[ZEITGEIST] The Continuing Adventures of Korrigan & Co.

SanjMerchant

Explorer
I love how everyone wrestles with the ethics of the situation Gupta's created except Rumdoom, who's just all "gods make a very satisfying 'thump' when they hit the floor."
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
I love how everyone wrestles with the ethics of the situation Gupta's created except Rumdoom, who's just all "gods make a very satisfying 'thump' when they hit the floor."
Actually, he just made a very interesting speech to Korrigan. Details forthcoming in session 242.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 240, Part Five

Reflection


You awake, scattered across the ground in a snowy forest. The fey are not here. And nor is Uriel.

Embers of blazing thistles drift by on a wind, briefly providing enough light to make out the debris of the Coaltongue, nearly crippled but otherwise lying without even a hushed whisper in this night-time wood. Your injuries won’t kill you, and the damage wrought on your vessel can be repaired, but as your gaze drifts upward, you see a starry abyss looking back, its nebulous teeth poised to crush your world.

You are back in Risur, many months after you left. Your mission has failed. Your path to the Gyre has been cut off, and what little hope you had left has, like a candle reaching the end of its wick, guttered and turned to smoke.


They had arrived a few feet from the entrance to the Ziggurat of Av. The once-stone building was still formed from brass, but the fires in the Antwalk Thicket had long-since died out, and the trees and greenery had grown back. Bizarrely, though, the whole scene was coated in an inch of snow and the temperature was freezing – far colder than any part of Risur became at any time of year. The leaves were brittle and coated in ice.

Some distance away, a section of the forest had been cleared to make way for a railroad which stretched away to the south. That was new! A train had been parked here, but the crash of the Coaltongue had derailed it.

The unit and the crew were wholly uninjured and rested.

Of course, they noticed Uriel wasn’t with them immediately, and tried to make contact to no avail. But before long they were distracted: The crew of the Coaltongue were helping two figures out of the wreckage. Admiral Smith waved to get their attention, and they could see that Benedict Pemberton and Pardo had taken possession of the duplicants they had stowed on board (hoping to join them in their quest to the Gyre).

They strode purposefully towards them, Pemberton limping from damage to his duplicant. He began to speak some distance away and continued to yell even as they drew closer:

“Am I glad to see you. Just in the nick of time as always. How did it go?”

They told him their mission had failed, less than a day after they reach Av.

Pemberton was crestfallen. “A day? You’ve been gone for months! As far as everyone else is concerned you’re dead and gone! To say things haven’t gone well in your absence would be an understatement. I might be your only ally left in the whole world.”

He gestured at the derailed train. “The new ruler of Risur built this railroad to help access the plane of Jiese through the portal in the Ziggurat, but ‘local fauna’ forced them to abandon that project, so they sealed the portal. That was several months ago, and the world has gotten dangerously cold since then, but I’m not sure if the two are related.” Korrigan was keen to find out who this new ruler might be, but politely waited for a pause in Pemberton’s story. (A pause which never came.)

Pemberton recounted the events of the past few months. It began with soldiers captured from the invading armies in Risur, soldiers who were possessed by powerful Obscurati ghosts. They let themselves be taken to prisoner of war camps, where they overpowered the unsuspecting guards, before they triggered the formation of hiveminds. Somehow the possessing ghosts managed to stabilize the hiveminds so they were able to draw people in and make them obey, but the hivemind did not become insanely single-minded like previous manifestations had. The Risuri soldiers, outnumbered by the prisoners, weren’t able to resist the combined psychic will, and they became loyal to the Obscurati.

This continued like an avalanche rolling down a hill; the more people caught in the hivemind, the more easily it could pull others into itself. It spread faster than a disease; it spread like an idea, and almost as soon as someone became aware of the risk, their minds were overwhelmed.

Most of Pemberton’s duplicant spies were discovered and absorbed into these new hiveminds, but before that happened he learned of panic in numerous cities. People had only a vague idea what was happening, but knew that crowds were a threat, so many fled had into the wilderness.

“Me and my gnolls are fairly safe on our island, I hope. But I can’t speak for anyone else.”

While Pemberton went on to suggest that they use his secret base as the launch-pad for a counter-strike, Korrigan, Uriel and Gupta became aware that Pardo had sidled away from the group and was stood with his head cocked at a very strange angle. He noticed their attention, and so did Pemberton, who stopped talking. Before his master’s gaze, Pardo cowered like a beaten whelp.

“I’m sorry, boss,” he whimpered.

Pemberton uttered a first querulous syllable before it was cut off with an involuntary cry of pain, the source of which could not be determined. But it was clearly agonising and sustained, and no sooner had it begun than Pemberton’s duplicant collapsed to the ground, no longer occupied.

Before the unit could focus their ire on Pardo, a shining portal appeared in the air close by, and a horde of foes materialised: dozens of highly advanced military constructs, and with them two Ob necromancers, Xavier Sangrea, Campion Pryce-Hill, Justin Rollins and Lauryn Cyneburg. The unit braced itself, but did not engage in hostilities right away. The Risuri Minister of Infiltration pulled the portal shut with a snap of her fingers. “Hm,” she said, glancing at how close they arrived. “My aim has improved.”

In the centre of the ambush party stood a man so nondescript and non-threatening that they didn’t notice him until he spoke: “Of course you would show up a day before I solve this. I suppose you think you’re swooping in to,” he chuckled, “‘save the world’?”

He took a drag on his cigarette. Some of the unit recognised this host body as the courier Nicodemus occupied when they first encountered him, outside Reed Macbannin’s mansion. He went on:

“Your former allies, who now see the wisdom of my new world order, told me your mission. You were going to use the Axis Seal yourself with your own new planes.

“Imitation is flattery, and I’m glad you wanted to follow my lead, but it was your noses stuck where things didn’t need sticking that caused the situation we’re in. I assure you we have ‘saving the world’ in hand, and this will all turn out tidy and safe if you don’t cause any more trouble. But maybe you’ve found something useful?”

He sucked in a long drag from his cigarette, cracked a charming smile, and gestured for the unit to respond. They chose not to.

“Perhaps not? Oh well, maybe you’ll listen to reason, then. Your friend Doctor von Recklinghausen,” and here he nodded at Gupta, “was able to use autopsies of the Gidim to figure out how to stabilize the hivemind effect. It’s much more complicated and technological than just that,” he added nonchalantly, “but I’ll only reveal more to those who are members of my ‘conspiracy’.”

“So here’s my final offer for you to work with me, rather than against me. Rest assured that I have a new plan for the Axis Seal which will put an end to all the chaos that broke out since the Great Eclipse, and I promise that if you pledge your loyalty I’ll surrender to you once the ritual is complete, to let you judge if my actions were justified. Of course, pledging loyalty in this case entails being bonded to a hivemind, so you don’t turn against me at the eleventh hour, so you’ll just have to trust me, but I promise, once this is all over…”

“You’re not too good at keeping your promises,” said Korrigan.

“Tell us,” said Leon, “Are you more confident now than you were before all the eladrin women were killed?”

“Or before the sun disappeared?” said Uru.

Their glib responses were more infuriating to Nicodemus than a stoic or melodramatic refusal might have been. The kind of anger they last saw in Cherage flickered across his features.

“You’ll have to excuse us, but you’ve given us a lot of material,” said Korrigan. “We could burn you all day.”

“You failures!” Nicodemus erupted. “Your greatest achievement is failing to prevent me from saving the world. You’re sentimental saboteurs, blindly clinging to antiquated morals, measuring the suffering of people today over progress and the needs of countless yet to be born. I am creating the shape of things to come, and in that new world, people like you will have to go!”

At that, his welcome party moved to attack.

Uriel, from his ethereal vantage, focused his mind and desperately sought a means to make himself known, or to intervene.

End of Session

 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 241, Part One

Ambush Squad Battle - Round 1


Quratulain was first off the mark, strafing the enemy with force beams from her blaster, to test their defences. She hit a construct, Nicodemus’ host, Pardo, one of the occultists and Justin Rollins. None of them dropped save Nicodemus, who fell to his knees. His head sagged on to his chest. Only the fact that he raised his cigarette to his mouth betrayed the fact that he was still alive.

Uru delivered the killing blow to Rollins, without pausing to consider whether or not the royal technologist was compelled or dominated in any way. Though Rollins stopped chuckling in his usual, avuncular manner, and his legs gave way for moment, he stood back up and kept on going, though the way his limbs moved was odd.

Leon teleported into the ideal position to bathe the foe with a pacifying light from the Wayfarer’s Lantern. When they levelled their weapons at him, he realised it hadn’t worked; the Ob were not to be undone by their own weapon! Quick as a flash, he teleported out of danger again.

With Lauryn Cyneburg involved, Leon was not the only one to bampf around the battlefield. She appeared in the very midst of the fight, cocked her head for a moment as if calculating, and then the entire battlefield shifted. Everyone was repositioned according to her whim; individual unit members moved adjacent to foes who appeared to be waiting for them. Then she teleported away again, to the top of the ziggurat.

Pardo was now next to Gupta. He pounced and knocked her prone, then used his devour anima power to draw one of her key powers out of her mind. She had seen him do this before, guessed which power he was after, and resisted.

Korrigan counselled his allies to conserve their strength if possible: from what Nicodemus had said, this was going to be a long day. Then he responded to Cyneburg’s manoeuvre by giving tactical orders of his own: Gupta jumped back to her feet on his command; Uru leapt out of Campion’s reach; Rumdoom – surrounded by a half-circle of constructs, protecting the two occultists who were already weaving a spell against him – dashed forward to knock these defenders out of the way. Quratulain said, “I’m fine, thank you,” and stayed where she was, surrounded by constructs.

The construct squads attacked everyone they could, either with grindsaw arms in melee, or with a turret fusillade. Quratulain was beset by a dozen of them. She fought them off as best she could, then lobbed a grenade at her own feet and excluded herself from the blast with the firesight eye. The constructs were badly damaged but kept on coming.

Pardo sought to keep Gupta from escaping him: a barely visible coil of psychic energy streaked from his mind into hers. Again she fought it off, realising at once that this was not an ordinary aspect of his suite of capabilities. Something was amiss here.

Justin Rollins had been planted in the very epicentre of the fight, where he was able to draw a bead on all enemies, and lay down suppressive fire with his pistols. He also summoned a mechanized shotgun, which hovered in the air beside him, and began firing repeatedly at Korrigan. Having done so, he tried the same sinister psychic trick that Pardo had, but Korrigan’s mind was a bastion.

Cyneburg had cleared a nice big space next to Xavier Sangrea. He took out a glowing crystal, threw it into this space and thereby summoned a gargantuan entity which most of the unit recognised from their adventure on the Avery Coast Rial Line: the Screaming Malice! He muttered arcane words of control and the beast lurched towards the unit.

Uru was right next to it, backed away as best he could, and cried out, “Ash wolf! We call upon your promised aid, here in the very place where we rendered ours!”

Campion Price-Hill wasn’t about to allow his target to slip away further. “Come here, you slippery little wanker,” he snarled, trying to use the same strange psychic power that all of these Ob fighters seemed to possess. But Uru was no longer the slouch he had been when it came to sheer willpower. He was a titan-in-training! Campion gave a cry of frustration when the spell didn’t work and launched himself at Uru wielding long knives.

Keen to put some distance between herself and the relentless Pardo, Gupta used her Golden Icon of Apet. Instead of taking her up to the first tier of the ziggurat as intended, she found herself diverted to the very top. (“A dimension beacon!” Leon realised.) This planted her right next to Lauryn Cyneburg, and so she used the very power Pardo had tried to strip from her, asking her a question to befuddle her mind: “Did you really think I didn’t want to be next to you?” But it didn’t work! Cyneburg’s mind was shielded in some way, a fact Gupta reported to the others. (It must have been something to do with the hivemind phenomenon Pemberton had warned them about.) Cyneburg responded with a spiteful punch. “This really wasn’t how I wanted to spend my afternoon,” she sneered. Gupta found herself thrown through the air, landing on the steps further down the ziggurat.

As Rumdoom crashed towards them through the construct squad, the Ob occultists worked together to summon shadowy tendrils that curled all about the Stone of Not, and sought to wrest it from Rumdoom’s grasp. Rumdoom yanked it free, and Notted one of the nethermancers, obliterating him entirely.

The Screaming Malice shrieked a bloodcurdling shriek, freezing the marrow of both Uru and Rumdoom and, having thus fixated them, sought to swallow them whole. Uru only just managed to throw himself out of harm’s way. Rumdoom found himself caught in its great maw and struggled to free himself. It was tempting to grow to giant size, but he decided to save that for ‘important people’. …

At the very edge of the battle, Amielle Latimer appeared. Her arrival provoked disembodied wails of protest and anger that seemed to emanate from within their foes! “They’re possessed!” Amielle shouted, taking aim with her rife. “Controlled by the ghost council!”

They needed to be freed – at the very least, Cyneburg did. (It was too late for Rollins, and Pardo was in duplicant form.) Uriel, watching all this, unseen, felt that he could help, if only he could make himself known somehow, or better yet manifest on the battlefield. As he focused his mind and strove to convert what he was seeing from a mere vision to a new reality, testing the idea of translating himself form once place to another, he was struck by a sudden realisation: The act of doing so would be the very thing that prevented him from returning from the Gyre as the others had. It would stretch his soul too thinly. If he pulled back, he might be able to find away to return to Lanjyr in physical form.

Uriel brushed aside all of his doubts and concern for himself, and determined to communicate with his friends at all costs.
 
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