Sagiro's Story Hour: The FINAL Adventures of Abernathy's Company (updated 4/10/14) - Page 3




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    Sagiro's Story Hour: The FINAL Adventures of Abernathy's Company (updated 4/10/14)

    Piratecat mentioned to me that long threads are causing harm to the boards, so I've decided to start a new thread for my continuing Story Hour. You can still find the old thread here: Sagiro's Story Hour Returns. More importantly, here's the link to StevenAC's .pdfs, which contain the entire story from its humble beginnings some 12 years ago.



    Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 282
    No Obvious Compromise

    Dranko reaches out gently and bestows a small orison on the angel, expelling the accumulated dirt and grime and scrawled graffiti. It shines, its clean white marble now incongruous in the dilapidated plaza. Still dripping with rainwater it watches stoically as the party casts some protective spells.

    A small goblinoid creature detaches itself from the shadows and approaches the Company.

    “You’re early,” it barks.

    “We’re unpredictable that way,” says Ernie.

    “Not unexpected,” growls the goblin. “You will leave your weapons and spell components here.”

    Unsurprisingly this suggestion is greeted with derision.

    “Then you will not come in,” says the goblin.

    “I am here to return the Maze,” says Aravis. “You can take it or leave it.”

    “We will take it when you come in, leaving behind your weapons and spell components, as I said,” insists the goblin.

    “Your master’s intentions are clear,” says Morningstar. “We will not give up our weapons.”

    The goblin rubs its wrinkled chin. “The Night Master has instructed me to say that if that is how you feel, we will simply wait for you to die.”

    “We refuse to stand here bandying words with servants,” says Ernie, growing frustrated. “Now open that door!”

    “I am not authorized to do that while you’re armed,” says the goblin. “Eventually what afflicts you will kill you. Then we will take what we need from your bodies.”

    Kibi sighs, and cast charm monster. The goblin’s eyes grow a bit glassy.

    “We have come a very long way,” says Kibi plaintively. “We have everything that you want, and midnight is so late; we’re usually sleeping by then. Couldn’t we just go in now?”

    “Yes,” says the goblin, sympathizing. “But I still need you to leave your weapons behind, or I’ll get in terrible trouble!”

    “I think it’ll be okay,” says Kibi.

    “I believe you,” says the conflicted goblin. “Look... let me go explain things to my master. I’m sure he’ll see reason once I talk to him. Please excuse me.”

    As he turns to go, Ernie casts true seeing. One of the cluttered walls of the small plaza is mostly illusion, falsely showing boarded up doors and windows, and making the one real door look like solid wall. The goblin melts into magical shadows masking the entire thing, but Ernie clearly sees him open a small door and slip inside. Dranko, invisible, follows, and just gets inside before the goblin closes the door.

    Once inside the shrine, the goblin turns a loud crank on the wall which slides an iron bar across the door. Then he scuttles across the interior courtyard and disappears into the rain and shadow. Dranko notices that the sunlight, already dimmed by the precipitation, is strongly muted here, reminiscent of the Ellish holy city of Kallor. Worse, he can only see clearly to about thirty feet even with his darkvision. Beyond that it’s like peering into foggy shadow, where no details are visible.

    Dranko gives the goblin about 30 seconds before casting silence on the iron bar and turning the crank. Soon the door is open and the rest of the Company stands just inside the Shrine of Dralla. Kibi casts xorn movement and sinks into the ground along with Scree.

    The last time Morningstar was here, the unholy nature of the place stifled her ability to cast spells. She still feels the evil – it’s like an unpleasant pressure on her very soul – but she has grown much stronger since her previous visit. Her connection with Ell is unwavering.

    At Dranko’s request, Flicker disables the locking bar, so that Shreen’s minions cannot lock them in. Morningstar casts detect thoughts and senses dozens of minds, mostly in the upper floors of the buildings that surround the courtyard on all sides. They’re animalistic, barely intelligent, and all of them malign.

    Thinking they’ll want a safe zone in this den of evil, Morningstar casts consecrate on a spot just in front of them. There is a hissing, and steam rises from the affected area. Soon after they hear footsteps approaching from the darkness beyond their sight.

    “Who comes?” demands Morningstar.

    A stocky human in black robes comes stumping out of the shadows, leaning on a staff. He doesn’t seem to mind the rain that runs down through his stringy black hair. It is not Shreen the Fair.

    “I am Strug,” he says in a gravelly voice. “I know who you are. And you...”

    He stops and sniffs the air.

    “What have you done?” he barks, appalled. He gestures to the spot of consecrated ground. “You have committed blasphemy on our holy ground. Remove it at once!”

    “Will your master meet with us?” asks Morningstar?

    “You have broken into our shrine, armed,” spits Strug.

    “Yep,” says Ernie.

    “Yes,” agrees Morningstar. “Your master’s intentions were quite clear.”

    Strug glowers. “My master’s intentions are that you hand over the things you promised to him. That is all.”

    “We will not speak with your master unarmed,” says Morningstar.

    “And he will not speak to you while you are armed,” says Strug. “He knows your treachery. I am authorized by him to take possession of those things you have brought. You will give me the head of the person Lapis, and you will give me the Crosser’s Maze. Now!”

    Dranko rummages in a bag of holding and pulls out Lapis’s head. He tosses it onto the ground at Strug’s feet.

    “Now,” says Strug. “The Crosser’s Maze. Give it to me, and then depart. Quickly.”

    “That’s a problem,” says Ernie. “And this is why we need to talk to your master. The situation is more complicated than it seems. He’s going to be wroth. And that’s why we’re armed... in case he loses his temper. We’ve seen his temper. But the fact of the matter is, we don’t believe we can give you the Crosser’s Maze.”

    “You lie!” accuses Strug. “It is a thing. You will give it to me now, or leave, and come back when you are prepared to hand it over.”

    Strug takes a step toward the Company, but stops short at the edge of the consecrated area. He hisses and glares.

    “Before we continue with this transaction, I demand that you dismiss your blasphemy.”

    Aravis says, “The Maze is not an object that can be...”

    Strug interrupts him. “For the moment I am not talking about the Maze.” He gestures at the ground. “Who has done this?”

    “Do you agree that we can have our weapons?” asks Morningstar. “If so, I’ll dismiss the spell.”

    “You already have them,” concedes Strug, “so I suppose... yes. Fine. Drop this.”

    It’s only then that Morningstar realizes that she can’t simply dismiss a consecrate. Worse, she has no dispel magics prepared.

    “I don’t have the ability to dismiss it right now,” admits Morningstar. “You’ll have to wait.”

    “You should have thought of that before you committed this sin,” says Strug. “I am familiar with the magic. It will go away on its own tomorrow. You can come back then.”

    But Ernie does manage to dispel the effect, and Strug smiles. “Very good. It seems you may be willing to act in good faith after all... but you will refrain from casting your spells again while standing on holy ground. Now... the Maze.”

    Aravis launches into a long and technical description of the Maze, but Morningstar cuts him off.

    “The Maze is not an object,” she says. “It exists inside my companion’s mind.”

    “And I am not part of the bargain with your master,” says Aravis.

    “Then perhaps you should not have put the Maze inside your mind,” says Strug. “We will take both.”

    “I didn’t put it in...” says Aravis.

    “I don’t care how it got there!” yells Strug, cutting him off. “We will take it... off of your shoulders, if necessary. You and my master have an agreement. If you now find it difficult to uphold your part of it, that is not our problem. You will do what you must.”

    “I am willing to renegotiate the bargain,” says Aravis.

    “There will be no renegotiation!” screams Strug.

    “Then your master will have no choice but to destroy the Maze,” says Aravis. “If I am destroyed in the process, so be it.”

    Strug grins slyly. “But what of your friends?” he says softly. “It will do great harm to them, in the long run, if you fail to fulfill your promise.”

    “We fulfilled our part,” says Dranko. “We’ve returned the Maze to your master.”

    “Until the Maze is in my master’s possession, I dispute that claim,” says Strug.

    “Okay,” says Aravis. “Then I will give myself into your master’s possession, and then, having fulfilled the bargain, I will destroy the Maze...or else it will be destroyed if he kills me.”

    “Are you willing to take the chance that Dralla will see things that way?” asks Strug. “Perhaps it will leave the quest in a perpetual state of unfulfilledness, dooming your friends to a slow and lingering death of horrid rot.”

    “I am willing to take that risk,” says Aravis. “But I don’t think your master will risk the destruction of the Maze. Your option, right now, is that you bring us before your master so that he can make the decision, and not some lackey.”

    Strug bristles. “I am authorized to speak with his voice. I am no lackey. And you should show more respect while you are on my holy ground.”

    “Wanting the Crosser’s Maze is like wanting the ocean,” says Ernie. “You can see it, but you cannot hold it. You cannot control it, and no more could we bring it to you, than we could bring the ocean.”

    Dranko looks down at Ernie, impressed. Then, to Strug: “What does your master want to do with it, anyway?”

    “That is not your business,” says Strug. Then to Aravis he says: “Are you so certain that the Maze would not simply come away along with your head, after which it could easily be extracted and used? I speak hypothetically, of course.”

    “There is no point in discussing hypotheticals that cannot come to pass,” says Aravis.

    “Indulge me,” says Strug.

    “You didn’t indulge us when we asked what your master wanted to do with the Maze,” says Dranko.

    “That was not part of the bargain,” snaps Strug, growing weary of this banter. “The bargain was that we would help you – which we did – and then you would help us, which you are now stubbornly refusing to do.”

    The Company is also becoming increasingly frustrated at the impasse, and they all know how it’s likely going to end. They have a quick discussion over their mind link and decide that if they have to make threats of their own, they will.

    “You're telling us that our only option is to deliver the head of our friend?” asks Morningstar.

    “You have had ample opportunity to come up with an alternate solution,” says Strug.

    “We did not have time to find a solution,” says Morningstar. “The curse started to take effect almost immediately. So we are here.”

    Strug snarls. “If you had honestly been making that attempt, the curse would have gone dormant! Please do not lie again in so transparent a manner.”

    “We do have several other obligations...” says Morningstar.

    “Which are not my concern!” screams Strug.

    Ernie has had enough. “Look. Here is the bald truth. Taking Aravis’s head will not give you the Maze. We have never physically held or possessed the Maze. We do not believe it can be held or possessed, or removed from its host in any way save by the consent of the person who controls it. And, having returned it to you as we promised, you have two other options. Your Goddess can release us from our promise, or we can lay waste to this temple.”

    Strug blinks in disbelief.

    “Are you threatening us?” he growls.

    “I would consider it a negotiating point,” says Aravis.

    Are you threatening us?! repeats Strug. This time his words are backed by the hoots and hollers of the myriad hidden creatures in the upper floors of the buildings.

    “We are much more powerful than the last time we were here,” says Ernie. “We do not want violence. But you are being extremely inflexible to the unfortunate truth that we cannot give you the Maze.”

    Strug stares for a moment at Ernie, and at Morningstar, and Aravis.

    “Perhaps you are right,” he says at last. “Perhaps we should discuss this with my master. Follow me.”

    He turns and walks away from them, across the muddy courtyard.

    “Finally,” mutters Ernie under his breath.

    The Company begins to follow him, thinking that at last they’ll get some satisfaction from Shreen the Fair. But Strug has no intention of taking them that far. No, having been threatened by these double-crossing infidels, he has decided to take the risk that the Maze can be removed later from Aravis’s lifeless head.

    He raises his hand, and the assault from the darkness begins.

    ...to be continued...
    Last edited by Sagiro; Thursday, 10th April, 2014 at 01:57 PM.

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