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Wednesday, 13th October, 2004, 12:40 PM #261
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Originally Posted by Gez
And yes - Clueless is actually living up to his name regarding *both* of them. It's not ignoring - he genuinely isn't *getting* it. (This is something the three players agreed on as just a cool twist to the impending love triangle. )
Wednesday, 13th October, 2004, 07:22 PM #262
Novice (Lvl 1)
Originally Posted by Clueless
On a completely different topic, here's the audio clip of 'that stupid mephit with a hat'. Please be gentle on the server as it's about 800k. I'll post mirrors if need be. And, there's talk of actually running our game sessions over a shoutcast stream. Likely one week behind to allow us to edit out some of the crude comments that shouldn't be uttered. The reason it'd be a shoutcast is to save my webserver the strain of dolling out 100MB MP3 files. Keep up with Shemeska and Clueless for the details, or even visit the city of doors website the mp3 file is hosted from. I'll likely post the content and stream URL there once I get it going.
Wednesday, 13th October, 2004, 08:07 PM #263
Superhero (Lvl 15)
[soft mutter]Oh Christ...[/soft mutter] that voice hurt my throat something fierce, and it's higher pitched, more nasal and more whiny in person. *laugh*
Wednesday, 13th October, 2004, 08:35 PM #264
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Originally Posted by Tristol
Thursday, 14th October, 2004, 08:46 AM #265
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Originally Posted by Shemeska
Saturday, 16th October, 2004, 06:32 AM #266
Superhero (Lvl 15)
Shemmy, who was raised a curious mix of Russian Orthodox and PresbyterianOriginally Posted by Gez
Saturday, 16th October, 2004, 06:37 AM #267
Superhero (Lvl 15)
Rule 1) Never split the party. ... whoops...
The next morning, the entire group, excepting Nisha and Clueless were awake early and ready in anticipation of leaving for Elysium after they spoke to Council Chairwoman, and ex-factol, Rhys. They all said little over a quick breakfast before they ventured out into the Clerk’s Ward in a trip nearly around the city towards Rhys’s office in The Lady’s Ward.
The council met infrequently and usually in different places and different wards around Sigil, but for the time being, Rhys’s office was housed within a former temple whose clergy had relocated shortly after the Tempest of Doors nearly five years prior. The old holy symbols had been removed and replaced with a stylized seal of sorts with Sigil’s ring surrounding a stylized image in silhouette of Her Serenity.
Fyrehowl led the way as they entered the building that also housed several branch offices of the Hall of Information, given its recent expansion following its takeover of most of the functions of the old Hall of Records before that building had been abandoned, looted, and finally condemned and demolished of late. The cipher in training seemed to unerringly know where to go within the otherwise complex building, and as they turned a corner they realized that it was perhaps less due to any mystical ability she had gained in her sparse time learning about the philosophy of the Transcendent Order, than in her ability to smell as a lupinal.
Halfway down the hall they spotted a githzerai wielding a sword of flowing liquid metal that extended out from his hand like a living thing on its own. He was dressed in the familiar robes of a factor of the Ciphers, and also wearing a badge of office that marked him as the personal assistant and aide de camp of Chairwoman Rhys. Fyrehowl had often trained with the githzerai at the Great Gymnasium, and more likely than not, she had simply tracked him down, knowing that he’d be near to Rhys.
Kel’shre’tar, as the githzerai was called, was going through a series of katas with his karach blade when he turned to face the party. He bowed first to Fyrehowl and then turned to bow to the others in turn.
“You wish to speak with the factol?” He asked, less a question than a statement.
Fyrehowl nodded, “Yes please. I have several questions for her, and I believe that her knowledge and her links to persons in Elysium might aid us. If she is not busy that is, I know she has many things that take up her time. Is she in?”
The gith nodded, “Indeed. You will find her waiting for you within her office.”
Florian raised an eyebrow at the suggestion that Rhys was already aware that they were coming to see her, and was expecting them. But as the githzerai pointed down to the end of the hallway and the open door that welcomed them, the sword that had been held in the gith’s hand snapped back into a series of rings upon his fingers, shuffling itself out of sight as he walked with them.
“Please enter, you are expected.” Came Rhys’s melodic and somewhat distant voice from just inside the room.
Rhys was dressed in a simple white robe and a wrap of dull green that circled her waist and passed over one shoulder to drape down her back. For a woman of her level of power and influence she was dressed as simply as a clerk. Her long, raven black hair seemed to rustle and flow like that of an air genasi, like there was a constant breeze flowing through the chamber when in truth there was none. Finally, the ex-factol’s eyes were glazed over like she was in a trance, her eyes seemingly focused on some distant sight rather than the present moment; all in all it was surreal and compelling.
“Greetings Factol,” Fyrehowl said with a bow before Rhys waved the formality away.
“You have questions for me regarding Elysium. Ask me and I will tell you what I know, and remember that I no longer hold a formal title of factol, the reverence is not needed.” Rhys said as she stepped out from behind her desk to approach the group and bid them to sit. Her feet ended in hooves, much like Nisha’s, betraying the former factol’s tiefling heritage.
Skalliska blinked at the uncanny, and somewhat disturbing level of prescience the factol seemed to possess. The woman seemed to anticipate events, or likely events, before they even happened, acting moments before they would to perform any action in the best possible manner given the situation. Toras had the same thought, though his mind was pondering over what poor fool might ever attempt to kill her and how poorly it would likely end for them consider that the factol moved with the grace of an expert swordsman and was reputedly a sorceress of no small ability either.
“Fac… councilwoman Rhys, without going fully into where we recovered this information, we have reason to believe that something is happening on Elysium’s 3rd layer without the knowledge of the Guardinals of Rubicon. We found maps and records of mercanes shipping goods and materials to a point on that largely sealed layer and we have reason to believe that fiends are involved at the core of whatever this may turn out to be.” Fyrehowl explained to Rhys.
Rhys looked away but didn’t hesitate in her answer, not for a second, picking up immediately when the lupinal ended her own statements. “And I have reason to believe that one of my own is involved as well, though the full meaning of his involvement was not fully apparent till now.”
The group looked at Rhys curiously as she continued, “A former Factor of mine, a lupinal by the name of Tarnsilver. Following the Faction War he became disillusioned with the actions of his race. He came to feel that they were too quiescent, not proactive enough, and that drastic actions were needed to prompt them out of this. He did not tell me his plans, or of his mode of action, only that he would likely be reviled for doing what he perceived was the needed and correct method of action towards what he perceived as a greater good.”
Fyrehowl furrowed her brow, “It seems very likely that he would be involved with this then. Whatever is happening, he would likely know how to keep any activity on the layer covert and hidden from our eyes…”
Again, the ex-factol picked up immediately upon the lupinal stopping. “Indeed, and I would ask that you investigate this matter, both for myself and a former member of the order, and for your own sake and that of your people in Elysium. Ask to speak with the leonal, Duke Jalinon, at Rubicon, he will explain certain things to you that I am not fully privy towards.”
“I will. Thank you Rhys.” Fyrehowl bowed and was very nearly ready to leave as Rhys had already sat down again. But then the former factol spoke to her one more time.
“And when you find Tarnsilver, tell him that he no longer listens to the cadence in his heart and his actions. The only voice he hears within his mind and soul is his own. The planes no longer speak to him…”
The plane was bleak and chill, though neither Nisha nor Clueless had yet been exposed to its malign presence long enough for its omnipresent effects to wash over them like a leaching wave of apathy, regret and misery. For the moment they stood unharmed by its sapping touch, but as the moments passed they felt a chill run through themselves that was not from fear, nor from any demonstrable breeze that graced their body. However, they were more concerned with other things to notice its dire effects at that time.
Clueless glanced out at the armies that were barely visible on the horizon as they moved to clash with each other or to forge ahead to one of the planes bordering the Waste, either Gehenna or Carceri.
“…Hmm, looks like they’re avoiding the ‘loths…”
“They’ve gotten smart then…” Nisha said as she rolled her eyes.
“We’ve got a problem though. We’re one layer of the plane too high. The city we’re looking for is in Nifleheim.” Clueless said as he glanced down towards the winding gash in the blasted earth that was the Styx, glimmering seductively like slowly congealing blood on black glass.
“Well, the Styx is that way…” Clueless muttered as he continued to glance towards the River Infernal, “Trying to really recall how to get to the next layer down.”
“Well, the Styx hits the first layer of the Waste and not any of the lower ones, though supposedly the ferrymen can navigate the river and dump you through portals to the other layers, but more often than not you end up drowned and dead, or stuck with no memories and in a position where you might as well be dead.” Nisha said with a frown.
“I don’t really want to deal with anymore Marraenoloths. The less ‘loths the better at this point.”
“Well… there’s the friendly trip down the memory sucking river with the every so trustworthy Yugoloths or there’s another way, maybe, but I’ve never tried it before…” Nisha said tentatively.
Clueless looked at her oddly as she reached into her satchel and removed a dusky glass bottle with two glittering fleshy orbs suspending in a thin layer of liquid inside. The bladesinger wrinkled his nose at the bottle.
“Looks disgusting actually. What is it?” He asked.
“Bebelith eyes, or at least part of one. I’ve never been too keen on looking a Bebelith in the face up close to get a good look. However if you swallow one you can slide up or down one layer of a plane, supposedly. I’ve never tried it myself, it was always sort of a last resort if I ever got myself into a jam on the lower planes and needed a speedy way out. The bottle keeps them fresh, I guess, but… your call.”
“Let’s go with the eyes, especially after your last experience with one of the ferrymen…” Clueless said.
Nisha looked at him a bit askance, “And what’d I do wrong last time with the ferryman?”
Clueless smirked, “…you didn’t pay him the deal, and they have memories… let’s try the eyeballs. It should be an interesting new experience.”
“Pike it, you sound like a sensate…” Nisha said as she popped the cork on the bottle to let out a strong, vaguely acidic smell, like strong vinegar or spoiled wine.
“I’ve been hanging around the dolls too much, Erin Montgomery is a hot little thing…”
Nisha simply rolled her eyes, smacking Clueless on the leg with her tail and handed him one of the eyes from the bottle. It was hard and roughly the size of a large kernel of corn. It was glittery and shifted colors when it was moved around, a black iridescent tone, not unlike Clueless’s own wings.
“So… we just down them?” The half-fey asked as he fluttered his wings a bit.
“Yep, that’s what I heard from the merchant when I bought them.” Nisha said before she grimaced slightly and swallowed it hole.
Clueless likewise did the same, popping it into the back of his throat like a pill so he wouldn’t taste it as much as it went down. The taste was nearly beyond words and probably unhealthy to say the least. If Clueless wasn’t already immune to poison, and if Nisha, being a tiefling, wasn’t the sort of person who could survive on a diet of ash and arsenic, they both would have been in pain or worse.
Nisha looked over to Clueless, grimacing still from the aftertaste of the Bebelith organ, and then pointed downwards as both she and the bladesinger felt a wrenching feeling assail them from their guts outward and a persistent tug that seemed to drawn them closer to the earth. A moment later there was a much more violent wrenching feeling, even more abrupt than that of a portal, and after several seconds their vision went black.
Nisha opened her eyes and noticed Clueless standing next to her in the middle of a forest of dark gray and black trees, evergreens, but like the most verdant of their colors had been leached from them entirely. A malign chill spread throughout the air, carried along by a cold, dense mist that swirled around their ankles and clung to the trees everywhere.
“Well, that seemed to have worked. I think I prefer portal or spells though…” Clueless said as he snapped out his sword in a defensive motion and panned around to glance among the trees.
But, as Clueless did so, there was a cold feeling in both his and Nisha’s hearts, like emotion was subtly being drained and funneled off by the plane around them. Clueless shrugged off the effects of the Waste with little pause, he had far too much determination in his heart to allow the plane to stop him, but Nisha was not so lucky. The tiefling started looking around with a mildly unhappy, forlorn look upon her face as she curled her arms around herself like she was warding away a cold breeze.
“Nisha, hon? You ok?” Clueless asked with some concern.
“The plane is starting to get to me Clueless… there’s not much I can do to stop that.” She said as she looked to the bladesinger and pulled out a large map of the Waste and flipped to the 2nd layer. “…gotta get out of this wood and out where we sodding are, the map’s useless otherwise…”
“Rightio – easy solution. Hold on.” Clueless said as he reached over and tucked her under one arm.
Nisha gave a chuckle that broke her sullen expression for a moment, “Lead on prettyboy.”
A moment later and a flurry of motion from the half-fey’s shimmering black wings and they were both flying high above the current patch of forest that they had both stood within, overlooking the surrounding woods and trying to gain an idea of just where on the layer they were. Taking a glance at the surrounding lay of the land, Clueless and Nisha were somewhere near the edge of a forest, maybe a mile or two inside of it. A river, perhaps the Styx, or perhaps a minor tributary, ran its course just outside the forest, roughly near to where a single white stone tower rose up. In the opposite direction they could see the forest appear to melt away into a black haze in one direction, clearly the beginning of the domain of some power or another, and in another direction, the forest rose up the side of a mountain that was capped by a ring of stones and a plume of smoke that lazily drifted up into the bleak and colorless sky.
Nisha looked over at Clueless, looking slightly relieved. “Well, this is one way to get a landmark to look at. Don't know what the other stuff is, but that tower, it's the border marking for Arawn's domain on Annwn.”
“So where do you want to go? That tower?” Clueless asked as they bobbed up and down slightly above the wood. “I don’t want to stay up here much longer or something might see us and take offense.”
Nisha nodded, “Death of Innocence is located just outside of the border of Arawn's domain, so one direction or another down the Styx would probably get us there.”
“Right…” Clueless said as he flew off in that direction, skimming the treetops to avoid any major notice by anything lurking below.
As they flew over the river towards the near shore by the watchtower, the forest faded away under them, though as they flew, there was a caw from the forest beneath them and a flock of birds rose up from the trees to trails behind them, about a half dozen or so jet black birds, like large ravens. As the flock of birds trailed them both, Clueless and Nisha alighted near the tower on the shore of the Styx.
Clueless glanced up at the flocks of circling birds and called out to them, invoking his own innate fey ability to speak with animals, “…hello…”
The birds however ignored him completely and kept their distance. They only circled overhead, slowly and lazily. As they did so and Clueless surveyed the area, Nisha touched a small speck of blood on her arm that welled up from a minor scrape on her shoulder. Almost unnoticed, one of the Wastrels had drawn blood from her as she and Clueless had slowed their flight and descended to the ground.
“F***…” Nisha muttered as she glanced up at the birds as they circled mockingly overhead.
The slope of the riverbank leading down to the river was fairly sandy and unnaturally white, almost like the ‘sand’ was in fact ground down bleached bone. And, upon closer inspection, the white tower across the river was made not of stone, but of thousands of bones of all sizes and shapes, all plastered and cemented together into a roughly conical shape.
“…how inspiring.” Clueless muttered as he glanced at the map again, noting that the city was off on the edge of Arawn’s domain, though he wasn’t certain if it would be to the left or the right of the tower of bone that sat across the river from them. However, his train of thought was suddenly derailed as Nisha drew a wand and aimed it up into the sky to throw a cluster of purple magical bolts up at one of the birds.
“Whoa! Whoa! What’s that for?!” Clueless said, startled. “Nisha?!”
Overhead the birds circled and started cawing again in unison. The sound was almost like laughter as it carried on the air and echoed off the trees. Nisha began to look more and more depressed and downtrodden as she threw another cluster of missiles up into the air. Another of the birds fell and crashed down into the Styx with a dull and muted splash, but Nisha was beginning to cry slightly and pale.
Clueless reached out and gently caught her hand, “…hon, don’t waste ‘em. It’s going to be ok…”
And then Clueless felt a breeze against his face and a flutter of wings as one of the birds bolted out of the sky and slashed a talon across his face when he turned to look at Nisha. He cursed and immediately felt something wash over him as the birds continued their mocking call. The birds called out like black winged and circling hyenas around a wounded savanna animal and Clueless then felt an insidious cold reaching out to drain his emotions and sap his vitality. It was just like the chill of the plane itself, but it was as if the birds were chuckling at his pain, as if the Wastrels were enjoying his misery as they fed off of him.
Clueless watched as Nisha began to weep as she dropped her wand and looked up with hopelessness in her eyes and fell to her knees. A surge of anger filled him and the bladesinger reached into the interior of his mind and latched onto a burning point of magic that by all means should not have been there, the spell that he didn’t know but that he had nonetheless imagined and forced into his memory back in Sigil when he had been toying with the golden liquid from the Incantifers’ maze. And with but a thought he hurled it at the flock of Wastrels.
Five of the seven shuddered in mid air as a black circle rolled through their midst, expanding outwards like a smoke ring, rippling the space around it as it traveled and dissipated. They dropped like stones with three splashing into the river and another two of them falling onto the riverbank where they stared up at the sky cold and unmoving.
The flock of Wastrels burst into motion to scatter and reform their ranks, and as one they called out again with their vitality sapping caws. Clueless shrugged it off with another surge of anger as Nisha began to stagger and weep while she began to dig around in her satchel, looking for something.
“You little b*******.” Clueless cursed at the birds as he brandished a copper gilt wand of fireballs from his belt and aimed it at the remaining birds.
A pinpoint of orange flew towards the birds and blossomed with a deafening roar of flame and smoke. One of the birds dropped to the earth, scorched and black, with tongues of flame still licking from its corpse, and another squawked in pain and cawed back as it attempted to flee back into the depths of the forest to escape.
Nisha was pulling something out of her pack when Clueless sent another fireball into the heart of the fleeing pack of birds. The second sphere of flames erupted, sending a crashing roar out over the forest to rattle the trees and incinerate several of the remaining birds. If any of the Wastrels had survived the flurry of spells they had fled far into the forest and seemed not the least intent on returning.
“…a little bit of everkill perhaps, but satisfying.” Clueless said as he looked over to Nisha with concern. “What’s that…”
Nisha had taken out her stuffed blue slaadi head and was poking its nose. An instant later the bauble was babbling in Xaosspeak, drifting to normal speech, losing its train of thought, and then sticking out its tongue, puffing its cheeks, grinning goofily, and lighting up its eyes. It was… silly.
Whether it was some magical effect from the slaadi head or simply its mundane comedic effect, ‘Xanxost’ nonetheless was making Nisha smile and slowly recover from her draining melancholy that the Wastrels had inflicted upon her. A few more lines and actions from the Slaadi head and she was softly giggling, wiping her eyes and looking genuinely happy.
“Feeling better?” Clueless asked as he extended to hand to the tiefling to help her back to her feet.
“To tell the truth,” Nisha said, “I think A’kin was genuinely glad to move this thing out of his shop. I used to come in and poke the nose and run off, he had to have been getting tired of it after a while.”
“A’kin selling toys… what is this world coming to?” The bladesinger laughed.
“Yeah, I would spend my own jink on goofy dust collectors like this, and Garroth’s jink on useful stuff. I might have been wrong in my first thoughts though, since this does seem to have a use. Bless A’kin’s heart… unless that might hurt him… hmm…” Nisha said with a thoughtful smile as she put away ‘Xanxost’.
“…Now then.” Clueless said as he looked up the river, “…I suppose we hitch a ride…”
The river bubbled randomly and was running rather swiftly at that point. It seemed deep and neither Nisha nor Clueless could see down beyond the first inch or so. However, Nisha’s quick inhalation and exclamation of ‘Pike it!’ drew their gaze up from the river and towards the opposite shore.
Standing on the opposite bank, silent and unmoving, where, five minutes ago there had been nothing, stood a score or more of skeletal figures dressed in elaborate armor and holding weapons. The skeletal figures just… stared… at them both from the opposite bank, silent.
“…Umm. Whose attention did we just get?” Clueless openly mused.
“You know this place a little better than me Nisha…”
“Whatever you say. But where’s a sodding cleric when you need one…” The tiefling replied.
“I do swords and spells. Not turning the undead.” Clueless replied, “But they’re on the other side of the river, so it’s not that much of a bitch. Right?”
The skeletal warriors simply stood there, completely motionless, and completely silent. They all appeared to have mortal eyes within their bony sockets however, petitioners more likely than not.
“…Hi guys. Just passin’ through…” Clueless murmured as he glanced around their own side of the river to scan for a ferry or a sign.
“Oh hellfires. Why not.” Clueless said with a chuckle to himself before he shouted across the river to the petitioners, “Which way to Death of Innocence!?”
One by one the skeletal petitioners turned and began to slowly walk back into the forest behind them, melting back into the woods at the border of their god’s domain, except for one. One of the petitioners lingered for but a moment and pointed a glittering silver-tipped spear towards one end of the river, not in the direction, but at a small skiff floating from that direction. Moments later, as the skiff drew nearer, so too did the last petitioner of Arawn vanish back into the woods without a sound and without a word.
“Um. Thanks!” Clueless called out to the empty riverbank across the river.
Nisha glanced over to the half-fey, “And that was officially creepy…”
Both of them then turned to look at the skiff as it approached. The small, flat-bottomed boat drifted silently forwards with a single robed figure at the helm holding a long pole or an oar to steer the craft down the Styx.
“Wonderful…” Nisha muttered.
"Yep. And we pay him well..." Clueless muttered back, "We don't need more ‘loths after our necks."
As the Maernnoloth approached, Nisha hurriedly poked ‘Xanxost’s’ nose and then just as quickly hushed it in the folds of her cloak. Dimly, Clueless could hear a muffled, “The Maernnoloth says, “…””
The bladesinger glanced down, very nearly not able to keep a straight face at Nisha’s joking. His wings fluttered sideways briefly in an ‘oh powers above…’ pose, a light blue lingering on their edges before he flipped them back to rest against his spine, pointing downwards.
“Bless your blighted black twisted heart A’kin” Nisha muttered as she stuffed ‘Xanxost’ back into her satchel and pulled out a bag of coins to begin counting out a rough handful of gold.
As the ferryman stopped the boat on the shore and stepped to one side, it held out its hand and Nisha added several platinum pieces to the gold she handed it. “To cover my last trip. I didn’t have the jink to pay then. My apologies.”
The Marraenoloth said nothing as it accepted her payment and allowed her to enter the skiff. Clueless handed it a stack of twenty-five platinum pieces as he stepped up to the boat, but he then paused instead of fully entering.
“…Death of Innocence. I’ll match this amount on a safe arrival there.” He said as the ‘loth nodded its hooded head and accepted his jink.
As the skiff launched from the riverbank, Clueless looked over to Nisha and smiled slightly, "...I actually decided to pay ahead for the next time I'm broke."
As they floated down the Styx, the forest around the river grew steadily darker as they passed through, and glittering, glowing eyes glimmered from the river’s edge in a number of places. Steadily, the mood grew darker and more repressed as the plane sought, as always, to exert its deleterious influence upon both of the ‘loth’s passengers.
Nisha and Clueless both shrugged off the chill mood and Clueless was fluttering his wings constantly, appearing to be shivering almost, but it gave off a constant light over the boat and the water’s surface near to them.
“So… much traffic on the river lately?” Clueless asked abruptly up to the Marraenoloth.
The ‘loth said nothing, nor did it seem to acknowledge that it had been asked a question.
“…so who’s winning?” Clueless asked once more.
The ‘loth immediately paused and seemed almost taken back by the question as it turned to glance at the half-fey. The skiff never changed its course by an inch, but Clueless watched as the ‘loth’s gaze flew immediately to the gemstone embedded in his ankle. Seconds passed and Clueless looked back up and into the Marraenoloth’s emotionless gaze.
A voice echoed in his mind, soft and chill, “Cerlic and his servants take no side. We fulfill our purpose, regardless of the outcome. Yes, much traffic.”
Rattled or not, the Marraenoloth remained silent and simply steered its craft the rest of the trip and for the next ten minutes the boatman’s silence seemed nearly palpable as the trees melted away to scrub land on one side of the river. As they floated onwards, coming into view on that same side, the forest seemingly cut back away from it, stood a large, walled, fortified town sitting upon the bank of the Styx.
The skiff stopped softly upon the riverbank near the palisade of the city and the 'loth stepped aside and took Clueless’s payment promised and pointed a hand at the city. “Death of Innocence,” rattled through the bladesinger’s mind.
As Nisha clambered out of the boat, Clueless turned back to the Marraenoloth, “Thank you. Your purpose is appreciated.”
The ‘loth said nothing more and moved the skiff swiftly downstream without a glance back. Clueless turned towards Nisha, “Well. I think you spooked him. Must be the tail.”
Nisha swished her tail with a grin and poked ‘Xanxost’s’ nose once again. “The Vrock says, ‘Cockadoodle doo!’”
Clueless was fully grinning as he and Nisha walked up towards the city, trying desperately not to laugh, “That it most certainly does!”
“Hey, it keeps the grays away, you have to give it that!” She said with a chuckle, still swishing her tail.
The city walls were roughly thirty feet high and made of thick, rough-hewn timber that seemed freshly cut. Very freshly cut, and a steady ooze of sap ran from the exposed wood to pool along cracks, breaks in the wood, and finally to drip down upon the ground. A single gate faced the scrublands, and while it was open at the moment, there were a large number of bloods moving into and out of the city by the moment.
As Nisha and Clueless approached the main gate, they noticed something else: The city, as opposed to nearly everything else in the Waste, had color…
Nisha glanced over at Clueless as they both noted the presence of color on and within ‘Death of Innocence’. “Lots of people waiting to get in, and not many leaving… wonder what’s going on…” She said.
Most of those entering the city seemed to be of two types: refugees that were loaded down with packs and carts of goods and belongings, and heavily armed soldiers and mercenaries. All together they were a ragtag lot, the largest group seemed to be ten hobgoblins. There were not that many fiends at all, most non-fiendish primes and planers.
Clueless and Nisha waiting in line for nearly an hour before the line had advanced enough for them to stand in front of the open gate. All the while Nisha had been ignoring the crowd and playing with the Slaadi head with glee and abandon. At the open gate, watching carefully over the entire waiting collection of mortals stood three guards, two tieflings and one human who were questioning each and every person seeking admission into the city. They had yet to turn anyone away from the city, but they were carefully noting weapons and anything that might be considered a danger to the population within the sticky, sap dripping walls of their town.
As Clueless stepped up to the front of the line with Nisha still giggling and playing with ‘Xanxost’ behind him, one of the tiefling guards signaled for him to halt by holding up a gauntleted hand.
“Reason for entry?” The guard asked.
“Hoping to buy something back that belongs to me.” Clueless answered.
The guard looked at him and then at Nisha, “Watch those swords, I won’t make you peace tie them, but we don’t need any more trouble here than we already have.”
“Something going on around here?” The bladesinger asked the guard.
The armored tiefling regarded Clueless somewhat incredulously at that point. “Something is the reason everyone's here and the city is packed twice its usual population. The whole of the Waste is waiting for war to break out from one layer down and work its way up.”
“I just got here. Long trip, very isolated.” Clueless remarked.
The tiefling sighed, “Half of them fleeing it, half of them rushing head first into it, all of them hoping to make some jink off it. I'd take you to be the latter?”
Clueless and Nisha looked around and noticed that everyone there in and around the city, whatever expression they had, be it eagerness, anticipation, or fear; they actually expressed it. The Waste, for whatever reason, didn’t seem to be draining all of their feelings or their will to live. An oasis in the middle of a black desert of apathy.
“Nope. I’m staying out of it as best I can.” Clueless answered up to the tiefling.
“You’re the smarter crowed then… head on in.”
Clueless nodded and proceeded on into the city with Nisha in tow. As they walked in, the city streets and even the buildings resembled nothing so much as the streets and kips of a prime world: neat, orderly, blocky, simple architecture.
“This place doesn’t exactly fit in…” Clueless murmured to Nisha.
Everything seemed ‘new’. All of the wood looked freshly cut. And all of the wood seemed to be bleeding sap, all except for one building off to their right that seemed to be actively bleeding. There was a thin trickle of dark red liquid pooling from a crack in one of the timbers that ran the length of the roof.
Clueless lightly reached out and touched the dripping liquid out of curiousity. The sap was sticky and slightly warm and the blood had the consistency of actual blood, even to the point of having a light coppery smell.
Nisha glanced at the bleeding building, “Suddenly I prefer the spikes and blades and bars of Sigil, the razorvine even.”
“I’m curious what sort of wood it is actually…” Clueless said as he paused to look again in closer detail.
“Are you so sure that it’s actually wood? I’d put jink on there being petitioners in there…”
“Maybe,” Clueless said with a shake of his head “Let’s move.”
“Ask your cleric friend when we find him.”
“Actually, I’m more worried that he’s going to try and take my head off.” He said as he self-consciously looked down at his ankle. The spell had begun to slightly fade, but the consistency of the glowing shell around the gem was still there. It had roughly five or so hours left by his measure.
Rubbing the blood-like liquid between his fingers with a raised eyebrow, the bladesinger looked to Nisha, “Well, let’s go find a guy to talk to him about an elf.”
As the pair continued into the heart of ‘Death of Innocence’ the street was fairly wide as they approached an intersection, glancing down the streets and looking for either the Tanar’ri slavers themselves, or for the slave pens that they would likely need to pen up their captives before likely selling them.
“Worse comes to worse I can always try to scry on the slavers…” Clueless muttered as they continued walking.
Around thirty minutes later of walking the streets they wandered into a large square that contained both a large crowd and a large amount of noise. The center of the square was dominated by a wooden stage, newly constructed like everything else. Standing atop the stage were a score or more of nearly naked prisoners, each chained to one another and being watched over by a pair of Vrocks. Next to the stage was a series of cages that held more prisoners, themselves watched over by another pair of Vrocks.
“This looks like what we’re looking for. And if it isn’t, they’ll know where the competition is or was…” Clueless said as he and Nisha approached.
Prancing across the stage doing the bargaining and promotion of their mortal stock was a scantily clad Alu-Fiend, and watching her, either as a bodyguard or an actual owner, was an armored Babau. All Tanar’ri.
“Forty seven jink and a trio of stingers!? Is that all I can get for this little c*nt of a celestial’s mortal dalliances?! Please… for that price I’d keep her myself and have her lick my toes each night simply because I could!” The Alu-Fiend listened to the jeers and taunts of the audience and was playing to them quite heartily to drive up the prices.
“Make it fifty jink even and I’ll have her perform on stage for your pleasure if you like, or for mine if that’s your fancy! 50 jink? Can I have one of you sods offer me 50 jink?…” The Alu-fiend promptly had two higher calls for the miserable looking and obviously malnourished aasimar. All in all, it was like a meat market.
Nisha glanced at the approaches to the stage and at the locks on the cages and on the chains on the prisoners while Clueless scanned the crowd and the prisoners for his former companion. The crowd was filled with a mix of onlookers, hecklers, protesters, and buyers. The buyers tended to be other fiends, or planars of mixed and bastardized blood.
Clueless considered two Vrocks at once a task he could accomplish, though it would be difficult. The Babau was less dangerous physically, but it might be able to take him down from a distance. The Alu-Fiend, for all her lack of armor or visible weapons, like a Cambion, was hard to read. She might have been the easiest of them all, or quite possibly the hardest. And Clueless did not see an elf matching his description.
As Nisha and Clueless continued to scan the crowd and the area at large, there was an argument starting near the front of the crowd over who had the winning bid on the nude aasimar woman on the stage. Two mercenary group leaders claimed it was they, and swords were being drawn as the Alu-Fiend stepped back.
"... F***ing hell... literally. Where is he...?" Clueless muttered as he flicked his wings for a moment to gain a few feet over the crowd and glance down the side streets in the event that his former comrade had already been sold and was yet in view.
The fight that was breaking out near the stage began to get more and more heated till the babau, who so far had been fairly reclusive up on the stage, walked forward, and at about a thirty foot distance simply stared at the two soldiers trading sword blows. Both soldiers immediately went rigid, clutched their heads and screamed. There was a clatter of steel on cobblestones and the crowd went silent and subdued very suddenly as the men writhed in agony on the ground.
“Well then… I’ll restart the bidding at 45 jink and see if any of you have the gold and the brains this time around to be reasonable…” The Alu-Fiend said as the men continued to moan.
“Well, that’s got to hurt…” Clueless said as he continued scanning the area, squirming forwards to see if he couldn’t find, and catch by the elbow, a less armored person who looked like they may have been here for a bit before himself.
Leaving Nisha to practice pickpocketing, Clueless found one man near the front of the crowd who appeared to be a merchant, or at least employed by one. A human, he appeared to be taking notes of the people sold, but hadn't appeared to be buying, or placing bids at all.
“Hey... may I ask you a question?" Clueless asked the man.
He turned around and raised an eyebrow before putting away his notebooks and extending a hand, “Forthran Darbus, planar trading consortium. How can I be of service cutter?”
Clueless nodded shook the man’s hand, “Clueless... I'm actually here looking for a particular elf, he got sold out in this direction by mistake.”
Forthran jerked his head back towards the stage, “Not so much mistakes involved with these I'm afraid to say. Most of them just picked up for lack of an armed escort, wherever they got taken. The consortium disapproves of the practice, but regardless, they like to keep tabs on who or what the market is supporting.”
Clueless nodded before he asked, "…Have there been elves already sold this day? Or yesterday perhaps…”
Darbus considered the question as he started flipping through his notebook. A number of pages later he looked back up and shook his head, “No… not today. However, mid morning yesterday, yes. At that time there was one elven female and one elven male sold, each of them in different lots.”
"Do you have a description of the male?"
Darbus chuckled, “I take my job seriously, they don't pay me for nothing. Estavan picks bloods for a purpose. And so yes, I do. Tall, thin, most elves are. Dressed in tattered blue and silver clothing, looks like he'd been stripped of armor but he still had a sword belt on him, empty of course. Mangled holy symbol, and had embroidered ones ripped from his clothing.”
Clueless nodded at the matching details of the description, “Could the holy symbol have at one time been Erevan Illsere?"
The planar trade consortium member pondered on it for a bit, “The colors fit, but it’s one heck of a trick to play on his own clergy... pardon my joke.”
"It wasn't his trick." Clueless said back darkly. “And may I inquire as to who picked him up and where I might find them?”
“Well, I did take note of several things: he went cheaper than expected despite his obvious martial training; something about a leg injury. He was sold to a group led by a Night Hag, she had a few Baatezu with her, they looked rogue, but I couldn't tell. My best guess is with the others they bought that morning, they're heading for the brewing conflict, what everyone else with a brain that’s not addled, is trying to avoid. Probably heading towards Center.”
Clueless frowned with some concern and then nodded a little, "Alright... ok. Now the trick is whether or not they've already left town or not..."
Darbus humored him with a quick answer, “Well, if a teleport answers that question…”
"They... teleported out?" Clueless have a low sigh as he ran a hand back through his hair.
“Right after payment. Eager to leave it looked like. I'd put jink on where they were going though, precisely where I'm not.”
"... alright. Where?" Clueless asked.
“How much is it worth to you?” Darbus smiled like a shark in Porphatys.
Nisha walked up next to the two of them and held out a handful of coin to the merchant with a smile. At the same time she dropped two empty purses with cut purse strings to the ground behind her back.
“Like I said, Center. Couple different names, Center of Woe, Center of Misery, Dandy Will's City, the big mercenary camp at the center of the Grey Waste. See, quirk of the plane, all three layers converge at the one spot that the city is on. With rumors, or not rumors, flooding up from Pluton, the place is the rallying point for all of the soldiers of fortune this side of the great wheel.”
Clueless nodded back, "...alright." His wings stiffened a little in the Sidhe equivalent of a sigh before relaxing again, "Alright.... how much did he go for?"
“Garroth made around thirty thousand jink from the original sale… those slavers probably got him for some unknown price from our triple ruled friend, and they sold him for eight thousand?” Nisha said with a perplexed look on her face.
“Odd… was there a name for the buyer so I know who to ask for there? Or is she anonymous?” Clueless asked as Nisha handed Darbus some more coin, and surreptitiously dropped another empty coin purse behind her back.
“Hmm…let me look…” He said as he scanned the page of notes. “Ah, here it is. Marian Ravelsdotter.”
“Thank you.” Clueless said as he noticed that Nisha had once again slinked off into the crowd.
“'Good luck finding him. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to work.” Darbus tipped his hat at the bladesinger and started jotting down notations to keep up with the last auction that was well underway
Clueless found Nisha sitting down on a rock next to one of the support timbers of a building adjacent to the cages. “You up for coming to Center with me?”
“Mmm hmm.” She smiled up at him. “Well I’ve never been to Center, so this is like a vacation for me. Of sorts. If you consider the plane of pure evil to be a vacation. Let’s just say that I’m playing sensate for a day just because, or something like that. Who says I’m supposed to ever really make perfect sense.”
Nisha stood up, “So how you want to travel? From the map, Center is about a three day journey overland from here, no Styx access.”
Nisha paused and waited for Clueless’s reaction, “But, I try to be prepared for stuff like this…” She grinned and reached into her satchel.
"And I am rapidly becoming less and less surprised by this."
“Hold this...” She said as she handed Clueless ‘Xanxost’.
Clueless took the Slaadi head and poked the nose in a bit of random curiosity. “Tanar’ri resist weapons, cold, fire, and acid. Even acid caught on fire. Xanxost has tried that once, it didn’t work either.”
Clueless snickered softly as Nisha dug around some more and took out a long copper scroll tube. She slipped out a single vellum scroll before putting back the scroll case and stuffing ‘Xanxost’ back into her bag. “Alright, there’s only one use here, so lets hope that we won’t need to leave immediately when we get there. And it’s a little… ok a lot… beyond my normal ability to trigger, so cross your fingers.”
"I'll cross every appendage that I can..." Clueless said as he flipped his wings up and crossed them across one another with a grin.
Unfurling the scroll, Nisha muttered a few words, correcting her pronunciation once or twice, before tapping the page and uttering a command word. The town faded from view instantly and there was a sense of cold as they were both temporarily superimposed upon the Astral, but then something odd happened. There was a gut-wrenching feeling, like the pull of a magnet, and they both could mentally and physically feel the spell snag on something.
The spell abruptly ended and they both reappeared standing in the middle of a gray plane dotted with scrub and a few stunted trees. Off near the horizon they could see a large, walled city. But maybe a mile from them, a large wide hill broke the gray monotony with a glassy black obsidian monolith rising from its surface, perhaps a fifth of a mile or more into the sky. Symbols larger than both Clueless and Nisha were tall dotted the surface and glowed with a pale red light. There was a sense of both attraction and dread simultaneously emanating from the colossal block of glassy stone.
“Sodding hells...” Nisha muttered before she turned around and went deathly silent as she noticed the monolith.
"Nisha, where are we?" Clueless asked the tiefling.
Last edited by Shemeska; Saturday, 16th October, 2004 at 04:25 PM.
Saturday, 16th October, 2004, 10:39 AM #268
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Originally Posted by Shemeska
Saturday, 16th October, 2004, 12:56 PM #269
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Woohoo! My last post found it's way into the update title !
Question - What version of the babau are you using? Presumably not the 3.5 MM one, since that one doesn't have the kind of ability it showed.
Saturday, 16th October, 2004, 04:25 PM #270
Superhero (Lvl 15)
Originally Posted by shilsen
Re: And Gez... edited out that one typo. It was late.
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