“I really wish you'd reconsider, sir,” the whiny voice pleaded. Unconsciously the goblin gripped the edges of the chair which towered before him, his clawed fingers trailing down its wooden back. The seated figure paid no heed to his remark other than the flick of a scaled tale, the only part of him visible, that lolled over the edge of the cushion. “The poles are very clear, lord Mayor. Most goblins...” here he hesitated, mind scrambling for a nonconfrontational way to structure his words, “..simply.. see you as to.. human..” Now the being in the chair turned into view presenting a face, humanoid in shape, but reptilian in character. Out of a straight combed head of hair slipped two curving horns almost beautiful for the way they traced the line of his powerful neck. “..looking, sir, human-looking is what I meant to say.” The goblin slouched back a pace adjusting his thick frames, the mark of his professionalism.
The dragon smiled showing rows of dagger shaped pearls anything but human. “Really, Norbet, I do think you worry too much about such..” the word slithered out, “superficialities.” He returned his attention to his broad stone desk and the scrolls stacked upon it. “After all vampires look far more human than I and they've proved nearly as successful in politics as Dragonkind.”
“But sir, I, er I mean, the public feels that vampires have no choice in the matter. Its not as if any monster would volunteer themselves as a host.”
The mayor laughed, “not many.”
“The voters know that you can shapeshift and so they ask themselves why you've chosen such a... humanoid form.”
“That's my business.” The fiery eyes traced through the wording of a report from the east. Hellhounds sighted in Verger Province, only one hundred miles from Gleech. He so hated when actual problems interfered with the true purpose of power. “Kradurn,” he called to one of the burly hobgoblin guards whose purpose was more symbolic than any. The large humanoid straightened with a metallic rattle, a threatening column of iron spikes in his goblin armor. A gauntleted fist collided with his chest before he asked, “yes, my Lord Mayor.”
The dragon smiled pleasantly, “please see that watch Captain Maldoroth comes to see me, at his convenience, of course.”
Another loud salute, “as you wish, sir.”
After he left, Norbert snuck close once more for a second attempt. “I really wish you'd consider polymorphing into something more.. goblinoid, even if only for a public appearance... Here I even brought some pictures I thought might be to your liking.” The little goblin fumbled at some sketches of his species in various noble poses, their prominent warts and yellow green skin portraying the ideal of goblin beauty.
The dragon did not turn, did not acknowledge the pictures, instead he let them slide from his desk and scatter across the floor. “If anyone considers me human let them come and dine with me. Now,” the firmness of his voice could only mean an order would come next, “I have a more important task for you. I want you to do an opinion poll on the Nine Crowns. If things keep going the way they are the council may soon consider hostilities. Before they do I need to know where the voters stand on the issue of demonic expansion... and Norbet, make it an accurate poll, use illithids if you have to, whatever it takes. I need to know what the voters think, and Norbet,..” He turned and let his eyes meet the goblin's. There in the Wyrm Scynarian's burning irises Norbet saw an intelligence without emotion or pity. A mind that had much more in common with the raw elements than anything living, “... don't fail me, or I might expand my palate beyond human virgins.”
Kradurn strode through the streets with all the courtesy of an armored ox. The seal of the mayors office, etched upon his breastplate knocked pedestrians out of the way as sure as the flat side of his battle ax would have. Around him the Marrows sprawled out in an array of tents, shantees and improvised stages. Everywhere flesh was on display, both alive and dead. That was all there was to be bought in the Marrows and it was never lacking in customers. On Kradurn's right two troglodytes bartered over the price of a leg of dwarf. The hobgoblin pinched his nose as he passed their conversation. He could nearly see the noxious fumes pouring off their green scaly skin. On his left a toothy little scamp of a goblin paraded a pack of brawny humans around for the lusting gaze of a crowd of building contractors.
“Pixie pie! Get your pixie pie. Hey there good sir, can't do the work of the city without a full belly.” The goblin vendor thrust the pie under his nose. Its crusty surface undulated with the movement of trapped fairies beneath. “Yes I Can.” The hobgoblin's response was so gruff, the cook literally leapt back into his stand, knocking over a cage full of sprites in the process. Kurdan only heard the ensuing chaos. He had no time to eat or even round up escaped fairies. He knew from experience that Lord Scynarian always meant the opposite of what he said. If the mayor appeared unconcerned about contacting the Captain then the matter was of grave importance.
The vampire just snarled in reply. Captain Maldoroth, smiled like only a bugbear could. You might have been able to impale an apple on each of his protruding fangs, if you had wanted to loose a hand that is. The goblin guard stepped back from the door and let the Captains shaggy bulk fill its opening. “If you want to get out of here I'm going to need to know who your sire is. Can't have undead multiplying in city, not without a license that is.” The creature crept into the corner edging herself up against the bars. She looked every bit like a feral cat cornered in an alley. “Suit yourself, only don't even think of trying any of your little tricks.” Maldoroth stepped back over the miniature moat which ran all around the cell's perimeter. Brackish water flowed along through the grimy trough powered by a small turbine connected via gears to the cage of a very tired looking fairy. “Got a goblin engineer to design the thing. Never once had a vamp been able to get out. Its the running water, ya see.... Well think about talking, after all its your Master who broke the law, not you.”
Before he left, the Captain's eyes fell to the brownie who was panting at the tiny treadmill that powered the turbine, “Make sure you feed that thing.” “Yes sir,” the jailer's armor rattled in salute.
When Maldoroth came out of the cell he found sergeant Wyck and a hobgoblin from the Mayor's Guard waiting for him. “Wyck,” he said to the snake-eyed kobold, “if the vamp doesn't crack by tomorrow, go to work on her. We need to know who's breeding unlicensed undead in the city.”
“But she's undead now, not human, doesn't that means she's protected by civil code.”
“Only sentient undead are, and she hasn't spoken a word yet.”
Wyck smiled, “I have a silver dagger that will be perfect for the job sir.”
The Captain wasn't listening he'd already shifted his bulk toward his equally bulky guest, “what can I do for the Lord Mayor today,” he asked graciously.
“His Honor would like to speak with you at your earliest convenience.” Kradurn stressed the words heavily, the farthest extent of subtlety for a hobgoblin.
“Very well,” said Maldoroth, taking the hint. “Sergeant you have the post.”
“Why Captain Maldoroth, what a pleasure.” Scynarian grinned as if he never thought to see the Watch Captain so soon. Maldoroth smiled weakly, “what is it sir?”
“Straight to business, that's what I like about you bugbears.” Scynarian sent his scribe scurrying off with an elegant wave of a clawed hand and dismissed the guards by a similar gesture. Only when they were alone did he speak once more. “It is possible, though still unlikely that the Nine Crowns are expanding again. Hell hounds have been sighted within the region.” Maldoroth remained resolute waiting for the mayor to finish. “I wish to avoid any... incidents, as such I need you to limit all civilian traffic in the western region. We also need to manufacture a reason. I do not want to incite full scale panic.”
“...Some rebel humans operate out of the forests west of here. They're not much of a threat but we could use them as an excuse.”
Scynarian grinned, “have you ever thought about politics, Captain?”
“Well you should.” He mulled something over for a moment in his centuries old mind. “Yes I do like that idea of yours. Monsters are always ready to blame man for all their woes. Get warnings posted, set a fine for violation and... there is one more thing.”
“A public works project has been started in that area.”
“Oh so you know about it.”
“Hard to miss a dozen mindflayers and an army of slaves.”
“Yes, well I would like to retain the contract with the illithid thrall-herds, so make sure they are given expedient warning regarding the danger. In fact I'll make out a letter to be given directly to their foreman, its unlikely some manufactured rumor involving escaped humans will do much to scare the mind flayers.”
The Captain nodded, he'd seen enough of the things, with their putrid purple skin and bottomless eyes, to wonder if anything would scare them.
Posted on 2010-04-12 at 04:27:52.
Edited on 2010-04-12 at 14:32:57 by madscirat
It's a common misnomer that vampires must sleep during the day, or sleep at all for that matter. This was much to his chagrin, as he was forced to pace around in the dark, waiting for the sun to set. When he had build Ndaxur many years ago, stained glass windows were the height of opulence. But the last of the large oaks that once blocked the sun from the west side of the estate had become too old, and had to be cut down for fear of falling limbs. Now those same opulent stained glass windows were preventing him from full reign of his own home.
Frustrating as that was he looked forward to tonight. His closing statements were prepared, and while land right cases weren't his favorite, the Yuan-ti he was representing was both interesting and fiscally well off. But more than that the defense lawyer was an ambitious blue wyrm, and he loved nothing more than crushing the spirits of young upstarts.
To call a dragon young was no mean feat, and with their polymorphing abilities, it was difficult to ascertain most wyrm's exact age. He'd faced enough of them in court to tell by their speech patters and which strategies they employed to hazard a guess of their age range. He on the other would look the same forever.
Food was another requirement in which he did not necessarily need to partake in. He employed a skilled chef for evenings when he entertained guests, but on days such as this, ones that had no guests, his servants ate fairly well. He was a fair master, if not overly kind, and had been employing the same families of goblins for generations (buying new ones when inbreeding had become apparent). This was pressing on his mind because at times like these when he was trapped in his own house, and his work was done he enjoyed sparring with Droguz and Grukas, two of his servants trained in the arts of fencing. The two of them, like the rest of his servants were eating their evening meal at this time, and while he had no qualms about pulling them away from such luxuries, the stained glass window was between him and the servants' dinning room, and yelling across the estate was something he considered undignified.
So he paced.
The carriage that he had commissioned had curtains that were thick enough to block the sun, and his private chambers had no windows. The carriage house was build at an angle that he could enter his carriage at almost anytime of the day without having to worry about stray beams falling in his direction. But in the great hall he had wished the most luxury that money could buy, and so he had that damned stained glass window commissioned. The craftsmanship was excellent, and it was beautiful in a horrible way, depicting a battle scene between an army of monsters and an army of men, dwarfs, and elves in blacks and in reds. It was not his first choice to throw a rock through it and fill the wall with brick instead. But his other choices were to board up the inside so it could only be viewed from the grounds, or board up the outside so it could only be viewed from the ballroom.
As he paced he thought. He thought about any minute details he would need to go over before tonight's hearing. He thought about the look on the blue wyrm's face when he would win. He thought about the bargain he had struck with the Yuan-ti. On top of his fee he asked for a pint of the Yuan-ti's blood. Not that he needed exotic blood like that to survive, but he was curious. On top of that loved the flush to their faces when they thought that he is putting them on, and more than that, of course, the paleness that came with the realization that he was serious. Dead serious. He imagined that the blood draining from their face was a foreshadow of the blood draining from their arm, as they cut themselves to fill up his glass. He would win their case, but they would pay for it.
But mostly he thought about that window.
As the sun set a realization came to him mid-step. We would build a room on the outside of the great hall. This room would be as tall and wide as the window, but only deep enough for one of servants to fit. They would enter the room from the outside, and light candles, hundreds of them, and keep them burning day and night. The candles would illuminate the window, and he would enjoy it without risking the harmful rays of the sun. Yes, he would commission it this very night. Planning the architecture, he thought, maybe five humans for two weeks. Something strong to lead them, a bugbear, or an ogre if he could find one. Yes, this is what he would do. All he had to do now was wait for the sun to finish setting, punish one of his servants for not checking up on him (it didn't really matter which one), win his case, and he could move on to the more important task of fixing his window.
Work had stopped, 71 knew without a doubt because of the pain. When the work stopped they all felt pain, he most of all. The thrall beside him bent over holding his skull as his mouth opened in a soundless scream. 71 wanted to moan as well, but he'd learned long ago that to not act only meant more pain.
He stepped out from under the command tent, shielding his eyes from the scalding sun. Two weeks earlier he'd never known anything could be so bright. Around him the thralls looked his way, eyes vacant except for the plea, “make it go away.” He was, in their eyes, the one who made the pain go away. 71, however, knew that the true master of the pain was not he but the Voice.
He half ran, half skidded down the incline of a steep ravine following the line of pale workmen. By the time he reached the bottom his own pale skin had been turned brown by the dust kicked up in his descent. The first foundation dig stood before him, a massive hole ringed with scaffolding, a quest for the bedrock. 71 looked up, in his mind the span of concrete that would take water across the gorge already stood completed, every corbel and keystone, in perfect alignment. It was beaut... The pain interceded on his thoughts and he remembered his need. Why had they stopped?
Using the scaffolding as a ladder, 71 descended into the familiar dark. As the hard bottom he found a gaggle of thralls, including an umber hulk, huddled around a glow of lamplight. The umberhulks, massive beetles from the deeps, had been brought along for the heavy digging. He saw the same pleading in the large monster's compound eyes and he followed its alien gaze to the nearby rock. Here was the reason they had stopped. Across the rock spanned a large crack, a crack that lead into darkness and unknown. This was not part of the plan and they were confused, confused and frightened of what might lay within the dark.
“Enter.. See..,” said the Voice and the pain receded along with it. 71 had no more desire to enter into unknown darkness than any of his fellow thralls, but he could not disobey, in fact he didn't even know how to disobey. He took an oil lamp from one of the workman and crouched through the crack opened by their pick axes and the umberhulk's claws. Once he could stand straight he raised the light into the darkness.
Wonder was not an emotion felt by thralls, and yet 71 looking up at the vaulted ceiling of a building unlike any he had seen before could not help but feel something akin to it. The illithid had been forced to leave him, as the foreman, some amount of intelligence by which to utilize the knowledge of architecture and physics impregnated within his brain. Perhaps it was for this reason that 71 marveled at the sight before him, as a mathematician might marvel at the solutions to a set of complex equations.
The room he found where he expected not but a limestone cave, stretched for fifty yards, nearly half the width of the gorge. In its center was a vastly complex system of metallic orbs suspended on gears which long since ceased to move. Around this, a ring of support columns, only half of which had survived the ravages of time. The rest lay fallen in broken sections or scattered pieces. Beyond these at the very rim of the chamber stood statues. Most of these too had given way to time. Many were only a torso supported by two legs and some seemed to have eroded entirely from their pedestals. Only two remained intact, an elf and a dwarf. Had 71 had a mind free to think such thoughts he might have wondered why anyone would sculpt images of the slave races which portrayed such nobility and power. As it was he simply looked without astonishment or understanding.
“Waiit,” came the Voice which saw more in these figures than 71 could know, “wait, I come.”
71 did as he was bidden. Minutes later, a hunched shadow stretched into the lamp light. Slithering steps sounded the entrance of two illithid (CL 15 each) into the temple. 71 did not see them however, instead his eyes were fixated on something he couldn't understand. The statue closest to him was changing, its grays transmuting to the color of skin and cloth. Across the way he could see the other remaining statue changing as well. Something, perhaps his last remaining bit of human intuition told him to get down and without a thought he crouched beneath the shelter of the room's mechanical centerpiece.
Posted on 2010-04-16 at 03:05:10.
Edited on 2010-04-16 at 03:10:37 by madscirat
Raven Resident Finn RDI Staff Karma: 68/3 982 Posts
In the beginning there was a dwarf...
It was the strangest of feelings even to a dwarf who didn't give much about feelings in the first place. The last thing he remembered was the ugly face of the venerable (by human standards at least) wizard observing closely the workings of his spell. Aldorax the Archmage had been walking around Gortag muttering and nodding to himself in satisfaction. He had been noting down the progress of his arcane powers as the magics ran around the dwarf's half-naked body slowly turning him into a statue. There'd been a flock of lesser spellcasters running around their master doing his biddings and nodding in agreement at every word Aldorax slipped out of his wrinkle-lipped mouth.
Gortag had been disgusted at the sight. He'd always hated boot-lickers, no matter what their race and no matter who their beacon of light was. In his eyes beings who needed someone else to make something - anything even of themselves, were weak. Not everyone had to be a slayer, or a general or a master magician. But everyone, given a little time and putting some effort into it, could become a hero of his or her own life. The lackeys of Master Aldorax had at some point, as very of then seemed to be the case with human sorcerers, lost their fire, their passion for becoming better through work. They now wanted everything and right away, without delay. Gortag the Slayer as they called him, had had his share of people like the ones in the hall right now. He had nothing to really tie him into the current times any more.
Therefore the possibility of a different future that had waited for him ensured by the mighty powers of the greatest mage known to man (and perhaps elf too) had looked just as good as the very day they had been living then. He had felt a bit uneasy by the idea of being turned into stone though. Or like Aldorax had told them, he would not be turning them into solid rock, but rather placing them into a stasis of sorts. The stony skin would simply offer protection against anything time could throw their way. It hadn't convinced Gortag. He didn't trust magic even if he believed in the Archmage's ability to deliver what he promised. Still watching the other few volunteers in the Temple of Eternal Light being "put into stasis" had made shivers run down the stout dwarf's spine. The most powerful warrior of his time had never felt fear when entering mortal combat with any man or monster, but the idea of being trapped inside an indestructible shell for an unknown period of time scared Gortag. His future would no longer be in his own hands.
That was still the view the dwarven warrior held in his mind when the stasis was broken. He was expecting to the see his lordship Master Wizard Aldorax running around the hall looking disappointed since his spell weaving had failed after all. The Temple of Eternal Light would not wait for another time to come when the sleeping heroes would once again be needed. The whole experiment would be a failure. It would make Gortag smile. He liked to see the frustration on a mage's face, when his powers fizzled. It had been the look on the faces of many evil sorcerers - their last.
As the stiffening of the magic gradually let go of Gortag's limbs, the bald, orange bearded and tattooed fighter heard sounds in the room. He expected to see he bright light of the sunny day on which he, Seluraiiel the elven enchanter and a few others had been put under the might of the spell. The dwarf chuckled in his mind for a heartbeat, but then thought better of the situation. He would be stuck once again in a time where there was no use for such as he no more. Together the armies of the goodly races led by their greatest heroes, some of whom had volunteered to take part in Aldorax's plan, had crushed the evil and the monsters of the world… A world that was now safe and in no need for master enchanters or slayers.
But there was something wrong… The sounds… they were not like the talk of wizards or booted feet walking around the tiled floor of the temple. They sounds were too quiet… A shiver of alarm ran through the still stiff dwarf's form. His stony fist gripped the handle of his mighty axe harder and he forced his green eyes open. There was not much too see other than darkness. Then the light of a lamp found its way in to Gortag's gaze and only took another heartbeat for his low light vision to adapt to the situation. Suddenly more forms stood out from the dark background.
It was quite obviou that Gortag was still in the Temple, but so much had changed in the hall built to honor the glory of the alliance that it was hard to recognize it. Everywhere he could see crumbled down statues, pillars and huge lumps of rock. There was no daylight visible and there was a familiar smell of an underground place hanging in the air. The slayer tried to stand as still as possible, but cramps all around his muscles made him flinch. Combat instincts kicked in as Gortag noticed two too familiar forms slide across the uneven floor. Of all the evil creatures he'd faced in what now appeared to be another life in the past, the mind-flayers were probably the ones he hated the most. The way the underground monsters had enslaved whole cities of dwarves or other subterranean races before they had been exterminated… or so everyone had believed. Apparently not all had been destroyed.
More than see, the dwarf could sense a third being moving in the ruined temple, but it didn't seem important now that he was facing two of the hideous Illithids. Getting ready for the fight, Gortag let his gaze wonder around the hall without turning his head. A disappointment rather than sadness filled his heart as he saw many of the heroes of his time lying broken on the ground. There was Palanthinus the human knight without his handsome head. Alianthanus, an elven archer, still held the lower half of his once magnificent bow in his hand which had been broken away from the rest of his body. Of Gnippy, or whatever his real name had been, the gnome illusionist, only the head had remained intact. The rest of the powerful mage was spread around in small pieces.
Gortag could feel the awesome power of the artifact he held in his right hand surge across his body. Whatever rigidness might have been caused by the lifetimes spend in a stony form was gone in an instant. All of the old strength returned into the slayer and he felt revitalized by the magic of the axe. The weapon had been forged of Starmetal, a material from beyond the skies, making it stronger than any other in the world. A god, or the God for the bald dwarf, had poured a tiny bit of his own power into the axe giving it potent powers. In a normal situation, the Slayer would not have worried about any enemy. The mighty axe would ward off a great number of evil magic cast at Gortag. And his incredible battle prowess along with the magical protection provided by the enchanted items around his fingers, neck and arms made certain that he could beat nearly any living or unliving creature out there. However other than his strong mind, the dwarf possessed little to defy the mental powers of the flayers. He had a few tricks under his sleeve, but even the magic woven into his skin through the numerous tattoos on his body, did little to guard him against mental possession.
Gortag knew the monsters could sense his working mind. They would know he was awake even if he remained perfectly unmoving. Therefore there was only one thing he could do. Hoping to distract the Illithids, the Slayer let out a terrible cry and launched himself at the enemy.
Awareness returned slowly like a warm tingling that spread out from within. Seluraiiel Asrai began to breathe deeply, relishing the sensation of breath. Cold grey stone gave way to smooth coppery skin and where there once had been a statue now stood an elven woman of unspeakable beauty, a beauty possessed by no mortal elf. A gown of brilliant saffron gossamer clung to her lithe form tracing the contours of her body. She stood with her weight shifted to the left causing her slashed skirts to fall to the side. A thick mane of silver curls fell just below her breasts in untamed tendrils. Seluraiiel opened her eyes to reveal brilliant amber irises alive with incandescent light. Those eyes peered into the dimly lit room as if seeing more than what was there.
To have the Sight is to see what is not there, what was, and what is yet to come. Throughout the ages Seluraiiel had trusted in the Sight to lead her, and it had been the sight that lead her to the Temple of Eternal Light. Long ago, when men had vanquished evil from the land she had forseen a time when the mortal world would have need of her again. In truth even without Aldorax's magics she would have lived to see this day. It would have been all too easy to return to Faerie and wait, but something made her go to the temple and be frozen out of time. The Sight had led her true for something in the world had changed, something was wrong.
In all her time in the mortal realms Seluraiiel had always felt the presence of Faerie. Her native realm had been just a step away, waiting just beyond the borders of the world of men. It was no longer there. She could still feel Faerie, but it had receded farther into the depths of the world between the worlds far beyond the grasp of any. Where Faerie once had been now remained only dream and shadow. If she returned to Faerie now she might never again set foot in the mortal realm.
Selruaiiel traced her gaze across the temple in search of some sign of those heroes that had been petrified by the master mage's spell. Time had not been kind, only she and the dwarven warrior Gortag remained. All that remained of the great wizards and warriors were bits of stone and dust. She spared each little more than a glance. Although she had fought alongside many of them they were still mortals and mortals died. Fate it seemed had seen to it that only faery and dwarf remained. Still Seluraiiel was glad that one still remained who remembered the age she had left behind. It would at the very least make the transition easier, that and despite the dwarf's utter love of violence she'd always liked Gortag. He was who he was, and to one whose every breath was filled with intrigue it was refreshing.
With a quiet breath the faery pulled her gaze from the lost heroes to study the rest of the room. Across the way unfamiliar forms moved into the doorway and as each moved into the torchlight it became clear what they were, illithids. Of all the terrors of the dark the mind flayers were near unmatched at completely destroying the will of their victims. They were skilled at manipulating the mind but she was better, far better. No illithid had ever been born that could match a faery's power over the mind and the spirit. Her people were the true masters of the mind and among them she was one of the best.
Across the ways she heard Gortag begin to move and in but a moment he entered her line of sight as he rushed at the mind flayers with a terrible cry. Seluraiiel only took a step forward before focusing her amber gaze on the illithid farthest from the dwarf. Without moving the faery spun her enchantment directly into the mind of the illithid crushing it's will.
As the morning sun finally managed to penetrate the thick foliage of the forest Kal slowly opened her eyes and looked around, taking in the all too familiar sights of the tent she had been living in for years. To her left her mother laid asleep still, wrapped in the arms of yet another of the camp's men, old habits truly died hard with her, but at least she was no longer a slave forced to pleasure the foul creatures of Gleech. To her right the two other renegades they shared the tent with were just starting to stir, stretching their weary limbs, willing their bodies to wake up and preparing for the day ahead of them, giving only a slightly disapproving shake of their head to Marianna and her "companion" still asleep across the room. As they set about to pulling on their old, worn out leather armor and strapping on various crude weapons Kal did the same, pulling on her clothes, adjusting things as needed, and making sure nothing had fallen out of her many pockets as she moved her clothes around. Once everything was in place, including the old, and very valuable she had been told, daggers Ol' Pointy Ears had given her she pulled on her cloak and drew her hood up to hide her face. It was true that the outlaws here believed her to be their saviour, but she could see the fear in their eyes just the same as they gazed upon her scaled lavender skin, fear that she may at any time lose control of her draconic tendencies and slaughter them all without a second thought. Heading out of the tent she gave her mother another parting glance, sighing under her breath to see her in that condition even now.
Once outside among the rest of the camp she headed toward the central camp fire, as she did every morning, to get her share of the meal the hunters had brought in the night before. This morning it seemed it was to be fire roasted venison, one of her favorite meals. Grabbing on of the clay plates from the stack by the fire and found herself one of the supposedly "undercooked" pieces and set to eating it. Her practice of eating the rare cuts of meat only made the others in the camp that much more nervous, but for some reason those parts always seemed better to her, like more of the flavor was sealed in by the lack of cooking than what the cooking did to it. Out of the corner of her eyes she spotted Koridel heading her way, not even waiting for her to finish her meal it seemed. She muttered something under her breath about how the old pointy eared geezer needed to give her a moment of peace for once, only to have him already be at her side, scolding her even this early with a, "I heard that young lady!" He may have been old, but his hearing was still as sharp as ever it seemed. She finished her meal before even bothering to acknowledge him at all, finally glancing at him she replied, "Can I help you today Master Elf?" The 'master elf' comment was more sarcasm than respect, and he knew it, but chose to let it go today as there were more important matters at hand. "Young lady, we will address this issue with disrespect later, but first I need you to head into Gleech again, we're running low on essential items, and you're the only one here that can go into the city without raising suspicions." He handed her a list of items, ranging from useful things like salt and even trivial things like ink, and said, "We need as much of this as possible, you have money from the last time still, so take care of this, and be careful. We can't let anyone know that you are shopping for us, so only look at the list when no one is looking, and make sure you are not followed!" Kal snatched the list from the old Elf with her clawed hand and snapped back, "Have I been followed yet? You need to stop treating me like I don't know what I'm doing. I am not the helpless child I was when mother and I first came to you!" She didn't even wait for a response from him before heading back to her tent to get her pack, disgusted by the scene she walked in on, it seemed mother and her "friend" had woke up finally but were not quite out of bed just yet. She quickly grabbed her pack and bolted back out the tent, not even waiting to listen to what her mother had to say to her.
Before anything else could rub her the wrong way she headed eastward out of the forest and toward the city, eager to get away from the drudgery of the camp, from bossy elves, and, as much as she hated the thought, her whore mother...
Posted on 2010-04-20 at 16:09:26.
Edited on 2010-04-20 at 17:27:34 by Shield Wolf
It had spent its life developing the powers of its alien intellect. For a hundred and fiftey years the mind flayer, which had no intelligible name outside of the collective, had refined its telapathic powers. From the control of small minds to those of lowly human and elves all the way to the resistant Duegar; no mind had ever resisted his assault and none up until now had ever dared assault his own.
It felt the probe of power before it knew the source and in an instant walls of psionic armor snapped into place, an impenetrable shield or so it thought... Thought, that was the core of their power, that gray crinkled brain matter that they so loved to feed on, but this attack did not travel the usual high telepathic channels. No it came from below, from thhe deep, from emotions and feelings the mind flayer had forgotten it had. The strange magic percolated up through the creatures still human brain stem washing its consciousness with waves of memory from its hosts life, a life it destroyed. He felt the lash of a drow matriarch's whip, heard the clatter of gold as he was sold from one hell into another, then finally he felt the crawling tentacles overtop his skull followed inevitably by the crunching pain of a beak opening a passage to his brain. The next he couldn't feel, but somehow he could see, the slimy larvae slipping into the hole to devour his mind and annihilate his will.
The illithid fell to its knees clutching at its skull. Its psychic barriers dissolved and scattered to the ethereal winds, as useless as tissue paper against the magic of the Fae.
7 watched from under his shelter as one of his masters bent holding his skull. He looked not unlike any of the workmen during a round of disciplining. Unfortunately irony was not something a thrall could generally appreciate. Instead, 7 only felt fear, fear of the unknown. The masters did not feel pain, the masters were unafraid. Wrong, everything was wrong, he thought..., where is the Voice. Then he heard it, a light thud followed by a heavier one. Then silence, silence unlike the thrall could remember. He peeked out to see the head of the eldest master staring up at him with dead, glossy eyes. Its liberated body lay not to far away. Seeing its black blood, knowing the meaning of the silence, 7 could only run. He had to return to the others, not to warn them, but to restore the voice. His mind felt like a drafty abandoned house, a house of death, full of haunting shadows. At some level he knew that if he didn't fill it madness would be the end. So he bolted for the light away from whatever monsters they had awoken in the temple.
The constable adjusted his spiked hat, but everytime he hammered a nail into the post it slipped down over his eyes once more. After a few frustrating minutes, however, his work was finished and he stepped back to take a look at the poster. At the center was a human's snarling face. Above in red it stated, Menace in the West. Rebel Humans sighted, then below, all traffic merchant and otherwise strictly forbidden.
The post which held the sign was one of the dock's four corner supports, holding a rickety platform fiftey dizzing feat above the monstrous masses. Descending from on high was one of the dock's frequent visitors, a goblin dirigible. The craft chugged along leaving an acrid mixture of smoke and steam behind it. When the constaple noticed the ship blocking out the sun he trotted briskly toward the foredock.
Pompously flashing his badge of office at several creatures which, several centuries ago, would have eaten him without an afterthought, the goblin wormed his way through the tight crowd. He reached the end of the quay just as the boathands were rigging the airship's lines. A cloud of pollution from the thing's rattling engine stung the goblin's eyes. After rubbing his eyes clean, Zirt flashed his badge once more at the captain. "Where's this boat headed?"
"Next run's to Snarg." Zirt looked back through the crowd of fur, teeth and claws. A gnoll licked its chopps in his general direction, 'figures, Snarg is a Bloodmoon city.'
The little goblin stoked up his courage for what he was about to say. "Sorry then, all travel west has been restricted by order of the mayor." The crowd behind him got quiet and Zirt suddenly felt as exposed as a caribou calf on the Blooddmoor under the full moon.
"Why no fly?!" a nearby Troll expressed the question on all their limited brains.
"..Well, uh, the guard has reason to believe that rebel humans are operating out of the area."
The crowd all burst out laughing. A few of the goblin airmen snickered as well. One nearly lost his wrench with which he'd been tightening the craft's many loose bolts. A lycanthrope, proudly wearing his wolfish features joked, "good, I always get hungry halfway." The words brought another round of laughter.
"But these humans are different, our informants tell us they know some magic." The feral monsters quieted at this. Monsters of the Bloodmoon had never excelled at magic and living close to the demonic realms of the Nine Crowns had engendered in them a healthy fear of it. None the less, a gnoll shaman, the leader of a small group of hyena men remained skeptical.
"Then your sources are wrong, green-skin," he laughed, "the human spirit lacks the spark of understanding necessary to learn magic. All they can do is mimic the spells of other races."
"Never the less, the law is the law. If any of you have a problem with it, you can take it up with the mayor." Zirt could tell by the looks of the faces in the crowd that none would and suddenly he was glad he'd voted for the dragon and not that much less frightening Minotaur.
"Hey, Kal," an excited voice skipped up along the trail. The half dragon turned one iridescent eye to spot the all to familiar sight of Terral, huffing to catch up. When he reached her he was already out of breath. In addition to being quite a runt, the boy had a far from hardy constitution. Before befriending Kal, he'd been the focus of the village's bullies and ever since she'd defended him the brat had been stuck to her as surely as pine sap. "I... heard... you.. were goin' to.. Gleech," he panted and followed his words with a pleading smile, "can I come, I so want to see a real air ship." Although Terral was a student of magic along with Kal, he'd showed little mastery of anything apart from the simplest cantrips. He was far more interested in goblin machines. He got it from his father, one could only guess; the man earned his keep in the village by repairing scavenged goblin muskets. "Please, Kal, I promise I'll be good, I'll act just like a slave the whole time... I mean isn't it more convincing if you have a slave, aren't dragons all rich anyway?"
Posted on 2010-04-26 at 01:47:08.
Edited on 2010-04-26 at 01:48:48 by madscirat
Ancient fey magic spun into the illithid's mind and Seluraiiel watched as the creature fell to the floor clutching its skull in pain. Its paltry psychic shield had done little to keep her magic at bay and now she held its mind wholly and completely. Without batting an eye Seluraiiel tightened her charm breaking to pieces any semblance of the illithid's mind until all that remained was her will and the faded memory of the human being the creature once had been. Once she released it from the spell an empty husk would be all that remained and without its essence the body would soon expire. The faery rarely used such potent enchantments, but to allow even a small piece of the illithid's mind to remain intact might well prove to be a mistake. Mind flayers were an insidious lot and left with even the tiniest bit of itself the creature might one day find a way free of her enchantment and that would certainly be most inconvenient. Complete annihilation of mind flayer's being was the only prudent course. Still it was a pity that she had to destroy the creature's mind before learning what she could from its memories.
A flash of movement caught Seluraiiel's eye and the faery shot her gaze in its direction to see a human man running toward the temple exit. She did not hesitate. In an instant her had raised upward, her fingers snapped and the running man was frozen still in mid stride. He would retain his will, his thoughts would be his and he would be aware of all that happened around him, but the part of his mind that commanded his body was frozen still. The man had made no threatening action but she could not allow him to run free, not yet anyway. Being held still might be a terrifying experience for him but in the end he would leave the experience relatively unharmed.
Secure in the knowledge that both the illithid and human would offer no threat the faery scanned the room to see how Gortag fared. Her amber eyes found Slayer standing above the beheaded corpse of the other mind flayer. With both creatures neutralized Seluraiiel's mind began to race. The last of the illithids had been killed many years before she even set foot in the Temple of Eternal Light. How had they come to be here now?
Soon after evil had been vanquished from the world the Sight had sent her visions of a world consumed by darkness. It had been those visions that brought the faery to the temple in the first place. Had the terrible prophecy come to pass? Seluraiiel shook her head and sighed. The magic of the temple had frozen she and the other heroes out of time until the moment they would be needed most. In a world swallowed by darkness, a world without hope that moment of need had come. Yet what hope could they offer? Of all the great heroes only two remained, the severity of that truth washed over her and Seluraiiel felt a pang of sorrow at the loss of the others. Sorrow passed and the cold reason of one who had lived long took over. It was what it was and there was little to do but move forward. They were here now and they needed knowledge, the knowledge what now was and the knowledge of just what catalyst had awakened them.
Seluraiiel spared a glance for both mind flayers. There was so much she might have learned of this new time from their minds, but what was lost was lost and regret would not serve her now. She would find other avenues to knowledge and once she learned what she needed the darkness would tremble once again before Seluraiiel Asrai the faery.
Her eyes fell on the immobilized human again and she pressed a finger to her lips. Before anything else could be done they had to figure out just what to do about him. He was probably a thrall and it was unlikely the illithids had left him with any semblance of a mind, but on the slight chance a man still inhabited that body he might well prove useful. A slight smile broke across her lips as she glided across the room to stand beside Slayer.
"A beheading?" Seluraiiel began in a cool silvery voice, "Gortag I would have thought one such as you would have found a much more creative end for the vile thing. Perhaps splitting it in two... groin first."
The twinkle in her eyes and smirk on her face told of the good natured jest in her words. That mirth faded quickly as she turned her attention to the human.
"The two illithids have been dealt with but one question remains. What to do about him?" the faery punctuated her words with a gesture towards the unmoving man.
"Hey, Kal," an annoyingly familiar voice came calling out to her, "I... heard... you.. were goin' to.. Gleech," he panted and followed his words with a pleading smile, "Can I come, I so want to see a real airship." Kal rolled her eyes at this, the boy's fascination with Goblin technology was a dangerous one that was sure to get him, and her by association, into more trouble than the gadgets were worth. Before she could even voice her protests at his tagging along he continued, "Please, Kal, I promise I'll be good, I'll act just like a slave the whole time... I mean isn't it more convincing if you have a slave, aren't dragons all rich anyway?" Again she rolled her eyes at the boy's naive view of the world around him and decided to have some fun, "No Terral, dragons eat little humans, not keep them as slaves. The monsters would all expect me to constantly be taking bites out of you like a walking whimpering snack!" To add a second punch to this she snapped her sharp teeth at him to remind him just how sharp they were, "Besides, you look a little too healthy to be a slave, and you aren't missing a hand or anything, not even a finger." She could see the worry start to rise up in the boys face and she smiled, again flashing her mouth full of razor sharp teeth. "Besides, won't Ol' Pointy Ears be looking for you, I'm sure he's got a long boring solo lecture planned for you." In the background she almost thought she heard a call from the direction of the camp yelling, "I heard that!"
Posted on 2010-04-27 at 02:30:42.
Edited on 2010-04-27 at 15:11:56 by Shield Wolf
Vodokon didn't know why he had purchased box seats this year. Last year's arena was positively droll, and this year wasn't turning out to be much better. The slaves and prisoners forced to fight were never trained, so the stronger one usually won. Whenever there was a wild animal it generally had a good meal, but the entertainment value was gone unless of course you were here to see the gore of live feeding. Vodokon had seen enough gore to last several lifetimes, and yawned as the crowd cheered.
His client was entertained though. Perhaps that is why he kept this seat, to entertain clients. This one was quite charming, although he wouldn't dare look upon her face. The Medusa was wearing a very revealing green dress, one that showed off her stunning neck. But, as with all medusas her face was covered by a veil, which during exciting parts of the bouts shock and writhed as the snakes on her head made their presence known.
He had taken her case as a point of interest. Not only was the interpretation of her parents' will difficult, but as with most of his clients, the payment would be most gratifying. He'd had medusa blood once in the past, and while the poisons therein would most likely kill any living being, he didn't have that pesky little heart beat to worry about.
The night was cold for this time of year, and the goose bumps that crept up on his client's skin was far more entertaining than the bloodsport below.
Drums sounded as the next bout would begin soon. It was difficult to hear the announcer over the murmuring of the crowd, but the goblins manning the spot lights focused in on him made sure he could be seen.
He was yelling some sort of public service announcement about something to the west. Then with a flurry, a dwarf and an orc were pushed out into the arena. The orc must have committed some crime, pity he didn't have a better lawyer, Vodokon mused. But as the law suggested, the orc could have chosen a jail sentence or the arena. A smart orc this one was, he'd probably live longer in the arena. The syndicates that ran the prisons from the inside could be hell on earth for those inside. Vodokon would know, he's represented two of the mob bosses that resided therein.
As predicted the orc won a short while later. The dwarf was a little scrap of a thing, poorly fed, no training, and spent most of the match running away from the orc. A waste to be sure. No civilized person would want to eat it now, perfectly good meat thrown to the wargs.
"Did you enjoy yourself?" He asked her as they were leaving the arena.
She was young, just come of age to receive her inheritance. Her aunt, who had been her guardian up until this point, was trying to claim legal possession of the riches passed down through her family. She'd never been to the arena before.
"Oh...," he'd broken her out of a deep thought, "Yes, very." She was very new to this world, especially compared to one such as he. And her excitement at being out among the throngs of people was seeping out of her in the way she kept looking around excitedly. His imagination took hold of him as he looked at her. In his eyes he could see her in the distant future. In a way he could tell by looking what she would look like when she was old. Where wrinkles would appear, and where skin would sag. It was something he did sometimes.
"I'm glad you liked it." He faked a smile when he said so, truthfully he was bored with her. Her youthful energy had grown tiresome. She had babbled on through diner, and he was ready to take her back to wherever it was she called home.
"STOP!!" The shout came from behind them. They paused to look at what the commotion was all about.
The hobgoblin officer and two guards wielding spears were hustling up towards Vodokon and his client.
"You, human, what are you doing out of chains?" The officer was not, of course, addressing the Lord of Ndaxur himself, but what the officer perceived to be his medusa master.
Vodokon didn't really look all that human anymore. At least he didn't think so. His posture was straight; he was of a well fed body type, though not a pig in his consumption; his dark hair was well groomed; and his clothes were rich. He was more pale then the humans that spent all day toiling in the sun, and his hands were smooth as one who hadn't lifted a finger for himself in several lifetimes. But, on occasion, some insolent whelp would see something out of the corner of their eye and think the world had gone mad and let a slave wear clothes such as he.
"By mandate 642 of His Lordship Mayor Scynarian of Gleech, all slav-" the hobgoblin was stopped mid word as Vodokon moved back his cape to show the jeweled hilt of his finely crafted rapier. The officer's next response was not the brightest one, as he drew his own short sword and put in very close to Vodokon's face.
Now, Vodokon was an expert with his blade, and very quick on the draw. If he had so chosen, the hobgoblin would have been dead on his feet as soon as his fingers touched the hilt of the short sword. As there was a crowd assembling the vampire thought of a different method of quelling his foe.
"Removed your blade from my presence," his words were almost a whisper, but the power they conveyed against those weak of mind was like an explosion in the hobgoblin's brain.
The officer was so quick to react that he lost his grip on the hilt and his sword went clattering across the cobblestone courtyard. The two guards behind him were much smarter apparently, and once they knew what was happening moved their spears to a less threatening position.
The officer was cowed, but helpless under the vampire's gaze.
"Now, after you've apologized to the lady and myself, for the next seventy two hours you will be... a chicken. You will feed as a chicken, you will walk as a chicken, you will speak as a chicken, and if you called, you will mate as a chicken, am I clear?"
The officer could only nod at first, but then stammered, "I'm dreadfully sorry m'lord, m'lady, if I'd only buc, buc buc buc bugahh!!" The assembled audience roared in laughter at the misfortune of the hobgoblin officer.
"I think that's quite enough excitement for one evening," Vodokon said as he turned to his client. "Shall we call the carriage?"
Posted on 2010-04-28 at 19:27:09.
Edited on 2010-04-29 at 17:00:04 by crowe
"Besides, won't Ol' Pointy Ears be looking for you, I'm sure he's got a long boring solo lecture planned for you."
Terral looked back toward the village he knew lay concealed behind the shadow of the trees. "I'm sure he does, but Kal, the last time I tried a spell it took a week for me to grow my eyebrows back." He pinched and pulled at the rather longish tufts over his eyes, "and they grew back sorta weird... I don't want to do any more magic, I'm afraid if I do I'll wind up turning myself into a frog, or something worse. Plus I don't wanna learn about magic I want to know how steam engines work and what makes the goblins' blimps float. Pleeeaaase let me come. It'll be my only chance for a month."
Beneath the Gleech city arena in a hive like catacomb of cages and tunnels, Arena Master Borrik waited impatiently. He had once been Arena Champion Borrick and he had the wounds to prove it. The ogres still hulking body was a story of brutal battles etched in scar tissue. A mangled bite on his leg from when he'd fought a pack of wild-men. Lacerations on his back to remind him of his hour long match against a wily displacer beast and of course the missing arm compliments of a beholder's disintegration ray.
Borrik rattled the iron chain which descended from the stump at his left shoulder. The spiked ball which had crushed more skulls in the arena than any ogre could count rolled about on the sandy floor. Gladiators and crewmen who knew the signs of his impending rage steered a wide arc around the old but still dangerous giant. Finally his anger found a suitable target, "Glib, get yur pimpled hide over hear!"
A tiny goblin hustled into the ogre's shadow, "Yes, Arena Master, sir." Glib's job was the tallying of combatants, a less than easy task when consistent death rates meant a constantly varying figure.
"Where are my elves, Glib?"
"Ah yes, that," the goblin shifted, "well you know how hard elven slaves are to come by these days. Most of them are owned by the brothels and you know they won't give up such prized flesh for the Arena.. We finally did find a breeder in Snarg, but you see sir, a mandate has come down from the mayor, that all merchant traffic west of the city is to be suspended so there's really nothing..."
"Are you telling me we have no elves, for the Battle of the Crimson Dawn Reenactment!?"
"Ahh, yes sir I'm afraid that's..." the goblin's eyes couldn't help but trace the iron chain down to the spiked ball bigger in circumfrance than his head. "... true, but we can just do some quick surgery on the human's ears and blamo instant el..."
The ogre's fist wrapped about the goblin's waist and choked off every one of the little creature's internal organs. "You idiot, you actually think they'll fall for that again?!"
"Prosthetic ears, maybe," the goblin squeaked. The squeak became a squeal as he was thrown into the nearest pillar. The impact was such that on the floor of the arena above it probably raised a cloud of dust.
Borrik then addressed the crumpled green hulk at the base of the column. "Find me elves by next Zlin, Glib, or I'll have a wizard spell you to look like one, and then you'll get to learn a bit about our history firsthand."
Posted on 2010-04-29 at 01:21:57.
Edited on 2010-04-29 at 01:24:10 by madscirat