Arcanis: Gonnes, Sons, and Treasure Runs (COMPLETED) - Page 7





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  1. #61
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    The Seeds of Our Destruction - Part 5a: An Unruly Mob

    Ilmarė held herself tightly as Aquillus headed off to report to his superiors. They stood at the front of the taverna.

    "Are you sure you're alright?" asked Quintus.

    "I'm fine," said Ilmarė. She kept the details of her vision to herself. "Worry more about the wallflowers inside."

    Her warning was followed by the sound of shattering glass. A bottle skittered across the road.

    Kham and Vlad exchanged glances. Kham took out both of his gonnes and nodded.

    Vlad kicked the door open. The scene within was one of volatile chaos.

    At one end of the room, with their backs to the Larissan shrine, was Hetshapet protecting her younger sister Maatkare. Surrounding them was an unruly mob. Some shouted accusations. Others had broken bottles in their hands. The bartender lay in a heap on the floor between both groups, a large gash across his forehead.

    Sebastian stepped forward and began gesticulating. "I'll take care of this."

    Kham lowered Sebastian's arms with one of his handgonnes. "Oh no you don't. I'm not having you casting spells in here."

    "She is to blame for the disappearances!" someone shouted. "She must answer for her crimes!"

    Quintus raised his voice. "Excuse me, but…"

    "All the men who vanished had communed with Maatkare, it must be her!" someone else shouted.

    "If you would all just…" Quintus shouted.

    "Let's kill her now before she takes anyone else!" a third shouted.

    Quintus threw up his hands in disgust. He nodded towards Kham.

    Kham pointed both of his handgonnes at the ceiling.

    BLAM! BLAM!

    The crowd went silent and turned to look at them. Wood and dust fell from the ceiling.

    Kham looked around at them and smiled, his handgonnes still smoking.

    "Much better," said Quintus. "Now we're going to leave with the two ladies. The murders are being investigated. But this is not the way to handle it."

    The mob warily edged back from the two women. Sebastian ushered them out of the taverna.

    Vlad closed the door behind them as they left.

    "That's how you get results through the magic of intimidation," Kham said to Sebastian.
    Last edited by talien; Tuesday, 8th February, 2005 at 11:48 PM.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    The Seeds of Our Destruction - Part 6a: Bait

    "Are you sure it's safe?" asked Maatkare, peering into the darkened streets and alleys that loomed around them.

    "Absolutely," said Sebastian. "My companions are quite capable."

    "Whatever is stalking you, it would have to be very foolish to attack us," said Vlad.

    "Don't be so sure," said Ilmarė, her eyes focused on the rooftops.

    "What?" asked Quintus.

    "We're being followed," she said.

    "Followed?" Hetshapet asked, her voice rising in panic.

    Ilmarė slowly reached behind her and took a bow out of her quiver.

    "Everyone stay calm," said Quintus. "We don't want to want to give away our trap."

    "Trap?" said Maatkare. "You mean you've been using me as bait?"

    Kham put both hands into the pockets of his overcoat. "Bait's such a strong word."

    Ilmarė shrugged her bow off of her shoulder, but the gesture was so smooth that it looked as if she was merely carrying it in one hand.

    Maatkare whirled on Sebastian. "You knew about this too?"

    Sebastian put his hands up in surprise. "I did not."

    "Ilmarė, now!" shouted Quintus.

    In a flash, Ilmarė knocked an arrow as she drew her bow. The arrow whistled through the air and thudded into the darkness. An inhuman screech arose from the rooftops, confirming the hit.

    "It's on the move!" she shouted. A strangely malformed body leaped from the roof overhead as bits of tile tinkled to the ground.

    Quintus took off at a sprint, unhindered by his usually bulky armor.

    "He is going to get so lost," said Kham. He ran after Quintus, his coat billowing behind him.

    Hetshapet poked Sebastian in the chest. "Did the rest of you know about this?"

    Vlad drew his sword with a SHIIING! "No," he said with a frown, "but I'm catching up fast." He jogged off into the darkness.

    Beldin shrugged his shoulders. "Don't look at me. Nobody tells me anything."

    "Nor I," said Sebastian. "I get the distinct impression they don't fully trust us yet. Or perhaps it's a human prejudice. Isn't that right Ilmarė?"

    There was no response.

    "Where's Ilmarė?"
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    The Seeds of Our Destruction - Part 6b: Bait

    The misshapen stalker leapt like a gazelle from rooftop to rooftop. Quintus was breathing hard, running at full sprint.

    The thing abruptly turned and jumped over Quintus' head onto a nearby rooftop.

    "It's fast," said Quintus, panting.

    "Getting tired already old man?" Kham said as he jogged past him. "Don't feel too bad, Vlad's huffing and puffing back there under that full plate."

    They turned down another into a dark alley. "I'm used to carrying a full legionnaire's kit," Quintus said through clenched teeth. "This is a warm-up."

    "Well," said Kham, ducking down another alley with Quintus close behind. "You better get ready, because the real fun's about to start. You go left, I'll go right, we'll catch it on the bridge."

    And with that he ran off into darkness.

    "I hope you know Savona better than I do," said Quintus. He had long since lost track of where he was in the chaos of the pursuit.

    A rank smell assaulted Quintus' nostrils as he came upon the bridge. A slime-filled canal was below them, choked with refuse. Across the bridge, Quintus could make out Kham's outline. His handgonnes were out.

    Quintus put the back of one hand to his nose and drew his gladius with the other.

    The thing skidded to a halt at the middle of the bridge, its outline barely visible against the night sky. Only the absence of a few stars provided any hint of its presence. It was wheezing.

    "Give up," said Quintus. "You've got nowhere to run!"

    The thing crouched down, as if retreating into the darkness. Emboldened by its cowardly behavior, Quintus took another step forward.

    "Quintus," said Kham, "I don't think that's such a—"

    Then it sprang. It dove off the bridge with a splash and crawled into a large sewer pipe beneath the bridge.

    "Well," said Kham with a sigh, "I guess that's that. It's pitch black in there. There's no way we'll be able to keep track of it."

    Quintus sheathed his gladius. He put two hands over his head and chanted, "Illiir, dux duco per tui lumis!"

    One of Quintus' hands glowed with an unearthly light, a color Kham had never seen before.

    "What are you doing?"

    "This is the Light of Illiir. It can both help and harm. For now, it's helping." Quintus looked around, using his hand as a spotlight. "There," he said, pointing at a ladder. "We can use that to get down."

    "Are you insane? This is suicide! Do you have any idea what kind of disgusting things live in those sewers?"

    Quintus jogged over to the rail and grabbed hold of both handles. "We're wasting time talking," said Quintus. "Come on!"

    And with that, he slid down the ladder with both hands.

    Kham paced back and forth. "This is crazy. He's going to get himself killed."

    A lithe shape scaled down the ladder behind him.

    "I don't believe this, now I'm starting to sound like Quintus," Kham said. He took a deep breath and then gagged. "Well ladies," he said, stuffing his handgonnes back in their holsters. "Keep your heads down, your mouths closed, and try not to get wet."

    Kham clambered down the ladder after Quintus.
    Last edited by talien; Monday, 3rd March, 2008 at 02:59 AM.
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    The Seeds of Our Destruction - Part 7a: Into the Sewers

    The drainage pipe was small enough that Quintus had to crouch, but Kham had no difficulties. It went on for a few yards before letting out into the stone sewers of Savona. A five-foot ledge ran along either side of the sewage stream. Rats and other vermin squeaked at the intrusion.

    "There," said Quintus, pointing with his glowing hand. He illuminated a trail of blood that ran across the side of the sewer wall.

    "Looks like human blood," said Kham, both handgonnes out. "And that looks like a human handprint." There was a pattern in blood of a palm, four fingers, and a thumb smeared along the wall.

    "If it's wounded we may be able to catch up to it," said Quintus.

    Quintus jogged down the side of the sewage stream, but he was hindered by the many clumps of refuse that lined the walkway.

    Kham shook his head and ran after him. He abruptly stopped as Quintus stood at an intersection.

    "The blood trail ends here," said Quintus. He stood with one hand out illuminating the sewer, the other holding his gladius. "There's only one thing to do. We'll have to split up. You go left, I'll go right."

    "I don't think that's a very good…uh oh."

    Quintus turned to look at Kham. "What?"

    "Stay…very, very still."

    A long, sinuous tentacle topped by three bulging eyeballs swayed behind Quintus' head.

    "What is it?"

    "Just…don't…move," said Kham, aiming one of his handgonnes. "If you stay still I think I can hit it."

    "HIT. WHAT," said Quintus, tensing up.

    The three eyes widened and ducked into the sewage with a splash.

    Quintus spun around. "What was that?"

    "I don't know," said Kham, "but it's not good. We better go."

    Quintus scanned the water with his light. "Go where?"

    Quintus yelped. Then the light bobbed and weaved in crazy directions.

    There was a flash and for a brief moment Kham was eye to eye with Quintus—upside-down.

    A gurgling roar echoed around them as a lamprey-like maw erupted from the sewage stream beneath Quintus.

    "Legionnaire is officially off the menu!" Kham shouted.

    BLAM! BLAM! He fired both gonnes into the maw. It convulsed shut and submerged again, dragging Quintus down with it.

    "Shoot it!" shouted Quintus before he was dragged beneath the surface of the sewage. Under the slime, the light illuminated a massive, bulbous body connected to two tentacles.

    "I just did!" Kham leaped backwards as a suckered tentacle slapped wetly against the ledge where he stood. He shoved the two spent handgonnes into their holsters and withdrew two more.

    Quintus erupted from the filth, dripping wet. A tentacle was wrapped around his sword arm. "That's it!" he shouted.

    Quintus pointed one glowing finger at the base of the tentacle.

    "No!” said Kham in rising panic, “Wait! I need that to…"

    "May the Light of Illiir strike you down!" shouted Quintus. The illumination that haloed his hand shot out in a bolt to sear the tentacle.

    The divine energy spent, everything went dark.

    "…see," said Kham.
    Last edited by talien; Monday, 28th July, 2008 at 06:21 PM.
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    The Seeds of Our Destruction - Part 7b: Into the Sewers

    Sebastian and his entourage stood over the bridge. The women had perfumed handkerchiefs to their noses. A roar echoed deep in the bowels of the sewer.

    Sebastian smiled at the two women. "I think they've got it on the run."

    There was the loud retort of two firearms.

    "Why the hell would you DO that?" shouted Kham.

    Beldin and Sebastian exchanged a look. "I'm sure they'll be fine," said Sebastian.

    "Just hit it!" came Quintus's voice from below. A lot of gurgling and splashing noises followed.

    "You said your companions were quite capable," said Maatkare. "But capable of what?"

    "Getting themselves into trouble," Beldin said sourly.

    "Hold still dammit!" echoed Vlad's voice from the sewer.

    Sebastian's smile faded. "I'm sure they'll be fine."
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    The Seeds of Our Destruction - Part 8: Bug Hunt

    "Just a reminder," said Ilmarė. "Humans cannot see in the dark."

    Quintus was drenched in filth. He wiped his mouth. "I'm well aware, thank you."

    "So what's giving off that light?" asked Kham. He pointed to a sickly greenish glow at the end of the tunnel system with one of his handgonnes.

    Clicking noises answered them.

    The central waterway of the tunnel flowed into a large pool that flowed in three different directions ahead of them. Across the way, pipes discharged sewage back into the pool. Amidst the pipes, large man-sized cocoons pulsed with a sickly green light. Squatting in the back of the chamber was a twisted hybrid being.

    It was over five feet in height, but only partially covered in a chitinous armor. One arm was enlarged to four times its normal size, while three-quarters of its face had been transformed into an insect-like visage. One eye was multi-faceted, while twin mandibles grew out of its extended mouth.

    "IlHuan," Ilmarė whispered.

    The ilHuan stood and lifted both of its hands in a sign of peace. It spoke in a clicking, rasping voice.

    "Hold!" it said. "Peace! I have no quarrel with you. I am of the ilHuan and mean you no harm."

    Kham looked over at Ilmarė. "Wow, for once the elf's right."

    Suddenly, the creature convulsed slightly. "Please," it said in a very human voice. "My name is Senmet. Help me!"

    Vlad kept his sword and shield out before him. "Well, I think we know what happened to Senmet."

    "And we know who was stalking the others," said Quintus, keeping his gladius before him.

    Ilmarė removed her bow and knocked an arrow.

    "Whoa!" said Kham, standing in front of her. "What are you doing?"

    The Elorii said nothing. She kept her arrow at the ready.

    "I see the butchers still live," came the human, clipped voice. "Kill them while you can, humans. If not, they will rise up and destroy you as they did us."

    "Who is 'us', exactly?" asked Kham.

    The human voice was in control. "I was part of Menu's gang," the Senmet-voice said in pained tones. "We opened the crates and found the urn. I found a half-dozen green spheres inside, but they were so fragile that I shattered one. I got some of the goo that was inside of the egg on me…" A series of clicks interrupted the dialogue as Senmet was overcome by a seizure.

    "I can guess what happened next," Ilmarė said. "The ilHuan could only partially gestate in its human host. It used Senmet to capture the others as hosts." She looked over at the cocoons.

    "The butcher is correct," the insectoid voice said. "But we took only the humans this body despised to give the ilHuan a chance to live again.”

    “Menu’s gang,” Kham sniffed. “Looks like Senmet didn’t particularly like how they treated his girlfriend.”

    “We have no more eggs to incubate,” the ilHuan said. “We merely seek to live in peace and find the rest of the hidden cache of eggs."

    Senmet twitched again and the human voice spoke. "Please, I can already feel it taking over the rest of my body. Kill me," he pleaded, "don't let me live like this!"

    "Illiir's grace," Quintus said under his breath.

    "I will put you out of your misery," said Ilmarė, bow taut.

    "Of course you would, butcher," the insectoid voice replied. "I expect no mercy from you, any more than that you showed Endrade."

    Vlad looked back and forth between Senmet and Ilmarė. "Do you two know each other?"

    "It was a long time ago," she said.

    Senmet turned to the others. "Would you not risk all, do anything, to assure the survival of your race? We ask only to be left alone and in peace. We have learned that your people live upon the ground and only rarely venture below. The ilHuan live mostly underground and rarely travel above. Is it not logical, then, that of all the intelligent races that exist in this place, humans and ilHuan can peacefully coexist? "

    Kham lowered his gonnes. "Well this just ruins everything. I can't kill this…whatever it is."

    Quintus looked at him sideways. "Why not? You heard him—he wants to die. It's our duty to arrest Senmet and bring him in for questioning."

    "But that would be the end of the ilHuan," said Vlad.

    "I say we kill them all," said Ilmarė.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    The Seeds of Our Destruction - Part 9: Conclusion

    "Well, that worked out," said Vlad from across the table. "200 imperials isn't too bad for a filthy day's work." Vlad's share of the reward was arranged in a neat pile in front of him.

    "And Hetshapet and Maatkare are free of Menu's gang," said Sebastian, sipping some tea.

    "We also reclaimed two important Elorii artifacts," said Kham, careful to not look at Ilmarė. "Where are those artifacts anyway?"

    On the other side of the table, Quintus kept his arms crossed.

    "Decimus entrusted the helm and staff to me," Quintus replied. "I wouldn't want you to…lose them," he said with pointed emphasis.

    Kham coughed. "Well if you'll excuse me, tonight's the Counting of the Kisses and I've got a title to claim." He rose from the table and nodded to Vlad. "Coming?"

    Vlad blushed as the others looked at him. He had switched to his civilian clothes. "Uh, yeah," he said after a moment.

    "Keep him out of trouble," said Quintus.

    "We're lucky if we can find any trouble. I still can't scrub that awful smell off of me," said Kham as he left. They had all worked hard to clean up afterwards but Quintus could still smell the stink of the sewer in his nostrils.

    Vlad pushed off from the table and followed Kham.

    "I think we made a mistake," said Ilmarė. "May you all not live long enough to see the folly of your decisions."

    "Don't look at me, I wasn't there," said Beldin, stroking his beard.

    "Nor was I," said Sebastian. "But I wonder why the Harvesters were involved. And what interest did they have in the eggs? Perhaps Menu and his gang thwarted a greater evil from happening thanks to their greed."

    Ilmarė rubbed her temples. "I'm going to bed." She stood up and walked upstairs to her room.

    Quintus excused himself and followed her.

    "Ilmarė," he said in the hallway. "Wait."

    She sighed and turned to face him. "We should have killed them when we had the chance."

    Quintus nodded. "That may be so. I committed a sin of omission by not telling Decimus what we saw. But that is not why I wanted to speak with you."

    Ilmarė arched a delicate eyebrow. "Oh?"

    "Wait here, I have something for you," he said. He ducked into his room and returned with something behind his back.

    "What is it?" she said.

    "I wanted to give you these," said Quintus. He handed her the Elorii helm and staff.

    Tears welled up in Ilmarė's eyes. "I thought legionnaires sold booty from their campaigns," she said.

    "They do," Quintus responded. "But I do not sell gifts."

    "Just because I'm an Elorii does not mean I have a right to these possessions."

    Quintus frowned. "That's not why I gave them to you," he said. After a long pause, he bid her good night and closed the door to his room.

    It was only then that Ilmarė read the note tucked into the helmet: "Happy Mille Basiare."

    Ilmarė hugged the artifacts tightly to her. She stood there for a long moment. Then she turned and walked quickly into her room, shutting the door behind her.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Drinking Deeply from the Chalice of Midnight - Introduction

    This is the fourth Hard Point of the tournament module, "Drinking Deeply from the Chalice of Midnight," written by Henry Lopez and set in the Arcanis setting. You can read more about Arcanis at http://www.onaraonline.org. Our cast of characters includes:

    · Quintus Aurelius Ignatius (human Clr3), played by Mike Tresca (that's me): http://michael.tresca.net
    · Ilmarė Galen (elf Brd3), played by Amber Tresca (my wife)
    · Vlad Martell (human Ftr2), played by Matt Hammer.

    Our DM is Robert Taylor, a gaming legend in his own time: http://www.storyboardz.net.

    Due to a change in location, our party was cut to half. Fortunately, we were able to handle the majority of challenges without too much trouble.

    What’s interesting about this adventure is that it seems like we did everything wrong. The reality was that we did everything RIGHT by not doing something really foolish. Unfortunately, one of the strange inconsistencies in the adventure is the likelihood a party is going to want to talk with any NPCs in a home they’re obviously there to rob.

    This was one of those adventures that Quintus was uncomfortable with (starting to see a pattern here) but that he justified because, “we’re stealing from demons.” Legion law doesn’t quite apply. Indeed, this is the first time all three characters were ever transported to another plane of existence.

    The other problem is that nobody trusts Decimus anymore. He hangs out with some disreputable company (see the last adventure) and seems to refer to “my employer” a lot. As the past few adventures have shown, anyone who refers to “my employer” instead of “Bob, the guy who hired me” is usually hiding something. Something big.

    In this adventure, that Big Secret begins to unravel…
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Drinking Deeply from the Chalice of Midnight - Prologue

    Quintus sat rigidly at the table across from Ilmarė. They were the only ones in that corner of the taverna.

    Vlad stumbled his way over to their table, rubbing his eyes.

    “Rough night,” said Quintus matter-of-factly. He did not look up.

    Vlad pulled up a chair. “You could say that,” he said, running one hand through his hair. “The note said to meet you here. Where are the others?”

    Ilmarė arched an eyebrow. “I thought they were with you.”

    Vlad shook his head. “The last person I saw was Kham. And I don’t think he’ll be joining us on any missions any time soon.”

    “Don’t tell me…” said Ilmarė.

    “He was named the Consort of Larissa,” said Quintus. “Great. We won’t see him for a week.”

    “The good news is that I found the stolen blackpowder,” said Vlad. “It was part of Menu’s theft. I’m off the hook until the Duke needs me again. So here I am.”

    “That doesn’t explain why Beldin and Sebastian weren’t invited,” said Ilmarė.

    “I can explain everything, my friends,” said Decimus with a smile as he walked over to their table. He appeared no worse for wear from the Saturnalia, although they had all seen him indulging in wine, food and dance as much as the next follow.

    Decimus’ usual smiling face was replaced by one lined with years of stress and responsibility.

    “It has come to my attention that the man I have worked for since I was a boy is involved in plots, plots to which I can no longer turn a blind eye.”

    “And who is your employer, Decimus?” asked Quintus. “I thought he was a senator, but lately I am not so sure. You’ve been keeping strange company.”

    Decimus pulled up a chair and sat down. “A fair question. My employer is none other than Senator Dominarin val’Sheem. He is a powerful man, said to have the ear of the Emperor himself.”

    “And he will not let you simply quit his service?” asked Ilmarė.

    “One does not simply leave his household. You see, generations ago, my great grandfather came to Savona and incurred horrible debts; debts that he had no means of repaying. That was when Dominarin’s grandfather stepped in and paid off his obligations. In return, he purchased my family’s service until the debt was repaid.”

    Vlad whistled. “That must be some debt.”

    Decimus nodded. “Although I’m treated like a valuable assistant to the Senator, I chaff at being another man’s property, especially when my poor mother and siblings toil away in his manor and on his fields like common slaves. It has been years and still we have not paid off the debt. At this rate, we never will.”

    “And you want us to find a means of repaying him?” asked Quintus.

    “Yes,” said Decimus. “Something so valuable that he would free my family from slavery. But I must warn you: the object I require is in the demesne of a Devil Prince-“

    “A what?” asked Vlad.

    Decimus put up one hand. “Before you object, know that my information indicates the Prince is away from his fortress.”

    “Oh, that makes it much better,” said Ilmarė. “Not just a Prince, but a Devil Prince. Or is that a princely devil? Just how are we supposed to retrieve this object if he is not of this world?”

    “I will arrange for you to be safely transported to and from his tower,” said Decimus. “You only need to make your way to his library, where he keeps the Chalice of Midnight. Once you have it in your hands, I will transport you back, safe and sound.”

    “We are no longer in the val’Tensen family’s good grace,” said Quintus, peering into his mug. “I don’t see how this will help our plight.”

    Decimus looked surprised. “Quite the contrary, I have heard only good things about you. The blame lies with General Menisis’ nephew, Gaius. I envision great things in your career, Signifer Quintus Aurelius Ignatius.”

    Quintus’ eyes narrowed at the mention of his title.

    “How much?” asked Ilmarė.

    “I don’t have much to repay you with, but I will gladly give you my life’s savings.”

    “How much?” Vlad asked, rubbing his forehead. Whether his headache was from the prodigious amount of drink from the night before or the business proposal before him was unclear.

    “Three thousand Imperials,” Decimus said flatly.

    Ilmarė froze. “Three…thousand?”

    “It’s a deal,” said Vlad.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Drinking Deeply from the Chalice of Midnight - Part 1: Through the Looking Glass

    A carriage transported them all to Grand Coryan. Decimus had a small adjoining apartment in the senator’s river villa by the Corvis. A young boy greeted them at the door and led them through the small living quarters, down a flight of stairs to a basement level.

    The chamber was at least twice the size of the upstairs quarters, adorned with banners depicting the glyphs and sigils of Sarish. An immense yellow magic circle was drawn on one of the chamber walls.

    “That’s a summoning circle,” said Ilmarė, eyes narrowed.

    Decimus stood before the circle, yellow chalk in hand. He was adorned in the flowing purple robes of a Sarishan priest.

    “Very perceptive, Elorii. Actually, it’s a critical component of a portal spell. When I finish the ritual, it will open and allow you passage to the plane beyond.”

    “You never mentioned you were a Sarishan priest,” said Quintus, folding his arms.

    “Yes, my family was originally from the province that is now Canceri. When the schism occurred centuries ago, my family spoke out against it and were force to flee the renegade province.”

    “Well, that’s one mystery solved,” said Vlad. “You’re not fond of the Cancerites, so you didn’t invite Beldin or Sebastian.”

    Decimus gave a slight smile. “My family has always been faithful to the Lord of Secrets. Senator Dominarin made saw that I was instructed in the ways of the clergy of Sarish when it became clear that I had the calling.”

    “This is highly irregular, Decimus,” said Quintus.

    “Yes, it is. I realize a lot of this is difficult to comprehend. But you must trust me, as you have trusted me before.”

    Quintus unfolded his arms, but his brow was still furrowed.

    “Don’t worry,” said Decimus. “I’m not going to send you leaping into Nier’s Plane of Eternal Fire.”

    “Well, that’s comforting,” said Ilmarė.

    “Take this sandstone.” Decimus handed Quintus a small, brown stone. “When you are ready to return, go back to the location where you arrived, crush the sandstone to powder, and cast it into the air before you. The portal will reappear and transport you back here.”

    “What of this place?” asked Ilmarė, her voice rising. “Can we even breathe there?”

    “Yes of course,” said Decimus a little too quickly. “My informants have reported that the Devil Prince’s home is comparable to Onara in air and temperature.”

    “Your informants?” asked Quintus. “You’ve never been there yourself?”

    Decimus swallowed. “No, I have not. But you have endured so much and been victorious at every turn that I know you can succeed.”

    He turned to face the magic circle and began chanting a lengthy incantation. Ilmarė took a step back and conferred with her companions.

    “I don’t like this,” said Ilmarė. “What if he’s sending us to our deaths?”

    “That may be,” said Quintus, “but Decimus has proven to be a man of his word, even if he does keep many secrets.”

    “And he’s promising a lot of gold,” said Vlad. “I’ve never seen a thousand Imperials before.”

    Finally, the symbols adorning the wall began to glow in a hot, purplish hue. The stones started to ripple, like a pool disturbed by a pebble.

    “Well,” said Quintus with a deep breath, “I’m not going to stand around here wondering if we made the right decision. We came this far, so I will lead. It’s your choice if you wish to follow.”

    He stepped through the magic circle and vanished.

    Ilmarė didn’t hesitate. She walked right behind Quintus through the portal.

    Vlad shook his head in disbelief. “I must have missed something,” he muttered to himself. Then he followed his two comrades into hell.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

    Want more? Subscribe to my column; follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar. Become an Examiner and get paid to write today!

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