All at once, the crushing force disappears and my lungs fill in a rush. The air tastes like... nothing, like I’m not actually breathing at all, the air is so still and impalpable. I open my eyes and immediately regret the decision; everything is unbelievably bright, and my ears hiss with silence. Squinting, I see Nim groaning beside me, and Filbert on the other side of him, pulling himself up arrow-straight and looking around with narrowed eyes.
I remove my hand from my knee and straighten up as well, and nearly lose my balance as I realize I can’t tell the ground from the sky. Everything is the same pure, blinding white, and there’s nothing here except the three of us--wherever we are, because we sure as hell aren’t in Joseph’s Gap. My breath thunders in my ears; the normal rustles and clanks of clothes and armor as I turn slowly around die off instantly, seeming barely audible at all.
I open my mouth to speak, anxious to break the oppressive silence, when a shrieking growl cuts me off, steel crashing against steel. I spin; we are not alone. Not ten yards away, a chest identical to the one we just opened shimmers into view. Beside it, a very tall, robed figure stands, silhouetted darkest black against the relentless, unnatural light. The piercing noise repeats, almost like words--yes, that’s exactly what it is.
This thing is talking.
“Greetings.” Yes, it's definitely talking, and definitely talking to us. Its voice is the din of battle; the crack of magic; the howl of wind, and I grimace unflinchingly at the assault, glaring at its featureless face.
“I require several minutes of your attention. Which of you is the Nocturne?”
Honor Bound springs from its sheath to my hand in a blaze of color. “Who are you?” I demand. “How do you know that name?”
The figure takes a step forward. As my eyes begin to adjust to the harsh lighting I can see the face under the dark hood--shining and impassive, polished black steel given humanoid form. As it approaches, I realize just how tall it is--the mechanical man stands fully head and shoulders above me. Its body is living plate, with seams visible in places held together I know not how. My left hand gropes behind me for the Aegis’ sturdy leather straps.
“I do not require combat with you, Aegis. My business is with the Nocturne.” It turns its head to Filbert and then Nim, a joint at its throat opening and glowing white-hot as the metal plates separate momentarily. “You. You are the one bearing the title ‘Nocturne’; is that correct?”
Nim, with nowhere to hide in the endless white expanse and without an instrument to play, pulls a knife from his belt and begins tossing it idly, two, three, four times. I grit my teeth, eyes flickering between him and the menacing construct, about to answer for him when he finally responds. “Yeah, that’s me.”
“It has been four hundred and forty-eight years, two months, and eleven days, and still you have not fulfilled your contract, Nocturne. This is a most grievous breach of protocol. Do you wish to offer a defense?”
Nim catches the knife after a particularly lofty throw and it disappears from his hand. “What, in the name of the One God or otherwise, are you talking about? What contract? I’ve never even seen a... whatever-you-are before. And I don’t make contracts with maybe-living hunks of armor lurking inside my coffer, in any case.”
The mechanical figure is utterly still and utterly silent for a few moments. I slip my arm through the Aegis’ leather straps and pull the shield in front of me, waiting on tenterhooks for the thing's next move. At the edge of my vision I can see Filbert bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet. Finally, the figure tears the silence with its speech once more.
“I see. You inherited the title of ‘Nocturne’ from another; is that correct?”
“Well, yeah,” replies Nim, the knife spinning in the air once again. “Sure, there was another Nocturne once, but he turned out to be a phony. I’m the real deal.” He smiles, like he’s trying to impress this steel monster.
“The previous bearer of the title ‘Nocturne’ is deceased; is that correct?”
“That means ‘dead’, right?”
“Yes. Has the previous bearer of the title ‘Nocturne’ died on this plane of existence?”
“Well then yeah, I just told you. I’m the Nocturne now. If you want to settle your deals with the old dead one, be my guest; I’m just here to pick up an artifact. That’s the real chest, right?” He points with his dagger at the box behind the robed construct.
“That is the original chest which contains the Willowisp. Do you, as the new bearer of the title ‘Nocturne’, accept full and complete responsibility for your predecessor’s oath?”
“Woah, hang on, what? No, I never even knew that guy; I’m not paying off his debts. Go talk to a priest for that kind of thing; that’s not how stuff works around here.”
“Then you refuse to accept full and complete responsibility for your predecessor’s oath? Be advised that this will leave the vow unfulfilled, and you will be subject to immediate execution for the crime of Failure to Accept an Inherited Planar Oath.” Its “voice” changes slightly at the last few words, becoming slightly louder and somehow even more artificial-sounding.
At that, I take two steps forward, only an arm’s length from the machine. This close, I can feel the heat coming off it, and I shout up to its face as it looks past me, motionless. “Absolutely not! I don’t care what promise the old Nocturne made, but we didn’t ask for these titles, and Nim is not beholden to you!” It continues to stare at Nim, over my head.
“Your predecessor, the former bearer of the title ‘Nocturne’, vowed to free another Agent of Law from its imprisonment in Joseph’s Gap Cathedral. He abandoned that promise; as a result, its terms pass to you. It is held in a Stasis Field in the dungeons below the Cathedral. Once you dispel the Stasis Field, the Agent will be able to leave on its own, and your oath will be fulfilled.”
“I told you he’s not responsible for some oath the old Nocturne made five hundred years ago! If you want him, you’re going to have to go through me!” I lower my stance, shield at the ready, wondering if this thing is made of steel or some stronger metal, but knowing that Honor Bound will cut it just the same. It is still, silent, for several moments. “Did you hear me, you metal thug?”
There is a cold feeling in my head and my vision shifts, not fuzzy but painfully sharp, as everything comes into the most perfect focus all at once, and I suddenly realize that I can’t move. Not a muscle, not a twitch. I can’t breathe; I can’t look around. In perfect, daggerlike clarity I hear the metallic screech of the thing’s speech again.
“I do not intend to execute your companions, but I will do so if I must. Do you, as the new bearer of the title ‘Nocturne’, accept full and complete responsibility for your predecessor’s oath?”
I struggle with everything I have against the sharpness; the glowing edges and perfectly-defined lines of the metal creature’s arm and cloak. The brightness behind it scours my eyes, and I cannot look away. I hear a sigh, then Nim’s voice.
“How long do I have?”
“You may have up to one week from tonight at midnight to fulfill the oath.”
Nim sighs loudly. “Fine. I accept.”
“You, the bearer of the title ‘Nocturne’, have until exactly midnight in Joseph’s Gap of the nine million, four-hundred-and-four thousand, four-hundred-and-thirteenth day of the six-hundred-and-twelfth cosmic cycle to ensure the freedom of Agent Three-Eight from the containment cell and stasis field beneath the Joseph’s Gap Cathedral. Failure to accomplish this task by the allotted time will result in your immediate execution. Opening the chest in front of you will terminate the existence of this intermediate pocket plane.”
In a blinding flash, the thing is gone. I fall to the ground--not soft; not hard; in fact it doesn’t feel like a real surface at all--as I suddenly regain control of my body and hear a similar muted rustling behind me. Turning, I see Filbert already picking himself up off the invisibly-white ground. I look at Nim as I get up, but he speaks first.
“We’ll deal with that later. Let’s just get the Willowisp and get out of here.” I nod, and Filbert and I follow him to the chest--identical in every way to the one we just opened. “It’s not locked,” Nim says, “and the trap is disabled.” He flips the catch and the lid flies up--instantly, the overwhelming pressure returns, and the three of us tumble forward once again into the gaping wooden maw.
The fiend-dragon I made my pact with was shouting at me for opposing his plans.
The one making the plans was Asmodeus.
This presumably means that the fiend-dragon is subservient to Asmodeus, but it might be clearer if you don't refer to the plans as the fiend-dragon's plans, then immediately say Asmodeus was the one making them.
I really should have written a will earlier.
Haha, nice. This is an interesting consideration; bequeathing his power to his children. Am I correct in thinking that he doesn't have any kids yet, so this sentence is effectively "if I die first [before having children], it'll stay with me [but once i have kids if i die it will go to them]"? I'd love to see a little more detail about how he sets up this "will". Is there a ritual? Some kind of actual document?
But 'luckily' there was someone in our car. Another 'fellow'. Where are these people coming from...
Oh, the shenanigans one must go through when players change or characters die in planeswalking-type games.
And, yet another 'K' name. I didn't think it was that common...
Players doing this on purpose? Or will that start with the next replacement character, after they've read this comment in the journal?
As we went, we passed a city. It won't be there much longer. There was another huge beast attacking it. Made of worms, and tall as the buildings.
Ew. Also, I know Kalach is pretty jaded by this point, but I'd love to see more detail about stuff like this--fleeing inhabitants (or inhabitants unable to flee), natives trying to fight the thing, etc. It would do a lot to add a little more flavor.
I like that Kalach's actual backstory and power sources, etc have followed him to the Real World(TM) as well. It's only fair they get more obnoxious as the compaign goes on
Speaking of which, if you were falling behind before, you're definitely behind now. *cracks whip* Write, slave!
But even in the early days, we knew what style was Na' Tas.
Great line; the name-drop is a little forced, though. At least set it off with a comma.
This is a great phrase.
"That was an orb of force, the half dragon just flung, Raziel"
"Indeed Na' tas... and the Kobold shaman is using them as well.. but her's are empowered." Replied the warlock.
"There goes a wall of force"
"Noted, and that was a twin, empowered, magic missile. All in all I am not impressed, we two alone could deal with these two hedge wizards"
You could use a once-over on the punctuation here, and this section as a whole feels a little strange. The narrative purpose is obvious (to tell the reader what is going on below), but the in-character reason for them telling each other things that they can both see and recognize is unclear. I think most of this could be dropped--just a mention of one notable spell, then "they watched these two for some time", then the comment about not being impressed, etc (which is very well-phrased). Alternately, you could go the way of the "flesh to stone" line a little later, and instead of having them actually talk, they can just alternate identifying spells: "Orb of Force." "Empowered Orb of Force." "Twin, Empowered Magic Missile." Having them actually talk about the spells makes them seem too invested in what's actually going on, where they should be just impassively, condescendingly observing. I do really like the way these guys talk, and that they use each other's names in just about every sentence (I think you could go further and literally have them use the other's name every single time they speak).
"Flesh to stone" The duo said at the same time.
This is a good moment in their description of spellcasting. It keeps their derisive aloofness.
Within moments, the druid, in the form of a dire bear, was tearing demons to pieces.
If he's turning into animals, we know he's a druid. More to the point, class levels are generally a metagame concept, and can generally be left out altogether. That gives you space to do something descriptive, so instead of the bit I quoted, you could have "Within moments, the heavyset, tattooed man among the new arrivals had tripled in size and become a monstrous brown bear, and begun tearing demons to pieces." The same goes for the rest of this paragraph, where you lay out everyone's main class, as well as both times you mention that Na' Tas is a Bard. The information is irrelevant to what's actually going on, and it's more interesting for the reader not to have that information just handed out.
"Now THESE folks are interesting, Na' Tas"
"Oh yes, Raziel. I would wager these are the ones we need to deal with carefully"
"Indeed. I have seen enough. Let us go and prepare"
"Agreed, I have much planning to do and have seen as much as I need to"
"Can you do it, Na' Tas? are you sure you can deal with these adventurers?"
Again, I kind of want to have them use each other's names in every single line. "I have seen enough, Na' Tas. Let us go and prepare." "As have I, Raziel. I have much planning to do." But that's just me; if they don't actually talk like that don't change things on my account
I like this storyline; I'm very interested to see where it goes. I also think your pair of fiends make for some fantastic narrators
Keep it up!