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Unread 15th of August, 2012, 02:52
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Prelude - Lissantia

Prelude

Last edited by -J-; 24th of August, 2012 at 00:23.
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Unread 15th of August, 2012, 02:56
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Part I - Nightshade's Promise

Part I - Nightshade's Promise

Vurgenslye, like many Karnnathi villages, was little more than a handful of shops and homesteads surrounding a collection of inns and pubs that, like most things in Karnnath, really only came alive at night.

And nightfall was exactly what Lissantia was trying to avoid.

The young girl sits in the only shaft of sunlight that managed to penetrate the smoke filled gloom of the Nightshade's Promise, her worn great sword leaning against the wall within easy reach. She lifts the tall pewter flagon she had been nursing all afternoon, trying to ignore the sidelong glances of the few local patrons. The thick, bitter foam clings to her lips as she sets the mug down and checks the street. Nothing - just sturdy looking peasants starting to wake for the evening's festivities.

No sign of the smuggler that would get her out of Karnnath.

Karnnath had proven easier to enter than to leave. A fact that brings an even deeper unease to the warrior's heart. Since she had entered to wolf kingdom she had felt ill at ease. She had dismissed the feelings, at first attributing them to the country's sinister reputation and then later to the thrill of killing brigands.

Her “death” at the hand of a magic wielding bandit chief had made her realize that there might have been something to her suspicions. She had headed for the southern border, but found her every step dogged by Karnnath patrols. It was as if the land itself resented her presence, and moved against her.

Necromancy ran deep in Karnnath. Its dark energies had fueled her armies in the war, but even before that it had been the foundation of the Karnn's spirit. It was no wonder this hard land of hard people hated Lissantia, and her birth right, so much.

One last glance outside tells Lissantia that it is time to. In the daylight it is easy enough to hide her body's glow, but at night... Leaving now would still give her enough time to make it to her campsite in a secluded copse to the west.

Fishing around in her pack she scrounges a few coppers to cover the beer and cheese that had been her lunch. She's halfway out of her chair when the inn's door opens, and a lithe half elf with skin of sun kissed bronze and hair of darkest honey glides in. A fine rapier hangs from her left hip, and Lissantia can make out the heavy basket hilt of a main gauche on the other. Her almond eyes quickly dart about the room until finally settling on the thick limbed inn keeper in his sturdy broad cloth shirt and grisled muttonchops. The man acknowledges her and the gives a nod towards Lissantia.

A knowing smile creeps across the half elf's features as she saunters over to Lissantia's table. Hitching her thumbs into her weapon belt she cocks her hips to the side and appraises the young warrior for a moment before speaking.

“I hear you want to leave Karnnath.”

The girl sits, and leans back, smiling a little.

"Indeed I do. It's a bit of a pickle... I've had some real trouble findin' my way out." She nods at the other chair.

"D'ya want a seat? Offer you a drink, the beer's fair."

It's pretty obvious she actually wants to leave, quickly, but is being polite about it.

"I'll pass. Standard fee for a crossing is 25 shillings."

"Hm." Lissantia stands to retrieve her sword. She slings it over her shoulder in an oddly non threatening way, and faces the half-elf.

"Any chance of there being a... nonstandard fee?"

“I don’t know, I usually don’t handle celebrities.” The half elf reaches into her white silk blouse and pulls out a scrap of folded parchment. Quickly unfolding it she hands it to Lissantia

Warnung!

Alle Bürger sollten sich auf der Suche nach den folgenden Feind des Vaterlandes!

Beschreibung: Weiblich, 68-72 zol groß und blond - Brelish oder Aundaran. Zuletzt gesehen Rüstung tragen und einen Zweihänder tragen.

Sehr gefährlich! Bekannte Dämon Verehrer! Versuchen Sie nicht zu begreifen! Informieren Sie das Ministerium für Korrekturen sofort.

100 Silber für Informationen zu einer Verhaftung.


The large, heavy Karnnathi words surrounded a rather poor sketch that the young warrior could only guess was supposed to be her. The extensive use of exclamation points did not look promising.

Liss stares at the parchment.

"Wow. That's different. Didn't realize I was in such high demand."

She continues to read it, trying to decipher the writing. She lowers her voice, leaning forward.

"Gonna be perfectly honest with you. I don't even have half a shilling. If we can negotiate something, great, but otherwise I should, uh, follow up on this. Quick."

“Hmmm....I don’t know. It says you’re a demon worshipper...” the smuggler says, barely able to contain her laughter.

Liss raises an eyebrow, grinning a little. “Haha, really?” She glances down at the parchment again. “Fiend des Vaterlands?”

“Enemy of the state.”

“Ah. Blond, Brelish or Aundairan... zweihander... got that right at least.” She folds it up, tucking it in her bag, glances around the room, then faces the smuggler again. “I need to go. I’d really appreciate you helpin’ out me out some and I’d do my best to make it worth your while, but if not I have to move on. Either way, thanks for meeting me and, uh, bringin’ this to my attention.”

She nods at the front door, waiting for a response from the smuggler.

“You Brelish are so serious, no?” the smuggler says, her laughter light and airy. “For an ‘enemy of the state’ I would almost consider taking you for free. Almost. But to business, no?” she continues, her smile fading. “They say you can heal, is this true?”

Liss smiles.

“Mmmhm. I can heal pretty much anything, besides severed limbs and curses.” She holds a hand up and waves it, a few motes of light drifting off. “Limitless, pretty much.”

“Then there may be some hope for you yet, ma chérie.”

Liss’ grin widens. “Wonderful. Let’s get going.”

“We’ll need to move fast,” the smuggler says as she heads to the tavern door, “my ship is some distance away.”

“Merde!” she swears softly as she freezes in the doorway. A second later she is hurriedly pushing Lissantia back into the bar.

“Change of plans chérie. Quickly now!” She dashes towards the bar, dragging the young warrior behind her. “It’s Ritter,” she hisses at the innkeep as she effortlessly vaults the bar. The two of them put their shoulders to a large oak liquor cabinet, sliding it back to reveal a narrow slot-like hole in the floor.

“Leave your sword,” she says as she steps into the shallow recess. It takes her a few moments to wiggle her way into the short crawl space beneath the bar.

“Haha what?”

Liss crouches down, looking into the crawl space.

“Gotta be kidding me."

She shoves her sword at the innkeep, pivots, and jams herself into the space. She twists a little, scraping against the wood of the floor and the supports. There obviously isn’t enough room, especially with her bulky armor on.

“Well shit.”

She pauses for a few seconds, then twists again, forcing herself down and in. There’s a soft popping sound, and a sharp gasp as her shoulders flatten unnaturally. She shoves herself further in, stopping a bit short of the smuggler. Her breathing is ragged, and she’s gritting her teeth.

“Hrk... are we... just waiting here?”

“Yes...Shhh”

The space extends a bit to left and right of the opening, hardly enough room for one person, let alone two. Liss’s feet are hard against a wall, forcing her head into another, and her knees into the taverns floor. The smuggler’s smaller frame presses tightly against her armor, their panicked breathing making the cramped quarters oppressive. A moment later the cabinet rolls back into place, the darkness of the crawlspace interupted by Lissantia’s soft glow.

“Cancel your spell,” the smuggler’s whisper is barely audible.

"What... spell?"

Liss tries to twist a little, not really helping.

"It's not... a spell. It just happens."

She twists some more, trying to flatten herself against the space and keep away from the opening. She grits her teeth, concentrating, and the glow fades a little.

"Hhh... best I can do."

The smuggler’s hand tightens on Liss arm and the dusty air freezes in their throats. Through the floor Liss can barely make out the clicking of a pair of hard soled boots, followed by a mash of metallic scraping and jingling. In her faint light, Liss can make out the smuggler’s taut face, as she scrunches her eyes and strains a tapered ear toward the floorboards.

The boots grow closer, stopping at the bar directly in line with the crawlspace. The metallic steps grow fainter as they separate and spread throughout the bar.

“Guten tag, mein herr. My cook hasn’t arrived yet, may I instead offer some libations to you and your...to you?” Even through the floorboards Liss recognizes the innkeepers voice.

Silence washes through the dim, coffin like crawlspace, leaving only the hammering of hearts in its wake.

“Guten tag,” the smuggler’s hand clutches at the sound of the visitor’s voice. “You always use the common tongue in your mother land?” The visitor’s voice was deep and carried a strange raspiness to it. Judging its effect on the her smuggler, it had to be Ritter.

“Ich entschuldige mich, mein herr.”

“No no, you’re quite right - the...common...tongue is probably best. My men only understand Karnnathi, and they’ve been known to be, how do you say...excitible?”

“May I get you that drink, mein herr?”

“Perhaps later.”

“Very well, mein herr.” Footsteps cross the floor to just in front of the liquor cabinet. The smuggler’s hand darts to her mouth. There’s a tinkling of glass directly above them as the innkeep took inventory of his stocks for the evening.

“That’s a strange blade for an innkeep,” Ritter’s voice calls from the bar, and the tinkling stops. Shoes slowly turn and shuffle away from the cabinet. Lissantia’s eyes widen, and the aura’s glow flares up a bit.

“Mein herr?”

“The zweihander, in your kitchen.”

Lissantia grits her teeth, her shallow breathing becoming more rapid.

“Ah. Mein herr has good eyes. Its a...token. From the war.”

Another pause, then Ritter’s voice returns. “What unit?”

“108th”

“Ah yes. Out of Karrlakton, no?”

“Yes mein herr.”

“Good, good.” Ritter voice trails off and the shoes come back to the liquor cabinet. Seconds hang chokingly in the thick, enclosed air. Lissantia is regaining control, the glow subsiding a bit, and her breathing slowing.

“The 108th...they were grenadiers no?”

“Sappers, mein herr.”

“Dangerous work that. Although I suppose it makes one good at digging does it not?”

The innkeep is quick to laugh.

“More time under the field than on it.”

Ritter is just as quick to join.

“I don’t know if I could do that, burrowing under the ground.” Ritter’s laughter trails off, his tone growing darker.

“Waiting alone in the dark...”

“...mountains of earth crushing down on you..” The smuggler’s teeth clamp down hard on her hand.

“…smothering you in blackness.” The air grows heavy, oozing like hot mud into their lungs.

“Not knowing where the enemy was, whether he can hear you breathing...”

“...and is just waiting...”

“...waiting for you until...” Ritter’s voice trails into a grave silence, leaving just the pounding of their blood in their ears.

“...BAM!” The word is punctuated by the loud slap of a gloved hand on the bar. The half elf’s teeth sink deeply into her finger to stifle a cry.

“They have you.” Ritter chuckles loudly.

“No...I think that that would just about drive a person mad.”

“Yeah,” the innkeep manages weakly.

“Well, herr barkeep, I’ve taken up enough of your time.”

“It was no trouble, mein herr. Are you sure there’s nothing I can get you?”

“I’m afraid not. I was to meet an old friend here... Pity,” the floorboards come alive with the sound of metallic shuffling. “We had so much catching up to do.” The sound of jingling metal fades as the last of Ritter’s minions shuffle outside. “Perhaps next time. Guten tag, herr barkeep.”

“Guten tag, mein herr.”

The door closes loudly behind him.

Liss waits, glancing back and forth. Her eyes focus on the smuggler and her finger, and the glow comes back, quickly healing over the minor damage.

“Merci,” the smuggler whispers her face taut and anxious. “Ritter will be waiting. We’ll try to make a break for it when the fishermen head out in the morning.”

“What, we’re stuck here until then?”

“Yeah.” Lissantia can feel the smuggler shudder at the thought. “Try to sleep. It will make the time go by quicker.”

Lissantia grumbles a little, twisting and trying to find a comfortable spot, the smuggler grunts in response as their limbs bump and grind together.

“Argh. Sorry.”

“Try to sleep, I’ll wake you if you start snoring.”

Soon the bar above begins to fill with the sounds of patrons and the smells of Karnnathi beer and it isn’t long before the floor is rumbling with drunken dancing and even drunker singing. The din is oddly soothing, and despite their lack of need for it, both women find themselves dosing off. Hours pass, the raucous patrons ebbing and flowing until the sound of the cabinet moving sends a jolt through them. The bar is dim, the light of a single lantern barely illuminating the innkeepers outstretched hand as he shoves it into the opening to help them out.

Lissantia drags herself out of the crawlspace, helping the smuggler out, then steps back. She grunts, twists oddly, then throws her shoulders back, with a series of cracks and pops.

“Arghhh... shit. Hate doing that.”

The barkeep and the smuggler exchange puzzled looks. “Doesn’t that hurt?” the smuggler asks.

Lissantia grins a little. “Yeah. A bit.” She twists her neck to the side, working her arms. “Had to do something similar for manacles. Twist your hand, work it out, that kind of thing. I don’t think any bones actually break, just... other bits.”

She focuses on the smuggler.
“Sorry about the squeeze. Thank you for your help.”

She turns to the innkeeper, bowing.
“Also, thank you as well. Uh... hersliken dankeshon. I appreciate the risk you took. If there’s any way I can help you, any sort of healing I can offer, it would be my pleasure.”

“Such a polite girl, no?” the smuggler says grinning at the innkeeper. “But we are not out of this yet.”

“Ugh, figures.”
She walks over into the kitchen, taking her sword and slinging it over her shoulder again. “Now what?”

The smuggler speaks quietly with the barkeep in Aundairan who then heads into the back rooms. “Now we have to make you into a boy.”

“Haha what?”

Liss smiles briefly, her expression going flat a moment later.

“Seriously?”

zachol & J

Last edited by -J-; 21st of August, 2012 at 02:18.
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Unread 21st of August, 2012, 02:22
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Part II - The Mist Runner

The sky had not yet begun to lighten when the Vergenslye fishermen start to visit the Nightshade’s Promise for their morning beer and a ladle of the Promise’s farmer’s breakfast. The innkeep had given them some of his son’s clothes which the smuggler then used to disguise the both of them as boys. Still trying to stay out of sight, but not wanting to return to the crawlspace, the girls had migrated to the back room, which turned out to be the royal domain of one Kunigunde Bachmeier.

Kunigunde was a short, round woman of 60, with long gray hair that she coiled into a thick braid pinned to the back of her head. She wore a sturdy, but simple cotton dirndl of pale green, with a white apron, both freshly pressed. Her eyes were a pale blue common to the southwest of Karnnath, and when she smiled, which she did often, her rosy cheeks scrunched them into wrinkled slits.

It was no time at all before she had set both “boys” to work scrubbing pots and peeling potatoes.

Lissantia smiled pleasantly, getting to work. It had been a while since she’d had to do something so simple, but it was nice to be helpful.
She glances at the smuggler occasionally, thinking things over. Idly, she poses a question.
"So, who is this 'Ritter' anyway? Doesn't 'ritter' just mean 'knight'?"

The smuggler’s knife pauses for a moment, her face hidden by the large straw hat she was using to hide her hair under.

“It’s...Major Ritter actually, of the Sicherheitsdienst. They’re Karnnath’s, how do you say, intelligence police?” The half-elf’s jaw tightens as she severs the top third of her potato off with a flick of her knife.

“He’s a bad man.”

“Hmm. I had figured.”

Liss continues peeling her potato, ignoring the smuggler’s little slip.

“A major in the... what, siherheidiens...st? Siker... well, whatever you said. What kind of territory does he cover? He sounded pretty important.”

“He’s in their ausland, er, foreign? division, department B. B is their Aundair department.”

“Mmm. Any sort of... supernatural things? I can sometimes have trouble with curses. Also, what’s his command, how high up is he in the... department B? His underlings, are they a handful, dozens, is he just this one agent?”

“In war, a major commanded a company, say three to five platoons of up to forty-five men each. Now in this...peace,” she made an angry gesture with her paring knife, “who knows.” She quickly returns to her peeling when Kunigunde re-enters the kitchen carrying a large basket of peppers and sausages. She drops the basket next to the stove and then turns and takes Lissantia’s basket.

“Not bad, boy, not bad,” she chuckles. “We’ll make a scullery maid out of you yet,”

LIss smiles back. “Thank you ma’am. I try my best.”

“Such a good boy,” Kunigunde beams as she pats Lissantia’s head. Turning toward the smuggler her smile fades as she inspects her labors. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. You should take lessons from your cousin.”

“...travail des femmes stupides...” the smuggler mutters with a scowl. Kunigunde’s wooden ladle cracks her firmly across the back of the smuggler’s hand, drawing a surprised yelp.

“I’ll have none of that bird-talk in my kitchen, young man. You are Karnn, and wolves don’t chirp.” The old woman returns to chopping. “...kinder in diesen tagen...”

Liss glances at the smuggler, raising an eyebrow. She nods her head at the old woman, mouths “Sorry,” then returns to work. She doesn’t really trust herself the keep up the pretense of being a boy around the woman to start talking again.

Soon huge skillets of spiced potatoes, peppers, eggs and sausages are happily sizzling. It is not long until the bar begins to fill with the lively sounds of fishermen, and soon both girls are busy running bowls of food to the bar, or hauling kegs of beer up from the cellar. The smuggler seems grateful for the diversion, her earlier melancholy evaporating under the labor and difficulty in maintaining her boyish facade. Then suddenly in the middle of the whirlwind of activity the large carved clock in the corner begins to chime. Like a ripple moving over a pond the sound quiets the men’s conversations - 5 am. The smuggler gives Lissantia a nod.

It is time.

Finishing their beers, and wolfing down the rest of their breakfasts, the fishermen gather their things and begin trickling out of the tavern towards the docks. The innkeep saddles over to a older fisherman sitting far away from the growing throng of men heading towards the door.

“Hans, would you mind taking my cousins out with you today?” He sets a bottle of Brinter Nightshade heavy stout on the table next to the old man’s potatoes and sausage.

“Those two minnows? pffft,” the old man make a dismissive wave with one hand while tucking the unopened bottle into his jacket pocket with the other. “I’ll be gaffing them out of the brine all day.”

A second bottle appears on the table, and just as quickly disappears into the old man’s jacket.

“Of course they dohave to learn some time, now don’t they,” a wide nearly toothless grin spreads across the fisherman’s weathered face.

“Try not to drown them Hans.”

“I make no promises, Stefan. I make no promises,” the old man drops off his barstool, noticeably forgetting to pay for his breakfast. “Boys!” the old man bellows, and follows the call with a piercing whistle.

Liss smiles, giving a quick “yessir,” and follows the old man, slinging the bundle of “fishing poles” over her shoulder and grabbing a bright lantern from the innkeep. She really hopes the smuggler takes the lead, but doesn’t really trust herself enough to whisper or anything.

The three blend in with the rest of the fishermen as they head out to meet the tide. “You ready?” the smuggler whispers.

“Yeah, just... lead on.” She pauses. “I really don’t know how to do this.”

“You’re doing fine. Just keep your head down.”

“Sure. I can handle that.” Another pause. “Hopefully.”

The mob moves through the waking town of Vurgenslye, their torches and lanterns swinging with their steps. The eastern sky is just beginning to lighten from black to nightshade, but already there is stirring within the other buildings.

“Left,” the smuggler’s voice is taught, and barely audible. Slowly glancing to their left Lissantia can make out the armored form of a Karnnathi skeleton standing in the shadows of an alley, its empty sockets following their every step.

Lissantia’s eyes widen in terror, and she stifles a curse under her breath. She tries to whisper subtly to the smuggler.
“Uh we might need to get moving quick...”

“Shh,” the smuggler interupts. Nodding towards a building on the right. Two more skeletons stood on its roof their eyes riveted to the pair.

“Okay I don’t think you quite realize but I stand out like the sun to the undead it’s not...”
She pauses, smiling and waving at the old man as he glances back, waiting for him to look forward again. “It’s not about being sneaky I mean they absolutely know something’s up already.”

“Merde...” The skeletons watch silently, their head turning in unison as the two walk by. The smell of brakish water washes over them as they draw close to the town’s docks. Boats creak and clunk loudly as their captains ready them for the day’s work.

“We’re almost there.”

“Well not to alarm you but there’s a pretty good bet some soldiers and maybe even that ‘Ritter’ of yours are already on their way. I really doubt those things are set to just ‘watch’ me go by.”

“If its Ritter, he’s not looking for you,” she replies, her jaw tightening. “We just need to get to a boat.”

“Fine. But hurry.”

Finally they reach the docks, their footsteps ringing hollowly on the gray wooden planks. “Here we are lads, das Nebel-Läufer.” the old man leads them to a small, single masted sloop. The smuggler pushes past him and leaps nimbly aboard. “Easy now lad, don’t be tangling my lines now.” She gives him a flat look then hurries about getting the sail unfurled.

“Huh. Stefan said you didn’t know your way around a boat.”

“Grab that line,” the smuggler says to Lissantia.

Lissantia hurries forward, setting her bundle off to the side in the boat before getting to work as directed. She smiles at the old man.
“He may’ve meant me. I wouldn’t have a clue about this. Hopefully you’ll bear with me.”

“Ha, you’re doing fine lad,” Hans says as he settles behind the rudder and opens one of his bottles of beer. “Just fine.” In moments the smuggler has the sails hoisted and is pushing them off into the water. The sloop’s sails rustle and snap in the pre-dawn breeze, and it isn’t long before the dock fades from sight.

“Hey um...” the smuggler snaps her fingers a couple of times as she looks blankly at Lissantia. “I don’t even know your name,” she says laughing.

Lissantia grins. “Haha. Actually, I thought it’s been intentional. I’m Lissantia.”

“Lissantia?” the old man pipes up. “Queerest boy name I ever heard.”

Lissantia smiles over. “I know. I’ve never understood what mother was thinking.”

“Tirah. Captain,” she says turning toward the old man, “I need you to head south-southwest.”

“Now look here lad, I told Stefan I’d take you out...”

“South by southwest,” Tirah’s tone took the man aback.

“But...” he stutters, swallowing hard. “That takes us towards the Mournlands.”

“South by southwest, if you please Hans.”

The old man takes a long swig from his bottle. “That be kraken waters, lad.”

Lissantia smiles at him. “I’m sure you’ll do fine, sir.”

“I’ll not be doing it,” the old man’s face flushes red with ire. “No boys are going to tell me where to fish.”

Lissantia glances up at Tirah, raising an eyebrow. “I think it was a bit soon.”

“I don’t have time for either of you. Hans turn south-southwest.”

“You’ll be swimming back with that tone,” the old man starts to stand. In a flash Tirah crosses half the ship, her paring knife darting to the man’s throat.

“South by southwest,” she whispers, the small blade creasing the wrinkled folds of his neck. “If you please.” The old man’s eyes are wide with shock, then grow wider with realization.

“Wait...Tirah? You mean...You’re no boy”

“Aye captain,” she releases her grip, the paring knife suddenly disappearing from her hand.

“Now, south by southwest captain. If you please.” The old man’s dry mouth works mutely for a moment.

“Aye, south by southwest,” he sits back down and spins the rudder.

Lissantia stands, smiling pleasantly. She waves at Tirah, hoping for a chat. She leans in, whispering.
“So are we dropping the pretense, then?”

“For you? Better not. I don’t plan on killing the old man, and the less he knows the better.”

“Hmm, reasonable. So I’m still some sort of relative of that innkeep, being smuggled out, for... well, some reason. Yes?”

“Something like that,” Tirah replies, her gaze firmly on the horizon.

“So, where are we going, exactly? If I wanted to go to the Mournland, I could’ve swam.”

“Ha,” Tirah snorts loudly. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.” Her smile quickly fades. “The gray mist is nothing to be trifled with.”

“It was a joke. Well, partially, I assume I’ll visit some day.” She shrugs. “But not today, no. So... Aundair, perhaps?’ A pause. “Please tell me it’s not Thrane.”

Tirah laughs. “No not Thrane.”

“Thank the Host.”

“Nor the Mournlands.” Her gaze returns to the horizon. “We just need the mist.”

Lissantia is silent for a bit, then shrugs. “You’re right, I don’t have any idea what I was talking about. But, I suppose I’ll find out.”

Tirah sighs “Sorry, ma cherie, I didn’t mean to snap at you. We’ll only be in the mist for a bit. Just long enough to throw Ritter off our trail. Then we’ll head to where I’ve hidden my ship.”

“Ahh, alright. Makes sense.” Lissantia turns, sitting on the deck, her bundle within reach. “Tell me if I’m needed for anything, if it’s alright.”

“Try to sleep,” Tirah replies. “It will help the time pass.”

“Mmm. Alright. I’ll be napping.”

She slides into her usual sort of semi-conscious meditation, eyes open a little to watch the sky over the far side of the boat. It isn’t long before the rocking of the boat lulls her into true sleep, the last few days finally catching up to her.

zachol & J

Last edited by -J-; 22nd of August, 2012 at 04:13.
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Unread 25th of August, 2012, 04:17
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Part III - Voices in the Mist

A small girl sits in a tightly curled ball in the corner of an empty concrete room, rocking slowly back and forth. Her head is nearly bald with only two weeks of blond, fuzz like stubble. She is wearing only a thin gray cotton tunic that she has pulled over her knees until it covered everything but her feet. The girl sits and rocks, her large blue eyes staring blankly the heavy metal door opposite her.

A frail vessel that held nothing but the knowledge that it was empty.

The cam in the center of the hatch like door suddenly begins to turn, pulling large bolts out of the wall, and filling the cell like room with the plaintive wail of grinding metal. The door grudgingly swings open and a thin, severe looking man dressed in black steps through, his cigar tracing his path with thick coils of pungent smoke. He walks to the center of the room, seemingly oblivious to the small girl in the corner. The cigar flares and the man’s hawk-like features are soon obscured behind its gray plumes.

A moment later a tall young woman wearing a white skirt, and a long white jacket. The woman too had a severe look about her features - her auburn hair is pinned in a tight bun and a pair of ebony framed glasses balanced on her slightly upturned nose. The young woman carried a thick folder under her left arm, her other hand busy trying to part the clouds of slate smoke hanging in the air.

“What is subject zero’s status, doctor,” the man in black asks. The woman opens the thick folder bulging with papers held in place by brown metal tabs, her nervous hands hands holding it almost shield like between them as she talks to his back.

“She is still stable, sir. No signs of rejection.”

“How many days.”

“Five.” The man gives a pleased smirk at the number as he takes another puff off of his cigar. He turns towards the girl, smoking while she rocks in place.

“How long has it been like that.”

“Since the infusion, sir.” The man in black’s expression darkens, but he says nothing. “There doesn’t seem to be any trauma to the brain, or at least any that we can determine.”

“Neurosis?”

“Impossible to rule out. Dr. Schackter feels its...” she pauses a moment as she quickly flips through the pages in the folder. “Here it is. acute traumatic hysteria’”

“Layman’s terms, Dr. Bennet.”

“The Ascension...experience...may have been too much for her young mind to properly process, resulting in her current catatonic state.”

“Hmmm,” the man in black stares at the rocking girl intently. “Is it a permanent condition?”

“Dr. Schackter believes so.”

“And do you agree with Dr Schackter?”

“Dr. Schackter is the lead psychiatrist...”

“I know that, Dr. Bennet,” the thin man interrupts, “I hired him. I have poured the better part of my life and all of my family’s resources into this project, Dr Bennet, I have little time for niceties.”

The woman stares at the young rocking girl, as the emotions roiling in her stomach momentarily boil out across her face.

“Not entirely sir.”

“Elaborate.”

“I...can’t. Not really, anyway. Schackter thinks that her mind is broken. Fragmented and beyond repair. He keeps her here to keep her from becoming overly stimulated and regressing further.”

“And?”

The woman continues, hope surging through her words as they tumbling out of her mouth. “And I think that stimulation might be exactly what she needs. With time, better conditions and descent care...” the woman suddenly stops, as the thin man turns to face her. His pale ice-blue eyes bore into her as he stares at her puffing thoughtfully from his cigar. He begins to walk towards the door, then pauses just past her.

“You have two weeks, Dr. Bennet.” Her breath leaves her as she gawks.

“But...but that’s...that’s not enough time to get...” she stammers as she whirls about. The thin man’s icy gaze silences her again.

“It might not even make it that long, Dr. Bennet, besides it will take the artificers two weeks to pinpoint the source of this,” he gestures to the girl with his smoking cigar, “accident.”

“Accident?” the woman’s voice rises as her emotions boil over once more. “None of the other subject had lived more than an hour, let alone five days. She needs time to heal and recover and...” the woman suddenly remembers who she is talking to and snaps her mouth shut.

“I’m...sorry sir, my emotions got the better of me. It won’t happen again.” The woman’s voice is distant and cold, her severe facade back in place.

“See that it doesn’t.”

“Yes sir.”

“Good,” the man in black nods, his lips drawing into a thin smile. “You’re a brilliant thaumatologist, Dr Bennet. We can ill-afford to have you lose your objectivity now, when we are so close to winning this war.”

“Yes sir...thank you sir.”

“Two weeks, Dr Bennet. Two weeks and whatever remains is rendered and sent to the diviners for analysis.”

“Yes sir.”

The thin man leaves, a wake of smoke trailing in his wake. Dr. Bennet remains for a while longer staring at the young girl rocking in the corner.

The boat lurches Lissantia awake with a start, the fog of her dream clinging to her tightly. Liss slept little, and dreamed even less. But what made this one so strange was its vividness. She felt as if she had been in that cell, watching the thin man in black talk with Dr Bennet. She hadn’t recognized either of them, but the girl she did. She was fifteen, and Alphiel, Cord, Maal, Tars and Vorj had just come back from a deep patrol into Droaamish territory carrying a mute girl of no more than seven. They wouldn’t say anything to Lissantia or the other squires and acolytes about young charge, but she could tell that there was something broken about the girl, something broken in each of them.

Something that magic just couldn’t fix.

Later she pieced together enough stories from the various merchants that braved the monstrous Brelish westlands to get the jist of what had happened. Alphiel patrol took him through a small mining tharp tucked into the eastern tip of the Byeshk Mountains. A band of ogres had raped their way through the tharp’s valley like a bloody, flesh-eating force of nature. Nothing was spared, except the girl.

“You all right?” the old man asks, his features strangely hazy. In fact everything was hazy, and she realizes that they are surrounded by thick shroud of chill fog.

“Hmm?” Lissantia looks up at the old man, then glances around, getting her bearings. Oh, right, the ship. She focuses on him again, smiles pleasantly, then stretches.

“Yes, sir. Just an odd dream, about my little sister.”
She stands, giving another glance around before looking down on him, still smiling a little.

“I’m sorry sir, I wanted to apologize about the rather rude... well... hm, I suppose this is actually an act of piracy.” She frowns. “Time was a bit pressing, though it’s a poor excuse.”

She peers off into the distance, squinting into the fog. “But, I believe we’ll be parting ways soon. I truly hope you won’t run into any further troubles for my sake.”

“We talked,” the old fisherman nods toward Tirah standing at the bow. “I’m not happy, mind you. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But we’ve...come to an understanding.” He glances up at the limp sail and sighs. The fog quickly closes in, smothering the sounds of the water around them.

“Dreams you say?” Han’s voice sounds strange in the mist - distant, muted.

Dead.

"Yes, sir. Very strange dreams. I don't usually have them."
She pauses, looking around at the mist.
"Or at least don't remember them."

She frowns, trying to get a handle on the mist.
"This is... part of the Mournland, right? These mists? You and Tirah both seemed wary of it."

“I was out in the sound that day. Fishing in the sound was always dangerous work, with the war and those damnable krakens.” A weariness settles into the old man’s voice. “Thirty boats from Vurgenslye were out that day, and the fish were running good. Nets full, I was already heading home when we saw it. Flat gray mist, rolling over the waves, swallowing everything in its path.” The old man is quiet for a long time, his eyes glazed with the past. “Thirty boats went out that day, only five came back. They say the mist still holds all the souls of that day. Twisting in the gray...waiting for some fool to come and listen.”

Liss raised an eyebrow. "The day the Mournland... happened? Hmm."
She continues to stare out, pondering his words, and mumbling under her breath.
"Waiting... to listen to what..."

After a moment, she turns to look at the old man, and smiles.
"If you'd excuse me, sir. I need to talk with Tirah for a bit."

She gives a look around, trying to spot her, moving close to have a chat.
"Hey. So, how far along are we?"

Tirah stands on the bow, a thin knotted rope sliding slowly through her fingers. She doesn’t answer at first, her attention fixed on counting. After a few moments she begins reeling in the rope, coiling it around her left forearm from palm to elbow.

“The current is carrying us west at about four knots. Hopefully in an hour it will be far enough to head back out into the sound.” She falls silent, seemingly consumed with the methodical motion of winding the rope.

Lissantia glances around at the mist.
"And what's going on with this?"

TIrah pauses to look out into the gray, its misty tendrils rolling over her features. For a split second Lissantia swears she sees a ephemeral hand caressing the half-elf’s face - its swirls plying the flawless skin like a lover’s fingers. The young warrior find herself looking at her own hand, her golden aura flashing pale green at the mists touch. Faces seem to form and fade around her, their expressions fleeting but twisted.

“No one knows.” The half elf whispers.

Another pause.

"And what exactly is a 'kraken,' anway?"
Shaking off the mist’s malaise Tirah renews the coiling of the knotted rope. “They’re Cyrian war machines - early animal versions of warforged really, charged with protecting their northern coast.” The small wooden plank attached rope clatters against the side of the boat. “Now they attack anything they can get their metal tentacles on.” Stowing the rope and clip log she pulls out a scrap of paper and jots down some notes. “I guess someone forgot to tell them the war was over. Either way, they usually leave small boats alone.”

“Well that’s reassuring.”
Lissantia walks off. For a moment, she’s tempted to try to flare up her aura, push some energy into the air and see what it does, but she refrains. Just get to the boat, just get out of here, no fooling around.

They continue for what seems like hours. Tirah drops the clip log into the water, counts knots and then takes notes - the old man sits at the wheel turning it at her direction.

The gray mist closes in around them, its hollow voices whispering in the young warrior’s ear. It was subtle, and easily dismissed at first. Anguish hidden in the creak of the rigging, or a desperate prayer lapping with the waves against the hull. But as they drifted on Lissantia can feel them. Hands stroking her hair, or the fleeting scent of perfume at her nose. Millions of souls, ripped free and cast loose in the course of a few hours.

Millions of voices calling, pleading, cursing, and screaming...
...waiting for someone to listen.

The voices are overwhelming, drowning out everything as they wash over her senses. She tries to call out to Tirah. She can see the half elf busy at the bow just yards away. But when she opens her mouth she can feel their cold, gray fingers at her throat. Her face reddens as her scream is stolen from her, lost in the gray.

A million hands grab her, their ghostly fingers reaching through her flesh and at her mind.

A million souls pour their stories into her - walls of dying soldiers, children playing a garden, lovers entwined . All them screaming all they were into her, desperate to not be forgotten.

Liss claws at her shirt, pulling out her symbol of Dol Dorn. She grimaces, looking back at the old man, then shakes her head. She can barely even see him anymore, this is bad.
She focuses, praying to the Host for strength, then lets her power and light expand, letting it flow out into the air, into a field of thin glowing motes.

Silence.

“You ok?” Tirah asks from the bow.

Lissantia stares off into space for a moment before glancing around at the now featureless mist. The thin light, unsustained, has already disappeared into the air.
“Uh, yeah. Sure.”
She puts the symbol back under her shirt, then walks over, close to Tirah, and starts to watch her work, silently.
“I don’t think I like this place very much.”

Tirah just nods and hands the knotted rope to Lissantia. “Throw it in and count till I tell you to stop.”

“Okay. Uhm.” She fumbles for a moment before tossing it in, carefully keeping track of the knots as she’s seen Tirah do. Vaguely, she wonders what she’s doing, although it must have something to do with... what, how far they’re going?

Tirah presses a gemstone on one of her rings. The stone flares slightly, glowing a faint blue. She continues to stare as its color shifts from blue to red.

“How many?”

“Like almost five.”

Tirah writes it on her scrap of paper, then has Liss coil the rope.

Liss looks at the scrap, thinking.
“I, uh... I’m not really familiar with boats and stuff, but... how are you steering us? Don’t you need stars or those spinny needle things or something?”

“No stars here mon cherie,” she nods to the mist. “Compasses don’t work either.” She leans against the foresail as she looks out into the gray nothing around them. “But sail these waters long enough and they’ll tell you their secrets.”

“You go through here often?”
She glances around.
“You do know there are literal ghosts everywhere around here, right? Like the air is thick with them, it’s not a metaphor.”

The half-elf shrugs “Can’t say I’ve met any ghosts out here. Have you?”

Lissantia grins awkwardly. “Well yeah. I mean, bunch of them, just a bit ago. Had to use the old flashy flash lightshow stuff. You didn’t notice?”
Tirah shakes her head.
Lissantia looks back at the old man. “Probably a good thing.”

“Proba....” her voice trails off as she stands, cocking her head to the side. “Do you hear that?” her voice is barely a whisper.

Lissantia pauses, listening. “...no?”

“Get your sword.”

zachol & J

Last edited by -J-; 11th of February, 2013 at 11:00.
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Unread 9th of September, 2012, 03:43
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Part IV - The Kraken

Lissantia stands on the deck of the small fishing boat, her heavy greatsword effortlessly balanced in her grip, and her every sense straining against the palpable malaise that hangs around them. The old man sits behind her at the wheel, his leathered knuckles standing out on the dark oak of the wheel like small clusters of bony pearls. In front of her at the bow stands Tirah, a readied fishing gaff in her hands. Muscles tensed, the three of them wait and listen, hearing nothing but the faint lapping of water on wood, the hammering of their own hearts, and the breath hissed through clenched teeth.

Just them and the inscrutable mist that seems to choke the very life out of the air with its gray fingers.

Then, faintly at first, Lissantia can hear it - a strange, wet patter sound that seems to come from everywhere all at once. It grows in intensity until it sounds like a leviathan breaching and crashing back down - a thunderous noise so close that more than once they clutch at the boat’s railing, fearing the unseen creature’s wake would capsize them.

Suddenly the sound is swallowed by the vaporous walls around them, leaving only the desperate sounds of their own ragged breaths.

“You’re a very difficult woman to find, Tirah. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were trying to avoid me.”

Ritter’s deep, raspy voice seems to surround them.

Lissantia stays settled, sword ready, waiting for Tirah or Ritter to make the first move.
Or at least for Ritter to reveal himself.

"It doesn't have to end like this Tirah. Tell me where you're hiding him, and I'll let you go."

"Go to hell!" Tirah yells back at the mist.

"Come now Tirah, this is not like you. We have been adversaries, this is true, but in all these years of cat and mouse, I have always respected your cunning. This....this fool's errand you’re on is...unbecoming"

"You speak as if we are friends. But you are no friend, you are a monster!" She slowly shifts to the starboard railing, nodding at Lissantia to maintain her watch along the port side.

"Monster? We are merely two sides of the same coin. "

"I am nothing like you," Tirah's voice is thick with hate.

"We exist because of each other - hunter and hunted. What is one without the other?"

Lissantia stops herself from snorting at Ritter’s ‘logic,’ focusing on his voice in the fog. Clearly he’s just setting up a trap. It’s reassuring, it means he doesn’t think a straight attack will work. They have a chance.

“Mon dieux, you talk too much.” Tirah curses, nervously adjusting her grip as the mist falls silent, save for the muted creaking of the rigging.

A rumbling itches its way through the deck into the women’s feet and up their legs. Almost unnoticeable at first, it quickly grows until its vibration penetrates their skulls - an ear splitting tone that consumes all thought save for its own terrible apprehension. Waves of nauseating vertigo crash over them, nearly sending them overboard. Lissantia skitters drunkenly about the deck on all fours, somehow managing to keep her sword from sliding into the sound. Senses reeling she catches a glimpse of Tirah, gaff hook still in hand, clinging to the boat’s mast in a desperate effort to remain upright.

The vibration is so intense that the planks beneath her fingers begin to separate from one another, baleful green light glaring between them. The light burns like a sun, and with one final heaving shudder the boat rips itself apart, plunging them into an endless ocean of green fire.

Falling, twisting, screaming they plunge downward,liquid fire flowing over and through them until...

...they are kneeling on the deck of the boat once more, a gaunt, older man in a black Karnathi uniform standing before them, a shining mote of light dancing around his right hand.

“Like I said, it doesn’t have to end this way.”

Lissantia stands quickly, bringing her sword up to point at Ritter. She shakes off her clinging feelings of vertigo, trying to focus on him. She circles over to stand next to Tirah, helping her up if needed, watching Ritter and trying to figure out what he’s playing at.

Tirah gives a brief nod of thanks as she leans on Lissantia’s shoulder. She straightens herself, her cold gaze fixed on Ritter. The gaff slowly rises to the ready.

“You are being most unreasonable, Tirah,” he says as his spindly fingers rub his temple. “I understand protecting your passengers, it makes good business sense. But this...” he gestures about. “...this is beyond the pale. It’s as if,” his fingers stop as his mouth gapes with realization. “Oh no...oh no, no, no. You didn’t... You can’t be that stupid.” Tirah’s jaw tightens and her face reddens.

Ritter begins to laugh.

“You...you fell in love with him, didn’t you? Oh,” he brings his hands together loudly “that is just too much. I mean really? A woman of your years and street savvy falling for the sweet lies of a changeling spy? This,” Ritter shakes his head in disbelief,”this is bad comedy.”

Tirah’s eyes dance from Ritter to Lissantia and back, but she says nothing.

“What was it that got you smuggler? What was it that broke through that armor of yours, eh? What was it that he said that turned you into a smitten school girl?”

“Go to hell, you bastard.” Raw, caged emotion boiled in her voice, but it isn’t wrath that Lissantia hears.

“Oh I think I know,” a dark smile creeps across his face.

“You don’t know anything about me.”

“Oh my dear, I’ve hunted you for going on fifteen decades. I know you better than most.”

“Shut up.”

“Let’s guess, shall we?” he pauses for a second, his hand cupping his chin in mock contemplation. “He told you he loved you, didn’t he.”

“Shut up,” she chokes, her voice a quivering whisper.

“Ha! That’s it isn’t it! Oh Tirah, Tirah, Tirah. A wounded spy, a master at manipulation, asks you to ferry him across the sound and then, when he’s trapped and dying just happens to fall in love with you? ” Ritter is incredulous.

A tear runs from the corner of Tirah’s eye, and Ritter just hangs his head.

“And you believed him?”

Tears erupt onto the half-elf’s flushed cheeks. Unmade by her display, she slumps against the mast, the gaff hook dropping loudly on the deck.

“Such a pity,” he adds, disappointment edging his voice with finality.

Tirah glances at Lissantia, her shame quickly making her look away. A trembling hand grinds the tears from her almond eyes as she chokes back the others.

“Maybe he lied,” she says at length. “But,” she pauses as it takes her a moment to regain control of her quivering lips. “At least, when I die, I can say that I’ve loved.”

“Oh Tirah, there’s no need for such melodrama,” Ritter smirks sending waves of deep wrinkles across his gaunt face. “Besides you’re much too valuable to me to let you die.”

“I wasn’t asking your permission,” anger hardens her face as her hand darts inside her bodice and pulls out a gem encrusted disk on a silver chain. She straightens herself once more, defiantly gazing at the amused Ritter.

“Bribery, is it then?” he quips.

“Something like that,” she says, her thumb idely caresses the amulets surface, tracing over the numerous gemstones before resting on a large sapphire at its center.

“Veniţi la mine, draga mea,” she whispers softly, and the gem flashes in response.

Lissantia advances, moving between Tirah and Ritter, blade still ready. She smiles briefly (to her, “politely”) at him.
“Pardon me, sir, but I think that’s enough.”

"Ho ho, the child speaks! So then, we're adding aiding and abetting to the growing list of your crimes?"

“I suppose we are.”
Lissantia frowns, briefly. “Actually I’m curious, and I’m sorry to ask you a favor, but what is the list? I don’t have a very clear understanding.”

"Firstly you violated Karnathi sovereignty by crossing her borders without a visa. You then proceeded to unlawfully pursue, assault and murder close to a score of her citizens. You've engaged in the unlicensed practice of magics, interfered in the efforts of her authorized law enforcers, and now you choose to give material support to enemies of state." He pauses for a moment, gravitas heavy in his voice. "The last of which is a capital offense, punishable by transpiration."

Lissantia sucks in a breath through her teeth, frowning. “Ouch. Don’t know what that is but it sounds harsh. Would it help that I’m very very sorry for bothering you all and just want to leave?”
She raises an eyebrow, in a sort of pleading expression. “I know that sounds like a joke, but this is really just a long string of bad decisions and, uh, unfamiliarity with local custom. I’m used to bandits being, well, outlaws, and the healing sorts of magic not, er, requiring a license.”
Her face goes flat. “Besides, on the aiding and abetting an enemy of state, I believe I already was one before. I’d assume if aiding such a person is a capital crime, then being one would surely be one as well?”

"Indeed. Although such matters can be kept out of the judiciary, if the perpetrator demonstrates a profound change of heart. Say by assisting in the apprehension of a certain changeling spy."

"Heh. I appreciate the offer, Herr Ritter, it's very kind."
Lissantia shifts, keeping the blade steady. "However, I have no doubt that if I fell into your state's... custody, I would be only tortured and murdered, regardless of any actions on my part. Right now, this is just about my survival."
She nods her head to the side, at the sea. "I'd have a much better chance jumping off this ship than falling in with you. At the very least, it would be a swifter death."

“Pity,” he says with a sigh. “So then, my young warrior, how is it that you think this will end?”

"Not very well, I expect. But, I do have to try. I don't really have a choice."

“That, frau Lissantia, I can understand,” he says, giving her a nod of respect. Silence once again descends on the small ship as the glowing warrior and the uniformed man quietly eye each other. The small boat will work to her favor, Lissantia thinks as her muscles begin to tense in anticipation, as a single stride will put him within the reach of the six foot blade in her hands.

Lissantia take a breath, steadying her nerves.

Charge too soon and Ritter may choose a quicker spell to cast, move too late and he would be able to resolve it before she could strike. The key was in the waiting, making him commit to casting before closing the distance as quickly as possible.

The Matron had been the one who taught her that - what materia to look out for, how to differentiate the somatic components of a spell, even a few of the incantations of some of the more common battlefield spells.

In retrospect, the Matron knew an awful lot about how to kill mages for an abbess...

A hand on her arm almost makes her jump, as Tirah steps between them.

“No,” she starts softly before her words gain momentum. “No more dead, no more running.” Still cupping the amulet she turns full toward the Karnn. “I will go with you Herr Ritter,” she says, her voice is calm once more, and her features serene. “I will help as much as I am able, but only if you let the girl go.”

Lissantia grits her teeth, grinning a little at Tirah, sword still directed at Ritter.
“Uh, dear, that’s a very nice gesture, and maybe I’d say something about how this is my fault since I’m quite sure your friend Ritter over there is a vampire or whatever, and I’ve been standing out to him like a lighthouse, but,” she takes a breath, “this isn’t about protecting you. This is about me getting out of this nightmare of a country. There is absolutely no way I trust him enough to provide me a way. If you want to damn the both of us, fine, but don’t think you’re doing me a favor by giving up.”

“Tirah doesn’t believe in charity, do you my dear?” Tirah says nothing, her eyes still locked on Ritter,the center gem of her amulet pulsing slowly in her hand. “Which of course begs the question of what, exactly, are you playing at?”

Tirah glances at the silver disk in her hand.

“Its never been about either of us,” she whispers softly as the amulet’s faint pulse quickens to a steady glow. Ritter’s amused grin fades, as his eyes narrowing with suspicion.

“You’ve been stalling,” he says slowly, his voice ringing with both surprise and respect.

Lissantia shifts her weight, preparing to attack. “Of course she’s been stalling.”

With a speed that belies his age, the major thrusts his hand before him, a gold band around his finger flaring to life. Lissantia is but a heartbeat behind him, her thick blade scything a blue razored arc through the film of mist around them.

The ring’s glow coalesces, and the young warrior finds herself skidding to a halt as a massive warhorse appears under the Karnnathi soldier. The beast rears, its misty hooves lashing out, sending Lissantia backwards onto the deck to avoid them.

Tirah seems oblivious to the fracas, her body is rigid, her half closed green eyes staring out into the gray void around them.

“Hyah!” Ritter yells, urging his mount forward, its ebony body soundlessly gliding through the air above Liss as it vaults over the side of the boat.

Halfway across the ship’s rail the waters around the das Nebel-Läufer erupt in forest of waving metal tentacles. From deep within the black blanket of waves beneath the ship a horrible mechanical keening rises.

The kraken had arrived.

Suddenly Ritter’s scream echoes from above as a mass of smaller tentacles rip through his summoned mount and burrow into his flesh. Like playful dolphins the spiked cables weave into and out of his flesh, their breaching and burrowing raining the deck with blood.

One of the tree-like tentacles looms directly above Lissantia, its underside lined not with dish like suckers, but rows of thick bladed hooks that waggled and quivered on their own. One moment the tower of articulated steel, wood and stone is swaying above her, the next it is crashing down onto her and only her battle honed reflexes keep her from being crushed. The deck beneath them buckles and splinters as the thick appendage scrapes its way across it. Pain explodes behind her eyes as her left legs gets swept under it, her flesh effortlessly shearing free from bone beneath its monstrous weight. It drags her for several feet driving long shards of lacquered deck through her thighs and hip before finding the boat’s mast where it quickly begins to coil around it. Free for a moment as the tentacle climbs, Lissantia pulls the bloody length of her ruined lower body clear, and slides her self further away. Numb from shock and pain she gapes blankly as the bands of animated metal rip and shred the surface of the ship.

At the center of the storm of hungry steel stands Tirah, body rigid with concentration. Scores of the smaller spiked cables surround her, their barbed heads swaying snakelike in the air. A groan escapes her lips as she slumps to her knees. The slithering metal bands around her lurch forward like hungry dogs slipping their leash, their bladed tips whirring in anticipation. Thrusting the amulet above her they stop and fall silent, and once again resume their entranced swaying. Even the furious ripping of the larger tentacles slows until they begin to uncoil from ravaged hull.

Lissantia watches, frozen in awe (alright, terror), waiting for the tentacles to hopefully just go away. She tries to avoid moving and drawing its attention, ignoring the pain from what’s left of her leg.

The waters along the boat roil once more as a massive mantle of intricately etched polished steel, surges upward, completely eclipsing the vessel. A great, glowing lense of enchanted glass, taller than a full grown man, rises. Like a small, sanguine sun, the construct’s eye blazes, its attention seemingly fixed on the half-elf, and the glowing amulet in her hand. Slowly, as if struggling against an enormous weight, Tirah rises. Body shaking with exhaustion she thrusts the silver disk towards the red, baleful eye. The air fills with the beast’s mechanical keening. Tirah’s legs begin to buckle and she clutches at her knee as she staggers. The beast sounds again, its grating wail tearing at Lissantia’s skull. Tirah slumps, then with a pained, gasping grunt rights her self, defiantly leveling the amulet at it.

The kraken’s voice undulates and warbles in response, its many tentacles whipping madly about. Its eye blinks and flashes, its color shifting from red to an angry purple. Suddenly the thrashing sea of metal stops, the burning purple-red disk finally cooling to a soft blue glow.

Lissantia continues to watch in shock, waiting for the kraken to (hopefully) sink beneath the waves. She doesn’t trust it at all to stay... fascinated, or tamed, or whatever it is, if she distracts it somehow.

One by one the trees of moving steel slip beneath the inscrutable waters of the sound. Even Ritters body, bloody, and only held together by the the moving worms of magiked metal, disappears from sight.

“You...” Tirah begins, her voice leaden with fatigue. “You have to...tell him...” she takes a staggering step toward the creature, a trail of carmine eking from between her fingers and the disk bites deeper into her flesh.

Lissantia waits a moment, confused. She hisses at Tirah, trying not to wake the kraken. ”What? Who?”

Standing at the edge of the ruined boat, she turns towards the wounded girl, fresh tears trailing down her cheek.

“Jin. Tell him...I loved him.”

With a faint smile the honey haired half-elf steps off the boat, and into the waiting arms of the beast.

Lissantia’s eyes widen. For a moment, she tries to claw herself forward, before being reminded of her mangled leg, and falls back to the deck of the ship, watching Tirah get pulled down.

zachol & J

Last edited by -J-; 11th of February, 2013 at 11:02.
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Unread 11th of February, 2013, 11:04
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Part V - Danadra's Thrill

The small ruin of wood and rope floats silently through the eternity of gray mist. How long the old fisherman and the young, glowing warrior had been adrift, neither could tell. The mist is all there is, all there was, and as best they can tell, all there will be. The sun did not show, nor the moons, not even the dark of night brought relief from the endless gray. It was as if a beast of cloudy nothingness that had engulfed and consumed them, and now they sat in its innards waiting for a death that would not come.

It had to have been days, at least that’s what Lissantia figured. The old man had quickly finished the meager supplies that had survived their encounter with the kraken a while ago, and now seems to cling to life only through the power of her aura. Sadly, the healing force that flows freely from her can do little for the effects the mist had on their minds. His left long ago, and now he mostly slept, starving but unable to eat, thirsting yet unable to drink.

Trapped forever between death and dying.

Desperate for something, anything to relieve the monotony of the damp slate colored skies, she has begun talking to him. She had told him stories from her childhood, stories she had heard from the occasional caravans that sought shelter at their monastery. She spoke, until her words seemed heavy.

Now she lies on the deck staring into the gray oblivion above her, quite certain she is going mad.

“Tirah...” a man’s distant voice calls. “Tirah...”

Lissantia blinks. Is her mind playing tricks on her? Odd, that doesn’t sound like anyone she knows. Why is it asking for Tirah?
She sits up, instinctively dragging her sword close, peering out into the fog.
“Hello?” she tries, voice still weak. After a moment, gathering her wits, she calls out.
“Hello! Is someone there?”

“Ahoy Captain! Ahoy!”

The sound of muted voices ripples through the obscuring veil, followed, in turn by the creak of rigging, and the slap of water upon hull.

Lissantia twists a bit to stand up. She leans on her sword for support, peering into the fog.
“Hello? Over here!”

Muffled voices seem to dance around the boat, bent and twisted by the mist. Suddenly the wooden face of a screaming mermaid leaps from the mist, its prow following soon behind. Wood grinds against wood, and the tiny fishing boat is spun about and sent clattering down the length of the larger schooner, and Lissantia clattering down onto the deck. Voices call out from above, and ropes with large hooks go sailing through the air above her, their black teeth biting deep into the savaged hull of das Nebel-Läufer. Rope hisses and rumbles across the schooner’s rail as the smaller boat is secured alongside. As soon as the boat stops moving a shadow flits through the mist and nimbly lands next to Lissantia. Caught halfway between standing and lying prone, the young warrior finds herself staring into the blazing green eyes of a crouching shifter mere inches away.

She freezes for a moment, then settles, sitting on the deck of the ship.
"Er, hello. My name is Lissantia. I take it you're part of Tirah's crew?"
She glances over nervously at the other ship, then back at the shifter.

The shifter’s eyes narrow, their once round pupils now cast into sharp vertical slits as the beast-blood rose to the surface. He leans in slowly, nostrils flaring as he sniffs her.

“Where is she,” the words come slowly as they slide through the mouthful of long, predatory teeth.

"Uh."
She pulls back a little, fairly intimidated.
"There was, uh, a bit of a problem. Herr Ritter found us. Tirah went a little overbo... uh, she used excessive force."
She waves a hand at the ruined ship. "She summoned a kraken. Which apparently required her to sacrifice herself? To it."
She pauses, still nervous. "On the bright side, Ritter's dead. As well."

The beastman’s teeth flash at the sound of Ritter’s name, but he listens quietly. When Lissantia has finished he leans in, his nostrils flaring as he sniffs her. The man’s heavy musky scent engulfs her as his hot breath huffs against her skin.Then in a blur of leather he is gone, his lanky bestial limbs quickly carrying him around the boat as he sniffs around the deck.

“All clear, Charr?” an older masculine voice calls down from the shrouded deck above. Charr responds with a grunt, and a moment later a rope ladder clatters noisily along the larger ship’s side and onto the deck near Lissantia.

She stands, backing away from the ladder, propping herself up with her sword. She waits for someone to come down, still nervous, waiting for them to take the initiative.

Noise from the aft of the ruined boat grabs Lissantia’s attention. The shifter is there, the old man’s unconscious form draped over his shoulders like a Sypheros buck. Silently picking his way through the kraken’s wooden carnage, he pauses near the ladder, crouches, then in one leap disappears into the mists above. Voices and scuffling feet scatter through the gray void.

“If you need help coming aboard I can send Charr down to help you,” the older man’s voice calls down from above.

“Uh, no. Thank you though.”
Lissantia glances around the boat one last time, checks to make sure her holy symbol is there, then climbs up the ladder, sword hanging from a bit of spare rope.
She swings over onto the ship, taking a moment to catch her breath, scanning the deck.

Immediately she spots the shifter, Charr, and the limp form over his shoulder. The beast man slowly lowers the old fisherman to the deck, and a silver plated warforged quickly kneels besides him. It places a metallic hand upon the old man’s brow and almost immediately colored glyphs begin to blink across the surface of its arm. As the golem tends to its patient, Lissantia notices the rest of the crew arrayed in a crude semi circle around her, the shifter and the warforged.

They are a motley bunch of men and women, drawn from every corner of the Eberron - shifters their war braids laying on their bare chests, a handful of dark-skinned orcs from the Marches, humans hailing from each of the Five Nations. Through the mist she thinks she can even make out the childlike silhouette of a halfling flitting through the rigging. She stands in front of them, withering under a gaze that silently screamed a single question.

Why her?

“Back to stations you laggards,” the older man’s voice comes from the stairs leading to the quarter deck. Slowly the group disperses and a clean shaven man with the sunken eyes and hooked nose typical of the Lhazaar strides into view. A red bandana caps his head and sweeps his thick hair into a wide plume of silver that fell just past his shoulders. A red swath of silk served as the belt for his black silk pantaloons and a loosely fitting cream colored shirt did little to hide the gracefulness of his movements. He slows as he passes the warforged, his brown eyes intent on its progress, then draws himself up before Lissantia and gives a respectful nod.

“Welcome aboard the Danadra’s Thrill, m’lady.”

"Th... thank you sir. My name is Lissantia. I'm sorry to impose on you. And about the... er..."
She trails off. "Well, I'm sorry about the whole situation."

She pauses, watching the man for a cue.

“Not at all.” He looks back at the crew as they head their posts, their faces taught with brimming emotions. “You’ll have to excuse them,” he says at length. “The loss of the captain...” his words thicken in his throat, and it is some time before he can continue. “Well...its something I don’t think a landsmen can understand.”

“The patient is stable, acting captain,” the warforge says, “but he needs rest.”

“Take him below and find him a bunk.”

“Yes sir.” The metal man scoops the prone fisherman from the deck and carries him below deck.

“I believe the captain had an arrangement with you, no?”

Lissantia grins, nervously. "Eheh. Uh, not exactly? We hadn't settled on anything specific. I, er, can heal others quite well, I think we were going to work something out later."
She pauses. "Also, she seemed somewhat enthused just to be aiding an 'enemy of the state.' I think her idea was to drop me off in Aundair, maybe?"
She glances off to the side for a moment. "She didn't actually explain much. It was going to wait until we got to, uh, until we got here."

“With Ritter so closely following her, I’m not surprised.” With a nod towards the stern, he continues as they walk, “A few months ago the captain was contacted through her usual contacts to discretely transport a Thranish merchant into Karnath, and then pick him up a month later.” He chuckles, “Such things are common in these days of peace. Nobles, merchants, kings, queens, dragonmarked scions...digging through each other’s garbage like rats.” The older man’s face sours, but only for a moment. The arrive at a weathered door below the quarter deck, above it hangs a bronze plaque with “Captain” etched into its patinated surface.

Melancholy washes over the Lhazaar as his eyes linger over elegantly etched swirls. “A month later we returned to meet our passenger, only to find that he was being chased by Ritter, who had somehow cursed him. Karnath patrols made a run across the sound impossible, and all our doctor was able to do is slow the curse’s progress.” He lays a weathered hand on the door’s handle. “Which is why the captain sought out you. I don’t know if you can do much for him...after everything that has happened, not rightly sure that I even want you to. But the captain died to bring you here for him, and I mean to honor that.” He stares at Lissantia, letting his words sink in.

“Do what you can,” he continues at length. “Whatever happens we’ll see you safely to port.”

"Th... thank you. I'll try my best.”
The old pirate opens the cabin door. Immediately thick coils of scented smoke roll out of the dark room, washing over Lissantia in a wave of sandalwood and myrrh.

“That’s all she’d want,” he says softly to her back as she slowly enters. The room beyond is dark - made darker when the Lhazaar closes the door. As her eyes adjust more details come into focus. Directly across from Lissantia is a large wooden table overflowing with charts, manifests, and empty bottles. Beyond the desk is a wall of windows that looked out over the ship’s wake - all were shuttered tight.

“You...must be...the healer,” a faint voice chokes out from behind the gossamer veil of a canopied bed to Lissantia’s right. Small dishes of incense surround the bed, their thick trails clawing slowly upward in the wane light of a single glowing crystal hanging from above.

Lissantia smiles. "Yes, I am."
She kneels by the bed, taking hold of his hand and getting the roughest of ideas of what's wrong, as her aura begins to interact with him and the 'curse.'
"How long has this been going on? The second said something like months?"

An pained inhale quickly turns into a gurgling cough as Lissantia touches the man’s hand. Its wet, and at first she thinks it simply perspiration. But as her eyes adjust to the dim lighting of the cabin’s interior, she realizes its something far worse.

The man’s flesh was in a stage of advanced putrefaction, and yet he was still alive.


Reflexively she pulls her hand away, liquified soft tissue coating her palm. The black film sits like ice on her skin, and she can feel it spreading deeper. In her time at the monastery she had healed all manner of mundane injuries and diseases, even a few wrought through magic. But this was a something far darker, far...hungrier.

Gritting her teeth she focuses her aura into her hands, willing the ocean of healing energy within her into a focused torrent. The black film bubbles, and froths, digging its inky claws into her skin to no avail. It flares brightly for an instant, then vaporizes.

The groaning man hand disappears behind the bed’s canopy. Emboldened, Lissantia parts the layers of fabric.

The sight of rotting flesh was something she had only witnessed first hand twice before. Once when as a young girl and she found one of the monastery’s pigs that had been missing for four weeks, the other was years later when they encountered the remains of a small mining village sacked by orcs.

But it was the smell that she never forgot.

Cadaverine rolls over her like a thick, moist blanket, burning its way into her eyes and down her nose as her bile burned its way up to meet it.

“Tirrah...where?” the man asks. Through the abscessed holes in his cheek she can see his white teeth grinding against the pain as the black ichor covering his body began to roil like a cauldron. A single blue eye blazes defiantly through the folds of fermenting flesh that served as his face, fixing Lissantia with its clarity. It was then that Lissantia began to understand the nature of the curse, how it locked the man in the rotting, agonizing prison of his own body, yet left his mind untouched.

Lissantia grimaces, pushing her energy forward, rejecting the curse with as much force as she can muster.
"There was a problem. Ritter caught up with us. Tirah summoned a kraken, somehow, which slew him, but in the process had to sacrifice herself. I do not understand what happened, exactly."
She grimaces, resisting the urge to wipe at her nose. Part of her remarks how convenient it is she hasn't eaten anything for a while.

Blackening flesh folds over the blue eye squeezing a thin line of tears from between its necrotic folds.

“Let...” he begins but his words are cut off by a ragged coughing spasm. “...die...” he pleads over and over again, his words punctuated by globs of bloody phlegm. Great pools of inky blackness begin to well up from his body rolling into ropey coils that sway and undulate like a carpet of sickened snakes.

“No.”
She stands, hands held over the writhing black goo.
“No. Not happening. Already had one death on my watch, I’m not... geh...”
She shakes her head, then presses forward, light flaring up and gathering around her hands.
“Not letting it pass again. Come on, stay with me.”

The ruin of a man begins to wail with torment as the the oily blackness clung tenaciously to his rotting flesh. Gritting her teeth Lissantia focuses her will on the well spring of her powers, willing its light brighter and brighter. Energy pours through her flesh, and her skin turns translucent under the glare of the sun burning within her. The black polyps undulating on the man’s skin begin to wither under her hand, but she can feel that it is still not enough. Deep with the man’s body she can feel it churn in agony, her light driving it to gorge itself on its host’s life force - killing him all the faster.

Lissantia hisses, trying to cut through the black gunk, to bolster the man's life and trap the gunk between her energy on both sides, squeezing it out.

Crushing bands of light flow from her body, binding and constricting the oily blackness. Every ounce of her being shudders with concentration as she draws ever increasing amounts of planar magic into her body. Raw positive energy courses through her veins like fire, and she can feel her mind cracking under the strain. The cursed man begins to seizure, and his hand touches hers. The contact lasted only for a brief instant, but in that instant the curse flew dagger like through his flesh and into her own.

It was in that instant that Lissantia knew true fear.

She had seen her share of depravities, known of the horrors that man was able to inflict on man, but this was different. It wasn’t some idea that entered her body, it was evil; pure, concentrated, aware, evil.

And it was inside her.

Like a slurry of ice and glass the curse crawls through her veins making them swell blackly through her skin. The agony of it hungrily chewing through her flesh consumes all rational thought, leaving nothing behind except for quivering scraps of raw, primal emotion. Slithering into her soul, the curse coils around the font of light at her spiritual core, smothering it. Her body dimms, as darkness washes over her mind; a bleak maw that opens and engulfs her sending her spiraling into a fathomless, lightless abyss.

Lissantia drifts for a time, stunned. What?

Dimly, she can feel her body, some other part of her, struggling, thrashing, but for now... emptiness.

So this is it, huh? Without the light, she’d just... decay. Like that poor man on the bed. Had she killed him too? Out of ignorance, not knowing what this curse was? Just feeding in poison to fight poison, until it burnt him all up?

Was she dead already, was this the afterlife? Dolurrh... the land of ghosts, of bleak, cold mists.
She clutched for her symbol, around her neck, but it wasn’t there. Wasn’t... wasn’t Dol Dorn supposed to come, riding out of the heavens, or something? A happy reward for a life of good deeds?

She starts, dismayed. Was that all she’d done it for? Some reward? So selfish, to think that she’d have something given to no-one else, so proud to think she was worthy, to think it had all been done out of generosity, kindness.

Perhaps this was what she deserved. Valor was nothing without prudence, it turned into haughty pride, undue confidence, overreach. Or, maybe... maybe this was just the end of her luck. Not punishment, not desert, just what had happened in the end.

She relaxes, and smiles vaguely. Dead, huh? Well, so be it. Just some abyss... This wasn’t that bad, anyway. Almost peaceful.

With a loud metallic thud the young woman in armor drops to the floor of the cabin, darkness flowing like ink across her face and through her veins. Corruption bubbles up through her skin as the curse gorges itself on the reservoir of light within. Deliquessing tissue boils through the seams in her armor, leaving her as little more than an island of rotting flesh floating in a black fetid lake.

In the prison of her mind she tumbles in a sea of nothing. All of her life all she knew was light - it poured forth from the very depths of her soul, illuminating her mind and flesh. She had never known mortality, never known fear, never known anything but the light.

And now it was gone.

Images flash through her mind as the curse busily unmakes her - scenes from the monastery, her history and past, and she watches, confused and bleary. What is this? She bats at the images, mumbling, and tries to roll over, like someone tossing in bed. This was supposed to be peaceful, if not a reward then at least... something quiet.
You had quiet in the monastery. You left quiet behind.
Hush. What else is there to do?
Fight.
She’s dead. Already dead and done and gone, she knew it would happen eventually. She wasn’t immortal, she could still be killed, and then that would be it. Like now.
You’re not dead. This isn’t Dolurrh. You know it. Stop wallowing.

She drifts, stunned, confused, images and sounds flickering in and out around her. If not dead, then... the curse! That curse, it had come into her, somehow. Some... life-sucker, feeding off her energy.
Ha!
Well, parasite thing, if you’re that hungry, then gorge, gorge until your belly bursts, until you’re bathed and burnt to nothing in the light! Ha ha!

Fiercely, she starts clawing, grabbing, pushing up and out with all her strength and will, filled with blind confidence and faith.

The darkness around her shudders and cracks, as far beyond it Lissantia can feel an endless ocean of light churning against it.

Light. So happy, like coming home.

Endless oceans of Light, impossible to understand, poured through the darkness in a torrent, burning everything in its path. The deluge slams into the thin film of Lissantia’s soul, mercilessly illuminating it until she could feel her self ceasing to be her and becoming nothing but Light.

Oh, this is probably bad. She should... should really stop this. Too much. Mmm, it’s... very nice, especially after that horrible blackness, but this is... a bit much.

Light pours through the young woman’s flesh as if she were a sun cast in human form. Buoyed upward, she rises from the floor and hangs suspended in the air. The rotting man before her convulses as the searing rays burn through the black oily putrescence that sheath him. Like a foul mist before the stroke of dawn it melts away exposing the gaping necrotic flesh beneath. A gurgled moan erupts from the man as his soul bursts from its fleshy prison.

Through the blinding haze Lissantia can feel it, a tiny mote of energy that sends ripples through the ocean pouring through her. Bringing all of her resolve to bear she channels the Light surging out of her onto the wrecked body below, pushing the soul back in. Instantly his limbs begin to quake as red strands of muscle begin to sprout and grow, twining around his naked bones like blood ivy. Veins and nerves follow, burrowing worm-like into dead tissues, turning them pink and healthy once more. In moments what had been little more than bones and viscera held together by scraps of rotted meat, is whole and alive once more.

Her focus and concentration spent, Lissantia relaxes, and smiles. This is wonderful. Why, she could just drift up, and out. Join back with... with...
No.
What?
No. Not yet. Later.
She groans. First, she couldn’t just sleep in the dark, now she can’t rejoin the light? Well... fine.

Slowly, she cuts off the light, squeezing the connection back down to a manageable flow, her head growing clear, the blinding shine fading from her vision, leaving her... standing again, in that tiny cabin, looking down at the man on the bed.
“Oh, good. So you are alive.”

She smiles, lightly.
“I don’t suppose you’re Jin?”

zachol & J
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