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Friday, 30th April, 2004, 03:37 PM #601
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
- Join Date
- Jan 2002
- Boston, MA
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Ý Block Piratecat
Looking forward to them!
Friday, 30th April, 2004, 03:46 PM #602
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
P-kitty, you have nailed it. You make me so proud...
Friday, 30th April, 2004, 11:08 PM #603
Gallant (Lvl 3)
- Join Date
- Mar 2003
- Redmond, WA
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Ý Block Macbeth
Ceramic DM Round 3-1: Macbeth vs. BardStephenFox, the DM vs. Player showdown.
By Sage LaTorra, a.k.a. Macbeth
For some people a job means a 9-5 monotony, for some people a job means hours of meaningless work for minimum wage, for some people a job means any number of things. But for Niles, a job meant hunting djinn.
"What? You want me to hunt..." Niles was confused.
"A djinn. A genie. A middle eastern mythical creature." The man in the center responded. The men on either side of him, likely his muscle, did their best to look intimidating, and succeeded admirably.
"And by mythical you mean...?"
"A creature of the imagination."
"Oh, that's good. I thought that mythical meant it didn't exist." The sarcasm was dripping from Niles' voice.
"It does. Djinn don't exist, or at least not in the same way you and I do." The man in the center still had his back to Niles, as did the men who on either side of him.
"Care to explain? Or will I be left in the dark as usual?"
"Your complaint is noted, Mr. Niles. And in this case, you will be informed. Djinn exist because we think they do. They are a product, or rather byproduct, of years of myths, tales, and stories. For many years they were unique to the Middle East, but as the stories spread, they shifted. This is the first time we've seen one in America, and as best we can tell, he fled his home to come here."
"Fled his home?"
"The turmoil in the middle east is no less hard on creatures of imagination then they are on those of flesh and bone." The central man cleared his throat. "And by coming here he has been changed."
"The American Zeitgeist holds a different view of djinn then the middle east. Specifically, this djinn has found that he can grant wishes."
"And what's so bad about that?"
"We have a creature roaming the heartlands that can warp reality. That's bad enough. So you're going to track him down."
This was more familiar ground for Niles. "Dead or alive?"
"I don't give a damn. But be weary: he can change just about anything to meet other's desires. From what we know, he feeds by fulfilling desires."
"Won't make a difference. The bastard is still going down."
"The one bit of advice I can give you: at this point, he's still adapting to his new found powers. His little modifications to reality cause... distortion."
"Best way to describe it. Like an out of focus picture, or looking down into a pool of water. You'll figure it out." The shell like structure flared into life in front of the three men, throwing them into relief from Niles' point of view. The shell displayed a video of an airplane flying over seemingly endless plains.(1) "He was last sighted by this automated drone flying a routine test flight over Dakota." The image on the screen flew forward, and two small shapes came into view on the ground below, barely distinguishable as humans. As the shapes grew closer, the screen seemed to bend and distort, and without warning there was a car beside the shapes. One of the men got into the car, and drove out of sight, just as the drone flew over where the other man still stood.
Niles' was confused, a depressingly common situation at this point. "What was that?"
The man in the center pressed something on the pillar in front of him, and the screen went blank. "That was our friend, the djinn, creating a Ferrari out of thin air. Luckily the man he was 'helping' had a fairly mundane wish. But what if he was a Nazi? Or a member of the KKK? What might he have wanted? It seems our friend Mr. djinn works on subconscious desire, not a decided want. If he happens to encounter the wrong person, say a person with suicidal tendencies, the world could end."
"Fine. Normal pay?"
"Yes. Your rather exorbitant fees will be payed."
The man in the center sighed. "Yes, fine."
"Good. I'll see you when I have him."
Niles turned and walked out of the room, trying to shake the tingle on the back of his neck that he got whenever he talked to his employer.
The driving was pure boredom. Mile after mile of nothing after nothing. Niles had begun to hate the heart of America, from the time his radio cut out, and failed to find another station, AM or FM. He played games in his mind. He doubled numbers until he lost count, somewhere around 294805 (he never was very good at math). He tried anything to keep himself awake.
Finally he reached a small town. A diner, a gas station, and enough houses to keep the people who staffed both. Niles needed a break, so he pulled off the highway into the parking lot for the diner. In the diner, he sat down, ordered the local specialty (ominously known as "Just Steak"), and settled down for a rest.
As he was waiting for his food, a man in a dark suit and sunglasses sat down across from him. Most people would be wary of this, but Niles had too much experience with shady characters and conspiracies. "Who are you?" he asked, taking in as many details as he could about the black suited man.
"A friend. I've been sent to help you."
"And how do I know you're not working for an enemy. I've got more then a few people who would be happy to send somebody to help me die."
"I know you have enemies. I'm not one of them." The dark suited man casually rearranged the silverware at his place, turning the knife to face himself.
Niles caught the signal. "Good. You got a name?"
"I've got one. But you can call me Marid."
"Well, I'm an odd person."
"Aren't we all?"
Marid laughed, a deep, windy laugh. "I guess we are, I guess we are. How much further have we got to go to find the target?"
"Nother 3 hours or so."
"Ugh. You look tired. Want me to drive?"
"Fine, I could use some sleep, just let me eat first."
"You already order?"
"Yeah. The local special."
"Just Steak? Not worth waiting for."
"Too bad, I'm hungry and we're waiting."
"Fine." The waitress came back with the "Just Steak," which turned out to be very deserving of it's title. Marid glanced at the beef, and turned to the waitress. "A glass of water, please?"
"Sure, hon." The waitress turned, and walked off to get Marid's water. When she returned with the water, Marid downed the entire glass in one gulp.
Niles took note. "Thirsty?"
"Then you'd better bring a water bottle. We've got a ways to go."
After the Just Steak was Just Finished, they set off, with Marid driving, the sunglasses still perched on his face.
The roads continued, as did the nothing around them, and Niles took the chance to sneak in a nap. He hadn't realized just how much he wanted a companion, somebody to take the wheel, just for a bit. As he nodded off, the car shifted, the seat faded, the road stopped. Niles was asleep, in bed. No more roads, nor more monotony, just a simple bed to sleep in. The moon dominated the window above the bed.
Niles settled into his dream, curled beneath the sheets, settled into the bed.
Then he became aware of the eyes. The room had been pulled apart, long claws pulling the ceiling apart, letting in the eyes.(2) He knew, somehow, they were djinn eyes. They were eyes that had seen ancient empires, eyes that had spent years in the desert, eyes that had seen war after war. The eyes stared for a second, taking in Niles, digesting him. Then the eyes burst into flame. Even in the dream, Niles could feel the djinn, closing in, the burning eyes filling his vision, he tried to crawl away, he moved back, he...
Noticed the distortion. This wasn't his dream, it was being altered.
Niles woke up. Marid was shaking him. "You alright? You were squirming around a bit." Marid still had his ever present sunglasses on. Niles wondered what his eyes looked like.
"Yeah. I'm fine." Niles hoped he sounded more sure then he felt. He composed himself for a second, then spoke. "I think he's nearby."
"Who? The target? But we've still got another hour to where he was last seen, how can you know where he is?"
"He's taunting me. Or trying to scare me. He's doing something to me, he was in my dreams."
"Damn..." Marid's voice trailed off. "Well, we're about a mile out of the next town. Seems like a good place to start."
"Sure." Niles settled back down into his seat. Despite the disturbing nature of his dream he felt relieved. He realized that this was perfect. The djinn hat tipped his hand. Now Niles could find him. This was just what he needed, an easy catch. As they neared the town Niles idly pondered what Marid's eyes looked like.
Marid pulled into the small town of Mill. The slowing of the car pulled Niles out of his half-hearted sleep. He yawned. "This it?"
"Yep. Where do we start?" Marid's sunglasses still obscured his eyes.
"I would guess we talk to the locals. Ask about anything strange."
"Fair enough." Marid pulled the car into the most public place to be found: a large diner that seemed to double as the town meeting hall. Marid led the way in.
A cheery waitress, a few years too old, obviously tired of life, greeted them as they entered. "What can I do for ya'll?"
Niles stepped forward. "Well, we're from the Inquirer, we heard some reports of strange happenings in these parts, Mam. Know anybody we could talk to, interview, something like that?" He did an admirable job of shifting from the mannerisms of a hardened killer to a talkative reporter.
"THE inquirer? Wow, I read that all the time, I loved the story about the Alien abductions in Belen, can't believe nobody else carried that article."
"Well, Mam, the government controls all the other news companies, and they have an interest in covering things up."
"Don't ya know it. Well, if your looking for information, I'd go see Tex, over up Main Street, blue house, number... let me think... 723. He knows just about everything that goes on round here."
"Thank you Mam. We'll be in touch."
Niles led the way back out of the diner. "We going to 723 Main Street?" Marid asked, as he got into the drivers seat. "Of course." Niles replied, back to being himself.
Main Street turned out to be a bit of a misnomer. It was not a street, rather a dirt road, and the only thing main about it was that water main that could be seen under the dirt. Marid found 723 with no problem. "This looks like it."
"Fine. You come in with me, but don't talk unless you have to." Niles began to mentally shift to the manners of an Inquirer reporter.
"Why can't I talk?"
"Be cause you haven't proved to me that you can talk your way out of a lie."
"Can't prove myself if you don't give me a chance." Niles couldn't tell if Marid was being humorous. Damn sunglasses.
"Can't have a chance until you've earned it. Now shut up, and act like you're a reporter." Niles knocked on the door. A few seconds later the door opened, revealing a man, dressed in clothes that made it painfully obvious he was a rancher, or at least wanted to be one. "Can I help you gents?" the obviously-trying-to-be-a-rancher said in a forced drawl.
"Well sir, we're from the Inquirer," said Niles from the Inquirer 'we heard there might be some interesting occurrences round these parts."
The admiration in the man's eyes was clear. "The Inquirer? I love your reportin', weren't nobody else who would carry the article bout the ratboy born in Mississippi, but you guys reported it, pictures and all."
"That we did sir. Mind if we come in and ask you a few questions?"
"Sure, sure, come in. My name's Tex." the obviously-trying-to-be-a-rancher said in the same forced drawl. It was clear that the only way he got the nickname Tex was by asking people to call him that.
"Well, thank you Tex. My name's Robert, and this is Fred." Niles extended his hand.
Tex took it, and shook it hardily. He motioned for them to sit down in the kitchen, which was slightly hazy, but with no obvious source for the haze. "Now, lets see what I can think of... odd happenings... let's see..." Tex started to list off a series of minor strange occurrences. Odd noises, strangely shaped vegetables, various deities appearing alone, or, rarely, in small groups, in soup, yogurt, oatmeal, and, on one occasion, a Just Steak from the place down the road, things that would interest Inquirer reporter Robert Niles, but nothing that sounded even the littlest bit djinn related. Niles dutifully took notes, to maintain the facade of being a reporter, but his attention was slipping.
Finally, just as Niles thought he couldn't take anymore, as he desperately hoped Tex would either stop or bring up something interesting, something caught his attention. "And I finally managed to bring my dead buffalo back to life. Being wanting him to come back for years, but didn't happen till yesterday."
Niles jumped back into reporter mode. Marid was still sitting there, and he seemed to be smiling faintly. Niles got back into the rhythm of reporter speak. "That's certainly interesting. Think we could see it?"
Tex nodded. "Sure, but don't get up. Now that he's back, he's house trained too." Tex cupped his hands to his mouth and yelled. "Come 'ere, Fluffy." The floor of the house began to shake. A huge buffalo emerged from a hallway that Niles could only presume led outside. Tex looked all the more absurd with a buffalo that had probably died from his own lack of knowledge nuzzling his foot. Inside his own house.(3)
"This here's fluffy." Tex said, with no small amount of pride.
Niles tried to compose himself. "So... How did he come back to life."
"Don't know, don't care. Been hoping for him come back for years, and he's finally back."
"And you're sure it's him? That this is... fluffy?"
"Yep, Same birthmark, same teeth, same horns, same measurements, and everything. He's even got the scar from where I accidentally nicked him while trying to get some of his fur."
This definitely seemed to be the djinn's work. "When... Fluffy... returned, was there anybody else around?"
Tex sat in thought for a second. "Yeah, that boy from out of town was over here doing odd jobs for a little cash."
"Boy from out of town? Is he still here?"
"Yeah. Staying down at the motel. Let me see if I can find the room number." Tex dug through a number of small papers. "Sure 'nuff, here it is. Room 23."
Niles made a note. "Well, thanks Tex, I'm going to go see if this boy... what did you say his name was?"
Of course, thought Niles. Probably short for Abraham. Middle eastern name. It must be him.
"We're just going to go talk to Abe. I'll see you later, Tex."
"You too, Robert." Fluffy snorted, as if to say goodbye.
As they got back into the car, Marid adjusted his sunglasses (which he still had not removed) and spoke. "You didn't find out what motel he was talking about.
"Think about it. In this town, you don't need a name, it's just THE motel. I'll be there's only one."
"You've got to be, in this line of work."
Marid and Niles drove away, towards the motel.
There was indeed only one motel, and room 23 was easy enough to find. Niles banged on the door, with Marid beside him, his sunglasses sparkling in the sun.
The door opened a crack. "Can I help you?" the voice had a slight accent. This must be him, Niles thought.
"Sir, I'm with the Inquirer. Could I ask you some questions?"
"I guess so." The voice was cautious. The door swung the rest of the way open. "Abe?" Niles asked.
"That's my name." Abe was whiter then Niles expected. If not for the accent, he wouldn't have expected him to be from the Middle East.
Niles stepped in, Marid a step behind him. "Well Abe," he began to reach for his notebook, but instead started to dive at Abe.
"No" was Abe's only reaction.
Niles enjoyed his High School years. It was good to be back outside the Burger Berg, the smell of their french fries permeating the air around the building, his back pressed up against the wall with the Lizard mural by her body. His arms wrapped around her, like explorers, mapping the geography of her body, occasionally going too far and being reluctantly pushed back towards the equator of her body.(4) So far he had made it as far north as Florida, by his best estimate, and as far south as Peru. He hoped to reach the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn in his room later. His thoughts drifted to the plans for the rest of the night...
And then he noticed the haze, a slight distortion. This wasn't real. Of course not. High School was years ago, but he wanted to go back, deep down.
Niles punched up through the layers of illusion, forcing himself to the source. And he saw him.
He had yet to really see Abe. He had seem a man, but this was really Abe. His pale body moved the air around it like water, parting, shimmering, making ripples. His thin frame seemed powerful, his shirtless chest flexing.(5) His eyes had been replaced by gems of some type, and they sparkled like fire. He seemed to exist in more then one place, like Abe was moving beyond his body. A second, immaterial set of arms stretched out behind him, and faded into the shifting patterns of reality behind him. Abe moved the air, moved reality, like a swimmer in a pool: twisting it about himself, making small changes, moving himself through it at will.
And the illusion ended. Abe knew it, and he fled the room. Mirad tried to stop him, but Abe was too fast. Miradís glasses feel to the floor, revealing... a pair of hazel eyes. Mirad picked up his sunglasses. "That bastard better not have scratched the lenses. They're Oakley's."
Niles stood up. "Worry about your glasses later, he's getting away."
"Right." They both gave chase. Abe might have been able to shift reality, but he couldn't run very fast, and with the only desires nearby being two people dead set on catching him, consciously and subconsciously, Abe could only run. Niles caught up to him with ease, and tackled him.
The fight was short and brutal. Niles had a huge physical advantage. He knocked Abe out and dragged him into the car with Mirad's help.
The drive back was as monotonous as the drive to Mill. Mirad drove again and Niles slept, and when he couldn't sleep anymore, he thought. He thought about djinn, he though about distortion, he thought about desire, he thought about how Tex's kitchen had been hazy almost... distorted, he thought about how everything had happened at just the right time, the dream, the buffalo, Mirad, everything, he thought it was all to easy.
Why would Tex's kitchen have distortion? The djinn had been there some time ago, hadn't he? Could it just have been hazy? No, it was too thick to obvious, why would there be distortion there... unless the only reason Tex's buffalo had come back to life was to give Niles a lead? Then the djinn must have been there... but how? Abe was at the motel. So he wasn't the djinn... that's why it was so easy, why everything had been like Niles wanted it to be. He wanted a companion, so Mirad showed up, he wanted a lead so Tex's buffalo came back to life, he wanted to find a djinn, so Abe had been there. But then the real djinn was...
"Pull over." Niles said as he sat up again.
"You figured it out."
"Of course I did. I'm not stupid. You did it all. Abe wasn't a djinn, Mirad, you are. Why? Why did you help me?"
"Because you were the biggest source of desire in the area, and I figured if I could help you find a genie, and feed myself, and avoid capture, it would be the best for everybody. And it still could be. He could be your djinn. You did capture him. You saw him fulfilling desires."
"No. I'm taking you." Niles grabbed the wheel with one hand, and cold clocked Mirad with the other. Mirad slumped over, the blow to the head knocking him out. The car slowed as Mirad's foot stopped pushing the gas. When they stopped, Niles bound Mirad, lay him in the back with Abe, and continued back to headquarters. The boss would be happy.
Mirad walked back towards Mill. Humans were so easy to manipulate when they got what they wanted. Niles wanted to knock him out, and Mirad had granted his desire, and now Niles would return with what seemed to be Mirad. Barely any distortion either. He was getting better. Now if he could just find somebody who wanted him to get back to Mill without having to walk...
(1) The boss and his assistants from Nilesí point of view while the video plays.
(2) The djinnís eyes disturb Nilesí dream.
(3) Texís kitchen, with fluffy, hazy from the effects of the djinnís magic.
(4) Nilesí delusion when Abe warps reality to match his desires.
(5) Abeís true form, warping reality like water and air.
Saturday, 1st May, 2004, 12:57 AM #604
Scout (Lvl 6)
ahhh. . .
Saturday, 1st May, 2004, 05:06 AM #605
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
- Join Date
- Jul 2003
- Albuquerque, NM
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Ý Block BSF
Jake was drunk when he first saw Sheryl. Of course, Jake was always drunk lately. Last month, he had spent nearly 3 full days sober. He was trying to do better this month by only being sober for the two days when his pension checks came in. Jake wouldn't need to sober up until next week.
Sheryl was standing on a low wall at the edge of the beach passionately deriding Rainmaker Inc's monopoly on rain across the nation. In the past three years, Jake had seen a half dozen other wannabe young activists doing the same thing. They would come down to the gulf on spring break, or autumn break, or for a weekend getaway, or something similar. They would get boozed up and sooner or later a storm would move in off the gulf. They would stand there in the pouring rain, realizing that a Rainmaker rep hadn't been paid to make water fall from the sky and finally understanding why the small 2 mile band inland from the sea was called the Free Rain Zone. Some of them would feel an upswell of grassroots indignation and they would spend the rest of their vacation playing part time environmentalist and champion of the oppressed. Rah rah, shish boom bah. Then, when their vacation was over, they would return to school, or their jobs, and forget about the whole thing. Jake had seen it plenty of times.
But Sheryl was different. She was beautiful and her speeches were eloquent with simplicity. And, they were filled with Spirituality. Instead of trying to build the group into a fervor, she coaxed it to a slow simmer, almost as if she knew that most of them would forget her words in a week. She weaved stories about how the earth was formed, lovingly, by earth goddesses. Water and rain was a Sacred gift and no company had any right to claim it as their own. No company had any right to decide who would and would not have rain on any given day, or in any given season. Even to Jake's bitter ears, her words rang true. Sheryl truly believed her stories and she believed that Rainmaker must be stopped.
Jake waited when everyone else left the beach, muttering softly amongst themselves. Jake's eyes followed her past each streetlight as she walked in his direction. Her dark hair trailed behind her. In the shadow of a building, Jake made his move.
"Senorita, you speak pretty words, but you cannot break the back of a beast like Rainmaker."
Sheryl stared at Jake, noted his three-day stubble and his dark tan. His blond hair was shaggy beneath his tattered straw hat and he was swaying on his feet. Her eyes took in the beer bottle in his hand, as well as the 4 empty bottles and the last beer in the cardboard holder in his hand. She smiled. Jake smiled back and held up the last beer. "Cervezza?"
They sat on the beach and watched the sun come up. Sheryl Maria Lujan was determined to save the world from the evil that was Rainmaker Inc. Jake tried a dozen ways to talk her out of it, to no avail. "You do not understand senorita, companies like Rainmaker Inc. employ people to keep their enemies out of the way. Bad people, senorita, very bad people. With your crazy talk, they are going to think you are an enemy."
Sheryl would just smile and laugh. "You do not understand Jake, they must be stopped. Who will stop them if I do not? I cannot tolerate their violation of the Sacred Earth. They anger the Sky Father and the Earth Mother. I will fight because I must."
"Senorita, you are young. Go live life first, Rainmaker will still be here later. Fight your battles then."
"I am not as young as I look Jake. I know Rainmaker will be here if I do not fight them! That is why I must."
"But, senorita Ö they have bad men that will stop you. Do not anger these people. They will do bad things."
"Tell me Jake, how do you know what they will do?"
Jake fell silent and finished his beer.
When he awoke on the beach, he felt dangerously close to becoming sober. Sheryl was nowhere to be found. He staggered a mile down the beach until he came to his shack, a 1250 square foot beach house with glasteel windows and scry proof walls. When he found his money, he staggered down to the local store and bought a few more cases of beer. He tipped the apprentice mage generously for using a floating disk to help bring the cervezza back to his beach house. Jake didn't see Sheryl again until that evening, she was on the wall telling stories about the Sky Father.
That night, they didn't talk so much. Every time Jake would try to tell her not to fight Rainmaker, she would ask him how he knew what the bad men would do. It was easier to drink the beer and watch the stars. The sunrise was especially beautiful, but the buzz was wearing off. Jake lay back on the sand and closed his eyes. When he awoke, Sheryl was gone.
The third night, Sheryl met him at the wall. This time she wasn't preaching. "Come Jake, go for a ride with me."
She had convertible with an elemental engine. Jake was about to make a snide comment on captive elementals when Sheryl stopped and prayed, then greeted the fire creature, he almost passed out when the elemental returned her greeting. Bound elementals can't talk and any time an elemental broke free, it went on a rampage in retribution for it's captivity. Jake forgot his six-pack
They drove away from the coast for hours without saying a word. At first Jake thought Sheryl was mad, but each time he caught her eye, she would smile. They enjoyed each others company like that until morning brightened the horizon. As the sun rose, Sheryl pointed out the fields they were driving past. She told Jake the stories of each family that could not pay Rainmaker to make the rains come down. Jake cried softly as he sobered up. "They have bad, bad men senorita."
Sheryl finally pulled over and took Jake's hand to lead him from the car. They walked out into a field and lay down among the nearly dead plants. Far overhead, clouds passed from the gulf, further up north. Dark, heavy looking clouds, but rain did not fall. Finally, Sheryl asked, "You see the pain that Rainmaker has caused, why do you still try to talk me out of stopping them."
Looking up at Sheryl's brown eyes, Jake caressed her cheek. "Because you have beautiful dreams and a beautiful spirit, but they are too powerful. Nobody can break them, and they have bad menÖ"
"How do you know Jake?"
"Because, I was once one of their bad men. But, it destroyed me to watch them destroy the lives of others. Please senorita, you cannot break them and I do not want to see you destroyed."
"Help me Jake." Sheryl's voice was calm.
"Help me. It will do your spirit good to cleanse yourself of this pain. You have seen their evil, you know they must be stopped."
"Yes, senorita, they must be stopped, but just the two of us?"
"Have faith Jake, the Sky Father and the Earth Mother will aid us." Sitting up, Sheryl began chanting softly to the Great Spirit. Jake watched in wonder as the clouds overhead stopped moving north and instead, hovered overhead. Soon, small drops of water were falling from the sky. A mischievous smile played across her lips. "Call me Little Bird."
Nobody had ever superceded the wizards at Rainmaker. Somebody would be very angry tonight. Jake was filled with hope. They made love to the soft patter of rain in the fields. It wsa still raining the next day when they left.
Little Bird drove West, toward New Mexico. She told Jake of the great buffalo that her people revered. The buffalo represent the strength and bounty of the earth. They churn the dirt so new plants can grow. They give of their flesh to feed and clothe the People. The birds of the prairie pick the parasites off buffalo, keeping them healthy. Rainmaker Inc was just another parasite and Little Bird would pick them off to keep the earth healthy. But first, Little Bird wished to visit her Grandfather and Auntie. She told Jake that her Grandfather would help them cleanse themselves for the upcoming battle, and Auntie would teach Jake. By the time they arrived, Jake was frightfully sober. For the first time in three years, he actually enjoyed it.
They walked in to the kitchen. An old man was sitting there, petting a buffalo, a hat on his head. A picture of a young man sat on the bannister behind him. He looked up with a smile. "We have been waiting for you Little Bird. Who is your scruffy friend?" Before Little Bird could answer, Jake stepped forward and bowed his head. "Senor, my name is Julio, but everyone calls me Jake."
The old man laughed. "Call me Papa, this is Auntie."
The buffalo looked up at Jake, sniffed him once. "Good hunting Little Bird, this man can help you greatly if he will shed himself of his guilt." The buffalo butted it's head against Jake. "We know who you are and what you did. Now you will help us to be rid of Rainmaker Inc. Your name is not Jake, nor is it Julio. Come, we will find you a better name if you will serve me." Auntie pushed Jake toward the door.
Jake hadn't practiced his magic, or his martial arts for three years, he was terribly out of practice. Auntie made him practice and taught him stories about the People and how the Spirits of the earth were displeased. By the end of two weeks, Auntie had named him Dancing Bull.
Dancing Bull and Little Bird sat together in the sweat lodge. Dancing Bull spoke of the magics he had been taught. Powerful necromantic energies, coupled with quick strikes from his fists and his feet. Evocations, enchantments and abjurations that helped turn him into a ferocious killing machine. Little Bird spoke of clear water stretching into blue sky. She spoke of the blessings of the Sky Father and the Earth Mother and the Great Spirit. She spoke of walking the Great Mystery to find herself. She said that this was just part of her journey, a stopping point along the way. She spoke of her brother, who had lost his way, the brother in the picture in Papa's kitchen. Little Bird missed her brother. Dancing Bull was not sure how long they were in the sweat lodge, but when they came out Papa was there with a buffalo skin cloak. "Auntie says you are ready and he wanted you to have this. Wear it when you fight Rainmaker. Come, we are having steak for dinner and you need to give your thanks to Auntie."
A week later, Dancing Bull and Little Bird were back on the beach. Dancing Bull wanted to get his equipment. Rainmaker had given it to him, it was fitting that it be used against them. Little Bird wanted to eat dinner and make love on the beach. They were kissing outside the restaurant when Rainmaker caught up with them. The eel on the restaurant animated and bit deeply into Little Bird's shoulder. She screamed and Dancing Bull lashed out with his fists. The eel let go of Little Bird and she backed away into the darkness.
Thrashing against the wall of the restaurant, the animated eel was easy for Dancing Bull avoid. His fists flashed under the light and it sounded like a wooden drum being played. Little Bird screamed. Dancing Bull turned in time to see her crumple to the ground, two knives stuck in her side. "No!" But, Rainmaker's assassins were already gone, the teltale 'pop' of a teleportation having taken them to safety.
Dancing Bull cradled Little Bird in his arms, crying for his loss. The daggers were powerfully ensorcelled with dark magic, very powerful weapons. They had robbed her of her life force. Rainmaker had punished her for daring to make it rain. Little Bird opened her eyes and caressed his face as dark bile oozed out of her wounds. "I did not know it would hurt so much." Her voice was weak, but beautiful. "Do not cry Dancing Bull. I have helped to make you healthy, my job is done. You will dance across the ground and trample the Rainmaker so that the plants will grow again. As for me, I will walk the Great Mystery. We will meet again one day." Dancing Bull felt no shame for crying as he gathered the tools of death that Rainmaker had long ago made for him.
It took him three days to drive the convertible up to Oklahoma. On the fourth day, he felt the presence of Rainmaker's Diviners. That night, in an abandoned farmhouse, Dancing Bull slept fitfully. How would Rainmaker deal with him? Had they figured out who he was yet? The edge of the roof lifted up, huge claws, barely material, could be seen. Then eyes and a voice filled with mania and lust squeeled.
"Oh Julio, come here my love. You look tasty my love. They tell me you have been naughty." It was Lucille. Dancing Bull had always hated Lucille. The demon was insane and always hungry. The few times he had worked with her, he had gone on a drunken binge for days afterward. It was because of Lucille that he had learned the words that would undo the binding to this world. As Papa and Auntie would say, Lucille was a creature of the Otherworld and did not belong here. Dancing Bull had learned the words of dismissal just in case Lucille ever decided he looked tasty. Rainmaker did not know that Dancing Bull had done this.
Dancing Bull rolled out of the bed and flipped across the room, his buffalo hide cloak swirling about him. Lucille could be quick. With a smile, Dancing Bull called out, "I always hated you Lucille! Now be gone." Lucille simply cackled as she pulled the roof off the farmhouse. She was easily 50 feet tall. "Indeed little Julio, you will be gone in one little gulp." Lunging forward, she was faster than him. Her claws, reaching for his soft skin, were stopped by the buffalo hide. Dancing Bull smiled and recited the incantation he had learned so long ago. Lucille shrieked and the windows of the farmhouse shattered.
He left the convertible at the farmhouse. Uncle had given him a salve that would make him fly and he reached the far edge of Rainmaker's private lake at sunrise. The tower at the far side of the lake used the water to enhance the arcane energies that powered their weather engines. To protect against assault, they had surrounded the tower with anti-magic zones. To protect against non-magical assault, they had their cadre of martial-artist sorcerers, like the man he once was. They would soon know that Lucille had not completed her job, so they would be looking for him. Dancing Bull hoped that he could swim across the lake before they thought to look there.
He shucked his equipment into a small bag that, impossibly, held it all. An extra-dimensional pocket that he had hidden equipment in before. Dancing Bull downed some liquid from a small vial. Immediately, he felt his lungs constrict. The magic demanded water to breathe, he was suffocating above water. The sun was shining above as he swam across the lake. He kept one eye out for any of the creatures rumored to live in the lake. Rainmaker employees often speculated on the unspeakable horrors that were in the lake.
Dancing Bull was almost to the dam he felt searing pain in his calf. Something unclean had grabbed him. Turning to look he saw a tentacle wrapped around his ankle. The tentacle disappeared into the depths, where it was slowly pulling him. Straining against the pull of the kraken, Dancing Bull was overcome with pain. Blacking out, he could hear the thud of buffalo across the plain. In his mind's eye, he could see Auntie with a little bird on her back. Whispered words in his ear. "Have faith, you are pure open your eyes and see the world for what it truly is." Struggling to open his eyes, Dancing Bull took a deep breath. Tree branches? Trees from the drowned valley were reaching up from below. Mind magic! Rainmaker would never put a foul beast in their lake unless it could be completely controlled. There would be too much risk that it would interfere with the engines that powered the weather engines.
It careful swimming to make it to the access doorways on the side of the dam, but soon Dancing Bull was pulling on his trousers and a shirt. Bracers followed and a belt. He went barefoot as he slung the cloak around his shoulders. Then, he pulled a tonfa out of the extra-dimensional pocket. Rainmaker Inc's tower was nearly 400 feet tall. A squat, fortified place that would be difficult to assault. But, the tower was meant to keep people out. Once they were in, there was little defense.
He made it up 12 levels before any guards found him. He had just come out of a stairway and the guards were coming off an elevator. He saw them first. With a surge, he closed the distance and hit one with a flying kick. The strength of the buffalo carried through, tossing the first guard back into the elevator. He felt a fist graze his back as he spun around. Suddenly, a foot connected with his stomach. It nearly took his breath away, but he rolled with the kick and landed with a thud. Rolling onto his side, Dancing Bull planted a heel on the knee of the nearest assailant. Grabbing the man's ankle, he pulled and heard a satisfying scream as tendons ripped. He then rolled out of the way just as the kicker came down from a jump. The man's knee thudded into the floor where Dancing Bull's head had been. Dancing Bull quickly chanted arcane syllables and slammed his fist into the man. Immediately, the man's face contorted in anguisk before he lost control of his muscles. The smell of ghouls filled the hallway as Dancing Bull tumbled away. Anybody coming through the area would have to deal with the ghoul smell coming from the paralyzed man.
Dancing Bull had to fight off three more groups of guards before he was stood on the floor below the control tower. Somebody had finally managed to trigger an alarm. Rolling out of the stairwell, Dancing Bull came to stop against the wall. Movement out of the corner of his eye gave him the split moment he needed to dodge backward. A foot thudded into the wall and Dancing Bull looked up.
"Good day Julio, your dressed funny nowadays." It was Elliot Ingersoll. Elliot had been an upcoming assassin when Dancing Bull worked for Rainmaker. "If I had known it was you with that girl, I would have stopped to kill you too." Elliot drew a jet black dagger as he took a fighting stance.
"You killed Little Bird, but now I shall kill you."
"How sweet, you had a pet name for your girlfriend." Elliot struck. He was fast, but this time Dancing Bull was faster. Dancing Bull caught the dagger in the folds of the cloak, stripping it from Elliot's grasp. Then, mixing arcane gestures with an attack routine, he caught Elliot by the neck. Elliot's eyes bulged as the magic took affect. His life force drained out of his body into Dancing Bull's. As Elliot withered in Dancing Bull's grasp, the bruises on Dancing Bull's body disappeared. Finally, Elliot's body fell to the floor.
Dancing Bull took the elevator up to the last floor. The door opened and Dancing Bull gazed into the room for the first time in his life. http://www.enworld.org/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=14005] Three smartly dressed wizards could be seen gazing out a scrying window at a green field. Dancing Bull's ears could pull out the conversation.
"How much do you think they will pay to avoid a drought?"
"I don't know. Losing those crops would mean a lot of people go hungry. We should double our fee."
Dancing Bull felt the anger well up inside him. With a cry, he charged across the room. The first wizard fell like a sack of oatmeal as Dancing Bull rushed into him. The second managed to get a body shield of fire in place as Dancing Bull turned to look at the third. He paused for a moment, he had seen that face before. He knew it wasn't when he worked at Rainmaker. The guards never spoke directly with the wizards. Then, it hit him. He remembered that face from the frame behind Papa's shoulder. This was Little Bird's lost brother.
"That looks like Auntie's skin, who are you?"
Dancing Bull stopped. How could this man be related to Little Bird? He represented everything that she opposed. It was then that he remembered what she said about the Great Red Road and how her people had to follow it. She would prepare it for her brother. At the time, he didn't know what it meant. But now Ö she had died so she could be there to receive her brother. He shook his head. He was hear to eliminate Rainmaker. "Little Bird wants to see you, she is waiting, on the Red Road." The dagger plunged into Little Bird's brother's heart. He fell as lightning coursed through Dancing Bull's body.
Turning to the last wizard, Dancing Bull smiled. Blackened skin fell off his side as he pulled a scroll from the pouch at his side. It was ancient, but he knew the words. It would unleash a flurry of fireballs here in the tower. Up here, where all the arcane energies are contained. Rainmaker would be a ruined hulk in the wilderness. His lips repeated the engraved syllables. The wizard screamed. Fire engulfed them all.
Papa looked up as stormclouds rolled in from the horizon.
Saturday, 1st May, 2004, 05:08 AM #606
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
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Ý Block BSF
I *think* I made it in time. My computer clock and EN World are off. I hope I made it.
Saturday, 1st May, 2004, 07:17 AM #607
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
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Ý Block Piratecat
Originally Posted by BardStephenFox
Can't wait to read them!
Saturday, 1st May, 2004, 08:16 AM #608
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
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Ý Block BSF
Doh! Looking back, yes I was. I'll let it sit with Macbeth. I managed to sneak out of work a little early today otherwise I wouldn't have had any story to post. Well, OK, I would have had some story, but those extra two hours were really useful. I was really afraid that I couldn't tie all the elements together in a meaningful way. But, I hope the story is an enjoyable read overall.
Saturday, 1st May, 2004, 10:37 AM #609
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Ý Block Maldur
ok, this has to sit in my mind for as while. Both stories are good.
I say we lock them both up in the basement and force them to write stuff
Last edited by Maldur; Saturday, 1st May, 2004 at 10:37 AM.
Saturday, 1st May, 2004, 04:48 PM #610
Originally Posted by Maldur
Does that come with a grant?
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