View Full Version : Broken Souls

05-02-2010, 05:24 PM
The original chapters 1-5 were on the old forums, but I figured having them all in one place wouldn't be a terrible thing. All new chapters will be in this thread. Yes, there's new chapters. Finally. ^^;

***Warning for minor language, and some dirty speak, but nothing too explicit. Also, somewhat graphic combat depictions.***
***Decklan Brey is property of Phawksy. Kim Jae Hoon belongs to GuyWidaThing. Joseph Blanc belongs to EOJBakura. Bladebite belongs to Askew37. All original story, Skarlani, and assorted obvious NPCs are creation of KujakuDM.***
***Any and all references to the Iron Kingdoms, locations therein, races, classes, or themes belonging to the setting, are all property of Privateer Press, who may or may not be constructed out of concentrated awesome.***

Book 1: Infernal Callings
Chapter 1

The road south was long and hard, and the brisk, wet, fall weather was unforgiving. Darkness crawled away slowly, giving way to the gray haze of morning, as birds chirped nervously in the trees, twittering away, fretting over the frost to come.

Plodding slowly, methodically through the mud, a pair of big, brown boots squished into the wet earth and did not wish to leave it. Each step an effort to wrench the soles of the boots from the cold embrace of the muddy trail, a very small, lean figure cloaked in brown made its way down the dark, wet trail southward from Laedry, the last city those big boots had clomped through on their way down from the Burningfrost Plains. A pair of large, red eyes gleamed in the morning haze, bright and sharp beneath the shadow of a big, brown cloak, a wide mouth with small, sharp fangs pointing up from the lower jaw, peeking over a set of thin, small, grey-green lips set in a hard line, stoic against the chilly air. Adjusting the pack shouldered under his cloak, the figure searched the distance for signs of life. Over a set of hills in the distance, soft, blue smoke rose over the hilltops, drifting quietly into the silent, grey morning.

Blowing unruly brown locks from his eyes, a thin young man made his way through the brisk pre-morning, his eyes ever flicking back and forth, his stride great out of an obvious paranoia. Goggles perched on his forehead, and his black great coat wrapped around him like a second skin, he wore a pack laden with trinkets and blankets and a bedroll, as well as the clinking cans of iron rations making their tinny sounds with each step he took. Clasped tight in one hand sat a gold coin, bearing the radiance of Morrow on its head, and the brand of Thamar on its tail. The man looked down to the coin in his hand, then back up to the land stretched out before him. The road from Midfast, while short, was hard, muddy, and cold. The days of summer had long faded, with fall in full swing, the man could only shiver as the chill licked up his sleeves and slithered through any *****s in his armour against the elements. A ways away, the soft trails of smoke denoting civilization curled their way through the twilight. The man smirked, and tucked a lock of hair behind his ear, before flipping the gold coin in the moist morning air, catching it as it fell and slapping it atop the back of his left hand. Eyebrow raised, he regarded the radiance looking up at him, nodded as if the coin’s answer were the most rational thing he’d ever heard, and continued along the path, tucking the coin into his coat pocket.

Walking with great strides through the pleasantly humid morning fog, a muscular man wrapped in white, flowing garb traversed the countryside like a man on a mission. His black hair trimmed short to his head, his eyes bright, and his chin high, he carried a modest pack containing some rations and a bedroll. Around his neck hung a cord from which dangled a small wooden carving of the radiance of Morrow. His keen eyes on the horizon, the man spied signs of civilization. Down South they seemed keen to pass off the traveler northward, sending him to better defend the people and seek out glory up north at the border. The call for heroes had been put out, and he had come to answer. Here, there would truly be an opportunity to be a real hero, and help people. His gait increased as he spied chimneys and smoke dancing on the morning skyline.

Dawn over Fellig was always a strange time. Portents of woe and weal come whispering on the morning fog, telling sweet half-truths of the war on its doorstep. Sitting at the crux between warring nations, between Cygnar and its ally Ord, and the great motherland of Khador, there was no longer a concept of peace or calm in the city of Fellig. It was this ever-oppressive layer of tension awash over the city that welcomed Joseph Blanc when he awoke that morning.

Rising from his lumpy bed in his modest home, Joseph squinted hard, crumpling his face in discontent as he eyed the young dawn crawling through his dirty, soot-caked window. Dropping back down onto his pillow with an audible plap, he stared at the ceiling, trying to claw his way out of sleep’s intoxicating clutches. Morning always came so early.

After finally rousing himself from his slumber, Joseph took care of his morning hygiene routine, which consisted of cleaning his mouth out and running a gap-toothed comb through his bowl-cut brown hair in an attempt to stave off the wicked case of bed-head he had contracted during the night. Dressing in his simple work clothes, he quickly grabbed a day-old chunk of pound cake he’d left in the breadbox from the night before and shoved it into his mouth as he got to work on pulling on his leather armour and buckling in.

Securing his trusty crossbow on his belt, Joseph inspected himself in the dust-covered mirror in his bedroom before plopping his helmet down atop his head, letting out one last crumb-mouthed yawn, and heading out the door to the guardhouse, to work.

Weary, bloodshot eyes reflected the quiet green glow of runes engraved in stone, their magic pulsing through the rock and into the earth below it, like the heartbeat of a great beast. Their language was older than memory could even try to keep up with, but their meaning had an all-too-new importance. A thin, gnarled, worn hand laid itself down upon the stone, feeling the heartbeat as it shook in quiet tremors. The owner of said hand, a black-cloaked figure, knelt over the stone, his voice tinged with phlegm and a thick Khardic accent as he recited the ancient words over and over, pouring his very faith into the act, trying to quiet his body’s protesting paroxysms as he did his work.

The heartbeat of the magic throbbed through the ground and into the trees, the forest feeling for all the world like a single living entity, as the magic pulsed through the smallest weeds and the mightiest oaks. It was a primal palpitation that served as a warning for all who walked, crawled, flew, swam, or slithered within its borders.

You are not welcome any longer.

05-02-2010, 05:26 PM
Skarlani couldn?t shake a feeling of foreboding. Fellig was quiet for the moment, but he couldn?t help but squirm in his seat. The tavern was quiet?subdued, even?through the afternoon hustle and bustle, long into the evening, while he sat next to the window, nursing his mead. He didn?t like it. Not the mead, but the quiet. Everything seemed muffled, and closed in, like a cloudy day that threatens to rain but never delivers.

The elf sipped his mead, and ran a hand through his ear-length blonde hair. Even his senses seemed dim, his sight less sharp, his hearing muffled, as if his head were underwater, and he didn?t like the feeling. He scanned the bar as a breeze of night air from the window tickled his nose. The Gorax in the Glen, as the taven was called, named for the rather impressive gorax hide hung over the fireplace, was filled with the usual rabble. Most of the crowd was made up of factory workers, guardsmen, and mechaniks, with the occasional merchant kicking his feet up after a day in the marketplace. Skarlani smirked. He always knew the merchants. They would dress far too extravagantly for whatever kind of establishment they were in, and would throw free rounds around to their mates like it was going out of style.

His eye stopped, however, when he reached a set of figures spaced around the bar. Three of them, to be precise. One sat alone in a dark corner, trying and failing at being inconspicuous as he sat, nursing a beer and flipping a gold coin over and over. He was Thurian, by the looks of him, short yet handsome, in an overcoat and goggles, looking conspicuously antisocial. Skarlani had to wonder whether he was trying to invite the attention, or just really bad at avoiding it.

The second he watched intently, amused. He was a small gobber, smallest Skarlani?d ever seen, in a set of leathers, with a rather shaggy black mohawk and tattoos on his arms. Skarlani?d never heard of any kind of goblin with hair before, but this one not only had hair atop his head, but eyebrows, to boot. He couldn?t help but be intrigued by the little guy, as he watched him nonchalantly cutting purses and stuffing his pockets as he made his way through the crowd, though he would practically bolt anytime somebody seemed to move in his direction.

Last, and best at grabbing his attention was a tallish, muscular man in Morrowan regalia, excitedly telling a story to what looked like another Morrowan clergyman as he mimed the action in his story. By his dress, Skarlani assumed he was a monk of the Order of Keeping, though he couldn?t help but be surprised when, upon catching a glance at his face, he identified the monk as an Umbrean.

These were clearly not citizenry, much like himself, the quiet Iosan sitting by the window, people-watching in a Cygnaran bar. Quietly, he mused to himself, wondering whose story was the most interesting, when he heard a howl in the distance through the window. It was a sinister, warbling sound that ran chills up his spine. Skarlani turned and watched the road. Something was coming.

Outside, in the streets, a thick fog began to roll low into Fellig, making the chill night air feel almost cozy, as it enveloped those it embraced. Seated by the other window, a pair of men glared at the fog with suspicion. ?This fog is cursed,? one of the men, a swarthy type with a thick accent grumbled. His companion, however, was quick to respond with violence, cuffing him upside the head.

?Shaddap! Ya daft swampie, everythin?s curs?d to you! That book is cursed, that lamp is cursed, you wouldn?t be this damned off if we wasn?t on Bellok?s pay!?

Skarlani glared over at the two and shook his head, remembering why he wasn?t always a fan of the local colour.

The heartbeat of the forest pounded in the black-cloaked man?s chest and skull, burning him as he repeated over and over the ancient words, his throat dry, his lips cracked, his nose bleeding from the strain. His fists tightly gripped a pair of wood sticks, with which he was now proceeding to beat a rather large drum, thrumming out the rhythm of the heartbeat of magic, making it echo off of the trees. The forest throbbed and echoed with the beats of some disembodied heart, as one by one, the animals all turned their attention to the woodland?s heart, where the man in the black cloak shuddered, quaking, as he continued his duty. The pulsing now reached the very edges of the trees, and echoed over and over, ?You are not welcome.?

The corruption was great. Animals with eyes of glowing green, spittle of blood, skin like paper, and great boils and lesions populated the forest completely. There was naught but plants untouched by some great blight within the woodlands. All life was tainted, now existing solely as rotting, slavering beasts that would just as soon devour their own flesh as that of others. The natural order was shutting down, failing, as murder, mayhem, and corruption became not just the way of man, but of beast. The circle was breaking, and only one thing could be done.

Joseph Blanc slung his helmet down onto the bar as he sank down onto a stool. What a day. Guard duty was long and harsh, and even though he loved it, it would wear out the most avid law enforcer. Shaking out his sweaty hair, Joseph dropped some coin on the bar in front of him, and smiled politely to the barkeep. ?Stout, and keep it coming.?

?Nothing to eat, Joe? Had a big lunch or something?? the round man behind the bar asked, as he filled a mug for his customer.

?Nah, stout drinks like a meal. I?ll eat later. Thanks,? Joseph said as the barkeep handed him his drink. Taking a sip, he sighed, finally able to relax.

?You are not welcome,? announced the throbbing, not with words, but with force. With each pulse, growing stronger with each beat, drums echoing into the sky, the animals began to scream with pain. They were being driven away from their home by the great beating of the forest?s heart, as the shaking, bleeding druid at the centre of it all, wracked with the same taint that corrupted the animals, continued his ritual. He would drive the corruption from the forest, and restore balance, even if it killed him in the process. The outside world be damned.

The animals left the forest.

05-02-2010, 05:28 PM
*double post, connection problems, apologies*

05-02-2010, 05:30 PM
?She was wearing a chastity belt, but the power of my manhood rusted right through it!?

The crowd inside the tavern had gotten rowdy, to say the least, as a rather boisterous dwarf loudly regaled the table closest to the bar with stories of his adventures in obtaining exotic liaisons. He was a traveler from out of town, and he was throwing free rounds about the place liberally. Even Skarlani had moved to his table to maximize his entertainment via the Rhulic storyteller, who had introduced himself as Bladebite.

Bladebite?s stories had apparently been interesting enough to melt the most standoffish veneer, as Skarlani couldn?t help but notice that the exuberant monk and the cutpurse gobber had joined them at the table. Even the short Thurian in the corner had moved a little closer, listening intently.

?I tell ya, she was one hell of a ride! The thing you have to realize with this girl is that she din?t have no hair, see. Her head?d been shaved clean bald, poor lass!? Bladebite was already on a new story, ?And speaking of head, by all thirteen of the Great Fathers, did she have a mouth like an angel! Problem is, she din?t know when ta quit, see, much like most Tordorans. Couldn?t get enough of me an? all, y?see. And, well, a gentleman always saves room for the main course, sos I had to stop ?er somehow. She was so stubborn I?d mistake her for Rhulfolk! I tried everything! Held her forehead back, grabbed her jaw, pulled on her ears, everything! It got so I was yankin? on her ears so bad she was startin? to look like this berk over here!? He jerked his thumb at Skarlani, who couldn?t help but laugh at the comparison.

The gobber hopped up in his seat, more than a little inebriated from Bladebite?s free rounds. Standing on the chair, as he tugged on his own exaggeratedly large ears. ?You think those are big? Check out these!?

?Yeah, well those go out to arsehole infinity,? Skarlani called across the table to the gobber, punctuating his barb with a swig of his mead, as the gathered crowd chuckled with him. Even the gobber grinned and shook with amusement.

?Lad must?ve done quite a bit of strollin? in his life, then. Guess it?s easy on the knees, being that short,? another onlooker hollered, as the crowd erupted in laughter. For his efforts, he gained another beer from Bladebite and a joking chastising finger point from the gobber.

It?s impressive the distance one can cover when they have agonizing pain to run away from, and a fresh, tasty meal to run to. Especially when one has four legs or wings. Running, crawling, flying full-bore through the night air, the forest life would make this loss their victory in its own way, as they made straight for Fellig. Where the forest would deny them, the city would provide ample nourishment. Quiet whispers beneath the veil of consciousness tittered to themselves, knowing the bloodbath would be delicious.

Skarlani slammed down his mug, turning toward the window as a choked, phlegmy howl rang out in the street. He looked over to the gobber at his table, who, despite being pretty far into his cups, had also looked up. Their eyes met, and Skarlani stood, about to take a step to the door. He didn?t get the chance.

Screams ripped through the night air as the muffled, tight feeling that had enclosed the town all day suddenly shattered into millions of pieces, the sounds of terror and agony as clear as a bell for all the city to hear. People sprang from their seats and backed toward the back of the room. Any who could see through the window watched as a pack of emaciated wolves with glowing green eyes ran down a woman and began to savagely rip her apart.

Skarlani?s ears echoed with screams from all over the city, as well as cries of shock and horror from within the bar. Outside, chaos ensued. Grabbing his rifle, he made for the window, and knocked the glass panes out with the barrel of the gun. Looking around, he beheld a grisly sight. People were being run down in the streets by all manner of wild animals. Wolves, crows, cougars, abnormally large insects, all manner of beast, all with glowing red eyes, chased down and savaged townsfolk, as others slammed their way into buildings and dragged out helpless victims. Men, women, and children lay in the street, being bitten, clawed, ripped, and torn at, devoured alive as the beasts half-finished meals, preferring to chase down live prey than finish eating something that had finally expired. It took all he had to choke down he bile that rose in the elf?s throat.

Looking back, he was surprised to see a guardsman who had been sitting at the bar, now standing behind him. ?Somebody?s gotta help them,? said the guardsman, as he loaded his crossbow.

?And you are??

?Joseph Blanc,? replied the guardsman, donning his helmet.

?Well good. You?ve got a bow, get to the other window.?

?Okay.? Joseph ran to another window, flanking the door with Skarlani, and poked out one of the glass panes with his fist. The two men began firing out at the animals.

The monk jumped to his feet and dashed up to the door. ?I?m going out. Innocent people are getting hurt.?

?You wanna be one of them??

?The just don?t fear death,? came the reply, a look of irrational exuberance on the face of the tall Umbrean.

?The only thing you got to lose, you got for free,? came a nasal voice from below. Both men looked down, to see the little gobber standing there, two wickedly barbed knives drawn, a grin on his face. ?I like this town. They?re wreckin? up the place.?

Skarlani smirked as he took aim and squeezed the trigger of his rifle, sending a round through the sweet spot just behind the armpit of a running bear, dropping it onto its face as it slid across the cobblestones, collapsing in a heap. ?Well then come on, ya flagos! Send these wurmkin back to their father!?

05-02-2010, 05:33 PM
The Umbrean smiled as he opened the door, standing in the doorway, a big, white-clad target for all the world to see. The gobber ran out from between his legs, launching to the side and taking a slice at a nearby wolf, cutting a red chunk out of his hide as the barbed knife ripped through it. Meanwhile, Bladebite came blustering out, pushing past the Umbrean, raising his pistol and taking a shot at a raven diving for a running woman, knocking it out of the air. The Umbrean dashed out and into the thick of everything, trying to get attention away from the other townsfolk. It worked, as the diseased-looking wolves turned on him, growling, slavering, hungry, save for the one the gobber had already angered.

Joseph squeezed the trigger on his bow, sending a bolt into the shoulder of one of the wolves. The creature jerked and yelped, a phlegmy sound that sickened the guardsman as he reloaded his crossbow. Skarlani echoed with a shot at the same wolf, his rifle cracking loudly in the night air. The bullet whizzed through the wolf?s skull, spraying blood and brain on its comrades. It dropped to the ground in a wet heap, pus oozing out of the wide exit wound.

Bladebite reloaded his gun, backing away from the hungry wolves, who had abandoned their meals to face this new, live threat. Most were preoccupied with the Umbrean, and Bladebite realized too late that he had gained a little too much attention. A wolf dove on the scrambling dwarf, latching onto his leather-clad arm, and shaking fiercely. Sharp, yellowed teeth sliced through his coat, digging into his arm, ripping flesh as it worried at his arm. Reeling from the pain, Bladebite stuffed the barrel of his pistol up against the animal?s face, and with a vengeful grin, blew its skull to bits, showering himself with blood and pus, the stench rising from the animal enough to nearly bring the contents of his stomach up. He shook what was left of the dog from his sleeve, holstered his gun, and drew his blade, blood running down his arm.

The gobber ducked as the wolf he?d cut snapped at him, rolling out of the way, and coming up on his knees. The beast charged again, and again the gobber rolled to safety. Another lunge, and the gobber fell onto his back, letting the wolf fly past him, but not before shoving his big boots into its belly and rolling with it, sending the wolf flying into a heap in the remains of a roadside stand. He climbed to his feet and looked to the Umbrean, who was carefully dodging the dogs, stepping aside with ease, and knocking away bites with his bare hands. Unfortunately, he seemed to be getting cocky, and one of the wolves dove for him, catching his forearm instead of the elbow the Umbrean was too early in throwing at him. The beast sank its teeth in and tossed its body around wildly, using its leverage to rip the Umbrean?s arm wide open. Another wolf pressed the attack, and grabbed at his leg, ripping at his muscle as it worried the wound. The monk was clearly beginning to panic, trying to fight away the wolves on him, only to be assaulted by more in the process. His distraction was proving too effective.

One of the wolves on the Umbrean?s legs dropped as a bolt pierced its side, puncturing something vital. It whimpered a wet, choked cry, crumpling into a ball on the street. Joseph reloaded his crossbow and took aim; Skarlani firing off a shot beside him to remove the wolf the gobber had thrown from the fight.

The gobber crouched low and sped into the fray after the wolf on the monk?s arm. He ran up at it from behind and slid underneath it on the cobblestones, grunting with the realization that he would be pretty well bruised come morning. Reaching up with his blades, he sank them into the wolf?s belly, and quickly wriggled out of the way as he twisted the blades inside of the beast, making it cry out and let go of the monk?s arm. He yanked downward, the knives ripping the wolf?s belly open, organs spilling out onto the streets, barely missing the gobber himself. The monk called a thanks to the gobber, who jumped to his feet, and watched as the big Umbrean grabbed a wolf that was lunging at his little saviour by the scruff of its neck. With a mighty wallop to the nose, the wolf knew a fresh brand of pain, immediately followed by what it was like to have one?s neck broken. The monk dropped the beast and returned his attention to those around him.

Guns ceased to fire, and wolves ceased to cry, as the fight came to a near standstill. Voices hushed as a low, steady chanting curled through the air. Eyes turned to the doorway of the tavern, to see the conspicuous Thurian who had been sitting in the corner, holding his coin, heads up, and making arcane gestures with his free hand. The old Caspian language passed his lips as he murmured, eyes closed. When he finished speaking, everything seemed to stand still for a moment, as his eyes?once brown, now seemingly tinged with red?opened, and he held out his hand at the collection of wolves the monk and gobber were currently surrounded by. ?Burning Hands.?

A blast of flame erupted from his hand in a huge cone, surging forward and lighting the wolves up in a fiery conflagration. The monk and the gobber, eyes wide, threw themselves to opposite sides, rolling out of the way of the blast in the nick of time, as blood-soaked fur ignited, and the cries of lupine agony filled the air. Bladebite was the first to capitalize, running in and hacking into one of the burning wolves with his blade, putting it out of its misery. Skarlani and Joseph fired into the crowd, ending more lives as the wolves continued to yelp, their flesh being consumed further by the flames burning through their fur. The monk and the gobber worked in tandem, flanking one wolf as the monk took care of another, leaving the gobber free to disembowel the final wolf.

The cobblestone streets were splattered with all sorts of putrid fluids, the wolves lying dead, and their victims with innards splayed out of their torsos, on display. The brave fighters looked around, to see that watchmen were desperately struggling to take down the rest of the animals that had flooded into town. It was going to be a long night.

Hours passed, the town now lay silent, save for the cries of the wounded. The streets were littered with bodies, man and beast, and the men from the bar were exhausted. Howling still echoed in the distance, however, informing all that they were not safe.

?They have to be coming from somewhere. They?re all sorts of diseased,? the monk reasoned to the others, as they sat for a moment on the doorstep of a closed shop.

?He has a point. This many, there has to be a trail to follow. If you go back the way they came, you?ll probably find the source,? Skarlani added, reloading his rifle. ?Look, me and Bladebite?ll stay here, hold down the fort with the guard, and you kids try and follow it, alright? We?ve gotta stop these attacks. I don?t know if we can survive another wave of these things.? He grimaced as he looked down at his boots, which were covered in a disquieting mixture of blood and pus. ?What in Caen are these things??

?I dunno, but I intend to find out. Can?t be anything ol? Slicer and Dicer can?t handle,? the gobber announced, shaking his knives to wick some of the ichor from them.

?Go on, then. They?re coming from the forest to the west.?

?How do you know that?? The mage quirked a suspicious eyebrow.

Skarlani simply tugged on one ear and smirked. ?Iosan. I heard howling from that way hours ago. Didn?t realize how important that was at the time, though.?

The gobber shrugged. ?Good enough for me.? He took off at a run in the direction Skarlani had pointed them. The others set off after him.

?So who are you guys, anyway?? asked the gobber, once they caught up with him. ?I heard you say your name was Joseph,? he made a motion in the direction of said guardsman, ?but what about the rest of ya??

?Kim Jae Hoon, monk of the Order of Keeping,? replied the tall Umbrean, slowing his considerable stride to keep pace with the gobber. ?Just call me Hoon.?

?Decklan. ?Brey,? the Thurian said, almost reluctantly.

?Skoojwalujibsurenakralokanen,? the gobber announced proudly, ?or, yanno, just Skooj, if that?s too hard for ya.?

Fellig was bordered to the south and west in large, sweeping forestland, with the foreboding Deepwood Forest to the west. The road west was an easy path to follow, however, as much of the vegetable life on the trail was either dying, or coated in some sort of putrid fluid from the animals that had traveled through it.

Reaching the forest edge, the resounding pulse of the forest itself began to resonate in the bodies of the men. Their wounds began to ache and itch as an intense antipathy for this place washed over them. Drums pounded in their ears and ribcages. They did not want to be there, but still they pressed on. In the distance, a green glow illuminated the canopy of trees, providing a definite destination, as the throbbing feeling grew only stronger as they approached.

05-02-2010, 05:38 PM
Blundering into a large clearing marked by standing stones and one sacrificial stone in the centre, the warriors found what they were looking for. An emaciated, gnarled, quaking druid in a black cloak knelt before the sacrificial stone, which glowed with green letters none of them could read, chanting in a language none of them could understand, beating on a large drum. He looked up to see them enter, clearly a bit confused by what they saw. The green runes illuminated his face beneath the hood of his cloak, revealing his face to be sunken and pale, with bloodshot eyes, rotten teeth, and skin pulled taut like dried leather. He shook with tremors, and bled from his nose, standing to greet them by picking up the ironshod quarterstaff that lay on the ground behind him.

?Why are animals attacking Fellig?? Joseph called, readying his crossbow.

The druid simply coughed up something wet, and raised his arms to the sky. He began to speak to them in that same ancient tongue, his words falling upon deaf ears, as none present could understand him. He spoke at length, clearly describing something, and when he finished, he made some gestures and suddenly, the grasses of the clearing grew tall and gnarled, and began to ensnare the men, winding around their ankles, or in Skooj?s case, knees.

?Bloody? Learn Cygnaran!? Skooj hollered, cutting himself free of the entangling grasses as he began to make his way forward, trying to step carefully and avoid further snares, as the grass writhed and reached for him.

Joseph paid no mind to the grasses, as they could only slow him down, and took aim with his crossbow. His bolt flew true, streaking through the night air for the druid?s heart, only to splinter as it struck a magical barrier around him, sparking green as it collided, and bounced away. Decklan, too, didn?t worry about moving, and a few arcane motions later, fired a series of red motes of light after the druid. ?Magic Missile!? The motes struck true, slamming into the druid?s torso after traveling a rather meandering path. His cloak smoldered, as he reeled from the impact.

Hoon managed to break free of the grass, and made a break for the druid, his footsteps so light that the animated grass could barely touch him, let alone grasp him, though he fell short before the druid managed to retreat behind the sacrificial stone, which he upturned like a table. This didn?t worry Skooj much, as he made for the stone, weaving through the grasses as fast as he could, to emerge from the entangling plants relatively unscathed, and just in front of the stone. Hoon closed in from the other side, as the two moved to flank the druid on either side of the stone.

For their efforts, Hoon caught a gout of flame to the face, sending him reeling as his flesh sizzled, roaring in pain, which gave Skooj an opening to take a pair of slices at the druid, just barely able to catch him in the thigh with a shallow slash, as the second blade collided with the magical field, sparking green as it grinded across.

Decklan and Joseph began to trudge their way carefully through the grasses, as the guardsman reloaded his bow.

Metal grated on metal as the druid swiped his staff after Skooj, looking to bash in his head, only to be foiled as the gobber threw one of his blades up to deflect the blow, sending a few sparks into the air, and setting him off-balance for a second swing of the staff, catching the little gobber with a hard blow to the ribs as the druid backed away. Skooj yelped in surprise as much as pain, stumbling back to catch his balance, clutching his side.

Hoon came back with a vengeance, throwing a series of punches at the druid, though he landed only about half. Each punch slammed into the emaciated man like a hammer, crunching his torso about and making his ribs scream. The druid desperately tried to duck and dodge as much as he could, to marginal success.

Joseph waited, as the fight began to move away from the stone, trying to get a good shot, while Decklan let fly with another spell, as a small green, viscous orb left his hand, bound for the druid. It missed its mark, flying past him as he ducked one of Hoon?s punches, and splashing into a nearby birch tree, which sizzled and smoked. A branch fell, eaten off of the trunk by the acid splash.

The druid growled, the sound somehow hollow and wet at the same time, and stepped back before unleashing another gout of flame, again at Hoon, who dove for cover, but not in time, as the flames singed his left side up and down, agony ripping through him as his flesh bubbled, screaming. The druid began to holler again in the strange, ancient tongue, his manner accusatory and furious, as he danced away from another set of slashes from Skooj?s knives.

It was just the opening Joseph needed. He let fly with another arrow, this one finding its mark in the druid?s right shoulder, piercing deep, making him cry out and drop his staff. Decklan surged forward, flinging another series of magic missiles at the druid, which pummeled him, knocking him about from the force of the blows, as he stumbled, bleeding, yelling at them.

Skooj ran up and slid to a halt on the wet, dewy grass, as he thrust one knife into the druid?s leg, then the other. The druid screamed in pain and unleashed another gout of flame, blasting Skooj off of his feet with the unfortunate side effect of ripping the barbed knives from his leg, rending muscle and flesh, as blood poured from the gaping hole. The world started to go dim, his vision becoming blurry. He coughed another phlegmy cough as he watched Hoon climb to his feet.

?I won?t let you hurt innocent people, villain!? the monk cried, as he approached, landing a punch like a hammer?s blow to his jaw, knocking him backward.

The druid found himself standing at the edge of the clearing, which ended in a cliff behind the stone, overlooking Fellig from a distance. He smiled, and turned to his assailants. They would not have him. Throwing out his arms, the druid rocked back on his heels, and let himself fall.

Hoon and Skooj rushed over as Decklan and Joseph finished picking their way out of the entangling grasses. The Umbrean and gobber looked over the precipice, to see the druid lying twenty-odd feet below, impaled on a branch sticking out of a fallen tree, a victorious grin on his sunken face. Behind them, the runes on the upturned stone ceased to glow, and the woods went silent, for there was no longer any life there but the four warriors in the clearing. The throbbing heartbeat of the forest went dead.

Skooj turned to Hoon, who looked rather battered. ?Damn Wurm-humping blackclad pillocks. Think he has any coin on ?im??

Returning to Fellig, the four warriors found the town quiet. The animals had been dealt with, though there was still a lot of cleanup being done, both man and beast, in the streets. The sky was beginning to grow light. ?Bed,? Decklan declared, headed for the nearest inn.

?We?ve done something great here today,? Hoon announced. ?We?re victorious over a great evil! The just have triumphed! We?ve brought justice to an evil blackclad!?

?That?s nice. Bed.? Decklan resumed his beeline for the inn.

Skooj looked to Hoon and simply shrugged. ?Tomorrow for drinks. For now, bed,? he agreed, and followed Decklan.

Hoon looked down at himself, and was suddenly more than a little aware of his burns and wounds. After a moment of thought, he turned and headed for the city?s temple to Morrow, waving goodbye to Joseph. ?Church.?

Joseph stood alone in the middle of the street, watching his interesting allies head off to their respective destinations. He pulled his helmet off and scratched his head. ?Home.? He headed in said direction, musing to himself how hard he?d thought his day at work had been, and how easy it seemed now.

05-02-2010, 05:46 PM
*Book One: Infernal Callings*
*Chapter 2*

The swirling void of darkness is scarce the comfort of man, and this time proved no different. Soft, sickly green glows from distance untellable washed into the inky blackness, ambient all around. The world was naught but darkness and the foul green lights, twinkling and seething at the periphery of sight. Up and down had no meaning, no grasp, no identity. They were simply concepts that ceased to anchor themselves to reality, melting away like so much snow in the springtime as they slid into nothingness, never again to be caressed by the tender, familiar fingertips of thought.

A feeling, not unlike fear, but far different, began to bubble up, like backwashing sewage through a bathtub drain. Not fear, not terror, not horror. Subtle, like a soft kiss on the shoulder from a long-dead lover. Subtle, like the caress of a maggot squirming beneath healed flesh. Subtle, like the soft, rhythmic breathing of a garbage sack hanging halfway out of a dumpster. Subtle, tearing at the edge of reason; a frantic, passionate disquiet.

Sudden movement, first at the periphery of consciousness, then of the eye, a slithering, writhing, undulating form. White, swollen, like a maggot filled with pudding, it wobbled and sloshed as thick, ropy, rust-coloured tentacles writhed and curled around it, groping at the air drunkenly. A pair of mandibles jutted from what must be the front end, though no other markings identified it as so. They clacked and clicked, a sound akin to cicadas dying en masse, as it lolled about in the nothing.

A tentacle lashed out, a flash of red, a sudden, undulating movement of its body, and then?

Decklan awoke with a shriek; bolt upright in bed, eyes wide. Breathing heavily, his lungs burned, like he?d been holding his breath. Scanning his surroundings, he remembered where he was. The room was rather spartan, and smallish, perfect for somebody who didn?t plan to stay long. One table where his backpack sat, one nightstand, one bed, one washing basin and pitcher, one window behind him. It was the typical room rented at The Hunter?s Guild. Breathing more easily, the fair-faced Thurian ran a hand through his bed-thrashed hair and closed his eyes, a little more calm now that he had his bearings. Quaking, he threw his covers off and hefted his legs over the side of the bed, the soles of his feet warm against the cold, wooden floor. He sat a while, staring at that floor, head in his hands.

What had just assaulted his dreams? What did it mean?

The Hunter?s Guild was quiet, muffled murmurs the height of activity in the tavern hall. Waitresses moved slowly and sluggishly, and the patrons weren?t any better. Sitting at a smallish table near the bar, Skooj and Hoon chatted amiably as they awaited their meal.

??and so here I am, looking to do some good and take some action where my brothers just want to sit on the task they?re charged with, and wait for Khador to just come take Morrow?s bounty for their own! Cygnar needs heroes, not hoarders!? Hoon took a drink from the mug of water in front of him.

?Yeah, I get that. So you?re crazy, then,? Skooj replied. He leaned over in his seat as a pair of feet appeared on the stairs. Watching, a smirk spread across his face as Decklan trudged down into the room, looking tired and displeased.

Hoon followed Skooj?s gaze and waved Decklan over. The sleepy Thurian nodded and made his way to the table, grabbing a seat and plopping down into it.

?Shoot, man, you look like the Wurm?s own arse end. Sleep well?? Skooj asked, playing with his own morning mug of mead.

Decklan shot Skooj a displeased look. Running his hand through his now-combed, ear-length hair, he slumped forward, leaning on the table with his arms. ?Had a wicked nightmare. Some kind of creature was in it, freaked me out.?

?Did it look kind of like a tentacled meatloaf?? Hoon asked, the big man?s eyes bright with curiosity.

Decklan nodded and motioned for one of the waitresses, who nodded in affirmation at him, and motioned that she would be just a moment.

?You kids too?? Skooj asked, sitting up. ?A big, white, maggoty thing, right??

?Yeah.? The big Umbrean nodded

Decklan?s brow furrowed. ?Hm. We all had the same dream. That?s pretty weird. Think it had anything to do with last night??

?Some kind of wicked Wurm mojo, ya mean?? The little gobber wiggled his fingers to indicate magic. ?Could be. Blackclad are a pain in the ***.?

?Hm.? The Thurian licked his lips in thought. After a moment, he tried to wave down the waitress again, who again nodded, smiled, and motioned that she would be there in a moment.

?Service is tragic here. It?s like they keep forgetting what they?re doing. We?ve been waiting on breakfast for like an hour,? Skooj grumbled, watching the waitresses with displeasure.

?I?ve seen one of the girls serve three pancakes to the same guy four times. The guy acts like he just got them each time, even though he?s already eaten the last plate,? Hoon observed.

Indeed, upon closer inspection, the same transaction was repeated again, almost like clockwork. Decklan turned in his seat to see this happen a few times over. A guy kept relighting the same cigar. Another would go to drink from his tankard, look dismayed that it was empty, set it down, then go for a drink again a few minutes later, repeating the cycle. All through the guildhall, people seemed to be foggily going through the motions, forgetting after each cycle, like some kind of mechanical amnesiacs. It sent a chill up the mage?s spine. He couldn?t help but notice that not everybody behaved like this. Most didn?t. However, after a bit of study, he noticed that everyone acting peculiarly bore some sort of scar or injury from the previous night?s attacks.

Skooj took another swig from his mead. ?So, yeah, things are pretty weird ?round here. That fog that rolled in last night is still in the streets, though there?s a lot less of it. Probably has something to do with it.?

?Nothing we can do?? The Thurian was jarred from his observations.

?Not unless we get some really big fans and start swingin? or you got some kind of spell, like wind or somethin?.?

Decklan frowned. ?I don?t have anything like that. I use mostly fire.?

Hoon nodded, ?Be careful in the city, then.?

?I always am.?

?So, what?s yer story, then? Hoon here was just tellin? me he wants to be a hero or summat, so that?s why he?s up here, but you don?t seem the type,? Skooj asked, turning an appraising eye on Decklan.

?I?m just here to make myself useful. I was raised by my father. He was killed, and all I have of his is this coin,? he held up his gold coin, ?I haven?t seen my sister in years, and I travel alone. Nothing much to say.?

?So yer a lone wanderer with no current familial connections and a shadowy past, right? Nice, good angle.? The gobber took a swig of mead.

?What? I don?t??

?Ah, relax, there?s always one.?

?So, Skooj, what?s your story?? Hoon asked, a little confused by the exchange.

?Me? I?m from up north, way way up north. Burningfrost Plains. Big family. I?m number sixty-eight of sixty-eight. I?m here scoutin? out this town for invasion.? Skooj?s nonchalance surprised the men. ?Relax, nothin? military. I run,? he considered his tenses, ?ran with a gobber gang who thinks that if they come in here they can try and control the trade. Not likely. Gives me an excuse to come down south.?

The humans just stared.

?I like this here place. HEY, WAITRESS, WHERE?S MY SODDING BACON??

05-02-2010, 05:53 PM
?I?ll have no more of this!? Priestess Anana couldn?t stand even the sight of the house of Morrow. The white marble building was a house of lies, anathema to the very thing it said to stand for. She stumbled out of the great archway, clutching the gold chain about her neck. From it dangled the coins of Ascendant Solovin and Ascendant Shevan, flanking Morrow?s radiance. ?This is a house of lies! LIES!?

Two priests rushed after her, stopping at the gate as the priestess stumbled into the streets, a wild look in her eyes. One of them, wearing garb of a chaplain, looked to the lesser priest. ?Gavon, go after her. Whatever madness has taken her might make her dangerous. Morrow save us all if she gets violent and harms an innocent townsperson or a merchant!?

The younger priest, Gavon, a Caspian with blond hair and dark eyes, nodded. ?Yes, Chaplain Keegan. I?ll do my best.? He took off after Anana, who now was quickly making her way for the marketplace.

Keegan watched Gavon go, a look of worry on his timeworn face. He took a deep breath and whispered a prayer as he turned and returned to the church building.

?So sixty-eight? I didn?t think that was even possible.? Decklan couldn?t help but be curious.

The three walked through the streets of Fellig, their feet kicking up the low-lying mist that still hugged the cobblestones. Around them, people seemed to be in a daze. Some functioned as normal, but most seemed fuzzy around the edges, aloof but not insulting. They just seemed in another place. Those that bore the scars of the previous night?s attacks, however, were not so lucky. Like those in the guildhall, they seemed to be moving in a repeating cycle of forgetting things. Unnerving didn?t begin to describe it.

?Yep, it is. You know how gobbers are prone to twins and triplets, multiple births and all?? Skooj began explaining, illustrating the numbers with his fingers.

Both men nodded.

?Well, in my family, dunno if it?s a curse or a blessing, but we?re prone to quintuplets and sextuplets. Like litters of puppies, we are, and just as cute. My Pa had the Wurm?s own virility, and my poor Ma had to bear the fruit. I?d probably not be the last had she not cut ?is brass ones off after she got preggers with me. I?m one of only three single births in the whole family. Me, my sister Piddo, and me bro G?shlug.?

Hoon and Decklan both winced. Castration is never funny when one can empathize.

??S why I?m never havin? kids. I?m a fan of my boys,? Skooj chuckled a bit to himself. ?So you guys hear about that Edgel guy in town??

Surprised by the sudden change of topic, both men shook their heads.

?Who?? Hoon asked.

?Edgel the Quick, dude who lives in that big estate on the western edge of town.?


?Hearsay is he hasn?t been seen since last night. Some people are thinkin? he got ripped apart, others think he up and left when nature started revoltin?. His place is empty.?

?How?d you hear that already?? Decklan quirked an eyebrow.

Skooj just grabbed the tips of his ears. ?What was it Skarlani said? Arsehole infinity? What the hell happened to him, anyway??

?When the very natural world bends to the whims of those who would destroy mankind, what does he do? WHAT DOES MORROW DO?!? Outraged hollering echoed through the marketplace, cutting through the air and any voices in it, as Anana stood at the centre of it all, perched on the edge of a fountain, clutching her holy symbols so tightly the radiance was cutting into her palm. ?I?ll tell you what he does, he does NOTHING! NOTHING! Does he protect his followers, his beloved mankind? Those who do so much in HIS praise? NO! Why would he? Isn?t the benevolence of one?s deity the EASY way out? How far does hard work and determination extend? How many of you lost friends last night? How many have lost family? HOW MANY HAVE LOST FAITH??

A crowd gathered to watch the display, the quaking voice of a disheveled priestess, screaming more to the heavens than to her audience. Hoon, Decklan, and Skooj quickly joined the rubbernecking crowd, curiosity overwhelming good sense.

?Where is your god now? Where is he? Morrow protect us! Morrow guide us! Morrow save us! MORROW DAMNED US! HE FORGOT US! WE ARE SIMPLY HIS TOOLS! He is NO BETTER than his SISTER!? Anana?s chest heaved with the breaths of her shouting, her long blonde hair scraggly and messy, her face stained with tears. Standing on the fountain, she was no longer a priestess, but a raving madwoman, on display for the public?s amusement.

Gavon pushed through the crowd, making his way to the front with some effort. Anana saw him, and snarled, ripping the chain from her neck and throwing it into the water behind her. Reaching down to her boot, she drew a knife. ?You!? she screeched, jumping down from the fountain, stalking toward the priest. ?You foul, appalling, monstrous excuse for a man! You are the worst of them all!? She leapt after Gavon, seeking to drive her knife into his heart. With a yelp, the priest threw himself backward into the crowd behind him, slamming into a few surprised bystanders, but avoiding the knife by mere inches as Anana dropped to the dirt, all of her weight thrown into the stab. She sat there on her knees, staring up at Gavon, the priest?s eyes wide in shock. Her jaw dropped open, and she shook from her belly like she was going to vomit. Tears burst from her eyes and she doubled over, wracked with shaking sobs, screaming and crying. She dropped the dagger and hugged herself tightly, rocking back and forth.

The crowd was silent. Gavon carefully bent down and grabbed the knife, stowing it in his belt, away from the priestess. He stood there, stunned, not knowing what to do.

A loud chump chump chump of armour echoed through the streets, the only sound aside from Anana?s fit. Pushing through the crowd, a small team of guardsmen, led by Joseph, approached the priests, and looked to Gavon for an explanation. He looked to them, shook his head, and swallowed. ?Just? just help me bring her to Chaplain Keegan. She?s? She?s not well.?

?Alright, guys, let?s get her out of here. Kid gloves an? all that,? Joseph announced to the other guardsmen

The guards hefted Anana to her feet, shackled her, and led her off, followed by a visibly upset Gavon. The crowd dispersed soon after, the show now over.

?Wow,? Decklan marveled, watching the crowd leave. ?That was?something.?

?That was blasphemy,? Hoon corrected, shaking his head.

Skooj, meanwhile, could care less about Morrow, and was busy eyeing up the leaving crowd, looking to place faces with the names he?d overheard as people talked in the market. When you?re less than three feet tall and have ears as long as your forearm, one of your most marketable skills is information gathering. Skooj had learned this at a young age, and found it to be a helpful method of quickly becoming useful in a new place. Fellig was no different, as he had already shown Decklan and Hoon. While they were concerned with events and behaviours, Skooj had been half-mindedly keeping an ear open for people and places, which were generally much more useful sources of interest.

Across the milling crowd, which was breaking to return to normalcy, no longer enthralled by the blasphemies of a mad priestess, Skooj spotted exactly what he?d been looking for. A dark, scholarly man in fine robes was turning to make his way out of the marketplace, his attention span spent. The man had a sinister look about him, with stringy black hair and a small, pointed beard upon his chin. Amongst the rabble, the man stood out, and Skooj could only assume he was some sort of wizard or scholar, or perhaps just a well-learned noble, but either way, his little red eye had been caught by the man. ?Wonder who that is,? he mused aloud, rousing Decklan and Hoon from their head-shaking over Anana?s behaviour.

?Who?? Hoon followed Skooj?s gaze and found only crowd.

The little gobber pointed. ?That guy, in the robes.?

?Why, what?s up??

?Dunno. He looks pretty noble for rubbernecking at something like this, yanno??

?It takes all types, I guess,? Decklan said, casting a lingering glance at the robed man. He couldn?t help but get a strange feeling from him. ?Come on, let?s go. We can ask somebody later. First, let?s do some shopping.?

?Yeah, I gotta get some lead for me sling. I ran out somewhere near Laedry. Damn Llaelese gobber haters,? Skooj grumbled, fingering a few farthings in his pocket.

?They still give you guys trouble there? I thought that was illegal now.? Hoon was surprised. The practice of killing goblins on sight had been outlawed in Llael.

?Yeah, well somebody tell those sodding Ryn that.? The little gobber rubbed a spot on the back of his head where he still nursed a bruise.

05-02-2010, 05:54 PM
***Alys Overture is creation of KujakuDM***

Book One: Infernal Callings
Chapter 3

Joseph held a hand over his nose and mouth, trying hard to control his stomach. Violence was a fact of life in Western Immoren, even more so to those with jobs like his, but sometimes one can just see too much gore in a single week. This was shaping up to be one of those weeks.

A kid had found the body, poor little guy. When the guard arrived to investigate, it was Joseph’s job to assess the whole situation. A local homeless man, a friendly beggar who sold whittlings on a street corner, now lay in a back alley in a pool of his own blood, his throat torn wide open, his body covered in burns from what Joseph figured looked like acid.

A small crowd has begun to form, and his men were keeping the rubberneckers at bay as Joseph took in the gruesome sight. It was bloody, that was definitely for sure. He grimaced as he checked out the corpse. There were no other real wounds, and no evidence of weapons being used. No bullet holes, no puncture wounds, and any and all scratches on him were ragged, like claws or teeth. The man’s neck had been either bitten or grabbed, and ripped open, not cut or slit or even blown apart by a firearm. Joseph had to surmise it was some sort of monster or creepy crawlie, which made this case a lot more complicated. “I thought our wildlife problems were done with.”

With a heave of his shoulders, and to the relief of his gizzards, he turned on his heel and walked out to the perimeter his men had set up. “Alright, guys, we need to get this cleaned up, and somebody on the books. Something with big claws and acid. I’ll go make the report,” he mumbled to a few of the assembled guardsmen, making sure not to speak loud enough for the citizens to hear. The last thing he wanted was panic about monsters stalking the streets and eating people’s throats out. As he turned to go inform his superiors, something caught Joseph’s eye. His gaze stopped on a dark, scholarly man standing in the crowd, looking disinterested amongst the intrigued gazes of the citizenry. He wore robes, and had straggly black hair and a pointed beard. Joseph knew who he was, but couldn’t help but wonder why the rubbernecking locals would be deemed worthy of mingling with the wise and reclusive Arghast.

“Arghast. Definitely sounds like Arghast.” The fire-haired siren behind the front desk of the Hunter’s Guild chewed on one of her fingernails for a moment before nodding. The very motion was enough to have the rapt attention of most men in the room. Alys Overture had that sort of effect on guys. The owner of the Hunter’s Guild, she was quite the accomplished monster hunter from the area, with a reputation of employing mercs of the utmost quality. Despite being battle-hardened, she bore few visible scars; her long red hair being her most striking feature, along with her rather well shaped body. Sitting there in leathers and chain, she always looked ready for a fight, and indeed, she was rarely seen without a blade either in hand or by her side. Even now, she was taking a pause in sharpening her trusty longsword to speak to Hoon, who stood on the other side of the counter, trying to keep from slinking away from the intimidating woman. “You really saw him at the market?”

“Yes, he was in the crowd watching when Priestess Anana blasphemed and attacked another priest,” Hoon explained.

Alys’ fair brow furrowed. “That’s weird. He’s not the type to leave his tower. He’s a mystic, a wizard who holes up in that tower of his and doesn’t like to leave. Him being in the market is really out of the norm for him. He usually has stuff delivered to him.”

“Maybe he felt it was time for a change,” Hoon mused. “Um, thank you very much, Miss Overture.” The tall monk bowed his head, the picture of manners.

“Alys is fine. Miss Overture makes me sound official or something.” She smirked at him, picking her whetstone back up. “No problem anyway; it’s always good to know what’s going on around here.”

Hoon finished up his pleasantries and returned to the table Decklan and Skooj were sitting at, enjoying their lunch. The atmosphere of the guildhall had changed dramatically from the day before. No longer were people aloof and forgetful, and everything seemed to have finally returned to normal. Sitting down, Hoon picked up his cup of water and took a swig.

“Dhunia, I could live between those,” Skooj remarked, his eyes still glued on Alys, who was now sharpening her sword, a threatening look about her.

“What, her breasts?” Decklan asked, following Skooj’s gaze.

“Or her legs. I’m not choosy,” the gobber tuned back to his fellows and took a swig of his beer.

“You are foul.” Decklan shook his head, chuckling a bit. He turned to Hoon. “So what did she say?”

“Apparently his name’s Arghast…”

It was definitely one of those weeks. Joseph slumped into the chair at the guardhouse, dropping his helm onto the table. Running a hand through his hair, he looked at the other guardsman in disbelief. “Really? Two more? Morrow’s mercy, this soon?”

The young guardsman in the doorway nodded, shaking, his eyes wide. Joseph couldn’t help but feel bad for him. The poor kid was brand new to the force, and this was his first day on the job. What a kickoff. “Yeah, and they want you down there, since you were on this morning’s investigation and made the report.”

Joseph rolled his eyes and put his helmet back on. “Damn it, I knew filing the report instead of taking cleanup would backfire. Alright, I’ll be there in a minute.” He stood up slowly, reluctantly, as the young guard turned and left. Joseph sighed. “Bollocks.”

05-02-2010, 05:56 PM
Something was going on in the streets, and that something was drawing people like moths to a flame. Alys looked out the window, unable to see anything but the throng of people. The growing crowd outside the guildhall was beginning to block the door. She scowled at the bustling masses and then to Hoon. The big Umbrean felt her eyes on him, and slowly turned to meet her gaze. ?Yo, Keeper, wanna do some crowd control for a crown?? Alys jerked her thumb at the window.

Hoon shrugged to his companions and stood, smiling to Alys. ?No problem; I?d be happy to help.? Walking to the door, he could hear some kind of commotion outside. Skooj and Decklan hopped up to follow as Hoon opened the door, letting in the loud chattering of the crowd, murmuring over a familiar female voice.

Pushing through the crowd, the boys found themselves in a familiar situation, as at the centre of the crowd stood an even more bedraggled Priestess Anana, tears rolling down her cheeks, as she seemed to plead with each and every person assembled for forgiveness. ?My words, my blasphemies, they cannot be excused by what madness had taken me. For the very core of my being to crumble so, I am no worthy servant of Morrow.?

Hoon looked to Decklan, and the two shared a nervous glance, wondering what she would do this time. Skooj, meanwhile, couldn?t help but notice that when she moved, he could catch a glimpse of metal sticking out of her boot.

?My worth is nothing, my deeds stained by the sin of my words, and I can no longer be Morrow?s servant in this world, not after what I have done.? She fell to her knees in the street, her head bowed, her words muffled by her messy blonde hair. Reaching back, she drew the same knife she had yesterday from her boot. ?My only hope is that I can atone for my trespasses in Urcaen. Please forgive me, Morrow!? Throwing her gaze to the sky, she rammed her knife into her own chest, her hair flying about her head like a banner on a windy day. First she choked, coughed up blood onto her lips, and taking a last gasping breath, finding no air, her eyes crossed the crowd, and locked with Decklan?s. Her blue eyes seemed to scream at him. She smiled softly, and fell face-first into the street, unmoving, her white robes slowly turning red.

Silence sat heavy upon the assembled crowd, and Decklan could not close his eyes as he stared at the dead priestess. He felt cold, his muscles unable to move and threatening to give out all at once. Then, all hell broke loose. The first screams filled the air, followed by concerned cries, as the ring of people broke into a crowded jumble trying to help or get away. In the centre of all the chaos, Decklan stood frozen; Hoon and Skooj wide-eyed as they tried to rouse their friend.

?Deck? Deck? Yo, Poop-Deck! Come on, man, this is not the first time you?ve seen somebody die!? Skooj held his arm up and snapped his fingers a few times, half a foot below his companion?s face.

Hoon grabbed the stunned mage and hefted him into the Hunter?s Guild, Skooj trailing to close the door. The big Umbrean set his friend down in the closest chair and shook him by the shoulders. ?Decklan! Decklan! Say something!?

Decklan inhaled sharply, breathing for what he realized was the first time in a couple of minutes, and blinked his dry eyes, shaking out of his daze. He still felt cold all over, and his skin was crawling. ?I?m okay, I?m okay, stop shaking me!?

Hoon was skeptical, but after one more good shake, relented, releasing the smaller man. ?You sure you?re alright??

Decklan nodded, sinking into his coat, needing to feel secure. He looked over to see a few people pressed against the windows to see the chaos outside.

Alys simply sat behind her desk and took a drink. ?So what the hell?s going on??
?She? she killed herself,? Hoon mumbled, and returned to the door, looking out at the street as a group of guardsmen arrived to control the crowd. ?Priestess Anana.?

?No sh-t?? the guildmaster sat up in surprise.

?She did,? Decklan shivered, ?and she stared right at me.?

?I saw that,? Skooj mentioned, clearly weirded out, himself. ?Plus, dunno if you guys noticed; that shiv was the same one she tried to stab that priest with yesterday. I got a good look at it from down here,? he explained, motioning to where his standing height stopped as he hopped up onto a chair.

?Somebody let her have it back.? Decklan?s stomach curled up on itself, and he couldn?t help but feel ill.

Hoon raised an eyebrow. One of those guardsmen looked familiar. ?I?ll be right back,? he called, and headed back out.

Joseph hung his head once the perimeter was established. First a string of murders, and now a suicide. Not just any suicide, a clergy suicide. Things couldn?t get any worse if?

?Joseph!? a voice cried from behind him. Joseph turned, lolling his head back up to see Hoon approach, hand raised in greeting. The weary guardsman didn?t know whether to be relieved a friendly face was greeting him, or paranoid that a clergyman was approaching. Either way, he put on his best smile and waved back.

?Hoon, good to see you, man. To what do I owe??

Hoon looked about at the sad sight, and sighed. ?Was wondering if you knew anything about this.?

Joseph shook his head. ?No, unfortunately. We knew she was in a bad way yesterday, but they said they had her in good hands back at the church. Keegan assured me he?d watch after her himself. And now? this. The town?s running red. I thought our troubles were over with when we killed those damned animals.?

The big Umbrean tilted his head to the side, and Joseph immediately realized he?d said too much. ?What do you mean??

The guardsman looked like a child caught in a lie. His shoulders slumped. ?Look, maybe you can help me out with this, you being a Keeper and all. We need all the manpower we can get. There?s been?? he lowered his voice, ?a rash of murders.?

Hoon?s expression fell, his eyes going wide.

?One this morning, a homeless guy, and two this afternoon, a peasant couple. Their daughter?s still missing. All were burned by acid, their throats ripped out. Between dealing with the cleanup, the investigation, the bodies, and now this and the church, I don?t know where to even start anymore. Do me a favour, alright? If you find out anything that could help us out, let me or my superiors know. An extra pair of eyes and ears would help tons.?

Hoon nodded, a somber look on his face. After a moment, he looked back up to Joseph. ?No problem, Joseph. We?ll be on the lookout.?


?Me, Decklan, and Skooj.?

?I wasn?t aware you guys knew each other at length.?

?New allies in the pursuit of justice are always welcome. If you ever want our help, or even our company, by all means, Joseph, new friends are a blessing!? The sparkle returned instantly to Hoon?s eye.

Joseph was taken aback by the big monk?s emphatic response, and nodded to placate him. ?Um, yeah, sure. I?ll do that. Thanks, Hoon. I gotta get back to this, so, um, take care, alright??

Hoon nodded, ?Alright, then. Take care. Good luck with your investigation.? Turning on the ball of his foot, Hoon returned to the Guildhall to report what he?d learned to Decklan and Skooj.

Joseph watched him go, perplexed. How did somebody like that survive this long?

05-02-2010, 05:59 PM
A new day, a new set of corpses. Two more last night, and now another pair. Joseph wished he were hardened against the sight of all that blood and burned, ripped flesh, but he doubted he ever could be. The gore was spectacular, and he felt his breakfast sausage threatening to use the emergency exit as he beheld the sight. Shaking his head, he slung off his helm and walked out of the alleyway, towards the road. He needed air.

“Sure picked a hell of a town,” Decklan grumbled, fingering at the coin in his pocket. The morning air was brisk, and he needed to clear his head. Unfortunately, after the previous day’s affect on him, Hoon and Skooj insisted on coming with him. It wasn’t that he didn’t like them; it was just that he didn’t care to be in their constant company. Hoon was insufferably full of hope and justice, and now the gobber had found a nickname for him.

“Look at it this way, Poop-Deck. You’ll never be bored here, eh?” Skooj grinned widely up at the Thurian.

Hoon shook his head knowingly, his gaze ever to the pale blue sky, a smile on his face. “Morrow’s guided us here, don’t you see that? Think about it! We get here, and that very night, this town needs heroes! It’s not coincidence, you guys. Fellig is in need of champions, and Morrow sent us here to fill that position!”

Skooj and Decklan stared at Hoon for a moment, then exchanged bemused looks.

A scream pierced the air, cutting through the morning haze. “What in Morrow’s name?! AUGH!”

At the sound, quickly stuffing his helm onto his head, Joseph dashed off in the direction of the scream, drawing his crossbow.

Skooj’s head snapped up in the direction of the scream, and he tapped Hoon and Decklan’s knees. The trio ran off after the sound, rounding a corner to nearly slam into Joseph’s back as he stood in the alley.

Joseph yelped, nearly jumping out of his own skin. Whirling around, he was relieved to see his interesting new allies standing there. “Whatever it was, it’s gone, and it took its victim with it.” As he spoke, his men arrived on the scene.

Surveying the area, the men found acid burns on the cobblestone, and a trail of blood leading to a sewer grate in the alleyway. Skooj was the first to approach it, crouching down to get a look inside, the dim light trickling down in the morning sun enough for his eyes. The sewer below looked to be a storm drain, rather than an actual sewer, and the water below had a blossoming ripple of red swirling through it. Standing up, the little gobber turned to his fellows. “Looks like we’re going underground, kids.”

The guardsmen looked back and forth at each other, then all focused their gaze on Joseph. “What, me?” he asked, noticing their glances. He was met with silence. “You guys suck.”

Hoon simply walked over to the grate. “Well, if we go down, we go down. Here’s hoping the place doesn’t smell like poo gas.” Crouching down, he grabbed a bar of the grate in each of his strong hands, and with a jerk, lifted the heavy metal plate out of the street, setting it next to the open hole. He squinted, straining to see in the darkness below. “Sure is dark.”

Skooj grinned wide, his small fangs glinting in the morning light. He drew one of his knives and peered inside. “That’s your problem, pinks.” Grabbing hold of the edge, he lowered himself into the sewer, and dropped into the water below with a loud sploosh.

Decklan looked to Hoon, who made an ‘after you’ motion toward the hole, smiling. The mage grumbled and withdrew his gold coin. He flipped it in the air, catching it on the way down and slapping it onto the back of his hand. Thamar. He pocketed the coin and nudged Joseph forward. The guardsman shot Decklan a look as Hoon helped him down the old access ladder into the sewer below. Finally, he helped Decklan down, and dropped down himself.

“Stay around here, make sure nobody messes with this hole got it?” Joseph called up at the other guardsmen.

Decklan simply snapped his fingers and muttered a word in old Caspian, and grasped a farthing from his pocket. When he withdrew it, it was shining brilliantly, lighting up the whole sewer for a ways in either direction. He held the coin aloft to allow his light spell the most use.

Sitting not thirty feet to their left, a wall rose out of the water, with grating to allow flow from beneath it. In the wall was a large stone door, a small, golden menofix affixed to it. Above the door, the wall was marked by a giant granite menofix, in case there was any doubt as to what lay beyond the door.

“Menites,” Skooj spat, drawing his other knife.

05-02-2010, 06:08 PM
Book One: Infernal Callings
Chapter 4

The mere sight of the ominous underground door was enough to make the fine hairs stand up on the backs of the men?s necks. Sitting secretly beneath the streets of Fellig for who knows how long, the temple was clearly something that was supposed to be kept secret. But now, seeing the fresh bloody smears at its doorstep, there was no doubt that a new tenant had taken up residence there.

Skooj didn?t like the feel of it one bit, and quickly hopped up onto the short landing in front of the door. Holstering both knives, he began to inspect the door thoroughly. After a few short minutes, he turned to the assembled group. ?It?s unlocked, and I don?t think there are any traps or anything on it.? He quickly hopped back down into the chin-height water, scowling.

?Traps? On a temple door? In a storm drain?? Hoon shook his head. ?That?s just silly. Who would trap the front door they?ve clearly been using??

?It does seem a little counter-intuitive,? Joseph ventured, agreeing with a nod.

?It?s that kind of attitude that gets people killed,? Decklan piped up, scanning the area with the light from his coin.

?Tricksy Menites,? Skooj mumbled. ?They?re spiteful enough to trap their own granny?s rockin? chair for a good laugh. ?Course, that?s working on the assumption that they know what laughter is.? Venom cut the little gobber?s voice.

Hoon shrugged and stepped up onto the landing. ?You?re just paranoid.? Reaching forward, he seized the handle of the door and pulled it open, as a loud click sounded from above. Hoon looked up, eyes wide, to see the huge granite holy symbol bearing down on him. It had dropped from its perch atop the door.

The menofix was big enough to crush the entire assembled group, and indeed would have, were they any slower. Skooj yelped, dove beneath the surface of the dirty water, and pressed himself against the stone landing?s bars, the large granite sculpture bridging over him. Decklan stammered backwards, knocking Joseph over with him into the water as their feet were barely missed. Hoon, however, was not so lucky. He dove for safety, but was caught by the massive stone, his legs pinned beneath the massive object. He roared out in pain as he felt his leg nearly break beneath its weight, pinned between stone landing and stone menofix. Laid out on his back, he was pinned from the waist down. Frantically, he tried to shove the thing off of him, eyes wide in panic. ?For the love of Morrow! Help!?

Skooj was the first on the scene, surfacing from beneath the menofix, and climbing up onto the landing. He worked his hands under the massive object, but couldn?t get it to budge nearly enough. Decklan and Joseph picked themselves up out of the water and rushed to Hoon?s side. Together, the three men hauled the menofix up enough for the big Umbrean to squirm his way out from underneath it, dropping it again with a loud thwam that echoed through the sewer. Hoon leaned against the wall, his legs dangling into the water, gasping for air. His legs burned, and his hips ached.

?You going to be okay?? Decklan asked, a little more nervous now that the big man had been injured.

Hoon nodded slowly, carefully picking himself up. ?Yeah. I think I?ll be alright. I think I?m one big bruise from the waist down, though.? He limped a little as he made his way back to the door, which concerned the small mage greatly.

?So what?s in there?? Skooj asked, shaking the water out of his now slicked-down hair.

Hoon peered in, motioning for Decklan to get closer with the light. The smaller man did, holding the glowing farthing up over Hoon?s shoulder, casting light on the temple within.

The hall was large, and lined with book cases full of old, moldering religious texts. The smell of feces lined with strong acid drifted through the air, catching Hoon?s nose thoroughly. The big Umbrean shook his head and covered his nose and mouth with his robes as he stepped in. He motioned for the others to follow.

The walls were moist with humidity from the sewer, mildew apparent on almost every surface. Most of the books were ruined, much to Decklan?s dismay. The short Thurian had made a beeline for the shelves, hoping to find something old and interesting. For the most part, he found only rotten paper and moldy leather. A few texts were in decent condition, however. A couple of books on undead and creatures of the Wurm, some scrolls, and a prayer book. Perusing the moldy volumes, he came across a rather depressing sight. A small rat?s nest lay in the crux of one of the shelves, nestled between a large folio and the side of the bookcase. In it, a litter of ratlings, still pink, lay dead, their mother nowhere to be found. Deciding against disturbing anything, he continued after the others, who were inspecting the door at the far end of the hall.

Stepping through, the men were assaulted by a stronger acid stench, mingled lovingly with the sweet sickness of rotten meat. More virulent, however, was the sight presented to them. The room must have once been a larder of some sort, but what were once hooks for sides of beef, pork, or mutton were now occupied by the bodies of a dozen people, dead, hooked by their collarbones. Slashes ran across their bodies, bleeding slowly out into a series of urns below them, while the wounds festered with maggots and strange purple worms, wriggling about like townsfolk gone to a crowded market. Grimly, the men noted that not a single body in the room was human, instead the assortment ranged from Rhulfolk to Iosan, trollkin to bogrin, and all in between.

Skooj yelped, covering his mouth to keep down his stomach, as he backpedaled into the hallway. His red eyes wide, full of terror, the little gobber tripped and fell backward. He sat, trying to contain his bile, and turned his gaze to the floor, stunned.

Decklan turned away, covering his nose and trying to put the image immediately out of his mind, backing away from the door as Joseph felt his mouth fill with bile. The guardsman clamped his jaw shut and swallowed the acidic fluid, wincing as his throat paid the price a second time. It was Hoon who didn?t move, staring at the horrific scene wide-eyed, mouth agape, unmoving. After a long while, he shivered, stepping back from the sight. ?What in Morrow?s name??

?F---in? Menites!? Skooj cursed, slowly heaving himself off of the floor, leaning on the nearby bookcase for support. ?Every last one of ?em ain?t nothin? but evil! Nobody deserves that!? He pointed in the direction of the room, not deigning to look even toward it. ?Nobody!?

?I guess we have to go through,? Joseph reasoned, his stomach turning with the very thought, as he noted a blood-spattered door on the other end of the terrifying room.

A yelp rang out from the hall, and the three humans turned to see Skooj fall over as the bookcase moved aside, revealing an open doorway behind it. The little gobber landed in a heap, arse over teacups. Looking where the bookcase had been, he grinned and hopped to his feet, jerking a thumb at his discovery. ?Hey fellas! I found a secret door!? The other three just shook their heads and motioned for Skooj to lead on.

?Morrow, please help us sinful children of Immoren.? Brother Gavon knelt before the altar, his prayers an audible murmur in the big, mostly empty church. The statuary before him depicted Morrow himself standing before his radiance, upon each ray of which was engraved the name of an ascendant. Flanking him stood statues of Ascendant Solovin and Ascendant Shevan, patrons of healing and mercantilism, all cast in white marble. The pre-noon sun filtered into the room through stained glass windows, casting a myriad of colours across the old church, illuminating the places in the marble walls where repairs had been made over the years to keep the house of Morrow standing ever vigilant. The pews were wooden, and plainly carved, occupied by a worshipper here or there attending between services.

Footsteps echoed across the floor, breaking the litany of murmuring prayer that served as the only sounds within the sacred hall. Heavy, metal-studded boots chomp-ed their way down the aisle, finding their place behind the praying priest.

Gavon turned to see a dark, strong man standing behind him, a serious look graven into his features. He knew the man to be Felwall Crookd, the local smith. Smiling gently, the priest gained his feet and greeted the man with a bowed head and a handshake. ?Blessings unto you this day, Felwall. To what do I owe this visit??

Felwall greeted Gavon in kind, a look of concern slowly scribbling its way across his brow. ?You said you wished to speak with me, Gavon, so here I am.?

Nodding, the blond priest extended an arm toward a nearby door. ?I see, good to hear. Please, come to my quarters with me so we may speak in private, and not disturb those worshipping.? He nodded in the direction of the parishoners seated.

Taking a deep breath, Felwall nodded. He always hated the saccharine-sweet words that Gavon poured forth. He was always so cordial, and it rubbed the gruff smithy the wrong way. But with no other recourse, he followed Gavon to his quarters, closing the door behind them.

05-02-2010, 06:12 PM
The hallway was long and cold, an unearthly chill writhing through the air as they entered. Bones lay about the hall; five bodies slumped against the walls and left there, their final resting place. Clad in robes and armour, the slumped skeletons were adorned with the trappings of Menite priests and inquisitors, long dead. In spite of their obvious age, each body held a weapon, gleaming in the soft light of Decklan?s coin, absent of rust or tarnish, firmly in their grip.

Hoon surveyed the area, a little unnerved by the seeming orderliness of the untouched corpses. ?Well this is weir??

?BEHOLD THE MIGHT OF MENOTH!? a voice boomed through the room, rattling through metal, shaking teeth, and even making Skooj grab the earring through his left ear to keep it from vibrating in his flesh. In the far wall, a carving of a face seemed to be yelling the warning, though it fell silent and still immediately following his proclamation.

The four explorers stood ready for anything to assault them, but soon found themselves happily disappointed. Nothing had happened. They had been hollered at, and nothing more. ?That was odd,? Joseph mumbled, peering at one of the armoured corpses.

?You?re telling me. I wonder how long that spell was there,? Decklan mused.

?Probably was supposed to yell, and then these kids jump out and skewer us. Too bad they died long before they could spring their crappy little ambush,? Skooj mocked, as he walked up to a corpse, making a face at it. ?Bloody Menites. Looks like they won?t be using these anymore, though.? Carefully, Skooj grabbed hold of one of the shining swords in a corpse?s grip, trying to take it from the body?s grasp.

Suddenly, a rattling erupted from all of the bodies, and Skooj was thrown back as the body?s arm swiped him aside. In unison, the skeletons stood, brandishing their gleaming weapons.

Joseph yelped and let fly with a bolt from his crossbow. It flew wild and clacked off of the wall, shattering with the impact. Hoon stepped in front of the frightened guardsman and readied his fists. ?Undead abominations! The might of Morrow will destroy you!?

A skeleton charged Hoon, flail in hand. It brought down the mighty weapon, swinging for the big Umbrean?s head. Galvanized by a sense of righteousness, Hoon threw his forearm up to catch the chain of the flail, wrapping the head around his wrist. The flail?s spikes slammed into his forearm, drawing small points of blood, as the big man threw his weight forward into an uppercut, slamming his other fist into the skeleton?s jaw, knocking the jawbone clean off of its head, sending it clattering to the floor. The skeleton reeled and jerked its flail away, eyeing the monk with cold, dead, empty sockets.

Decklan grabbed his glowing farthing between his teeth and quickly backpedaled away from the monsters, flustered. Trying and failing to think of a spell to help, so surprised, instinct took over. He cried out in old Caspian as he careened backwards, throwing his hands out. A cone of flame burst forth from them, surging toward the centre of the group, and unfortunately, Skooj. Tabards and robes caught flame as the skeletons flailed about, ripping their fineries away as the flames licked at their decrepit ligaments, snapping one of two here or there, unhinging jaws and loosening knees and elbows.

Skooj cried out as he saw the incoming flames and grabbed at a skeleton?s shield, yanking it down in front of him just as the flames passed around him, licking at him around the edges of the shield. Unscathed, Skooj looked up at the now-flaming skeleton he?d accosted, and grinned sheepishly. He quickly rolled out of the way to avoid the impact of a large mace, launching the shield up now that it no longer held his weight, sending the monster off-balance. Coming to a stop on his knee, Skooj saw his opportunity and ran back at the flaming, fumbling skeleton, skidding to a halt between his legs to slice at the ligaments that held its knee together with both blades. The skeleton emitted a strange hissing sound as its knee buckled, dropping it to the ground in a heap. Pulling itself up with its good leg, it knelt on its bad leg, now separated below the knee, and swung wildly for Skooj, nearly clipping the little gobber?s head as he ducked out of the way, stumbling away. The skeleton chattered its hollow jaw, swiping again for Skooj, catching him in the side and knocking him against the far wall. The little gobber collapsed in a heap, his ribs burning, the breath knocked from his lungs.

Joseph reloaded his crossbow, another bolt ready between his teeth as he kept his distance, shielded by the effective distraction of Hoon sparring with the skeletons in a dance of dodging blows and trying to exploit openings. The guardsman took aim for the skeleton on the far end of the room, shocked when he saw it fall, and slam Skooj against the far wall. He centered his aim on the offending skeleton and took the shot. The bolt whizzed through the air, almost clipping Hoon?s ear as it sped past, lodging directly into the back of the far skeleton?s skull, and almost exiting through its right eye socket. The monster went still for a moment, stiff, and dropped forward to the stone floor, shattering apart on impact, its skull cracking open further. Joseph grinned and took the bolt from between his teeth, working on another reload.

05-02-2010, 06:13 PM
Decklan eyed up the situation, his bearings gained, his blood boiling. His hands flashed into a frenzy of arcane gestures as he began to chant in old Caspian. The runes began to circle in his sight, lining up his own magical aura to his intended target. A big skeleton with a great sword was bearing down on him. With a thrust of his hand toward the skeleton, he could feel the magic flow through him, from his chest out to each extremity, back up through his arm, and outward, as a few small red orbs materialized from his fingers, and raced, sizzling toward the monster, meandering like a firework on their way, until they found their target. Slamming into the skeleton, they exploded in small bursts of force, battering it about, and knocking one of its shoulder blades loose. Stepping back, the Thurian continued his gestures and chanting, and made a large circle in the air in front of him. A glowing circle of runes to his eyes, a lens of soft blue light to all others, a shield of magic appeared in the air before Decklan.

Hoon weaved and dodged through a hail of weaponry, the first skeleton?s flail now joined by a pair of longswords as three skeletons bore down on him, forcing the big monk onto the defensive, his robes a flutter of white as he ducked and whirled around attacks, grabbing chains and swatting aside arms in a flurry of frantic, yet completely controlled movement. The bolt past his ear made Hoon turn to look, leaving him wide open as a sword sliced its way across his chest, leaving a shallow cut in his flesh, opening his robe wide. Blood spilled out onto the white linen as Hoon growled. He came in low for a punch to the sternum, then to the jaw, sending the skeleton stumbling backward as the one with the flail connected with his shoulder, piercing flesh and pulverizing muscle. The big monk cried out and grabbed the chain of the flail, jerking it forward to yank the skeleton off balance, tilting forward. He lifted his knee and brought down his elbow on the back of the skeleton?s skull, thrusting it down against his knee, and cracking it. The skeleton went limp and dropped to the floor, where it separated into a pile of bones. The third skeleton took a diagonal slice at Hoon, catching his forearm with a shallow flesh wound. Hoon swung around and brought his leg up, arcing around for a roundhouse kick, which should have landed squarely in the skeleton?s jaw. When his foot found no purchase, Hoon looked down, to see the skeleton had ducked low. It came up at him with a pommel punch, catching the big monk in the mouth. Hoon roared in pain, barely catching himself before he fell, stumbling back, blood trailing from his lips.

The big skeleton with the great sword bore down on Decklan, charging forward. He brought his blade down to slice the fair mage in twain, the skeleton?s might concentrated into a single slash. His blade slammed into the translucent blue light that hovered in the air before the small Thurian, sending up sparks as it tried to power through the magical shield, until it finally slid off, ineffectually. The skeleton stumbled and gaped at Decklan, hatred burning in its lifeless sockets. Decklan reeled back, eyes wide, more than a little nervous. The monster hefted its blade back up, and made to swing from the side, when it stopped, going completely still. A bolt had lodged itself in the front of its head. The skeleton fell to the side, landing in a motionless heap. It was then that Decklan saw a knife sticking out the other side of its skull. Skooj knelt next to the far wall, arm still extended from his throw, breathing heavily. Behind him, Decklan could hear Joseph reload his crossbow.

Skooj jumped to his feet and scrambled over to the fallen skeleton, putting one foot on the side of its head. He grabbed his knife and jerked it from the monster?s skull, a few fragments of bone flying about for his effort. He turned his eye on the skeleton with the flail, which was stumbling back at him. When the monster was close enough, Skooj leapt up at its back, knives first. Finding a hold by hooking a blade in its ribcage, the little gobber clung to the skeleton?s back for all he was worth. He slipped his knife beneath the rotten tendons that held the skeleton?s head onto its neck and grinned. ?Suck on this!? He pulled back on his knife, ripping apart the tendons with the barbs of his knife. The skull of the skeleton flopped off to one side, and the whole creature crashed forward to the floor, dead a second time, throwing the little gobber a few feet to land in a heap.

Hoon idly wondered if he would be missing any teeth after this fight. He spit a mouthful of blood onto the floor and resumed a fighting stance. The longsword skeleton charged forward, blade at the ready. The big Umbrean ducked the creature?s slice, and dodged around behind it, looking to slam an elbow into its ribs. The skeleton detected his movement and threw itself to the side, narrowly avoiding Hoon?s blow as it hefted itself out of the way. Regaining its footing, it thrust for the startled monk, who arced his body aside, the blade catching his robes but not his flesh. Hoon dropped and swept his leg out to catch the skeleton in a trip. The beast staggered back, missed by the big Umbrean?s foot, and brought the blade down on the monk. Hoon rolled out of the way and jumped to his feet. A prayer on his bloody lips, the big monk leapt for the skeleton and slammed into its midsection with his shoulder, spearing it to the ground, where he grabbed hold of its shoulders. With a deep breath, he reeled back and slammed his forehead into the skeleton?s crushing the bone of its skull inward. Two more headbutts, and the skeleton thrashed no more, lying still. Hoon?s forehead was gashed for his efforts, and poured blood down his face.

The men surveyed the room, breathing heavily. Nothing more moved, and no more monsters harried them. Skooj picked himself and dusted himself off, holstering his knives. ?No such thing as a free sword, huh?? Decklan just glared at him.

Joseph hooked the crossbow on his belt and looked to Hoon, ?Holy Morrow! Are you alright? You?re bleeding!?

Hoon touched his forehead and looked at his hand, a little surprised by how much blood he found. ?It?s a head wound. They bleed a lot even when they?re not serious. A few scratches in the pursuit of vanquishing evil are of little consequence!? He slung the satchel he wore down to the floor and knelt beside it, rifling through it. After a few moments of searching, he produced some linen bandages and a pair of shears. He measured out a length, cut it, and wound it about his head tightly, tying it off when he was finished. His blood seeped through the linen quickly, but it served to stanch the bleeding well enough.

After they gathered the weaponry (at Skooj?s insistence) as spoils of their battle, the group proceeded on to the end of the hall, passing through another door.

05-02-2010, 06:16 PM
***Warning: This chapter contains graphic violence. Like wow graphic.***
***Credits update: Kimball Garrison is property of Matthew Bailey.***

Book One: Infernal Callings
Chapter 5

The noonday sun was warm, despite the approaching autumn weather falling chillier by the day. The soft curling smoke from the factories and homes brought a smile to the man standing in front of the Hunter’s Guild. He wished he were good at anything else, but this was all he was ever good at. With a shake of his head, he opened the door and entered.

Alys looked up from her paperwork to see a man walk through the door. A little over six feet, he was taller than average. He was a thick man with spiky blond-red hair peeking over a pair of goggles and hard, grey eyes. He looked older than he had to have been, with that typical way of holding oneself that indicated he’d once been in the military. At his belt was holstered a pistol, and across his back, a battleblade over his grey-green greatcoat. He held a pack hefted over one shoulder, and a jovial half-smile on his face. He looked around for a moment, then spied Alys sitting at her desk, and approached.

“Welcome to the Hunter’s Guild. What can I help ya with, stranger?”

“I’m here looking for merc work, and I was told this is the place to go,” the man replied.

Alys grinned, “Then you’ve definitely come to the right place. I’m Alys, and I run things ‘round here. What’s yer name, fella?”

“Kimball Garrison.”

Stepping into the wide chamber, the four were surprised to see an old oaken table, set with a feast in the centre of the room. Unfortunately, the feast lay rotten and moldy, older than any of them cared to guess. Curiously, a single candle smoldered at the centre of the table.

“Somebody’s been here recently,” Decklan pointed out.

“Yeah, but the table’s been set a lot longer.” Joseph scanned the area for any sort of surprises.

A door sat on either end of the room, and nothing on the far wall. Skooj approached one and peered beneath it. Only darkness greeted him. He shrugged, expecting as much. “So which way do we go, kids?”

“I suppose we just pick one,” Hoon replied.

Decklan pulled out his gold coin, setting his glowing farthing on the table. He regarded the gold coin for a bit, then flipped it. He caught it in the air and slapped it onto the back of his hand. Thamar. He pointed to the door Skooj stood by. “That’s our door,” he announced, pocketing the coin and picking up his glowing farthing.

The men gathered around the door as Skooj began to inspect it for traps of any sort. He found nothing, and tried to open it. It budged fine, so the little gobber opened it all the way, then vomited into his mouth.

Strewn about the walls of the chamber were a series of corpses. Ogrun, trollkin, bogrin, and gobber, the bodies were hanging, impaled on the walls, their abdomens cut open and their intestines strung out of their bodies, hung like garland about the ceiling. Blood pooled on the floor in the centre of the room, and the stench of rot and iron was thick and wet in the air. A low whispering litany poured forth from the still-moving mouths of the corpses, “We are unholy. We are scum. We deserve this…”

Skooj fell to his knees, coughing on his own bile. His eyes watered and his ears burned, filled with the horrible whispers. He curled into a ball and screamed, his camouflage reflex turning his flesh a pale grey. “No! NO!” He clawed at his ears. “NO! ”

Stunned by the initial sight, the humans were horrified by the cruelty before them. Rocked out of their loathing by Skooj’s screams, they hefted the little gobber away and slammed the door shut, the whispers silenced by the thick wooden door. Decklan knelt over Skooj, who was still curled up. The little gobber cursed and whimpered, rattling off venomous words in Gobberish as he quaked. “Skooj!” Decklan called, shaking his friend. “Skooj! Come on! Snap out of it!”

Skooj whimpered and looked Decklan in the eye. For a moment, he saw something there. Complete understanding. And in a flash, that moment was gone, left behind simply the face of a concerned friend. “You going to be okay?” the Thurian asked.

The little gobber nodded slowly, carefully sitting up, holding his head in his hands. “What kind of monster…?”

“That’s what we’re here to find out. C’mon,” Decklan stood, wiping off his knees.

Skooj nodded again, climbing to his feet, but looking woundedly at the closed door.

Hoon shuddered, outraged. He tosses a sidelong glance to Joseph, who had gone white in horror. He swallowed and centered himself, then clapped the guardsman on the back. “You alright?”

Joseph jumped a little. “Y-yeah.”

Through the opposite door, the men were surprised to find a fire burning in the room, smoke billowing from it up a makeshift chimney dug into the stone. A few lean-tos and sleeping bags gathered around it in the large, open room. One lumpy bag lay near the wall, snoring loudly. Otherwise, the room seemed unoccupied, save for a door in one wall. Skooj looked to the others and grinned, quietly creeping in. For wearing such big, clompy boots, the little gobber proved surprisingly quiet when he cared to try, moving silently across the room to the snoring bag. Sliding his knives from their holsters, he crept up to the bag, and pulled it down, pressing his blade up against the throat of the young man sleeping within, rousing him from his slumber.

The young man yelped, his tangled black hair falling about his face. Bright green eyes looked up to Skooj, who grinned wide, the firelight glinting off of his fangs and illuminating his bright red eyes. “Who?”

Skooj shushed him. “What are you doing here? It’s dangerous, yanno.”

The man gulped, the cold steel of Skooj’s knife pressed against his neck. “Me and the boys, we, we stay here, it’s our base. So, so long as we get the Wormkyn get food, he leaves us alone.”

“The Wormkyn? So that’s what’s causing all the trouble. Were you the ones who strung up all those people back there, too? All those non-pinks? You Menite scum!” Skooj’s skin darkened, outrage building within him.

“What? No! I don’t know what you’re talking about! We never leave this room! Wormkyn said he’d kill us if we did! Please, I didn’t do anything like that!” Panic overcame the man as Skooj pressed his knife harder.

“Then how’d you get in here?”

“Over there,” the young man worked an arm out of the bag and pointed at a corner, where a chest lay. “Behind that, there’s a tunnel out of here. It leads all the way out of town.”

“What’s your name, son?”


“So, Jenkins, you come all the way from outside of town just to murder people in the streets and drag them down here? Seems a little absurd.”

“What? Murder? No! We’re just… wealth reallocation engineers!”

“Thieves, don’t be glib.”

“Okay, thieves. But we wouldn’t do that!”

“Skooj!” Hoon called, stepping into the room finally. “I think he’s telling the truth.”

“He’s saving his own skin, there’s a difference,” Skooj replied, scowling at the frightened thief.

“Skooj,” the big monk warned, “Let go of him.”

Skooj looked reluctantly to Hoon, but did what he was asked. “Alright.”

Hoon approached the thief, large and looming over the small man. “Is the creature still here?”

“Y-yes, he’s down that way,” the thief pointed toward the closed door. “Keep going and you’ll find him. P-please, don’t kill me!”

Hoon didn’t dignify his pleading. “And your fellows?”

“Outside of town! I’m the only one here.”

“Then join them, and never come back to Fellig, or you’ll answer for your crimes. I’d haul you in myself were there not a greater evil to confront. Think on your evil ways, and what you’ve helped perpetuate, and repent.”

The thief crawled out of his bag and scrambled over to the chest, which he moved aside. He turned back to the assembled crowd, only to see Hoon scowl at him. With wide eyes, the thief turned and began crawling into the tunnel as quickly as he could, never looking back.

Joseph furrowed his brow. “We could’ve escorted him to the others at the street.”

“We have more pressing matters. If they’re not responsible for what’s going on in the streets, then this monster is very active. We have to deal with this great evil swiftly,” Hoon reasoned.

Skooj, meanwhile, made a beeline for the chest. Reaching into his studded leather shirt, he withdrew a small leather case. Unrolling it, Skooj produced a set of thief’s tools. Selecting his implements, he went to work unlocking the chest.

Decklan poked around the lean-tos and sleeping bags, making sure they were empty, before slumping down against a wall. “Can’t we do this on the way out?” He reached over and grabbed what must have been Jenkins’ satchel, left behind. He rifled it a bit, finding a bottle of healing salve. With a smirk, he tucked it away for later.

“What if we find something useful?” Skooj posited, popping the chest open with a satisfying chunk. “Ah, there we go.” As the little gobber opened the chest, the others crowded around to see what was inside, and they were not disappointed. A wealth of crowns and shields, with a smattering of farthings filled the chest, though none of it was of any particular use in their current situation. Skooj closed the chest after one last look, and smiled. “We’ll grab this baby on the way out.”

05-02-2010, 06:18 PM
Walking through the door, the stench of blood hit the four men. Before them lay what appeared to be an old sleeping quarters for the agents of the inquisition. A small group of beds lined the room, all coated in coagulated blood. Lying in each disheveled bed was a body of a clergyman, a dagger thrust through his heart.

Decklan approached one of the beds, his gut sinking with each approaching step. He wrenched the dagger from the corpse in the bed and inspected it. It was had a barbed blade and was blackened about the hilt, the brand of Thamar adorning its crossguard. He dropped the knife in distain. ?Murdered by Thamarites.?

Skooj picked up the dropped knife and wiped it clean on the bed sheets. ?And nothing of value was lost.? He stuffed the blade into his pack. ?We need evidence, just in case.?

Joseph quirked an eyebrow at the little gobber, but shrugged. Looking about the room, he could see two doors. Heading to one, he opened it, revealing an unsettling scene.

The room dripped with moisture, wet and metallic smelling. As Decklan?s light spell seeped in, it glinted off of the various machines of torture sitting about the room. Racks, spiked cages, and iron maidens lined the room, most still trapping long-rotted corpses. The sheer malevolence of the room sickened Joseph, who slammed the door closed, stepping back, hand over his mouth.

The others looked to the guardsman with concern, to which Joseph responded by shaking his head. ?We don?t want to go that way. Trust me.? He was white as a sheet.
Hoon nodded, ?Alright, then I guess this is our door.? He opened the other door and stepped through into a long hallway, followed by the others.

Stepping through Skooj?s ears picked up a strange echo. He quickly bolted to the front of the group and held up a hand. ?Wait! Wait. Let me check this place.? As the others waited, the little gobber ventured forth, eyes scanning the walls and floor. He spied a loose block of stone in the ceiling, and a metal rod set in attached to it. About three feet before him lay a stone that seemed out of place. A pressure plate. Skooj smirked at the stunningly basic trap. He beckoned Hoon out. ?I need boosties.? The big Umbrean obliged, and hefted the little gobber up onto his shoulders, where he reached up and played with the trigger in the ceiling for a few moments before hopping down. ?That should do it,? he announced.

He crept forward, keeping low, and pressed down the plate in the floor. He heard a click, but nothing happened, and Skooj smiled. Walking back to the others, he motioned that they were free to go, satisfied with his own cleverness.

Hoon was the first to advance. As he passed the pressure plate, however, it was Decklan who called out to him. ?Wait!?

Runes flashed out in a warm glowing circle on the floor just below Hoon, and exploded upward in a column of flame, engulfing the big monk. Hoon roared in pain and dove out of the circle as the magic faded, rolling on the floor as the flames licked across his flesh. The others ran to his side and began to help put out the flames, smothering them with Decklan?s coat. Hoon lay on his side, curled up in pain, panting, smoking. His flesh was black and red, raw from the burns. ?Skooj,? he groaned, ?you missed one.?

Skooj smiled a little, ?I?m sorry, man. Real sorry. Are you gonna be okay??

Hoon winced, ?I?ll live, don?t worry.?

Slinging his coat back around his shoulders, Decklan furrowed his brow. He was hoping to save the bottle for himself, but Hoon was far more important as their frontline fighter. He grumbled a bit as he pulled the bottle of healing salve from his pocket, and handed it to Joseph. ?Here, use this on him.?

Joseph looked startled, still kneeling beside Hoon. ?Uh, okay.? He ripped the sleeve from his shirt and balled it up, pouring some of the salve onto it. Carefully, he began to dab Hoon?s most severe burns with the alchemy, watching as the flesh seemed to repair itself before his eyes.

Hoon groaned, the alchemy talking effect, his pain fading quickly. It took a few minutes until he felt well enough to stand, but he was soon on his feet. He was battered, no mistake, but he was up and about again. He would need to visit the church that night, no doubt. ?Thank you, Decklan. And you too, Joseph. You?re true heroes.?

Decklan rolled his eyes while Joseph smiled brightly. ?You?re welcome, Hoon. Just be more careful!?

?You should tell Skooj that,? Hoon joked with a smile.

?I said I was sorry! Dhunia, what do you want from me? Next time I just won?t tell you there?s anything at all. Then you?ll see.? Skooj crossed his arms and stuck his tongue out at Hoon, who just chuckled all the more.

Treading carefully down the rest of the hall, the group came upon a large, heavy door. Hoon tried it, once Skooj had carefully looked the thing over, and found that it did not want to budge. It took a bit of a thorough application of strength, but Hoon managed to drag the thing open, unleashing a small avalanche of flesh and organs, sliding out into the hallway and around their feet with a sickening slap. Decklan and Skooj both cried out in shock. Joseph felt the bile rise in his throat. Hoon steeled himself and peered inward, opening the door further.

05-02-2010, 06:18 PM
The room itself was covered with a slick filth of blood. A few assorted bodies lay mostly intact about the room. In one corner, what looked like a man wearing ragged clothes squatted over a peasant woman. It began to twitch and stood, a red tentacle sliding out from the body and up under the man?s shirt. It began to turn. It was a pale, sickly human-like creature, and as it spoke, it seemed to squirm just beneath its flesh. ?Not now, flesh. We?ve killed much, flesh, but we no care, flesh.? Suddenly, his arms exploded into a mass of writhing, grasping tentacles.

Hoon was taken aback, and that was all the time the creature needed to wrap a tentacle around his arm and drag him into the room, across the slippery viscera coating the floor. A pair of claws extended from the creature?s chest, which reached out to slice at Hoon. Surprised, the monk dropped all of his weight, slinging himself onto the floor and under the claws. He grabbed hold of the tentacle that grasped him with his other hand and wrenched himself free, now stuck on the slippery floor just below the creature.

A blast of flame ripped through the room as Decklan held his hand out, shining farthing nestled between his closed fingers. Hoon braced his feet against the Wormkyn?s leg and pushed off, sliding through the ichor, his stomach threatening to seize up. The flames engulfed the Wormkyn, catching his ragged clothes and caressing his flesh with its burning touch. Smoking and smoldering, the Wormkyn screeched in pain, whipping a tentacle out at Decklan. The appendage slammed into the soft blue lens of Decklan?s shield spell and swatted away, infuriating it further.

Skooj tromped in, barely able to walk in the knee-deep entrails, his whole body wracked with a shaking terror he was scarcely able to bite back. Behind him, Joseph readied his crossbow and took aim for the creature?s head. He let fly with a bolt, which struck the monster in the shoulder, alerting the guardsman to how badly he was shaking. The beast roared and lashed out at Joseph, knocking him back into the hallway against the wall.

Decklan shot forth another gout of flame, stepping into the room and staying close to the wall for support. The flames rocketed forth, barely singing the creature as it heaved itself aside, scorching it up its right side. The Wormkyn screeched at Decklan, lashing out another tentacle, which broke through his shield and wrapped around his waist. It reeled the mage in close, laughing as it swiped at him with its claws. Decklan screamed as it cut into his belly, piercing him deep, slashing at his leg with its other claw.

Hoon carefully climbed to his feet in time to hear Decklan?s scream. Looking over, he saw the small mage being assaulted. With a shove off of the wall, Hoon ran full-bore for the Wormkyn, picking his steps with the utmost care. He leapt into the air, ready to deliver a flying kick to the monster, when it stepped aside, letting the monk fly past ineffectually, slamming into the far wall and crumpling into the muck in a heap.

Skooj sneered at the monster. Drawing both of his knives, the little gobber leapt at its legs, diving between tentacles to rip at its calf with both blades, ripping a goodly-sized chunk of meat from its leg. The Wormkyn screeched, dropping Decklan into the ichor below as its tentacles began a desperate grab for the little gobber. Skooj yelped as he slid through the gore, kicking up blood and entrails as he dashed away from grasping, groping tentacle after tentacle. ?Poop-Deck!? he cried, using the wall as a turning point. ?Blast ?im!?

Decklan complied, holding his belly with one hand, his glowing farthing lying somewhere atop the sea of gore. His free hand worked arcane gestures, and with a few strained words in old Caspian, he saw the runes align and thrust a gout of flame forth, catching the Wormkyn right in the face.

The beast staggered backwards, screaming, as Joseph pegged it with another bolt, this time to the chest. The Wormkyn roared in anger as the guardsman reloaded, climbing to his feet and slowly advancing. It reeled back and spat a blast of powerful acid from its gullet, showering Joseph with the burning fluid. He dropped into the ichor, desperately trying to stop the burning, howling in pain. With a powerful slam, it caught Skooj with a tentacle, wrapping around his leg and hefting the little gobber into the air. It slammed him against the far wall before dragging him close.

Skooj yelped as he collided with the stone wall, the world flashing white for a moment as his skull connected with solid rock. He felt his shoulder go out of socket, a loud pop letting him know he was right, pain surging through him. Dragged back over to the creature, it wrapped more tentacles around his torso, squeezing him hard. The little gobber felt a rib crack, and screamed, its claws digging into his ruined shoulder.

Hoon pulled himself out of the heap he?d been, shaking gore from his hair. Looking over, he saw Decklan on the ground, working on another spell, as the beast assaulted Skooj. He leapt up and slid behind the beast. A solid punch to the lower back was all it took to get the Wormkyn?s attention. It turned to Hoon, tentacles ready to lash out, as the big monk threw all of his weight into a solid punch to the face. His fist connected hard, knocking the beast back, making it nearly step on Decklan, who lay beneath it. The mage grinned and unleashed a barrage of magic missiles, battering it about.

The beast dropped Skooj into the ichor unceremoniously and lashed out at Hoon and Decklan. He caught both by the neck, wrapping a tentacle around them and squeezing hard, cutting off their air. Hoon clutched at the tentacle, desperately trying to pry it from around his neck, while Decklan simply clawed weakly for freedom, when it suddenly stopped squeezing. The monster went limp and dropped into the sea of viscera, dead. A single bolt was embedded in the back of its skull. Joseph lowered his crossbow.

?None of them?? asked the Captain.

Joseph, Decklan, Hoon, and Skooj sat in the infirmary of the church of Morrow, bandaged, bruised, and battered, being questioned by the captain of the guard. They?d barely made it out of the temple alive, dragging a chest with them, when the rest of the guardsmen hauled them to the temple.

Joseph shook his head, ?None of the bodies in its chamber resembled the missing. In fact, none of them were even humans, sir.?

?There were three and a girl, and all of them were infested with the creature?s spawn. They were already dead, so we burned the bodies,? Hoon reported, indicating the wineskin sitting atop his belongings in the corner.

?By Morrow,? the Captain mumbled, astonished. ?You?re sure he couldn?t have done it??

?No sir. Its claws were fine, not jagged like at the crime scenes, and take it from me, the acid it had was a lot more potent. Something was trying to make it look like that thing had done it, to cover its own tracks,? Joseph replied, touching the fresh, healthy skin where his acid burns had once been. Magical healing had always bewildered the young guardsman.

?There hasn?t been a report yet since you boys got out of there, so unless they start up again, that monster is what?s been doing all these killings, got that Blanc??


?Good. We don?t need the city in any more of an uproar. You boys rest up here. You?re heroes, afterall.?

Hoon beamed. Heroes! He quite liked the sound of that.

05-02-2010, 06:21 PM
***Here's where the reposts end and the new stuff begins.***
***Forgot credits from before: Gavon, Felwall, Keegan, and Arghast = KujakuDM's***

Book One: Infernal Callings
Chapter 6

"Those roads are getting more dangerous by the day. Gettin' so caravans don't even wanna come around anymore! I hear the Ords lost another one."

"Damn Ords couldn't keep track of a wagon if they was nailed to it."

The Hunter's guild was abuzz with activity. It had been a week since news had gotten out of the murders and the brave men who went and took the fight to the inhuman creature that was preying on Fellig's citizenry, and the chatter had finally begun returning to the normal inanities. The killings had abruptly stopped following the death of the Wurmkyn, but those who knew better were not so content.

"This isn't over. Something's happening. I'm not sure what, but I do know that there's something lurking in the underbelly of this city a lot worse than that? thing," Hoon quietly said, rolling a glass of milk between his hands. "I understand calming the people, but just letting those crimes go unpunished? It's not right."

"You're telling me," Decklan agreed. He sat back in his seat, flipping his coin idly in thought. "Problem is, we have no real leads. The attacks stopped once the cover was blown. Whoever was doing this knew about the thing in the temple, and was using it as an alibi."

The two men sat at their table, sour looks on their faces. The adulation of the populace had died down and left them with their thoughts, which did little to comfort them.

The door swinging open brought in a chill breeze that threatened to extinguish Alys' candle at the front desk. She sent a rather annoyed glare at Skooj as he scrambled in and struggled to shut the door behind him, back from a session of morning reconnaisance. "Sorry, Alys," he called, before running quickly over to Decklan and Hoon, eager to get away from the scary woman. "Hey fellas, I'm back!"

"What do you have for us?" Hoon asked, pulling out a chair for the little gobber to climb into.

"Alright, from what I hear, there's been more folks gone missing. Big names, too." Skooj paused for a moment to snag a passing waitress by the skirt and mime an order for a pint, then turned back to his fellows. "Two of 'em, to be precice. One by the name of Felwall Crookd, one of the smiths on this end of town. Turns out nobody's seen him for like a week. My source said he was last seen at the temple, talking to Brother Gavon."

"Your source?" Decklan quirked an eyebrow, shifting forward.

"I can't give away all my trade secrets, can I?" Skooj shrugged. "Okay, it was one of the drunks the next bar over, but the guy's got his finger on the pulse of the town, I'm tellin' ya!"

"Sure, whatever. So what about the other one?"

"Now this, this is the interesting one. Remember that wizard, Arghast? The one we saw at the market when the priestess tried to stab Brother Gavon?"

"Yeah, why?" Hoon took a sip of his milk.

"Well, it turns out he's gone missing too. Since around the same time as Felwall, to be precice. Sounds like something to look into to me."

"Wait, wait." Decklan sat up, shaking his head. "Arghast is a shut-in. Alys even told us so. Him being outside was the odd thing. Nobody seeing him for a week seems like normal for him, not cause for investigation."

"Normally, you'd be right," Skooj began, turning to watch as the waitress returned and set his pint down, his eyes following her chest intently. He smiled pleasantly at her, and after she'd gone, turned back to Decklan. "But Alys also said that he had things delivered to his home on a regular basis. I did some asking around, and it turns out that none of his usual merchants have been making deliveries. They've not heard from him all week. Not even the grocer. That's where things get curious." The little gobber took a pull from his beer, a satisfied look on his face. "It sounds like there's something going on between Felwall, Arghast, and possibly Gavon."

"You're not implicating a man of the cloth in some sort of conspiracy, Skooj." Hoon was aghast. "Are you suggesting Brother Gavon had something to do with these disappearances?"

"Well if you're going to say it that loudly," Skooj raised his voice for emphasis, "of course not!" He shook his head and returned to hushed tones. "Look, all I'm saying is that something is going on, and something seems to point to his involvement with Arghast and Felwall. I don't know if it has anything to do with everything going on, but maybe it's worth looking into. Maybe he knows some sort of connection the two had that might lead us deeper into this whole thing."

Hoon gave him a worried look, "Fine."

The church was quiet and dark, the dusk light burning away through the stained glass, illuminating the room like a deific flame as Hoon, Decklan, and Skooj stepped through the big wooden doors. Candles sat sparsely along the altars, half-lit and in increasing need of usage as the sun boiled away into the horizon. There was nobody else there, save for the white-robed figure of Father Keegan, who was busy at the altar, lighting candles slowly, whispering reverently as he went.

Skooj couldn't help but feel uncomfortable. The faith of Morrow was that of humans, and though it bore his own goddess no ill will, the two religions were worlds apart, and his own alien-ness standing there never ceased to be palpable. He looked up to Hoon and Decklan at his sides, and noticed the mage seemed to seem similarly ill at ease. Indeed, Decklan shifted awkwardly in his heavy coat, shrinking back into it like he was going to be accosted at any moment for being there.

A prayer ticked its way across Decklan's forebrain as he recoiled from the big open room. His faith to Morrow was unswerving, but he could never shake the feeling of being an affront to the very place in which he stood. He was used to the scrutiny of the clergy, but that never made it any less of a problem, for everyone involved. Breaking from his reverie, he elbowed Hoon, who looked down to his friend. Decklan nodded toward Father Keegan, prompting the big monk to nod and stride forward, taking up the mantle of speaking with his fellow clergyman.

Hoon cleared his throat as he closed the distance between himself and the priest with long strides. "Father Keegan?"

Keegan, a salt and pepper-haired man on the tail end of his middle age, turned to face the big monk with a smile and a nod of greeting. Hoon had been no stranger to the temple since he'd come to Fellig, and the priest was fond of the big Umbrean's eager attitude. "Oh, Brother Hoon, a pleasure." Looking past Hoon to his compatriots, he raised an eyebrow. "I see you've brought your fellows with you. I trust this visit isn't for worship?"

Hoon bowed his head. "Sorry, no. We're still investigating the events in the sewers, and-"

"I thought you had killed the creature committing the murders. People have stopped disappearing," Keegan interrupted, setting down his candle and turning to face Hoon, now fully interested in what he had to say.

"We have, but they haven't."

"What do you mean?"

"The smith, Felwall. And Arghast, the wizard who lives-"

"I am well aware of who Arghast is, Brother Hoon," Keegan interrupted again. "One of the few faces in town I rarely see within these walls, in fact, much to my chagrin. He has me concerned, shut into that tower of his. Felwall's disappearance, however, saddens me to hear. He is a loyal parishoner." After a moment, Keegan looked to Hoon with confusion. "Why does this news bring you to me?"

"Well, it's Felwall. He was last seen here, talking to Brother Gavon, before he disappeared. We're hoping maybe he might have told Gavon something, and perhaps that he has just made himself scarce, rather than having met some terrible fate in the streets of town."

"I wish I could help you, Brother, but I have not seen Gavon for a few days. I am beginning to worry, in fact. Nor have I seen Felwall, I'm sorry."

Hoon nodded, and bowed to Keegan. "Thank you anyway, Father. I'll keep an eye out for Gavon. Goodbye." Turning on his heel, he nodded as Keegan called a goodbye to him, and returned to Decklan and Skooj by the door. "Nothing. But apparently Gavon's gone missing too. Someone's got him as well."

"?sure. We'll go with that," Skooj mumbled, and motioned for the door. "Let's go have a drink and figure out our plan for tomorrow. We can get some more legwork done then. Ask around Arghast's tower and all that."

Looking back into the house of Morrow, the sun's flames dancing along the wall, Decklan couldn't help but think it looked like Menoth's glare bearing down on the temple. As Skooj and Hoon passed through the door, he lingered a moment, lost in the dancing lights upon the walls and candles. Flames danced in his memory, and he felt his hand tense, gripping his coin tightly. Before finally turning to leave, the quiet mage caught a fleeting glimpse of Keegan's eyes upon him. The priet quickly turned to his task of lighting candles, and Decklan ducked out the door, a chill like lava running up his spine.

05-02-2010, 06:21 PM
The moons rose slowly into the night sky as Joseph slunk through his front door into his dark, still home, dropping his crossbow next to the door as it closed. Fatigue rolled down his body as he flopped unceremoniously onto his couch, throwing his keys and helmet at the coffee table and missing quite handily.

Blearily, he thought about lighting a lamp, but he quickly dismissed the idea as being futile, and far too much effort than it was worth. Laris was rising full tonight, and its light was already shining through his window in silver sheets, which had the unfortunate side effect of highlighting the dust his couch-flop had disturbed, dancing ruefully in its gossamer glow.

Joseph felt the tension of the day begin to melt off of him and onto the couch, down to the floor, as he flopped his head to one side and watched the moonlight against the wall. But that couldn't be right. Moonlight wasn't orange. Or blue. Joseph shook his head and realized he could see flashes of colour against the wall. Turning towards the window, he hefted himself up to look out at Fellig, wishing he hadn't. In the distance, high in the skyline, torchlight clearly shone across the city, and every so often, a soft blue light would throb or flash along with it, clearly magic of some sort. It took him a moment, but Joseph soon placed the location. It was where the wizard's tower was. Arghast's tower.

Everybody on the force had thought he'd finally kicked it, and that was why nobody'd heard from him. They had been very wrong. With a disappointed groan, Joseph collected his helmet and keys, grabbed his crossbow, and hefted himself off of the couch. The door slammed behind him as he jogged off into the night.

Blurs passed through Felwall's field of vision as he awoke in a sweat on a hard, stone surface. He made to sit up and hold his aching head, but quickly found himself unable to, his hands bound above his head, his feet similarly occupied below. Blinking a few times, he tried to clear his vision, succeeding only in turning the blurs into traces of light that followed every motion with an arc of colour. Above him, the moons shone down brightly, Laris standing full against the night sky. Points of light scattered through the darkness, like millions of eyes staring down at him.

Felwall let his throbbing head loll to the side, the moons taking their time in sliding their light from his eyes, as his sight fell upon a red-robed man pouring over texts, and drawing ritual circles across the stone. They were atop some sort of building, high above the rest of Fellig, from what the smithy could make out of the distance, before the strain of focusing so far away took its toll on him. Felwall felt sick, and let his eyes flutter closed, biting back the taste of bile at the rear of his throat. What in Urcaen had Gavon done to him? He sputtered a bit as his stomach threatened to rise again.

The robed man looked up from his work to see Felwall writhing slightly upon the stone altar, which sat at the centre of the largest ritual circle. He smirked, and stood, striding over to the prostrate smith, regarding him almost with pity. "I see you're awake. Good. If you were dreaming, it might complicate the ritual. You'll make a much more appropriate offering this way."

Felwall opened his eyes to see the face of Arghast smirking down at him, and felt a gnawing panic begin to well in the back of his skull. This was how he was to take part in their plans? This was his service to the twin? As a sacrifice? No! Not this way! "Gavon…" Felwall's cracked lips barely parted as he croaked the priest's name.

"Gavon will not be joining us tonight. He has other affairs to attend to. Besides, he was never much one to enjoy the fruits of his labours. A bit of a work-o-holic, if you will. Now relax for a while. I still have some setting up to do."

His jaw slack, his mind racing, Felwall tried to thrash against his bindings, but found no strength in his drugged body. Only desperate tears betrayed his terror.

Alys looked up from her desk as another cold wind rolled across it, blowing out the near-dead candle seated next to her pens. Her eyes wide, she seemed relieved to see Decklan, Skooj, and Hoon as they scrambled inside and closed the door behind themselves, beating back the night air. "You! Just the people I was looking for!"

Decklan tensed at the sudden addressal, seeing the intimidating redhead jump to her feet and round the desk with the clink of scalemail. "Alys?"

"Listen up! Skooj, you know what I said to you about Arghast earlier?" She seemed all business, which surprised the three men.

"Yeah, we were going to check on that come tomorrow, actually," Skooj began.

"Well you're doing it tonight," Alys demanded, her demeanor indicating she would not take 'no' for an answer.

"Wait, wait, why? What's going on?" Hoon asked, trying to calm her.

"Listen, I've gotten word from some folks come from the other end of town that they've seen some lights from the top of Arghast's tower, and some figures moving around up there. There's torchlight and everything. Whatever's going on, I've got a feeling that barmy wizard's up to something."

"How long ago did it start?"

"Just after sundown, 'bout an hour ago. I want you four to get down there and do some investigation. There's some coin in it for you."

"Sure, I guess-the four of us? Um, there's only-" Hoon began.

"Four. I'm sending one of my new guys with you." Alys motioned to a nearby table, where a big, reddish-blond man sat, finishing cleaning his pinlock pistol. "Kimball! You hear all that?"

The man holstered his gun and stood, "Yeah, I got it." He walked over to the three men at the door and extended his hand. "Kimball Garrison, nice to meet you."

"Uh, Kim Jae Hoon, pleased to meet you," Hoon replied, shaking the soldier's hand.

"Decklan," was all the mage replied, with a nod.

Skooj stared up at the soldier and bristled a little. Shaking it off, he threw Kimball a half-hearted salute and introduced himself. "Skoojwalujibsurenakralokanen." He answered Kimball's overwhelmed look with, "Skooj."

"Alright, Skooj then. Shall we get going?"

"Yes, yes you shall," Alys interrupted, and opened the door, ushering the four into the street. "I expect a full report when you get back!" The door slammed behind them the second they were outside.

"That is one scary woman," Kimball noted, shrugging away from the slam.

"You're telling me," Skooj agreed.

Hoon motioned for the others to follow, and took the lead, as the four men headed towards Arghast's tower, the night breeze tugging hard at their clothes.

Skidding to a halt in front of the tower, Joseph pushed past a few onlookers standing in the street. Craning his neck to see, the blue glow about the top of the structure was beginning to take on a purple hue, and he could feel the hairs on his arms stand on end. A feeling of revulsion washed over him as he beheld the strange lights above.

"You're, like, the best fourth man ever, because you get to the good stuff the same time as we do, we don't even have to send for you!" Joseph was snapped out of his reverie by a high-pitched, nasal voice below him, and turned to see Skooj grinning up at him, Hoon, Decklan, and Kimball at his back.

"Oh, uh, hi Skooj. You guys saw this too?"

"Yeah, Alys sent us here to check it out. You too?"

"I just got off of work, saw this, and came over. Who's that?" The guardsman indicated Kimball with a nod.

"Kimball Garrison," the big man introduced himself, extending his hand.

"Joseph Blanc. So what do you guys suggest we do?" Joseph shook Kimball's hand and addressed them all.

"We go in, that's what," Hoon replied, cracking his knuckles. "There's a fell feel to this place, so we shall bring Morrow's light to it, one floor at a time!"

"Yeah, sure, Morrow's light, whatever," Skooj mumbled, drawing his knives.

The door was locked as Hoon tried to open it, so the big monk motioned for Kimball to come over and help him. The pair shouldered into the door once, twice, and on the third impact, busted the nicely-carved wooden door open, ripping its side asunder as the deadbolt cracked through it and fell a bent wreck to the floor. Quickly, the five of them stole into the tower, as the few rubber-necking townsfolk backed away nervously.

05-02-2010, 06:24 PM
Book One: Infernal Callings
Chapter 7

A cozy little living room was exactly what they did not expect when Hoon, Decklan, Joseph, Skooj, and Kimball broke into Arghast's tower. It was, however, exactly what they found. The room was a half-circle with a door in its flat wall with sconces lining the rounded walls, still lit and burning brightly, lighting up the room quite ably. The d├ęcor had a red and purple colour scheme, with a big cozy couch seated across from two leather chairs, around a rather fine mahogany coffee table. A few books lay strewn about, mostly bits of fiction and an old newspaper or two.

Skooj sniffed at the air. Was that? "Potpourri?"

"Morrow, this doesn't feel right," Hoon mumbled, looking about apprehensively.

Kimball followed the wall to the ornate mahogany door at the back of the room. Drawing his pistol and cocking it, he slowly opened it, standing against the wall beside it, just in case. Behind it was dark, and the smell of old paper and leather rolled through the air across his nose. No sound came. The ginger-haired merc peeked in, to find a darkened library, lit only by the firelight peeking in from the living room. He motioned for the others that it was all clear, and the men slowly made their way into the dark room.

Bookshelves lined the walls, where once, surely, there were volumes upon volumes of tomes, folios, octavos, and codices on display, meticulously organized by subject, author, size, or any other possible criteria. Instead, the shelves now lay bare, dusty lines dragged across the shelves and tables of the room from its contents being hurriedly removed and taken elsewhere. Now, only a lone inkwell with no pen sat at a far table, the only remnant of a once-plentiful collection.

"Boy, he cleared this out in a hurry," Kimball assessed, dragging a finger through a trail of dust.

"Which means he either has somewhere else to go?" Skooj began, chewing on his lip.

"?or he had some serious incriminating evidence," Joseph finished, looking about in the darkness until he finally found a darkened doorway. Peering inside, he gripped the wall. "Decklan, can I get a light?"

Decklan responded with an affirmative noise as he gripped his coin. A soft mumbled phrase in Caspian followed by "Light," brought forth a shining glow in his hand, as the spell enveloped the coin and lit up the room. He walked over and held the coin up in the doorway for Joseph.

It was a stairway. Stone steps curled away up into the darkness as it wound around the tower. Turning to Decklan, Joseph shrugged. "Looks like this is the way," he proclaimed.

Arghast stood and admired his work. The circle was complete, its leylines were aligned perfectly, crossing and winding around the altar at the centre, where Felwall writhed in futility. Pocketing his chalk, the wizard strode across his roof, the freezing winds tugging at his red robes, to stand beside his victim.

"You should be honoured, you know."

Felwall pleaded with his half-crossed eyes to focus on the taut face of the man above him. His cheekbones catching the moon and torchlight as his brow cast a shadow that blacked out his eyes, Arghast was a special species of horrible to the smith's sight. Like malevolence made manifest, a wicked grin slithered across his lips. "Arghast, please. Nngh, not, n-not like this."

"You knew there'd be a sacrifice."

"D-didn't know it'd be me!"

"How is your shortsightedness my problem, Crookd? Now, try to stay awake. I don't want you polluting this ritual. You will be at the side of your dark mistress soon."

"Arghast!" But it was to no avail. The wizard was now actively ignoring Felwall as he removed a pair of candles from his robes and set them on either side of the smith. Two more joined them, making a square around Felwall's torso. "Please!"

The words were horrible. Felwall had no idea what they were, but they sent a sensation of vicious anathema through him as they filled his ears. Arghast's lips began to move slowly, his voice quiet, reverant, as words poured over his teeth, alien and unsettling. Felwall felt sick, like he'd had human waste poured into a sucking chest wound. A shudder ran through him and bile tickled the back of his throat once again. Arghast's words sounded impossible, like sounds a human mouth couldn't, shouldn't create.

With a snap of his fingers, a magical flame appeared at the junction between Arghast's finger and thumb, dancing wildly in the wind. Leaning his hand over, the wizard began to light the candles, his litany gaining volume.

"An alchemy lab," Skooj announced, having run between legs to gain the lead. He'd come out into a spacious room engulfed in darkness. The smells of chemicals assailed his senses, immediately cluing him in as to the room's nature.

Joseph and Decklan emerged, bringing light, Hoon and Kimball bringing up the rear. As the glowing coin illuminated the room, the men were able to better assess their surroundings. Tables sat around the room, holding various burners, vials, beakers, tubes, tongs, and pieces of equipment. Scraps of paper with formulas scrawled on them lay about, half-charred. The whole room smelled of acid and flame. Not a single chemical was present, however.

The little gobber wandered over to a table, scrambled up into the chair seated at it, and snatched up a bottle. "Empty. This one's covered in empty bottles. Acetylsalicylic acid, methyltheobromine, clove oil?" he read off a few labels, searching around for anything that might have something in it.

"Cleaned out the library and the lab," Decklan mused aloud.

"He's either very prepared, or very sure he won't need them." Hoon sucked at his teeth with concern. "We should get moving."

"Yeah yeah, hold on," Skooj dismissed, picking up another bottle. "Dihydrogen monoxide. Oh what a pretentious-"

"Skooj!" Decklan hollered, startling everyone in the room with his sudden volume. "Come on!"

"Alright, jeez! Don't wanna get you mad, Poop-Deck." The little gobber hopped down and made his way to join the group, checking the remaining doors.



"Stairway, here we go."

05-02-2010, 06:24 PM
The wind tore through Felwall's clothes, chilling him to the bone. He'd long since lost feeling in his exposed feet and hands as he lay there on the cold stone slab. Annointed with some kind of foul-smelling oil, his forehead was beginning to tingle from the liquid. All the while it was a feat to keep from vomiting, his stomach sitting somewhere near where his heart should have been. If he vomited, he'd probably suffocate, though Felwall was beginning to wonder if that were preferable to whatever Arghast had planned for him.

Dipping his fingers into the jar of oil in his hand, Arghast yanked Felwall's shirt up to his neck and began to trace symbols onto his belly. The liquid felt disgusting, and tingled in the worst possible way, the loathsome smell being thrown into the smith's nose by the ever-cruel wind. The wizard dipped and drew, drew and dipped, as his words grew in volume. Somehow, despite the ripping wind, the candles burned brightly with flame that, once taken to wick, did not lose its magical colour, burning away bright blue. With a final few passages of the litany, Arghast set down the jar and removed a knife from his robes.

Felwall's eyes went wide, he tried to squirm, but felt himself unable to even move. He was paralyzed. An attempt at crying out gained him nothing, and his lungs began to burn for air. His eyes soon would not blink, and he was frozen, screaming in his own mind.

Arghast held his hand, palm-up, above Felwall, and pressed the blade to the ball of his palm. Pressing down, he slit a line across his flesh, splitting it in a shallow cut, watching as blood began to seep immediately. Turning his hand over, Arghast let the blood slowly drip onto Felwall, mingling with the oil-markings.

It burned. The mixture, whatever it had become, burned Felwall's skin. He could do nothing but lie there and feel it as the blood-oil seared at his flesh. But it quickly became the least of his worries. Felwall realized he felt full. Like he'd overeaten at a feast. Pressure filled his belly and pushed at his insides, a brand new kind of discomfort spreading through him.

Clamboring out onto the roof, Hoon, Skooj, Joseph, Decklan, and Kimball were quickly assailed by the wind. The little gobber in particular had to make a concerted effort to avoid being thrown from his feet. Before them lay a startling sight. Ringing the roof were torches, whipping about in the wind, lighting the scene at the corners of a series of internal shapes within a great circle, all drawn in chalk. At the centre of the circle stood a rectangular stone altar, a man chained to it, candles around his midsection, Arghast standing over him, holding his hand out.

Joseph was the first to make out the man's face. "Felwall!"

Felwall heard the guardsman's voice. He knew Joseph well. The guard were regular customers, and Joseph was usually the man they sent to do any purchasing or comissioning. He did not, could not move. Could not call out to Joseph to save him, to lock him up for his part in this crime, to stop Arghast and Gavon before they accomplished their goals. But his lips would not move, his eyes couldn't even swing over to see the man, and Thamar herself, the pain, the pressure, he wanted so badly to just double over.

Arghast turned to see the intruders, his brow furrowed until his gaze turned on Decklan. Their eyes met, and Decklan could not look away. A grin crossed the wizard's sharp features. "Wonderful! He shall have a meal this night, and another brought forth! You! You see this?" he yelled over the din of the wind. "This is your legacy!"

"Our legacy?" Kimball asked, unaware of Arghast's focus.

"What in Urcaen are you talking about?" Decklan called back.


05-02-2010, 06:27 PM
***More excessive violence!***
***Also Chuchilbara is belonging to KujakuDM***

Book One: Infernal Callings
Chapter 8

Felwall felt his body quake through no work of his own, as the pressure surged forth, pushing up. Searing, furious motion from within worried at the inside of his belly, squeezing his insides. He could feel a pop, then another, and a slimy, slurping feeling as something spilled out into his body cavity, and with a rush of agony, consciousness finally failed.

"I summon you, Lord Chuchilbara!" Arghast called, his voice cracking with unbridled exhilaration.

The smith's belly bulged upward, flesh pushing up and out at odd angles. The shape of a hand was clearly visible for a moment. A purple glow connected the flames of the four candles and surged downward to the bloody sigils burning their way through Felwall's flesh. A blast of energy burst upward into the night air, and with a horrible, wet ripping noise, blood and ichor were thrown across the roof as Felwall's belly exploded outwards, a figure pulling itself from his corpse.

The five interlopers stood frozen, all now unable to look away or act, a noisome wave of revulsion washing over them. Eyes wide, slack-jawed, their minds scrambled to understand what was happening.

"Woe to mortals, for I am come," came a voice at once ancient and terrible. The creature stood, massive in stature and white as bleached bone. A cloak wrapped around it flapped in the wind, clouds rolling in overhead as if beckoned by the beast itself. Lightning jumped from cloud to cloud, thunder cracking like satyxi whips.

The four candles that circled its feet flickered, and went out, prompting the great beast to look down to the corpse in which it stood. A surge of purple light leapt up through it, making the great beast thrash, clawing at its chest. Chuchilbara let out a horrible scream, completely inhuman, like the voice of Urcaen itself as it doubled over. "My calling, it is corrupted!"

With a wet noise, an arm rammed out of the beast's chest. It was small, like a child's, tipped in claws like knives. It was joined by another, clawing its way out of the creature's arm, then another, from the hip, another, from the belly, and another, another, another. The arms gripped its body and pushed, pulling figures from the very skin of the beast. Small, imp-like creatures emerged from the creature's flesh, heads triangular with sharp horns, tails long, thin, and barbed. Red, oval-shaped, featureless eyes bulged from their heads as they climbed on the monster that had birthed them.

Arghast screamed, stumbling backward in dumb horror, fumbling for the knife in his robes. The little beasts leapt, like fleas, from the creature's body to the wizard's. Clinging to his robes, his skin, digging into him with their sharp claws, the imps swarmed over Arghast like a colony of ants. Flailing wildly, the wizard's screams became muffled as he was overwhelmed. A single, imp reached the top of Arghast's head and reeled its arm back. With a powerful thrust, it drove its hand into the wizard's skull, the tiny fist passing through flesh and bone as if he'd driven it into a bowl of pudding. A moment of fidgeting, and it removed its hand, no wound to be seen in its wake.

Decklan felt a hand on his shoulder. Whipping around, eyes wide, he saw Hoon beside him, the big man looking down at the mage as if to ask if he was seeing this too. It was at this point that he realized that he could move again. Looking to the others, it seemed they, too, were finally noticing this.

"Wha-what the ****?" Skooj stuttered, his skin a milky shade of seafoam green, his camoflauge reflex gone haywire.

"Is that-" Kimball began, jaw slack.

"An infernal," Decklan supplied, gripping his lucky coin so tight that he was sure he would have a radiance permanently pressed into his palm.

"Villain!" Hoon spat, outrage quaking through him. He widened his stance and cracked his knuckles. "Summoning infernals! Slaying innocents! This is not just!"

The imps all looked up at the same time, their red eyes turned on Hoon. Slowly, they began to pour off of Arghast, herding onto the rooftop, their clawed feet clicking on the hard stone.

Arghast stood straight once he was free of the little beasts, and turned his attention to the men watching in horror. A rictus-like grin crept across his features, his eyes wide and unblinking. A single, desperate laugh escaped his teeth as he raised his hand towards the men. As if bidden, the imps surged forward, scrambling across the rooftop towards them, chittering with a sound like cicadas melting.

Hoon charged to meet the beasties, bringing up an arm to knock aside one as it leapt for his face. They quickly began to swarm up the big Umbrean, catching hold of his flowing robes and scrambling up his legs. He siezed one by the neck, only to be greeted with a slash of the little creature's sharp tail across his chest, ripping fabric and tearing open skin. With a wince, he crushed the imp's head between his fists, a foul-smelling brownish green ichor spilling where blood or brain should have.

Joseph was the last to finally absorb everything that was going on. Pulling his crossbow from his belt, he took aim for Arghast. Adjusting for the wind, Joseph closed one eye and stuck his tongue out. Pulling back on the trigger, he loosed his bolt. The little bolt flew true, pulled hard by the roaring wind, and buried itself in Arghast's chest, where his heart was. Joseph looked up, eager to see his target fall.

Arghast shook with laughter, looking down at the bolt sticking out of his chest. Grabbing hold, he yanked hard, pulling the shaft from his flesh, blood following it. He took a look at the offending object before discarding it and raising a hand to Joseph. "Acid Splash," he cast, sending a blast of yellow-orange liquid after the guardsman.

Joseph found himself, instead, knocked to the ground, the spell soaring over the edge of the roof and into the night. Looking over, he saw Skooj standing up, having tripped the guardsman. "You okay?" the little gobber asked, terror apparent on his face and in his still-pale skin.

Joseph nodded dimly, "Yeah. I-I shot him in the heart! How-?"

Skooj just gave him a wide-eyed shrug, pulling out his knives. "I dunno, but Hoon's having a hell of a time over there. We should worry about him, I think."

The guardsman nodded, climbing to his feet to hitch the crossbow on his belt.

05-02-2010, 06:28 PM
Hoon grimaced as a sharp sting pierced the back of his neck. Reaching back, he snatched the offending imp by the head and shook it hard, snapping the little monster's neck. Panic began to overwhelm him as he lost count of the imps, the beasts covering his legs and arms, clawing, scratching, biting, and trying desperately to reach his throat or face. It was all he could do to keep them from shredding other, lower parts of his anatomy. A cry of fear welled up in his lungs, ready to burst forth. Before it could rise, however, an imp reached his face, reeling back to shove a claw into his eye.

A big, calloused hand snatched the imp's arm and twisted, yanking the beast off of the monk. Turning to identify his saviour, Hoon saw Kimball standing there, his Caspian battleblade loosed from its scabbard and held in one hand. The little imp swung itself around and lashed out with its tail, the barb slicing raggedly into Kimball's forearm, just below his bracer. With a roar of anger, the mercenary dropped the creature, slamming his blade down where it was. The imp was too quick, however, and darted out of the way. Leaping up, the little beast caught hold of Kimball's arm again and bit into him hard, tearing into his flesh, blood leaking freely. Kimball turned his arm and slammed it against his own chest, crushing the imp between his armour and arm. The imp let go and dropped to the ground, where a battleblade handily bisected it. Kimball gritted his teeth, pushing his lower jaw forward with annoyance.

Finding himself one of two targets, Hoon was a bit relieved as more imps began to chase for Kimball. Not wishing ill on the merc, he could now more handily deal with the creatures harrassing him. With a great effort, he lifted a leg, swinging it around to try and dislodge the imps clinging to it, their claws digging further into his flesh for the effort. His legs were searing, covered in gashes and cuts, his robes staining red. A few of the beasts let go, allowing him the chance to snatch a particularly ferocious one from his thigh and slam it into the ground, following with a solid stomp for good measure.

Kimball backed up, trying to keep the approaching pack of imps at bay with his sword. It only worked so well. One imp leapt up, only to be crushed in half by a swing of the mercenary's not-incredibly-sharp blade.

"Burning Hands!" came a cry to Kimball's side. As the ginger mercernary turned to look, he saw a gout of flames spread before him, catching many of the imps in its blast. The little creatures screeched, their white flesh bubbling a greenish brown as they burned. Decklan lowered his hands and tossed his bangs out of his face, the wind blowing hair into his eyes and every which way. His coat billowed out from him, giving him a rather malevolent silhouette.

"Thanks!" Kimball called, kicking an imp aside and crushing another with a swing of his sword.

The small mage nodded in response to Kimball's call, his words of welcome lost on the wind. Turning his attention to Arghast, his brow furrowed. His fingers worked arcane motions as he stepped closer to the wizard and the beast behind him which stood, silently watching the ensuing chaos. "Burning Hands!" Decklan cried, loosing another gout of flame, enveloping Arghast entirely in its embrace.

The flames stopped abruptly before touching the creature, Chuchilbara, as if blocked by an invisible force. As the fire spent itself and died, cinders carried off on the wind, Arghast stood, completely unharmed, where he had been. He locked eyes with Decklan, and the mage found himself unable to move.

Decklan saw flashes of fire, heard screams in the night. He felt his chest tighten as shadows of pyres and pitchforks scratched at his mind. Arghast grinned, and spoke words low and smug, stolen from the mage's ears by the winds, and soon, the wind had been robbed from him, too. Silence greeted Decklan, the chaos around him no longer a din of howling breeze, screams, chittering, and the scraping of metal. His eyes wide, his hands worked quickly as he tried to speak in old Caspian, working arcane words and arcane gestures, but holding his hands out to Arghast, he was met with naught. His spell failed, some word misspoken, some syllable unsaid. He began to panic, backing away slowly.

Skooj skidded between Hoon's legs, coming up in front of the big monk to drive his knives into an imp from both sides, yanking it from his friend's leg. He put his boot atop the dead imp's back and ripped the barbed blades free, wrinkling his little nose at the stench of the creatures' innards. Swiping out, he caught another imp by the barb of his knife, hooking it off of Hoon, and knocking it to the ground. The little beast dove for Skooj, who dropped to the stone rooftop, letting the imp sail past him. He dropped a knife and reached up, snatching it by the tail as it went past, and kipped up to his feet. With a grin, he yanked the imp back over, driving his remaining knife into the creature's back. The imp gurgled and went limp, bleeding out over Skooj's knife. The gobber pressed a foot against the beast's behind and pushed, ripping his blade out of it, dropping the imp to the floor. Snatching up his other knife, Skooj drove it into the back of another imp climbing on Hoon, ripping it off of the big monk as he yanked the blade free. "Augh, these things smell like an ogrun's outhouse!"

Hoon smirked at the observation, siezing hold of an imp's tail and ripping the beast from his hip. Grabbing hold with both hands, he swung the little beast around and released, flinging it from the edge of the roof, letting it fall to the ground far below.

Decklan's own screams rang hollow, nothing more than air rushing from his lungs. The imp clung to his coat, its bloody claw carving a second set of lines across the mage's chest, red running fast, staining brown fabric, the liquid hot against his wind-chilled skin. Another imp was quickly climbing up his leg, digging claws deep into him as it made its way upward. Decklan punched at the imp on his coat, pegging it in the skull and knocking it dizzy. Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew a metal handle. With a flick of a switch, a blade sprang forth from inside it. He tried to slice at the coat-imp, missing first, then finding his mark with his second try, catching the little beast across the arm. It recoiled, giving the mage enough time to stab at it, digging the knife into its chest. The imp jerked, and fell, limp, to the ground. Turning down at the imp on his leg, Decklan yelped as its barbed tail ripped across his thigh. Gritting his teeth, he stabbed.

Joseph's blade was covered in gunk, and smelled horrible. With a twist, he shook another imp from his longsword, and looked to Kimball beside him. The ginger merc kicked an imp off of its feet, cleaving its body in half just below the collar with one mighty swing of his sword. An imp leapt up on Kimball's back, sinking its claws into the big man's shoulder, piercing through his armour. The merc roared, reaching for the creature, but finding no purchase. Joseph clubbed the beast from behind with his sword's pommel, and ripped it off with his free hand. Dropping it to the ground, he went to finish it off, only to be jumped from behind by another, who bit down on his shoulder. He felt the hot blood trickle down his back and chest, a hot pain rushing through him. With a cry, he snatched the little monster by its neck, and hurled it to the ground. Kimball, meanwhile, took care of the one in front of Joseph, before it could regroup itself.

"I think we're finally making a dent," the merc assessed, his breath ragged, scratches covering his face.

"Not enough. Where's Decklan?"

05-02-2010, 06:35 PM
Skooj hissed as a barbed tail caught his cheek, slicing a line below his eye. His skin began to grow darker, his camouflage reflex moving with his emotions. The little gobber spat at the imp, making the creature recoil in surprise. It was enough time for Skooj to swipe at it, cutting a shallow line across its belly. The imp jerked back and bristled at the slight, leaping forward with slashing claws. Skooj caught three shallow cuts on his arm, but the second claw was much more precice, reaching down and ripping his side open. The little gobber yelped and dropped to a knee, swinging his leg around to sweep the imp's legs out from under it. The beast dropped, but whipped with its tail, slicing a gash into Skooj's leg. The gobber faltered as he stood, giving the imp the opportunity to hop to its feet and make another swipe. Skooj ducked and drove his knives upward, under what should have been ribcage, and into what he assumed were the creature's vitals. With a gush of horrid-smelling ichor, the imp shuddered and went still. Panting, Skooj ripped his blades free.

Decklan twisted his knife, pushing the imp off of him as he scrambled away from the small pack, crying out, unsure if he even made any noise. Knife in hand, he desperately tried to figure a way out of this. Looking to Arghast, he saw the man's hands moving in arcane ways, words pouring over his lips. An imp leapt, and Decklan cried out, shoving his knife forth to try and stop it. Arghast threw a hand out at Decklan.

Blackness. A gurgled screech escaped the impaled imp at the end of Decklan's knife, but the mage never saw it. In fact, he saw nothing. Sound returned to him with the fury of a rising sea, a cacophany of howling wind, screaming imps, grinding metal, flapping cloth, and the pained cries of his comrades as they fought on. Dimly, he heard Skooj cursing in Gobberish. It assailed him, making him dumb with the rush of sensation. Blinking, he tried to focus, to see, but nothing came to his vision, not even the pale lights that dance across closed eyes. Arghast had blinded him. First he had taken hearing, now sight. Decklan thought he heard the dull laughter of the wizard somewhere in the roar.

Imps closed in, chittering, laughing, knowing exactly what Arghast had done. Decklan backed away, feeling carefully with his feet, unsure as to how close to the edge of the tower he was. Moving his free hand in arcane gestures, he gave a silent prayer to Morrow as spell verbals flooded from his mouth. "Burning Hands!" The gout of flame roared from his hands, and Decklan could hear the screams of burning, dying imps, the hot garbage smell of their bubbling flesh invading his senses. His heart pounding, he held out his knife, praying that he'd hit them all.

Removing the final imp from Hoon, Skooj turned to see flames shoot across the other side of the roof, and a terrified Decklan standing there, holding his knife out blindly. "Ah ****."

Kimball kicked an imp aside and snarled, turning to see Arghast working on a new spell. Ignoring the imps around him, he hefted his sword in both hands and charged for the wizard. Arghast turned to face Kimball, smirking, as he brought the sword down on him. The blade clashed off of the wizard as if he'd been made of serricsteel, not a dent made. Not even the fabric of his robes were disturbed. Arghast looked up at Kimball, smiled, and unleashed the spell. A flash of light and a splash of orange-yellow liquid slammed into Kimball's chest, leaving etch-marks in his armour, and sizzling, burning skin beneath. The merc recoiled, shaking with the sudden pain, before coming back with another slice, which too bounced off of the wizard. "WHY WON'T YOU DIE?" he roared.

Joseph struck true, skewering the final imp through the chest with his longsword, the little beast croaking before falling limp. Kicking the corpse from his blade, he turned to Hoon who nodded in approval.

Arghast's eyes went wide suddenly, and he turned to see Joseph's kill. There was a rumble from behind him, and the great, towering, watching figure of Chuchilbara glared down at the wizard. It stared a moment, burning disapproval into his soul, before turning its back, cape fluttering in the wind. A purple light lit the edges of its body, and it faded from view, gone.

"No! NO!" Arghast cried, turning back to Kimball in time to see the mercenary's sword coming down one last time.

The wizard's head fell from his body with a wet thump. His body followed to the rooftop.