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  #76  
Unread 9th of October, 2008, 09:57
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The chill of the night air begins to settle into Isac’s joints as they trudge onward towards Tradehome. He had fallen far behind Shade at first, but as the miles stretched on he had gained on her until now they were walking side by side.

“When we get to Tradehome I need to pick up some supplies,” he says quietly. “Some of which are…difficult to come by.”

“Like?”

"Grey jubai root.” Isac can hear her teeth grinding as her jaw muscles flex in frustration. Not that he can blame her. The root, a notorious poison, is banned in every northern kingdom under pain of death, which, in a city like Tradehome, simply makes it expensive.

“If we can get everything by the time the moon crosses into the fifth house, I should be able to weaken the curse," he says hoping that he sounded more confident than he felt. They trudge on for almost an hour in silence, both of them too tired to talk. Cresting a small hill the party sees the gray towers of Tradehome awash in the rosy rays of the setting sun.

"We need a plan."
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Unread 11th of October, 2008, 00:55
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"Yes, we do."

Her face is grey in the night as she studies the priest before her. Shade looks grim now, rather than tired or worn, with vestiges of her earlier anger still remaining.

"I'm wanted by both major thieves' guilds in the city. Assuming you have the money, I might be able to put you in touch with someone. Can you make a deal with their kind?"
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Unread 11th of October, 2008, 01:20
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"You mean dream root?" Blarth asks, not entirely familiar with the plant's more civilized name, but intimately familiar with its narcotic properties. "Any temple of Gruumsh should have a supply on hand for dream walks. Had you said something back in Enderin, I could have gotten some from the Half-Sight there. Still, Tradeholm is bound to have a Half-Sight of its own, it is simply a matter of finding him."
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Unread 11th of October, 2008, 15:15
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"That shouldn't be too hard," Nicos ventured. "In a city, someone is always watching you, even if you're hiding and they don't know what they're seeing. It's just a matter of asking the right questions to the right people."
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Unread 28th of October, 2008, 03:51
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Shade nods, expressionless, needing their help far too much to argue.

"Do it then. I'll take Isac with me to Ricard's."

They had to find something there. If they didn't . . . her jaws flex. She allows herself to feel the relief that Isac was going with her. Her hard eyes look at Arjuna.

"You should wait here."

Just that, no explanation, no discussion. She wasn't the only one the guild was after.
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Unread 24th of November, 2008, 07:42
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Hiding in the recessed shadows of a doorway, Isac waits for Shade to signal for him. Like fog rolling over grass, the darkly clad woman had moved into the guildhouse, the silver eyed Arjuna just behind. He doesn’t know what sort of power Arjuna wields, whether it is sorcery or somehow powered by the divine, but he, for one, is happy for her obstinance. Deep inside he thinks that Shade is thankful too.

From the door across the street he can make out Shade gesturing, the golden adamantine blade of her short sword glinting warmly in the pale moonlight. After a quick glance for any other guards, the thin priest dashes across the street and into Ricard’s old demesne, Shade silently closing the door behind him. Juni stood at the end of the short foyer, a slim torch in her hand. Even by its sputtering light Isac can tell she is distraught. Glancing about the room he catches sight of a wide bloody swath that sweps across the floor and ends at the door of the adjoining coatroom.

He can only imagine what it would be like to witness Shade practicing her craft firsthand. Judging by the fine flecks of crimson on Juni’s face and skirt it had to have been swift and brutal.

“Are you…” is all he manages to get out before Shade clamps a cold hand across his mouth. Right…sneaky, he chastises himself. There’s a reason he was left behind until now.
  #82  
Unread 3rd of December, 2008, 01:09
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Shade slowly eases her hand away, senses sharp as her blades in this, the home of her former mentor, lover, betrayer. The thug she had slain wasn't hired help - he was guild, through and through. They had an interest here, to protect their own property at the very least. Likely they hadn't decided yet what was to become of it; nobody would be moving in, with Ricard's ghost still lingering, and who knew what traps unsprung. She hoped they weren't waiting around for her to be stupid enough to show up here.

They had no reason to expect her, not with the way she had fled town. Ricard and Skathros both dead, the Night Eyes might well be in turmoil. None of the lieutenants left were tough enough or charismatic enough to seize power without a struggle. So far what she saw fit - one lone guard here . . . maybe another outside, if they were being cautious.

All this goes through her mind as her eyes scan the room, conscious of Isac's gaze on her, of Arjuna's still shocked expression. It galled her once more how easily the killing came. A life was a life, but she knew his kind well enough to know that he'd have done the same to her, with even less reason and certainly with less thought. Death, it seemed, was a very necessary part of her life. With a curt gesture she signals Arjuna closer.

"Let me lead," she whispers so softly even her companions can barely hear, "and don't stray."

She slinks off through the kitchen and up the servant's stairwell to the second floor, avoiding the more obvious path. She knew the guild, knew which route the thieves themselves would use moving about a guarded house. At the top, she pauses, hand raised, listening intently. Had there been a sound? She waits, neck a-shiver, for long moments but there is nothing.

Instead of relaxing, she grows even more intense. It was almost as if she could feel Ricard's shade watching them, and the sting of that judgmental gaze set her on edge. The bedroom or the study - his secret cache would surely be in one of those two places. The feeling of being watched doesn't leave as she pads silently down the corridor and into the bedroom. She pauses again in the threshold, listening, before entering and quickly setting to work covering the window with a blanket from the bed, so that no light might show through the cracks. She produces a tiny lamp from beneath her cloak and carefully sparks it alight. The light it produced was steady and clear but it only illuminated a small area.

"Now, be alert. If there is something here, it might be trapped. Or perhaps the guard was to signal at some point. If you hear anything it means trouble."
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Unread 9th of December, 2008, 07:21
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Ten drachms of dream root; ten whole drachms! The amount had boggled Blarth's mind when Isac had first told him how much dream root he needed. While the amount of dream root required for a dream walk varied from orc to orc and their individual level of devotion, he had never heard of a single dream walk requiring more than a scruple. Even for the most devout Half-Sight would have trouble going through that much dream root in a whole year.

Still, dream root was prohibited by human laws, and so any temple to Gruumsh in Tradeholm was likely to stock pile dream root, buying whole plants when they were available, and thus would likely have enough. By the same token, however, they would likely husband their supply very carefully. Convincing the temple to part with such a significant supply would be very difficult.

First, though, they had to find a temple, or at least the dwelling of the local Half-Sight that passed for one. In Enderin it had taken Blarth weeks to even find out that there was a Half-Sight there. In Tradeholm, they did not have the luxury of that much time.

At least no one is staring at me in this tavern. Blarth thinks as he nurses an ale, waiting for Nicos to finish making inquiries. It was the third such tavern they had visited that night, and in each they had found nothing. Worse than nothing, really, for much to Blarth's surprise there hadn't been a single individual with orcish heritage in any of the establishments tonight, a picture that ran much counter to what he had experienced here just two months ago. It was as if the entire orcish population of Tradeholm had just left.
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  #84  
Unread 10th of December, 2008, 08:00
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The air in Ricard's bedroom feels cold to Juni. After all, no one is living here, so why bother to heat it? A dead man's house, Juni thinks, and shivers.

She tries to concentrate on doing what she came here to do, which is to warn Shade of trouble before she walks into it. So far she has done little to prove her usefulness. She hadn't sensed the presence of the guard on duty until a split second before Shade was aware of him and leapt into action, twin blades flashing. The sudden coppery smell of blood had sickened Juni. Had Shade noticed her revulsion?

Juni marvels - the woman was all business. Even now as she watches her rifle through Ricard's belongings, Juni can detect no trace of what Shade might be thinking or feeling. Juni knows that Shade had worked for Ricard and that she had been the one who killed him. She also suspects that there was something more between the two, but Shade had always resisted her efforts to get the whole story.

So what if she IS business-like now? Juni thinks. Her life - no, her soul - is at stake.

Will you please pay attention? I can't do this all by myself, you know.

Juni holds a torch in one hand and her psi crystal in the palm of the other. It is still occasionally disconcerting to have an alien voice intruding on her thoughts, but since she has learned to make use of the thing she has found that certain of her powers come more easily. Especially when she needs to concentrate.

What else can she do here though? She is actively trying to sense approaching enemies. If any other guards show up, she will know. What more?

Precog.

What?

Use your precognitive sense.

Oh.


Of course. Shade is worried about traps. With precognition, Juni may be able to "see" what happens before it happens, and prevent a potential trap from being sprung.

Using the sense is disorienting though. Depending on how far into the future she attempts to see - and she must try to look forward far enough or there is no point - she can find herself at the center of a blur of conflicting images.

I'll help you sort them all out.

All right.


It helps to close her eyes. The psi crystal can still "see" the room for her, but the simple act of closing her eyes just seems to make it easier for her to turn the sense on.

The room seems suddenly to be swirling with faint, ghost-like figures. Juni knows that she is only seeing multiple images of herself and her companions as they move about the room, five seconds, ten seconds, thirty seconds in the future.

Reach even further.

Juni does. It is surprisingly easy. She doesn't realize that she is holding so still that she barely seems to be breathing. The pale images seem to race around madly, but her focus allows her to understand everything that she sees. When one figure leaves the room, she feels compelled to follow.

A ghost-image of Shade leads her into a room down the hall. Juni almost seems like a ghost herself as she floats along behind, eyes closed, countenance blank and drained of color. The room must be Ricard's study. Shelves of books line three of the walls, and a desk and leather arm chair take up the length of the fourth. On the wall behind the desk hangs a family or personal crest - a ruby-red heart with a dagger thrust through it. Juni stops in front of the crest and opens her eyes with a start.

This is important.
  #85  
Unread 10th of December, 2008, 21:43
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The sounds and smells of the night tavern market washed over Nicos, and not without some sense of irony he wondered whether it was seedy enough. Blarth and Lyn were split off in the crowd, both with instructions to remain quiet and stop anyone from stabbing him in the back. The bard wasn't really worried about ending up with a knife in one of his kidneys, but it had seemed better then telling them that he wanted them out from underfoot while he worked.

There were two ways he could think of to find what they were after. The first was through the fact that they were after an illegal drug, which meant the local criminal organisations. Considering their current situation that didn't seem too appealing. The second was just a step less likely to end badly. Temples tended to keep track of each other, while not every temple knew about every other one in a populated area, you could generally follow a trail from temple to temple until you found what you were after.

Which is what brought him to the tavern. It was no secret that a cleric of Ga'bond purveyed his divine work in this public place. The followers of Ga'bond forwent formal - and easy to find as it turned out - temples in favour of performing their services out amongst the people.

Scanning the crowd, the bard made eye contact with Lyn, who in turn flicked her gaze towards a corner of the room. Following the path, Nicos found himself matching gazes with a small man sitting at a table. Old without being ancient, the man was dressed in a series of faded red robes with thinning hair held together in clumps with what appeared to be mud. Most striking of all was the eyes in the centre of the lined face, pale grey almost to the point of being white, they cut through the crowd with an intense hunger, like the eyes of a predatory surveying his next meal. Arranging a careful smile upon his face, Nicos made his way over and pulled out a chair.

"You come seeking," the small man said, leaning forward over an almost untouched flagon of ale.

"Well done," the bard replied laconically. "Though considering you're a servant of the god of The Hunt, I'm guessing most people who come here are seeking something."

"Perhaps," the red robed man conceded.

"Now if you could tell me what I was looking for," Nicos continued in bantering tone. "I might be impressed. I'd clap and everything - which isn't that easy for me."

"Oh I know what you seek," the man said, jutting a red stained finger across the table. "The question is, do you?"

"I do," confessed the bard. "But it's just so difficult to get a codpiece with the exact number of rubies."

"You weave an amusing cloud, but the only sight it binds is your own. Let it go or you will walk, ignorant and foolish, past your goal."

"I didn't realise Ga'bond was also the god of riddles," Nicos snapped in sudden irritation.

"No riddles," the small man said with a half smile. "Just secrets."

"Then tell me a secret old man," Nicos responded, leaning back across the table.

"She is waiting for you Nicos," the servant of Ga'bond said, holding out a piece of parchment he had fished from within his jacket. "But for you to Find you must first seek, to Seek you must first see, to See you must have light and deception only creates shadows."

Glancing at the scrap of paper, Nicos stood without a word and made his way from the tavern, gesturing for his companions to follow. When they caught up, he showed them the set of directions written on the parchment.

"Found it."
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  #86  
Unread 12th of December, 2008, 02:07
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"Found what?" Blarth asks, looking at the chicken scratch on the paper in confusion.
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Unread 17th of December, 2008, 13:19
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"Where we can find a servent of Gruumsh," Nicos said, indiciating vaguly down the street. "When we get there, it might be better if you take charge. I'd be a little out of my element."
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Unread 8th of February, 2009, 03:59
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Shade searches methodically, taking nothing for granted and doing her best to take no chances. Her senses, already sharpened by adrenaline, are now honed to a razor edge with fear. This was the home of her mentor, a man who had nearly killed her, a man who had taught her much of what she knew about the craft. What made her think she'd be his match?

Time passes and she feels every second tick by, wondering at each moment if they'll be discovered, convinced she'll trip a hidden device and end up dead or crippled. Completely engrossed, she almost forgets about Juni and Isac. Movement from her peripheral vision brings around in time to see Arjuna heading for the door, a faraway look in her eyes. Isac is busy glancing at the spines of the books on a shelf near the bed.

She whispers urgently for her to halt; Isac's head snaps up but the other woman pays her no heed. Cursing under her breath, she follows, gesturing to Isac to do the same. They catch up to her in the study, where Arjuna is staring intently at the wall behind Ricard's desk, where a bas-relief of a self-made man's self-made crest stands out grandly.

The inner wall is constructed of stone block and the crest covers an area more or less six feet square, effectively dominating the decor. Ricard had been immensely proud of abilities and his rise to power. He equated this personal crest with that power, a symbol of his worth and strength. She knew well his vanity. She looks sharply at Juni.

"What are you doing?"
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Unread 9th of February, 2009, 01:20
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"Shhhh!" Juni hisses. She is trying to figure out what the future-Shades are doing and the now-Shade is nothing but a distraction. She focuses on one of the ghost images, the one that seems to be farthest in the future, as it carefully examines the crest on the wall.

"You think this is it!" she says after a moment, speaking excitedly to the real Shade but keeping her eyes on the crest. "You think this is where the journal is hidden! You're... using some kind of tool... right there where the dagger meets the heart. You say it should open up when you-" Juni's eyes widen suddenly. "Oh!"

She is silent for several tense moments, watching the ghost-scenes play out one after the other. They all end the same way.

"Everything you try... fails," she says, shaking her head. "The crest is trapped."
  #90  
Unread 14th of February, 2009, 09:46
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Standing before the building that supposedly houses the local Half-Sight, Blarth mulls over his options. What they needed would constitute a huge favor from the Half-Sight and making a good first impression would be critical to creating the mood necessary to gain that favor. But what was the right impression? Should he approach this as he would amongst his own people, battering down the door without so much as a warning? The Half-Sight would surely recognize the gesture and know what it meant, but his human neighbors surely wouldn't and the resultant attention of the guards might work counter to gaining the dream root. On the other hand, knocking as a human would would show weakness and make him seem unworthy of the favor he was going to ask.

His head hurting from trying to work out the implications, Blarth turns to Nicos for advice.

"Is there a way that I can knock down the door without the guards becoming involved?"
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Unread 15th of February, 2009, 09:53
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"Uh," Nicos stumbled at Blarth's unexpected to request. "Keep the guards away from a fight?"

Running his fingers along his chin in an attempt to buy himself more time, the bard's mind rushed from idea to idea, winnowing through them for something with the best chance of working. Magic, a distraction, or even perhaps something straight forward.

"I guess I could bribe them," he ventured. "It's a little simple, but seems likely to work. If I tell them that there is going to be a fight here and give them a little gold, they would be more then willing to turn up a few hours late. Especially if I can find some that have dim views of orcs living in their neighbourhood.

"But is picking a fight with a servant of Gruumsh really the best way to get what we need?"
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Unread 16th of February, 2009, 12:34
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“What do you mean everything I try fails?” Shade asks, her lips pale and taught.

“It’s trapped and...”

“Obviously it’s trapped.”

“…it’s trapped,” Juni continues evenly, “and everything you try to do to bypass said traps ends with you dying.”

Shade takes a half step back, her eyes narrowing as she glares at the pale haired seer. Isac can tell by her body language that she isn’t quite sure what to make of Juni’s apparent gift. He doesn’t either. But whatever the source of her strange wyrd, it led them well enough around the guild guards.

“Maybe she’s right Shade,” the thin priest whispers. “We could…”

“No trap is impossible,” Shade’s gray eyes cut the rest of the sentence out of his mouth. Her pride had been piqued, and with her goal being so close he knows that there will be no stopping her.

“Take me through what you saw.”

“I saw you die.”

“The traps, Arjuna. Take me through what traps you saw.”

While Shade interrogates Juni, Isac found his eyes wandering the shelves of books that covered almost every space of Ricard’s study. The Pelorian had never met the man, but there is a sense of him that is preserved in the books he read. Five translations of the Beneth Sacur, three of Philoneous’s Tractatus. Philosophy, political theory, economics, history, religion and art - the brick and mortar of a self made man. And price seems to not have been an obstacle. The ancient eleven translation of the Tractatus itself is worth…

“That’s odd,” he mutters absently.

“What?” Shade spins in a blur, her blades bared. Isac curses himself for speaking out loud.

“It’s nothing, just a mislabeled book.” He begins to fidget as Shade’s razor like gaze cuts into him.

“Ricard didn’t make mistakes.” She says flatly, as her blades slide with a whisper into their sheathes.

“Well…um…” he glances from Shade to the shelf and back again. “There are only two scrolls in the Three Scrolls of Skelos and…”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Shade interrupts.

“I know.”

“Why do they call it the three scrolls then?” Juni asks innocently.

“Well actually it’s a funny story, you see…”

“Does it matter?” Shade hisses hotly.

“Well, you did tell me to look for anything out of the ordinary,” Isac says as he offers a weak smile to the seething rogue.

“Show me,” she says slowly through her teeth.

“But you told me not to touch anything,” he starts defensively.

“POINT TO IT.” Shade’s voice never rises above a whisper, but her words redden the priest’s cheeks as if he had been slapped. Meekly he takes a step and complies. Shade glides to the shelf, several strange tools appearing in her hands and squats down. She examines the area around the book for several minutes before glancing at the once again silver eyed Juni. The seer gives her a silent nod and Shade begins to slide the various pieces of bent metal into the shelf’s recesses. At length the raven-haired beauty slides the book into her hand.

With another quick nod from Juni she anxiously opens it. Flinty eyes dart across the page and her brow begins to furrow. She flips through the pages slowly at first, then with a growing annoyance.

“Worthless,” she says with a low growl. Thrusting the book at Isac, she then stalks back to the crest.

Glancing down, his eyes skim over rows of numbers in neat accounting tables.

“A secret ledger?” Juni asks softly as she peers over his shoulder. Isac shrugs dejectedly, his talent for accounting being only slightly better than his talent for thievery.

“Shade wait,” he calls as he relinquishes the book to Juni and follows after the rogue.

“Shade,” he says softly as he lays a hand on her shoulder. “Look I know…” the word trails off as the she pulls free of him, unconsciously rubbing her cursed hand.

“We’ll find it Shade, have faith.”

Shade snorts as she rolls her eyes.

“Maybe the ledger is valuable,” he continues nonplussed. “Maybe we can trade it for the information we need. Maybe…”

“Its not a ledger,” Juni’s voice makes both of them turn. A wide smile illuminates the willowy, silvery haired seer as she stands triumphantly in the doorway. Isac and Shade glance at each other then back at her, each waiting for the punch line.

“It’s a code!” she giggles, but her laugh dies in her throat as taloned hands of ephemeral shadow clamp around her neck and yank her bodily back through the door.

To Isac it is like the world froze at that instant. He can see the frail seer struggling to breathe, the milky skin of her face already crimson and blotchy. Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew that her struggling would be to no avail, for soon thing that throttled her would drain her strength far before it would take her life. Only the cleansing light of Pelor can touch it. Only he can save her.

Conviction floods his limbs as he pulls the heavy sunburst shaped holy symbol from under his shirt. Thick syrupy air fills his chest as he focuses his Will and opens a conduit to the divine.

Before he can even speak Shade’s adamantine blade blazes like the sun as she moves like quicksilver. She is scant feet away from the thrashing Arjuna when another shadow looms suddenly before her, a yard of dark, pitted steel in one hand, and a brutal poniard in the other. Like a black bolt of lighting the heavy blade whistles through the air in a wicked overhead stroke. Twin blades scissor up to intercept, and the golden adamantine alloy spits blue green sparks when they meet.

The blow jars through Shade like a siege engine, blowing through her guard as if it were made of chaff. Twisting sharply, she redirects the blade to the side while simultaneously rolling back and away from a disemboweling thrust from the poniard. Wood floorboards four fingers thick splinter like kindling beneath the pitted blade, spraying the tumbling rogue with rough splinters.

Several feet away from her shadowy assailant Shade can now make out his features more clearly. A frayed black cloak hangs like rotten cobwebs around the figure, revealing naught but the outline of a twisted human form and a glimpse of blackened leather armor. With slow deliberateness the cloaked man effortlessly pulls his blade free.

“Very good Shade,” the man’s voice rattles unwholesomely.

“Skathos?” the crouching rogue whispers as she inverts her left shortsword defensively. The bent figure gives a mocking salute and then begins a limping step before stopping suddenly and turning toward Isac. Flooded with divine energy, the thin priest’s body luminously fills the room with a light that seemed to pierce like daggers into Shade’s eyes.

“Pelor is the Light, and the Way,” the Pelorian’s words are only whispered, yet they resound like a peal of thunder, washing over Shade in a nauseating wave. Bloody tears roll down her cheek as the blazing sunburst in his hand burns into her brain, filling her with a fear that transcends her flesh and commands her very soul.

“Begone I command y…” With a gurgling cry the Light of Pelor suddenly leaves, plunging the room back into shadow. Blinking back her own sanguinous tears, Shade can make out Isac’s crumpled form, hot crimson angrily pumping from between his fingers. In the far wall Skathos’s poniard quivers, barely slowed as it nearly severed the priest’s head. Skathos raises his blade, his leather armor still smoking from Pelor’s kiss.

“Where were we?”

Last edited by -J-; 17th of February, 2009 at 04:16. Reason: one blade not two
  #93  
Unread 17th of February, 2009, 03:07
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"No, not a fight," Blarth replies. "It's orcish tradition to demand audiences of Gruumsh or his representatives, not request them. Requests are for the weak and are automatically denied. Demands are strong and might be fulfilled if the strength of the individual matches the size of the demand. If we want the dream root, we can't just knock on the door and ask for it. We have to barge in, breaking down the door in the process, and demand they give it to us."
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Unread 23rd of February, 2009, 08:11
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"That makes sense ... I guess," Nicos ventured. "So I'll go find some guards and spread some gold. Give me 15 to 20 minutes before you ... actually Lyn, stay here and give me 15 to 20 minutes before Blarth starts making noise."
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Unread 24th of February, 2009, 02:23
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Her stomach roiling at the revelation that this thing was Skathros, Shade slides back against his inexorable advance, giving ground while the more rational part of her mind works out a strategy. It is dark - too dark for a normal human to really see well - but she can make out his features clearly. Twisted, rotting flesh, suppurating some slickly dark substance - in places the putrid skin was peeling from his very bones. Gone was the cruelly dashing thief she had known - this was an inhuman monster. Bile rises as the too-white eyes track her with single minded determination.

His attack, too, differed from anything she had ever seen him use. His strength was enormous, and he plowed through her elaborate defenses like a bull through a briar patch. Yet she was used to that - a great many of her battles were against those with superior power. She relied on speed and skill, killing them before they even realized she had struck, or drawing them out and sliding steel into the inevitable opening. So it was now, too.

Skathros had known her, had known her speed and her skill. At first it worried her, but after another arm-numbing blow from that impossibly heavy sword he wielded, outright fear for her life drowned out everything else. She retreated faster, waiting for some sign that he was wearing himself out but she couldn't even tell if he was breathing, let alone out of breath. Sensing her hesitation, he gives her a deathlike grin. Within his mouth, she sees his tongue working before he speaks.

"You look troubled, Mirrou."

She ducks, his dark bladed sword missing her by inches. Splinters fly as it crashes into one of the bookcases, flinging leather bound volumes like leaves. She rolls into the aisle between the two bookcases, trying to buy herself a moment to recover. Instead of following, he shoves and she can hear the wood split and crack as the entire bookcase topples toward her. She dives out the far end as the heavy thing crashes to the ground. Skathros is there almost immediately and she is forced to parry another hammer blow. Sweat is leaking into her eyes even as the shock and pain cause the tears to start out. The common steel blade drops from her nerveless fingers. Behind Skathros she can see Isac, weak light still gripped in his fingers. He wasn't moving.

Wild fury drives her to attack, and his proximity works in her favor - it is too close for a coordinated attack with his longer blade and she easily slips under the clumsy stroke. She drives the adamantine blade up beneath his sternum, using all the coiled force in her legs to drive it deep. She can hear the hollow thunk as his blade drops to the ground and she feels, as always, the grim sense of satisfaction.

Only for an instant. She realizes that he should have fallen at the same moment his left hand locks onto the back of her head. Shade frantically twists, driving the blade deeper but in another second her head is forced back and she stares up into the nightmare that was once the face of this man. His other hand clamps down on her throat like a vise made of stone. She releases the hilt as both hands shoot to her neck, prying at the cold rotten fingers to no avail. The world swirls in patches of dark and light as the veins of her temples stand out.

"We all have our tricks, don't we my sweet?"

The world spins around again crazily, dimly, and then everything simply vanishes.
  #96  
Unread 16th of March, 2009, 01:56
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Juni stumbles but the cold fingers that clutch at her arm do not lose their grip. Down another set of stone stairs and then along another dank, echoing corridor, she barely manages to keep her feet as Skathros pulls her along beside him. She is almost glad of the cloth that covers her eyes - she can't see where she is being taken, but neither can she see her captor's rotting, festering flesh. The smell surrounds her like a fetid cloud however, foul enough to gag her. The first time he'd questioned her after bringing her away from Ricard's apartment, the smell had been so bad that she'd thrown up on his boots!

"Stand up," he hisses in his dry, dead voice. They have stopped walking, and Juni has slumped to the floor, breathless after their hurried progress. Now she straightens herself expectantly. There is the sound of a key turning in a rusty lock, and a heavy door grinds slowly open.

Then she is pushed roughly from behind. She lurches forward with a soft grunt of surprise, and falls blindly to her knees onto a damp, stone floor. Her wrists are bound together but she reaches with both hands for the cloth that covers her eyes and tears it away. Stone grinds against stone once more, and she turns in time to see the door slam shut.

"Please," she cries, scrambling over to the door. "Come back! You said... " The echoes of his bootheels clicking on the stone floor have already died away, and Juni's words trail off into silence.

She puts her back to the door and leans against it with a heavy sigh.

"That didn't go quite the way I'd hoped it would," she mutters, taking her psi-crystal out from its hiding place inside her blouse and holding it in her hands.

Did you really think that he'd let you go free?

"He said that he would let me go if I helped him decipher the code in the journal."

"He said that he'd let you go if you did what?"

Juni startles. The other voice had seemed for a moment to come from within her own mind, as the voice of her psi-crystal did. Then she realizes that the new voice is coming from what appears to be a pile of rags and straw in the far corner of the cell.

"Shade?" she asks cautiously. "Is that you?"

The pile of rags moves, and a vague, shadowy figure slowly sits up. It is Shade!

"Oh thank goodness!" Juni crawls forward on her hands and knees. "I kept asking him to tell me what he'd done with you! Are you all right? Oh, he's put you in chains!" Juni is shocked to see the shackles around Shade's wrists and ankles, the chains running to an iron ring in the floor.

"Forget about me," Shade growls. "What did you tell Skathros about the journal?"

Juni stops fussing and sits back on her heels. "Don't worry. I've been giving him false clues. I sent him off on a wild goose chase through the sewers, the perfect place for him, if you ask me - ugh! Of course, he may come back and kill me when he figures out I've lied to him."

I told you that was the weak part of your plan.

"Oh, hush." When Shade looks at her with narrowed eyes, Juni shakes her head. "Never mind, I wasn't talking to you. Anyway, I think I know where we are.

"I came to my senses briefly after that shadow-thing of his dragged me off." Juni shudders as she remembers those brief seconds of consciousness and the shadow's cold, dagger-like touch stabbing into her when it realized that she was awake. "It carried me into an old church. It was dark but I could see a great, colored-glass window, strangely beautiful with the lights of the city behind it, although several of the panes were broken. I recognized that window. It's in the front wall of the old Temple of Jergal, Guardian of the Dead. The church has been abandoned for years, but they say it sits atop a maze of tunnels and crypts where the rich folk of Tradeholm used to entomb their dead. It scared the life out of us when we were children! Even some of the grown-ups I knew used to say there were spirits and ghosts and worse lurking about the place.

"Anyway, I think we are somewhere down in the crypts."

Juni is silent for a few moments, looking at Shade. The other woman is haggard and pale, but seems otherwise healthy and, so far at least, physically unaffected by the curse. But for how much longer? How long had it taken Skathros to succumb to the curse? And what will happen to Shade without Isac's powers to help keep the terrible effects at bay?

"We have to get out of here," Juni says, fumbling with her bound hands to pluck a hairpin from the back of her head. "Here. Can you pick the locks?" She is gratified to see a ghost of a smile play on Shade's lips as she takes the pin and begins to work on her shackles. "And do you have any idea where they are keeping Isac?"
  #97  
Unread 16th of March, 2009, 02:30
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"They should be here by now," Blarth says for the umpteenth time as he paces around the clearing outside Tradeholm where the group had agreed to meet. He, Nicos, and Lyn had been there for more than a day now, and with every passing hour Blarth grew more and more worried.

Not that he had reason to. Their own task of obtaining Dream Root had gone incredibly well. Nicos had been able to find out the location of the local Half-Sight with just a few hours worth of "work" crawling through the local taverns. Then, while Nicos distracted the guards, Blarth had burst in on the man and demanded the necessary quantity of dream root, and surprisingly, the Half-Sight had handed it over almost at once. It was almost as if he had been waiting for just such an occurrence as part of a pre-arranged ceremony.

As a result, the three of them had been in and out of Tradeholm before sunrise.

Now, however, the sun had risen twice and there was no sign of the others. Of course, tracking down rumors and information could easily require them to go slow so as not to draw attention to themselves, as Nicos continually reminded Blarth everytime he complained about the delay, but still Blarth had a bad feeling and so worried.

"Are you sure that we shouldn't go looking for them?" he asks, again.
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Unread 16th of March, 2009, 17:18
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"Look where?" Nicos snapped at Blarth, the unexpected and uncertain waiting fraying upon his nerves. "If you have some idea of where, by all means let me know."
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Unread 18th of March, 2009, 03:35
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Right handed. Shade took the pin with her right hand, keeping the other carefully concealed beneath her ragged cloak. She does her best to look impassive, immune to the pain and suffering inflicted upon her, unphased by the fears of what may come. For Juni - for some idea that Arjuna is someone in need of protection, someone unable to care for herself in this dangerous world. Ironic, in that she had repeatedly shown herself quite capable and not at all in need of Shade's help. Quite the other way around, recently.

But without that idea, without someone she had to be strong for . . . well, then the true horror of her situation might just overwhelm her. Without Isac and his medicine her cursed hand had rapidly deteriorated - black and oozing, somehow larger than before, with heavy tendon and bone visible beneath the cracked skin. She'd vomited, on seeing it, back when she first came to in this dank place. Despair had set in then, but with nowhere to run she had finally come to her senses, drawn the conclusion that Skathros wanted her alive for some reason, and not just to torture her with this undeath.

He still needed them and Juni had just told her what she needed to hear - that she'd been strong and smart. With Skathros gone, maybe they could escape. She curses harshly, unable to open the locks. They were rusty from long disuse, probably requiring considerable muscle even with a key, and this pin wasn't nearly strong enough to do the job. And she was working with only one hand, and that her off hand. Not wanting Juni to note her lack of progress, she pauses and looks over at her.

"At least you aren't chained. What about the door? See what is keeping it shut."
  #100  
Unread 1st of April, 2009, 11:32
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Juni looks at the door thoughtfully for a moment then shrugs. "There must be a lock on the outside. I could hear a key turning in a lock when Skathros brought me in. I don't see anything on this side though, not even a latch... It's just a big, heavy, stone door."

Her high spirits at having found Shade take a downturn again as the hopelessness of their situation sinks in.

"I don't see how we can get out. Are there any grates or vents anywhere? I think I can get these ropes undone at least..."

Juni sits and works on the ropes that bind her wrists. They are not very tight, probably because Skathros really didn't consider her to be much of a threat whether she was tied up or not. It doesn't take long before the ropes are loose enough for her to free her hands.

She can't help feeling a little bit pleased with herself. She had been frightened out of her mind at first. How not? Overpowered by some kind of shadow-creature and brought face to face with a rotting, dead-but-alive crime lord! But she had managed to keep her head through it all, and when she saw that Skathros was after the journal too she had tricked him with false information.

"I didn't think he'd lock me up in a crypt though," she mutters to herself. "How are we going to get out of here? It won't take Skathros long to figure out that I played him false, and he'll be back. He is monstrously strong!" She shudders as she remembers the brute strength of his hands as he dragged her through the corridors. "How can that be? His flesh is rotting away - he's dead, isn't he? It doesn't make sense."

Not dead, he's UNdead. An undead monster.

I know! You don't have to keep reminding me.

That is what will happen to Shade if we don't...


"NO! We have to get out of here!!"
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