Shemeska's Planescape Storyhour - (Updated 14February2024)


First Post
Gaah, Picture to sweet looking, especially with that Dress and Hearth shaped Jewels. .oO(why cant she at least look more evil? *g*)

Malshana Ap Ilium: "Albeit with that flat snout I can now see why you always look in your Mirrors, dear Shemeshka. I mean, I would do it too and hope that I then look better than in three Dimensions, what I naturally as a more beautiful Arcanaloth do." *marks on her private Scroll to not visit Sigil for twothousand, better three, Years.*
<Out of Character>

And Yes the Racial Knowledge of the Arcanaloths, the Ressource everyone has access to, but know one ever uses it, because they dont want anyone to know what they are doing...especially not all their rivals.....also known as their whole Caste. ^^

And now I also want an Torture Chamber next to the meeting room...why is my torture Chamber on another floor? Now I need a new House. *g* Very nice story to that Key...and very poor fools. At least if Shemmi does not again manages it to produce powerful enemies by using an seemingly harmless and expendable adventurer group. Especially when she uses people who could be ehr natural Enemies if they where more powerful. ^^

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Hmmm, I was wondering now - for a time I believed that the "dark presence" within Cilret Loebtav was a remnant of the Gautiere deity, guiding him to exact vengeance on his own people.

However, after re-reading the conversation between Loebtav and the "presence" in the flashback -

Read more:

- I stand corrected - it is a being from a different reality. (stupid me :p)

Also, judging from how old Vorkannis is, I'm guessing he is some unique kind of proto-fiend, not a yugoloth, but something entirely else.

How far off am I, Shemmy ? ;)


Hmmm, I was wondering now - for a time I believed that the "dark presence" within Cilret Loebtav was a remnant of the Gautiere deity, guiding him to exact vengeance on his own people.

However, after re-reading the conversation between Loebtav and the "presence" in the flashback -

- I stand corrected - it is a being from a different reality.

That's one interpretation of that conversation within Leobtav's head, yes. :)

Also, judging from how old Vorkannis is, I'm guessing he is some unique kind of proto-fiend, not a yugoloth, but something entirely else.

How far off am I, Shemmy ? ;)

Vorkannis is old. Very old. Exceedingly old. What exactly he is or isn't was a relatively late reveal in the campaign and there are several plot arcs to go before that answer comes up overtly -though I'll be dropping hints prior to then. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the speculation immensely. :D


First Post
Vorkannis is old. Very old. Exceedingly old. What exactly he is or isn't was a relatively late reveal in the campaign and there are several plot arcs to go before that answer comes up overtly -though I'll be dropping hints prior to then. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the speculation immensely. :D

I am from correct things He said and did in the Storyhour and Baern storys still guessing that He is an rouge Baernaloth, enemy of the Demented and has been imprisoned for destroying the Multiverse. ^^

*uses time between Storyhour Updates by teleporting in Shemmys sleeping room, shaving her and sending the picture to Akin and Zadara**gg*


The Marauder's erstwhile pack of adventurers left the confines of the Azure Iris through yet another of the fiend's not-exactly-on-the-blueprints routes of egress, in this instance an obscured back stairwell that very likely wouldn't be in the same place if they tried to locate it a second time. As they ascended down to the ground level, dimly they could make out the cheers of the gamblers, drinkers, diners, and social carousers that packed the floor of the Fortune's Wheel that evening. They wouldn't partake in such revelry that evening, nor would they even see the floor at all as the Marauder's guards whisked them through a series of back hallways, past the kitchens, and then into a poorly lit private alley cluttered with refuse, empty wine cases, and freshly cut back razorvine..

"Good luck to you all." One of Shemeska's guards removed his hat and bowed, looking specifically at Surefoot as he smiled. "From here you'll be heading to the Lower Ward and past the Gray and Hellgate Districts, to the Ditch. Your map should answer any questions you have. Tattershade's servitors will meet you once you make the tunnels."

Surefoot made an obscene gesture and cheerfully returned the smile, "Go to Hell..."

"At least one plane over I should think." The tiefling smirked and slammed the door in the bariaur's face.

A solitary executioner's raven cried out, breaking the silence like the final peal of temple bells after the preamble given by the turning of lock tumblers and deadbolts on the Fortune's Wheel's rear door.
"She and her people -really- don't like you." Ashlanaya laughed as she adjusted her sword belt.

"Obvious is it?" Surefoot gave one final gesture towards the door and to the Wheel itself before turning around and slowly trotting off.

"Exactly how much history do you have with Miss Shemeska?" Corwin asked as they proceeded down the alley towards the main boulevard.

"A lot of history," He shook his head, "But there's no need for Miss or any other sort of fancy title; no need to polish her image or make her something other than what she is: b*tch will work well enough."

"I wouldn't suggest that you call her that." Zenia giggled. "You don't often see people that glow that heavily with magic as she was just a few minutes ago. In fact, I don't think I have outside of maybe old Factol Skall of the Dusties."

"I considered it." Surefoot kicked at a solitary rat as it darted out of the shadows. The rodent hissed angrily and darted beneath a rotten pile of kitchen trash, its beady eyes joining a dozen others warily peering out from the same vantage point. Thankfully it hadn't borne an exposed, glowing brain.

"So with all of this discussion of just how terrible our employer is, and how you and she have a history of disagreement, why hasn't she killed you yet?" Malcolm finally spoke, having till that moment been staring at his companions one at a time, sizing up their abilities and possible frailties in the face of whatever it was that they might encounter in the Great Below.

The bariaur paused and looked at the thief. He pursed his lips, swallowed, and then opened his mouth without saying a word for several moments still. "Why does a cat toy around with a mouse when it could pounce, tear it head off, and be done with it?"

Left unspoken in the answer -an answer that his fellows considered perfectly appropriate- was that to be perfectly honest, he wasn't genuinely sure why she hadn't.


Already fading when they made their meeting with the Marauder, Peak's illumination was snuffed beneath the darkening gloom overhead by the time they neared the edge of the Lady's Ward. Greasy clouds overhead threatened rain, and slowly the lights from the opposite side of Sigil's torus began twinkling like artificial stars in what passed for a night sky. As the city lurched towards Anti-Peak minute by minute, so too did the streets, the buildings that graced them, and likewise the citizenry that strolled along faded in wealth, prestige, and glamour. Workshops and apartment blocks replaced temples, boutiques and mansions, cobblestones replaced marble, and laborers on their way from or to work replaced the idle rich and their servitors. The only thing that remained constant was the presence of touts, runners, and if you knew where to look for them, pickpockets.

"This city takes some getting used to." Corwin gazed at the steady shift in their surroundings, though his disconcerted features had remained constant. The druid wasn't reacting to the change in social tier reflected by the city's appearance as they moved from the Lady's Ward to the Lower Ward, but the complete lack of a standard, terrestrial ecology. Everything here was alien, everything an invasive species or an opportunistic parasite depending on how one saw it, be it razorvine, rats, roaches, ravens, mortals, outsiders, and elementals alike.

"It's awesome." Zenia chuckled, spitting a shower of sparks with each.

Ashlanaya smiled and stamped out a smoldering ember from the fire genasi's laughter before it actually caught fire, "It's certainly unique."

Zenia narrowed eyes that glittered like burning coals and doubled over in laughter far greater than seemed socially appropriate for the moment. When her face came back up, she carried a stupefied but gleeful grin, "Seriously? I'm the only actual Sigilian native? Every other one of you is Clueless or might as well be?"

"I'm native." Surefoot explained, though Zenia either intentionally ignored him or didn't hear him, because she acted as if the bariaur was invisible. "Not that you seem to care..."

Ashlanaya raised an eyebrow.

"Is anyone really a native of Sigil?" Corwin glanced at Zenia and then at the wall behind her covered in a snarled wall of razorvine.

"Don't go all philosophical on me now." The genasi chided.

"Says the woman with a Xaositect symbol tattooed on her..." Ashlanaya poked the shoulder of the woman with flaming hair. "You're the only one here that was ever a Faction member."

"Bah!" Zenia stuck out her tongue and walked ahead of the others, babbling to herself in Xaos speach for the next few blocks. Eventually she looked back, made another face, and continued mumbling to herself for the entirety of their transit through the Lower War, with the only exception being to hurl expletives and spit fire in the direction of a bar that someone in the Harmonium had once apparently thrown her out of. Her mind clearly elsewhere, Zenia Fickleflame never actually made a comment on their actual contracted job till they got to the Ditch.

Ashlanaya held her hands up and had the others pause, letting the genasi get further ahead of them, "Let her babble to herself, she'll get into less trouble that way. I'm not entirely sure that she's as stable as I'm comfortable with, but let's stay on her good side."

"Why?" Malcolm spoke up, "More money for us."

"Because," Ashlanaya held eye contact with the thief, "She's a rather skilled sorcerer, because we don't know what we'll be facing down below, and because it's the right thing to do."

"Fair enough." He shrugged, put his hands in his pockets and continued along, not looking at the paladin or the others, possibly feeling ashamed of his suggestion.

"I will admit that I didn't expect to see a paladin working with a yugoloth." Corwin looked over at Ashlanaya. "Nor have I ever met a tiefling paladin, nor a paladin of Nephthys."

"Nephthys protects, and so do I." She explained, firmly aware of the inherent bias against tieflings but also the inherent contradiction between the taint in her blood and her holy pledge to the Egyptian Pantheon's Goddess of Protection and Dying. "The Marauder is evil, terribly so, but my place here serves a purpose for Nephthys, and should my actions cause harm after my work is finished, than that is something that I will need to attend at that time."

"Fair enough."

"Besides," Ashlanaya added with a smile and a hand on her sword's pommel. "Someone has to make sure that you three don't get killed because not a one of you looks like you know how to use a sword, much less survive a blow from one."

"I resent that remark." Surefoot raised an eyebrow and looked first over his shoulder and the two-handed sword strapped to his back, and then to the smiling paladin. "That being said, I like you, and I don't say that about many tieflings after only knowing them for an hour or two, and having met them in the employ of our not-exactly-benefactor"

"The appreciation is very much returned." The paladin smiled back. At the very least, she had a decent mix of well skilled people to work alongside, no matter how the work actually went.

By then, their conversation had taken them through the Lower Ward's unremitting overhead smog and greasy drizzle, through the edge of the ruins that marked the Shattered Temple district, and to the Ditch itself where the street gave way and plunged some fifty feet down to a run of nearly stagnant, polluted and foul-smelling water. A great gaping wound in Sigil's flesh of stone, gloom, and verdigris rust, the Ditch cut through the boundary between the Lower Ward and the Hive, separating the worst of the latter from the working-class and industrial districts in the former. The de facto Ward boundary also served as a primary water source for both Wards when the dabus or the city itself saw fit to open up portals to Elemental Water. During the periods between then however, the Ditch serve more as a dumping ground for refuse, filth, and corpses than as a reservoir - and currently the Ditch was in the lull between periods of open portals and fresh water.

"Why are we here again?" Zenia held her nose, gazed down at the depths of the Ditch and then back at her companions, genuinely confused. "I honestly don't remember. I've been talking to myself and she gets me off track more than you'd think."

"We're here on a job from Shemeska the Marauder." The paladin explained with supernatural patience, "She wants us to retrieve something for her, and in exchange she promised to pay each of us something. You'll be getting a staff of fire."

Zenia beamed and bounced on her toes while the flames licking up from her head turned myriad shades of blue and green.

Malcolm likewise held his nose, "Where does the map say we go next?"

Corwin and Ashlanaya looked at the map and their surroundings, extrapolating where they were on the diagram of streets compared to the location of a tunnel they needed to find. It wasn't far, and with exceeding caution they backtracked and approached the Ditch two blocks up where the slope wasn't as steep, and there they descended down the rancid smelling bank.

"People get water from this hell hole of a well?" Malcolm pulled his shirt over his nose and wiped his eyes as a breeze brought a cloud of flies and a reek best described as corpse-stench and evaporating vinegar.

"Sometimes they do, but the water is fresher then and the portals flush all of the waste out of the city." Surefoot explained as he braced his much larger body against the slope with deceptive ease.

"I think this is it." Ashlanaya pointed to an obscured breach in the Ditch slope, concealed behind an outcropping of rock and visible only from below rather than any other angle.

Ten feet wide and perfectly circular, the tunnel descended into darkness, without any sign to mark the entrance, nor guards, nor footsteps to suggest any recent passage. The map however made it clear that it was where they were intended to descend.

"It looks like something burrowed its way in." Zenia turned her head sideways, forcing Corwin to move a foot back to avoid the rush to flames making for his face.

"Actually it looks like the opposite." Surefoot inhaled deeply.

"How do you mean?" The Xaositect looked at the bariaur curiously.

"It looks like something burrowed its way -out-..."

Malcolm sighed and shook his head, "Well that's a pleasant thought given that we'll be waltzing around down there in the dark."

One by one the five of them descended, with Ashlanaya at the front and Malcolm and Zenia at the rear, allowing for the genasi's natural output of firelight make the human's descent at least mildly easier given the others' ability to see in the darkness to a limited range naturally, and his complete lack of the same. Weapons were drawn and their apprehensive action in doing so was justified within only a few minutes time as a scuffle up ahead and a series of hushed whispers and rodent-like squeaks spoke of a waiting party.

"Well it looks like we are indeed expected." The paladin whispered back to the others. "Be ready in the event that this doesn't go well."

A globe of conjured light appeared suddenly in the middle of the passage, forcing them to squint and bringing into view six figures dressed in ragged, pieced together armor that spoke highly of being scavenged off of corpses.

"It seems we have surface dwellers intruding upon the Kingdom Below." The largest of the six figures emerged into the light, pulling back the dirty hood of a brown, soiled cloak and revealing the muddled rodent and human features of a were-rat. Rheumy yellow eyes glowed like candleflames in a mine shaft, his frontal rodent's incisors were jagged and intentionally sharpened, and his overly-large twitching ears bore a tracery of old scars and burns, speaking of a difficult and violent life in the depths of UnderSigil.

"We're here on the authority of Shemeska the Marauder." Ashlanaya called out to the wererats, causing a chorus of shrieks from the four figures that stood behind the two largest were-rats that stood in front. "You're to escort us to a specific portion of the tunnels. Your leader should already be aware of our employer's directives in this matter."

Trick and Track, the were-rat king's lieutenants narrowed their eyes and scowled, glancing at one another before standing taller and straighter as the others behind them snarled menacingly and raised their weapons.

"King above perhaps, but not below!" Trick snorted derisively.

Track hissed and held out his palm, "Lord Tattershade rules this place, not your mistress."


Three days earlier:

The black oblivion of unconsciousness lifted along with the black cloth hood from over Malcolm's head. A brilliant spotlight focused upon his face, burning his eyes and forcing him to squint and attempt to turn his face. A vaguely insectile hand roughly grabbed his jaw and forced him to look forward as another, similar hand painfully held his hair and some sort of tentacle or tongue wriggled near his ear. A third hand grabbed his left arm, pressing upon a nerve in his wrist and forcing his fingers to release wide. A fourth hand gripped his index finger and forced something around it, a ring of some sort.

Where was he? What was going on?

He struggled to move and found the act impossible. He was seated, his upper arms were bound at his sides, and his legs were lashed to the chair.

"So good of you to join us Malcolm." A mockingly concerned voice called out from beyond the nimbus of the spotlight. Without his eyes yet adjusted, he could make no identification, but the speaker was female and confident, arrogantly so. "I trust that your transit here was swift and comfortable? Hmm?"

A buzzing sound resonated within his head, and the hand grasping his hair constricted tightly. Answer her mortal!

"Where am I?!"

"No no no..." The distant voice chided playfully. "Malcolm you're not quite understanding just how this works. This evening we'll do doing quite a bit. Some dinner and entertainment, much like any evening of mine, but to start things off, I'll be asking questions and you'll be answering them. You don't get to do the same."

"Who the bloody hell are you?"

A gloved fist backhanded him suddenly, causing stars to flash in his vision, and then the myriad of hands on his person were forcing him back up and looking forward.

"You stole something from me Malcolm, or at least one of my couriers anyway."

The woman's voice was unhappy, but not furious. Likely he'd be beaten but he hadn't done anything to merit anything more serious. That line of thought was normally appropriate for the mortals that Malcolm had worked with prior to his arrival in Sigil. Under those presumptions a little bit of mouth could defuse things, earn him some professional respect, even if it was rude.

"See?" Malcolm wisecracked. "You answered my question."

"Break every bone in his right hand." The woman's voice was utterly devoid of concern or empathy. There was no momentary pause where reason overruled ethics or socially constructed moral limits.

The clawed hand on Malcolm's jaw moved down, closing like a vice around his forearm and holding it in place. What happened next he couldn't tell, it happened so quickly and the pain nearly caused him to black out, but it was likely a hammer that slammed into each of his fingers one by one in quick, professional succession. They had broken a man's bones before and they were very good at it.

Someone was screaming, loudly. They were whimpering and howling, begging for mercy. They were apologizing for having stolen something. Malcolm inwardly winced at the agony in their voice. Light then returned to his eyes and he realized that he was hearing his own voice.

"That's such a beautiful sound." The woman sighed, relaxing as if she were seated in a cushioned private box at the opera. "Oh, and one of you not already predisposed, fetch me some wine."

"Red or white your Fiendish Majesty?" One voice obediently asked.

"Given the proposed dinner menu this evening, I'd have to suggest a red. Nothing too sweet, something deep and complex to provide a contrast I suppose. But depending on certain factors that we won't know until it's time to prepare the meal, bring a bottle of Sauternes as well, and a crisp white if the chef serves the sweetbreads."

He could barely feel anything in his right hand beyond the fierce, constant ache of crushed, bleeding tissue. Yet through the pain his eyes were finally adjusting to the room's harsh light, and he could finally make out who was speaking to him, talking about her dinner and wine pairings while watching his torture.

The room was relatively small and the walls were hung with multiple layers of heavy, black cloth, presumably to muffle the noises of screams. A pair of tieflings dressed in black flanked him, one of them smiling and holding a bloody hammer. Malcolm avoided looking down at the damage to his hand, just based on the pain he knew that without a cleric's aid, it was probably going to be crippled or lost. Something larger and inhuman stood behind him, its tongue periodically licking alongside the back of his head.

"Let's start over Malcolm." His captor spoke from where she sat directly opposite him against the far wall, seated upon a cushioned throne, legs crossed and a glass of wine delicately held in one clawed, opera-gloved hand. "It seems that we've gotten off to a bad start."

She wasn't human or fiend blooded. She was a full-blown fiend of some sort, essentially a humanoid jackal groomed and primped like a self-obsessed princess. She wore a long and tight fitting, wine red gown, opera-gloves of the same color, and a purplish black under-bust corset. A dozen jeweled rings, earrings, necklaces, and a ratty tangle of coiled razorvine atop her head completed the baroque and wholly out of place ensemble, unless you also counted the ruby-red polish applied to the claws on her toes and hands where the gloves were open to display her fingers.

Something passed over Malcolm's mind, a series of fingers brushing against his consciousness that were cold and distinctly different from the buzzing, alien voice that had touched his brain earlier.

"It is a nice gown isn't it?" The fiend put a hand at her breast and smiled, looking not at her prisoner but at her reflection in the mirror. "Given the color and material, blood doesn't stain it nearly as much as other outfits."

Two other figures stood between Malcolm and the fiend, both of them on opposite sides of the room from the other. The first was another of her tiefling guards dressed in well cut, expensively tailored black clothing. Unlike the others however he wasn't carrying any weapons or objects of torture: he was holding aloft a heavy, ornately framed wall floor-length mirror. As far as Malcolm could tell, his only purpose was to hold the mirror aloft for the fiend's vanity. Half of the time she wasn't even looking at Malcolm, but rather staring at her own reflection in the mirror and admiring herself in an obnoxious display of rancid vanity. The final person was also a tiefling, but this one wore an ivory white chef's jacket and matching pants, his hair neatly tucked into a white cap. A series of knives and other kitchen implements were stuff into his belt and the table at his side bore the requisite objects of a fantastically high-end kitchen: pots, skillets, bowls, cutting board, and to the side, constructed into the wall, a stove-top and oven.

"Dinner and a show." Shemeska the Marauder smiled at Malcolm and idly held out her left hand. As if on cue, one more newly arrived tiefling handed her a wine glass and poured it full of wine to match her dress. The room operated like a ferociously rehearsed stage play at her desire.

Malcolm looked at the mirror, and in its reflection he could see the creature that stood behind him. The chitinous monstrosity that stood there was easily twice the size of anyone else in the room, and occasionally the tongue that he'd felt touch his head was more a tentacle tipped with a lamprey-like mouth. The creature was a vaath, a native horror of Carceri's second layer of Cathrys, but Malcolm didn't know that, nor was he aware that they fed on their victims both their flesh and their fear, burrowing into their brains and experiencing things through their eyes as well as showing the victim the torture from that end as well. Malcolm was one of the Clueless, only recently arrived in Sigil, and so he only saw it as some horrific fiend. In the reflection he also saw the shard of crystal forcibly embedded into its forehead, leaking a greasy, greenish light, and how its glazed eyes looked to the Marauder for its each and every action.

"Whatever I have done to you Madam, I am truly sorry." Malcolm's tone was genuine as he understood the depths of his mistake.

She didn't bother to respond in words, nor even to look at him as she admired herself in the mirror and addressed the tieflings that flanked her victim, "Is the ring of regeneration firmly in place?"

"Yes your Fiendish Majesty." One of the tieflings drew a serrated filleting knife and the other a bone saw. Still at the table, the chef began sharpening his knives while a dozen sauces reduced and side dishes waited for a main course that was nowhere to be seen at his station.

Malcolm's eyes went wide as he understood what was going to happen.

Taking a sip of her wine, the fiend closed her eyes and savored the taste on tongue and nose. The moment passed and Shemeska the Marauder opened her eyes. Looking directly at Malcolm she smiled, licking her lips, "Proceed."

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Also, just as an adjunct for atmospheric effect, the last scene in this most recent update (and the continuation of the scene in subsequent updates) is very much aided by the music video for 'Sick Sick Sick' by Queens of the Stone Age. It's pretty self-explanatory given the implied storyhour content and the likewise implied music video.



Edit: sorry, just noticed that the children of the Dream Reaver Story have been discussed quite a bit already.

Thanks so much for the awesome stories! I've been a fan for years. I love the amount of thought you put into this, how well it seems to mesh with the mood of Planescape evoked by DiTerlizzi&Co (versus the recent turn towards boring devil-lord blargh). Two questions if you happen to have some free time:

- Is the thing Helekanalaith wants Clueless to fetch from the kython city ever expanded upon?
- I love the idea that the Baernaloths/their kind of evil might be akin to a virus. Do you have any ideas how to incorporate a prion-analogy-creature?
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- Is the thing Helekanalaith wants Clueless to fetch from the kython city ever expanded upon?

It was a very minor plot point, being a nod to the advanced nupperibo in Jangling Hiter in 2e's 'Tales of the Infinite Staircase'. It wasn't part of the main plot, and so I don't recall offhand if Clueless ever went there on his own in a side session of the game. I don't believe so, but other things popped up involving the vanished ancient baatorians later on.

- I love the idea that the Baernaloths/their kind of evil might be akin to a virus. Do you have any ideas how to incorporate a prion-analogy-creature?

This is a difficult one, since on a certain level it's really just an academic difference between viruses and prions when you're trying to make an analogy out of their method of action and project it onto a fiend. Virus's infect, some types insert themselves into the host's very DNA, and they ultimately hijack the cell's own machinery to make more of themselves. Prions don't even have DNA or RNA as viruses do. They're only protein, but a sort that due to a quirk of chemistry allows them to alter other, normal proteins to match their own aberrant structure. Sort of like a virus, but not in some subtle ways. Unthinking corruption, body horror without purpose, something that makes me think of a few baern, certainly the way that Pathfinder's daemons operate since they seek the obliteration of all mortals while they're ironically themselves formed from mortal souls, and some aspects of Pathfinder's kytons. Still though, the analogy to a prion is a bit of a stretch in all of their cases. Still, you've got me thinking about it, because I have and do use things from biology and biochemistry for inspiration in writing.



First Post
You should write a Biology book about Yugoloths. Could be interesting. ^^ or better write the missing 3 Edition Yugoloth fiend Book about Yugoloth. ^^



The wererats stared back at them, the unblinking reflection of their eyes as well as the reeking stench of their rag wrapped bodies serving as threats as equally unnerving as their weapons.

"We're not questioning that in the slightest," Corwin motioned with his hands, trying his best to defuse the situation, "But our mistress struck an agreement with your master."

"She may have," Trick shrugged. "But she is not here is she? We would have smelled the perfume and brimstone before you arrived."

Surefoot snickered, "I like you guys."

Ignoring the bariaur, the wererat continued, "Lord Tattershade requires respect and obedience from us, and for those not among his kingdom, a certain measure of contrition in the absence of fealty while within his domain."

Track extended one hand, his open palm streaked with grease and grime while his other hand rested comfortably upon the hilt of his sword. Beside him, Trick bowed and smiled politely, with a hand upon his own blade much the same.

"I think they're looking for a bribe." Malcolm rolled his eyes. "F*cking rats..."

"That's exactly what they're looking for." Ashlanaya whispered, "They're well spoken for wererats as well. They're no fools."

"Yeah, um..." Zenia chuckled politely, casting a nervous glance towards Tattershade's minions. "They can probably hear each and every word that you're whispering, so I wouldn't insult them."

Malcolm nodded in contrition at the genasi.

"Far be it from me to be the voice of sanity here." Zenia shook her head and blushed, sending a current of blue flames up her face and over her hair. "But if that's the case, we're pretty well and properly f*cked."

"We don't need you to be a voice of sanity, just able to hurl a fireball or two if it comes to it." Surefoot smiled at the Xaositect and then turned back to the aasimar. "They're greedy bastards yes, but if their master struck an agreement with our razorvine-crowned one, they'd be fools to buck the terms of it."

"I'll handle this." The paladin nodded at the bariaur and spread her hands, approaching the wererats.

"As you like..." Malcolm adjusted his cloak, hiding the fact that his hands were on a pair of daggers at his belt.

"I get to throw fireballs today?" Zenia's eyes glowed with tiny flickers of flame.

"Lord Tattershade may rule below the streets, but our employer Shemeska has an agreement with him." Ashlanaya smiled politely but sternly. "You were to escort us. There was nothing further spoken on the matter. If there was, Lord Tattershade would have made that a firm fact, unless you're disobeying both your master and ours?"

Zenia poked Corwin in the side, "Who do I set on fire first?"

Clearly overhearing the genasi, and likewise needing to address the paladin's ultimatum, the wererats turned and excitedly chattered amongst themselves.

"Hush!" Track slapped one of the others with the end of his long, hairless tail.

"Silence!" Trick likewise slapped the snout of another of his men before turning back to glower at Ashlanaya. Whatever he had prepared to say, and his hands had never left his sword, he never needed to vocalize.

"That being said," Ashlanaya's voice interrupted the wererat leaders', steady and almost supernaturally diplomatic, "We do appreciate your help above and beyond your obligation. We're following orders ourselves. After all, we're in just the same situation. Surefoot, if you would."

Grinning at her tone and words firmly disarming the wererats' hopes of bleeding them all dry, but still allowing them to save face in front of their lessers, Surefoot hefted a small bag of coins and tossed it to Trick. The wererat snatched it out of the air and pocketed it in one swift, well practiced motion.

"You're the journal... journal... the writer," Trick fumbled over the word as he looked at the bauriuar. Track nodded and made a stabbing motion, followed by a snicker.

"What?" Surefoot raised an eyebrow at their body language and the fact that they knew his profession.

"Oh, we've heard about you." Track snickered.

"Yes, heard all about you." Trick smirked. "Nothing good."

"Lovely." Surefoot rolled his eyes. "Did the mutt with a hedge on her head talk about my wit and skill with a pen?”

"Oh, no, nothing like that." Trick stepped to the side and motioned their new guests forward. "We were just told to kill you first if anything went bad."

"But hopefully nothing goes bad." Ashlanaya forced out an overly polite smile and followed, keeping the others close at hand and noting that while Trick and Track remained in front of their group, their followers conveniently stayed a few steps to the rear, surrounding them and blocking off a retreat. She didn't trust the rats, but compared to the smiling, beautified and utterly amoral fiend that had sent them down into the tunnels, the lycanthropes were the absolute least of her fears. "Please, lead on."

The tunnel twisted and turned, and it seemed to the group that their wererat guides were often doubling back through looping side passages, intentionally exaggerating the complexity of the route in order to ensure that their charges would never be able to duplicate the route on their own, much less create a map. The walls were clearly excavated and enlarged by simple tools, likely by the wererats themselves, and the rock was the same brittle, wholly unnatural chalk-like Sigil rock. After a slow descent of some forty minutes though, that changed, with the walls transitioning to a bizarre amalgamation of different strata of hewn stone, a puzzle piece conglomeration of thousands of tunnels, forgotten basements, and speculative well-shafts moved and sorted over centuries or millennia by the same forces that slowly moved streets aboveground. Only here, those forces seemed to care little for the integrity of what moved.

“What the hell is that smell?” Malcolm covered his face as a warm, suffocating breeze rose up from somewhere further down the passage.

For their part the wererats seemed utterly unphased, even as the others winced and muttered.

“That smells like the trash heap behind the kitchens in the old Gatehouse.” Zenia waved a hand in front of her face, grimacing, making faces, and then waving her hand even faster with more and more theatrics as the smell grew in its intensity.

The tunnel experienced a sharp material discontinuity, abruptly changing direction and now composed of a solid, if heavily weathered, stratum of ancient, fired clay bricks. The ceiling of the new passage intruded two feet lower and a similar two foot drop in the floor presented at the point of their merger. To all appearances it seemed as if two tunnels had been sundered, dragged through the earth, and then hastily pasted together. At the point of merger, the new passage was flooded with greasy, debris-strewn water.

Corwin stared at the water for a moment, “It’s around two feet deep. It’ll be unpleasant but not dangerous; unless of course the bottom of the passage has any points of collapse that are flooded just the same.”

“As you can see, the tunnel opens up into a derelict length of old sewer.” Track gave an uncaring shrug. “No, it isn’t connected to anything still in use, but the water isn’t stagnant either. In any event though, this is where our guidance ends. Your map should lead you the rest of the way, wherever you’re going.”

Sigil’s sewers carried waste from the city above, with water from portals used to flush the system on occasion. But if the tunnel system wasn’t connected to those still in continual use…

Corwin looked askance, “So where is it getting its water and refuse from?”

“Who can say?” Track gave a second uncaring shrug in as many minutes. “It does tend to attract scavengers though.”

“Speaking of which…” Corwin pointed to the vague outline of what seemed to be a corpse floating some dozen yards down the passage.

“What the hell is that?” Malcolm squinted, unable to see in the dark to the same level as the others. “I can’t make it out.”

“It’s a corpse.” Ashlanaya frowned at a slight hint of movement, but she couldn’t be certain if it wasn’t exaggerated by the undulation of the water, or just an illusion borne of the shadows cast by their light sources.

“Just a corpse?” Malcolm eyed the paladin. “Or a corpse prone to standing up and trying to devour your face?”

“Just a corpse I think, but…” The aasimar paused as she more clearly saw the corpse’s head shudder and move.

“What was that?” Zenia held her hands up, preparing to cast if need be. “Why is its head moving?”

The corpse’s head moved again, violently so, sending an echoing wet crunch of snapping gristle and shearing bone down the sewer passage. The head, now fully detached from the corpse looked up, spreading wings from where its ears should have been. It opened its mouth, displaying a row of glistening fangs and gave a piercing shriek.

“Oh son of a b*tch!” Surefoot stomped a hoof, “Not vargouilles…”

“More than one of them.” Ashlanaya held out her hand and conjured a globe of light between them and the corpse, illuminating it and three others hanging upon a broken arch above the flooded tunnel.

The first vargouille and the newly discovered ones collectively shrieked at the light and rose into the air.
Malcolm took a startled step back, shaking as the hypnotic force of their screams washed over him, “What the hell is a vargouille?!”

"Flying vampiric heads, more or less. They…" Surefoot ducked and covered his head as a burst of flaming bolts careened down the passage, coming dangerously close to striking him as they did, "Woah!"

"Look at them flap around on fire! Hah!" Zenia giggled as she hopped from foot to foot, clapping hands still leaking a shower of sparks. A few seconds passed and she calmed down, noticing Surefoot frowning at her. "Couldn't resist!"

Behind them, Trick and Track softly snickered as they and their followers began to retreat back along the passage.

"See!" Zenia motioned at their wererat guides with a flourish. "They thought it was amusing too!" The genasi stuck her tongue out.

"Maybe," Ashlanaya cast a wary eye at the lycanthropes and hefted her sword at the ready. "But then why are they backing up? No, they didn't want to follow us past this point not because of a few vargouilles, but something else back there."

A wet slithering noise grew in intensity and heavy footfalls and resulting sounds of suction in the muck resonated as something approached.

"Oh gods what's that stink?" Malcolm gagged. “It’s even worse than before.”

"Oh ick!" Zenia winced and pursed her lips while igniting the flames on her hands and arms, hoping somehow to burn away the rising stench.

Surefoot sighed and hefted his blade at the ready, "The wererats are officially now the second worst smelling things I've met all day..."

Down the passage, one of their guides squeaked with offense and the other replied with a crude gesture. "This is where our obligation ends puppets of the surface king! Live? Die? We care not berks!"

“On time and expected,” Ashlanaya shook her head. “At least they didn’t attack us.”

“Attack us? Actually do something?” Surefoot rolled his eyes, “You’re giving them too much credit. They’ll just loot our corpses.”

“Everyone get ready, whatever it is, it’s sizable.” Corwin began to whisper as his fingers touched the sprig of mistletoe at his neck.

The creature that emerged out of the darkness and into the circle of light cast by the paladin was a grayish brown monstrosity, shambling forward on three tree-like legs. Dripping with filth, its single gaping mouth was open, sloshing with waste from the sewer, and as it moved, its tongue seemed to be hungrily slurping up errant bits of reeking flotsam. A trio of tentacles rose up like a crippled octopus, the central one studded with a number of lazy, translucent eyes.

Surrounded by a cloud of screaming, burning vargouilles, the otyugh roared with territorial anger and charged forward.


A tortured, gargling moan filled the chamber like hellish chamber music, providing an undertone accompaniment to the delicate chink of golden tableware on fine porcelain, the chime of rings on a fine crystal goblet, and flowing, articulate commentary on the meal.

"This is truly spectacular." The Marauder gently dabbed a napkin to her lips. "I genuinely did not expect to enjoy the taste of the sweetbreads as much as I have, nor to find the meat as tender as it is. My compliments to the chef... and to Mr. Malcolm."

Shemeska raised her wine glass in toast to the man being tortured and vivisected half a dozen feet away.

"The seared liver was remarkably rich, the Carpaccio dish with bitter Minethys truffle, lemon, garlic, and flesh taken from the psoas major was clean and true to expectations and..." She paused as Malcom's lung's regenerated to the point where he could finally begin to scream again. As if listening to an operatic aria of sublime artistry, she closed her eyes and listened to each note of agony, trembling and biting her lower lip after a minute when her victim's lungs collapsed again, silencing the pitch back to a ruined moan.

"I'm so rarely this true to myself Malcolm." Opening her eyes again, she licked her lips and smiled, displaying a dichotomy of painted purple lips and bloody jackal's fangs. "Public appearances being what they are, I can only indulge myself in this way so very rarely. The meal has been excellent, and even more so, your suffering."

The fiend smiled and motioned casually with the hand not grasping her wine glass. The torturers nodded and the chef shuffled the pots currently on the flame for others, preparing for the next array of dishes.

"Would Her Fiendish Majesty be ready for the next round?" The chef's voice was disturbingly upbeat and anticipatory, reflecting a genuine desire to show off his skills for an appreciative patron. Whether by pride and ethics dulled by experience, or by genuine sociopathy, the chef ignored the hellish nature of the scene in its entirety, from the moaning, bleeding man, the smiling, well dressed torturers, and the freshly cut slices of human cheek and tongue braising on his stove-top.

The next twenty minutes proceeded just as before, with the Marauder's servants vivisecting their victim and her chef preparing the highest of haute cuisine from the extracted organs and meat, producing and naming each with a flourish.

"Flash fried, thinly sliced ear dressed with white truffle infused honey."

The Marauder inhaled, savoring the smell before tasting with a pair of golden chopsticks.

"Crisp baguette with a topping of liver pate with dried cherries and pistachios, dressed with mustard, sorghum, and arugula."

"Spectacular." The fiend cooed as she took the first bite, and then motioned towards Malcolm's ruined form with the plate in her hand. "I would be truly remiss if I didn't offer to share. Seriously mortal, this is sublime. You simply must try once your tongue regenerates to the point that you can taste."

The bloodied mortal turned his head away, wincing in disgust, blinded by pain, and gagging on copious amount of swallowed blood and fluid accumulated in his lungs.

"I insist," The Marauder approached and stroked his bloodied cheek with her claws before wrenching his jaw open with a revolting sound of breaking bone and cartilage. "Focus on the taste Malcolm. Trust me when I say that it will help for what the chef has planned for the next course."

She chuckled and resumed her seat, sipping at an alcoholic aperitif to cleanse her palate before crossing her legs and stretching with a contented sigh. "Tell us chef, what bit of genius is next?"

"If it would so please you Madam," He bowed and nodded to the tieflings flanking Malcolm. "A preparation of marrow served within the extracted femur with the ends still fresh, the center excavated and carved prior to its use as a container for the cooked yellow stroma."

Shemeska smiled and tapped her painted claws upon the arms of her chair. "That sounds truly delectable chef. But I have an additional request."

The tieflings paused in the midst of sawing open Malcolm's pelvis to expose the acetabulum and the glistening ball of the femur.

"I hate to be a glutton, I really do." The Marauder's voice was honeyed with false sympathy. "But I really do want a second preparation of the poached sweetbreads."

"... whhhy?” Malcolm seized and choked on the blood filling his lungs, alive only on account of the ring that caused his flesh to slowly regenerate and a second ring belatedly placed upon his other hand relieving him of the necessity to breath. “Whhy al you doinnng his? Pllees...pleees…"

"Malcolm... Malcolm..." Shemeska chided, placing the fingers of her right hand upon his tongue, pinching its tip between her thumb and index fingers. "You'll understand eventually, but for the moment, the meal is hardly over, and honestly, you haven't screamed nearly enough to my tastes."

The arcanaloth's eyes glowed with a lurid flicker of purple flame and with a soft, barely perceptible chuckle she pinched her fingers together, planted her left foot against the mortal's chest and pulled.

The sound of tearing, ripping flesh was drowned out by Malcolm’s apoplectic shriek.

"I don't think that I'll be wanting more of this," Spattered in blood, she dropped the two feet of tongue into the chef's hands with a careless shrug before retaking her seat. "But back to what I was saying before, if you would, once you've removed the femur, if you could crack open the chest cavity again to harvest the thymus a second time. Oh, and additionally, one of the kidneys for a pie later would be lovely."

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