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Barsoom Tales I - COMPLETE

barsoomcore

Unattainable Ideal
"If I'm right about this..."

Elena interrupted Isaac.

"Which you almost never are."

"Yes, but if I am, Hector's got to be near this casino."

"You mean, near this smoking hole in the ground."

"Exactly. He'll be watching for us."

"Presumably he's already seen us, then."

"Most likely."

"So all we have to do is wait."

The five friends stood on a deserted Pavairelle street, in front of the smouldering ruins of Mario's casino. There was no sign of the crime boss who'd asked to meet them here. Etienne spoke up.

"So when he gets here, when we ought to have plan."

Elena nodded.

"I agree. Let's have a plan. Good idea, Etienne."

Arrafin looked over at the Saijadani woman.

"Can you do anything to him? Hector, I mean."

Everyone else frowned at that. Elena spoke cautiously.

"What do you mean, can I do anything?"

"You know, with... with your brain."

Frowns deepened. Elena pasted a blank smile on her face.

"I don't..."

Etienne nodded.

"Right, like with the candle. We never found out how you did that, Elena."

"It's... I don't want to talk about it."

The other four looked at each other. Sounds of bloody combat echoed in the streets around them.

Isaac spoke for the others.

"I guess that's too bad for you. Can you do anything to him with your brain, Elena?"

ELena swallowed. She kicked at a bit of rubble, scowling.

"Not much, I can't. I can... I can confuse him, kind of. Or maybe..."

Her scowl deepened.

"Attract him."

Arrafin's eyebrows rose.

"Attract him? You mean, like...?"

"Yes. Yes. Exactly. Like..."

Hiding her grin, Arrafin held up her hands at Elena's ferocious scowl. Isaac, Nevid and Etienne did not smile. Carefully.

"I think," said Etienne, "I have a plan."

"That's a relief." Issac spat. "Here he comes."

Hector Sarachez was not a big man. He walked like a big man, however. Flanked by a trio of intimidating swordsmen, Hector strutted up where the five friends stood and stared at them with belligerent eyes. He sneered like a big man.

"So here you are. You got my guns, you punks?"

Nevid growled.

"They're our guns."

Hector turned to Etienne.

"Muzzle your puppy, it'll get kicked."

One of the big guys had locked eyes with Isaac. Etienne and Hector stared each other down. Arrafin looked over at Elena, waiting for her friend to do whatever she was going to do.

Elena sighed. With an internal effort, she focused on Hector's eyes. She could sense a line drawn between his eyes and her, a line she poured energy into, as though reaching out and turning his head to look at her.

She'd been concentrating for some time before realising that he was looking at her. In a fixed manner. Even his goons were looking concerned. She stared back at him. And with great effort forced herself to smile.

Elena didn't smile very often. She was a serious woman, with a serious demeanour. Isaac, Etienne, Arrafin and even Nevid all blinked as a warm smile spread across their friend's face, turning her from their trusted, if somewhat dour, companion into a very pretty young woman.

Hector smiled back.

"Bring her, Kishak. And yourself. Leave these clowns here. And I better be seeing my guns."

*****

"Is that your friend?"

Elena watched Etienne peer at the shape lashed to a chair. Faint light drifted in around the shuttered window, but it looked like Korath.

Hector had a hand on Elena's arm. She longed to reach over and break his fingers, but the crime boss' three thugs had increased their number by two and she didn't like the chances of she and Etienne getting an unconscious Kishak soldier out of a fourth-floor tenement past the combined weight and bad temper of five Pavairellean thugs.

Etienne nodded.

"Yeah, that's him."

Hector's hand tightened on Elena's arm.

"Now you've seen your red friend. Where are my guns?"

*****

Arrafin could scarcely contain her outrage. Nevid stood, dickering calmly with a troop of Kishak soldiers. Soldiers who'd probably been brutalizing her people in the streets earlier tonight. Soldiers he'd obviously arranged to have meet them here. She glared as Nevid came over.

"These guys serve in the Fifteenth Legion, they know Etienne's friend. Let's go."

Isaac said what Arrafin was thinking.

"Go where? With a bunch of bloodthirsty Kishak bastards? You're kidding, right?"

Nevid stared at them for a brief second.

"No, I'm not kidding. They're friends of Etienne's friend, they want him back and they'll kill Hector's thugs to get him. We follow them and leave with Elena and Etienne. Come back here, get the guns, take them to Marques' ship."

Things were happening quite a bit faster than Isaac was entirely comfortable with. He glared hard at Nevid, trying to read the calm youth who seemed to be able to pull resources out of thin air. Like a dozen angry-looking Kishak soldiers. He and Arrafin exchanged a glance.

The Naridic girl spoke.

"There's plenty of Naridic people getting hurt tonight. Why are we helping to save a Kishak?"

"Because Marques wants Etienne to help us get the guns from Mario, and Etienne won't unless his friend is safe. But we have to go now. Etienne and Elena will be killed as soon as Hector realises we don't have the guns. Elena can't just keep smiling at him forever."

*****

Somebody up on the roof whistled. Hector's eyes widened and he pushed Elena away.

"What's this? Some kind of trap? You think you can -- "

He broke off as the hall door crashed open and a couple of lean, red-skinned forms with flashing blades leapt into the room. Kishak soldiers wore no armour and almost no clothing, just a loincloth, a sword belt and sandals. Their dark red skin gleamed in the dark room as they surged forward in a disciplined wave, cutting down Hector's bodyguards with ruthless, efficient strokes. Hector looked up at square, angry faces, dark eyes glaring.

"He's over the -- "

His mouth worked a few times as he slumped to the floor, blood spraying from his gaping throat. Etienne, crouched behind the chair, slashed the ropes that bound his friend and helped the injured Kishak stand.

Elena stood back and watched the Kishak soldiers move towards their friend. Dead Pavairelleans sprawled everywhere and the stink of blood curled her lip. She turned as Isaac, Arrafin and Nevid came in, picking their way cautiously across the room. Isaac watched the Kishaks and called out to Etienne.

"Did you want to tell us what your plan was, Etienne?"
 

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barsoomcore

Unattainable Ideal
Nevid is tremendously resourceful, extraordinarily secretive and occasionally just darn lucky.

Nevid's Player: "This guy is a Kishak soldier, right? From around here, right? Same as the soldiers who are currently patrolling the streets, right?"

Me: "Uh... yeah."

NP: (passes me a note that reads) "While we're walking to the casino, I want to use Gather Information to figure out how to talk to Kishak soldiers without getting skewered, and if they're prone to rescuing comrades who've been kidnapped by these locals they hate so much."

Me: "Uh... go ahead."

NP: "Twenty-seven."

Me: (still not really clueing in to what he's up to) "No problem. And yes, they do."

NP: "Okay, here's what I do..."

I thought it was very, very clever.
 


Berandor

lunatic
barsoomcore said:
What? What? I didn't hear anything.

Well, maybe there was a bit of BUMP.
You're bumping? two days without praise is too long already, eh? :)

Alright, I'll read it, and then praise you tomorrow.
 

ledded

Herder of monkies
I, too, wonder how I missed this.

You are one damn fine writer, man. Great update. And I agree with JD, we need like a blinking neon sign or something so I don't miss your update again. :D
 

Berandor

lunatic
So. Read it.

I'd like to hear Etienne's plan, too. :) I imagine it was a lot of fun playing the "attraction spell" out. And a very clever idea by Nevin (or his player).

So, when's the next update?
 

barsoomcore

Unattainable Ideal
"It's... it's almost pretty, isn't it?"

Arrafin stood next to Elena, watching Pavairelle burn in the distance. They'd gotten the guns out of the ruined Casino and on board a ship bound for the Narid, sailing out in the pre-dawn darkness as the violence suffusing the city rose in a desperate pitch of struggling factions. A detachment of Kishak soldiers had come hurtling down the wharf to where they untied and rowed out to their ship, Thuria's Dream. The captain, an elderly Shaeric fellow with no love for Kishak soldiers, had his crew rushing about getting the ship ready before they pulled alongside, and within minutes, it seemed, they were drifting out of the most famous harbour in the world, watching the Jewel of the Inner Sea burn.

Etienne hung off the stern rail. His home was burning. Marques, the Torn Curtain, the cherry trees on Duelists' Street, the city was awash in flames. He stared across dark water at the tall, steep-sided pillar of stone that Pavairelle capped, now glowing with redness and black smoke. His sour gaze drifted along to where Arrafin and Elena stood, Elena with the massive length of that great black sword leaning against the rail next to her.

"Yeah. Almost."

Nevid paid no attention to the flames. He found the captain, and with Isaac beside him, laid out the details of their voyage.

"We have on board a collection of Saijadani rifles, Captain O'Shannon."

"Aye, that ye have, lad. And they're fine weapons, too, I'll tell ye, and no mistake."

"Thank you. We are taking these weapons to the village of Hudra Keffil, a few hundred miles east of the Al-Tizim Canal Mouth. There we will exchange the weapons with Naridic fighters for gold, and head back north across the Inner Sea to Cadencia."

"Aye, that sounds simple enough. I've no charts of yer Hudra Keffil, but these waters are clear enough. A fine wind, a bit of luck, and we'll be off the Naridic coast in but a fortnight."

*****

Countess Sara del Istanzic did not weep because of the ruin of her family and her fortune.

Her house destroyed, her wealth taken, her little fleet burned at their anchors, and now the guns gone.

Smoke drifted across the harbour, obscuring her view of the sails below. Her property, overlooking the harbour on a high ridge of Temple Hill, looked as though a war had been fought on it. Dead bodies lay strewn about, but some of her guard had survived, and the sword she held limply in one hand was caked with blood.

She did not weep for the death of so many trusted men and women.

The Fifteenth Legion had mutinied and gone looting on Temple Hill. She didn't know how many had assaulted her estate, but they were many more than her small force could be expected to deal with. Her soldiers died where they stood, heaping the red bodies of Kishak warriors around them. Only an attack by another Pavairellean force distracted the Kishaks and drove them off, but not before they had torn her very house down around her and stolen everything of value there was in the building.

The streets were clogged with dead Kishak soldiers. Somebody had found the Jeddakkar, hiding in the River Palace, and hung him and his family from the arches near the Temple of Spring.

Countess del Istanzic watched the tattered sails in the harbour. The Kishaks were gone.

She wept because for the first time in her life, the Free City was truly free.

*****

"It's called the Talon of the Raven."

"I like it. Very dramatic. Why are we interested in the Raven's Talon, my vicious little child?"

"It destroys and commands the undead."

"It does?"

"Yes, Mother."

"To a considerable degree, I assume?"

"Yes, Mother."

There was a very long pause.

The two women remained perfectly still in a richly appointed bedchamber, dripping with silk and golden furnishings, massive flowers and draping curtains of lace and diamond. They were both Lohanese, though very different in appearance. The younger, submissive one wore simple dark cloth cut provocatively, and knelt with her head bowed. The other stood tall, her spectacularly elaborate gown shimmering and drifting about her, her hair piled up above her head in such baroque arrangements that it no longer resembled anything like hair. The structural engineering that had gone into her appearance was more advanced than that which had produced the massive castle where they talked.

She was Yuek Man Chong, residing in her new home of Castle Dannockshire. Where she walked, shadows hissed and whispered foul things. When she passed, hungry inhuman eyes watched, burning with lust and awe.

She smiled down at her adopted daughter, Kani Nakamura. Neither of them paid the slightest bit of attention to the young girl sprawled motionless on the massive bed, even when she cried out feebly.

"Fetch this talon for us, Kani. It will please us."

"Yes, Mother."

"And you would so love to please us, wouldn't you, my sweet little one?"

A long, bone-white finger extended, the black nail lengthened and sharpened until it was more dangerous than the talon under discussion, and reached under Kani's chin to tilt her head up.

Kani began to weep. Her mother's beauty blinded her. She had never, ever been capable of speech while looking at the perfection that was her mother.

She shut her eyes against the vision above her.

"Yes, Mother. Please, Mother. Please. Let me please you."

Yuek Man Chong laughed. She never tired of her daughter's desperation. Or of denying her daughter what the poor deranged girl wanted most.

"Go."

As Kani stumbled out, the statuesque vampire turned to the girl on the bed, who was just then trying to sit up, as though shaking off the effects of a deep sleep. The girl's eyes widened at the sight of the white figure clad in brilliant silks drifting towards her.

Kani paused once at the sound of screams from above, and went on.

When it was over, when the last hissing desperate cry of pleading anguish had died away, when even the sound of blood dripping off the gold furnishings had ceased, Yuek Man Chong stood perfectly still, her face caked with blood, staring down at what had only hours before been a beautiful young girl.

She stood there, staring, for days. She did not blink. She didn't need to. She had been dead for much longer than the girl she'd been torturing.

*****

Kimiko Torokan sat in silence. The Blood Sanctuary had not been touched, not even when the violence in the streets had risen to its highest crest. The enigma and sanctity of the Blood Council was inviolate.

Had been inviolate. Torokan concentrated, forcing herself to remember every shriek of Yasami's. Every protestation of innocence. She had done it. The crime was hers.

Torokan considered every detail of the other women at this Sanctuary. Undoubtedly more of them served Shang. Undoubtedly some that did thought they were opposing him. She knew that she herself might be serving that evil spider, the man who had taken the central truth, the ultimate purpose of the Blood Council and rendered it worthless, worse than worthless. He had made a thing of darkness out of what was meant to be humanity's greatest defense.

Her hatred rose strong in her mind, but she pushed it away. She could identify half-a-dozen obvious servants of his. There would be more.

But Arrafin, that little Naridic girl with the astonishing intelligence, who'd grasped at glance formulae it had taken Torokan months of labour to comprehend, she might prove the wedge that opened a crack in the schemes of Matai Shang. There was nothing more Torokan could do for the girl, and she knew that it more than likely that Shadow's dark fingers would kill the untutored young woman before she ever became a factor, but just knowing that somewhere out there was growing a factor Shang had never, could never, have considered, gave the Blood Sister strength.

She would continue to resist. She would fight Matai Shang to the last breath she possessed.

*****

Collette sat motionless, watching the woman across from her with complete concentration.

"My dear de Maynard, you may relax. I am not a del Orofin."

"What is it you want with me? When I'm in disgrace from Pavairelle to Petrahegna?"

The other woman smiled.

"Certainly not. Disgrace? For disrupting relations between de Beliard and the del Orofin? If you were Saijadani, I'd call you a patriot."

"Yeah, well, I'm not."

A very heavy purse landed on the table. Collette's eyes flicked down to it, and back up. The other woman laughed.

"Oh, dear, you have learned suspicion, haven't you? I've told you, I'm not a del Orofin, to stick a sword in my dinner guest."

"No," replied Collette, not relaxing one bit, "You're a del Maraviez, to slip a knife under your trusted ally's ribs."

Isabella del Maraviez leaned back, her good humour gone.

"I can tell them where you are, Collette. I don't have to offer you a thing. Pilar will pay me handsomely for your head. Or just directions to it. I advise you to take my money and listen to my offer. Several years ago, you helped to discredit a Petrahegna noble and his family."

"If this is about del Valencia, I heard he was dead. Killed by Kendorik."

"There is another del Valencia, you know. The mother."

Collette forgot to be cautious. She stared in shock at Isabella. The del Maraviez woman smiled again.

"Find Emmanuelle del Valencia, Collette. I will keep the del Orofin off your back."

*****

"You've found her?"

"Yes, Your Eminence."

The mutilated thing grovelled on bare stone. The very old man sputtered with laughter, steel limbs creaking around him.

"Assemble the slaves. We must prepare."

"Yes, Your Eminence."

Matai Shang shuddered at the thought that he would once again possess his beloved creation. The Demon Goddess. Yuek Man Chong. She would be his again. The image of her, shrieking as he toyed with her, sent him into a bubbling, gibbering parody of ecstasy.

She would know he owned her. She would remember she belonged to him.
 
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barsoomcore

Unattainable Ideal
And THAT, folks, is the end of "Make It There" -- and the end of Season One of Barsoom. Next up is "Frying Pans, Fires" -- and things will begin to get very, very strange. Season Two (which is really what I want to document in this -- everything up to now has been sort of setting the stage for the REAL story) is not going to go where you think it's going to go. Trust me, it's going to get weird and distasteful on Barsoom pretty soon.

Fitting this into language suitable for Eric's Grandma may not be straightforward, but I'll do my best.

I mean, REALLY weird.

Keep in mind, that despite all the foreshadowing and background stuff you see, much of this was actually just getting invented on the fly.

Yuek Man Chong, for example, did not exist in my mind at this point in the campaign. She was only conceived of the episode before she confronts our heroes -- as a MARGIN note in another NPC's statblock. A couple of strategically played Swashbuckling cards turned my ENTIRE campaign inside out. I'll let you when you get there -- not that you'll be able to miss it.

But even I have trouble crediting the notion that Yuek Man Chong just appeared out of nowhere. Looking back now, it seems impossible that story got to this point without her. And once she arrives on the scene, well, she's a DEMANDING NPC, let's just say. She does not allow anyone, not even the DM, push her to the sidelines.

Hang on to your hats...
 



Desdichado

Adventurer
Have I ever said that? :lol: So, what's your plan now? Archive all these story posts and start a new thread for the new season? Or pile it up on top of this one? And are we ever going to get the prequel? I noticed your website has a "Pilot Episode" which you have not documented in a Story Hour format.
 
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barsoomcore

Unattainable Ideal
I don't have a plans to do the earlier adventures -- there isn't much to tell, honestly.

Other than Isaac cutting off a man's head in a public duel, the sad and sorry death of Maeve the blue-haired pirate woman, Collette's ability to completely bamboozle our heroes made manifest, early manifestations of the twisted ways of Matai Shang, and the actual reason why Arrafin is with this crowd of misfits and malcontents.

So, not so much.

But heck, I've got lots more to tell with the current storyline, plus Pirates, and last week the Angels got back together to kick a whole loaf of bad guy butt, so I've got enough story hour writing to keep me occupied, thanks awfully.

;)

I WAS planning to keep it all in this thread but I know more people join in when they see they don't have post after post to try and catch up on. Hm...
 

Desdichado

Adventurer
Yeah, there's a point, and I'm not sure if you're there or not yet, where it's better to start a "Chapter II" thread afresh rather than keep piling on the old thread. A lot of the other story hours I've followed in the past have done so successfully, like drnuncheon's piratey urban adventures and the like.
 

Berandor

lunatic
Great update! It really reads like a series' end, what with new events throwing their shadows on the wall while our heroes look back at what they wrought.

I'd also start a new thread for the second season - and please, start it soon :)
 

ledded

Herder of monkies
Loved the last update.

And the swashbuckling cards are a hoot; very cool stuff there.

Looking forward to Chapter II.
 

Sir Elton

First Post
Joshua Dyal said:
Sweet! I'm jealous, too! I've rarely had the patience to tell a story in media res without interrupting it for all kinds of background! This is well-written and compelling. Keep it coming!
I don't see the big deal. Here, I thought Barsoomcore was a writer like . . . TS Eliot. But looking at his writing, he uses regular language, like ERB did. But then, I guess that what makes it good.

Barsoomcore, you're a regular joe writer, writing for the demos. Do not ever become a writer like the one who wrote "The Great Gatsby." I never read that book, but if the Intellectual Elite is hailing it as great, then it must be very bad. flowery prose as all get out might win points for them, but the demos wants something they'd enjoy.

Keep it up!
 

Warrior Poet

First Post
Sir Elton said:
Do not ever become a writer like the one who wrote "The Great Gatsby." I never read that book, but if the Intellectual Elite is hailing it as great, then it must be very bad. flowery prose as all get out might win points for them, but the demos wants something they'd enjoy.

You might enjoy The Great Gatsby, actually. There's a lot going on in it, but "flowery prose as all get out" isn't one of them, I'd say. The language is a little dated (it was published in 1925), but flowery . . . nah, that's not how I'd describe it. It's actually got some interesting stuff going on: deception, betrayal, class conflict, sex (not terribly explicit by today's standards, you understand), boozing, cool cars, the decadence of excessive wealth, corruption, murder . . . . ;)

On the other hand, it is a tragic story of love and loss, so if that's not your style either, then I'd stay away, definitely. :D

All of which is odd, because I'm not a big fan of the book, myself. And it's partly because I don't like Fitzgerald's style of writing much. So, maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about.

barsoomcore, I finally got caught up in through the text files you posted at the beginning. Excellent stuff! Can't wait to read more.

Thanks,

Warrior Poet
 

barsoomcore

Unattainable Ideal
Sir Elton said:
If the Intellectual Elite is hailing it as great, then it must be very bad.
Well, I guess it depends on what you call the Intellectual Elite. Harold Bloom? See, here you and I part ways cause if Dr. Bloom's hailing something as great, in my experience it usually is. On the other hand, there's the late Jacques Derrida. I don't know how you'd even be able to tell if Mr. Derrida was approving or disapproving of something, anyway, so I guess it probably doesn't matter.

I like lots of writers. ERB is certainly gifted, and A Princess of Mars is great fun book. But then so is The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and so is The Cinnamon Peeler's Wife, and so is Death in the Afternoon, and so is The House at Pooh Corner.

Rejecting ANYTHING sight unseen is a bad idea. Read stuff and decide if you like it. Don't worry if the prose is flowery or not. Do you like it? Do other people? If you find people's opinions are different than your own, find out why. Could be you'll discover something in that "flowery prose" that speaks to you, if only somebody will point it out to you.
 

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