accursed things up.” He raised his rifle and fired at one of the slabs of granite.

    The pellets slapped into the monolith. As they sang off it, there was an awful shriek from above.

    Kham looked up from where he was kneeling in the snow. “Oh, crap.”

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    Cold Visitor - Part 1 – The Killing

    Something big and dark slammed to the ground right in front of Jennings. With huge wings, long claws and curved ram’s horns, the creature hissed at Jennings. It tilted its head, its eyes filled with intelligence and curiosity as it flapped its wings.

    “Byakhee!” shouted Ilmarė.

    The farmer reeled back in fear, dropping his gun and raising his arms in front of his face. Before anyone could react, the byakhee clutched the man by the face, lifted him, and worried his head like a rag doll. Done, the byakhee crouched on its haunches and with a discordant scream, flung itself back into the white sky, climbing in ungainly motions.

    Dril dove and rolled to the ground as the byakhee clutched at him.

    Ilmarė backed up against one of the monoliths and drew her bow. Vlad and Beldin had their weapons at the ready.

    “I’ve fought these things before,” said Beldin. “Wait until they snap their heads forward…” he didn’t get the chance to finish his sentence. One of the hideous insectoid heads nearly snapped his head off. Beldin smacked it aside with his shield.

    Vlad used the opportunity to strike at the creature’s wings, tearing a jagged rent in the thin membrane. But it didn’t seem to matter; up close, he could see the creature’s wings were tatters to begin with.

    It screeched in response and whirled on Vlad. The oddly jointed neck darted forward—

    And then the byakhee’s head bounced off into the snow, leaving black ichor as it bounced.

    “Thanks,” said Vlad to Beldin.

    Beldin stood with his axe head down in the snow, grinning broadly despite the storm. A looming shadow reared up behind him.

    Before Vlad could shout a warning, there was a terrific boom, as if someone had thrown a blackpowder grenade. Smoke and snow flew everywhere, along with bits and pieces of byakhee. Vlad had to cover his eyes as the debris showered around them.

    “Nice shot…Kham?” said Vlad.

    Dril stood with the blunderbuss’ stock sitting on one hip, the wide mouth of the weapon still smoking. “It took me awhile to figure out how to load it,” he said.

    Kham hadn’t moved. Snow had gathered on his shoulders and closely cropped hair. “We are so screwed,” was all he said.

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    Cold Visitor: Part 2 – Springer Mound

    Small, sputtering torches were planted out in a row. They seemed more to mark a path than any real attempt to keep the oppressive snow at bay.

    They followed the torch trail to a slight rise. It was the first real geographic feature they had encountered.

    The hill was not more than a few score feet tall, but on the otherwise featureless plain it stood out quite a bit. As they walked over the ice towards the hill, it felt pulpy.

    Ilmarė wrinkled her nose. “Do you smell that?”

    There was the beginning of a sickly smell on the air. Once they reached the hill, the smell was worse.

    “Smells like rotting fruit,” said Vlad.

    Kham bent over and rested on his knees. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

    They were no longer in their dream forms and ill-prepared for cold weather travel.

    Beldin, seemingly unaffected by the cold, peered down at the ice around the hill. “Something’s buried here,” he said.

    There were several dark spots where something was buried underneath.

    “What is it?” asked Dril.

    “I can’t tell,” said Beldin. “But it’s large. And the center of its mass lays beneath this hill.”

    Several limbs reached out from the center, spreading in all directions.

    Kham flinched. “Let’s go. We need to find shelter, soon.” He stalked off along the line of torches.

    “What’s eating him?” asked Vlad.

    “I saw it too,” Ilmarė held herself as she looked down at the ice. “One of the limbs moved.”

    “That’s not the disturbing part,” said Beldin.

    “They’re yellow limbs,” added Dril.

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    Cold Visitor: Part 3a – The Lorehouse

    A plain stone structure reached out of the snow, old beyond counting. Snow had piled up against every side of the structure, with the only exposed areas being the upper walls and a single entrance on the side facing you. The structure was made out of the same granite as the monoliths, but seemed completely unadorned.

    “It’s not great, but it’ll do,” said Kham. He ducked into the opening.

    Inside, the stone structure was hundreds of books of varying sizes lining the walls. There were no lights inside, no furniture, no sources of heat and no other exits.

    Kham began tossing books into a pile.

    “What are you doing?” asked Ilmarė.

    “Staying alive,” said Kham. “We have to get a fire going or we’ll freeze to death. Not all of us are children of the wind or whatever you always say.”

    Ilmarė sniffed. “I wasn’t going to say that. But there may be some clue as to where we are and how we can get out of here.”

    Kham threw one of the books down. It slammed to the ground, hard. “I KNOW where we are.” He threw a particular heavy book onto the pile. “We’re in Kadath.” He threw another, thinly bound book to the floor. “We’re stuck here.” He lifted a copper-bound book. “And there’s no way out.”

    Ilmarė grabbed his wrist. “That’s the Turner Codex.”

    Kham blinked. “What?” He turned the book to look at its cover. “You’re right!” Kham sat down cross-legged, the cold and their predicament forgotten. “Maplethorpe Turner supposedly discovered a number of thin copper plate in Khitan, covered with hieroglyphics that had been painstakingly hammered into the metal. He spent eleven years deciphering it and finally published his findings in a thousand-copy limited edition. This is number one twenty six.”

    Dril grabbed a book and threw it onto the pile. “That’s great. But that’s not going to keep us warm.”

    “What happened to Turner’s book?” asked Ilmarė.

    “It was rejected.” Kham left out the part about the Emerald Society rejecting it. “Turner refused to reveal his collaborators, possibly to keep all the credit to himself. When the metal originals melted in a fire, Turner never received recognition for his work. But what’s it doing here?”

    “Does it say anything about getting out of here?” Beldin added another book to the pile.

    Kham flipped through more pages. “It speaks about a Black Lake, and how a Monstrous Thing that had fallen upon Carcosa from the stars lived in a state of somnolence, from which it woke betimes, ravening with hungers unspeakable.”

    “The thing that’s buried in the ice?” asked Vlad to no one in particular.

    Kham continued to read aloud. “And the sages said that this Dweller in the Depths was of the very spawn of Azathoth and half-brother even to Dread Leviathan, the Lord of the Great Abyss, and that the Thing in the Lake would mate with the Black Ewe with a Thousand Young, aye, even Tizzhet; and upon that hellish and cloud-like Entity had begotten the Twin Abominations, even Nug and Yeb. And it was deemed unprudent to utter upon the lips of men the Name of the Thing in the Lake, wherefore was it known as The Unspeakable.”

    “The Unspeakable One.” Dril lit a tindertwig and threw it on the pile. The books sputtered into flames. The light illuminated their faces with macabre shadows.

    “The Pantheon had their final confrontation with the Other before the Onyx Castle,” continued Kham. “The enormous shrine was built on the mountain of Kadath in the Cold Waste, built by the Other's heretical cultists, upon a field of black crystals. Yet, even infused with the energy of their fallen allies, the Pantheon was not able to destroy the Other. Instead, They imprisoned it, sealing it for all Eternity away from those It would feed upon.”

    “Disgusting.” Ilmarė shook her head. “Clearly, this Codex was written by humans. They speak of the elorii pantheon as ‘fallen allies,’ as if they had not committed murder in cold blood. And even then, the human gods’ murder of the elorii deities was all for naught.”

    Kham nodded. “Yep, the human pantheon is all in here. Althares imprisons the Unspeakable One with ensorcelled metal, Nier uses fire, Hurrian uses a pure blade, Sarish uses ten pounds of silver, and Illiir ends a prayer with something about stilling the song of birds and the quieting of beasts. Hmmm.”

    The others circled around the fire, struggling to keep warm.

    “What?” asked Beldin.

    “There’s an entry here about Belisarda.” Kham looked up at Ilmarė. Belisarda was the lone surviving goddess of the elorii pantheon. “Something about the Keepers of the Belisardan Sign.”

    “Give that to me,” snapped Ilmarė. Kham tossed the book to her without comment.

    Ilmarė’s eyes scanned the page. “The Belisardan Sign is an ancient glyph that captures and focuses the power of the natural world; an item of jewelry that bears a properly crafted Belisardan Sign becomes a potent ward against creatures from outside the natural order. It must be fashioned from a pure metal and taken to a location high above the sea, where the Unspeakable Promise prayer must be read.”

    “Sounds great. If we ever make it back to Arcanis alive,” said Dril. “I’m pretty sure there’s no seas around here. At least, ones that aren’t frozen, anyway.”

    Ilmarė ignored him. “The Sign offers protection against enchantments worked in the wearer’s hearing that include instrument, song or performance. The first prayer allows absorption of such an enchantment when accompanied by a soft ring of a chime. The second prayer allows the release of the absorbed energy.” She snapped the book closed. “I’m holding on to this.”

    Kham shrugged. “Keep it. The Codex told me all I need to know. And now I wish I never read it.”

    The fire expanded into a blaze, consuming the books hungrily.

    Vlad looked around. “Fine, I’ll ask. What did you read?”

    “I now know the Unspeakable One’s name,” said Kham.

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    Cold Visitor: Part 3b – The Lorehouse

    Ilmarė cocked her head. “Someone’s coming.”

    The sound of trudging footsteps breaking through the snow reached their ears. Soon, a light accompanied the noise and three heavily clothed figures stepped out from the storm, illuminated by a blue-green torch.

    The first figure pulled a thick scarf down from his face, revealing a thick black beard beneath a red nose. “Welcome to Milandir,” he said. “I hope you can cope with boredom.” Kham stepped forward, but the burly man looked past him. “Vlad? Vlad Martell? Is that you?”

    Vlad peered around Kham. “Jag? Jag Orgun?”

    The two men shook hands warmly. “You’re the last person I expected to see here! I kept telling the men that the Duke would send reinforcements!” Jag searched Vlad’s face for some sign of hope. “You’re not here to rescue us, are you?”

    Vlad put up his hands, helpless. “I’m not sure how we got here myself. Are the rest of the Green Griffons with you?”

    “Aye,” said Jag. “Although a lot of men have moved on since. A few of us are still with the Griffons: me, Messer, Laskin. We’ve got a new Captain now.”

    “I hate to interrupt the family reunion,” said Dril. “But did you say we’re in Milandir?”

    The other two men behind Jag lowered their scarves. “It’s hard to say,” said Jag. “Near as that cursed wizard Fedders can tell us, we’re at the nexus of something or other. Some kind of prison.”

    “Silas Fedders?” asked Vlad. “He’s Duke Adolphos val’Tensen’s court wizard.”

    “Aye, him.” It was obvious from Jag’s expression of distaste how he felt about the man. “Still nattering on about some discovery. We’ve been stuck here for months, and he can’t get us out. But boy will he be pissed when he sees what you did with his books!” He said over his shoulder to the other two men. “Come, let me give you and your friends proper Milandisian hospitality. We’ve dug out a barracks in an old stone fortress. It ain’t much, but it’s home.”
    Last edited by talien; Friday, 4th July, 2008 at 01:06 PM.

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    Cold Visitor: Part 4a – Silas’ Encampment

    The storm didn’t abate. Lieutenant Orgun and his men had to tie a rope to each of them to make sure no one got lost in the icy hazy that ate at their skin. Orgun’s group led them to what at first appeared to be a slightly darker area of sky. As they walked further, the wind died down for a merciful moment.

    A stone building was visible, with more buildings to the sides. The path of the torches led straight to the structure, which was made of several small buildings built side-by-side.

    “None of the construction looks skillfully done,” said Beldin.

    “It’s warm,” said Dril. “Warmer than out here in the cold. That’s good enough for me.”

    A short distance ahead of the main set of buildings stood a guard post. From the small hut came a call, “Who goes?”

    Lieutenant Orgun spoke with the guards for a few minutes before they were escorted inside.

    The room stank of sweat, mold, and unclean living. Eight pairs of bunk beds dominated the room in rows, with a footlocker at both ends of each bunk bed. The floor was strewn with a chaotic jumble of clothes, weapons, armor, and other random items.

    “So much for military discipline,” said Ilmarė.

    From the barracks, they were led into the mess hall. Two large wooden tables, each capable of seating at least twenty people comfortably, dominated the room. Around the edges of the room were many shelves, pots, pans, dishes and foodstuffs. The whole arrangement was well organized in comparison to the barracks, as evidenced by the many foodstuffs neatly labeled. On one wall was a target for darts, while another shelf held a chess set, several books, and piles of cards. Most importantly, there was a stone fireplace on either end of the room.

    Two people were waiting for them in the mess hall. A severe-looking, muscular woman with short hair and piercing eyes stood next to a shifty-eyed man dressed in robes.

    The woman addressed Vlad. “I’m Captain Penser.” She nodded to the man at her side. “This is Silas Fedders, Court Wizard to Duke Adolphos val’Tensen. The men tell me you’re val’Tensen’s Bailiff.”

    “I am,” said Vlad. “These are my companions: Kham val’Abebi, Beldin Soulforge, Ilmarė Galen, and Nauris Dril.” Penser nodded at them each in turn.

    “I don’t suppose you’re reinforcements,” Penser said glumly.

    “I’m afraid not,” said Vlad. “We were…traveling ourselves when we were drawn here.”

    “Near as we can tell,” said Silas in a mincing tone, “the cultists, perhaps the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign, created a planar conjunction between this world and our own. The two have overlapped, causing the unnatural weather.”

    Orgun nodded. “We’ve led patrols out to get help, but they always end up back here.”

    “It’s a small plane,” added Silas. “A prison of sorts.”

    Dril stepped forward. “What can you tell us about the creature beneath the ice?”

    Penser looked at Silas. “I don’t know of any such thing. Do you, Silas?”

    Around them, other Green Griffon soldiers began to gather round, their curiosity roused by the strangers. Most of the men were content to stare at Ilmarė.

    Silas’ eyes narrowed to slits. “No,” he said slowly. “I don’t. What did you find?”

    “The King in Yellow.” Kham was warming himself by the fire. He didn’t bother to turn around.


    “This plane has been hijacked by the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign.” Dril took a menacing step forward. “Whatever it is under the ice is going to get out. It may take hours. It may take days. But eventually, it will escape. And then we’re all going to die. Any questions?”

    The soldiers shifted uncomfortably where they stood, silent.

    Penser dragged Dril away from the others by his elbow. “Listen. This is my command and while you are in this compound you will follow my orders. The morale and well being of my men are MY responsibility and I will NOT have you just walking in here and undermining it. If we’ve got a monster then we will deal with it like any other threat. Do I make myself clear?”

    Dril crossed his arms and nodded.

    “Good.” She turned back to look at Dril’s companions. “I don’t suppose you have any news of the outside world?”

    “As a matter of fact, we have a talented bard in our midst.” Kham smirked over at Ilmarė. The elorii glared daggers at him.

    “Sing! Sing! Sing!” the men shouted.

    Ilmarė sighed and hopped up onto the table. “Stupid humans,” she muttered. Then she took a deep breath.

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    Cold Visitor: Part 4b – Silas’ Encampment

    Sausage with bread was placed on the table.

    “Not bad,” Beldin speared a sausage with his knife. Knives weren’t supplied; in Milandir, one was expected to bring his own knife to dinner. “Fulfilling, if not particularly tasty.”

    Dril cut a trencher in half that was set between them. “Considering the surroundings, a warm meal is good enough.”

    In celebration of their arrival, some of the soldiers broke out a jug of potato rum that was being passed around the room.

    At a separate table, Vlad snapped down another seven-strength dragon in his flight of Three-Dragon Ante.

    “That’s your second strength flight!” exclaimed Sergeant Laskin. Everyone tossed seven gold pieces into the pot. “Vlad, I heard you could play a mean game of Three-Dragon Ante, but this is amazing.”

    Orgun snorted. “He’s had a lot of practice. He was in the Green Griffons when you were crawling around on all fours.”

    “You mean last night?” added one of the soldiers.

    They all broke out into laughter.

    “Like the rum?” asked Laskin. “The men created a still in our spare time.”

    “It’s great stuff,” said Vlad. “Good, Milandisian liquor.”

    A loud slamming noise came from the door on the northern wall, which was part of a double door system used to go outside without letting cold air in. Seconds after the slam, two soldiers ran into the room.

    “Blood spatters.” Ilmarė leaned over to whisper in Beldin’s ear. “Covering their leggings and boots.”

    Panicked looks covered their faces as they scanned the room, finally settling on Captain Penser. They ran over to her, leaning over the table and forgetting all pretense of military protocol.

    “Captain,” said one of the soldiers. “Miles and Suven are dead.”

    The mess hall became deathly silent.

    The Captain got up from her table and led the two soldiers into the kitchen to complete the conversation in private. As soon as the kitchen door closed behind the Captain, the mess hall broke out in a roar of wild speculation.

    “It’s that Yellow King they mentioned!” shouted one of the soldiers.

    “Now calm down,” said Orgun with his booming baritone. “Let’s not jump to any conclusions.”

    “I agree,” said another woman. “Let’s wait to see what the Captain says.”

    “That’s one of Silas’ apprentices, Elise Parthil,” said Dril. “The other is Merkin Sonderhed.”

    After a few minutes, the Captain and the two soldiers returned to the room, all looking grave. She waved for silence. The mess hall immediately quieted.

    “Privates Miles and Suven in Watch Post A were killed. Privates Lilit and Pilar in Watch Post B were performing their rounds when they found them. The body of Miles was still in the watch post, but Suven was dragged away into the snow.” She turned to Orgun. “Lieutenant Orgun, take some men and go after Suven. As for the rest of you, I want two men on every entrance. Pull the men back in from the watch posts. “

    What that, the Green Griffon Company jumped into action.

    Orgun clapped Vlad on the back. “Coming?”

    Vlad smiled and looked at his companions. “We’re in.”

    “Like old times,” said Orgun.

    Vlad nodded. “Like old times.”

    Elise took the Captain aside. “The doors in our section can be magically locked. They don’t need to be guarded.”

    “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Penser frowned in the direction of the wizards’ quarters.

    “Kham can guard them,” said Vlad. He looked around. “Where is Kham?”
    Last edited by talien; Wednesday, 9th July, 2008 at 05:48 PM.

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    Cold Visitor: Part 5 – Apprentice’s Room

    Kham entered a lavishly decorated room with rugs on the walls and blankets piled high on the beds. There were two desks, two beds, a table, four chairs, and a long table covered in books and glassware. It seemed like a cross between a library, laboratory and domicile. Also near one of the beds there were several piles of books and ledgers all neatly arranged in stacks.

    Invisible, Kham crept over to the books. It didn’t take long for him to locate Elise’s journal. It detailed six months of drudgery, brightened over the last two months by…

    “Hello, Sergeant Messer!” whispered Kham to himself.

    Messer and Elise occasionally rendezvoused in the attic of the wizard storage area.

    “I support Silas’ actions,” wrote Elise, “in getting the Hastur Shard.”

    Kham slammed the book closed. “Hastur Shard. Great.”

    He looked around and spotted the door to the south.

    Kham tried the knob. It didn’t budge.

    Kham reached into his overcoat and pulled out his trusty dagger. With a snap, the lock picks embedded in the hilt of the dagger sprung out in a fan. He inserted one of the picks into the lock and twisted.

    Nothing happened.

    Kham flipped out a different pick and tried the lock again. No luck.

    “Damn it, what kind of lock is this?”

    He was still fiddling with the lock when Elise Parthil entered the room.

    “I see you’re already on guard duty,” she said matter-of-factly. “They need you outside.”

    Kham whipped around with his hands behind his back. Obviously, the invisibility potion had worn off. “Err, yes. I was just testing the integrity of this lock. What happened?”

    “The Captain is missing.”

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    Cold Visitor: Part 6a – Going After Suven

    Orgun led the way, with two other soldiers and two dogs. The dogs seemed nervous, barking occasionally at the Green Griffon soldiers.

    “We’re lucky.” Orgun kneeled in the snow, his blue eyes taking in every inch of the ground before him. “There hasn’t been that much snowfall since Suven disappeared. I can see his tracks. And that of something else.”

    “What kind of something else?” asked Vlad.

    “The tracks appear to be that of a large creature dragging itself along the ground,” said Orgun. “It uses muscle contractions.”

    “Like a worm,” added Dril.

    “Yeah,” said Orgun, frowning up at Dril. “Like a worm. The creature was pulling Suven behind it.” He pointed out a series of red spatters in the snow. “Looks like he didn’t give up without a fight.”

    “Wait a minute.” Beldin looked over his shoulder and back at the blood spattered trail. “We’re doubling back towards the camp.”

    “There!” Ilmarė pointed.

    Suven was only wearing parts of his heavy cold weather gear, drenched in blood. He walked with a lurching gait.

    “Suven?” asked Orgun. “Are you okay?”

    Suven turned. His face looked partially melted, one eye dribbling down towards his upper lip. “Hhhheeeeeelp mmmmeeeee,” he wailed.

    “I don’t like this.” Dril drew his scimitar and dagger. “Be ready for any sign of—“

    The dogs started barking loudly. Dril turned just in time to see two soldiers erupt into a shower of tentacles, their upper bodies lost in the morass of yellow tendrils.

    “Trap!” shouted Beldin. The dwarf pulled his axe from off of his back, just in time to hack away tentacles that speared toward his face.

    Vlad dove to the ground to avoid another forest of tentacles. When he rolled to his feet, he held sword and shield before him.

    Ilmarė drew her bow. “Somebody might want to watch Suven,” she said.

    Suven was hunched over. Orgun took a tentative step toward him, hand outstretched. Then Suven’s body reared backwards, and a shower of what looked like wet, dun-colored intestines blasted towards the Lieutenant.

    Ilmarė fired two arrows into the thing-that-was-Suven, but they disappeared into the morass of tentacles and limbs.

    One of the dogs yelped as it was lifted up and then smashed repeatedly into the ground. The other dog continued to bark.

    Vlad skidded backwards as more tentacles reached hungrily around his shield. He hacked to his left and right, keeping them at bay but making little progress in harming the things.

    Another dog yelped as tentacles snared it around its midsection. With a loud crack, the dog stopped struggling. Then, like a lover’s embrace, the tentacle began to pulse into the dog, spewing yellow tatters onto the animal’s corpse.

    Beldin wasn’t much better off. The dwarf blocked every attack and then hacked at each new tentacle that struck, but for every severed, wiggling extremity, a new one took its place.

    Orgun struggled, his hands clawing desperately at his face. He pleaded desperately with Vlad through his eyes alone, bulging in terror as the monster began pumping its own flesh into him.

    “We’ve got to get to Suven!” shouted Vlad. He redoubled his efforts, hacking back with more ferocity at one of the soldier-things.

    Dril alone held his own against the remaining creature. With the advantage of two blades, he became a whirling cyclone of steel, hacking limb after limb as the probing tentacles sought a weakness. Dril slowly closed with the creature and then kneeled to the ground with both arms crossed. He snapped his weapons apart, and in a clean scissoring motion, the tentacled thing slid into two separate sections of yellow entrails.

    Tentacles snaked around Dril’s head but snapped backwards in pain as Beldin hurled a throwing axe at the second thing.

    With the creature momentarily distracted, Vlad leaped forward and hacked the dripping umbilical of tentacles between Suven and Orgun. Orgun fell back into the snow, his face indistinguishable from the entrails that engulfed him.

    “Got it!” shouted Vlad over his shoulder. “Ilmarė, we need your voice!”

    But Ilmarė was silent, struggling mutely with yellow strands wrapped around her mouth and throat.

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    Cold Visitor: Part 6b – Going After Suven

    Suven’s tentacles had burrowed beneath the snow, only to spiral up around Ilmarė’s leg. It seemed completely disconnected from Suven itself, but then Vlad caught sight of a trail of yellow strands hanging limply from Suven’s torso. They began to pulse.

    “No!” shouted Vlad. He dropped his shield and grabbed Grungronazharr with both hands. With a mighty roar, he hacked downwards into the snow.

    He was rewarded with a gout of yellow ichor as the tentacles were severed.

    Dril and Beldin finished hacking the other soldier.

    “Beldin!” shouted Vlad. “Let’s finish this thing off. Dril, get those tentacles off of Ilmarė!”

    Vlad turned as more tendrils sprang up. With a mighty swing, he batted aside some of them as he closed on Suven, determined to make it pay. Beldin stood beside him, stomping forward with each strike of his axe.

    Dril skidded over to Ilmarė. The tentacles continued to write from her face, even severed from the creature. For a moment, he froze. “Oh man.”

    Then sliced across her mouth with his knife. Ilmarė’s mouth opened wide, and she gasped for air.

    Dril continued to slice, making short, precise cuts. The beautiful elorii’s skin was mottled and purplish from lacerations, but she was alive.

    He leaned down to brush back Ilmarė’s hair from her face. “Are you all right?”

    Ilmarė’s eyelids fluttered. Then she began to twitch.

    “Uh, guys…” said Dril.

    Vlad and Beldin were chopping up the former Suven, leaving nothing but a yellow stain in the snow.

    Ilmarė’s body arched in pain. “She’s going into convulsions!” shouted Dril. Ilmarė’s limbs flailed.

    The dwarf stumped back over to Ilmarė. “Put something in her teeth!”

    “What?” asked Dril.

    “I said put something in her teeth! A belt, anything! She’ll swallow her tongue if you don’t!”

    Dril pulled one of the potion lanyards he wore across chest and tied it around Ilmarė’s mouth, effectively gagging her.

    Vlad walked over, concerned and feeling helpless. Finally, the elorii’s convulsions subsided.

    Beldin pulled out a potion from his belt pouch. “I was saving this for me, but she needs it more.” He nodded at Dril, who removed the lanyard from her mouth. He poured the contents down Ilmarė’s throat.

    “Will she be all right?” asked Vlad.

    “She’ll live,” said Beldin. “But I don’t think any of us will be all right after what we just saw.”

    “I don’t mean to make things worse,” said Dril. “But where’s Orgun’s body?”

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