Posts posted by amenities
Overlooking the field where Shikai confronted his ill-formed twin, it was clear that the horses were in utter terror. More than anyone here, even the Dead themselves, their maned friends seemed to be the greatest victims; but wouldn’t the horses be fake too?
Were Void Cain and Void Phoebe any actual representation of the real thing, Cain would have expressed surprise at Phoebe’s losing her cool but he didn’t, he just kept eating the luscious and increasingly-obviously immaterial fruit and riddling away— and that was just it. These things weren’t their real counterparts. Void Phoebe didn’t act like Phoebe, Void Cain acted only slightly like Cain (except more riddly) because of greater interaction over months past, and Void Shikai and Void Mistress were practically bears and flamingos compared to what they were supposed to mirror.
“They— it— may have spent more time with me than you guys,” said Cain to Phoebe and the others as the former, the First, came to the Architect’s side. Strangely, he felt compelled to, and raised his hand gently to run in a plane one half-inch from her cheek. In that space, there was a special type of electricity. He examined the ring finger with a perfectly preserved hole in the middle, and let the hand fall to his side.
“But they’re nothing like us.”
"I've dreamed of meeting you,"
Meanwhile, Shikai faced off with the beast in a clearing at the center of the massive herd of horses that grew and grew every instant, funneling in from— running away from—the North. It seemed as if whatever fate they held here with Void Cain was better than whatever lie North.
"Of coming face to face with the worst part of me... and cutting it out!"
Void Shikai’s lips began to grin. The stitches holding its lips shut strained, tearing through the flesh and falling away to expose fanged teeth clenched around the violet gem.
“We need to get those crystals off our mirrors,” said Cain to the others, pointing as Void Shikai did so and Shikai charged and raising the black rose in his other hand. Within the black rose, there sat a small crystal exactly like the one Void Shikai carried. Void Cain looked at this crystal with envy, with anger.
It would perhaps strike Shikai as amazing that, with his first swing of Mykur, the Void Shikai was able to use his knock-off blade to knock the Legendary blade aside to slice into the earth beside it. Now Void Shikai’s voice could be heard as it grunted with demonic strength, aiming its massive elbow for Shikai’s chest in a counter-move.
"I'd rather play with you instead."
“Ah?” said the freshly engaged Void Mistress, who had seemed very much to travel like a super-extra NPC until she noticed the real Dead Mistress heading toward her. “No hey! Waddayou want?”
Perhaps Cain’s words would paint the way the Dead Mistress approached her Void twin.
DUM DUM DUM
As the ogre’s footsteps approached Michael’s crash-landing, Michael sat up, fighting to regain cognizance. He wobbled to his knees, both hands flat on the ground while the fat, blurred figure bobbed toward him.
“I’m concussed,” he said to Tori.
I can tell Sir, attempting to stabilize!
Hyper-collagen injected itself into Michael’s broken skull and C7 vertebrae, particles of light energy sealing it together.
DUM DUM DUM
Sir you need to move!
If there was even an ounce of ‘begging to stop’ in such a situation, Commager would have died, but there was no such thing that existed within Michael of the Lions; The Dragonhawk cried to Michael Commager that This was the Vessel within which He would be delivered unto the New World. Not a feathered bird, nor a scaled dragon, but a Feathered Dragon.
“Gaia’s children are a warrior child, are they not?” said Michael up to Sister Eils’ chiding grin.
“Yes, brother, but they also carry within them a merciful youth. Eradication is never to be the motive, but purification,” she said to Michael’s noticeably deafened ears. He was already flexing his muscles, tensing his neck this way and that in preparation.
Therein, perhaps, lay a very un-Gaian flaw in the young Major. His youth emanated a passion from within like sunfire, but temperance did not seem practiced in his mind. Loving those for whom he intrinsically cared was never an issue, but for Michael forgiving the evil was as difficult as not slighting those who had wronged him in the past; he was equally as cold to those who had wronged him as he was to those who had wronged Gaia’s children, with little mind to spare the perpetrators.
This was not the fire alight in his hungry blue eyes now, though. Yshmael would remember Michael’s apparition Matte, splattering his enemies’ guts in human-shaped cookie cutters on the walls behind them— but that was not the expression he bore now. Like a viking or pirate who derived enjoyment from fighting his crewmates, Michael grew through every battle with both friend and foe.
“If either one surrenders then it’s over, got it?” said Sister Eils as the three positioned themselves in the fields not far from the church.
Michael nodded in affirmation. He was barefoot, wore brown slacks and a waist-length white tunic that blew airily around his defined torso. True to reality, there was no indication of any magical build-up around him as the grass tickled his ankles and the air tousled his silver shoulder-length hair. He pulled the wooden hilt that would normally be the harbinger of his Tenchi-Ken/Peachy Keen, and threw it into the grass beside him to indicate that he would not be using weapons, at least at first.
“Ready? Start!” she said.
Michael took off at a sprint toward Yshmael, dispatching of any fighting stance he’d held before the Sister’s starting signal. His eyes were full of the same playful, dangerous light as before. Leaping into an arc that reached surprising heights en route to Yshmael, Michael formed laced his fingers together above his head to form a two-handed bludgeon that he brought down toward the Thrice-Blessed’s head.
“We are the Dead.”
He had practically interrupted her question, how rude, his red-stubbled chin stretching up in a vertical oval as he adjusted the pale neck beneath his perfectly black suit. The veins there were visible, darker than normal. Upon any closer inspection, the ginger man with the ram mask bore every appearance of a well-kempt zombie. This was the bloodmage-made-deadman himself, not the Earthbreaker. His veins were already tainted with still blood, his mind and soul elsewhere. Lala’s poison had a special place inside him but in this form, even if he hadn’t taken the antidote, not only wouldn’t the poison work,but the damn wine wouldn’t even make him drunk.
The lights flickered, even the fire seemed not to exist for a split second. Lala would know the dramatic effect when she saw it, but to someone it must have been quite impressive once.
With one hand, Cain raised the half-full glass just below his lips and took a whiff of the liquid that seemed meaningless, but was full of intention. Lifting the other hand from beneath the table, he released from his palm a scrolled piece of leather that rolled unnaturally, end over end, until it rested open before Lala.
It was empty.
“I am a blood mage called Cain Rose.”
His name would evoke separate memories from the Dead: the destruction of a megacity called Tia, the catastrophic sinking of the Full Deck casino yacht and consequent destruction of Casper’s harbors, his contributions to the war between La Ultima Opportunidad and La Ultima Fortuna in Last Chance.
Any knowledge Lala had of the Dead it would be one that skittered, spider-like along whatever semblance of a spine she had— trickled up into whatever facsimile of a consciousness she had— as he spoke. They were behind virtually every dirty CEO, no matter how clean they seemed. At least, the most successful ones.
“You killed one of my puppets in Berton,” Cain said simply. “Berton was a small subdivision of Casper you hit a month or so earlier. I felt the poison fill my pet and I couldn’t help but see it through.” He finally sipped again from the flute before placing it on the table before him, his hawk eyes flitting toward Lala. “I didn’t have to let your poison work on him, but I did, just to see what happened. Your work is… most interesting.”
“You kill meticulously, philosophically, endlessly, but for what? What are you searching for in these deaths?”
Ash dreamt of perfectly spaced fields. Separating each field was a wall that represented one fret to the guitar. A frightening bass built behind him that caused him to run from field to field, vaulting each wall as he went. The walls got taller and taller, spaced closer and closer, the bass behind him growing louder and louder, until Ash was running along the tops of the next fret. Soon, the walls began waving and split into six string-like paths that led off into obscurity. When he fell, the fields beneath him opened up into a great mauve pit. As soon as he saw that what was within the pit was his dead father, the pit became mouth as big as a mountain. A mouth belonging to Cain. A mouth that swallowed his family whole.
Ash flinched awake from the bad dream. His eyes settled from fear into focus. Somehow, the fear of his nightmare had further nailed into his mind the notes Shikai was teaching him. After eating, when they progressed that day, he showed an extraordinary understanding of the material they'd gone over the day prior.
"Keep the rest of these assholes off me."
Ash had taken one of the armored robes of a nearby fallen guard. It was big on him, hanging about to the ankles, but it concealed his naked whiteness from the night with a shroud of black. He’d gotten his father’s sword back, miraculously. It was only after gaining it back now, after nearly having lost it for the first time ever, that Ash realized how devastating it would be to him if he lost the last remnant of his lost lineage. Within his hand was the weapon of his choosing, within his mind unwavering determination.
Crouching before Phoebe as her spear launched overhead, Ash followed in the blade’s blistering wake. His targets, the men framing the projectile’s path en route to Amirah, scarcely saw him in a whorling of wind and fabric before he was upon them, among them.
He took out the first, who had turned his back foolishly to follow the Mindgorger with his eyes, much like he had earlier; a blade to his calf hamstrung it into the air, the elbow of Ash’s other arm crushing his nose as his balance left him, driving his head into concussion as the pit of his knee bled profusely.
The second was turning his weapon toward Ash even as the warmth of his comrade’s blood spattered his face. The crouching Ash’s blade slid sickeningly from the knee tendons of his first victim in a straight horizontal line into the man’s abdomen. Guts and gore gurgled and gushed from the wound as Ash pivoted around the man’s back, reaching around him with his free hand and grasping his trigger hand to release a spray of dying friendly fire on his fallen foe’s nearby friends.
He also used this second body to shield him from the wave of hot air washing in from The Phoenix.
A fatal wound turned into the inhalation of blazing hot wind, and the ultimate death by friendly fire of Ash’s second enemy.
“Why is he killing the horses? Seems more off than normal for Shikai.”
“BECAUSE WE NEED THE HORSES!” For just a moment as Void Phoebe looked back, regular Phoebe would swear she saw the purple eyes of a viper and a snake tongue lashing within her heretical lips. She definitely broke character from her faux image of the real Phoebe’s personality. Something more carnal was obviously at play. “WE NEED TO FIND ALL OF THEM AND EAT!”
The sounds of horses dying in the background intensified as they walked through the forest.
"I'll shut that thing up, then ram that copycat blade up that monster's ass."
Cain didn’t stop Shikai from following his Void counterpart, except to say a meaningful “Be careful, we don’t know what’s ahead.” As Shikai ran ahead, he would notice that blood painted the trees the way Void Shikai went. Shikai broke out on a clearing after running for a few hundred yards where there are hundreds of horses. Void Shikai danced around the field of horses ripping them apart and showering in their blood.
The others were still far behind.
“Very good!” said Void Cain through the juices of the fruit he gobbled up, core and all. Now the sounds of horses dying was a screeching neigh in their ears, and it looked like music to Void Cain. He posed his next riddle just as they broke out on the scene of the two Shikais and the horses.
“Next. I am not only alien, and not only bee, but Taen is a home to me!”
To the North, it appeared that horses were fleeing from the Northern hills and gathering in this field.
Prose and Brutus' privacy was found in the form of a corridor. She continued walking as he talked to her, not quickly, but the sound of her boots on the gridded steel of the walkway were metronomic to the rhythm of his voice. She was listening to Brutus, but also looked through the portholes of rooms they passed on the way down the 20-yard corridor. She stopped at the third door to let Brutus finish exasperating his bandaged wounds open again.
"Your fantasy of treasure and glory had better be within reach, for the cost of it is starting to take on water. It'll be sunk before long."
Prose rapped her knuckle against the porthole for Brutus to look in while she spoke. Inside was a tank of deep green liquid. Within it thrashed a cacophony of tentacles and squid-like creatures just like the ones that had attacked their ship.
"I'm not the captain of some trawler, sailor, I am the captain of the pirate crew you joined. Did I ever say our journey would be safe?"
Her voice was strangely melodic up close, carrying almost none of the over-the-top bravado with which she'd showered coins on them a couple nights earlier but providing an ominous backdrop to the fact that Captain Benny seemed to be linked to the monsters that attacked their ship. Looking pointedly at Brutus, she nodded her head toward the room where the others were. Weirdly, Benny had positioned himself so he could see them from that room. An expression of stone cold settled in as he saw which door they stood beside. Whether Brutus looked or Ruiser watched Benny or not, Prose was looking, and she saw within his gaze something unsettling. Suspicion.
"No," her quiet melody continued. "What treasure hunt is ever safe? Nothing has been squandered and I'm not hiding anything from you. Danger happens, and I can't predict everything that happens on the open ocean for you. We used our map to get exactly where we wanted, so I don't know what your problem with our navigators is. I didn't know what we would find at the 'X,' but it definitely wasn't nothing. If we want to find the Piece, or stay alive for that matter, we need to keep a sharp eye and stay collected. If you still want to jab a knife in my gut when we get back to the surface we can continue this conversation then, but for now we have different problems."
Prose pushed past Brutus and made her way back toward the eavesdropping Benny, who had done notably little to respond to Ruiser's suspicion and much more to see where the strangers were going in his sub. Upon their return, he made like he was busy as if Ruiser couldn't see him watching the others all along.
"Everything GOOD you guys?" He said over his shoulder, mainly facing the large porthole that showed where they were going. Deep down there, a light that seemed too bright to be so deep in the ocean twinkled gold like the morning sky. Was it a large object in the distance or something smaller, closer?
"I just want you GUYS TO BE SAFE!!" said Benny in an oddly grating tone.
Michael’s hand, Cain’s hand. God’s fist, the palm of the Devil. The Hamsa, the Evil Eye. Fuselage and Fuel, Forest and Fire, From Ash to Ash, From Dust to Dust. Night became Day. All around them, Life became Death. Symphonies of Orchestras of Bands of Blood marauded the sifting waves of raucous aura raging off of fist upon palm. Michael’s blow upon Cain wrought an entire four-hundred yards of forest into the wind like leaves, the closest buildings of Tia’s crumpled infrastructure shattering away like sugar glass in a bright white wind.
An entire species of rodent native to Tia was wiped out. The last water supply to a nearby village of Maleficence-infected humans was utterly evaporated. The entire fan of Tia’s western peripheral was laid to waste.
Dust and light blinded all. While the echoing of death and desolation harangued off of every dust particle dancing in the night-become-day of their nuclear collision, Michael’s fist burned with passion the likes of which he had scarcely felt before. His entire forearm numb with justice, his shoulder aching with exactness, he exhaled the last ounce of breath saved for his attack. For a moment of numbness, Michael felt as if he had utterly blown the demon away along with a mile of space before him. All smoldered in strange silence...
“Ha ha ha," came the dark, decadent cackle. "You fucking fool.”
Clouds of smoke and vaporized biomatter still shrouded all, but as the feeling danced back into Michael’s tingling knuckles, he felt the steel bands of a mechanical demon wrapped around them. As thin as stainless steel might seem, to punch it will still break bones before steel. Beneath blood and charred flesh which bubbled in the disgusting acceleration of Unnatural healing, Cain’s Shadow’s thin lips arched into the grin of utter Blacken. With the very power of the false god Alignak tightening fist around Michael’s, Cain crushed Michael’s dominant hand with his weak hand.
Before the hero could respond, Cain threw the stunned Michael to his right like a ragdoll.
Michael and Emile of the Terran military follow leads that a suspicious mafia is brazenly trafficking children who are supposed to be coming into Aspyn as refugees of the roughed-up Terrenus. Determined to sever at the root all causes of distress on his Mother's Land, Michael and Emile crash down with extreme prejudice on the enemies headed by a mafioso known as Xerxes. Once the children are free and the buyers driven off, Michael, Emile, and the newly-arrived Li'El corral off the enemies at the nearby Fauxton receiver and dispatch of them handily. Defenses, transportation, and the integrity of Aspyn are all boosted by the endeavor which was made public later.
- Another Fauxton system established and secured on Biazo Isle on Aspyn's behalf
- Li'El and Emile are elevated to Aspyn's list of legends
His very first kill— a Queen— had cost him, nearly along with his life, his family and the last of his expiring race. His next kill was a fisherman. After that an armed guard, a wyvern, two princes. A cruise ship. An entire megacity. There are ten ways to kill a cat, he learned over all those years, but it was what you could do with the body afterwards that grew to interest him more. Power is always misused, he used to say, unless it’s by you.
Cutting deals with the veritable and swindling the weak, he rose to criminal infamy whilst dividing his fortune among his favorite little things that went bump in the night. Whilst dividing his mind and soul between the bodies he puppetized. He and his purpose bore about them a gravitational pull, such that by the workings of his hands he gathered around him like a cloak the darkest shades of black that the depthless Valucre had to offer, the meticulous spinning of its yarn gathering of the Dead.
The Puppet Master toiled endlessly to develop and empower his Blood Magic. From the beginning he saved the bodies of those he’d killed, experimenting on them and thereby perfecting a device that channeled his magic into them latently, creating autonomous meat machines that lived for him without his continuous sustenance. Creating ecosystems of hiveminds, going so far as creating new brains for thousands in the peripheral as the Dead rose to power in Valucre’s underground, the man himself eventually succumbed to monumental physical and immaterial stress and was forced to create an avatar, a peek version of himself that could act as a valve to continue the cycle of life and death that continues to be Cain Rose.
So it is that his original body, the Shadow, lies within a labyrinth of Cain’s creation while the avatar, the Earthbreaker continues his will. Now the neural system of the Puppet Master’s strings is a web that reaches every continent, the spiders that are the Dead’s agents weaving their enemies into traps worldwide on an insidiously individually capable and daily basis.
Have you gotten a new milkman lately? It might be him. Have you had the same milkman for a decade? It still might be him...
The only thing that was certain is that there were no certainties with the Dead. Most criminals, especially those of the serial killer variety, keep to themselves. Besides cases of killer-to-killer adoration or rivalry, most killers and criminals of the clandestine cut never even find out about one another in the same time period during which they exist! So if Lala even was aware of the Dead, in her blissful jaunt from one victim to another, it was unlikely that she thought they would ever come for her. Little did she know, she was a perfect specimen for the cult. Little did she know, they’d had their eyes on her.
Lilting up into the silent recesses of the house, Lala would find it eerie. The fireplace was lit, the heat and lights were on, the family’s luxurious steam-powered sedan was parked in the underground garage, but the entire home was entirely silent. Lala could wait and wait in whatever the best spot she found was, but as long as she waited nothing would happen. As uncertainty set in the only thing that was certain was the fact that this was not going as she had initially planned.
Eventually Lala might feel compelled to journey out of her spot, probe into the apparently occupied but naggingly idle setting, and when she did, she would find a singular man and woman sitting across from one another at a bare table in the large dining room. Both of them bore masks like one might expect at a masquerade or some satanic orgy, the man’s red hair falling in rivulets over the horned ram concealing his pale face down to just above the lips.
Before each of them sat a glass of wine, filled particularly with the contents of the bottle she’d tampered with.
“Hello,” said the man without intonation. He seemed ever so lost in the woman’s eyes across from him, so much so that he did not move but for his lips when she entered. “Would you sit with us?”
Memories of sparring with his father, former Lieutenant Andrew Jorjorean of the Tian Problem Solvers, were sustained in a raw suspension in Ash’s mind from the day he’d lost him to Cain’s grasp. If Ash could not be afraid, and he must be brave, he must also survive if he wanted to complete his ultimate mission against the man who stole his father away.
Ash was still holding the warped cocktail table as his shield. While he had exposed himself, he wasn’t utterly defenseless, and he did have a moment or two between the throwing of his blade, its striking its intended target, and Amirah’s rebuttal attack. In that time, Ash exercised the finest block he knew how with such a mechanism: stooping to his right knee and hiding as much of his body behind the shield as possible, he slanted its face so that Amirah’s blast would not meet it like a straight up-and-down wall, but a ramp that would redirect more force than it fought against.
Even so, after a moment of the shield superheating against his skin, he was tossed into the air like a ragdoll, the wind beat out of his chest like a drum. Himura’s underweared figure flew across the roof, but he was still cognizant enough to land on his feet. Now he had been sufficiently blown out of the main line of enemy sights, he picked up one of the guards’ comms devices.
He could tell based on their separate trajectories and the ongoing buzz that Phoebe and him were very far apart, and Shikai was dealing with Amirah. He still groaned with his hand against his stomach, trying to regain his breath, but his mind was all there. He started skirting around the roof toward Phoebe as discretely as he’d made his way this way a minute earlier.
When he reached Phoebe, her sight would finally be piecing itself back together.
“Hey,” he hissed urgently with furrowed brows, a sorta funny look for a half naked guy with burnt hair. “Weren’t you gonna eat her with the Mindgorger or something? Bust that shit out! Like really use it!”
Sullied by attacks, a splotch of blood dripping down his left cheek, Ash's eyes bore a battlereadiness Phoebe hadn't seen since their training together on the mountain.
This church, but a meager vessel of offering for followers of Gaia, coursed with the winds as veins do blood as Her children left the place with hearts full of Good Will. Then Aspyn coursed with Them as hearts do Good Will. This was the self-fulfilling nature of the land crafted firmly— lovingly for the refugees of a faltering Terrenus, smelted meaningfully for its most luscious and powerful materials, and henceforth not weakened but hardened with repeated strikes.
What Yshmael would find in his travels throughout the Northwestern reaches of Biazo Isle— the reaches belonging to Aspyn— manifested in all of his senses. He would feel physically and emotionally invigorated the closer he stood to Aspyn’s City Hall; he would notice that the trees flourished in extraordinarily gargantuan tangles teeming with life in a crown around the utter jewel that was Aspyn; the fruits were larger and tasted better, their energy lasting longer and nutrients extending themselves farther. Nobody wanted for anything here, for this was Michael Commager’s gift from Gaia to her followers who had suffered for too long at the hand of vicious snakes in the grass. He would maraud for her until the day he died, and do his best for that never to come.
Even the ignorant blame of those who suckled on the teat of Terrenus and Gaia would not hinder Michael from maintaining this haven.
Yshmael would be standing there in the foyer, watching Michael and Sister Eils talk with flirtatious fervor. Michael bore about him both an irresistible charm and a promise of no threat: It was well known that he’d had and lost two deep loves in his life. Loves so deep, for which he felt so deeply at fault for the destruction of, he could not requite to himself the ability to do so again. It wasn’t a brag or a farce, but a pious man’s most honest version of penitence for unfortunate events with which he had grievously little to do.
Yshmael would not feel alone for a second, the congregation welcoming and friendly and Michael’s attention encapsulating the Thrice-Blessed as it almost always did. In fact, very soon Michael and the Sister approaching him.
“It is true that the interdependence of many great things holds Aspyn together,” she said to both of them. “When something can be independent, that is good. When two things can be not only independent, but interdependent, that is even better. When there are three? That is greater! And so on.”
Light slanted in through the open windows and muffled across the crimson carpet as she spoke to them through the growing silence of the congregation’s departure. It was almost starting to feel like she was about to go into another sermon when Michael stepped forward punching one hand into the other. He had a suspicious glint in his eye, light excitement on his face.
“I wanna spar you!” He said up to the taller clergyman to a chuckle from the Sister.
For one hour, Michael and Li'El had found themselves within a dreamlike nebula that was the very being of the Eridianus genus loci. It was like existing within the mind of a perfect Artificial Intelligence; oxygen levels, the viscosity of humidity, water levels, the lovingly stacked balance of predator and prey, everything that Michael and Li'El had ever been, swirled in a warm tingle around and through them. In the middle of all of it.
I was broken in the water. Crashed before I ever even took flight. I don't know if I was always meant to be... good. I was infected with Xynzicht, a cauldron of infectious darkness. It was thrilling, invigorating, but it ate me from the inside out. I was the hand of a villain named Faustus Clemens who sought to pry his fingers into the cracks of Terrenus and rip it apart like so many loosely stacked bricks. When he laid the fabric of his plan bare, I couldn't continue.. My sense of guilt for all the lives I had wasted at Faustus' hands consumed me, and I hatched a plan to betray him. I forsook Faustus, cast out the addictive consumption of Xynzicht for the forgiving light of Gaia, and that... that was when the delusion that I was the son of Gaia began. When the dust of the last few years settled, I realized, Li'El... that I am no son of Gaia. I am a descendant of Jason of the Lions, but I am not Hers...
Li'El would feel, in that time in which they were spiritually entwined to the greatest heights and furthest degree they could go without becoming inseparable forever, that Michael's faith was not the fantastic beast that strangers to the Major thought it was. He had moments of questioning, times of hardship. He needed support too.
Still, when their souls had withdrawn from one another back into themselves, Michael reached a shaky hand down to help Li'El to his feet.
"We do this together, man."
When they left the facility, there were lines of officers and clergyman lined up to give them accolades. Some few wore chagrin bare on their face that Michael would 'give away' a piece of Terrenus in order to save these people, but Michael exited with his chin high and no time to tend to their farcical nationalistic indignation.
The very last individual between them and the door was A Bowing Elf.
"Hark, saviors!" he said, raising a hand to stop them as they passed. "I hail from the beaches north of Casper. Michael, you have visited Casper twice now to deign good fortune upon us. Li'El," he said, turning to Li, "you have risen above the call of duty to give yourself to this cause."
Stepping back, the elf produced two crystals.
"These are rain crystals. They will produce rain clouds wherever you are when you want them to. This is but a small token of our gratitude."
Kahd’Xel, an arch-demon thousands of years old, holds a grudge against Gaia for making him a pariah in the early days of his existence. Without realizing that Gaia cannot be embodied but that she is an idea, Kahd summons a horde of aliens and demons and plagues called the Xelken. Trekking along the northern border between Empire and the Shawnee Glacier, Kahd gathered a force of 30,000+ Xelken and made a hovel called Groff Basin for them.
From Groff, Kahd launched an assault team that was meant to catch Aspyn unawares and destroy the home of many refugees from the misfortunes that years ago assailed many of the old Terran Cities- but Terrenus was ready.
With a force composed of the Terran military, the Gaian clergy, and HGA, the protagonists were able to defeat the Xelken with relative ease.
Kahd’Xel and the Xelken were not the only threats, however. Two vigilante groups with little-to-no care for civilian life over defending their own, HGA and the denizens of a mysterious ship not yet known as the Banzai, were identified during the conflict and will be followed up on.
- Help rebuild Aspyn, add a new location, add attributes to the military base in Aspyn.
- Follow up on reports of HGA assaults on Aspyn citizenry and Terran military. [can be done by anybody]
- Follow up on the strange ship in the sky that destroyed more of the Aspyn wall than Kahd’Xel. (the Banzai) [can be done by anybody]
- Track fleeing monstrosities back to Groff Basin and provide intel on it.
Just like Dredge, Kahd’Xel was just another blowhard without the cajones to back up his big talk. Even as he writhed on the ground like a swatted moth, the baby Xels that were sustained only by the existence of Kahd’s plague grew weak without their master. Lasers razed and bullets blew holes, seared strips from enemies, and the plague subsided. Just like Lilith Reiter, the Terrans had defeated yet another plague. HGA would be left fighting a weakened horde of the aliens, able now to parse out that there was a separate undead thread lurking through Aspyn’s streets, this one more prevalent than the dying Xel but also fleeing.
Now, HGA would only be left to contend with Aspyn.
Even as Caeceila wheeled, horribly misjudging the ability of her vetted company, a knife hand cut in the way of hers imbued with some arcane geomancy as Officer Brix took two steps backward. Caecilla Glasman would either see what was happening and refrain from sullying the man in uniform or she would lose her offending hand.
“This is a nonviolent corralling meant only to protect Aspyn to the maximum extent possible!”
Heavy fire and artillery died down outside even as Caeceila lashed out in the bare light of her own mismappings. Without anything violent done to HGA despite their utterly incapable and conflictual means of occupying Aspyn, the Terran military would instead see and follow this up as a coup attempt by an inappropriately disgruntled third party. The woman and the officer glared at one another as the Terrans gathered in on one another and began walking from the enclosure.
“You may take your leave, House Glasman,” he said on the way out, giving every appearance of having ignored everything she said. “I know where to find you. We’ll be in touch.”
As the unnatural threat fled into the woods, as the flaccid House Glasman retreated home, as Kahd’Xel withered on the ground before Michael, as the sun set, a cold calm began washing over Aspyn.
Breath hissed out from between Michael’s lips as he lifted burnt fingers to his lips clasping a cigarette. He had backed far enough away that the massive thrashing limbs of the alien heretic couldn’t reach him. As it suffocated in its own spewing blood, as its insectoid eyes rolled this way and that in its dying attempts to focus on half the reason it now died sizzling, Michael finally made his approach. The limbs could barely move, slopping this way and that from time to time, so it was no trouble making his way to the head.
Kahd’Xel’s last sight would be Michael Commager, Son of Gaia, flick a cigarette butt in his face before lifting his boot. His thick tread closed in and splat! Pop went the weasel.
“Guess that’s it, huh sir?” said Barrett as he came to stand beside Michael. “What will we do about House Glasman?”
“I don’t know,” said Mike, finally huffing out the cloud of nicotine. “Sounds like she’s got some problems. Wish she would have given us a chance to talk. One thing’s for certain, though. I would rather they hadn’t come than helped us like that.”
"Yes yes, very, very lucky. Benny, you have your own cook, yes?"
“Cook? Nah, military rations. Got a storage room full of all different kinds,” he said. “I can show you if you want!”
Benny led them into the submergible’s main deck, showing them the radar screens that had found Prose’s ship and several other monitors meant for different types of detection. Through a thick observation pane, there could be seen the wreckage of many other ships.
"... I mean no disrespect, Captain Benny, but you would have done well to publish your charts once in a while. Either that, or our own captain should have done a bit more studying of her own. Maybe then, we wouldn't have suffered loss to... Negligence. If you don't mind, Prose, I'd like to talk to you in private."
At Brutus’ words, the Captain’s excitement dulled.
“Well, how was I supposed to know you were here?” the bald man said crankily, paying no mind to Brutus’s wounds as he waved his hand. “I came as fast as I saw you! Just look at all the lost souls out here who didn’t make it,” he said, gesturing to the wreckage out the window.
Prose stepped between them, holding a hand out toward Captain Benny. Her normally clear skin was coated in white flakes, a collagen her body generated to heal from producing strong electrical charges such as the ones she had expelled onboard her ship.
“He said he meant no offense, Captain. We’re grateful that you found us. Now if you’ll excuse us for just a second,” she said to the others as her and Brutus retreated into the corridor. She nodded meaningfully to Vassago and Brutus, as if anything could happen even while her and Brutus were outside this room— it could.
Black admiral’s jacket, black hat, her black persona filled the corridor before Brutus. Crackles of blue electricity spidered out from the metal coil in her throat as her voice addressed Brutus.
“What is it, sailor?” she said.
Meanwhile, back on the main deck, Benny adjusted pressure and bubble gauges to keep them lowering through the wreckage. They weren’t traveling in any of the cardinal directions, just downward.
“You boys said you’re after the Piece, huh?” he said, eyes settled on the murky depths before him. Benny wore brown slacks with suspenders and boots that prevented him from slipping on the grated floors, a ratty white button-up. Glasses swung from his neck on a chain, but he had yet to don them. Frays of white hair tangled around the crown of his bald head and stuck out like little wings.
“Crazy,” he said in an unconvincing voice. “Didn't even know that was still out there.”
"Why would you let anyone do that to you?"
Sierra withering away from her flesh like ashes in the wind, Phoebe made a good point to her silent doppelganger. Why had any of the aberrations let themselves become this? The only response they would receive from the trio, for now, were their sick visages grinning in twisted resemblance back at them. And still, the laugh trickling like a distant stream in the background.
"They're all monkeys, puppets maybe- even yours. There's something else here, something bigger, but I don't know what. You said you were here before, did you run into anything?"
Void Cain looked adoringly on his counterpart, the original back on him with disgust. It was Phoebe’s touch that snapped him out of it.
“I didn’t run into anything, but I felt it. They’re all one thing. Some trickster demon,” he said, the grins on their Void clones souring just slightly. “It uses traces of our magic and what it can make of our appearance to generate copies. Not even good ones, either.”
“Oh come on, you don’t need to ruin the fun,” laughed Void Phoebe.
With Shikai and the Dead Mistress’s answers, Void Cain held a finger in the air.
“Correct!” He said, leading them up the pier toward the blackened island. Fleets of white horses ran along the beach, scared away from where they grazed on white petals by the strangers. From the end of the pier, Void Shikai crouched. His coiled obsidian legs suddenly sprung him from the boards in a launch that sent waves crashing from either side of the pier as he rocketed through the air toward the horses. With the same motion as his landing, he used the replica of Mykur to slice one of the horses in half. Grabbing one half of the twitching animal under each arm, Void Shikai sprinted into the forest ahead of them.
Soon they walked through the trees. Everything felt and smelled the way a normal forest would, but the colors were all inverted. There seemed to be no animals besides the horses with which the island was inundated.
Among one another, the Void creatures and the Dead walked together.
“Next riddle.” said Void Cain, plucking a low hanging fruit and biting his sharp teeth into it. “I have cities, but no houses. I have mountains, but no trees. Water, but no fish. What am I?”
The quiet laughter in the background seemed to be replaced by the quiet sounds of distress. Whinnying and beastial screeching scraped at the backs of their brains.
Fried squid scent filled the air as Prose’s improvised crew fought off the creatures. Most captains are known to travel with at least one right-hand-man, maybe two; Prose had none. In demonstration of her reason why, the ornate rings decorating her hand that superheated the ship’s railing were warped and discolored with the shock of energy that fried them, embedded gems cracked within their blackened gold.
Captain Letariat could either focus her energy on grilling anything that came over the ship’s edge or decimating that which had already done so.
With deftness that betold prior knowledge of the beasts, Prose left her hand on the prow’s railing to generate a devastating effect on all squid aberrations that fried the tentacles that lashed onto it for support to launch themselves on-deck. This eliminated virtually 70% of the bloodsucking target that approached, but the explanation for their aggression was unknown.
One hand on the bright-blue-illuminated railing, one hand on her sword as she slashed at a badly burnt squid creature that lashed at her with its charred alien appendage, Prose sliced off each tentacle bit by bit as it encroached on her. The creature’s water-like blood sprayed from its wounds as it attempted to close in on the skilled captain in its death throes.
Suddenly a moaning sound broiled up through the water and filled the salt breeze. It grew as loud as the ears could bear, not just impairing but utterly torturing the squid creatures into undulating retreat. With the final whips of their damaged tentacles the dozen-or-so creatures that survived fled into the ocean to the chorus of deep bass rising up from the depths.
Seas around the ship were calming from the froth even as it centralized around the vessel itself, but nearby from the fulmination of the deep bass, there appeared a boiling broth culminating in a bent pipe ending in a scope protruding from the water. Shortly after that, as it rose, was a screw-off valve and the upper hull of an ancient-looking submarine. The valve and attached scope hissed as its hydraulic seals released, swivelling as the cap opened and an old bald man with long wiry white hair on the sides of his head emerged from the porthole.
“Good Gaia, who the feck are you!? You didn’t see the Suckers!?”
Looking all around, it was immediately clear the sonorous sound emanating from the emerged submarine had driven the monsters away.
“We saw them,” said Prose, her hand off the fried railing. Lightning centralized around the crevices where her eyes would normally be in a gesture of intimidation. “We’re looking for the Kaznah Piece.”
The elder poking out from the submarine soured at her expression for a moment before softening in a sense of forgiveness he appeared to have felt many times before.
“Kaznah Piece, eh?” he said, stroking his stubble as he sized up the crew peering down on him. Finally he gave way before retreating into the entryway. “Get in, ye fools.”
Only a few of them would enter as the others necessary to the ship’s function tarried above sea. If the others hadn’t returned in two days, supplies dictated that they must leave the adventurers behind and return to port for supplies. After that, they might be lost at sea forever unless this codger could get them back.
Brutus, Prose, Ruiser, and Vassago were the only to enter the submarine. It was a cramped space of corridors and control centers, gauges in green zones lining all their walls.
“You guys were almost sea food there! Lucky my radars found your ship before you got swallowed up by those Suckers. Call me Benny,” said the crazy-looking old man as he led them through the sub’s tubes. “I’ve been down here for years documenting what’s going on! Buncha sucker squids defending a mother and her little base.”
The Dead reaches a point in the First Temple of Ignatz where they are to create of an object a Totem to Alignak. Totems to Alignak amplify power in that area on a scale dictated by the influence of the object made into a Totem. Theoretically, placing a Totem to Alignak would amplify power to worshippers of Alignak all throughout Ignatz.
Complete the mission, either creating of an object or replacing it discretely with the Totem, and make a clean getaway.
Ash didn't resent Shikai for pushing him so hard, nor question him for his odd methods of training him. He was obsessed with learning the skills that would push him toward his own goal, something all the Dead must have, Ash didn't resent or question Shikai but dove into the material. It was true though, he was worn down. Standing after Shikai's order without arguing, more than ready to get some dinner, Ash placed the guitar with reverence before him and stretched up on his toes and stretching his arms above his head.
Sitting with a yawn, the notes running through his head in a thick twine of mental noise that would continue his training even as he replenished his body. Even before the food came, Ash knew what it was. The smell of meat and the sweetness of batter wafted in, accompanied by the sizzle of the sausage and eggs. By the time the food came, Ash's mouth watered.
He ate it with aplomb, chewing everything to a fine pulp so that his body could absorb everything. When he was done, he scratched his head and looked at Shikai.
"Anywhere to sleep here or should I head back to base?"
--Two days of relatively smooth sailing later
“Intan is the greatest of all the pirates out here,” said Prose, the whole crew gathered around for a late midday meal courtesy of the stolid cook. There was a slightly higher quantity of fresh-caught ingredients in the galley, but supplies were by no means low. All of them had grown a little closer over the last couple days, a very low constituent who couldn’t jive with the rest of the crew dealt with judiciously.
Now, like many nights, Prose and her mates exchanged stories of the sea.
Only tonight, there was a special edge in the air. Thanks to the Yatari-adapted runes on the ship’s hull and relative simplicity of the route on Prose’s charts, they were able to do most of the journey much faster than they’d originally thought. The spot marked ‘X’ was stretched somewhere in the blue expanse ahead of them, this their last and most hearty meal.
“CAPTAIN!!!” came the cry from the bird’s nest, slicing through the reverie. “ROUGH SEAS AHEAD!— APPROACHING!”
“What!?” Prose shot into the standing position, four incredible lunging steps taking her over two crewmates, from the top deck to the prow. The ocean had been calm like glass an hour ago and the skies were clear, but the whole stretch of sea before them now frothed with some kind of living anger— there were no waves, but the surface not only frothed but raged toward them!!
“MAN YOUR STATIONS,” now Prose’s voice ripped across the decks like a thunderstorm. The sound of the “MEN! BRACE FOR CONTACT!”
Rushing water roared right up to them, fizz and angry foam grueling up on them, and then all was silent, perfectly still.
Looking out at the waters that had suddenly grown calm, most of the crew looked at the scene and one another in disbelief. Had they been watching from a bird’s eye view, they might have known what was about to happen….
Looking back, they would see a disgusting, rotting octopus creature sucking onto one of the men’s arms in the back. Blood sprayed from his forearm where he was being bitten, the monster’s tentacles long enough to lash around the man and constrict in on him. With a gross maw of jaws where a normal octopus’s beak might be, and tentacles long enough to resemble a squid, it would lash at the lush’s soft spots until he fell to the ground in a pool of blood where they had just been enjoying food moments earlier.
The super-aggressive creature was not alone, either. In the silent moments they’d spent standing there, a pod of twenty-or-so of the creatures were already climbing up the ship’s sides. Now they began jumping over the side rails and attacking the crew. One singular metal rail ran around the ship, and Prose set her bejeweled hand upon it.
“Step away from the rails!” she shouted.
Electricity superheated the railing around the ship and made grilled sushi of the first Suckerpus’ that followed. There were still about a dozen of the monsters unharmed and seven more who were operative in some way.
The ship was suddenly at war, and not in the way one might expect.
Through the sparkle of her gold that night, Prose watched the men who either tempered themselves against the availability of libations and weather its effects, or lost themselves in the shimmer and got wasted. Those of the latter group who made it out the next day were obviously worse for the wear, and their habits showed even deeper in the sweaty wrinkles on their brows the next day. Those who could weather its effects either carried the hearty slur of a natural drunken sailor or the seasoned brawn to match, and those who saved their free investments were likely the ones who’d been up early and were moving most spryly.
“I am doing well captain, oh my name, Vassago.”
“Welcome,” Prose clapped the threatening man on the shoulder, fighting the slight urge to stay away from him just to exchange pleasantries. “What group are you in?” she asked, referring to which position Vassago had been assigned to on the ship. (They had all been assigned duties based on the things they said they were best at).
Most of the early afternoon was spent drafting pirate’s rights on the ship with Ruiser playing a surprisingly instrumental role in introducing the process. If the crew was going to succeed on this mission it had to be tight-knit, its constitution even tighter. Ruiser would find that, one-on-one, Prose carried none of the dirty mouth or as much of the raucous nature she had in the tavern one night earlier. Her act had been just that, her diplomacy a more accurate representation. It might even seem she had more of a penchant for legal vessels than this.
"...I can see you've wasted no time trying to meet your companions, now that they're hung over and trying the seas on for size. She's a fine brig, though I lament the lack of engines."
“Yes,” responded the captain, her black form retaining a slick appearance despite the heat as she looked ahead of them, bearing the maps to which Brutus was about to refer. “I’ve learned quite a lot!”
One couldn’t see it, but Brutus would know she was grinning as she spoke, the lightning inside her body a consistent symbol of her speech.
“Once you're through, we can finally talk about these charts. I don't know where you got them from, but if they're to be believed, we have an arduous journey ahead."
“No engines,” said Prose as she turned her head to assure they were far enough out from the Isle’s harbor. “Yatari runes.”
“Sheetmen, raise the sails!” she barked, six men splitting between three stations, utilizing a magically enhanced pulley system to raise the ship’s sails.
Now that their ship had been undocked conventionally, a necessity that would come to bear later in their journey, the runes could accelerate their speed. Without ever visibly slowing and without jostling forward, the ship’s speed picked up at a swift clip via runes on the ship’s hull pushing water by underneath them until it danced atop the waves and wind ran through their hair.
“Your stomach alright?” she laughed over the wind, looking back at Brutus from the prow as the sun began to redden in the afternoon.
Multi-Room Martial Arts Movie Showdown (With Swords)
in Water Cooler
I went to a Wendy's in Denver at 9PM once and there was a guy counting the rounds in his pistol while ironing his clothes in the corner