The Baron’s Estate
As your hand closes around the woman’s, tendrils of shadow begin to waft up from her arm, curling around yours.
“You are going to want to close your eyes now.” She instructs, and you obey without comment. A cold chill washes over you a moment later, and your ears are suddenly filled with harsh whispers. Reflexively, one eye inches open, giving you just a momentary glimpse of your guide. That one glimpse was more than enough.
Although still a human female, the woman’s skin was glowing an eerie blue, most of the light concentrated around runes carved into her skin that shined brightly in the darkness. Dancing around her, curling around her, caressing her, were dozens of ephemeral shadows. Here and there, eyes and mouths were visible in the swathing gloom. The sight was disturbing, to say the least, and it made the woman even more bizarre than she already was.
A moment after you shut your eye again, you felt a hard tug on your arm, and you followed your guide silently. Around you, the whispers continue. You couldn’t make out what was being said, but it was clear the voices were curious . . . hungry. The woman ignores them, as she doesn’t make a sound as she leads you onward. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, a gust of hot air caresses your body, and the weird twisting of your stomach fades away.
“You may open your eyes now.”
Opening your eyes, you see that you are now outside the estate, in some sort of garden. For the moment, you are shielded from the estate windows by a shoulder-high hedge, which stretches some distance until it curves around. On the other side of the hedge’s far wall, you can see what appears to be several carriages, hooked up to wyverns. Your guide extends a finger to point at them.
“Those air carriages are destined for the Gastly Truth
, the Baron’s personal airship. He is leaving his estate behind, and it seems as if he does not intend to return for some time. Your daughter and Pyrene the Temptress have already been loaded aboard one of them. In all probability, they are already aboard the Gastly Truth
. You need to sneak onto one of those carriages, and get up there if you want to fulfill our agreement. They seem to be almost finished loading – I believe this is the last convoy. You had better hurry.”
Turning away with a flutter of her cloak, the woman begins walking straight towards the nearby hedge wall.
“I must be going now.”
Slowly, the woman fades away into shadow, and before she reaches the hedge she is gone completely. You are alone, although you can hear the shouts of lackeys scrambling to finish loading the air carriages.
Unfortunately, no reassuring cackle or pint-sized talons biting in your flesh is forthcoming. Garthax apparently has been abandoned but not forgotten. Of course, it’s also entirely possible that the little **** has finally found something to entertain himself with, and you would never hear from him again. A thought which was both slightly revealing and rather disappointing at the same time.
At your introduction, Rose quirks an eyebrow.
“I must admit, while no stranger to nobility I do not believe I have ever met a princess before. Of course, neither have I ever heard of this “Faedra” you mentioned.”
Rose snorts as she leans back into her chair once more.
“Of course, I’m also used to dealing with life’s little oddities. And more than a share of its tragedies.”
The noblewoman sighs.
“I must say, it’s hard to determine which of my families is more insane – the one I was born into, or the one I was married into. I suppose it’s all one and the same for us nobleman’s daughters in the end.”
The woman shoots a glance at the Countess and smiles wanly.
“I hear you’ll be joining us soon. You have my sympathies – Cheran is an unsophisticated oaf.”
The Countess looks at Rose curiously.
“I don’t believe I recall which family you trace ancestry to? You would think a woman of the court would now these things, but I didn’t have much time to familiarize myself with such things before I was abducted from my own home!”
Rose shakes her head.
“I’m sorry to hear that. I guess my arranged marriage to Seraph was fortunate after all then. Of course, I am known as Rose Gast now, but at birth I was known as Rose Volesin.”
“V-Volesin!??” The Countess stammers, shooting you a horrified look. Not noticing with her eyes closed, Rose continues.
“Yes. You said you were both there at Ironheart – did you know that in addition to losing my unborn son, I lost both of my brothers there as well? Admittedly, I hadn’t seen or spoken with them for years, but the wound is still there. Yet one more that I shall have to bear for the rest of my life, I suppose.”
Fortunately, this increasingly awkward conversation is stopped by Seraph and Katrina’s arrival. The young rebel comes around quickly as the air carriage takes off into the sky. She gives a low groan of frustration at your greeting.
“Just great. The Baron finds out, and now he wants everyone to know in order to humiliate me!”
“I’m pretty sure I heard some of the guards talking about a procession in front of the Gastly Truth’s
entire crew later.” The Countess said with a slight smile, though the joke did little to soften Katrina’s mood.
Her facial scar turning her frown into a sneer as she examines all three of you, Katrina pauses to examine Rose curiously.
“I remember Countess Amelia and the world-famous whore, but I don’t think we’ve every met.”
Looking at her evenly with a slight smirk, Rose says, “Ah yes, I am Rose Gast, formerly Rose Volesin, wife to Seraphan Gast. The pleasure is all mine. And you are?”
“You’re damn right the pleasure is all yours, you dirty bitch! I’m Katrina Alstan, formerly Kris, daughter of Korram Alstan! Your husband butchered my entire village!”
Her smirk fading, Rose nods sadly. “That must have been before our marriage. Seraph . . . is a different person now. Or at least, I thought he was.”
“Well you thought wrong, because I say he’s still the same murderous ******* he was then! And when I get out of here, I’m going to kill him!”
Rose sighs in irritation and looks at Katrina with a frown.
“Considering it was my husband who dragged you in here unconscious and in chains, I find that hard to believe.”
Starting to struggle violently against the restraints holding her in the seat, Katrina shouts back, “Shut up! Just shut up! I’m sick of you Gasts, every last one of you! I’ll kill every last one of you, starting with you! Just as soon as I get out of this seat!”
The Countess looks at you dejectedly.
“This is going to be a long flight, isn’t it?”
Despite the Countess’s dire prediction, the trip up to the Baron’s personal airship doesn’t take very long at all. Within a few minutes, the carriage rumbles to a halt, and a number of guards fling the doors open. Taking one look at Katrina, still struggling loudly and futilely in her seat, one of the guards sets inside with a laugh, swiftly rendering her unconscious again with a few hard blows. The guards then haul Katrina’s comatose body out of the carriage.
The guard then helps Rose out of her seat, where she is gently escorted out. The Countess is likewise treated with care, although with not nearly as much respect. You, however, are treated with no care or respect, roughly dragged out of your seat and literally thrown out of the carriage. You land on the hard metal floor outside heavily, just barley managing to throw your arms out in time to slow your fall.
“Take this little tramp down to the Brig.” One of the guards grunts to the other, and you are swiftly lead in the opposite direction from the other women. You are dragged down a number of corridors, a maze of interlocking metal hallways much in the fashion of Ironheart. Eventually, you pass through a number of security checkpoints, mostly manned by the Baron’s strange construct soldiers, and finally arrive at the Brig.
The guards escort you into one of the cells, which seem to contain a variety of security features far beyond what would be required to keep you here. Thankfully, the guards don’t seem particularly interested in using such measures beyond the heavy adamantine door and attaching your shackles to the far wall.
No sooner have the guards left (some with promises to return later), but the door opens again, admitting the man you noticing sitting behind the desk in the Brig’s foyer. He smirks as he saunters to a stop a foot or two from you.
“Why, hello there. I’m Larry, the warden of this little brig.”
With the tip of his club, he pulls down one sleeve of your dress, revealing the numbers burned into your arm.
“I see you’re from Ironheart. Well, fancy that – so am I! I was an elite guard there, before that whole demon mess, and now here I am. So, I guess, since you spent some time in Ironheart, you’re probably familiar with how we do things around here.”
Without further preamble, Larry swings his club around into your stomach, doubling you over. Then he smoothly slides his club up under your chin, reaching around behind your head to grab the other end of the club with his free hand. Then he pulls up and back, not hard enough to seriously restrict your breathing, but hard enough to convince you that he could
. By means of the club, Larry brings your head up and around to look at the confines of your cell.
“It’s been awhile for both of us, I think. So why don’t we get reacquainted with the old ways together, hmm? From what I hear, you’re going to be spending quite a bit of time down here. At least, when you’re not let out to play with Cheran . . . or worse yet, the Herald! I hope you come to look fondly on our little together time.”
You had no idea who this Herald was, but if the guard thought he was worse than Cheran, well . . . And of course, the idea of being choked, beat, and molested by some ******* guard from Ironheart was hardly appealing, either. Fortunately, at this point Larry’s little introduction is interrupted as a loud knocking comes from the door to your cell.
“What the . . .” Larry grunts, releasing you and walking over to the door. Opening it, the “warden” of the brig reveals a winged man standing in the doorway. It is not Seraph or Cheran, but some other son of the Baron, this one with wings as white as snow. He looks oddly . . . troubled, and his eyes constantly shift, never resting long on any one point.
“S-Sir Nephilium! What is it, sir?”
The man’s eyes briefly settle on you.
“This is the new prisoner?”
“Yes sir! I was just introducing her to her new home!”
The hint of a frown quirks on Nephilium’s mouth, but he nods at the man.
“Good. Now leave. Having only one ball, two boys must play catch.”
At the guard’s befuddled stare, Nephilium growls in frustration.
“My turn now. I’ll finish her “introduction”.”
The Baron’s son holds out his hand expectantly, and reluctantly Larry deposits a ring of keys into his hand. With a pat on the head, Nephilium shoves the former guard out the door, closing it shut behind him. Sagging with a sigh, Nephilium leans back against the door for a moment, and then walks over to you.
To your surprise, he swiftly removes your manacles, and then pocketing the ring of keys, turns away from you and paces back to the middle of the floor, where he plops himself down.
“So. Introductions are important.” He says, reaching out to pat a spot on the floor in front of him. “I am Sir Nephilium. You are?”
Dawn’s Hope - Monastery
The Abbot looks down at the dead angels sadly.
“So they’re not some abomination in disguise. That makes this more complicated . . . and tragic.”
He motions to the doors.
“Let’s retire to my office. We can discuss matters there with a few others. The rest will attend to the bodies, both for study and to see that they get a proper . . . burial, I suppose.”
The Abbot takes one last look at the dead angels with a sigh.
“In any case, I agree with your assessment Ander. Hondshioh has proven himself today.”
Motioning the half-giant to follow, the Abbot and several of the chief instructors at the monastery file out of the room. A few minutes later, the group reconvenes inside of the Abbot’s office near the top of the monastery, which is considerably more cramped than usual with seven people in it at once.
Settling behind his desk, the Abbot sighs as he nods at Ander.
“I think after that little demonstration, your accusations against the Church are irrefutable. But even with our support, there are still going to be issues. Not all of the acolytes are going to follow you in joining Karth against the Council. Many people have lost friends and family during Karth’s last brutal crusade. And there’s also the town to consider. Many townsfolk aren’t going to want any part in this war, but Karth will force the issue. We can’t stand against the Church on our own either. Can we count on the Valkyrie for any other aid?”
The Surrounding Forest
His face falling at your words, Istomilo sighs and nods. Then, he sets Pyria down with a forced smile.
“Why don’t you run along and play now. Marisiel and I have to talk business.”
Giving her apparent father a forlorn look, the princess of Phaedra slowly nods, gives you a brief glance, and then is skipping down the hallway away. Istomilo waits until she is some distance down the hallway before sighing. It was unfortunate that the little abomination was going to pass out of your sight, but it seemed unlikely she would be able to commit an atrocity in the next few minutes. You would eventually find her again if you had to search, and perhaps you could convince Istomilo the wrongness of his actions. It seemed unlikely that the human would surrender his own daughter for destruction, but there was always hope. Istomilo, for his part, was clearly uncomfortable with this situation, and started to speak several times before he finally gave a defeated sigh.
“Alright. I cannot hide anything from you, Marisiel. Titania will be very upset with me, but, well . . . I guess that cannot be helped.”
Istomilo paused for a moment, looking both ways down the hallway before leaning in closer to you, as if someone might overhear.
“Titania has not been entirely herself for years now. Not since Lord Dacian graced us with his presence nearly nine years ago.”
That would be about a year after your departure. You were surprised that Dacian would make such a journey, but admitted it made sense. While Elandra continued to watch the Forger of Oblivion’s prison, he would be able to move about and remain in contact with the rest of humanity. In any event, you trusted the former two avatars of the Divine Couple to handle their appointed task, just as you had handled yours. Or how you thought you had handled yours, but apparently the humans had missed something in your lessons.
“About a year after that was when the real trouble started, however. Queen Titania . . . fell ill. No, not just ill . . . she was dying. You must understand, Marisiel, at that time there was no talk of me being the Queen’s consort, no thought of Pyria. We were a young kingdom with a young queen. No thought had been made towards succession yet . . . the aftermath of the Queen’s death could have destroyed everything we had worked for!”
Istomilo takes a deep, nervous breath, and then continues.
“And so . . . well, we couldn’t let that happen, could we? We looked into ways of extending the Queen’s lifespan. We discovered binding spirits, among other magicks, to be quite effective in slowing the progress of her illness. And then well . . . things just sort of spiraled out from there. Others eventually heard of what we were doing, and thought that if the Queen could do it, it was permissible for them as well. We tried to regulate it at first, but eventually the desire for progress and knowledge overrode all over concerns.”
Istomilo gestured after the hallway that Pyria had disappeared down.
“In a way, Pyria is another result of that. After Titania’s “recovery”, she was painfully aware of her own mortality. She wished to ensure that there would be no question of succession in the future, and . . . I reluctantly agreed to be her consort. And then, after Pyria was born, we wondered why bother with succession at all? Future generations might not remember the dark days of the Apocalypse, might not remember all the good things you and the Valkyrie have done for us. And they might slowly, over generations, descend into heresy.”
Istomilo’s voice begins to strengthen as his fervor increases – this obviously was a topic he felt strongly about.
“So, we thought it would be best to discover a ruler that would not have to be replaced. That would not die, and fade into memory. A ruler not weighed down by the passage of time, but would spring forth eternally, governing her people fairly and justly for all time! Do you understand, Mariseil? We just wanted what was best for Phaedra. We didn’t want to chance the survival of our kingdom to the vulgarities of time! So, by making an immortal ruler, we could ensure that Phaedra would always remain strong, steadfast in its loyalty to the gods! . . . Isn’t that worth violating a few of our more minor oaths to the Valkyrie and the Lightbringer!?”
The City of Amaranth
The (Destroyed) City Slums
I am ready to depart.
Omega winces as she walks over to join you.
I am feeling . . . drained, however. Hopefully once we arrive at your former residence there will be an opportunity to rest.
On my way back, almost there! Found a body . . . it’s just taking a little bit to get used to.
A few moments later, and the body of a woman stumbles into the clearing of buildings. She frowns with annoyance as she brushes a lock of blond hair out of her face.
This was the only intact body I was able to find. Believe me, I looked! It’s really weird, being in someone else’s body. Least I don’t have to listen to anyone else except you and Omega . . .
The woman peeks down her shirt.
And it’s not all bad, I suppose. But you are definitely getting me back in my old body, in one piece, Sohssal! I’m still not letting you off the hook on that!
You now felt ready to teleport out of here and leave this place behind for now. Off to one side, Seymour and Mellita were watching Umber’s scrying efforts and your strange group in confusion, obviously not part of your mental network nor privy to Umber’s conversation. Of course, their opinion didn’t really matter, although it might be wise to arrange a future meeting with Seymour in the event you wished to return here.
As for returning to your laboratory, you knew that you had two options. You had set up numerous defenses around your estate to protect against intrusions, magical or otherwise, but had left two points open. One was the teleportation circle in the middle of your laboratory, which was set up to scramble anyone it didn’t recognize into bits upon reformation. Your presence should protect Omega and Roger from that effect, but of course if any of the spells had become corrupted during your absence you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. And of course, if anything had taken up residence in your old home despite your precautions, you would be dropping into the middle of it.
The other option was the small teleportation circle you had set up at the far end of the island, primarily as a backup and emergency escape circle. It was isolated and relatively unwarded, which meant a stop there would care little risk. It was also about a two hour hike from there to your estate, something which wasn’t a concern to you except the time it would take. However, it would also give you a chance to examine your old home from afar, in the event trouble was awaiting your return.
Either way, of course, if anything was wrong with your laboratory, something would have to be done about it. Specifically, something would have to be done to whoever was responsible for the latest of a string of annoyances you had suffered since the start of your escape.
Covering your hands and feet in bone, you descend upon the zombies from above like an angry god. Your limbs turn weapons were indeed your moneymakers in this situation, and you had no qualms about shaking them in this dance of death. Or dance of redeath, considering these were zombies that you were fighting. In any case, the pathetic creations of some necrophiliac hack were quickly hacked apart, leaving you and the boy alone in the alley.
Dropping down from his ledge with a cheer, the boy approaches you, looking up at you in wonder. Despite being what you would judge to be a mere human boy with no more than twelve years of ripening, he was a curious sight. To your skilled eye, there was something . . . off in his movements. It wasn’t anything you could put your finger on, and the boy didn’t seem injured or altered in any way from your standard twelve-year old brat, but the difference was there all the same.
“That was just swell, mister! Say, I need to get back to my father. It’s late, and I’m sure he’s worried about me by now! Do you think you could escort me back home? I’m sure my dad would be grateful! And . . . and, gee, he’s an important man in the city! It sure would be good for you to be on his good side!”
Fianna listens to your words intently, and stands there in thought for one long moment. And then she laughs. It is a cold, disturbing sound, for it lacks any warmth, any mirth, anything that would make it more than a laugh in name only. It is a hollow, empty gesture, reproduced from a memory without any real concept of the actual action.
“I told you before, Umber, I already have my cure. The only true cure there is to this pointless existence: Death. Utter, final, death. My attempt to gift the rest of the world with this relief has failed, but I have another method to cure myself at least. So I have no need of your help, Umber. I have already wasted enough time on your half-measured attempts to “cure” us. I have no desire to be blindfolded to the truth again. Go pursue your ignorance somewhere else – maybe with that thinblooded tramp of Helion’s.”
Along with the barbed words, Fianna gestures and stabs a sharp spike of pain into your right temple. Your vision momentarily grays as the scrying pool violently shatters from the counterspell. That certainly had not gone as well as you would have hoped, but at least you now knew your love was in the capital. And that she was still intent on offing herself, permanently, and apparently somehow had the means to do so. You didn’t have much time.
The Gastly Truth
The dragon rumbles what your memories judge to be the draconic form of laughter.
“Why? I believe, as you humans say, that I’ve already made you my bitch.”
At your question, the dragon shrugs.
“I do not know. She carved these runes into my stone hide with her bare fingers, and there was a disquieting aura about her. I don’t know where she is, nor have I seen her since our first meeting. I believe the Baron called her “Alya”, however – she was definitely not your lady friend from the battle beneath Ironheart.”
That was disappointing – where exactly was Katashiko then? On the plus side, it did meant that she was apparently free for the moment, and not under the Baron’s thumb as everyone else seemed to be. Everyone else . . . you dimly remember the others who fought with you, and won the battle after your death. But you can’t quite remember them beyond hazy shapes at this point, despite knowing you met several of them personally.
At your offer of forgiveness, the dragon nods.
“Good. I am . . . tired . . . of our ceaseless struggle. I have no desire to expend any energy in continuing our feud now that I have what I want, more or less. Unfortunately, I don’t think I do have the power to free you from whatever shackles the Baron has put on you.”
“I have your freedom right here, in my mouth.” A new voice suddenly calls from a grate in the floor.
“It’s quite touching, listening to the two of you yammer at each other, but I’m starting to get hungry. Why don’t you come down here then, and let me grant you the freedom you crave? The freedom of the grave, of complete and total Oblivion!”
The voice cackle madly, and you can hear a loud sniffing sound from below. Images of a dark, winged figure are conjured into your mind by the voice, and a scene of you crashing down from above onto it fill your mind. For his part, Akor growls.
“I see my “cellmate” has finally decided to join in on our conversation.”
Suddenly, the voice from below snarls angrily.
“You! Oh, I recognize the stench . . . you were there at the battle! You blew my head apart, not that it did you any good. Come down here, let me do the same to you! I will give you a feast of agony before you pass beyond the reach of any whore god to save you!”
“Apparently the Baron has decided even mad dogs like the Herald of Azguloth might someday have a use again. More’s the pity.”
The Screaming Dark Estate
Melcara nods and palms the offered dagger.
“I’ll handle it.”
As the fallen angel steps forward, Limier reaches out to stop her.
“Perhaps we can settle this without violence? I’m sure Lord Vylethar would like to cut a deal given how many slaves he now has running amok inside his estate.”
Melcara quirks an eyebrow as she turns towards the assassin.
“So, you’re . . . I wouldn’t have guessed. I agree that there is a simple solution to this.”
In one smooth motion, Melcara shoves Limier back with one hand while she brings her other around in a wicked punch. The blow knocks Limier to the floor, sending her sliding to a halt against the nearby wall completely out-cold. Melcara nods in satisfaction while Jim looks on in amazement and you down the healing potion.
“Unfortunately, in this case, violence truly is the simplest solution.”
Stepping out into plain sight, Melcara raises her hands.
“Hail, Lord of the Screaming Dark estate! I am Melcara, and I have come with an offer!”
Not relinquishing his grip on Adamè, Vylethar grunts in surprise.
“An angel, down here!?”
Shuffling a foot closer to the edge of the stairway, Vylethar peers down in curiosity.
“A fallen angel, no less! . . . Why aren’t you insane?”
“I just got here.” Melcara counters with a self-conscious smile. “But considering what you are, I doubt the condition of my mind concerns you.”
Raising her arms over her head, Melcara does a slow pirouette. Vylethar gives a low chuckle, and hums appreciatively.
“True, true. So what’s your offer? Release the girl or you’ll break my neck?”
Melcara gives a dry chuckle as she shuffles a few steps forward.
“Oh no. I think you’ll like this offer: myself for the girl.”
Now it’s Vylethar’s turn to laugh.
“And where would I release her? I doubt she would find anywhere else that’s safer in this place. Just as I doubt you wouldn’t snap my neck as soon as she was out the door.”
Melcara shuffles a few more steps forward.
“You and I both know that she doesn’t belong here. She deserves to return to the realm of mortals and live out the remainder of her life, so that her soul can be judged properly. Same as his.”
Melcara nods at the prone form of Teareal.
“And certainly, there are ways of keeping me here against my will.”
Vylethar eyes the broken chains still hanging off the fallen angel’s arms.
“Because that worked well so far. And regardless of whether she belongs here or not, it’s not as if I can just pat her on the head and send her home. I’m influential, not powerful. I can’t just wave my hands and conjure up a portal!”
Melcara shuffles forward again, bringing her almost to within arm’s reach of Vivian and Madeline. She places her hands on the back of her head and kneels down.
“Then we can find one. Until then, you can keep the girl as insurance against my cooperation. Either way, you’re sure to be . . . satisfied.”
Vylethar eases his grip on Adamè, waving his small army of girls forward.
“Alright. We’ll see how well you can hold up your end of the bargain first. Then I’ll start looking for a way to send her home.”
With a subtle gesture, Melcara produces the knife you had given her.
“Actually, another offer just presented itself.”
In a smooth motion, Melcara rises to her feet and flicks the knife. It sails through the air perfectly, embedding itself in between Vylethar’s eyes. Blood oozes out of the wound, and Vylethar swoons, nearly sending Adamè toppling down the stairs.
“You . . . winged . . . bitch.” He manages to grate out before disintegrating into a pile of ashes, leaving Adamè unharmed at the top of the stairs. As before, with his death the spell over the women is broken, and they immediately begin arguing amongst themselves.
Vivian edges back away from Teareal, her masked face turning back and forth as she looked for an exit. Madeline meanwhile, ignites her makeshift club in holy light as she steps forward and brings it around into Melcara’s face. The fallen angel’s head snaps backwards, allowing you to see the blackened scar left by the blessed club’s impact. As the former paladin brings her weapon around again, Melcara reacts in a blur, catching it in one hand. Smoke begins to slowly waft from Melcara’s hand as she holds the weapon immobile. With her other, the fallen angel grabs the fallen paladin by the throat and lifts her up off her feet effortlessly. Once again, take away the devils, and everything explodes into chaos.
The Perist Residence
The corpse gives a harsh chuckle at your offer to make a deal.
“How apropos, answering a question with a question! Perhaps your mortals aren’t completely foolish after all.”
The corpse clacks his teeth at you.
“Very well. This time I’ll speak plain.”
Despite the mystical bindings, the creature manages to dig its fingernails into its palm. Predictably, nothing more than a few globs of congealed blood seep out. The corpse sneers in irritation.
“This body is meant for function, not fulfillment! For the taste of air again, I was willing to join with it, but I now desire . . . more. I want to feel the beating of a heart, the slow expansion of one’s chest with every breath.”
Leering, the corpse twists its neck to an unusual angle as it nods at Cherise, and then at you.
“I don’t want the old man, and the boy doesn’t interest me either. I want your friend . . . you would do in a pinch as well. I want to wear your skin . . . I can show you how. In exchange for a few minutes, I’ll answer whatever questions I’m willing to answer.”
The group stands in stunned silence for a moment, and then both Berrick and Carlain burst into outrage.
“Just shut up and tell us what we want to know! Or things are going to get messy!”
“I don’t think this is a good idea. There’s no telling what consequences such a deal will have.”
“I’ll do it.” Cherise says quietly. “We need answers, and if this is the only way to get them . . .” Cherise smiles thinly at you. “And you’re quicker on your feet Is. If something does go wrong, you’ll probably be able to fix it better than I could. Unless you don’t think it’s a good idea either.”
The Hand agent’s face tightens with anger, while Brock gives a boisterous laugh at your offer.
“Well now, that’s a mighty generous offer you have there Argan. But I suppose like all good snitches, you’d do anything to save your life.”
“This is all your fault, you and your incompetent organization!” The Hand agent hissed, rounding on Brock. Side by side, it’s clear that the agent is nearly a head shorter than the burly master thief. It’s also clear that Brock is still not threatened by the Baron’s servant as he waves him off.
“Somebody always knows something. It’s just a matter of convincing them not to tell anybody else.”
“What else could that somebody know!? This entire operation could be compromised! Clean this mess up!
With a last angry wave of his hand, the Hand agent stormed off, stomping down the stairs and leaving you alone with the thieves. 4 on 1 . . . still terrible odds, and despite his easy-going nature you can tell that Brock knows how to handle himself. With a smirk, he waves good-bye to the Hand agent, and then turns his attention back to you.
“So, you’re a snitch for the Watch, eh? And now you want to be my snitch.”
Sauntering up to you, Brock eyes you up and down carefully. Finally, he shrugs.
“Alright. You got a week to find out everything the Watch knows about my relationship with the Baron. I want to know what they know, how they know, and who’s in charge of the investigation. Get me that, and you can crawl back under whatever hole you live under. Don’t, and well . . . nobody’s going to miss you.”
Gesturing to his associates, Brock turns and starts walking down the stairs.
“Alright, we’re done here. Take care of this, boys.”
A moment later, something hard that you strongly suspect is the butt of a crossbow slams into your back. The other two crossbow wielders close in, choosing to make use of their fists and feet instead. The beating is brutal, but fairly short – the intention was merely to cause pain, not cripple you. Despite your distaste for pain, you had endured far worse during your training as the Baron’s lapdog assassin.
Finally, grabbing your arms, two of them drag you outside, dropping you unceremoniously out front of the safehouse. Alive, and relatively unharmed despite a bit bloodied, which was far better than you had been expecting a few minutes ago. Apparently, your luck was still more or less holding.
Of course, you also only had a week to find out what was going on before you will need to dodge murderous thieves. You could probably flee town instead, but you weren’t sure how long of a memory the Thieves Guild had, nor how long of an arm they possessed outside the capital city limits. And you were already in this mess, and both your curiosity and ire had been raised. You might be in too deep to just drop it all now.
The Northern Forest
As you have learned first hand, your assailant is well trained and well equipped. As such, he is prepared for your sudden assault and begins to twist out of the way of your lunge. But your body was a construct used for your convenience, and thus not bound by any natural law. Your assailant, on the other hand, was still in the end human, with very human limitations.
Both rocks slam into the man’s knees with force nearly sufficient to quite literally tear them in half. Legs bent at an unnatural angle, the man collapses backwards into the stream. Somehow, despite what you are sure was quite excruciating pain, the man endured his injuries with little more than a low groan.
Dragging himself up into a half-sitting position, the man leans up against the bank of the stream, still glaring at you with hate in his eyes. Then, he quite deliberately swings his daggers up, driving them into his eyes, and into his brain beyond. Abruptly, the low-pitched moan of pain stops, as does the man’s heart as he slumps.
With a loud sputter, Richard drags himself back up onto his feet, clenching his hands into fists again as he splashes about drunkenly.
“Where is he!? Where is – oh, there he is. He’s dead, ain’t he? Never seen anybody move that fast ‘fore.”
Richard peers at your injuries in open-mouthed shock.
“Good gods! W-wha . . . what the Hells are you!?”
Unfortunately, whatever explanation you could manage would have to be cut short. In the distance, you can see several more flickers of darkness against the background of the forest. Three more black-clad figures were rapidly approaching the stream. One of them had nearly driven you to the brink of . . . death, wasn’t that what humans called it?
You had never really considered the possibility of your own death, despite witnessing it occur to creatures, from humans to earthworms, on a number of occasions. But if that would not have been the end result of your first assailant’s actions, you are concerned what would have happened instead. It certainly was not something you wished to find out the answer to in the immediate future, despite these three new assailants undoubtedly wanting to give you just that.
(I believe the Big Bad Wolf said it best – “Run away, little girl! Run away!”
Or not, since a crazy Maria going all out could probably repeat the rock+knee trick a couple more times.