Shemeska's Planescape Storyhour (Updated 29 Jan 2014) - Page 24


What's on your mind?

  1. #231
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    Okay, so I decided to actually post something. Call it inspiration. I remember when the whole Wizard's Chess bit was discussed that I had some interesting ideas regarding the actual makeup of the game. It's a strange cross between battle chess, regular chess, and of course, magic. Most, if not all mages need some intellectual stimulus to keep from going bored, and so Wizard's Chess was born.

    The Board: Usually the board was chosen, or constructed, by the wizard proposing the game. The checkered spots were set up like a typical chess board, but the underlying terrain would vary from spot to spot. Sometimes historic epic battles could be played out between two opponents, or a completely new terrain and scenario could be constructed. Everything from mountains, rivers, flatlands, to cities and the planes themselves. Depending on the rules agreed upon before the game, the environment could effect a particular piece's abilities, but this was usually an optional rule.

    The Pieces: In the event that a historic battle was being fought, the opposing sides would represent the different interests in the battle, often taking the forms of great leaders or participants in the battles. In the event of a new game however, pieces were usually constructed by each of the wizard's individually. Either through animating simple objects, illusions, or using real miniaturized people (more for the evil aligned wizards). Each individual set of pieces was crafted to represent ideals, abilities, or other things symbolic to the participants. Part of the fun of the game, was customizing each of your pieces with special spells and abilities, as well as defenses.

    The Rules: Standard chess rules typically apply. Some extra options that could be added to the game were often added on as well, to make the game more challenging. One such example, would be actual battles between pieces. When a piece would attempt to 'take' another pieces from the board, there would be a show of power. Spells cast, defenses brought into existence, creatures summoned, etc. Under normal rules, the piece moving into the square would always win, as per normal chess rules. However, the optional rule allows the fight to be decided randomly, based solely off the construction of the pieces and the power imbued within it. Another optional rule would be terrain hindrance or bonuses. If a piece were more apt at being in the air, spaces that were predominantly open or air based would gain various advantages to their abilities. Pieces with a decided bias against the square would also take negatives when moving into the square.

    The Effect: So, what does all this boil down to? A very flashy and showy game of chess, with some interesting quirks thrown in. Pieces combat each other, spells show off their power, and it was even known that wizards would write custom spells, just for their chess pieces, to provide that unique setting. However, there was always an incentive to play the game well. Once a piece is 'destroyed' it is either completely obliterated and can never be brought back, or once the piece fades from the playing field it becomes the possession of whoever took the piece. It really depends on who's doing the playing. Lastly, the wizard playing the game cannot interfere with the actions of any of the pieces. Just to keep things simple. The terrain and the board is fair game for modifying. The magic all the pieces wield is very real, but on a miniature level. While it might not hurt the wizards who are playing the game very much, it still has the potential to do a little harm. Death spells and other similar spells that have an effect such as paralysis or disintegration are altered when they leave the playing field so as not to injure anyone around. Some of the more thrill-seeking players often disable this safety feature, just so that they can get the extra adrenaline out of it.

    Being an evoker, I tend to go with the flashier more destructive method of playing. The more excitement and variety thrown into the game the better. However, when I play, I play to capture the pieces. Starting a collection of 'victories' over other wizards is always a fun thing to do. Or, there's always a market amongst wizards to trade or purchase the pieces as well, so keeping them around can be profitable.

 

  • #232
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    And that's why I never play against you, Trist....
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  • #233
    Quote Originally Posted by Tristol
    Another optional rule would be terrain hindrance or bonuses. If a piece were more apt at being in the air, spaces that were predominantly open or air based would gain various advantages to their abilities. Pieces with a decided bias against the square would also take negatives when moving into the square.
    So we're basically talking about Archon on a real board? Sweet. I might have to steal that idea for a future game... the "game within a game" aspect might hook a couple of my players.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tristol
    Okay, so I decided to actually post something. Call it inspiration. I remember when the whole Wizard's Chess bit was discussed that I had some interesting ideas regarding the actual makeup of the game. It's a strange cross between battle chess, regular chess, and of course, magic. Most, if not all mages need some intellectual stimulus to keep from going bored, and so Wizard's Chess was born.

    ...
    Somebody seriously needs to create a computer game which allows one to play this. I'd buy it in a jiffy.
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    Trist? C or the hated *booming voice of doom* Java */booming voice*?
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  • #236
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    My communities:

    Already made.

    I remember I wanted to get Archon Ultra, back in the days, but couldn't find it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Clueless
    And that's why I never play against you, Trist....
    Pitty, it's not like the game eats your soul or anything. I'm sure some wizards have thought of that one before though, so be careful whom you actually play with. Nisha certainly makes it interesting as she plays by the variant 'Do whatever you want.' She usually ends up winning that one.

    But essentially, Yes, it's a lot like Archon, using a real board. Of course, 'real' depends on your interpretation of the word. Illusions can be made to seem and feel real, so it's a matter of perspective and power. There are lots of other variants I've got written down, and each of them adds a different twist to it, depending on how much time you spend putting together your pieces. The trick is to balance the fun with the work. As a side note, depending on the abilities of the wizards, some will even play from great distances, scrying on the pieces and playing remote games. So, if you find someone that poses a good challenge and want to play, but don't have the hours that may be required for it, simple variant games with moves every few hours or days can be played out as well.

    As for Java or C. It's a game, and would likely required 3D. And if you're into effects and neat details, and want to take advantage of the hardware out there, C is the way to go.

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    Well Nisha *cheats* - or something like that. I'm sure playing with your tail under the table constitutes some form of distracting the opponent. Naw, I don't play because I don't have time to make figurines just to have you snag em from me. That and chess isn't where I'm my most sneaky. You know where I'm my most sneaky.
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    (insert witty remark here)

    The next two days were filled with much deep thought on the part of Clueless and Fyrehowl. The bladesinger was growing more and more convinced that he would need to leave for the Waste, and soon, if he stood much chance of finding his former adventuring companion. But at the same time he was worried about the gem in his leg, and the fiendess behind it, taking exception to any actions he might take.

    Similarly, Fyrehowl was slowly managing to convince herself that she needed to go back to Elysium to either investigate the information they had found on the mercane regarding something happening on the layer of Belarian, or at least to speak with one of the Guardinal highups in the fortress of Rubicon on the same layer to inform them of anything untoward that might be happening unbeknownst to them. However, the fact that the maps and notes they had taken from the Imshenviir mercane had vanished without a trace had put a hold on her plans for the moment.

    And so, in the time that she was spending overly thinking about such matters, Fyrehowl had, with a liberal dose of irony, been spending more and more time at the Great Gymnasium, training with and speaking to a number of adherents of the philosophy of the Transcendent Order. It was just such a dose of irony, considering their teachings, which reared its ugly head one morning when she sat down next to Clueless over breakfast with Florian and Tristol.

    “So has anyone else seen Nisha since yesterday?” Tristol asked.

    “For about thirty seconds. She was in and out just to grab some food and make fun of the Factol Sarin doll. And speaking of which, the Factol Nilesia doll sprouted blades stuck all through it yesterday… word travels fast even for animated dolls it seems.” Florian remarked.

    “And some pervert asked if he could ‘rent’ the doll and a room for an hour. I mentioned something about, ‘those are sharp’ and ‘please leave’ and he wandered off…” Clueless said with a shiver.

    “Nisha seemed preoccupied with something actually. I swear that she actually looked nervous and paranoid when she was here. I stopped her and asked her if anything was wrong and she brushed it off as ‘boyfriend troubles’ and walked out.” Florian said.

    Fyrehowl edged closer to Clueless, getting a raised eyebrow from Florian as she smiled at the bladesinger. “Speaking of all of that, I’ve been meaning to ask you about something for a while, but I haven’t been able to get up the courage and wherewithal to actually ask, but ..." Florian looked at Fyrehowl again and the lupinal paused. "Actually, nevermind, I'll ask you later."

    Clueless looked at her oddly, completely oblivious to any insinuation, and to the fact that both she and Florian had actually been competing with each other for over a week or more for his attention. Both of them seemed interested in the bladesinger, and he hadn’t so much as noticed it.

    Clueless was still oblivious, and Florian mentally rolled his eyes and was on the verge of saying to Fyrehowl, ‘Apparently the ciphers haven’t been teaching you much if this is any clue.’.

    Florian looked at his ale, pushed it forwards, stood up and poured himself four fingers of Bytopian whiskey, but otherwise didn’t say more before Toras walked in carrying a stack of letters and envelopes, one of them heavily stained with some greasy material that was dripping on the floor. He dropped them on the table and took a seat with his companions with a single statement, “Junk mail…”

    “Really? Addressed to us even… didn’t take them all very long…” Clueless said as he and the others started to look over all of them.

    Among the various offers of services ranging from linen cleaning to dishwashing to security, several places of business stood out from the rest: a letter of appreciation of business from ‘The Friendly Fiend’, a letter of services offered by ‘The Sanitation Guild’ and their standard rates for monthly service, a business card from a wizard’s bar and shop in the Clerk’s Ward by the name of ‘The Pentacle’, a notice of responsibilities and voting rights for the next Sigil Advisory Council elections later in the year, and three other amusing bits of mail.

    “These look to have been there since the day the place was ours officially…” Toras said, holding up two letters that had been nailed to the front of the wooden box that served to hold their mail. Florian took them from Toras and started to look them over.

    “Two letters, one from ‘Zadara the Titan’, and another from ‘Shemeska the Marauder’. Both of them are offering to buy our inn from us. The Marauder’s was nailed on top of the titans, and it looks like someone added in ‘sleeps with Fomorians’ next to any place Zadara put her name on that letter. The Titan’s letter makes mention that we should ‘ignore any offers from gutter skimming fiends with the temerity to think themselves a king of anything’. Yep… pleasant rivalry there I’m sure.”

    Tristol rolled his eyes and Clueless stiffened at the mention of the King of the Crosstrade. “Write a polite letter back to the Titan and ignore the fiend. I don’t care that she’s offering double whatever the titan who ‘sleeps with Fomorians’ is offering.” The bladesinger said.

    “Not a problem, there’s no way I’m selling this place, not even a fraction of my share. Land is hard to own in this city, and I won’t sell out to either of those two. Though it’s amusing to watch the unabashed civility between those two, isn’t it?” Florian said, balling up both letters and tossing them to the floor before looking at the final piece of mail.

    “Toras… why is that letter dripping something? And it smells too…” Fyrehowl said, wincing as Toras opened up the letter and dropped out a moldy, partially liquefied rat corpse onto the table.

    “It’s a promotional letter and ‘free sample’ from ‘Parts and Pieces: owned and operated by Seamusxanthuszemus, merchant most excellent and slayer of fiends, aka that mephit with the hat’. Apparently he put us on his mailing list…”

    Clueless sighed, “I’ll go make sure we don’t get any more… gifts… from the mephit. It’s in the Market Ward right?”

    Toras nodded, “Sure is, feel free to take the letter too, and the rat, they’re getting pretty ripe. Threaten to shove him in his hat or something.”

    “Umm… just toss the rat into the trash. I’ll handle the mephit, how hard could it be?”

    “No, seriously, threaten to shove him into his own hat!” Toras was grinning far, far too much when Clueless left the inn to handle that tiny chore.

    ***

    The entrance to the shop was a single freestanding archway in a corner of the Great Bazaar from which a single sign and a tiny, battered tin bucket hung. The sign was battered with age and covered in graffiti that had accumulated over the years, but still visible on the front of the wooden sign was the following: ‘Pieces and Parts’ painted crudely over atop of a much more finely carved name of ‘Pets and Meat’ from the shop’s previous incarnation when it had a different owner than the dust mephit who held nominal and unchallenged possession at the moment, and for the foreseeable future.

    The tin bucket, which looked like it had seen the abuse of passersby was filled with a motley collection of small animal bones from birds, mice, rats, and others of more unidentifiable origin, some still decorated with gristle and sinew as well as their attracted coterie of buzzing flies.

    Looking at the bucket and taking one of the more dry and clean bits of bone, Clueless looked at the small instructions that had been painted on the side of the bucket. In the same paint as the shop’s sign, they read: “Portal keys, free to paying customers only.”

    “So what happens if I don’t like any of the c*** you sell once I get inside. Maybe Toras was right…” Clueless said with a shrug before tossing the bone through the archway. Almost immediately the archway swirled with blue light and Clueless emerged into a poorly lit chamber that stank like a charnel house.

    The floor of the shop was piled high with neat stacks of arms, legs, heads and other parts of a wide and exotic assortment of animals from dogs, to wyverns, to cranium rats and things even more exotic. Across the room were stacks of bones, fully bereft of flesh unlike the side of the chamber that Clueless was rapidly stepping away from to escape the stink of putrefying flesh.

    “Twenty gold pieces! I never bargain!” Came a shrill, high pitched, whiny voice from the shopkeeper’s desk, hidden behind the form of an angry Night Hag who was holding out a pair of eyeballs and the leg bone of some other creature while banging her other hand on the hard surface in front of her.

    “I’ll pay you two or I’ll stuff the bones down ‘yer throat and help myself to the entire sodding shop you morbid little vermin of a mephit!” Came the hag’s voice.

    “Two gold pieces it is! I always bargain!” Came the squeaking voice of the shopkeeper as a pair of scrawny gray hands scooped up the pair of gold coins and began counting them over and over as the hag picked up her purchases and brushed Clueless out of the way as she walked to the portal.

    “…should feed him to the larvae one of these days ‘n put up with his lip…” She muttered as she stepped through the portal.

    “Greetings! Welcome to my glorious and most awesome shop you who happen to walk in on me when I’m doing the most important thing of the day, counting out my awesome profits!” Clueless winced as the mephit’s voice grated on his ears.

    Seamusxanthuszemus was dressed in a dingy gray suit and banded gray and white stockings whose feet dangled a few loose inches off of his toes. Perched on his head was a banded, multicolored woolen hat several feet longer than his entire body. The mephit grinned and held up his two new gold pieces from the hag, removed the hat and tossed the coins in. Clueless assumed it was magical, some sort of cap of holding like a bag of the same nature. At least he assumed it until Seamus stood up and the coins fell to the base of the cap and jingled in the floor as they bounced while he walked over to greet his new customer.

    “Hi, my name’s Clueless and…”

    “Huh, looked more Eladrin to me, but all you berks look alike anyways! What can I help you with today you lousy potential piece of merchandise waiting to die and living on borrowed time?” The mephit’s voice was grating even more on Clueless as it cut him off.

    “Take us off your mailing list. We’re not intereste…”

    “Glad to know you liked your first free sample! Just one of many I assure you from Seamusxanthuszemus, Merchant Most Excellent, Purveyor of Death and Slayer of Fiends!” Seamus grinned like a fool as he help up a skull in front of him, moving the jaw up and down as he spoke.

    “No. I didn’t. I was rotting and stank up our other mail. Don’t send up anything more or I’ll send one of my friends who has far less tact and patience than I do.” Clueless said with his hand on his sword.

    “Nonsense! I never bargain!” The mephit said as he hopped back onto his desk with a resounding ‘chink’ as the coins in his hat clattered on the surface.

    “But you just told the hag you always bargain.”

    “Ahh… your ears are failing… first thing to go they say…”

    Clueless tried to explain his position again to the mephit and was nearly ready to stuff the damn shopkeeper in his own hat without relying on Toras to do so when the shop’s portal opened again. Turning around to look, he didn’t see anyone and, figuring it person messing with the portal keys back in the bazaar, he turned back to the mephit. He changed his opinion when a tall figure slipped out of the shadows without a sound less than a foot from him to drop a stunned and still living reptile across the mephit’s desk.

    Dressed in little but a loincloth, the Bladeling towered over Clueless by at least two feet and glanced down at him with violet eyes like amethysts frozen in ice. Her skin was spiked and razor tipped in places like a living suit of spiked armor and seemed to nearly blend in with the shadows in the shop. Clueless stepped back from her as she turned to look at him and then to the mephit.

    “Pay me up front this time Seamus or I bring it back to the Beastlands.” She said softly, whispered almost.

    “Of course! I never bargain!” The mephit said as he rummaged behind the counter for a moment.

    “And pay me in something other than copper this time. It would be… appreciated…” Her tone changed almost to a threat for a split second, following which the mephit put down one bag of coin, smiled and picked up another that he handed to her.

    “If you have a request for the next time, say it now or I’ll gather what’s more plentiful and leave it at that.” Adamok said, not looking at the mephit as she sliced open the top of the bag of coin with a single deft movement, belaying the fact that what Clueless had first presumed to be part of her own spiked skin were in fact a pair of semi-retractable blades strapped to her forearms or the top of her hands.

    “A hydra if you can find one. One of the ones that spits ice at people and freezes ‘em solid! Always a fun way to watch someone go, they’ve got that frozen look on their faces right before they fall over and bust into a hundred pieces!” Seamus clapped his hands together in glee at the very thought.

    Adamok smirked as she picked up the animal she had brought in and began to systematically butcher it, separating the severed body parts into piles at the mephit’s discretion. Given the bladeling’s cold skill in what she did, and was at the moment doing, Clueless shivered to think of any poor sod being hunted by her. And then Clueless remembered the story he’d heard about just whom the Bladeling worked for on a permanent retainer of sorts… The Marauder.

    On that thought, Clueless smiled and walked back towards the portal leading out of the shop. As he did he felt uncomfortable and glanced back at the Bladeling, certain that she would be staring at his back with those merciless violet eyes. But, as he looked back she was concentrating fully on her work for Seamus and not paying him the slightest bit of attention. Relieved somewhat by that fact, Clueless hurriedly exited the shop.

    “Sendings are fun. Anyways, meet me back at the inn at peak. Important.” Came Nisha’s voice bouncing around inside Clueless’s head the moment he re-emerged back in the Great Bazaar, and it also sounded inside the minds of every one of her companions wherever in Sigil they happened to be at the time.

    Glancing up at the brightness in the sky, and judging it to be near to peak, Clueless set out to return to the inn. Elsewhere in Sigil, Skalliska got up from her desk and set out across the city, on the border of the hive Toras stopped beating muggers and stealing their money, and Florian waved goodbye to A’kin after having spent an hour making small talk with the Friendly Fiend.

    ***

    Clueless sat down at a corner table in the tap room of the Jammer as Nisha sat next to him, fiddling with something or another that she had either bought or stolen. She was laughing softly and ignoring him till he finally reached over and prodded her out of her fascination.

    “Did you actually pay for that? Or did you steal it? … And just what in the nine hells is that anyways?”

    Nisha held up what appeared to be a scale model of a Blue Slaadi head with large, oversized googly eyes and a whimsical expression on its face. Clueless only raised an eyebrow.

    “Do you think I’d actually take the risk and steal tacky, yet utterly amusing for knowing my taste, crap like this? No, this I paid jink for. Besides, I try not to steal too much from A’kin every month. Florian mentioned he saw this in his shop when he was there buying the dolls last time and I found it amusing.”

    Clueless paused and looked at her weirdly before asking, “Wait wait, you steal from A’kin? The fiend?”

    “He’s friendly. Besides, he knows it I think. I eventually bring it all back when I remember about it, and I think he actually puts out stuff that snags my attention just so I don’t make off with all the stuff he really wants to sell.” Nisha smiled and held up the stuffed Slaadi head. “Besides, this is just crazy enough to be worth my gold. Press the symbol on his forehead.”

    Clueless did just so and the head sprang into motion, with the tongue flapping in and out, the eyes spinning around and flashing different colors, all before it settled down and spoke, “Xanxost knows lots about mephits. Mmmm… mephits…”

    The tiefling giggled and Clueless had to laugh along with her. “Alright, that’s actually rather cute, in a seriously warped sort of way. It fits you alright.”

    Nisha just smiled as slowly their other companions gathered to take a seat and stare at her expectantly, and stare at the speaking Slaadi head with a mixture of amusement and bewilderment.

    Florian glanced over at Nisha, “Nisha! Did you steal that from A’kin?!”

    “No! Not this anyways!” She clutched at ‘Xanxost’ like some sort of chaotic teddy bear.

    “…what do you mean, not that anyways… A’kin’s a really friendly guy, and you shouldn’t take advantage of him.” Florian still had his finger out accusingly at Nisha.

    “A’kin is rather nice and friendly… for a godless abomination…” Toras said somewhat bluntly to Florian’s scowl.

    “He oh perfectly hardly, take I what knows well, give and it back always I!” Nisha’s suddenly foray into a torrent of seamless scramblespeak ended any further discussion of the matter and finally got her the silence she wanted before explaining why she had asked all of them to join her there.

    “Anyways Nisha, what was this all about anyways?” Tristol asked as Nisha put away ‘Xanxost’.

    Nisha smiled again as all eyes turned to her. “Well, you know how all the stuff from the mercane went missing?”

    “Yeah… tell me about it…” Clueless said, feeling distinctly guilty and unaware that Tristol had, for the past day, been looking oddly at the large patch of null magic around Clueless’s legs whenever he was talking about anything important.

    “I have it all.” Another grin from the tiefling.

    “… what? How? You stole it from Clueless?” Florian asked, growing slightly livid.

    “No no no. You know the guy who got flayed the other day with Nilesia? He had them… I cleaned his place out five minutes after he got penned in the dead book.”

    The unbelieving silence was deafening.

    “And a good thing I did, because the place went up in flames a few minutes later… however, I don’t know if anyone noticed me or not, and I’d have sworn that I was being trailed once or twice since then. That’s why I haven’t been around here much. I didn’t want to risk anyone torching this place too, especially with all of you in it.”

    “You’re nuts, you know that? You’re wonderful, but you’re crazy sometimes.” Toras said.

    “What happened to your boyfriend problems and all?” Florian asked.

    “I don’t have a boyfriend. What do you mean? …oh! That boyfriend… heheh yeah…” She gave a guilty grin and jangled the silver bell on the tip of her tail.

    “Garroth’s jink went a long ways to buying me some new stuff. Too bad we had to split up though so soon. Sniff sniff.” She winked and tapped her golden horseshoes on the taproom floor.

    “Oh, but you’ll meet the other boyfriend soon enough. I’ll bring him over for dinner at some point, though the relationship isn’t going well and you probably won’t see him all too much after that. Trust me…” another wink and a sly grin from Nisha before the others started asking questions.

    “So can we see whatever you found?” Clueless asked.

    “Oh well none of the stuff is actually here. I stuffed it in one of my little places over in the Hive.”

    “You have places in the Hive?” Fyrehowl asked with a measure of disbelief.

    “Well not the Hive really, technically it’s the Slags.”

    “Oh so much better there… are you nuts?”

    “Not always! And hey, they land is cheap. And by cheap I mean squatter style cheap. And when you trap the front door, there’s remarkably little competition for the place. And there’s always that whole little cinnamon smelling monster of an urban legend, I think, that keeps most people away from the area if they have any lick of sense to them.”

    “Is it telling that you keep a safehouse in the same area then Nisha?” Fyrehowl asked.

    “Yeah, but isn’t it?” Nisha was grinning, and none of them were quite sure if it was on purpose if she simply hadn’t gotten the insinuation from the lupinal. In any event though, she managed to convince them to follow her from the Clerk’s Ward into the southwestern border area between it and the Hive. As they passed from the Sandstone district and out into the Hive itself, a long and ragged wall stood to their south, covered in cuts and scratches that spelled out words, names, and abstract symbols.

    Nisha pointed to the wall, “And that’d be the scratchwall. If anyone’s curious I’ll tell you how to read it at some point. I’ve found job offers through it before, oddly enough. Not all the graffiti is graffiti, some of it’s code and such. But in any event, we’ve got to hop over the wall here at the next block.”

    Toras was enjoying scaring off any Hive dwellers who so much as looked at them all with an appraising eye, and Clueless was walking with his sword openly slung over his shoulder. Fyrehowl was nervous on the other hand, having the feeling that they were being watched, and not just from the impoverished citizens that watched them with sullen and avaricious eyes from the broken stoops and doorsteps of the ramshackle buildings that jutted up against the wall separating the Hive from the Slags.

    Once over the wall itself the contrast was overwhelming. Whereas the Hive had been a tattered collection of crumbling buildings, criminals, the forsaken, the forgotten, and the starving, the Slags were worse. Existing as the remnants of a Blood War spillover into Sigil hundreds of years before, the wasteland that stretched out miles in each direction beyond the wall was a harrowing sight. Steam and smoke rose up from cracks in the earth and ruins of formerly proud buildings dotted the landscape that seemed to have been plucked from Oinos and deposited in the heart of urbanized Sigil.

    “And you live here Nisha? Is this wise?” Florian asked incredulously.

    “Only when I’m hiding something, or myself from somebody. And wise? Think about it, the only people that come in here won’t mess with me, they’re all on the run from somebody else or they’re completely crazy.”

    “My point exactly…” The cleric replied, taking his axe out and cradling it in his arms.

    “Oh, and if you see any minor fiends, vargouilles, shambling undead, or anything worse, do tell the rest of us. They’re a problem sometimes.” Nisha was whistling as they walked through the war torn and forgotten sprawl, the bell on the end of her tail jingling a cheery tone that seemed bizarre given the surroundings.

    They continued at a brisk pace, and several times Fyrehowl stopped and looked around, once again swearing that she felt someone nearby watching them. However despite that, she never noticed any concrete evidence of her suspicions being true, and none of the others picked up on, or shared, her feelings by the time Nisha had stopped them all at the rubble of a ruined building. The ruin seemed to have once been a shop, though it’s windows had long since been broken with only the jagged remnants of them sticking out around the rotting frames.

    “Well, here we are. Whatcha think?” The tiefling asked as she started disarming a series of traps around the edges of what turned out to be a trapdoor leading down underneath the shell of the building.

    “It’s rather out of the way.” Clueless said.

    “I approve.” Skalliska said, poking at the dried blood around one of the traps’ areas of effect from some unfortunate who had tried in the past to get around them.

    “The neighborhood really has gone downhill I think.” Toras said with a smirk.

    Nisha chuckled and jingled the bell on her tail with each trap she disarmed. “Anyways, just follow me, shouldn’t take more than a few minutes more to disarm these all on the way down.”

    “You trapped the way down from the trapdoor?” Clueless asked as they all followed Nisha down a thin iron rung ladder into the darkness below.

    “Overkill, huh?” She said as they eventually worked their way down to the bottom and past an iron door into a cozy chamber whose magical lights sprung into effect almost instantly with a rosy glow.

    They all followed in and took to looking at the various items Nisha had stashed throughout the room on shelves, tables, the floor, hung from the ceiling and generally arranged in some madcap method that only she likely really understood; and that by itself was probably in question. In one corner enough vegetables to make up a small grocer’s cart were stacked haphazardly along with several jars of paint and what almost seemed to be several bags of plucked feathers; none of them bothered asking what might rationally explain it all.

    “Anyways, here’s all the stuff that I bobbed from Garroth the Blind’s kip the other day. Well, what I didn’t pawn off for jink that is. There’s the stuff that vanished…” She glanced at Clueless out of the corner of her eyes, “and there’s a bunch of other stuff he had too.”

    Clustered around a table that was arranged in nearly perfect and pristine order, in stark contrast to the rest of the room, just to be random apparently, were a number of curious items: several mimirs, several maps, a letter or two, and a few gems that glowed a soft light across the table.

    Florian unfurled one of the maps while Toras picked up one of the mimirs and began to sift through its recorded information while Clueless picked up the letter on the table. The first map was of Sigil itself, with notations over the Prison, the Gatehouse, and Portal Schmortal, apparently still using the old name of the inn. Other than marking locations, it held no other useful information.

    The other maps were more confusing; one of them mapped out the city of Skeinheim on Ysgard, another the city known as The Madhouse on Pandemonium, and the last was a map of the Shattered Temple.

    “Odd taste in vacation spots for a dead Yugoloth I’d say…” Florian said as he furled the maps and glanced over to Toras as the warrior activated the first mimir. Without any introduction it began to play back a recorded speech in the voice of a man who was instantly recognizable, even five years after his death at the hands of The Lady:

    "I reckon Sigil is the Lady's Cage. The Powers really don't want to get in. They've trapped her here so they can watch her like a monkey in a zoo. 'Course, it could be the other way around; maybe the universe is a cage for all the other powers, and only Sigil is free. From Sigil the Lady looks in at the Powers like they're the zoo animals. That'll all change when I'm in charge..."

    “Spoken by Duke Rowan Darkwood, Factol of the Fated before the Hall of Speakers five years, thirty two days before present.” The mimir intoned before it began to replay more in a series of recorded speeches by the late Factol. As the mimir droned on in Rowan Darkwood’s voice, bubbling with confidence and arrogance at once, the recordings all harkened on one subject, the Duke’s ambitions and collected information in his quest to hunt down information on Sigil’s murky past. Specifically it focused on the past history of The Lady, the mage Shekelor and the unknown mage who preceded him and legends claimed had nearly struck down The Bladed Queen before, unable to kill him, She bottled him within an artifact known as The Labyrinth Gem.

    The companions listened spellbound as the mimir began to recount further information regarding the actual fate of the Duke, something which was not fully public knowledge. That the Duke had been hurled backwards in time, that bereft of his memories he had become that ancient wizard and been bottled in the Labyrinth Gem only to killed by himself when the future happened again as it had before. For all legend claimed for him, The Lady had played with him like a toy. He had never been a threat.

    The mimir ended and the last continued on regarding the contents of the Duke’s library of collected information into Sigil’s past and his mad search for clues, anything really, that might have helped him gain power or some insight into The Lady. The listing was without real rhyme or reason, but if someone were looking for information on a specific part of Sigil’s past it would have been invaluable.

    “Well damn. We might not have to do anything at all. Just let them end up getting themselves mazed or flayed if they follow up on anything Darkwood was looking into.” Toras said with a grin as he put down the mimirs.

    “I don’t know. I doubt it really, it’s almost like Garroth was just digging up dirt on Sigil’s past in general and Darkwood just ended up doing a lot of that work for him so it’s natural that there’s lots of stuff from him here.” Florian said, responding to Toras.

    Clueless was reading the letters in the meantime, all of them written to Garroth and all of them unsigned and written in the same elegant hand with ink that was doped with gold dust.

    “Once he arrives from the ethereal, take custody of the elf and deliver him to the Styx Oarsman. I will handle the rest from there as it concerns him. Additionally I will be handing you a sheaf of papers from our late patsy mercane, I trust you to memorize the material and dispose of them as you see fit.
    Secondly, the elf will be giving you a gem shortly before he regains control over himself. Be prepared to gag him once he does so to prevent his screams from attracting attention, and if it appears he may bleed to death, staunch the wound or hack the leg off and cauterize the stump.
    Finally, hand the gem over to Schliphis after you meet with me in the Oarsman. She’ll handle that matter from there and your hands will be washed clean of the matter. The others’ directives will concern you from that point onwards.”


    The second letter was even more interesting to the bladesinger as he read over its words and his blood rose a few degrees in anger at the hand that had written them.

    “Garroth, find D’jekk Nlarr wherever the hell she is and find out what the hell went wrong in the mazes. When I say I want people dead, I want them incinerated, hacked to pieces, their killer holding their hearts in his hand, and the like; I don’t want some halfassed s*** like ‘oh I thought they were dead so I didn’t waste any more spells’. She’s still useful, so at most beat the ever living c*** out of her, rape her bloody, do what you like, but make sure she stays alive. Find me that information or else the bitch’ll be seeing me and I’ll find it out myself. You at least are competent. I’ve passed along my opinion as such to Helekanalaith, you’ll be keen to note his opinion on the matter.”

    “B****…” Clueless whispered as he pocketed the letters while the others examined and then activated the first in a series of sensory stones containing illusory images of the events they had recorded. Nisha poked Clueless after he pocketed the notes, but otherwise she said nothing and it seemed as if the others hadn’t noticed.

    Holding up the first gem, Tristol activated it after having examined it for any malevolent dweomers. Springing into the air over the gem was an image, from Garroth’s perspective of a red and gold robed Arcanaloth with rich, chocolate brown fur and a pair of copper rimmed spectacles looking out over a landscape of erupting volcanoes and rivers of lava underneath a black void of a sky; Gehenna. The arcanaloth turned to smile at Garroth and spoke to him less as a superior than as a teacher to a promising student of many ranks lower than their own education. The arcanaloth also held a brightly glowing blue gem in his hand, roughly the size of a hen’s egg; Clueless noted it almost immediately and narrowed his eyes as he watched the image speak.

    “I am well aware that you have long awaited the opportunity to advance in caste, to finally be promoted to Arcanaloth. You have done well and I have followed the Marauder’s reports on your progress. To that end, she or I are willing to sponsor you for promotion, so confident are we in your potential.

    Once you have returned Nilesia to Sigil, allow her to do as she wishes and only observe and take note of what comes to pass. I remain curious on the outcome of it all. Trust me when I tell you that your current assignment in Sigil shall be your last; your days as a Nycaloth are numbered few.”

    And with that, the image paused and withdrew back into the gem. The irony of the final statement was not lost on its audience as Toras, Florian and Fyrehowl chuckled openly.

    “Wow, there’s some dramatic irony if I’ve ever seen it. Talk about breaking a few eggs to make an omelet… there’s some loyalty for you…” Toras said as Tristol activated the last gem.

    The light in the room seemed to dim slightly as the cobalt-robed arcanaloth’s image appeared in the air, its reddish pink eyes piercing in their intensity. As it spoke, the voice was instantly recognizable as the same voice that had spoken to all of them in the mercane’s demiplane, telling them to ‘clean up loose ends’ for him. As the image played, Garroth’s voice spoke to the arcanaloth with reverence that seemed almost odd to hear from a yugoloth’s lips. ‘The Ebon’ was all that the Nycaloth referred to the arcanaloth as, but the name or title sunk into the memory of the companions as they watched the scene unfold. Clueless was fixated more than anything else on the blue gem, identical to that carried by Helekanalaith, which hovered above The Ebon’s open hand.

    “Helekanalith and I have spoken Garroth, and I concur with his and The Marauder’s opinions both. Following this last series of assignments in Sigil we feel it appropriate to test you for advancement. So keep that in mind in the next few weeks, your rebirth in the furnaces of Gehenna to emerge in a new, glorified form. Your time as a Nycaloth is short indeed, the days are limited and fast approaching an end.

    But, you came here for a bit of knowledge and I’ve given you that, but let me leave you with a few words of wisdom as well to ponder over. I once had a very wise prime say to me, ‘This is what we do. We appease their conscience. Anyone who can appease a man’s conscience can take his freedom away from him. And in the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say ‘Make us your slaves, but feed us.’’

    I would add further that there is no greater fault and liability than tarnished pride. Soothe a man’s sullied pride and he will lay his soul at your feet, forsaking everything that you returned to him.”

    With that, the image faded with a smile upon The Ebon’s lips that left the air feeling chill even after the gem went still and silent. Nisha however was paying little attention to the gem, but rather was at the door out of the room, listening intently at something outside and above.

    “Guys… I think someone was outside and just left. I’m positive I heard someone on the ladder going back up…”

    “And none of you believed me when I said we were being followed…” Fyrehowl sighed and drew her sword as Nisha grabbed a wand and kicked open the door with the others in fast, but cautious, pursuit.

    “Not a problem, we just kill them and they won’t do it again. Hard lesson, but I’ve found that it usually works.” Toras said as he followed.

    “Why did you have to pawn all of Garroth’s stuff within days of stealing it all? If you’d waited they might have assumed it all went up in flames! What sort of thief worth their salt does that?” Skalliska was incredulous as she scampered up after Nisha.

    Seconds later, as they clambered quickly back to the surface, Fyrehowl could just barely detect a scent that smelled almost like steel and oil. However, the thought was lost as they gathered outside the ruins atop Nisha’s safehouse and a half-dozen crossbow bolts buried themselves inches from each of them.
    Last edited by Shemeska; Saturday, 2nd October, 2004 at 08:13 AM.

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