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supernal

What's the difference between love and fun?

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Gore didn’t have to look to know that Adime had wisely ditched the crippled carriage. Now it was just him and Heiliger riding the source of the venomous fog with a wake of dying citizens, Adime waltzing away like it was nothing, he expected. Gore’s entire body was on fire with the blood coursing to his anterior. The brain and nervous system he once used dead, his new accoutrements had new ways of dealing with these things. A subtle aura of white powder evaporated off of Gore’s face into the air as he bent over to Heiliger’s wishes for the reigns, still looking him in the eye over his shoulder.

“You like it like this?” The puppet in whiteface laughed, winking and smacking the giant bag of coke against his ass stamping its white “Rx” imprint all over his cheeks and bomber. His neck had a firm black line of crusted blood across it that looked basically strong enough to keep the head intact; but twisting back to accost Sebastian like this wasn’t doing any favors.

His free hand fumbled around for the reins, and when he finally found them Gore pulled hard. With one massive yank containing all of his might and then an incredible amount more, the puppet flipped the horses backward-left and threw the entire carriage into sudden, lurching disarray. The entire vessel slammed into the suddenly jerked horses and flipped forward over them, Gore’s toes digging like an arachnid into the carriage and holding him to it as he kept lowering himself and flattened his body against it. Nothing could have escaped Sebastian’s blade from that angle, however, even with such a hyper disturbance; so it was that a clean diagonal swipe through Gore’s head sent his cowboy hat flying and freed him of that pesky right tragus and the original right hemisphere of his brain.

The carriage flipped twice clockwise and slammed down on its left side, shattering: gold, drugs, jewels and cash showered the street. Suffocating death air caught up and filled it shortly after. It would dissipate eventually, but the threat was not yet neutralized. As the carriage stopped, dragging the horses until it was only spare parts clattering down the street, Gore tumbled out front of the mess with much of the top of his head, his entire front lip and most of his teeth missing. A giant piece of 2x4 protruded from a charred crater in his chest. Clothing and flesh hung in straps down the zombielike man’s bleeding arms, one side of the zipper on his bomber ripped halfway up the other. Something black, snakelike at times and entirely liquid at others, wove in between some exposed tendons and muscles on his shoulder. His slugs were broken free from the bands once ‘x’ed over his torso and scattered all over the ground. Gore had indeed earned a fitting name.

“YEEEEOW!” he wiggled his tattered body on the ground with inhuman excitement, sliding his hand on the ground beside him and scooping up four shells up with the exposed bones of his forefinger and thumb. Blood coalesced along their ridges as he rolled them in his palm, pooling a noticeable amount more than it would naturally.

In his other hand was still, of course, a big bloodsoaked bag of cocaine. He brought it up and, as one of his eyes stopped working, dumped the not insufficient remainder on his face.

Crowds and crowds of people gathered far off, traffic coming to a halt some distance ahead as the wake of death following the carriage barreled down the road. Four to five blocks ahead of the decimated carriage were cleared, a steadily growing perimeter of parallel blocks doing the same.

“Are you still there policeman? You’re strong,” he said through the cocaine in between heaving for infected air on his back. His voice was listless, slurred, lisping due to lacking many of his external speaking extremities “I’m done now, come and get me.”

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Taken on balance, it was a rather nice day for mass murder. The sun was out in force, its noble brilliance dashing away the shadows wherein the dastardly most liked to lurk . . . not that it mattered, Adime and Gore hadn't waited until night to do their hunting.

The breezes were light, downright capricious, and skipped through byways and down the main street with stuttering presence. Though not a constant force, those jovial winds did their part to dissipate the thick cloud of death billowed out just beyond Adime, half-cloaking the still, lifeless bodies of Taen citizens caught in the worst of it. now it might take a dozen minutes to die, rather than just one. With more time lapsed that window continued to widen, so that soon it'd take a half hour, and then a full hour, before death, and beyond that the gas would be so scattered as to merely hurt, rather than kill.

Well before that, meanwhile his gas presented an evergreen threat, Adime watched Sebastian make his choice; he dismissed Adime to focus on Gore and Adime simply walked off the main road to the nearest alley. He left blood where he skid across the street but customized coagulants coursing through the host body made quick work of that, scabbing the wounds in real-time. The host didn't need painkillers, Adime simply blocked the brain's ability to uptake pain signals so that the throbbing in the arm was minded, but not a distraction.

No sooner was her occluded by the buildings hemming him in on either side than Adime's body underwent a quick, radical shift. His legs bent at the knee, in the wrong direction, giving the man an appearance of an ostrich or an emu; the tendons along his legs lengthened and strengthened; and like that Adime was off on foot, hitting speeds in excess of 30 MPH. He put a reasonable distance between him and the crime scene, the ongoing conflict between the sheriff and his antagonist, and sought some low hanging fruit by way of hapless fool whose body Adime could hijack for his purposes, leaving the apothecary clerk to be found rotting by some eager detective.

(tentative exit of Adime)

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Sebastian looked down at the mangled man, wondering how it was that he was still alive and talking in such a state. Then again, he had just run through a cloud of cyanide no worse for wear, so maybe he shouldn't be so incredulous. But even he would have trouble walking off wounds like the robber before him.

"G-Governor?"

The swordsman glanced at a young man who was approaching with a mixture of horror and curiosity on his face. He sheathed his sword and held up his hand to halt the man in his tracks. He didn't think the robber posed any further danger, but it was best to be cautious.

"I need you to do me a favor," he explained, "Go to my office and tell my secretary to have Khartes agents meet me here. Can you do that?"

He nodded and took off in the direction of city hall. He looked back to the criminal and leaned against what remained of the wagon.

"By the looks of you I'd say you got about a fifty-fifty chance of surviving those injuries. Doesn't really matter to me though. Alive or dead, you'll be of great interest to Khartes."

With that handled, Sebastian reached deep inside himself for the Wildlight energy that flowed within him. He was hardly a master when it came to utilizing the energy, but he could pull off a few tricks that didn't require too much finesse. Once he had gathered enough energy, he released it in massive pulse of healing energy. Most of the gas victims were already dead, but this would heal the survivors enough to keep them alive until proper treatment could be rendered. For now that was all he could do.

Edited by danzilla3

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-90:00

Lunaris was no stranger to crime.

It was unavoidable, with a city the size it was and its citizens being who they were. War refuge the metropolis was, but even it had its rough edges, the dark corners where drug trade flourished and the greed of few pressed many into desperation and violence. 

To many, blatant disruption of public order was rare. The occasional scuffle was prone to escalating into a gunfight, but most people knew better than to disturb the peace. The trees had eyes. The birds sang every secret. Every faceless stranger could be the queen's hands and feet, quietly watching, ready to snuff out any threat to the sanctuary Taen offered.

This was why, when the bar exploded, Simon Novace did not yet panic. He worried, just a little bit, as he watched the Twine reports filter in, as the radio guy (Mark, or Matthias, he couldn't remember) radioed the announcement to the constabulary.

A lucentglass panel covered one wall of their office, overlaying a grid of thread-thin vines twisted into a perfect model of Lunaris’ Twine network. Points of light pulsed on the lines as messages entered the network.

Just an isolated incident, Simon thought, leaning forward, fumbling for his twine transceiver beneath the mounds of paper on his desk. His fingers found the coil. A vastness yawned open at the back of his mind's eye. Simon began poring through the messages -visual snapshots of the explosion, long-winded accounts of the event, frantic lost-person reports.

The Lunaris Telecommunications office wasn't a great institution, not like the City Guard or the medical center. Their office consisted of seven telepaths at seven desks. Simon's scope was the Banyan district. The othets monitored various areas in Lunaris, sifting past the job searches and invitations, sorting messages, keeping an eye on the crime reports, warnings, and assemblies, the minutae of the city's activities.

Turns out people were more than willing to keep themselves under surveillance if it came in the form of gossip and helpful community conversation.

the fire is obviously a cover-up for another one of the governor's mistakes. Down with Heiliger!

Mostly gossip.

Simon stitched together a chronological account of the incident, then pieced together the memories the witnesses had twined as a composite image of the scene of crime. The constabulary would need all the data they could get to supplement witness accounts and track down the arsonists.

 

-75:00

In the wake of the explosion, the cityfolk sprung into action.

Minutes after the fire began, a plumber began rerouting the pipelines in a nearby cottawood building. The orange glow suffused his arms as he, perched on a second-story balcony, crafted a crude hose from the exterior piping, directing the spray of sticky, saplike liquid at the bar. A trio of women dropped their groceries and ran to a nearby hydroponic restaurant. One broke the tiered tanks free from their scaffolding; the two others muttered a spell, sending the wall of soupy liquid cascading against the side of the bar.

The fire smoldered, kept at bay. The handful of passerby who'd taken the wildlight first-aid classes offered by the health center began tending to the injured. A man drew strings of energy from his horse and into a badly-burned woman, light bleeding into her veins. Weakened, the horse stumbled to its knees, but the woman cried in relief as her skin knits together.

A few minutes later the constabulary arrived, trailed by a handful of medics and a stern-faced trio from the City Guard.

Simon watched the reportage of the events as he waited for his coffee to cool. Isolated incident. Nothing to worry about.

 

-60:00

A smattering of lights burned on the lucentglass twine map- the residential area some distance from the Banyan.

Simon reconnected to the network, scanned the reports, then frowned. "Radio the constables," he called over his shoulder to the radio comm guy (Mark? Matthias?). "Gunshots between Corona and Laminary"

"Think it's the same guys?" asked Mark (or Matthias?)

"Maybe. Maybe not. Better safe than sorry."

The minutes dragged by. No further reports of crime. Simon began to relax as the Twine monitor resumed its normal activity.

Then, a radio crackled to life, the tinny voice of a constable breaking the silence. A murder.

Simon took a deep breath, exhaling slowly through his nose. He pinched the bridge of his nose, taking a moment to collect himself. Please be a coincidence.

"D'you think we should send out a public warning?" asked the woman at the desk next to his. Aster. "The prince said-"

"We wait," Simon interrupted, "Until we get instructions from the constables." He stared at the Twine monitor. "Or something else happens." He stood to refill his coffee.

 

-30:00

“Gunshots at a pharmacy,” Aster called out. Her eyes were closed, her lips set in a thin line. The office looked at her, waiting anxiously.

She shook her head. “Nothin’ else. Shop’s far from the housing places. One of the shadier areas. Folks there ain’t likely to Twine crime, most bein’ criminals themselves. This one’s from a nosy old lady.”

Matthias was fiddling with his transceiver. “I’ll forward it to the police anyway.”

Aster nodded. The room returned to its tense silence.

Simon sipped at his coffee.

 

-15:00

The screen around the Silverbrush bank bloomed with reports.

"Bank robbery!" Julius sat with one hand on her transceiver, another on a lucentglass plate, projecting the reports of the event as they occured. Matthias stood over her shoulder, muttering into the radio transceiver.

Aster gave Simon a look. He groaned. The other five telepaths waited anxiously as Simon dug into his desk drawer, producing a black spinner ring. It seemed to be made from a clear resin, but tightly-packed within, was a thick band of ink-black feathers. Simon  sent a short prayer to Gaia, slid it onto his finger, and turned the outer ring.

A new consciousness slipped into his mind.

Simon swallowed. "Y-your highness?"

Yes?

I'm from the Lunaris Communications office. You've asked us to inform you of any... er... acts of terrorism?

Silence. Assent. The telepathic equivalent of a nod.

Simon hurried to continue. "There was an explosion at the Banyan market thirty minutes ago. A man was murdered in a nearby alley short while after. And after that… someone reported gunshots in a small pharmacy. Now, someone's holding up the Silverbush Bank."

A pause. There’s been four already? The voice, silent and toneless as it was, felt accusatory. Simon began to form an excuse, but found himself silenced. Never mind. We really need to automate your job. Thanks for telling me. Broadcast a warning in the district. Tell everyone to stay indoors. I assume law enforcement is en route?

"Yes, your highness." Simon made a gesture at his coworkers. They got to work, returning to their desks to beam a high-priority Twine announcement across the Silverbrush district.

In a moment of brazenness, Simon dared to ask the question. "D-do you think it's the sheriff-killers?"

It had been a few months, but the memory was fresh. It was one thing to face beasts from beyond their city borders. Another to have one of their own murdered within their walls.

We’ll see, said the voice on the other end of the ring. Keep an eye on what happens.

The presence faded. Simon turned the ring back and tore it off his hand. “It’s so creepy talking to him,” he muttered. “Having him in my head.”

From a radio in the next room, the crisp voice of Oliver Oxenfree came to a halt.

“I’d like to interrupt this broadcast for a moment to address our Lunaris listeners, of particular- those in the Silverbush district. Listen well to this announcement! Stay inside your homes! Shut your doors and close the windows, leave the main streets. There’s dangers roaming your streets, says our sources. Nothing your dear governor can’t handle, I’m sure - and most assuredly no challenge to Caer Loerem! All the same, be vigilant, Taen. Be vigilant.”

 

-10:00

Nobody paid attention to the starlings. They were just small birds, after all, often found flitting over the city. Common as pigeons, though more intelligent, and more of a nuisance, with their fondness of stealing food of shiny things. There was something strange with their eyes, though, a bright orange that stood out against their dark feathers. As everything in Taen, they always seemed to be watching.

Several came to perch on the stone pillars of the Silverbush bank after the first gunshots echoed in the building. One fluttered over to a windowsill, eyeing the interior with great interest. One squawked as the Governor appeared. Three flitted away as the carriage began hurtling away from the street, presumably startled by the chaos.

Another pair began squabbling as law enforcement arrived. One in particular seemed to take interest in the proceedings, watching the constables began erecting barriers around the dead and interviewing the witnesses. There would be a vierescent among the respondents, one who could lift images from the minds of the witnesses using wildlight as a channel - faces, voices, the height and build of the robbers. All necessary information, all helpful in identifying the suspects.

One bird left its perch, daring to alight on a railing next to a sobbing woman. She didn’t seem to notice

“- blood running down half of his face!”

The bird hopped into the air, fluttering to another witness- a scowling young man with a death glare set on the constables before him.

“... was sumthin’ wrong with them, I keep tellin ya. Its eyes moved all wrong, like they weren’t together. Monsters, I tell ya- them dark things from Argentspire finally sneakin’ into our cities..."

The bird chirruped, a sound eerily similar to laughter, and took to the skies.

 

00:00

A single starling circled the broken carriage. It watched Adime streak away as one of its brethren took chase - then pull up, losing track of the creature. It watched the web of wildlight pulsing around Sebastian, the few filaments of magic glowing weakly. It watched personnel from the medical center began to arrive, faces hidden with air filtration masks- created for the Wetlands’ miasma, equally effective in preventing cyanide poisoning through inhalation.

Once it finished counting the dead, the  starling dove down towards the front of the carriage. Sebastian would hear footsteps behind him. A moment later, Pallas Paralios stood beside the governor, tightening the bands of another filtration mask behind his head.

“I’ll take over.” The prince’s voice was muffled behind his mask. He moved with an air of… not exactly purpose, but the air of a man much-accustomed to things falling apart and having to put them back together. Pallas reached out in the direction of the horses. The already-injured creatures fell limp. The air trembled as Pallas clenched his fist, drew his hand to his chest, then pushed his palm outwards. The strings between Sebastian and the dying citizens pulsed, reinvigorated.

Pivoting on his heel, Pallas turned his attention onto Gore. No strings of wildlight bound the creature together, not that he could sense. His brow furrowed. “Not from around here,” he muttered to nobody in particular. He held up a pair of forceps, gingerly picking up one of the slugs. A moment later, the forceps were gone - slug and all. Satisfied, Pallas stepped back. There was a sound like a singing wineglass, silenced. Light bent subtly around the bloodied creature as a spatial barrier enclosed him, cutting off the edges of the wood impaled in his chest.

He turned one of the black rings on his hand. “Apothecary? Send more personnel to the Silverbush district. You’ll need to set up a temp clinic. A hundred or so cases of gas poisoning. No, I don’t know what it is yet, but it’s lighter than air and dissipating already.” He turned another. “Novace. Get in touch with the KMed people. Twine out their instructions for this kind of gas poisoning.”

Pallas finally laid his eyes on the governor. “Fine mess we’re in, hm?” He cocked his head, studying the man for a moment. “You’re the one dad appointed, weren’t you?” he finally said. There was a note of wistfulness in his voice. 

"Yeah..." Sebastian said awkwardly, "Your father was a good man."

Pallas looked like he wanted to say something, but seemed to change his mind. “Mhm.” He stuck a hand in his pocket. “I don’t like bureaucracy. I’d rather deal directly with your people when it comes to. But you’ll need one of these.” He tossed a black ring towards the man. “Direct link to me.”

Sebastian caught the ring and nodded, "Much obliged."

Pallas looked in the direction the other man had gone. “If these things are what I fear they are... I’m going to have to make changes to....” he waved vaguely. “The cities. Security. Military. You have a right to know that. Probably.”

Pallas turned another ring. “Progress on the Faux-Tons?” A moment later, he sighed. “Fine. I’ll ask him.”

A few minutes later, a truck bearing the Khartes sigil drove up. Pallas watched as the men loaded Gore’s barely-alive form onto the vehicle. A middle-aged man holding a container came up to the prince; Pallas took the empty box. He returned it with the slug and forceps inside.

He turned back to Sebastian. “Forward all autopsy reports your men get to Khartes. Some from Coeus might show up later.” The prince rolled a shoulder, unfolding a pair of dark wings.”And get a new sheriff, please. It’s been long enough and your cosntabulary's in sore need of delegation.”

"Yeah, that's sort of the problem," Sebastian replied, "We've gone through a number of sheriffs, and all of them are dead or missing in action. But I have a plan. I'll send you the specifics."

Suddenly, Pallas laughed. “Gone through a number- hah!.” He shook his head, eyes shining. “This land is so damned cursed. Vitality and lethality. A place of paradoxes.” He chuckled again. “Man, be glad you’re only dealing with this city. As a whole? It’s wild, I tell you.”

The whispers of the onlookers reached his ears. Pallas glanced at the medical personnel, up at the ones shuttered in the buildings, and nodded.

A single starling took flight, leaving the city behind.

Edited by Csl

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Summary

A series of seemingly unconnected crimes take place over the span of a few hours; arson, petty theft, bank robbery, and a string of indiscriminate murders of opportunity. Reports from the crimes describe behavior which is odd even by local standards and foments civil unrest. One of the bank robbers is stopped and detained.

    Consequences

    1. A bar is burned down in the Banyan district
    2. An apothecary is robbed
    3. The Silverbrush Bank is robbed
    4. Several dozen citizens are killed by hydrogen cyanide gas; Adime has snatched additional hosts at the bar and the bank for redundancy's sake
    5. Civil unrest grows incrementally with concerns that the chaos is related to the Argentspire (the mountain transported from Yh'mi over 2 years ago)
    6. Local law enforcement gathers a slug from Gore for further research

    Opportunities

    • Join the local police force
    • Exploit the chaos and commit your own crimes
    • Join Taen's R&D to learn from the slug sample taken at the scene of the crime with one of the bank robbers
    Edited by supernal

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