Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ships, Sharks, and Waterspouts

Time slipped into a day or two before they knew it.  The exhaustion of the previous days had taken their toll.  Raschid woke first.  Mainly to someone hammering on his door.  He roused and drowsily made his way downstairs.  The hand on the door was a messenger from Phelan, the town mayor.  He sought Raschid's counsel.  After some prep, mainly in making sure he looked as best as possible, Raschid made his way towards the town's "conflict center".  That was synonymous with the town's fountains, where Phelan and often Sven had set up a makeshift center for everyone to report.  Since they had, things had become a bit more organized in the town's response to problems.  It was unfortunate that he did not even make it there before another piece of chaos presented its face.  Well, unfortunate to the town but not to Raschid.  He personally reveled in it!  This face, however, took the form of an airship, one careening out of control as it skidded across the clouds lingering over the town.

It turned on its side, burning, and Raschid watched as people fell from the sides raining across the town.  Raschid pushed back a laugh, smothering it when the messenger looked at him, startled by the sound.  They watched together as the ship continued turning, raining people before it burned across the town and then slammed into the mist somewhere past the town in the northeast.

Both joined the people rushing to assist those that fell.  Few lived and those they came upon were dying rapidly from the fall and burns.  All except one lady.  She was disoriented but okay.  Even had her luggage!  Her name, upon introduction, was Talara min Ándulán.  She was a passenger on the ship and had recently departed from Maelshyra.  They had left before Triangularus, hopeful of being safe by rising high above the clouds and into the night sky.  In an instant it seemed that they had transited a vast distance and next she knew the ship was under fire by something and tipped sharply back and forth.  When a great hole formed in the side of the ship used magic to soften her fall and push away the debris during the descent.  It exhausted her, which was why she was so disorientated.

Skeptical, but accepting her story, at last for now, Raschid sarcastically welcomed her to the shithole of the northeast, aka Leiberton.  Startled at his comment she passed her thank you back and accepted the messenger as an escort to the noble's quarter.  Raschid went back to meeting Phelan.

Of course, Chiktik had heard it all.  He was busy, though.  He'd gotten it in his head to make his way into the metal building.  He started with a shovel.  It made decent process.  When the impact of the skyship nearly collapsed his hole, he buttressed it.  Then, when pebbles rained down on him, first in one's and two's, Chiktik climbed out to find he had a fan group of children.  In quick order Chiktik organized them into helping him.  First in moving dirt and then in helping him craft and transport in buckets a makeshift solvent to dissolve the earth more easily.  He made it into a game, one that he knew human children liked, and it worked.
The Orc, given to following his appetites had done little but eat, sleep and occasionally fight when something made it far enough into the town.  Most of it he found quite edible.  The impact of the skyship was of mild interest but when no fighting ensued he ignored it.  The town was feeding him, keeping in alcohol and fighting.  

What did he have to care about?

Raschid, on the other hand, had a bit more to worry.  He made it to Phelan, only to see Sven give him an odd look and then depart, leaving behind a dozen of his engineers and several golems.  He filed it away for later examination.  Phelan, studied him and them let him know that his watchers had seen Sklarda walk into the mist yesterday evening.  The sounds of battle quickly followed it.  The outcome was pretty definite.  In the flat silence that followed, Phelan also added that he thought Leiberton was still a good town, even with the damage and fallout from Triangularus.  Raschid quirked an eyebrow and managed to look a slight bit guilty.  Phelan also noted dryly that he was going to have Raschid's quarters cleaned and upgraded with the best the town had available since he didn't want to leave the impression that the town was not thankful for all he had nobly down.  

Raschid accepted gracefully and made amends.

He returned, later on to find his quarter lavishly laid out.  He also acquired a golem butler.  Well, sort of.  It could open doors and close them as well a few other minor tasks.  It quickly showed its worth as he was visited by a stranger.  A man named Pond.  Rather a shadowy sorts though he had affected a noble's manner.  The marks of poverty and unclean life were clearly written on his frame, no matter what level of prosperity he currently enjoyed.  Pond also had the air of a man who commanded, not followed.  The conversation that occurred proved it.  Over good whiskey, Pond laid his complaint forth.  He tired of waiting for the good authorities to put things in order.  It was bad for business, this mess.  He found the mayors ineffective and stupid and wanted to take action, not wait for rescue like some fabled damsel in distress.  He knew from research that the underground was not wracked like the above with the clouds left by Triangularus and the nexus storm.  He was also sure they connected not to just one town to the west of them but a total of four.  He wanted to send groups underground re-establish communication with the towns.  Especially the town near Fort Blood.  Arduin stationed an entire regiment of troops there.  Not just anyone, though.  It would take men of standing and wealth for the commanders of troops to listen.  Someone only a man of rank in the military or rank in the nobility could inspire.  Which led him to Raschid.  As a noble of Arduin the military there would at least listen, if not send someone to replace the bumbling buffoons that led Leiberton currently.  Rashid offered to think about it and would give word this evening.  After Pond left, Raschid sought out Sven.

It didn't take him long to find the dwarven enclave and the golem foundry.  While he had to wait a bit he did get an audience.  He inquired with Sven about the idea of tunnels below the town.  Sven agreed that they existed but his family had plumbed their depths many times.  They had built the foundry in them and while
many of them wandered off randomly, most were of little use and led nowhere.  Those that were truly dangerous they had capped.  He knew of none that led to the other towns but admitted that it might be possible.  If anyone knew, it would be Pular DiamondEye, his lead engineer (and cousin, of course).  Pular had twisted his leg recently and was in the infirmary.    Raschid was welcome to talk to him but Sven warned him that he was old, cantankerous and disrespectful.  Raschid shrugged and said he didn't care. 

Pular was as insulting as described, as well as wild haired and stumbling around on a case, even though his leg was wrapped in a metal casing.  In between his bitching he reaffirmed that no tunnels led from the town to anywhere, especially south near the river (who builds tunnels near river?  Idiots!  Maybe goblins...they like to live in muck and shit.).  Raschid waded politely through the vulgarity until Pular finally nodded off and then he made his escape.  He wandered the town, inquiring (poorly) with any scruffy character he could find about smuggling and underground paths.
While Chiktik continued his digging, Úzgar found different fun to get involved in.  Eating and drinking had started to get boring so when someone dropped by and asked if he would see Conn, the Sun God Priest, he decided to go out of boredom.  He took his weapons and drug along the hardened femur he had liberated last week.  

In hindsight, it was a good thing he did.

Conn had been working the last couple of days on find a way to destroy the mist using the power of the divine.  Focusing his power over the sun's light, he had found that he could enhance it to burn away the mist.  After trying this with objects and whatever random animal he could find that didn't get away first, he was ready to upgrade to something a bit more mobile.  Namely a volunteer.  Úzgar didn't even bother to let him finish before motioning for him to continue.  Conn limned him in fiery light and bade him enter the nexus
mists.  Úzgar didn't even pause before leaping in!  The burning sunlight destroyed the mist around him.  After watching Úzgar destroy mist, Conn waved him back in.  He wanted him to do something grander.  To make a path to the wreck of the skyship that looked to be burning somewhere beyond the town in the nexus mist.  Úzgar agreed but not for free.  He didn't want gold or jewels but for a touch of Conn's deity to stay upon him, to heal him should he be hurt.  Conn agreed.  Anlorn, who had been late for the original call, chose to join Úzgar in making a path towards the skyship.  A small group was assembled to follow, mainly medics and a few man at arms to protect them.

While everything was being prepared, Conn reassembled his shrine to Saren, adjusting it to focus even more power on the two.   He then called over the two and bade them pick up doors someone had taken from one of the buildings nearby.  He was going to not only light them but the doors as well.  That way the two of them could break through more mist than just by pushing with their bodies.  While a bit uneven in height they make it work, clearing a wide corridor towards the downed ship. 

The first sign of success was when they began to come across debris.  Chunks of the ship embedded in the ground with great force.  They also found an occasional body, or at least what looked like one.  All were horribly burned nearly to being unrecognizable.  While slow, they made progress until they were interrupted.  They had no warning or they would have grounded the doors and pulled weapons.  As it was, the metallic tiger came over and around Anlorn's door before he could blink!  He got lucky and it ripped ragged gouges in the door instead of him. 

Úzgar was first to react and threw down his door while simultaneously unlimbering his axe.  He brought it high and around, embedding it solidly in the beast's back.  It cried out, wrenching the axe from his hands.  It also sprayed its acidic blood in his face.   He felt his skin and eyes boil and a cry of pain dropped from his lips.  He dropped back, cradling his face before he felt the burning flames of the sun sear his face and he cried out from a different pain.  It burned away the acid and healed his wounds though it vastly dimmed his light.

The incredible pain sent Úzgar into berserk rage and he ripped the bone weapon from his back while shoving his hand into one of his Owlbear claws.  He leaped on the metallic feline, just as it opened up Anlorn's side.  A blink seemed to go by before he came back to his senses, standing over the smote remains of the metal tiger.  He could hear the cries of those running from the town and the pain filled whimpers from Anlorn.  The tiger had coughed up a great amount of bloody acid on him and he was literally burning up from where it pinned him down.

He helped them free Anlorn and drug the metal tiger back to town.  Conn was exhausted but staggered to his feet to assist them.  Úzgar he sent on with only the barest of healing.  A slow healing that took a lot of time, food, and rest.  Conn was saving his remaining power to rebuild Anlorn's badly burnt body.  Seeing little else to do, Úzgar and under orders to eat until he could no longer, Úzgar left to do just that.
He couldn't name the place, even if he could read the stupid human scratch that adorned it.  The sign had a scrawny looking chicken on it.  At least to his eyes and that was good enough for him to find.  They plied him with food and beer and he ate. 

Meanwhile, Raschid found his attempts to find information hunger inspiring and stopped in at eatery that looked to hold the type of people he was seeking.  He was unhappy to find that dinner came with company.  Mainly Pond.  Who spent a few minutes insinuating that his feelings were hurt that Raschid didn't trust his word about the underground pathways.  Their verbal sparring led to Raschid holding the position that he would need to talk to his friends first.  That they were a necessary part of his decision.  Pond, in turn, indicated that he didn't care for such obstacles.  That Raschid may not even have a choice.  With that, Pond departed, leaving Raschid with a sour taste and a desire for better company.  Better company did arrive in the form of Talara.  Dinner was improved hundredfold at that point.

Chiktik found his way to the side of the building.  And something more.  He found an aperture he was sure he could manipulate to let him in.  That sent him back to his makeshift workshop to craft something to simulate what it expected.   

Úzgar now, he was eating prodigiously even for him.  Must have been the priest's magic.  When someone bought a round he didn't even bother to notice when more mugs slammed on his table.  It tasted odd, though, not that he cared.  Not much existed that he couldn't eat, be it fair or foul.  When he saw someone do it again and add something to the drinks, he got suspicious.  When he confronted the weasel looking man, he fled.  It seemed a good time to work off some food, so he gave chase.

Chiktik had formed a wooden hemisphere bound with metal.  He's pretty sure it can be used to trigger the sensor if he can get the size right.  He wrestles it into the hole and is setting it up when he sense dirt dropping into the hole.  Not a little either.  He moves to leave and is hit with a shovel full.  Chiktik scrambles past other flying mounds of dirt to find a golem trying to fill his hole.  It ignores him when it commands it to stop so it rips out its circuits and shuts it down.  He's above ground when he hears a commotion.  One with Úzgar bellowing.

After a brief glance at the hole, he jumps to a nearby building.  There he sees Úzgar chasing a thin human.  The skinny human ducks around a corner with Úzgar hot on his tail.  They don't get far before 9 people boil out of nearby buildings and alleys to confront Úzgar.  It seemed logical to assist and so he leaps into the melee.

Blood  flew fast on the wind and in a short time 2 men are down, shredded by Chiktik's nail filled gun.  Úzgar bloodies several others before two others join the melee, this one a man of power.  The mage quickly freezes Chiktik fast and holds him still.  The others, seeing him no longer a threat, go after Úzgar.  Except for two.  One had a steam gun and points it at Chiktik.  The superheated water both boils and nearly drowns Chiktik.  Held by magic he can do nothing but throw his will against it to break the domination.  Úzgar, pissed at the odds, goes berserk.  One of his foes gets lucky and cuts his achilles tendon.  A few others get hits in but he cuts down 2 foes in short succession.  The mage tries to extend his domination over Úzgar as well but it's too much and he fails.  Chiktik shakes loose and between him and Úzgar they defeat them all.  Chiktik takes the steam gunner and his guard prisoner.  Then he executes the guard to teach the other man a point.  Úzgar, heavily hurt (again) falls over.  He's barely alive thanks to his earlier beating and now this new one.  When people from the town show up (finally) they are requisitioned to carry him to Conn, the Saren priest for healing.  They take off with him and begin policing up the bodies.

Raschid and Talera show up in time to take control of the prisoner.  They drag him to a nearby abandoned building (no one wanted to live near the metal building).  Inside they try to get him to talk but are interrupted when someone tries to assassinate the prisoner.  Raschid shields him while Talera tries to foil the attack.  His shield was an invocation of chaos and when the next arrow flew to kill him it disappeared instead.  The prisoner rewarded Raschid by punching him in the unmentionables.  Raschid manages to hold it together, though and forms manacles and gyves with his runeweaving.  They lose track of the assassin.  Unable to get him to talk they go back out to the street.  In short order they run into golems and Phelan.  He had come to find out what had happened.

When he hears of the planned assassination, he takes control of the prisoner.  Grimly he tells them that someone had assassinated Conn with an arrow to the throat.  It seemed to come out of nowhere, striking him where he fallen in an exhausted sleep after tending the wounded.  He promises them that he will get the prisoner/would-be assassin to speak.  Enough time in the belly of a golem will make anything speak.  They try to find Chiktik but he's trapped the opening of the tunnel he had made near the metal building with his blunderbuss.  Unwilling to try it, they leave him alone.  Unbeknownst to the others, he succeeded in opening the metal building and was pulled inside.

The day passed with some anxiety but no further attacks came.  Úzgar got back on his feet with some help from Dwarven alchemists.  While no match for Conn's divine healing, their potions were extremely effective.  Unsure of how to deal with Pond or what he will do, they craft a deal with Filimine.  She agrees to capture him in return for a hefty price in well made jewelry.  Pond had asked her to kill Raschid's companions anyway and she had turned him down out of loyalty since they had all stood during Triangularus.  She agrees to let on to a change of heart and see if he will try to hire her again.

Concerned about Úzgar, both Raschid and Talara visited.  Talara used her mental powers to re-align Úzgar's mental image of his form.  Usually this forced the body to resume a more healthy alignment.  Unknown to her, Raschid boosted her power with his chaos rune, causing runaway regeneration to build in Úzgar until he was healed and some.  Unhealthy and powerful energy surged in his body.
Later the same day word comes while they meet with Phelan that a squadron of riders have come out of the mist into the town.  The riders are from Talismondé!

In quick succession they learn that the crown has been pushing riders along the crown roads to the towns.  Also that the riders have crystals constructed by the College of Magic that can temporarily push back the mists left by Triangularus and the Nexus Storm.  This group was the first to push northeast to Leiberton.  They had imposing figure, a Throon, one Sarlen the Fortold, Paladin of Xuanth, the god of fate and destiny.  While the king's men and Phelan/Sven coordinated, Sarlen went around the town.  He spoke to the people and followed the path laid out for him by his god.  When he came to the foundations of one of the destroyed libraries he was pulled by the six-fingered hand of fate.  Filled with divine power he invested the locals with divine purpose.   In short order, people showed up and declared their desire to rebuild the library, including Zuchin, who had stayed just to plumb their depths.

Once he was flush with the knowledge of the town, Sarlen felt emboldened to do more.  Hearing of the crashed skyship, Sarlen went to the royal riders he had accompanied.  He spoke to their lead until they agreed to lend one of the crystals to him to take to the skyship.  He swore upon his god that it would be returned. 

They agreed.

Armed with its power, Sarlen the Fortold cajoled the townsfolk to join him in going to the skyship.  When none stepped forward at first, he tried again.   Úzgar didn't wait long.  Feeling a bit left out, so did Raschid and Talara.  They more than prepared and set forth.

The mist pushed away like, ahem *magic*, with the crystal in hand.  In the path they walked, fields of debris were everywhere.  Some were huge, burned out ribs of the ships or still smoldering remains that burned with lingering heat.  Unfortunate remains of those who could not escape the skyship lay everywhere.  They checked those they could reach but none still lived.

As they progressed, the crystal seemed to strobe and pulse.  It pushed the mist farther back in waves rather than a stable circle.  They were puzzled by the strangeness but proceeded on.

In one especially powerful surge, it opened up a giant area.  One that revealed what predators had moved in to take care of the remains.  Airsharks, merely 7ft long on average, babies in truth, but more than 9 of them.  They dived from the sky in waves, focusing on the Throon more than anyone else.
The battle was short, but brutal.  Talara hid under the frame of a nearby chunk of the skyship.  She used her mental and magic powers to confound them.  The best was when she used fire to explode the bladders of one of the sharks, the ones filled with gas that they used to fly. 

Úzgar hacked and beat down the sharks with wild abandon.  Two fell between them all but the rest were
destroyed when the hand of fate pulled them into a wild tangle, including one with a burning tail courtesy of Talara.  The explosion was not without its side effects.  Talara hid in the lee of the ship piece and it sheltered her.  Sarlen had been bowled over by an airshark moments earlier.  That ended up saving him when the sharks exploded since the flames went over him.  Úzgar, as fate would have it, suffered the worst.  He was surrounded by the sharks when they were pulled in and suffered the full force of their explosions.  He was in part incinerated and in part ripped apart by it.  However, the unhealthy regeneration they had filled him with earlier kicked in, absorbing the parts of airshark that covered him.  What he returned as was something not quite Orc anymore and much more airshark.  The changes were disconcerting but quickly accepted since most were not obvious, at least to those who didn't know him.   In the end, no survivors were found and they returned to town.  They did figure out however, that the skyship's crystal engine was what caused the surges.  Feeling it was useful, Sarlen rolled the Throon sized crystal back to town.

Chiktik made an appearance shortly afterward.  He explained little about what had happened and did not hint that he had been taken into the metal building.  Or that he had spoken with its AI and that it had chosen to let him live in return for using him as a means to better understand Arduin and those that dwelled here.
Things were quiet for a spell but in time, the riders needed to depart once again on the trail.  The skyship crystal engine had been used with one of the crystals to clear a huge radius around the town.  It revealed to the south a strange oddity, a titanic waterspout churning in the ground and reaching into the cloudy sky.  Given a choice of leaving with the riders and checking out the waterspout, as a group they selected the waterspout (and to stay).

Investigation of the area revealed a field of iron and rock chunks that surrounded the giant waterspout.  It also got colder the closer they came to it.  The ground was frosty with ice next to it.  Recon also showed it was filled with deep sea creatures that moved and swam without care.  It also showed that the rocks and iron chunks came from the spout.  They were thrown every hour or so with wild abandon as well as other random odd things from under the sea.

Raschid, feeling it was more magic than nexus in nature, worked on unweaving it.  He wrestled with it for hours, nearly 9 in total before piercing it a little.  The break in the magic was its undoing as water squirted out in a long jet as it revolved.  In short order it further destabilized and exploded into a vast explosion that rained down for miles.
After they recovered, they explored the debris field, finding many curious things.  A magical shell, the size of a two-story house, surrounded by layers of magic.  Obviously some magic dwelling sucked from the depths of the ocean somewhere in the world.  It was sealed tightly with magic.  A long metal shipping container.  Numerous other things of use and power.  Not to mention a lot of potential edible seafood, which Úzgar and Sarlen slurped up with gusto.

Filled to the brim they return back to town.  Chiktik bargained for wagons to move his metal container.  Inside he had found crates.  Within the intact ones he found grenades of strange design but not beyond his intellect to fathom.  Upon return he bargained to get a workshop for 10 years in the town in return for the metal container (the dwarves wanted the metal and to understand its alloys).  The rest found their own way and took a short respite.