OPEN SIGNUPS Nine Billion Names: Arc 1 - Leaving The Monastery

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Excession

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#1
OPEN SIGNUPS - NINE BILLION NAMES - OOC/Signup
OPEN SIGNUPS - NBN - Characters

The Hellsun beats down upon the blasted plains without mercy, cooking small demons to desiccated husks and condemning others to the wasting gold. A road of dense-packed bonedust leads into the shadow of a vast tree hung with prayer-strips, beyond which a low mesa is cast ever into Dreamfall.


Voices whisper riddles from the shadows cast by the gray-green leaves above, audible despite the melancholy wind-chimes somewhere ahead.


The Monastery of the Name lies at the foot of the mile-high tree, white stone dusted faintly red by the wind-swept sand, arranged in squat domes and obelisks within walls made of broken souls hammered into a glowing fence.


On the steps stands Alhambra Dun. At one side, the Demon Snicker-Snack. On the other, still as a statue, stands the abbess. If she had a name, she has not used it in some time. A First Circle Demon with ivory skin and black eyes, fifty hands tall in yellow-cream robes. She stares toward the patchwork curve of Hell's inward slope - from here on the equator, Pandemonium is twice visible; above the Hellsun and below.


"Soon we must part," she says, in a voice of falling ash.
 
#2
Alhambra

A craggy face splits into a gentle smile.

"Abbess. I find it a most terrible truth that the one topic on which a mortal may lecture infernal kind is the impermanence of all things."

He looks to his travelling companion.

"And yet, the nature of endings and beginnings is to overlap. Perhaps the day is coming on which all threads end, and none are spun anew, but that day is not upon us yet. Snicker-Snack, look you forward to our journey?"

The monk is lightly burdened, with waterskins and dried waybread tucked into his robes. Far behind him, in the grounds of the monastery, the huge war sword of a knight from his time in the Above is driven into the ground. It has stood there for more than fifty years.
 

Silvertongued

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#3
Snicker-Snack

"Hm?" mumbles Snicker-Snack, pinky finger buried to the second knuckle in her ear. Ceasing the digit's squirming, she yanks it out with an almost audible pop.

There's a split second of silence as she looks blankly between Alhambra and the Abbess.

"Uh-... yeah?" she frowns for a moment before hesitantly nodding. "Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely,"
 
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Excession

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#4
Abbess bows her head; perhaps a nod and perhaps not. Her eyes are hidden behind a blank golden mask, impossible to read.
"I know that you have forsworn the sword, Alhambra Dun," she says, "and so I have one final request to make of you, and of you Snicker-Snack, before I relinquish the scroll."

She points a slender digit Spinward.

"A swordsdemon of formidable skill can be found where the flesh of the Beast encroaches on an ironworks. I would ask that you bring him to me."
 

Silvertongued

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#5
Snicker-Snack

"Right, right," nods Snack vigorously.

"You want 'em in any sorta... configuration? Alive, dead, trussed up, in pieces, on fire, in that kinda fancy lingerie with the little bows and all the little fiddly lacy bits, what?" she lists, hands making expansive gestures all the while.

"I mean, I'm partial to 'em being mounted to the hood of a vehicle, being drained of bodily fluids, but I ain't gonna argue with doctrine if you want 'em extra crispy,"
 
#6
Dun

The old* man's smile is sweet and full of humour, as he looks to Snack.

"It is my belief that the Abbess needs this master of the sword alive and whole and hopefully in a cooperative mood. This does not preclude lingerie, I suppose."

A journey begins when one stops mucking about. By the end of the sentence, Dun is a couple of steps down the path, the unlit lantern wobbling as it hangs from the end of his staff.

*Dun is indeed an old man, but appears to be somewhere in his thirties. The beast within cannot but share its axiomatically limitless vitality.
 

Silvertongued

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#7
Snicker-Snack

"Right, alive, yeah," she mumbles thoughtfully, setting off behind Dun with an awkward stumbling run.

"So..."

Snacks gives the man a curious side eye as she follows beside, the pitter patter of her footsteps dropping a note or two with the imp's occasional hop to keep pace.

"You're a mortal, right? Can I have your tattoo when you die?"
 
#8
Dun

The old man giggles.

"Oh dear. Miss* Snicker-Snack, should something manage to truly kill me, then you should absolutely feel welcome to my tattoo, and in accordance, with the skin on which it is scribed. I hereby give you my full permission. That said, should you ever witness the event of me being injured and enraged, I do encourage you to seek shelter at some small distance from that event, yes?"

Dun chuckles and begins to sing an old marching song. Should an expert of Old Imperial magocracy history hear it, they would place it as a road ballad of the Second Lead Ascendancy, a song whose vocal lyrics swear to the memory of the dead of all battlefields. Woven through the cadence of the song is a metaphysical promise, to remember the honourable dead and to weave their sacrifice into protection for the road. Dead God above and Bitter Gods Below know what would come of this song being sung in its original dialect in the Above.


Perhaps it is best that Alhambra Dún remain in hell.



*The word he uses for 'Miss' is a magocracy era term meaning a respected younger female officer/traveling companion.
 

Silvertongued

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#9
Snicker-Snack

The imp walks in silence beside the singing man for a few moments, her steps slowly falling in line with his own, a march in beat with the song. Snack's voice joins his, though her warble is far from polished, and she clearly does not know the words. Still, she tries, her crowing filled with nonsense babble and half heard lyrics.
 

Excession

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#10
Bronze sands give way to fields of sussurating plastic fronds, broad strips of lavender waving in the breeze, tall enough to obscure Snicker-Snack. Rising over them is a track on earthworks, a train platform with corrugated metal signal shed. Wildward the fields stretch until they become a vast sweeping wall; Cityward the tracks skirt the field until they're lost to sight. Far ahead, where the tracks lead, are the belching smokestacks of a factory.

All is quiet. A plume of smoke appears to rise from the far side of the signal cabin - perhaps something waits within.
 
#11
Alhambra Dún

Dun pauses on the road, but graciously finishes his verse before falling silent.

"Miss Snicker-Snack, are you averse to a short cut? There is some manner of railroad ahead of us, and we may be able to beg passage."

Dun is aware of the iron roads of Hell, and secretly regards them as deeply fascinating.

He looks down towards his diminutive companion.

"It may involve loud noises, going fast, and clanking machinery, and I am given to understand that these are things which your mechanical heart craves."
 

Silvertongued

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#12
Snicker-Snack

The imp slowly turns her face to Dun, the full arsenal of her jagged smile on display.
 
#13
Alhambra Dún

The once-knight stumps along towards the block house.

“With luck, we might find someone helpful and friendly here. Otherwise, I shall ask very nicely for them to consider being helpful and friendly.”

Dún removes the unlit lantern from the end of his staff and gently taps on the door, before glancing towards his wee friend.

“You would know more about trains than I. How does one purchase a billet of passage?”
 

Silvertongued

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#14
Snicker-Snack

Snacks flat, incredulous stare seems to bore right through Dún.

"Pay?" she chuckles, tilting her head as she regards him. Shaking her head and giggling, she starts walking towards the platform. "Pay. Hee hee hee,"
 

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#15
In the distance, a plume of smoke hoves into view. The ground rumbles softly underfoot and the signal house rattles. If you squint, you can see some flashing gold just behind the approaching smokestack.

And speaking of smoke, wisps curl from a vent on the signal house, and as Dun knocks a shutter slides up.
Crammed into the structure is a very lanky Breaker, neatly folded up, holding a pipe in front of a glass-toothed mouth. Eyes tick and focus on the monk. The Demon breathes out a plume of fragrant smoke, then carefully unfolds to stand outside on the platform. It towers over you both, one hand trailing the ground.
"He'p yuh?" it drawls.

MEANWHILE
Sideris Sideris

Shuubo and her minions surround you on the broad, stained bone of the carriage top. The landscape is a blur at your sides, and the smoke from the engine throws dark wisps across your line of sight. Shuubo stands in front of you with her naginata raised over her head in the martial form known as Shark Scents Blood. Her imp servants are just to her left and right, and one behind you, armed with shortswords and a peasant fighting form beneath your recognition.
"I will mourn your passing," she hisses from behind a smirking ivory mask, "but I will not insult you with mercy."
 

Sideris

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#16
“And I won’t insult you with remembering your face or your tattered honor.” This can’t be where it ends. No matter what. Jelal drew his sword and fell into stance, snorting contempt. “This is the third time you’ve interrupted me. I haven’t ridden a train in peace in decades.”
 

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#17
Snicker-Snack

"Hey," mumbles Snack softly, clearly put out at being looked over.

"Hey!" she chimes again, a more insistent tone staining her voice as she yanks on the breaker's pantleg.

"Hey! Don't ignore me tallboy, I'll jam my eye down your ear and give you second to none!" snaps the imp, pulling free her shotgun. It's an angry looking thing, the bronze bone barrels streaked with scars of red, its maw replete with jagged fangs. Snack cocks the beast, and it lets loose a low and sonorous growl.
 
#18
Alhambra

“Hello there! This is a party of two, the two being myself and this young, heavily armed lady. If I may? This is Miss Snick-Snack. I feel you should say hello. Miss Snicker-Snack, I don’t feel that this gentleman has perhaps yet furnished us with an insult such to warrant the waving about of firearms, although it is good to know that you are well prepared.”

Alhambra is smiling pleasantly. Decades in Hell have taught him that the infernal host are fractious, and a little light murder is often their way of saying ‘hello!’.
 

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#19
DEAD END STATION

The stationmaster's neck audibly creaks as his head turns to focus on Snack, eyes adjusting for zoom. They track down to the mouth of her purring weapon. He glances swiftly at Alhambra, then reaches for something on his back.
"Like yeh gun," he says.
A revolver, made from skulls and brass plates. He spins the cylinder with a sound like vertabrae snapping in sequence. It is almost as long as Snack is tall. He holds it out to her with one hand, and holds his empty hand out alongside it.
"Swap f'r look?" he adds, grinning.

ATOP THE WILDWARD EXPRESS

Incensed, she lunges, weight pivoting on her right foot as her left rises up behind her, the full seven feet of her weapon thrust toward you at throat height. In your peripheral vision, her minions begin circling to your sides, and your warrior's sense tells you the one at your back is readying to strike.

Roll as much combat pool as you feel appropriate to defend. This is highly unlikely to be a feint but doesn't look like an all-out attack.
You are quicker than all opponents, so feel free to transition from defending into a flurry of attacks.
 

Silvertongued

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#20
Snicker-Snack

"Deal!"

The look on the imp's face shifts immediately as she regards the new weapon, splitting into a wide, jagged grin. Her shotgun practically jumps out of her grip into the stationmaster's hand, and within a single heartbeat, she's poring over his revolver.

Small, slender, pointed fingers probe over the nooks and crannies of the weapon, practically drooling as she does so.

"Depleted sunstone rounds, dedicated infinity spiral rifling, and a wrathbone handle. You got good taste Windowteeth," comments Snack, popping out one of the munitions and testing it with a careful gnaw.