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In Progress Torment on the Shards, Part 36 - Planescape-inspired CYOA

Discussion in 'Choose Your Own Adventure Land' started by Lithium Flower, Dec 8, 2016.

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  1. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
    Joined:
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    Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    That's the most cuck option you can come up with? Not asking for her forgiveness for the slight you must have inflicted upon her somehow? :|
     
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  2. hello friend Arcane

    hello friend
    Joined:
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    Location:
    I'm on an actual spaceship. No joke.
    Dodged a bullet, nice going.

    My vote is C) s L a U g H t E r
     
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  3. Grimgravy Augur Patron

    Grimgravy
    Joined:
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire
  4. Lithium Flower Prophet

    Lithium Flower
    Joined:
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    Remember that we're freebooters. Stick with the tailcoat. It will blind your opponents or disorient them with two days' worth of herald sweat. A tailcoat takedown is always the most efficient way to eliminate crazy bitches.

    (in other words, C wins, and I am working on the next update)
     
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  5. Lithium Flower Prophet

    Lithium Flower
    Joined:
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    Messages:
    960
    Part 26 – Binds for the Dead

    Rolling... (open)

    ...the Die of Fate
    Result: 2! You got unlucky!


    You try to back away and swiftly remove your coat, but you underestimate the time it takes to do so. While you are holding it in front of you, Loyalty presses the advantage and lunges, perforating the coat.

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...2d6 Damage, discarding the highest result
    Armour: 0
    Result: 1; You lose 1 hit point!


    You feel a pinprick as the hairpin's tip reaches your flesh. You draw back, still holding the useless article of clothing in front of you, which all but disintegrates after a dozen of thrusts. Throwing the useless rag away, you prepare to counter-attack with your dagger.

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...2d6+Dexterity
    Result: 6; Failure!


    The wild-eyed heraldress is still pressing her offensive, however, forcing you to back away. You don't realize that you have already crossed much of the room until you walk backwards into your bed, tripping and falling on your back. Her mouth twists into a smile as she goes in for a killing blow.

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...2d6 Damage, discarding the highest result
    Armour: 0
    Result: 2; You lose 2 hit points!


    You twist to your side, shielding your torso, so her stiletto punches into your left shoulder, which goes numb with pain. You roar and jump to your feet, slashing with your dagger madly, causing Loyalty to back away.

    If she was an experienced killer, you would already be dead...

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...2d6+Dexterity
    Result: 6; Failure!


    You go after her, but she is smart enough to know that she will lose the fight the second you manage to get your hands on her. Now she is the one backing up, dodging your blows, her loose nightgown doing nothing to restrict her movements.

    The bitch starts laughing, probably enjoying the sight of your bleeding body.

    “What is somebody like you going to do with the vault's contents?” she spits out between heavy breaths. “What are you going to do with your share of the compensation?”

    Is this what this whole thing is about, then? Greed?

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...2d6 Damage, discarding the highest result
    Armour: 0
    Result: 3; You lose 3 hit points!


    She must know that she is being too loud, and taking too long, because she suddenly dashes towards you. You raise your dagger to parry her weapon, but she punches you in the left shoulder instead, stunning you with pain. She buries her stiletto in your right thigh as she passes you.

    You cry out, knees trembling with the sudden explosion of pain. Black dots dance around at the edge of your vision. No. Not like this. Out of all the ways to die...

    You somehow manage to stay on your feet and spin around, facing her.

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...2d6+Dexterity
    Result: 5; Failure!


    “I'm a Builder!” she exclaims, voice breaking with hysteria, “I am the one who decides what to do with wealth, not a fucking suicide like you!”

    Despite her posturing, Loyalty must know that she must finish you quickly if she wants to have a chance to get away. When she leaps at you, you are ready for her.

    You boldly try to dodge an incoming high thrust while simultaneously leaning towards her so that you may grab her. You throw your head back as her stiletto comes awfully close and blink, hard. Sudden pain erupts from your face. You try to open your left eye but you can't.

    It doesn't matter. The pain – doesn't matter. You have her now.

    Her expression changes to one of fear as you grab her shoulders and run her into the wall while screaming like mad. She yelps as her head hits the wall, hard. You hear her weapon clatter to the floor.

    You throw the murderous whore on the bed and pin her down, your left hand firmly around her neck. She looks up at you with pleading eyes, croaking as you throttle her. Her wig had fallen off, revealing her bald, bulbous head. Meanwhile, her hands try to claw at you.

    She is still dangerous. In pain and rage, you blindly thrust your dagger into her lower body while watching the lights in her eyes go out. It finds her belly, or perhaps her groin, so you pull upwards, disemboweling her.

    Blood sprays out of her mouth, splashing across your face. Her legs thrash about wildly. You punch your blade into her again and again, only stopping when your arm tires.

    The heraldress, eviscerated from cunt to ribs, looks at you with her dying, glassy eyes, somehow still struggling with you. A long nail finds your left eye socket and presses into it. You scream and squirm as the remnant of your eye drips down, joining the mix of gore staining the both of you. You snap your jaw and find her finger trapped within it. It gives way with a sickly crunch.

    The bloody bitch still lives. You let go of her throat and sink your dagger directly into the top of her head. She sputters blood as her entire body convulses, then finally goes still.

    You fall on top of her ruined body, feeling utterly spent, taking deep, ragged breaths. The smell of gore and shit from her cut-up bowels is strong, but it doesn't bother you. Numbness rules your mind now. It is in that numbness that you eventually notice that the window curtains are drawn open, exposing the room to the rear grounds.

    How and when did this happen? The storm is the most likely culprit, but you suppose that it doesn't really matter. You get up, still panting, and press yourself against the window, offering a wicked smile to the shard and the void. You spot the silhouette of your old friend, that mysterious spying beholder, and wave at him. The beholder hastily retreats to one of the sheds, running as fast as his tentacles can take him.

    You put your fist through the window with a crash, shouting at the fleeing beholder. Go on, then – run! Tell whoever sent you that you saw two deaths tonight, you fucking eye-bastard!!

    “The murderer is in this room!” a voice shouts from behind you.

    The guards are at your door. You spin around and throw your spare blades at them. Then the oil lamp, which starts a small fire. Then the chair. Then...a hammerite's head collides with your own, and the world goes dark.

    ---

    The first thing you do after your senses return is throw up. You've had to kill before, but this was...bad. Really bad.

    Afterwards you examine yourself. Someone went through the trouble of stitching you together and wrapping your wounds in clean bandages, but what for? Binds for the dead...this shit is almost funny.

    You are in a dark, spare small room, probably on the first or third floor. Eventually your eyes adjust to the darkness. The room is bare and the door you don't even try – if it ain't closed, you will sell yourself to the Trickster.

    Demiurge-knows how much time passes until the door creaks open and someone shoves Step-There into the room. Step-There, for whatever reason, is holding the unconscious Quiet in his arms. You are not even surprised.

    The door closes once more. Step-There curses under his breath and gingerly braces Quiet against the wall, then sits down himself.

    You ask him what the fuck is going on. He replies by shrieking and jumping to his feet.

    “Oh, Strider, you are here, too?” he says after collecting himself. “Forgive me, I had no idea. These bastards, they said I was the killer! Can you believe that? I had Quiet in my room, you know, to watch over, so they decided to take us both here.”

    Huh. The guards had reason to believe you were the killer, but Step-There? Perhaps they think you are working together...

    First, you ask the manus how Quiet is doing.

    “Her fever broke and she went to sleep. She should be fine soon, or so that buzzer said.”

    To that you say nothing, lost in thought. Is this a set up?

    Step-There presses his back against the wall and slowly sits back down.

    “Demiurge save us,” he breaths out, “are they going to kill us?”

    You stay silent.

    “Strider,” he continues, a tinge of shame in his voice, “oh shit, Strider...”

    Don't say it.

    “I lied to you...”

    You hang your head. Then you begin to laugh. Of course...

    “Steel gave me the same deal as he gave you and Look-It-Up: accompany him to the party and see what happens. He also said...he said that I'd get three hundred coin if cut Look-It-Up's throat and planted Belt's handkerchief in the room.

    “But I didn't! I mean, I couldn't...I spent the better part of the day talking to the manus, Strider. I talked my way into the library with promises of telling him all about the shards I've walked...he was like a child, Strider, curious and innocent. When I got up to, you know, do it, I...I couldn't. My hands and arms, they were shaking, I felt so sick. I went to the latrine to collect myself, and when I got back, someone else was in there with Look-It-Up, just like I said. I was so anxious that I absentmindedly shoved the handkerchief under the carpet and left – Trickster's tail, that was stupid! - but I suppose it worked out in Steel's favor at the end...”

    Minutes pass before you speak up. You want to know why he would ever agree to do something like this. You've had to kill in your career as a freebooter – you get it. But to be hired as an assassin...?

    “Why I did it? Because I was sleeping in the gutter and eating shit!” Anger breaks out in his voice: “That failed journey to the Cold Shard – it ruined you, Strider, yes – but it finished me! The Seekers Guild, freebooter captains, they wanted nothing to do with me! The Officials? Bah! I was an unknown quantity to them, or worse, dangerous...no one would have me as a shardwalker, Strider.”

    He goes on about how, when his savings ran out, he was evicted from the place he was renting. He describes being beaten on the first day in the streets, mugged for the few possessions he still had on the fourth, and stabbed on the ninth. Eventually, he used the very skills that allowed him to survive on unexplored shards in order to survive in the City – the “most dangerous shard”, he says. He stole. He ate vermin. He cultivated mold and fungi, experimenting to see which were save to eat.

    Eventually he even joined a gang, working as something like a guide, but even then he refused to even consider the possibility of becoming a freebooter. “Freebooters,” he used to think, “are the scum of the shards – even worse than us, Seekers. Wretched criminals, most of them living hand-to-mouth, putting a very low price on their own lives. The Demiurge gives everyone a chance, gives everyone a life, yet they choose not to spend theirs on faith or love or duty, but to throw them away for a pouch of coin...”

    It wasn't long before Step-There realized that he had been describing himself. Whatever chance he had, he missed. The life the Demiurge gave him, he lost. The old Step-There, the enthusiastic Shardwalker with many a journey under his belt, waiting for “just one successful voyage” that would let him join the Seekers Guild as a member – that Step-There is dead. The new Step-There became a freebooter before he chose to be one.

    He explains that he started his career with the gangs. Eventually he was renting a bed in the Facade Ghetto, where he found work for well-connected group of buzzer criminals. He was almost certain that they were Void Cultists, but they paid well, so he asked no questions. When he had enough coin to buy a hovel in the Voidship Yards, he immediately did so. He continued to meet queer employers: a veiled stranger, a manic herald in rotting rags, and, eventually, a well-spoken lurk that took heads...

    At some point Step-There starts sobbing, as if re-experiencing several months of painful struggle. You understand how he feels. You didn't have it as bad as him, but you sure did go through a lot in the months between your separation with Whisper and now. Do you have the right to blame Step-There for becoming a would-be assassin? Hardly.

    That is how you spent your time in the dark room. Two washed-up freebooters, trading stories of their old pain...and Quiet. Quiet, who simply slept through it.

    ---

    There is commotion outside the door, then a muffled scream, and finally the clanking of metal keys.

    “Greetings,” Head-Taker says in his gravely voice after throwing the door open.

    “Rest is over,” you hear Deadliest behind him say, “we've work to do.”

    This, for whatever reason, finally wakes Quiet up, who mutters: “Wh-wait...what is happening? Where am I?” Step-There reaches out and puts a hand on her shoulder, saying: “Among friends...I think. Do you remember anything?”

    “I...I went to see the Lady-Scribe. In the garden, my lady said we'd meet at the garden. No – I actually saw Lady Loyalty, saw her before she reached out and I felt a pin-prick, and...”

    “Alright, that's enough,” Deadliest barks, “get the fuck out of there. Quiet should stay – she will be safer that way.”

    Your entire body aches as you get up and step into the hallway. Step-There does the same. Three people are standing around the entrance: Head-Taker, Deadliest Vile, and an unfamiliar beholder in a servant's uniform. The first two are bristling with bloodstained weapons which had been confiscated from them days prior, while the latter backs away as soon as he recognizes you, but Deadliest shoves a gun in his face and tells him to stay put.

    “I heard about Loyalty,” Vile says with a cruel smile, “nice work. That a thing you are into? Cutting up whores, I mean.”

    You tell him to shut the fuck up. He shrugs, and hands you an expensive-looking smallsword with a bloodstained hilt. “You will get more use out of this,” he says, then shoves a brace of knives into Step-There's hands. Your gaze wanders and you spot the corpse of the smallsword's previous owner on the floor; Silver is lying dead, split from shoulder to mid-section. As your eyes adjust to the light, you notice that Head-Taker and Deadliest are similarly covered in blood and reeking of death.

    “Good freebooters, please keep an eye on the beholder while I talk business with Quiet,” Head-Taker says and, despite Step-There's protests, disappears into the dark room and closes the door behind him.

    He emerges soon after.

    “The girl has agreed to cooperate. Upstairs, then,” he says matter-of-factly, then locks the unfamiliar freebooter in with Quiet and takes the lead.

    Being given no choice, you follow. The familiar hallways of the first floor soon turn into nightmarish tunnels splattered with viscera. Corpses of servants are strewn about, bearing marks of heavy weapons.

    Suddenly, a door that you are passing bursts open, beholder tentacles emerging from within the room. One lashes around Step-There's foot, pulling him towards the doorway.

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...1d6-2 Damage
    Armour: 0
    Result: -1; Step-There loses no hit points!


    Step-There retains his footing and slashes at the beholder wildly.

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...1d6 Damage
    Armour: 0
    Result: 4; Master Flagellant loses 4 hit points!


    Slimy beholder blood paints the walls as Step-There's desperate attacks succeed in putting out several of his eyes.

    “Get down!” the lurk roars and rears up on his hindquarters, brandishing the longaxe.

    Step-There obliges him by falling on his ass while crying out for help.

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...2[d6+2] Damage, discarding the lowest result
    Armour: 0
    Result: 4; Master Flagellant loses 4 hit points!


    The axe splits Master Flagellant's spherical body in two. A shattered white mask falls to the floor.

    “That should be all of the guests and servants taken care of,” Deadliest Vile comments, “now we just worry about the guards.”

    Head-Taker remains on his hoofs for as long as it takes him to help Step-There to his feet, then proceeds to lead the party.

    You exchange a few worried looks with the shaken manus, but don't do much else but follow. With Head-Taker ahead and Deadliest Vile behind, there isn't much room to run.

    As the party reaches the staircase by the entrance hall, Deadliest Vile suddenly stops.

    “You hear that?” he says, and no one responds. “They are banging on the front door. The spearmen, probably. I will take care of it.”

    Without another word the beholder rushes into the entrance hall. Head-Taker gives you a look that makes it clear that he will kill you if you try to run, then orders you to climb the stairs to the third floor. After you make it there, he flies up the staircase, shepherding you onward.

    The hallways of the third floor look like nothing in particular, which is to say that they look exactly the same as all the other hallways in this strange fucking building. Shortly after passing the stairs you hear muffled bangs from below.

    Head-Taker leads the two of you to a large set of double doors and tells you that Sees-It's study is beyond. You ask him what you are supposed to do, and as you do that, the remaining four of the interior guard round the corner and run at the three of you.

    “Shit! They took the other set of stairs!” the hammerite leading them exclaims.

    “Just burst through the door and be ready to duck and cower,” Head-Taker growls in response to your question, then leaps forward.

    He lands between the doors and the useless guards, cutting them off.

    “You are outnumbered! Just drop the axe, and, uhm...” the hammerite stammers.

    “What is my name?” the Head-Taker replies.

    He jumps as high as the ceiling allows, then dives down axe-first.

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...2[d6+2] Damage, discarding the lowest result
    Armour: 0
    Result: 8; the Silver Cloak guard loses 8 hit points!


    The hammerite raises his smallsword in a futile attempt to knock the axe away, but the weapon shatters the frail sword and continues to travel downward, bisecting the poor guard.

    The remaining White Cloaks rush Head-Taker desperately, who swings his massive axe around in a single fluid motion.

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...2[d6+2] Damage, discarding the lowest result
    Armour: 0
    Result: 8; the Silver Cloak guards lose 8 hit points!


    Heads roll and limbs fly, some making it as far as the doorway. You reach the door with Step-There, but he seems hesitant about going inside.

    What do you do?

    a) Take the lead and rush in, ready to “duck and cower”
    b) Tell Step-There to stop being a craven and to get into the room already. It is the least he can do after lying to you
    c) Open the door and push Step-There into the room, so that he ends up taking the lead
    d) Take advantage of this situation and try to escape the manse
    e) Do something else, please specify what

    ”Notes” (open)

    :hmmm:

    I should mention that I will probably slow the fuck down and not update until after the weekend, which should hopefully give you guys enough time to...process this update.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 2
    • Prestigious Prestigious x 1
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  6. hello friend Arcane

    hello friend
    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2012
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    5,271
    Location:
    I'm on an actual spaceship. No joke.
    b) We're low on health, this is no time to be generous.
     
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  7. hello friend Arcane

    hello friend
    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2012
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    5,271
    Location:
    I'm on an actual spaceship. No joke.
    Great update, btw
     
    • Friendly Friendly x 1
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  8. Lithium Flower Prophet

    Lithium Flower
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2016
    Messages:
    960
    Just updated the character sheet which I forgot to do. In short you are down to 3 health, lost your knives, and got this instead: Silver's Smallsword (d6, close, fast, light, 15 coin, 2 weight)

    Thanks, my dude :salute:
     
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  9. Grimgravy Augur Patron

    Grimgravy
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2013
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    3,122
    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire
    Man. Head taker has dice loaded like a potato and ours are weak mash.

    C>B
     
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  10. Lithium Flower Prophet

    Lithium Flower
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2016
    Messages:
    960
    I died a little every time with those Dex rolls. And that's a stat you have a +1 in, which isn't bad. The RNJesus giveth and the RNJesus taketh away...
     
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  11. Azira Arcane Patron

    Azira
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2004
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    7,802
    Location:
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Codex 2012
    C
     
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  12. hello friend Arcane

    hello friend
    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2012
    Messages:
    5,271
    Location:
    I'm on an actual spaceship. No joke.
    Friend or no fried, we're at death's door here. A real friend would take a bullet for us : )
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
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  13. Azira Arcane Patron

    Azira
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2004
    Messages:
    7,802
    Location:
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Codex 2012
    I've turned ever more "pragmatic" in my roleplaying characters over the years. Never full-blown evil, but sadistic, small-minded and vindictive would probably be accurate.
     
    • Despair Despair x 1
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  14. Lithium Flower Prophet

    Lithium Flower
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2016
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    To be fair that probably describes every single PC I've ever seen, as well as their players. Including myself.
     
    • Despair Despair x 1
    • Salute Salute x 1
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  15. Azira Arcane Patron

    Azira
    Joined:
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    Location:
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Codex 2012
    Naw, in my PnP groups, we're swimming in idealists. Which means I'm having a blast, trying to rile them up.
     
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  16. Storyfag Arcane

    Storyfag
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2011
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    5,586
    Location:
    A Dark Place
    B
     
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  17. Lithium Flower Prophet

    Lithium Flower
    Joined:
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    1-3 = B wins, you tell Step-There to take the lead

    4-6 = C wins, you push Step-There inside

    Rolling... (open)

    ...the Die of Fate
    Result: 6!


    Part 27 – Bloodied Wrecks

    Your thoughts turn dark and cruel. Can he not see that you've suffered enough? Does he plan to leave you like he left Whisper on that damned Shard? Taking the lead is the least Step-There can do after all of the craven deceits of his that you've had to put up with...

    A spray of warm blood hits your back, as if pushing you to act on this devious impulse. You press yourself against the double doors and exclaim that they are damned heavy. The anxious manus leans into one of the doors uncertainly, expecting much heavier resistance than the it offers. He gives a panicked yelp as the doors slide forward and he starts tilting into the room, and you capitalize by grabbing the back of his collar and giving him a firm push forward. His eyes meet yours as he stumbles into Sees-It's study, and you are surprised not to see any resentment in them – perhaps in his nervousness he thought that he had stumbled?

    Step-There does not find firm footing for the first meter of the large rectangular study and continues travelling forward with drunken steps. Past him, you see something like a thick grey cloud form at the back of the room. You don't even have time to blink as it floats to the entrance with awesome speed, crackling with lightning as Step-There runs into it.

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...1d6 Damage, ignoring armour
    Armour: 0
    Result: 4; Step-There loses 4 hit points!


    The cloud dissipates with a loud crack and a bright flash, filling your vision with dancing colours. Your aching body struggles to stay upright as all your senses are assaulted: you can't see shit, screams of pain are coming from several directions, and a stench of burnt fur fills your nostrils. You topple forwards, tripping over Step-There, who had been thrown backwards. You look up and through the blur of colour you see Sees-It take cover behind a work desk, mouthing a silent incantation as another thick cloud forms between his raised tentacles...

    Suddenly, a metal object falls from the ceiling and clatters to the ground below. Something larger follows it, landing behind the beholder.

    “You accused me of being a robber, Sees-It, so I've made a robber's entrance,” Steel speaks, his voice barely penetrating the ringing in your ears.

    ”Rolling...” (open)

    ...1d6+1 Damage
    Armour: 0
    Result: 7; Sees-It loses 7 hit points!


    The beholder seemingly explodes and immediately afterwards a lead slug whistles past your head and buries itself in the wall behind you.

    You exhale and roll over onto your back. You close your eyes and watch strange colours dance in the darkness of your eyelids as you wait for your senses to come back.

    ---

    Head-Taker didn't bother to wipe the head of his axe clean. For a very long time now, gore had not stained his weapon but sharpened its edge instead.

    He retraced his steps through the bloodstained corridors, jaws firmly clamped around the longaxe's haft. Two of the dead White Cloaks tried their best not to die, yet all they could do was run around the second floor and paint the walls with blood from their cleft limbs, merely delaying the inevitable.

    The lurk stopped at the entrance to Sees-It's study and looked inside. The semi-conscious bait lay prone not far from the entrance. At the back of the room, surrounded by piles of paperwork that filled up bookshelves and crowned a large desk, he saw Lord-Foreman Steel finishing the beholder sorcerer. His herald student's face bore a twisted smile as he raised his dagger high and perforated the gasping beholder, driving the blade through one of the eyes and into the brain. This was not the first strike Steel made, for he was stained from head to toe with beholder viscera. Head-Taker moved on, wanting his pupil to have the privacy to enjoy his moment of triumph.

    It was in the entrance hall where Head-Taker found Deadliest Vile. Corpses of the entire outer guard surrounded the fallen freebooter, yet only a few of them were killed by his melee weapons. The rest, much like the beholder himself, were riddled with shrapnel of twisted metal. Vile's body was like a cracked egg propped up against the wall, broken metal having pierced several of his eyes and internal organs. With the one tentacle he had left, he cradled the remains of two crackguns that had exploded in his grasp. Despite his heavy injuries, the beholder remained alive.

    “P-powder...” Deadliest told Head-Taker, sputtering blood, “Steel's...akh-kh...he provided...the p-akh-der, the b-bastard...”

    The lurk stood up on his hindquarters and prepared to finish the dying freebooter. Deadliest Vile was certainly strong of will, but he made the mistake of following the path set before him by another. Head-Taker swore that he will not make the same mistake.

    ---

    After Demiurge-knows how long, you being to see more or less clearly again, and most of the sounds subside save for an annoying high-pitched whine. You stagger to your feet and find that Step-There is whimpering with pain, his flesh and fur moderatly burnt. He took the full brunt of a magical attack that would have most certainly killed you, yet if you hadn't pushed him then perhaps he would have had an opportunity to jump out of the way. You extend a hand towards the fallen manus and he grasps it with with three of his own.

    “Ah-fuck, everything hurts...” he mutters as you help him rise to his feet.

    The fighting in the hallway has long since ceased. Inside the study, Steel stands above Sees-It's broken corpse, the herald's once-gaudy clothes now dripping with gore. He appraises the two of you and smiles.

    Here you are, two bloodied wrecks propping each other up, across the room from a bloodstained herald who is still wearing those blasted yellow stockings...

    “Well done,” he says in his familiar raspy tone, “the party is over.”

    “Quit your posturing!” Step-There exclaims, his voice shaky with pain. “You came here and murdered all these people all the meanwhile using us as unknowing pawns, and yet you have the gall to congratulate us for successfully serving as your bait?”

    The herald approaches the two of you, his smile unyielding.

    “I came here not to kill per say, but to take all that Sees-It owned by force. For all his power and arrogance, the beholder did not know much about what makes a Taker. He underestimated me, and forgot the most basic, intuitive, and too often unsaid principle of the Enterprising League: “what you take is yours.” It just so happens that I am extremely devout to the concept. Sees-It was so foolish to have thought that I would stop at a mere heist attempt to get what I want – the heist being, of course, a misdirection all along.

    As for me using you, I don't see why that should matter. You have used me yourselves, have you not? Clearly you accompanied me not out of the goodness of your hearts but with the implicit understanding that you are to make yourselves useful to me in exchange for compensation. I find that best relationships are those that are mutually beneficial. As for your losses, they are par by course in the Badlands, as in this ward nothing can be gained without sacrifice – the ward makes sure of that!”

    The manus trembles in anger. “You don't look like you've suffered much,” he spits out.

    “Then it appears that you have suffered on my behalf,” Steel replies, frowning.

    Or perhaps not, you suggest. Steel has killed a Lord-Foreman and three important officials, as well as a score of innocents. Surely, he cannot get away with this.

    Steel once again smiles and erupts into a fit of laughter in response, which is mercifully cut short with a hacking cough. The herald regains his composure and absentmindedly tries to wipe his mouth with his cravat, but only succeeds in smearing his face with beholder gore. He does not appear to be disturbed by this.

    “And whom did I kill, Strider? Sees-It I have most certainly killed, yes, but such methods of conflict resolution within the Enterprising League are hardly uncommon. The Officials turn a blind eye to our violent rivalries. As for everyone else, why, I do not believe I was ever directly involved. Who killed the servants? Certainly not I, and who cares for the lives of a dozen of gobs, anyway? As for the guests – a radical, a dilettante, and a pencil-pusher lest we forget, hardly the cream of the crop – they were murdered by a group of assailants whose identity is yet to be determined. I was one of the few people to escape the massacre. Oh, and I've proof, of course. The beholder that you saw lurking in the rear grounds? He was Sees-It's spy, hired to gather compromising material. He ended up succeeding in his task, though the material was vastly different from what Sees-It expected. A selection of his excrement, mixed with that of Deadliest Vile's, has already been concocted. To put it bluntly, I have enough evidence to establish plausible deniability and still hold back details that would incriminate you...said details I am already holding onto for safekeeping, of course.”

    You remember striking out at the night sky and yelling at the beholder who had just captured Loyalty's final moments...damn it!

    “Come now, the Officials would never buy it! They've certainly the magics and the technology to gather the truth from this matter,” Step-There says, almost laughing at Steel's confidence.

    “What choice do they have? Will they shut down my factories and storm my manor? Will they turn back on the idea of private enterprise which has proven to be extraordinarily efficient and lucrative for the City? Please, they will do no such thing. The Officials simply want to preserve the status quo with as little ruckus as possible. I, for one, have just proven to them that I am more than capable of cleaning up after myself while keeping the rest of the League in check.”

    The implication in his words is staggering. For the longest time, the Enterprising League consisted of individuals who each owned portions of the industry in the Gambit Badlands, with no clear monopoly. If Steel truly wants to absorb Sees-It's industry, and succeeds in doing so, he will control the vast majority of the mining and refining industry. It is not unheard of that members of tolerated factions that wield such influence are elected Seneschal of their respective wards by the Auspicious Assembly, as they are already rulers of their wards in everything but name. Is this what Steel wanted for himself all along? Is this the position you helped him achieve?

    “Before we continue, I suppose that it is only fair that you get some idea of what was going on in this manse. From the very beginning I was planning to stage a massacre in order to get what I want, yes, but our victims were not so innocent themselves. I have gathered quite a few conclusions from your reports, as well as from months of buying information about the late Lord-Foreman. First of all, Sees-It was, as Step-There can attest, an unsanctioned sorcerer – an offence usually punished with death or worse, an imprisonment within Censor's College. His cover had been old and paper-thin, so he sought to ingratiate himself with relatively minor Officials that still possessed some bureaucratic influence. Loyalty and Belt were chosen: the former to generate the necessary paperwork and the latter to smooth things over with the Censor's College. It is during this party that the three were meant to finalize their agreement. However, Sees-It had a contingency: the aforementioned spy. You see, Loyalty, Belt...and I, have reputations of being rather insatiable. Temptations of status, I suppose. And you are familiar with the passions of heralds, Strider – oh, I'm sorry, too soon? Anyhow, he was likely hoping for the spy to capture said passions with his senses, and I can only assume that he had invited me so that he would use the evidence to manipulate me – or perhaps to cover up this secret deal as routine Taker business.

    “Now, I knew that Belt would cause problems, so I wanted to deal with him first with the help of Look-It-Up and...Step-There's services. However I did not expect the Inquisitor to bring the Master Flagellant with him, and neither did I expect that Belt would actually ask the zealot to kill Look-It-Up for him! Still we managed to salvage the plan and turned Step-There's fumbled attempt at framing Belt into a successful provocation.

    “Finally, from my own intel and Strider's reports, I gathered that Loyalty had an ulterior motive: mainly, to investigate the questionable contents of Sees-It's hidden vault for the Assembly, as well as to probe into Sees-It's faulty attempt to cover up his magics. However, that is not all. From dilettantes, whores, and confidantes I have found out that the good Lady-Scribe was, in fact, the picture of a female herald: impulsive, two-faced, and greedy to a homicidal degree. That is why I started the rumour of the reward – with the help of Silver and his men whose cooperation was secured with a hefty bribe minutes after we entered this building, for I knew that he had all the ambition but none of the skill required to advance in rank, and had promised him that we stage but a few murders which we will pin on Sees-It with Silver coming out of the situation as a heroic detective extraordinaire. The resulting attempts on Quiet's and Strider's lives were rash decisions formed by Loyalty's hysterical mind. A small pity, for now I have vault that Loyalty sought after, and will certainly allow the Assembly to inspect it and take their just dues as an expression of good will. Not to mention that we have spared Quiet, the real talent, who will certainly be grateful enough to make sure that the Assembly is as understanding as possible...”

    At this moment Step-There lets go of you and stumbles towards Steel. The herald points a loaded crackgun at the manus' chest, unfazed.

    “Please, do let me finish,” he continues, “as I said, I am ready to reward you. Since I doubt you will be satisfied with anything less than naming your own price, I shall give you...hmm...one seems to limiting and three too cliche...yes, I shall allow you to make two requests. Anything within my power to grant, I shall. How about it, Step-There? How would you like to be compensated?”

    The herald extends his free hand that dripping with gooey beholder blood and offers it to the manus. Step-There simply stares at it. Steel's smile widens and it looks like he is about to start laughing again when yet another coughing fit takes him. He continues after it abates:

    “What is wrong? Have I not told both of you that if the party goes well, we will all shake hands at the occasion's end and come to respect one another? I've an alternative to respect in my right hand and plenty more hidden in glass jars if you'd prefer that.”

    After a moment of consideration, Step-There takes Steel's rough hand into his own. In that position the manus could easily use his many grasping limbs to take the herald down, but he does no such thing.

    “First of all, I do not want to hear from you ever again. Leave me alone, and you can expect me not to cause any problems,” Step-There says with no effort to conceal the resentment in his voice.

    “But of course,” Steel replies, nodding enthusiastically, “so you do not wish to have further business with me and that is understandable. What is your second request?”

    “That the same goes for Quiet. You let her go at once and do not try to involve her in any more of your schemes.”

    Steel raises an eyebrow in response. You half-expect him to pull he trigger, when he speaks: “I planned on using her, but I am so confident that I will be fine without her help that I shall grant this request to you. You may leave now, Step-There. Slowly, with no sudden movements.”

    The manus turns around and, with a sullen expression, shuffles towards the exit. You inquire about his wounds as he leaves and he tells you that he'll live. He hesitates for a second before leaving, then turns to you and shoves a crumpled piece of paper in your hands. It has an address in Voidship Yards scrawled on it and a message which reads: “I do not know if we have put the past behind us but you may visit me at my residence if you wish.” You look back at your former companion, not sure how to feel about his invitation, but he has already left the room.

    You are now alone with the bloodstained herald, his grating voice, and his grisly outstretched hand.

    “Well then, Strider, what do you want?”

    (Choose two options from A OR one option from B)

    A1: As much of the vault's contents as you can carry out.

    A2: Sees-It's compact airship, with one of Steel's pilots on board to ensure your safe flight.

    A3: A cozy, discreet property where you can lay low for a while.

    A4: Your continual friendship. Steel is a big player, and having his favour and patronage may open many doors for you.

    A5: This manor, you say with a smirk. The manor and everything in it.

    B1: Nothing from Steel. You are not about to make a deal with the Trickster. Walk away from the bastard.

    B2: Steel's life. He has lowered his gun after Step-There left the room, so you have a shot at perforating the fucker...

    Notes (open)


    Kz3r0 was more or less right all along.

    Also, I have been toying with the idea of writing a “post-mortem” for this mission where I go over how all the pieces fit as well as a breakdown of the choices and consequences that were presented. This was a pretty complicated setup and an absolute bitch to write (and probably doesn't make much sense, in which case feel free to shit on me and point out all the plot holes) so I kind of want to make that kind of write-up for posterity. At the same time, it will take some effort to write, so let me know if anyone would actually be interested in reading that kind of thing. I may or may not post it regardless, depending on how much creative juices I have in the coming weeks.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2017
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  18. Azira Arcane Patron

    Azira
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2004
    Messages:
    7,802
    Location:
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Codex 2012
    A3, A4
     
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  19. Kz3r0 Arcane

    Kz3r0
    Joined:
    May 28, 2008
    Messages:
    22,075
    A1

    A4
    :mrpresident:
     
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  20. Kz3r0 Arcane

    Kz3r0
    Joined:
    May 28, 2008
    Messages:
    22,075
    Lithium Flower I would like to use Sense Motive on Steel, seems that he provided faulty gunpowder to Deadliest Vile to dispose of him so why being friendly with us?
    The only reason I can think of is that he fears Head Taker and want all the help he can muster, we too should fear the Lurk, nonetheless I want to know how much we can trust Steel here, at the moment accepting his offer is not only the best but also the only real choice we have, what I want to ascertain is how much we can trsust him afterwards or if will be better go in hiding after this whole affair is closed.
     
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  21. Azira Arcane Patron

    Azira
    Joined:
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    7,802
    Location:
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Codex 2012
    He most definitely cannot be trusted, but this situation looks like we're holding a tiger by its tail..
     
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  22. Lithium Flower Prophet

    Lithium Flower
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2016
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    960
    Unfortunately you are still at 0 belief moves. Belief resets the next time that you will properly rest (the time you spent in the dark room and lying on the floor of the study do not count)
     
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  23. Grimgravy Augur Patron

    Grimgravy
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2013
    Messages:
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire

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