Crimvale Keep

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  1. The Table of Gigas

    An oak table, long and unvarnished, with cracks in the wood and dust in the cracks. No one had eaten there for as long as anyone could remember. The utensils were rusted, the plates cobwebbed, the goblets on their sides.

    And at the far edge something tiny, almost invisible, twitched.


    Torrim Harmalk hauled himself up over his grappling hook. The dwarf planted face-first on the wood grain, then rolled over and inhaled. Each breath made music: his platemail rustling, his leather backpack squeaking, his weapons and cooking pots clanging together.

    The ceiling was lost in darkness. He squinted at it, but saw nothing.

    "S'all clear, laddies!" he yelled. And if his voice wasn't obstructed by a grey-brown beard, his companions might have had a one-in-twenty chance of understanding what he said.

    The dwarf picked himself up, straightened his helmet, and lit his oil lamp. The fire caught on the burnished edge of a wine jug.

    It towered ten feet above him.

    The Table of Gigas - it had been sixteen years since he and Lorn stood here. Well, mayhaps stood was not the correct word. Ran? Fought? Screamed while being mauled by giant insects? He grunted at the memory, and turned his attention to the table itself. His darkvision perceived only sixty of its three-hundred foot length. And every footstep echoed in the dining hall, which was itself four times the size of the table.

    The party had had to tie all their rope bundles together to scale the table leg.

    At least those who used ropes.

    "Dinnae worreh, lads. There be neh giants in these parts save the wee bairn's appetite. Up with ye, now."

    The rope twitched behind him, and cursing was heard below. After a month in each others company, the Flint and Steel Party could be forgiven for thinking the dwarf was leading them on a wild ooze chase. But their questions would soon be answered. Their destination was close.

    Torrim could feel the sweet breeze of home.
    #1 Asmodeus, May 7, 2015
    Last edited: May 12, 2015
  2. Next up the rope was an Aasimar. Darath Keriah. Why the hell didn't I get wings? Scaling a giant table in heavy armor wasn't exactly the most fun thing he ever done, and he was a child of the church. He pulled himself up and put his hands over the hood. Open up the lungs and get more air. Air, good. No air, bad. The rope tugged with the other guild members making their way up.

    Those giants were not something to be trifled with, but neither were they. They had the right mix of martial prowess and magic to get out of there alive. The gods certainly smiled on the lot them.

    Letting his hands fall to the sides, the warpriest felt the air come back to him. "Do you think that the mercenaries will come after the amulet?" He was trying to gauge whether or not it should be taken somewhere safe or if the guild was the best place to keep it. Though, he would prefer it if proper maintenance could be prepared that it could even be taken back to his order. Surely, he would understand if the dwarf had other plans.

    Looking over to make sure Torrim was doing okay, he stepped forward and offered a hand to the next person up. "You gonna make it, old man?"
  3. The sound of the guild's progress echoed up and through the vast, gloomy room. A home for giants, once. Now nothing more than a tomb, a crypt, forgotten and buried like so many of the secrets contained within Crimvale Keep.

    Above it all, however, was the sound of whistling.

    Jaunty and upbeat, the sort of tune that might accompany a drinking song. It's source was a diminutive figure, barely taller than a human child, pulling himself up the rope that the group had fashioned with a precision only gained from decades of practice. Dressed in dark leather, his equipment and crossbow hanging from a pair of bandoleers slung across his back.

    Garrick Proudfoot sprang up onto the table with a quick vault, past Darath's offered hand. Brushing dust from his adventuring garb, he turned with a grin to the cleric. In the month the group had been together, the others had been quick to learn that the halfling's smile, a potent combination of 'shit-eating grin' and 'smug', was an all but perpetual fixture on his face.
    “Old man? Now now, m'lad, I'd like t'be thinkin' that I'm still in possession of m'youthful looks n' charms an' all. Don' go killin' m'hopes, eh?”

    Staring around around the narrow region of light offered by Torrim's lantern, Garrick let out an admiring whistle at the sight of the massive wine bottle in front of them. “Fook me, that'd be enough to get even m'third cousin on me ma's side o'the family Bertrand smashed beyond all mortal measure. An' he was the staunchest drinker in th'whole fookin' county.” He chuckled and moved to stand next to Torrim. “An' here was me thinkin' that Lorn was jus' pullin' me leg. Guess this means we ain't far out?”

    A bald head, coated in bizarre tattoos, popped up at the edge of the table next, and a deathly pale hand snatched Darath's.
    “Oh good, you're actually useful for something,” Sift muttered as she was helped up and onto her feet, purple robes shifting and flowing about her. Her walk was accompanied by the rattle of strange jewellery, the creak of leather satchels containing mysterious substances and unusual pieces of flora, a curious smell of incense.

    It was also usually accompanied by derisive commentary, and today was no exception.

    “We better be getting close, Torrim,” the mage said as she butted into the conversation of the two old adventuring companions, “If I have to spend another bloody day down in this godforsaken place, I swear to the Gods I will not be held responsible for my actions.”
    #3 Childish Grumpino, May 8, 2015
    Last edited: May 9, 2015
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  4. An elf nimbly dashed up the rope, but he managed to make it seem hard. For every minute foothold and crevice that Ina's fingers slipped into, Oster's chubby stubs fell out, and so at the top of the table the elf landed on his aesthetic ass, vigorously massaging a chin with no beard.

    "T'was a hard climb!" Ina-Oster shivered and dust fell from the jangling mess of metal plate armour on his chest. His attempt at vigorous, hearty, bellowing dwarven speak fell a bit short, his elfen voice doing him no favours.

    The room eased his mind. Here, where everything was out of proportion, dwarf, elf, human, halfling, and what-have-you were humbled, all reduced to the same size in the home of giants. What sort of hammers did the giants wield, what mighty anvils they must have used! Their forge must have been the volcano herself, and their hammer a piece from old Thurm's mountain. One day, Ina-Oster hoped to wield such strength.
    #4 unanun, May 8, 2015
    Last edited: May 8, 2015
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  5. Erastian mounted the Table with something that was not fully a grunt or a snarl. No stranger to toiling away hours on city streets or dirtying his hands with unlucky blood, he nonetheless found exertions like the climb topside degrading to his person. As he rose to his feet, he inspected himself, dusting off traveling raiments chosen for the expedition which were perhaps still a bit more sumptuous than his surroundings of late could merit. Erastian was damned if he'd die looking the beggar, however, and if death hounded him each day in the back alleys of the Heartland, it now practically walked with him arm in arm in a place such as Crimvale.

    The inherent truth of this was only redoubled by the titanic tableware that towered bleakly over the party. A layer of grime covered the vast hardwood plateau like fresh-fallen snow and Erastian noted the footprints his companions had already begun to make upon it, which would probably have been a comical sight if it weren't also a flagrant manifestation of their trespass.

    But then... it did not much seem that there was anything around to object to their arrival in the first place. Perhaps this endeavor would prove easier than he had originally conceived. The notion was rather a disappointing one.

    "To think such creatures as could use these utensils as we do our own roamed freely once," he thought aloud, grazing a hand over a nearby fork tarnished by time and perhaps as long as four or five grown men lying crown to heel. He scoffed. "And in my country, we struck up treaties with their like, no less imposing in their menace if not their stature."
  6. When they ascended to the tunnels above the Underdark, her mother was little more than a rolling bag of bones. A ghost echoing from a jackal skull. Lorn did not share her daughter's infernal nature, and was changed in the blackness, suspended by the base components that kept her construct in motion. Her mother regained feature as she climbed up, as the air changed, as they found water.

    There is no water in the Underdark. Only an essence filtered to nothing that drips from stalactites like weeping nipples. The Drow call it milk of the void.

    It was more than minerals and light the jackal lacked.

    What is a shape shifter without shadows?

    Lorn knelt in a pile of stinking sludge upon a silver plate the size of a god's kidney stone.

    "It's rotted to nothing."

    From behind, Siege peered about the giant's table, still in awe at how bright it was in the upper levels.

    "Fifteen fucking years dreaming of that giant chicken."

    "I'm sure this must be difficult for you."

    "Insolent hatchling!" The lips around Lorn's maw shriveled up in a jackal grin, exposing fang and gum. "Help me jackal the remains, there may be a bone left to choke on."

    "Mother, please."

    A steam of air puffed from Lorn's snout."You're afraid of soiling your new human suit." She straightened her knees to stand, her jackal body shaped in bipedal stature.
    "That will slow you down." The human company was anathema to her daughter's disguise.

    The air, so much more abundant, flooded their lungs and made them giddy. They were always three steps ahead of the others, scouting in the shadows. They left messages in chalk on the walls.

    You tell that fucking piece of shit door to skip the fucking riddle, or Lorn is going to come back and stick the other one in.

    Five Cloakers locked in the closet. Happy Happy Joy Joy.


    If you haven't eaten the halfling by now, tell him there's a shiny ring that will fit him in this chest. But Siege thinks it's cursed or some shit.
    *Written while running​
    Though they could be easily tracked by the dismantled traps left in their wake.

    They rejoined the group to sleep and relay directions. Siege was clumsy in her human skin, seeming to always want to crawl out of it. Her dark hair, defiant and true to her nature, sprang out from the binds of her braids, thick as fur. She was determined to maintain the illusion. Studying her scrolls was a good excuse to not sustain prolonged conversation. And so was sleeping. Luckily for her this was common for human whelps.

    "You look like the slant eye." Lorn's laughter was a feral chirp. The planes of Siege's face were the same as Kiyoshi's.

    "He taught me how to make a human suit." Was all Siege would say about the Kitsune.

    "You're near the surface, you can smell the light in the air before you see it." The Barghest had been raised in darkness. Perhaps she had taken on the Drow fear of being burned away by the sun. "Pretending to be a human won't protect you from them, brat."

    "I'm not afraid of humans."

    "Then I raised a fool."

    The torch lights refracted from the bottle's glacial surfacing, casting strange shadows across the shifters. Siege flinched, her form seeming to blink, as if she meant to Jaunt, but sobered at the familiar voices that accompanied. The rest of the Guild had caught up to the scouts.

    Lorn cackled from her jackal mouth, and recited the lullaby learned in the Underdark.

    "The baby bat
    screamed out in fright,
    Turn on the dark, I'm afraid of the light!"

    "Can it, you old bitch!" Siege barked, cheeks and eyes flaring the same crimson.

  7. [​IMG]
    Sasami thought it a good sign that Zhi hadn't told her to shut up, after all the oracle had been talking nonstop for the past twenty minutes. For an oracle who spent little time sculpting her body, she was making good time. She was a quarter of the way up the rope, her dirtied silk robes flapping from her struggles.

    "Baa said I shouldn't expect to run into anyone from Shenzing, on account that they don't like to travel. But I think Baa is being stupid. I like to travel and I'm from Shenzing. And you're from Shenzing, but you like to travel, don't you Zhi? Of course, you like to travel, who am I kidding? You wouldn't be here if you didn't like to travel -- What is it that you do again? Oh right! You're the monk. I wish I could fight like you do, but every time I try to punch something I always hurt my hand. I bet you could punch a lot of things huh? Oh! Could you punch through a tree? Or a brick? Or even a wall?! That'd be soooo amazing! Do you think you could --


    "Hush Baa, I'm sure she doesn't mind me talking." Sasami paused and looked down. "You don't mind, do you? Of course you don't, what friends don't like talking to each other?" She laughed nervously.

    Were they friends? Sasami only recently joined the guild, but she thought she made a good impression. Sure, a few things got misplaced or knocked down whenever they made camp. And sure, Baa liked to bleat -- well, scream -- whenever they had to be quiet, but it was only because he was nervous. But Sasami always made it up by making everyone breakfast, or digging the latrines, and collecting berries. (Nevermind the fact that she almost fed the party poisoned berries).

    She thought about apologizing to Zhi for dropping the pot of water on the monk's foot that morning when the edge of the table was in sight. She scrambled up. Panting, swearing, and fumbling with her goat skull cap, Sasami straightened with a comical sigh.

    "Oooooh. OOOOOH!"

    The light from the lantern caught the glint of the fork and Sasami sprinted forward. Zhi was momentarily forgotten for the lovely, dusty, oversized fork. But Sasami was going to be a good friend. The oracle would share her giant fork with the monk as soon as she made it over the table.
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  8. If silent gods had frowned upon the prattling of the oracle Sasami, her one redemption was that she was forming halfway-coherent sentences.

    The same could not be said of the last individual on the end of that rope.

    Scrote the goblin ascended with a chorus of shrieks, growls and ngyaaahs (Lorn's word for goblin grunts). His climb was all the harder for the equipment he carried. Master Torrim's hammer, Mistress Lorn's tent, Mistress Lorn's spare quiver, Mistress Lorn's mug, and everything in Little Mistress Siege's inventory. It equated to four backpacks. Which was a lot of backpacks for a goblin.

    He also had the other end of the rope in his mouth. Little Mistress Siege hated pulling the rope up at the end of the climb. Which was odd, because she always teleported.

    Scrote deemed this a matter of faith.

    On reaching the lip of the tabletop, he crawled the rest of the way via handholds and pitons, overtaking Veptoria and Zhiyong. The other end of the rope went with him, which led to a sharp yank as it pulled taut with Zhiyong.


    The goblin lost his grip on the table edge, swung a few times, put the rope back in his mouth and climbed up again... using Zhiyong as a piton.

    This time, when he got up there, he pinned the end of the rope under Mistress Lorn's backpack. It was filled with (trapped) ration packs, so there was plenty of weight. Then he picked up Little Mistress Siege's luggage and ran with it across the table, a green blur through Torrim's lamp light. "Garaaagh!"

    In moments, Lorn and Siege could hear the familiar nygaaahs of a goblin trying to jump and grip the edge of the serving plate they perched on. The two backpacks made it before he did (as duty commanded), and shortly after the packs rolled down into the rotten goop on the plate, an exhausted goblin rolled down after them.

    "Where have you been, Scrote?" snarled the werejackal.

    Scrote picked himself up in the goop, resisted the urge to lick it (Mistress Lorn might have trapped it like the ration packs), and waved his skinny green arms (this was what bards did when telling stories). "Mistress said 'Scrowfin bring the rope', so Scrowfin bring the rope. Aaaagh!" (He didn't need to scream at this point, but it was becoming a habit). "Mr Noble-face eated chicken then climbed the rope with chicken fingers, so Scrowfin bring chicken in his mouth for Mistress!"

    He spat at Lorn, hoping she would catch some of his slightly chicken-flavoured rope spit.

    She didn't. Scrowfin deemed this a matter of failure.

    "NGYAAAGH!" He gave another scream and dived inside a goop-covered pack, dislodging Siege's trinkets. He emerged again with a wineskin. "Scrowfin brings the milk for Little Mistress!"

    He dashed towards Siege, falling over in the goop a few times but always keeping the wineskin above his head. Then he knelt before her and held up the milk with a wide, razor-toothed grin.

    Siege hadn't drunk milk for 14 years.

    And no one knew where Scrote was getting milk from in a dungeon.

    Scrote deemed this a matter of faith.
    #8 Asmodeus, May 9, 2015
    Last edited: May 10, 2015
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  9. “Siege, m'lass! That's no way t'be talkin' te yer mither, terrifying Drow nursery rhymes notwithstanding.” It was an increasingly common scene to see Garrick playing peacemaker between jackal mother and curmudgeonly daughter, the halfling carefully positioning himself so as not to land himself on either's bad side. “Swear te fook, it's not exactly a wonder why that lot're all turnin' out loike fookin' psychopaths when they get raised on that sorta talk. Nuthin' loike what m'old ma was singin' t'me back in the day.”

    The snarls and grunts coming from the edge of the table announced Scrote's arrival, the guild's somewhat unorthodox mascot figure/pack mule. Garrick's expression turned quizical as he watched the greenskin's progress. “I still haven't the faintest fookin' idea how th'wee bastard carries alla that.”
  10. Darath chuckled, at the halfling. "Oh yes, you are still a charming, handsome half-a-man. Though, I was referring to scruffy." His hand was then taken by the one with the eyes. The comment was met with a telling smirk and a bow. "You mean for something other than admiring your inner beauty, m'lady?" Surely, that one was probably going to cost him. But how else was he going to counter her?

    As the rest of the group came up, he decided to make his way towards the others. Constantly checking, as he has been since the item fell into his possession, a hand slid into his pocket. Wrapped in unsoiled, embroidered cloth was an amulet. He was careful not to undo the wrap as it would cause a lot of things to go wrong. He stopped it. It was how the group came to accept his company. The power of a divine warrior was shown again as it was safely taken down and put away. Those mercenaries would be back though. Darath was sure of it.

    While coughing, the Aasimar moved about. Anxiousness was clouding his mind, most likely from the amulet. It wasn't strong enough to warrant a reaction but he knew it was at work. Hopefully, Qunarious was still there.

    Watching them all interact and the goblin offering milk to the angsty teenager, he goes over to Torrim. "How did you all end up against that mercenary band? You don't seem the type for leisurely strolls."
    #10 Cerulean, May 9, 2015
    Last edited: May 9, 2015
  11. Torrim turned from the wine jug and lowered his oil lamp. "If veh do, ah'll..."

    Torrim scowled at Darath's turned back. "Ye talkin' ta me, lad?"

    Torrim murmured, "Ah, he was neh talking ta me..."

    Torrim nodded at the halfling. "Aye, Lad - we be getting close..."

    Torrim put down the oil lamp and shook his head. "Enough with yer frettin, Lass. Ah'll..."

    Torrim scowled at the elf sitting on the table edge. "WE DO NEH SOOND LIKE THAHT!"

    Torrim squinted at the well-dressed human. "Thah giants were actualleh servants o' thah Demon King, Lad. Ah remember when--"

    Torrim flinched and peered around the wine jug. "Ack! Lorn! Ye scared thah beer from meh bell--!"

    Torrim flinched again as the oracle ran past. "Ack!

    Torrim flinched a third time. "Ack!"

    Torrim watched Garrick walk away. "Ah..."

    There was a clap of metal on metal - as loud and final as a drumbeat. Torrim slapped his gauntlet down on Darath's shoulderguard and stopped him in place.

    The one-hundred-and-forty-four-year-old emphasized each word. "Give. Meh. A. Wee. Moment!"

    The party settled down somewhat... as much as the party could. Torrim picked up the oil lantern and shoved it against Sift's chest to make her hold it. Hopefully an errand would stall her complaining.

    "Them mercenaries were Harksharks, Lad. Used ta be part of thah Merchant Guild, afore it fell apart," His glance to Lorn was almost imperceptible. Turned bandits and thieves now. Thought they could make a pretteh penny by jumping us."

    He tapped his axe-head against the cleric's pocket, where the wrapped amulet lay. "Dug' knows where theh got thah thing from, but it'd still be sending oot waves of unholy magic if ye hadn't shown up. For that, Lad, ye have meh thanks." He tapped the pocket again. "It'll behove ye ta sell or bury thah damn thing first chance ye get."

    He raised his voice, deliberately, and threw it over his shoulder. "An mebbe if them Harksharks come aftah us again, our scoots won't be too busy bickerin' ta stop cutthroats ambushing us!"

    The dwarf sat down on the head of the giant fork. His weight made the tail lever upwards and almost smack Rastian and Sasami in the face. "Beardless folk - always rushin' aroond," Torrim muttered while re-lacing his boots.
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  12. "You got somethin' to say about the way I raise my brat, Short Stack?" The look Lorn gave Garrick was as casual as it was murderous."I know you're the one who taught her how to cheat at mahjong." The two old partners laughed, assured that if Garrick were ever to be seriously wounded, Lorn's instinct would take over and she would devour him.

    But until then.

    Though the same could not be said for Scrote. When the goblin began following them, Siege was barely able to crush a bunny's skull in her jaws. They were crawling through the Underdark at Lady Nendra's command, and with shapeshifting cultists and arcanists wanting to nab her daughter, Lorn was naturally paranoid. But no matter how many times and ways they killed that goblin (and Lorn and Torrim were good at that), he just kept coming back, determined to serve Siege.

    There was little choice but to allow him to care for the barghest pup while they crawled deeper and deeper under. But that didn't stop her from distrusting the little shit stain. She suspected that he was sent by Siege's father, finally trying to do something to help his bastard after Lorn put three crossbow bolts in him.

    The rogue snorted, abruptly, then left her halfling companion and daughter staring in horror at Scrote's offering.

    She came around the wine bottle just as Ina-Oster had straightened from righting his armor. They collided, making the jackal clamp her hands over the swaying vials in her bandolier. Did not want to broke those...

    The elf brat was strange--lugging that mother fucker class armor on his spindly frame, the anachronistic diction. He was shapeless, but he was still an elf, and with that came heightened senses. Lorn held sensation in very high esteem in regards to not getting everyone killed.

    The jackal and the elf had not exchanged much in the way of conversation since their meeting a few days prior. And Lorn could never remember his preferred pronoun. "Lady Hands, keep those long ears open. Last time we were here, things got weird: giant insects and man-eating snakes and people worshiping the man-eating snakes." Lorn's eyes shifted in her skull, peering beyond the table.

    In the dim torchlight, Ina-Oster could perceive the outline of a charm suspended from a chain around her neck. The Mage's Hand-- the shriveled, clutching digit severed from an elf. It granted its wearer a supernatural grasp.

    "Weird shit."
    #12 Tegan, May 10, 2015
    Last edited: May 10, 2015
  13. Sift's head snapped about to Darath, her mouth moulding itself into a half-snarl that even a professional like Lorn wouldn't be able to criticise overly.
    “What's this, a God-Botherer who's aware of the existence of his balls? I thought they chopped those off you lot when you were children or something.”

    Before she could continue, Torrim pressed the lantern into the mage's hands. Muttering a few more choice curses under her breath she raised it up to send eerie amber light across the table. “Harksharks... those are Harker's lot, aren't they? I'm sure you Flint and Steel types had a run-in or two with that mean old bastard back in the day. You know, back when he was still pretending to possess a moral compass? Because trust me, he's even worse these days and his goons follow his example. We're going to want to watch our backs...”

    She shot another sneer over at Darath. “...can't have God-Botherer's holy whatever-the-fuck falling into the wrong hands now, can we?”
  14. He may have been trying to get his goat earlier, but the Aasimar would listen in earnest, to the dwarf, now. He even pulled out some parchment and a piece of coal. Quick notes and little check marks were scattered across the surface in what may not of made sense without context. Of course, anyone stumbling across this would not have that outside of the people in the immediate vicinity. When Torrim had thanked him, he looked up, at the dwarf, with a sincere smile. "Ideally, I'd like to switch it to be able to heal instead of hurt. But, I am not much of a tinkerer with any magic that is not my own. Quin will know what to do it." With that, he went back to writing.

    In an effort to keep from a verbal tug of war, Darath elected to just shoot a wink to Sift. Don't want to spoil the fun by being TOO chatty. Rolling it back up, the material was put away just in time for Sift to try and dig into him again. Alright, this time she will get a response. "Of course. I would hate to see how you get after saving you twice within the last month or so. You might be in danger of being thankful, or worse...sweet." He fakes a shiver and smiles before looking about the area.
  15. Veptoria's wings took her up the vast length of the rope. When she eventually reached the peak of the entrance, her talons grappled around the cobbled rock for support. Veptoria's eyes briefly glanced around the rest of the group when she proceeded to quietly step to the rear of them.

    Their voices were all pretty bold in their own manner, and she wasn't much one for engaging in quarrels. Especially being so new to the group. Some of these people seemed to have life long friendships. Although she longed for such affections, it wasn't in her nature to interject in conversations with matters she was so ignorant to.

    However, she did express visual concern as her expression altered over talk of giant insects, and other beasts that could potentially be dwelling within these walls, was brought to her knowledge.

    With haunched wings and two hands against the bone of her pelvis, did her eyes follow around the darker pits of the room.

  16. Ling Zhiyong
    Meditation is the pursuit of nothingness...
    Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts... to dive beyond thought, to the source of thought and consciousness...

    Whereas the others had been fairly chatty, Zhi remained quiet, her thoughts turned inward. It worked out well enough, what with Sasami's endless banter about nothing in particular, changing topics before Zhi would have even been able to get a word in edgewise.

    Despite her inability to actually respond to questions, though, she logged the answers in a mental checklist to Sasami's questions. Yes. No. Yes. Yes. Yes.

    Upon arriving at the tabletop and being free of the rope climb, the monk dusted her palms off and looked around at the relative darkness around them, barely held at by by the light from the lanterns. The few things she could discern were unsettling, at best. Drinkware and cutlery were haphazardly strewn about the table, cups looking like mountains and plates nearly the size of lakes.

    Still a relative newcomer to the Flint and Steel Guild, Zhi merely observed the interactions between the other members of the party. She stood beside Sasami if for no other reason than because of the comfort of familiarity, before an unfamiliar name and implication caught her interest.

    "Who is Harker?" The question was directed not just at Sift, but to Darath and Torrim, and the others who seemed to have been among the Flint and Steel Guild for some time. Her voice carried a gentle lilt of a Shenzing accent.

    "And why will we need to watch our backs for him and his crew?"
  17. L
    orn was right. Oster was simply angry at being called elfen. That was why he wore armour, so that the jangling and the creak of leather would drown the noise of rats scuffling in the walls, or the faint tippy-tap of orcs five levels down. Either way, it was a racket. But Oster liked it his way.

    Despite his selfish wants, Ina stilled the metal plates and freed his ears from the helmet.

    "Weird shit," Ina agreed, "eh?" Oster added.

    Off in the distance, across the table that vanished into the fog, a shuffle of feet. Or two. Maybe three. Ina couldn't tell, Oster kept shaking the metal plates and twitching his head inside the helmet.

    Ina-Oster gave the rest of them a good once-over. Oster hated that, hated how Ina picked up the small details so easily. He wanted to spend time with each person, drink beer and tease out their life stories over decades of friendship. But Ina made it hard. Just a quick up-and-down and Ina could tell what Lorn and Siege were up to.

    Made conversation hard ... and kind of pointless.
    #17 unanun, May 11, 2015
    Last edited: May 11, 2015
  18. Another joust between Sift and Darath was interrupted by Zhi's question. The mercies of exposition.

    Torrim pulled the laces on his boots. "Harker's a sahuagin, Lass - a shark-man. Too long on dry land, if yer ask me. Thah gobshite tried ta rope us into a high-interest loan back when we wuz boar-whackers." Zhi tilted her head. Torrim didn't elaborate. "We told 'im ta sling his fish-hook so he tried ta run us oot of town. Luckily, Lorn tricked ol' Harker inta goin' on a public rampage..." Zhi tilted her head the other way. Torrim didn't elaborate. "And thah porky fellah got 'imself arrested."

    The dwarf got up from his seat on the spoon, and the tail-end of the utensil slapped down, almost crushing Erastian and Sasami's feet. "Ah dinnae know if them mercenaries wot jumped us last week were working for Harker or nay," Torrim continued while fetching his hammer from the luggage mound that Scrote had dropped. But if theh were, we best watch our backs. Thah Shark-Man's been in the slammah for many years on account of wot we di--."

    He stopped abruptly when Lorn grabbed his beard.

    "Scht!" Lorn whispered, her jackal ears pricking, her jackal nose twitching. "You hear that?"

    Torrim didn't. "Aye Lass - ah did."

    "Sounds like her."

    Torrim heard nothing. "Aye Lass - it do."

    "She smells older."

    Torrim couldn't smell anything. "Aye, she does."

    Lorn let go of his beard, dodged around Ina, and hurried back past the wine bottle. The jackal rogue slid underneath the curve of the dinner plate, where Scrote, Siege and Garrick were discussing milk. Then she ventured into the darkness beyond the lamplight.

    Only when she was far enough from it did she detect another light source - faint, natural. A luminescence above. Lorn looked up a saw a familiar breach in the ceiling, from which a less familiar figure was descending, in a more familiar feather-slow fall.

    The jackal waited.

    * * * * * *​

    The party waited slightly longer. Torrim had almost given the order to go after Lorn when the same Lorn returned, leading a figure who kept her distance as much from the jackal as anyone else on the table. She lingered at the edge of the lamplight, a wariness thinly disguised.

    "She didn't even bring a chicken," Lorn muttered.



    Torrim stepped towards the woman. The woman stepped back. Both froze and moved no further.

    Relka kept her hands in her robe. Her voice was stilted. A mourner's voice at a loveless funeral. "You were lucky. Fifteen years I've spent, dreaming of this table; dreaming of you. What was one more dream?"

    Torrim had given all his gold for the Dream scroll... and all his patience in persuading Sift to cast from it. The vision had been sent four nights ago - shot by magic into the sleeping head of the woman he once knew.

    "You were lucky," Relka said again. "Lucky that I didn't wake with screaming. Lucky that this one dream - your dream - didn't end with the memory of being ripped apart."

    “I ran out of time.” Sift muttered under her breath. Lorn slapped her on the dome.

    "Ah'm sorry, Lass," Torrim twitched, almost approaching her again. But he knew Relka didn't want his embrace. "Ah had ta choose a place we both remembered. A safe place."

    Over on the serving plate, Scrote was jumping up and down, trying to see over Siege's shoulder as they watched the exchange. "Who's dat, Mistress? She smells like cooking and beer. Gobble her up! Nygaah!"

    "My mother's first servant," Siege answered, peering at the other woman. "She died on this table, and the Guild resurrected her."

    "Aaaagh! Undead!"

    "No, Scrote. Just deluded. She thought Lorn and Torrim were gods."

    "Silly woman. Only Little Mistress is god."

    Siege was about to correct the goblin - for the ninety-seventh time - when she caught Relka looking straight at her through the lamplight. A shiver of tension passed between them.

    "The people say Lorn's daughter is Devil Spawn," Relka said to Torrim, while keeping her eyes on Siege. "They've said it for fifteen years."

    "Then the people are still idiots," Lorn snapped.

    "We had ta go away, Lass. They would'a killed Lorn if we stayed. We had ta hide."

    Relka looked fully at the dwarf now, and seemed paler than since she'd first spoken. A dry, tearless hurt was in her bones. The first wrinkles of her fortieth year crept in her skin, like cracks in glass. "What should I feel... when my god has to run and hide...?"

    "Not gods, Lass. Nevah gods. Just friends." Torrim's shoulders slumped, his hammer hung low.

    Relka shook her head. "And now it is treason to speak of my friends. You are enemies of Westyard, Torrim. They proclaim it in the streets; they preach it in the halls. The Flint and Steel Guild are worshipers of devils; agents of darkness."

    She retreated a step into shadow, as tears broke. "You cannot come home."
  19. The fork had slammed onto the oracle's big toe. Sasami squealed and hopped silently about like a mad rabbit. Through watering eyes she tried to listen to the conversation at hand, edging away from the group so she wouldn't bring attention to herself. But as the pain ebbed the conversation's meaning sunk in. All childish pretenses melted away.

    Foot lowered, eyes somber, Sasami stared at the strange woman. Relka said that they were devil spawn, that they were not welcome. That Torrim and his guild, despite being friends with her, were not welcome. They could not come home. She saw the hurt on the dwarf's face, saw the contained anguish in Lorn, and it moved her.

    It was like being back in Shenzing all over again.

    "Torrim." Her voice was pleading, begging for reassurance. A rustle of silk broke the silence, and the oracle was kneeling in front of the dwarf; Baa's eyeless sockets leered at him. "Torrim, s-she's lying. Friends help each other. Friends give shelter. Relka is a good friend."

    A shudder passed through Sasami like an electrical current. She whirled around, face morphing from desperation to frustration.

    "Relka! The people. H-How can we persuade them?"

    The stranger turned her back, but Sasami wouldn't be dissuaded.

    "I have gold!" Coins jingled from her purse; Sasami forced them into Relka's hands. "Lots of it. Will that change their minds? I can also tell fortunes. I can tell if a woman's going to have a boy or a girl. Or -- Or if a couple will have a happy ending. Of if someone's cheating at dice. Please. We want to go home. Torrim wants to go home."

    The woman bit her lower lip and shook her head, graying locks swaying in the shadows. "No. I'm sorry, but I could not change their minds. They will not accept you because of --" Relka stilled and passed the purse to Sasami. "Do not follow me. For your own sake and mine, do not come back."

    Trembling from ghosts past and present, Sasami trailed back to the others. Even bony Baa looked droopy. Her eyes were watery once more, and when she looked up at Torrim she seemed to ask, What now?
    #19 Zen, May 12, 2015
    Last edited: May 13, 2015
  20. There was a rueful grin on Garrick's face now, an awkward glance to Torrim and Lorn before he spoke.
    “Sooooo... this ain't exactly ideal.”
    “No shit,” Sift snapped, glaring at Sasami, “That was the worst fucking bribery attempt I've ever witnessed. Is that how they do business over on Shenzing?” The bald mage looked incredulous. “How does anything get done?”

    Lorn slapped her on the dome again, earning a reproachful look.

    “Roight, way I'm seein' it we're in an awkward spot here. Darod's got t'deliver his wee magical doo-dad an' errybody's fed t'fook o'these tunnels, but I'm now doubtin' that they'll be rollin' out th'welcome wagon if we just go marchin' inte the courtyard.” Garrick chuckled and cast a look at Torrim. “On th'bright side, you lot clearly made a lastin' impression.

    “So how's about this fer a plan: I take some o'the new blood to have a wee recce of th'place, see what there is t'see an' what we moight be up against. Siege, Lorn and Torrim can stay out e'harm's way until we know wit we're goin' up against. Sound good?”

    “Beats sitting around in the dark.”
    “Shut it, Baldilocks.”
    #20 Childish Grumpino, May 13, 2015
    Last edited: May 14, 2015
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