Shemeska's Planescape Storyhour - (Updated 14February2024)

Shemeska

Adventurer
What has btw. happend with planewalker.com? The whole site seems to be dead. A bit sad, there were a lot of nice articles.

They had a database crash of some sort. Everything is saved, but it may be a while yet before the site is back up since the webmaster is seriously busy at the moment. But it's in the works.


And after reading, all the Appendixes in the PDF (some of the storys again, like that about the Baernaloths I already saw on planewalker *g*) as a Question.
Where are Informations about the Meladaemons? ^^ Except of the stats block in the pathfinder Srd. Or better said where (in which Books) are more Informations about them? ^^


Meladaemons aren't a Planescape thing, they're just within the Pathfinder universe. I've written a lot of published material for Golarion, and the fiction like 'Hunger' is stuff I've done for fun on the side. I created the meladaemons for what it's worth, basing them on Pathfinder's Horseman of Famine, Trelmarixian the Lysogenic Prince, who himself is loosely based on two NPCs from my second storyhour (Trelmarixian the Black and Escheris the Rotting). The meladaemon had a larger writeup in the Pathfinder module 'Beyond the Vault of Souls', written by Colin McComb, with the meladaemon section written by me.

There's additional information on them in Pathfinder's 'Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Book of the Damned vol III' which I also wrote. That book focuses on Pathfinder's NE fiends, which are quite distinct from Planescape's yugoloths in many ways, but occasionally you'll find a thematic parallel with an idea or two from here. Though it's worth saying that pretty much anything planar that I've written for Pathfinder is heavily inspired and informed by Planescape.

Oh and who is Inuq'Sharaq (The Collector)? Another Baernaloth not of the Demented?

She/It is a baernaloth that my spouse created and wrote a story about for me as a twisted, bizarre Valentines day surprise. She wrote the story as if my stories had attracted the attention of a real entity -something of a hellish muse-, that the beings in my stories were real, and that it came to devour me as a particularly inspired, beautiful mortal specimen. It's oddly romantic and very well written IMO.
 

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Shemeska

Adventurer
Total aside, but if anyone's interested, I've started working on a TvTropes page for the Storyhour. Who knows, maybe we'll pick up on some part of the plot we've missed rereading the story yet again while looking for tropes?

Have I ever mentioned that you're awesome? You're awesome. shemmysmile.gif
 

81Dagon

Explorer
Have I ever mentioned that you're awesome? You're awesome. View attachment 62177
:blush:

Thanks! I could use a hand with filling it out though, since the story's so large and my knowledge of Tropes is nowhere near encompassing. If there are any other tropers out there, your aid would be great appreciated!

EDIT: On a mildly related note, if you had to give names to the different storyarcs we've seen so far, what would you call them?
 
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Shemeska

Adventurer
:blush:

Thanks! I could use a hand with filling it out though, since the story's so large and my knowledge of Tropes is nowhere near encompassing. If there are any other tropers out there, your aid would be great appreciated!

EDIT: On a mildly related note, if you had to give names to the different storyarcs we've seen so far, what would you call them?

*ponder*

I never really did things in discrete arcs, and there were often lots of side things going on at once. The world moves along with or without the PCs, and what they choose to interact with they have the most influence on potentially. So some things are obvious plot arcs, and then there's spaces between them with random side elements going on.

A few off the top of my head that make sense as distinct things:

The Rise and Fall of Alisohn Nilesia
The Incantifer's Maze
The Slide of Belarian / Siege of Khin-Oin
Dead Gods and the "Rakshasa" 'Siblings'
Pandemonium and the Gautiere Deity
The Shadow Sorcelled Key

Also, I see what you did there: posting artwork of characters from my 2nd Storyhour over on Tumblr. :)
 

81Dagon

Explorer
*ponder*

I never really did things in discrete arcs, and there were often lots of side things going on at once. The world moves along with or without the PCs, and what they choose to interact with they have the most influence on potentially. So some things are obvious plot arcs, and then there's spaces between them with random side elements going on.

A few off the top of my head that make sense as distinct things:

The Rise and Fall of Alisohn Nilesia
The Incantifer's Maze
The Slide of Belarian / Siege of Khin-Oin
Dead Gods and the "Rakshasa" 'Siblings'
Pandemonium and the Gautiere Deity
The Shadow Sorcelled Key

Yeah I figured something like that. I'm just trying to come up with a way to sort them so a) I can build some subheadings on the TvTropes page and more importantly, b) make the behemoth 1000+ page pdf seem a bit more manageable to my girlfriend as I read it to her. I kind of figured it would help If I broke them into "books." I'll keep mulling it over, but I love the idea of a book called The Siege of Khin-Oin!

Also, I see what you did there: posting artwork of characters from my 2nd Storyhour over on Tumblr. :)

Hey I was just searching for Arcanoloth and Yugoloth art. It's not my fault you've commissioned about half of the pieces in those categories on DeviantArt :p
 

Akhelos

First Post
A few off the top of my head that make sense as distinct things:

The Rise and Fall of Alisohn Nilesia
The Incantifer's Maze
The Slide of Belarian / Siege of Khin-Oin
Dead Gods and the "Rakshasa" 'Siblings'
Pandemonium and the Gautiere Deity
The Shadow Sorcelled Key

Also, I see what you did there: posting artwork of characters from my 2nd Storyhour over on Tumblr. :)

you forgotten "Shemmi crashes a Party (and almost Zadara) ^^

Nice Idea with that Page. ^^
 

Shemeska

Adventurer
Hey I was just searching for Arcanoloth and Yugoloth art. It's not my fault you've commissioned about half of the pieces in those categories on DeviantArt :p

I have a habit of commissioning artwork of NPCs in campaigns that I run.

I've got a few tiefling images (Nisha etc) out there, and some more recent characters from my current Pathfinder campaign as well.
 

Shemeska

Adventurer
The Marauder’s lip trembled, and for a moment she briefly considered tapping the well of communal knowledge locked within the Tower Arcane in Gehenna, but paused before turning that mental key. No, she knew the tale well enough, and if the Ebon had chosen her, there was no need to involve any others of her caste, many of whom would know immediately if she siphoned a single word from their shared and ironically rarely used resource. Shemeska’s memory and the letter’s details would suffice.

A flick of her wrist and she swallowed the entirety of her wine glass’s remaining contents. A flick of her mind and she refilled the glass. The process repeated itself twice as she read and reread the letter, letting her mind wander back to her own past.

Before her time in the Cage, when she was still a nycaloth herself, the Key appeared in Sigil. The details of its arrival had been lost to the decay of years, but in the wake of its arrival came death and carnage. Every Golden Lord, Factol, Proxy, and Knight of the Post sought to lay claim to it, though none knew where it came from, or what its use might require of its holder. In the fighting that ensued, an entire Ward nearly burned to the ground before one doomed soul dared to activate it. Something went wrong, or perhaps terribly right, and legends said that the Key simultaneously opened every single portal to the Lower Planes in the soon to be Lower Ward. Legends were legends, but Shemeska had been there herself and witnessed the results of that single invocation of the Key's power. She'd seen the results as the open portals flooded the ward with poison and tens of thousands of fiends of every type.

Shemeska herself and the ‘loths as a whole had taken no organized part in the resulting carnage; they were too smart for that, but those days had proved a single and oh so salient point: Sigil’s portals were -not- inviolate and they could be forced, if for a brief period, though perhaps only from the inside.

In the wake of those events however, one lingering mystery remained: what had befallen the Key itself?

“How did you find it?” She muttered aloud in amazement before vanity raised its almost omnipresent head. “And what will I do with it?”

Oh such thoughts. Oh such delightful thoughts about what value it would have, and who she’d use it on. She imagined a portal to Carceri opening up below a tenant late on their rent, a portal to Hell opening up below a proxy to an Abyssal Power, a portal to Mount Celestia opening up below A’kin…

Full of herself, her fortuitous luck, and imagining herself ever further into the Oinoloth’s good graces and well on the way to becoming His paramour, Shemeska smiled up at her reflection in the mirror. Canine fangs flashed ivory and a stain of crimson from where she’d bitten deeply in delight into her lower lip. Tasting blood and smiling once more, she licked her lips, put the letter aside, slid further the boiling water’s surface and trembled with delight.


****​


The room was high up within the Azure Iris, nestled away from the noise in the Fortune’s Wheel down below, heavily warded against spying or intrusion, and was a place that very few individuals in Sigil ever saw –many never wanted to see it– and in fact, like many of the rooms owned by Shemeska the Marauder, it wasn’t even on the Inn’s blueprints.

Far from being a sequestered interrogation room or torture chamber, the room was well decorated and genuinely inviting. Polished cherry panels lined the walls, with delicate stonework framing the vaulted ceiling, decorated with hanging lamps, each holding bright magical lights that shown down on an oblong table and five padded, inviting chairs. The air was warm and scented with enough incense to be noticed without feeling heavy, and just as the walls were thick enough to drown out any screams from it or any adjacent rooms, the incense was just enough to cover any smell of lingering blood from the actual torture chamber one room distant.

None of the four persons seated there knew that of course, and as they awkwardly stared at their drinks, each others, and the two empty spaces at the table -only one of which actually had a chair- they didn't feel anxious or worried, instead they felt rather impressed at the display of it all. Just like its sociopathic horror of an owner wore a thin veneer of elegance and beauty over herself, the room's elegance covered up the general dread of the circumstances that might cause someone to be seated there. Not that any of the four really yet understood their circumstances nor knew one another.

An armored tiefling by the name of Ashlanaya calmly sat there, waiting for their host to arrive, a pleasant, intrigued smile playing across her face. Her particular pedigree of fiendish heritage wasn't immediately obvious. She struck a unique figure, what with the combination of long, black hair, golden shod hooves, a reptilian tail ending with a jet black tuft of fur, and a faint green hue to her skin marked with a dappling of purple scales on those few portions of her body not covered by brilliantly polished plate mail. She struck a unique figure for more reasons than appearance however, being both a tiefling paladin of Nephthys, and being a paladin of any sort sitting in Shemeska the Marauder's meeting room.

Seated across from the paladin, Zenia Fickleflame sat and fiddled with a rolling ball of liquid flame cupped in her hands, rolling it up and down her bare, amber toned arms, and periodically leaning in, kissing the flames, whispering to it, looking around nervously and then giggling. Her hair was also on fire or made of fire, and tiny flames licked within the hollow of her pupil as if the interior of her head were some sort of open kiln. Clearly a fire genasi, she dressed in relatively little, and only in a mixture of gauzy, sparkling cloth that was both fire resistant and played off of the fact that her flesh glowed and produced tongues of flame all on its own accord.

The woman was also some variety of spellcaster, as evidenced by the wands at her waist, and a fire-resistant satchel full of perhaps scrolls or flammable material spell components. Additionally, her sanity was somewhat questionable, both from her whispering and giggling with the self-conjured ball of flame, and by the Xaositect tattoo proudly inked upon both of her shoulders.

Corwin Glenshadow sat beside the paladin, calmly smiling, and similarly to her, his manner of dress marked him out for what he was. Unlike Ashlanaya's fiendish heritage however, Corwin's was exactly the opposite. An aasimar of either aasimon or guardinal descent, his eyes glowed a luminous green, and his skin was an almost alabaster shade of white. He bore a pair of stag's horns and like the paladin, his legs below the knees were something between equine and cervidine, though his were unshod and clearly cleft in nature. His hair was long and partially braided, and tied back in place with strands of ivy that grew out of his scalp as well. Dressed in leather armor and devoid of any metallic objects, both weapons and decoration, that quality, combined with the sprig of mistletoe that hung at his throat by a leather cord marked him quite clearly as a druid.

The last person seated at the table stood out by virtue of being the one person in the room that wouldn't normally have stood out at all. Malcolm Anders was, to all appearances, a completely average human, of average height and build, with a forgettable appearance and no particularly remarkable physical trait or style of dress. A trained thief would of course immediately look at them and be wary, but Malcolm's marks weren't other trained thieves, and most of those weren't quite as skilled as he was. Of course his habit of nicking things was itself probably what had gotten him "invited" to the Marauder's chambers in the first place. In hindsight, he probably should have been more cautious in selecting his targets as one of the Clueless and after only being in Sigil for a month and a half. Judging by his nervous habit of glancing at the obvious exits -as well as at the muttering genasi seated next to him- and nervously tapping his fingers on the underside of the table, his presence wasn't exactly entirely of his own volition. It was however much more willing than the last member of their soon to be troupe, as one of the doors swung open and into the posh and comfortable chamber came the introduction of an element significantly less pleased to be there than any of the others combined.

"Get your damn hands off of me!" Came the angry protest of a tired-looking, scowling bariaur who looked as if he'd literally been dragged out of bed and halfway across the city with zero notice. "I can walk on my own!"

Dressed in hastily donned -perhaps forcibly so- leather armor and barding, the bariaur's long hair was pulled back and tied up, with a large quill pen stuffed into the knot. It wasn't only for decoration, and the ink stains on his hands implied some form of writing-heavy trade: either a scribe, clerk, journalist, or map maker. Not matching those trades' proclivities, a heavy belt lay across his chest, holding a scabbard and a two-handed sword at his back. Though obvious and high quality, it was secured in place so as to prevent its immediate use. Clearly his minders hadn't trusted him to remain peaceful.

"And here you are Merlianik.” One of the Marauder's tiefling guards smiled with far too much mock sympathy as she pushed him into the room.

“It’s Surefoot.” The bariaur corrected her. “I’ve gone by my pen name for years.”

“Regardless Merlianik, it’s always a pleasure to see you again." With that, she promptly slapped the bariaur's flank like she was giving incentive to an obstinate pack mule. Surefoot shot her a deathly glare but said nothing in response, except for the barest of haedine snorts as he trotted up to the table and glanced around at the others.

"My apologies for that." He sighed and shot another long glare at the tiefling as the exit closed and locked. As soon as the door latch clicked, he opened his mouth to get in another word, but he didn't get the chance. “She and I have something of a history; more so me and her employer…”

Malcolm glanced at the bariaur, now even more nervous, “Who precisely is that?”

The thief didn’t get a reply, but he didn’t need it.

“Ah! Good! Everyone seems to have arrived.” A sixth voice cut the air, startling the assembled guests and drawing their gaze to the one unoccupied and very much grander chair at the table’s head.

All eyes turned to the speaker, and their host –be they there willingly or not– allowed them a moment of silence to appreciate her presence.

The King of the Crosstrade leaned forward in her chair, placing her polished and currently lavender painted claws delicately upon the meeting table's polished surface. As befitting her typical pomp, the fiend wore finery richer than most mortal emperors. Her evening gown and matching opera gloves were tailored in a unique, iridescent black satin, and the entire ensemble was fitted tight enough that it might as well have been painted on her. Likely some variety of shapeshifting had been necessary to squeeze into it in the first place given the exceeding narrowness of the waist and the tension and rigidity of the corset-style boning and the fact that the dress did not appear to require cinching at the spine.

With a new gown came new jewels, and they were likely crafted specifically for that dress and that dress alone. Brilliant purple spinels the size of hens' eggs dangled from the fiend’s ears in alternating rows with pea-sized black pearls. At the hollow of her throat, situated precipitously just above the dress's plunging neckline and a barely tactful display of cleavage hung an emerald double the size of the spinels. Of course, all of the gemstones faintly glowed with an inner light, a telltale sign of their origin that would have made a shadow demon salivate with hunger.

"I need no formal introduction," She began, drawing out a pause at the end of the statement, "But I'll provide one anyway: Shemeska the Marauder."

“I thought I smelled something…” Surefoot muttered, intentionally at a high enough volume to be overheard.

The Marauder turned and smiled at the bariaur, sweetly even, a polite and gentile expression that promised to lace his corpse with knives.

Without a smile in return, Surefoot covered his mouth and coughed, prompting the fiend to get on with whatever she had planned.

Ignoring him, the Marauder smiled magnanimously at her other guests even as the telepathic barbs of her mind perched, ready to leap, “I thank you all for coming with the utmost promptness at my summons.”

Surefoot rolled his eyes, “If you call being dragged out of your office by five impeccably dressed thugs a summons, then yes.”

Another polite smile from the fiend, but this time fangs emerged between parted lips painted a glossy lavender to match her claws.

"I take it there's some history here?" Ashlanaya noted the animosity between the bariaur and their would-be employer. The more she heard, the less she liked the fiend.

“Mr. Merlianik is a writer." The Marauder explained with put-upon politeness. "Frequently he gets a bit carried away with his work.”

"Mr Surefoot is indeed a writer." He smirked and strummed his fingers upon the table irreverently, "I like to write stories about things in the public interest: everything from the accountability of guild officials, crime in the Lady's Ward and Clerk's Ward, public and private scandals, to otherwise overlooked and ignored stories about people murdered behind the Black Sails who happened to owe money to someone in this room."

"I take it the paper is going well lately?" Shemeska turned to the bariaur and smiled, pointedly ignoring any chance to openly rebut his insinuation. "Your editor took well to my letter about your most recent and oh so speculative piece."

“My editor has children.” Surefoot's voice was flat and serious, though he smiled just the same.

“So he does...” This time the fiend -didn’t- smile.

“Umm...the two of you seem to know each other rather well.” Corwin cleared his throat, distracting them from their not-in-the-least-colloquial banter. “But I’m rather keen to hear more about your offer.”

“Knowing her isn’t a phrase I ever, ever want to be associated with…” Surefoot smirked, though the moment the words left his mouth, he knew that he'd overstepped his bounds, and the 'loth's telepathic voice burned into his head with a cold snarl.

Open your mouth again in such a way and I will wrench that tongue from your jaw and pin it to the table with my bare hands. I tolerate your mouth only so much. Know your limits.

Surefoot pursed his lips as if to say something, but thought better of it. Given the Marauder's telepathic inflection -and he had no delusions that she wouldn't actually carry out her threat at a moment's notice- he cleared his mind and reluctantly settled down, trying to be as comfortable as possible in the current circumstances.

“Your summons was rather vague on details.” Corwin smiled with guarded enthusiasm, intrigued more by the earlier offer than the banter between her and the bariaur.

“As is to be expected,” Shemeska waved her bejeweled hand now graced with a full goblet of wine. “I have enemies all over the city, and they keen their proxied eyes and ears to know even the smallest detail of my designs and desires.”

“Understandable.” Malcolm looked at the others and then to his fiendish host, "Though to be honest I'm not sure why I'm here."

"Each of you has a reason to be here," Shemeska took a long sip of wine before continuing, "A reason be it good or bad, valuable skills or a debt, or some manner of both. Ultimately you caught my attention for one reason or another. Allow me to explain."

Shemeska inclined her head with what seemed like genuine respect to the tiefling paladin of Nephthys, fully aware that had the paladin bothered to test just how much evil she sat in the presence of, she’d likely knock herself unconscious. But Ashlanaya had shown up, had sat down, and given her current reason for being in Sigil in the first place, she’d be game to talk business regardless of with whom.

“Ashlanaya of Nephthys, I’m aware that you’re here in Sigil hunting down information on a particular relic of your faith stolen in recent days and presumed to be in the hands of minions of Set.”

The tiefling nodded, wary but genuinely interested in what the fiend had to say.

“I have knowledge of the thieves’ identity and their whereabouts. That knowledge will be handed over to you as well as a sum of jink to fund the object’s recovery and if need be its restoration.”

“I’m sure you know precisely just where it is…” Surefoot coughed, presuming that the Settites were either in her employ or long dead and the required relic sitting in an adjacent room as needed bait to gain the paladin’s service.

Ignoring the bariaur, the fiend turned to the fire genasi. “Miss Fickleflame.”

“I did it! I admit it! I absolutely burned that tenement to the ground! Gophers! Arcadian giant ones!” Her head awash in tongues of yellow and orange flame, she giggled hysterically and the Marauder waited for her to be finished before continuing.

“Miss Fickleflame, you like fire. Fire also has a habit of burning things down and creditors tend to not appreciate such things. I have it in my capacity to have some of them forgive and forget if your debts to them are paid, which this job should satisfy handily with the money that I have ready to give to you.”

Zenia beamed a smile at the fiend and then shrugged with a pronounced, “Meh… not interested.”

Apparently expecting the Xaositect’s quixotic reaction to her offer, she motioned her hand and produced an illusion of a long, bronze-clad staff, “I’ll also throw in a fully charged staff of fire as a token of my magnanimity.”

“Sold!” Zenia clapped her hands together, “Absolutely interested!”

“And for me?” Corwin Glenshadow looked at the fiend, unsure of what she might be able to offer him. He was in Sigil simply as a visitor. He had no pressing business, no quests, and no particular need for money or favors. What the fiend produced next and slid towards him changed that.

“You alone in this room should be able to read the text on that page without the need for magical intervention.”

“This is penned in Druidic,” He didn’t look up from the page. “And in a rather odd dialect that I’ve never seen. It’s a catalog of plants.”

“What you have before you is a single page from an original manuscript in my possession.” The Marauder smiled pleasantly, dangling the metaphorical carrot before her desired beast of burden. “It came from a book of druidic lore from a world long dead and despoiled by a tanar’ri invasion. The entire book remains whole, and as indicated by the last paragraph of the page before you, it included portal details to a small demiplane housing a collection of trees from that same world planted, cultivated, and conserved prior to its fall. I expect that you would be interested in this above and beyond any simple payment, though I offer that as well.”

The druid’s breathless nod was taken as willing consent to perform whatever task she desired.

Turning to the fidgeting human rogue, the ‘loth hesitated before speaking, enjoying his fretting for as long as she could reasonably draw it out. “Malcolm…”

“What?” He warily glanced towards the exit. “I hope I haven’t offended you, but I honestly don’t know why I’m here.”

Shemeska laughed and help up her goblet casually. A split second later one of her tieflings filled it to the rim and returned to their post in one of the room’s corners, and only after a sip did the fiend deign to respond to the rogue.

“Malcolm, I dare say that you need little more than gold to satisfy you, and I’m prepared to pay substantially.”

“So you’ve heard of me and my umm, skills then?” He beamed, and a moment later was brought back down to earth.

The fiend smirked, “I’m also willing to overlook a small pilfering that you did in the Temple District a ten day ago from a courier en route to the Temple of the Abyss. While only tangentially involved, I was indeed involved, and it delayed certain other activities and deals as a result. I will forgive you, and likely hire you for the same at some point in the future. You’ve proven your skill, if perhaps not your wisdom.”

Malcolm opened his mouth and then wisely closed it without another word. He nodded with perfect understanding that he was indeed going to be doing this job for the Marauder, and if she chose to potentially pay him even a bent copper, he should count himself lucky.

Shemeska paused again, enjoyed her drink, and finally smiled and turned to Surefoot, "And as for you, you get to live.”

Surefoot thought back to the letter that the Marauder had sent to his apartment a day earlier. It hadn’t been dropped through the mail slot or left on the doorstep, no, it had been sitting on the pillow next to him when he woke up. He’d read it and he’d ignored it, and less than twenty four hours later her people had literally dragged him out of that very same bed.

The letter was more of the same petty, pompous rhetoric that he’d gotten used to seeing from the King of the Crosstrade. This time apparently he’d actually gotten her attention with his writing, at least judging by what she’d written and where he was now:
“Your past statements about Her August Fiendish Majesty of the Crosstrade have not gone unnoticed, and it is the wish of our Mistress that restitution be applied atop your ceasing investigation of several business ventures of which she is no inconsequential partner. You will meet with her, and you will do what she requires of you, or you’ll be swinging from the leafless tree before antipeak, carved up and served to the wretches in the Hive. Is this made clear?”

“Letting me live,” The bariaur sighed, “How magnanimous of you…”

“That’s perhaps not my absolute preference, but this will gain you my good graces or at least dig you out of the metaphorical grave that you've been digging yourself in my eyes. Given your predilections and pretensions as a former member of the Free League, I doubt that you’ll stay there for long, but it’s an opportunity, even if you’re not going to be working for me willingly, not even in the slightest."

Glancing from the fiend to the bariaur, then to each other, Ashlanaya and Corwin briefly made eye contact. Without a word said, the two of them rapidly came to the understanding that no, they didn’t really have a choice in the matter as to whether they worked for the Marauder on this present occasion or not. They’d signed up just by stepping in the door even if they had the pretense of doing this willingly, unlike for instance the human or the bariaur.

Zenia would have been included in their wary glance of understanding, but the genasi Xaositect could probably have cared less. Since the fiend had discussed her payment she’d been playing with a small globe of conjured flame, balancing it on her fingertips and letting it roll up and down one arm and then the next like a carnival trickster. She’d be doing this job just for the heck of it, with the added bonus of a staff of flame.

“Willing or otherwise,” Surefoot coughed, “You still haven’t mentioned what you want us to do…”

The fiend motioned with one hand and conjured a single image. A large, antique key manifested above the table.

“This is what I want you to retrieve for me.” She gestured and rotated the image of the key. Even in her illusion, the indistinct symbols and designs upon its surface swirled and bled filaments of darkness. “I will also require a geas in place, preventing you from telling anyone outside of a specific few in my employ or extended employ about this object’s identity or even that you’re looking for it should you be asked about it directly.”

“I have a huge issue with being under an enchantment of yours.” Surefoot frowned.

The Marauder waved him off dismissively, sloshing wine in his direction in the process. “The spell will be applied by a member of the Temple of Horus rather than someone directly working for me. The spell will also lift upon return to me.”

“What exactly is that?” Corwin motioned to the illusory image drifting above the table. “I can’t say that I recognize it, or even the symbols it carries.”

Recognizing and quite enjoying the admission of their ignorance and her lack of the same, the fiend took a final sip of her wine before placing the goblet down upon the table with a smile. Perching her polished and painted claws together at her chin, she began her explanation. “Let me tell you a story of Sigil’s past, of something rarely remembered now, and of how the Lower Ward received its name…”
Shemeska’s explanation was thorough and left out none of the details, save for the Oinoloth’s involvement and how she came to know the rough location of the key there in Sigil. She also didn’t explain one other salient point.

"Why do you want it?" Ashlanaya’s question broke the silence at the end of the ‘loth’s story.

The Marauder’s reply was quick and pithy, “Why I want it is none of your business. My payment for this job should have made that adequately clear.”
Corwin glanced at the paladin and this time the rogue and bariaur joined their chorus of wordless ocular conversion: no, they didn’t exactly have a choice in the matter at hand. Everything would go best if they performed as she desired, retrieved her desired bauble, accepted payment and promptly left Sigil or otherwise never drifted into her sphere of influence again.

“Where do we begin?” Corwin glanced at a large map of Sigil as it was spread across the table by two of the fiend’s guards. Several points were marked within the Lower Ward near to the Ditch and curiously enough below the Ditch, descending down into the sewers and tunnels further down still.

The Marauder paused for a moment before answering his question, pursing her lips as one of her guards placed a long-stemmed cigarette holder in her fingers and lit the other end with a match. She let it smolder for a moment before giving it a quick first inhalation, responding finally as the smoke filtered between her fangs and washed over the map in a targeted exhaled stream at the location marked near the Ditch.

“You begin here, and at this location you will descend into the sewers and from there into the depths of UnderSigil. You will meet up with a pair of envoys in service to Tattershade the so-called Wererat King. They will be expecting you, and they will escort you to an otherwise unmapped section of tunnels not available on any publicly accessible maps.

“So no one will know where we are…” Surefoot sighed. “Lovely.”

The Marauder’s next exhaled stream of perfumed smoke struck across the bariaur’s face, “Once there you will proceed to a portion of the old Prime Ward collapsed in the events of years past, buried, paved over, and forgotten. Several square blocks of Sigil stuck in time in a manner of speaking, preserved and isolated from the changes in the greater City of Doors that occurred in its absence. What you seek will be therein.”

“That’s not exactly a treasure map.” Surefoot waved away the lingering blue smoke. “That’s like pointing at the Clerk’s Ward and telling us that we’ll find a specific bookshop there, without telling us the name of the shop, just one of the antique books therein.”

“You will feel its influence as you get closer.” The Marauder folded her hands delicately in front of herself on the table, the cigarette holder balanced between two fingers and a glowing coal at its tip threatening to fall atop the map, but it didn’t.“Find the Key and return it to me here.”

Ashlanaya crossed her arms and pondered the implications of finding and delivering an artifact to a greater fiend. Nothing good would come of it, but at the present time she and the rest of them had no room to refuse. “It’s only a few blocks of ruins, it shouldn’t be too terribly difficult if the object for whatever reason and by whatever method calls out to us in some way.”

“Oh, but so you all know, with respect to the monetary remuneration that we discussed before on top of your individual rewards, that particular payment is a lump sum.” She sipped her wine and let the implications of that filter into their thoughts. “So, if fewer of you come back alive, the rest of you earn that much more for yourselves.”

“Yeah yeah…” Surefoot rolled his eyes. Of course the fiend would have them at each others’ throats. At this point he rather assumed that one of the others was directly in her employ, and given the discussion of geas spells and similar enchantments, whoever it was might potentially not even be aware of it either.

Ashlanaya grimaced, “I don’t think that’s a necessary thought for us to…” The fiend didn’t let her finish.

“In fact,” Shemeska suggested with a twinkle in her purple eyes, “I don’t like the bariaur, so I do suggest that you kill him after he’s no longer useful.”

“Bitch…” Surefoot muttered under his breath, and then as he looked directly at the Marauder, he repeated the same screamed as loudly as possible within his own mind, knowing that she was sifting through his surface thoughts.

Absolutely. First and foremost. The best you’ll ever meet. Remember me kindly when one of them stabs you in the back, it’s the closest thing you’ll get to a kiss from me to you.

“But in any event, that’s a call that you’ll be making as you see fit.” Shemeska leaned back in her chair and casually regarded her newfound lackeys. “Unless you have any other questions, my people will escort you to the Ditch. The least that I can do is to make sure that you don’t have to deal with any panhandling on your way from here to the Lower Ward.”

A single spell was muttered as her face was momentarily obscured by the rim of her goblet. It wasn’t much, it wasn’t powerful, but to everyone in the room it appeared as if after her implied suggestion that it was time for them to leave, that she didn’t take her eyes off of them. Suitably enhanced by an illusion, she stared each of them down individually even though it wasn’t physically possible to do so all at once, all at the same time. Her intent was well served and not a single question was asked.

The five of them made for the door, met by the same smiling tiefling that had earlier slapped Surefoot on the flank. The Marauder watched them go, and as soon as the door clicked shut she kicked her feet up onto the table and smiled an infinitely self-satisfied smiled. The purple nimbus of her eyes matched the glow of the entrapped spirits in each and every gemstone in her current array of jewelry.

"Madam Shemeska," Colcook hefted the fiend’s mirror, letting her enjoy staring at herself once more, having been standing there in the corner all the while in the event there was any trouble. "Why tell them the story behind the Key?"

"Vanity," The Marauder smirked and paused a moment to light a new cigarette. Once it began to glow red, she took a single drag and exhaled a thing stream of smoke from her nose and then smiled, letting the smoke emerge from between her fangs, and only then fully answered Colcook's question. "And also because I have every intention of killing the lot of them..."


****​
 

Shemeska

Adventurer
And since the Marauder is once again gracing the storyhour with her esteemed presence:

1389902694.cassetterecorder_yugoloth_portrait.png


"Did you miss me?"


*artwork by Cassetterecorder
 

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