Rise of the Monsters

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Boss Frost

Original poster
Even from the swamp outside, the smell of acrid chlorine - the calling card of a black dragon - can lightly be sensed in the wind.

The lair of Slothus... a place even the stoutest of heart would normally ever wish to go. The entrance to the cave decorated with a macabre display: the bones of various victims, stuck to the walls and ceiling... covering the walls for miles down... a testament to Slothus' power. The half-melted skeletons of humanoids, animals, and even rival dragons hang... skulls twisted in faces of agony.

Deeper, the cave evens out... the floor becomes flat, the walls become straight - and the natural cave setting gives way to a dragon-sized mansion. An obscene show of wealth, power, and pride - it is every thieves' dream and nightmare... the riches of centuries... yet, guardians who will last longer.

Deeper in the mansion, upon a bed of fluffy, embroidered pillows... lay Slothus. Overweight from years of inaction and overeating - a terrifying prospect for a dragon to have such power as to allow him this luxury. Servants of a variety of races scramble to give him what he wants, and the kitchens constantly smelled of whatever they were cooking at the time - and they were cooking all the time.

Elsewhere in the mansion, in a section designed for 'medium'-sized creatures... were the quarters of Slothus' favored project... an actual adventuring team... allied to the forces of evil. It was a delightfully wonderful thing... the grand black dragon took care to make this part of his mansion very comfortable... even ridding it of the chlorine smell, and a private kitchen.

Their tutors had worked them hard, and their powers were growing as far as they'd be able to without actual fighting experience... soon... soon, it would be time. He already had the plans ready... in fact... the time shall be...

Hadron Redspy didn't wake up that morning, since Eladrin do not sleep. Rather, he finished what he called "trancing," two hours before anyone who slept at about the same hour he did, or even slept before him. As if being a near immortal being didn't confer him an extensive amount of time with which he could use doing absolutely nothing productive, having a twenty-hour day came off as excessive. Not that he wanted to try sleeping - something about the idea of not being conscious for a long period of time came off as overwhelming disturbing to him. What if he didn't wake up? What if someone pilfered his things?!

He didn't share this paranoia. No need to be mocked. He spent two hours that morning working with his arcana studies and practicing his swordplay in his own quarters, preferring not to use the training ground. Honestly, he didn't fancy interacting with the other 'adventurers.' He had been given these lodgings by Slothus two weeks prior, and not once had he shown his face at a reasonable hour to have much of a conversation with anyone. Maybe he was seen once or twice, and his presence was certainly known - he kept quiet in his room, but the occasional missing bottle in the kitchen was the biggest clue he still yet lived.

This very morning was a special day, he was led to believe. Probably because someone came in and told him to be ready to meet with Slothus, and when they did, he was in a trance. So, it was as though he was talking to a half-asleep human. His memory was vague but there, so he prepared for a big day just as he prepared for any day.

Emerging in the kitchen and making one of those ever-so-rare public appearances, he opened a fresh bottle of scotch and poured himself a glass. Of course Slothus had obtained some fine glassware in his decadent campaign of plundering, what dragon worth their salt didn't? Covertly, Hadron had broken one and shattered another in his drunken evenings, but with so many available, who needed to know?

"Oh, Gruumsh's bile, I'm quite unavoidably inclined to make the acquaintances of those other folks I have so carefully eluded, aren't I," he quietly brooded to himself, before taking a daring swig and refilling his glass. "Smashing."
Sharkfin, for himself, had considerable fighting experience, growing up on the docks as he had. For him, the tutors served as much to keep his skills sharp as they did to teach him anything. Not that any of that was going through Sharkfin's mind at the moment, because he'd been warned that they were all going to meet with Slothus today.

He'd grabbed his gear and loaded up, frowning at the still-clumsy wrist sheaths as he loaded all his various daggers into their various hiding spots. Ah, well.

He made his way to the antechamber, skulking, as per his usual mode of transit, via the kitchen, where he ran across their decidedly anti-social (Ammit had had to explain that concept to him) Eladrin teammate. Coming up behind him, Sharkfin leaned himself on a counter and spoke up.

"'At sounds about t' cut of it, mate. Be a pleasure finally seein' yer sparklin' face about. Don' get too knocked, yeah? We're meetin' t' Boss in a few."

With that, he ducked through the doorway and continued on his way to the antechamber, cursing quietly in Undercommon as he walked smack into an end table somebody had moved.
The sound of a human... err... pirate... didn't quite surprise Hadron enough to distract him from the ever-important act of refilling his glass for his second drink. However, the words did have impact, however minimal they were considering Hadron had no intent to be smashed by the time Slothus required his attention, because there was a certain sort of foolishness in meeting with a powerful dragon without having your full wits about you that Hadron simply did not possess. Bad enough he wasn't much of a people-person. Add some liquor and you have a recipe for disaster.

Either way, when Slothus sent them on their merry way as the Eladrin expected he would, he would have much more freedom in his blood-alcohol level with respect to his continued good health (the phrase being used relatively.) "Smashing," replied Hadron to the vagabond who skulked in and back out. He could only hope the boy's skill in espionage transcended what he had just witnessed, or else they'd be lacking in that sphere. Then again, while the Hadron didn't doubt the merits of subtlety, it was an approach he had very little use for.

"Another decade, another allegiance that I possess reasonable doubt regarding the long-term benefits of. Cheers," spoke the Eladrin to himself (and might I emphasize ONLY to himself) before taking another swig and pressing the glass against the counter. That would be all, for now. He turned around and exitted the kitchen, knowing the time to meet Slothus would be soon and that like so many masters that rise and inevitably fell, he thought his limited time too important to be wasted by tardiness.

After all, the human had said they were meeting 'the boss' in a few. Hopefully their minute capacity for honesty encompassed this statement.
With a snarl and a loud crash, a door on the opposite side was kicked open, revealing the black-scaled, red-ridged beastie. The door slammed against the wall on the opposite side, not breaking anything. It was infuriating to her. "Four years in tha' damned place, with all these... things... and m'not allowed to break all of it, just certain parts... grrrraow..."

It was her usual complaint. The four-foot kobold was thrilled with the sound, the feeling, the joy of destruction - particularly items of dwarf, elf, or human make. She came fully dressed in her black chainmail, spiked-shoulders and rather unique tiger-fur cloak visible. Even with her short stature, she seemed the proper part for a war leader... or a tribal general.

Her long, clawed talons scraped the marble tile as she walked, looking over at the taller folks. "Oi! Sharkfin and Ears! Good t'see you. Thought I might have the wrong room for a second. Don't see why they gotta make everything so big. Waste'o material. Hmmph." She looks around, snarling enthusiastically at a forehead-high table, lips curling to reveal big-nasty-pointy teeth.
Still in his room Carrion prayed, it was a big day today and he panted to make sure it went well. He had been sent to Slothus and the dragon had trained him, given him food and a comfortable room, decadence as only someone of his power could provide. But Carrion hadn't let himself indulge to the point where it took time away from training or the daily prayers to the raven queen whose symbol stood before him, for whom he had chosen his name.

He completed his prayers and stood, he was already dressed in his chainmail and had his shield across his back and scimitar sheathed at his side. He took a glass from a side table and in one smooth swallow drank the wine it contained. Slothus really did provide the best. He threw the glass into the fireplace where it shattered and left his room closing the door behind him. He signaled to one of the servants that his room was ready to be cleaned and walked towards the kitchen, it was the shortest rout to the hall, and a likely meeting place.

"Ammit!" he said in greeting once he reached the busy room, he had a small about of affection for the destructive kobold, they shared i fondness for watching things crumble, though Carrion preferred if the thing he was destroying was flesh and blood. He gave a glance to the reclusive Hadron and a look at the human. He hated humans, though he had tried to control it in this ones case, it had not been going well.
Being the only one in the room not wearing black armor, one might have expected Sharkfin to feel vaguely out of place. Instead, he felt vaguely superior for not being stere...stereo...what people expected when they thought "evil." Instead, his armor was a mottled mishmash of black, gray, and browns that, up close, gave it an extremely shabby appearance. From a distance, though, it was better than any solid color at blending in to darkness.

"Short 'n' Scaly!" Sharkfin exclaimed in response to Ammit's greeting. "Glad ya could make it! Was afraid I'd be stuck alone with the Point-Eared Ponce, I was."

He rounded on Carrion (he'd snickered for a good ten minutes when someone finally explained what carrion was, and bestowed the Tiefling with a Nickname). "Deader! What, no greetin' fer yer buddy Sharkfin? I'm hurt. An' here I'm friendly as I can to ya!" And friendly he was. Unfortunately, a friendly Sharkfin entailed good-natured jabs, uncomplimentary nicknames, and occasional sniping.
Kat's morning was quite relaxed. She got up slowly, slipped on her clothes and armor, and went out to see the others. Today they would meet the dragon who made all of this possible as part of some master plan.

Really the accommodations were quite lavish; she had been just a farmgirl before all of this. A four-poster bed, several fine dresses, good food..she'd miss it, but going out into the world would let her practice tapping into her Lord's power more and spreading his Word.

She came into the room with the others not too long after Ammit. While her armor was made of leather, it lacked any spikes or major "evil" markings-it was just brown leather that fit her body and offered some protection.

"Well everyone, ready to go out and see the world?" She looked around the room they were in, in particular the ceiling. "..I'm going to miss this place..but better things are coming."
She slipped into deep speech for a moment, uttering something arcane under her breath, smiling, then turning back to the group.

"Ah well, we shouldn't keep the boss waiting."
"I do so appreciate not having to wait for you." A tall, dark-skinned man walks in, as if oblivious to his own massive bulk. The rolls of fat ripple on the man like a lake of lard, though he himself moved with the fluid grace of an elf. He looks to each of the assembled, before smiling and sitting down on a specially-prepared pile of pillows. The humanoid guise of Slothus.

"You have all made me so proud - that each of you can be so vicious, so delightfully twisted... and still care for and about one another is..." He spends a moment searching for the proper word. "Astounding." He offers a nod of his head.

"The skillful Sharkfin... the rage-filled Ammit... the pious Carrion... and the as-pious and beautiful Kathrine... I am delighted to have seen you grow so well into your roles..." He continues with a nod. "After this meeting, you will not see me again for a great long while. I will give you orders through my go-betweens and contacts... and before that, you will go through my final test."

With a whistle, a cold-looking dark elf in full armor walks in, magic blade by her side, scroll in her hand. She silently moves to the table - giving Sharkfin a small smile - before unrolling it, revealing a map of the swamp and the areas around it. She then gives the large man a pointer - he then points to a part of the swamp. "This area here... is the village of a group of lizardfolk. Your task... is to eliminate them."

"The lizardfolk here are live their lives and do trade with the human village bordering my swamp. They sell the humans herbs and other things in the forest in exchange for human weapons and spices. Rather than attack the village directly, destroying the weaker, less organized lizardfolk will weaken the human village for my own troops to swarm in and take it. Without their lizardfolk allies, the humans will be short on herbs for healing and medicine, making them much easier."

Slothus nods, smiling to the group. "Understand? We can talk over lunch..."
Katherine blushed and looked at the floor while Slothus mentioned her. She didn't hear that often, especially not from her superiors.

She watched them outline the plan, noting it's relative simplicity. It would be their first time carrying out operations on their own, but it could be done. As long as the lizardfolk weren't too prepared, things could go pretty smoothly.
"Seems fine to me..Lunch sounds great. Is there any reason for these lizardfolk to suspect an attack, Ms..?"

Carrion grinned, not even Sharkfin could stop him from smiling at the prospect of a slaughter. Black eyes sot at the human, he would not rise to his jibes, not with Slothus around, so instead he turned to the map. "My only regret is that there will not be much look to bring back to Slothus in thanks for this opportunity." It was typical Slothus strategy, wipe out one village to make wiping out another easier, they would never see them coming and even lowly lizardmen's deaths were tributes to the Raven Queen. "It a simple plan, but Katherine is right, it would be useful if we could enter the village as friends before we kill then all."
Sharkfin nodded to Beclenth with a smile and returned his attention to Slothus' plan. When the dragon finished outlining their assignment, he rocked back on his heels for a moment, thinking as lunch was delivered.

"So...our job 'ere...Me, Short 'n' Scaly, Deader, an' Kitty-Kat...is ta go an' make deaders outta this load of lizards, right? Seems straight-cut ta me, Boss. Two questions, though. D'we get ta keep our pick a' the loot, an' d'ya jus' want 'em dead, or d'ya want us ta use one or two of 'em ta send a message? Y'know, rattle 'em. Get 'em jumpin' at shadows, like."

Sharkfin had been in the process of "sending a message" four years and then some ago when the Joca Guard had caught up with him, and it was something he rather enjoyed. The prospect of loot didn't hurt either. Either way...

He grabbed himself a roll, tossing it up into the air once before catching it and taking a big whonking bite out of it.
Slothus nods, "You may take your pick of their meager 'loot'... I would prefer to hear of every last one of them being eradicated with no message sent. The tactical advantage to a surprise raid will be invaluable, even if it really won't be needed after their lizardfolk allies have been slaughtered." He sloppily crams a slice a pork far too large for the human mouth and throat into his food-hole, easily chewing and swallowing it before getting started on the next. "I do appreciate your thoughts, though - your willingness towards deeds such as that will make some of my later plans even easier for the lot of you. Practical-minded, you see."

The fat humanoid then turns to look at Ammit. "Quiet as usual. I hope you are not bitter about slaughtering such a village? I know it might remind you of your own past..."

Ammit shakes her head. She never spoke to the dragon unless spoken to first - it was bred in to kobolds from the start. "I've got no problem wit the lot of it. If they're aiding humans... 'good' humans, I mean... then they deserve what we give them." She had picked up a rat on the way here, so she wasn't hungry for the food offered.

The dark elf looks to Kat, stating, "Beclenth." Looking down at the map, she shakes her head. "No, the lizardfolk have no idea what will soon befall them. My spies have been very skilled in taking a look at them. From what I've been told, they are led by their shaman and the shaman's champion, who are also mother and father to a good part of the tribe. The shaman has some meager control over the plants and animals of the swamp... we're assuming it to be some sort of druid... and the champion seems able to channel while light into that spear of his, we're assuming some sort of divine light. There is a shrine to the sun god Pelor in the village, so it's not out of imagination's grasp to assume they have been converted to his worship by the humans." She nods, looking to each, then pointing out a route. "There is no real main entrance, though the huts on this end all face towards the middle, so it'd be possible to surprise them with a back-attack."

She continues, "I do believe that's all the tactical information you will need, unless you have other questions? There's a good bit of them - forty or so - so the real challenge will be not only fighting them all, but making sure each is dead."
"Ah, nice to meet you, Beclenth.." Kat tried some of the food, but it was still somewhat awkward. She hadn't been up very long at all, and didn't really want to look like a pig in front of the guest (though slothus probably wouldn't have cared).
"um..is there anything else before we should get going?"
Carrion grinned "Hear that Fin.... no one escapes. I say you go round back to take out any runners." He reached out to cut himself a large piece of some large roasted bird that sat in the middle on the table. Putting it on his plat and spooning some soup into a small bowl. "Me, the Kat and Ammit storm in and take the fighters and set fire to their huts. The felames and young ones will all run to you and it should be cake to sandwich them between us. Though perhaps you should take kat. Me and Ammiit should be able to take their fighters." He finished and bit into the piece of poultry, waiting for a response from the group.
"'At would prolly work, Deader, yeah...I got a better idea though. Yer ignorin' my secialty, yeah?"

Sharkfin produced one of his many daggers from somewhere and balanced it on his fingertip, absently moving it from finger to finger as he talked like he was walking a coin across his knuckles.

"I say you, Kitty-kat, an' Short-an-Scaly take positions around town in case someone gets lucky while I go in an' put the spearchucker an' 'is girlie on ice while they's playin' woodwright. Then I ghost back out an' we can set fire to the huts - herd 'em, like - to one end of the village an' make a straight up slaughter that much easier. Be like stealin' from a drunken sailor, it will."
"Its not going to be so oust to sneak around in a village made for pipsqueaks." Carrion sneered banging his glass down on the table. I say we set fire to the place and trap them. It being a swamp we'll have to look out for those scalies in the water. But if our benefactor wants to take the humans by surprise it might be better there not being a large column of smoke rising from a burning village." as he spoke he pored himself some more of the dwarven ale, it reminded him of life before the humans took everything from him.

"A single burning hut should cause enough of a distraction for the rest of us to get close and while they work on putting it out we ambush the bucket brigade and finish them quickly and quietly. the rest will be busy with damage control and easy to take by surprise with their weapons out of reach."

His revised plan was followed with a swig from his glass and he let the wash around his tongue before he swallowed.
"Aww, don't you believe in lil' ol' me? I'm hurt, Deader. Sneakin' around in places made fer short stuff won't be a problem. I figure worst comes to worst, I can give a grin to at least one of the toppers without having to worry about getting made. Barring some seriously bad luck, 'course. Make the rest 'a the show easier on alla us, yeah?"

He punctuated his point by slicing himself a drumstick without breaking the knife's rhythm across his fingertips.
"No Fin[/]. I'm just recommending a minimal risk approach." Carrion replied his voice cold placing a little stress on the shortened name. "One that does not rely on the luck of a single human." His eyes locked on Sharkfin as everyone either watched them or ate in silence. Carrion put his glass down and cut the tender fish in front of him with the side of his fork, the flesh simply falling off the bone.

"But a suppose your kind have more experience destroying villages so I'll leave the decision to our esteemed host." his voice was completely neutral as he turned back to the meal in front of him refilling his glass again from the jug that sat between him and Kat.