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Myth: A New Age CYOA

Discussion in 'Choose Your Own Adventure Land' started by Fangshi, Jan 15, 2014.

  1. Fangshi Arcane

    Fangshi
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2014
    Messages:
    1,997
    Alright, I have added Operation Mole Hill as question 5.

    If I can scrape together a little more time in the next hour or two before I have to leave then I will post the Interlude tonight. Otherwise it will be up sometime Sunday afternoon (eighteen hours or so).

    The main vote will stay open at least until Monday to give everyone a chance to vote on the new options.


    Current Vote:

    Show Spoiler
    Sunnmøring:
    1.C, 2.B, 3.B, 4. D: x / T: x, 5.x

    archaen:
    1.E, 2.D, 3.A, 4. D: Heal / T: Greater Energy Bolt, 5.A

    Nevill:
    1.E, 2.D, 3.A, 4. D: Greater Energy Bolt / T: Greater Firebolt > D: Greater Firebolt / T: Greater Energy Bolt, 5.A

    Azira:
    1.D, 2.B, 3.A, 4. D: x / T: x, 5.x

    Absinthe:
    1.E, 2.D, 3.A, 4. D: Heal / T: Heal, 5.x

    Grimgravy:
    1.D, 2.B, 3.A, 4. D: Greater? Energy Bolt / T: Heal, 5.B

    asxetos:
    1.A>D, 2.A, 3.A, 4. D: x / T: x, 5.x

    Kz3r0:
    1.E, 2.D, 3.B, 4. D: Greater Firebolt / T: Greater Energy Bolt, 5.A

    Jester:
    1.E, 2.D, 3.A, 4. D: Heal / T: Heal, 5.A

    1. Blackrock Reinforcement:
    A) 1 vote
    B)
    C) 1 vote
    D) 2 votes
    E) 5 votes

    2. Information:
    A) 1 vote
    B) 3 votes
    C)
    D) 5 votes

    3. Demon's Deal
    A) 7 votes
    B) 2 votes

    4. Spell Rings
    Derryth:
    Greater Firebolt - 1 votes
    Heal - 3 votes
    Energy Bolt - 2 votes

    Thaïs' Ring:
    Greater Energy Bolt - 2 votes
    Heal - 3 votes
    Greater Firebolt - 1 vote

    5. Operation: Mole Hill
    A) 4 votes
    B) 1 vote

    Post-Flop:

    1. Blackrock Reinforcement:
    A) 1 vote
    B)
    C) 1 vote
    D) 2 votes
    E) 5 votes

    2. Information:
    A) 1 vote
    B) 3 votes
    C)
    D) 5 votes

    3. Demon's Deal
    A) 7 votes
    B) 2 votes

    4. Spell Rings
    Derryth:
    Greater Firebolt - 2 votes
    Heal - 3 votes
    Energy Bolt - 1 vote

    Thaïs' Ring:
    Greater Energy Bolt - 3 votes
    Heal - 3 votes

    5. Operation: Mole Hill
    A) 4 votes
    B) 1 vote
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2014
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  2. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    11,060
    Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    Can anyone voting 1E explain to me what they are going to do with Blackrock forces? How are we planning to communicate with them once they enter the tunnels? The eagles can't follow them there.

    I want them with us, because the defensive position of the fort multiplies the 'value' we can get from each person able to fight, plus I feel a responsibility to brief them as a commander instead of pushing it to a guy like Neel. Last thing Neel knows is that we've been ambushed and nearly annihilated by a Shade and that the enemy had 3 more of those while constructing a magic cannon to destroy the fort in one salvo. He doesn't even know if it worked (unless he returned to the surface after he hid in the tunnels). Hell, we don't even know if Neel is alive (although I surely hope so), and Bari is a complete stranger to them. It is not their place to explain things.

    I might still consider 1E, but I need to know how can they meaningfully contribute to the upcoming battle.

    Though if we manage to take the enemy commander out...

    5. Convince the rodents to do operation Mole Hill
    A) Yes

    Are you sure it's a good idea? Rodents are common to this habitat and won't raise too many question. They aren't likely to notice them even if they look straight at them.

    Dyed rodents, not so much. They are less likely to be seen, but boy, are they going to get noticed if they are.

    Essentially, I think that hiding in plain sight works better than a complex camouflage. I'd rather we didn't get fancy with this.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2014
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  3. Kz3r0 Arcane

    Kz3r0
    Joined:
    May 28, 2008
    Messages:
    24,389
    Amended my vote to add:
    5.Convince the rodents to do operation Mole Hill
    A) Yes
     
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  4. archaen Arbiter Patron

    archaen
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2014
    Messages:
    621
    We shouldnt dye if they are already matched to the terrain. If say the rabbits are from higher up the mountain and have half white and gray it might be better to dye them out. I'm sure one of the pathfinders can do an OK camo job. For 1E we are going to have to setup a drop point for messages at one of the tunnel entrances or exposed gullies. We send the Eagle back to them and let them decide the best spot and then have the eagle return to us.
     
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  5. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    11,060
    Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    Guys, if we put elemental spells on our rings, make sure to put spells the owners of the ring can't cast themselves.

    It is simply better for Derryth to have an option to cast a combo of Greater Firebolt+Lightning alone with the help of the ring than to cast two Greater Firebolts.

    Is there a reason you don't want them in the fort? Do you think they are more useful in the enemy rear than with us?
     
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  6. Jester Arbiter

    Jester
    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2013
    Messages:
    1,493
    Was bored so i found some bunues for archaen
    Show Spoiler
    [​IMG]

    Show Spoiler
    [​IMG]

    Show Spoiler
    [​IMG]

    Show Spoiler
    [​IMG]


    So they worship Zogh rat who found way into food storage etc.
    Still im quite impressed that those rats got better political structure than some countries and have leaders outclassing much of real life politicians. Are those rats from central Europe? They got Renaissance era vibe in my opinion. Adapting they form of rule in possible conquered areas might be beneficial. Bloody rats indeed.
    Did i add something to Derryth to do list or expended universe by assassin roden guild? Having pet with WMD or serial killer mode sound useful though...
     
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  7. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    11,060
    Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    Jester have inspired me. We need to send an agent to lure them out.
    Show Spoiler
    [​IMG]
     
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  8. Jester Arbiter

    Jester
    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2013
    Messages:
    1,493
    Good point.
    Enemy dont know about them and with lack of crows they are unlikely to be detected so we got surprise factor. Course as long as we wont use any gate spells informing that someone is there. Still we can use eagles to communicate with them to plan attack.

    I expect that wizards will stay far behind undead lines so people in rear should have much easier access to them, especially if enemy will commit their forces to fortress attack. Surprise attack on wizards tends to be quite effective so they might get non shade opponents. Course if they would try to attack camp directly its better that they know about chain explosion spell. If they have mortars they might be able to establish hidden artillery position to shell they main camp if needed, disrupting they undead forces when wizards will concentrate on rain of explosives. They can try to sabotage routes from undead controlled areas to slow down any possible enemy reinforcements or ambush them in transit i doubt they would expect any opposition before fortress. After first attack there will be added pressure that there is unknown number of soldiers circling around them ready to strike and taking into consideration their commander looks like cautious type she might use part of her forces and valuable time to search them or keep soldiers in reserve in case they will try to attack.

    I dont expect that our other branch have big number of soldiers so they probably wont boost significantly our standing forces, so in my opinion using them to keep our opponents on their toes will work better than getting them on walls.

    Oh and 5 go for it.
     
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  9. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    11,060
    Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    No big deal, we can always swap rings if needed.

    But soldiers behind the fort walls have a significantly longer life expectancy than the ones outside. And if we dig the tunnels up, we would be able to send a part of our forces out regardless.

    Still, I am sold on the plan to stab their wizards in the back and reduce the pressure on the fort if we manage to kill the Shade and dispose of the White Mage, should he decide to come.

    If we don't, though, I think 30 people (or how many are there?) would not be able to do much for us.

    Fine. EDA (D: GEB T: GFB > D: GFB T: GEB) A it is.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2014
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  10. Jester Arbiter

    Jester
    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2013
    Messages:
    1,493
    :whatho:
    Life expectancy? In my non personal meat shields?
    If they get busted its game over for them. I do not expect them to go Derryth slayer spree on outnumbering forces. They are expected to try to find valuable friend and personnel who proven their worth couple times, try to decrease amount of mages who are main danger to fort, make it harder for them to get supply/reinforcements and try to force opposition to spend time/personnel/mana in attempt to deal with our ambush party.

    On bright side they have much better chances to run away from enemy. People in fort will be in do or die situation for whole siege, because mages can interfere with gate spell anchoring if i recall. So from other point of view Derryth and CO are trapped.

    On side note those odd smelling crates can contain the explosive undeads. Wights? I dont recall name and i dont feel like looking.
     
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  11. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
    Joined:
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    11,060
    Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    Yeah, those living bombs are called wights. But I highly doubt it's them. The mice wouldn't be that afraid of the crates if it were so, and it doesn't explain zombie rats.

    Not if we dig up the tunnels, they wouldn't be. If our forces can enter the fort through them, they can also leave that way.

    But I guess we are not leaving, so it's a moot point.
     
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  12. Jester Arbiter

    Jester
    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2013
    Messages:
    1,493
    Emm depends what make them explosive? If its some chemical reactions that would explain that its smell odd part. Combined with rotten flesh smell and unstable ability to explode sound like something to be afraid off. Can be something else to.
     
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  13. Jester Arbiter

    Jester
    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2013
    Messages:
    1,493
    We dont know their layout and would need to spend quite big part of our forces to restore them in reasonable time span. So its unlikely we will do so. And didnt we dump there that big chunk of watcher? Leading there evil archmages might be bad idea.
     
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  14. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
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    Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    It's not like our forces have much to do while the Shade is readying hers for whatever plan she has. We could use this time to explore, and there is a chance the Stoneheim officers know the layout and can navigate the tunnels, though it is highly unlikely.

    No self-respecting evil archmage (or anyone with half a brain, really) would set a foot into a tunnel to pursue dwarves. :lol: They know better.
     
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  15. Grimgravy Augur Patron

    Grimgravy
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2013
    Messages:
    3,264
    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire
    Set me to 5: B No.... We're in largely rocky terrain. We're quite far from the target in rodent terms. So they have to tunnel crazy far to avoid any chance of detection. That's just not feasible. Or they have to sneak our explosives overland. I'm guessing it will take more than 1 mouse/rat to transport our bomb. That's hardly inconspicuous. It's a nice idea but the logistics just aren't there. We shouldn't be using our time and resources here.
     
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  16. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    11,060
    Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    The plan was to carry the explosives overland.

    We aren't trying to transport a whole bomb. We are transporting gunpowder or whatever it is the dwarves use to blow things up. If each rat can carry 50g of the stuff, with 13 rats (and 2 hares who can carry even more) we can probably bring in from 5 to 10 kg worth of explosives in a few nights. Then it is just a matter of sneaking the detonation mechanism in - which can be really tiny, since we have already transported the explosive substance separately.

    It's worth a shot, I think.

    It would be easier to teleport the bomb in with a spell, but neither is ready yet, and I am keeping this surprise for the White Mage.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2014
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  17. archaen Arbiter Patron

    archaen
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2014
    Messages:
    621
    Yeah, the plan is to have them hop around the edge of the enemy camp and get fairly close to the tent before tunneling. No need to tunnel out from the keep. If our non line of sight retrieve item spell is working with inanimates we could even have a rat grab the explosives with a charged ring. That could alert the mages though.

    We do need to get the explosives to an easier staging point however. Maybe we can have the Eagles ferry our special explosives out to the Blackrock mercenaries and have their best stealther get them closer to the tent so they don't have to make a massive round trip.
     
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  18. Grimgravy Augur Patron

    Grimgravy
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2013
    Messages:
    3,264
    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire
    Still dont like it.
     
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  19. archaen Arbiter Patron

    archaen
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2014
    Messages:
    621
    The way I look at it is that it costs us nothing to try really. The time Lyssa was going to be working with with the animals hasn't changed. If we don't get it in place before they attack we lose a few kilos of explosives. If for some reason our rodents are detected we lose some rodents which we can replace after the siege. Now if it works, we take out what ever is in the tent and possibly the archmage. We have almost nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
     
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  20. Fangshi Arcane

    Fangshi
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2014
    Messages:
    1,997
    So it turns out a long weekend is not conducive to getting much work done... or getting much time to oneself either...

    Anyway I have some time this evening finally so I will finish typing out the interlude. It should not take more than an hour or two.

    The vote will close tomorrow (sixteen hours) since I am behind by a day right now.

    The update should come within sixteen hours of that if nothing come up but no promises anymore. I am running out of Interlude material to type up.

    Just a final reminder that additional questions have been added to the update since it was first posted. If you want to weigh in on which spells the ladies should keep stored or whether or not to try and blow up the enemy commander you have sixteen hours to do so.

    Current Tally:

    Show Spoiler
    Sunnmøring:
    1.C, 2.B, 3.B, 4. D: x / T: x, 5.x

    archaen:
    1.E, 2.D, 3.A, 4. D: Heal / T: Greater Energy Bolt, 5.A

    Nevill:
    1.E, 2.D, 3.A, 4. D: Greater Energy Bolt / T: Greater Firebolt > D: Greater Firebolt / T: Greater Energy Bolt, 5.A

    Azira:
    1.D, 2.B, 3.A, 4. D: x / T: x, 5.x

    Absinthe:
    1.E, 2.D, 3.A, 4. D: Heal / T: Heal, 5.x

    Grimgravy:
    1.D, 2.B, 3.A, 4. D: Greater? Energy Bolt / T: Heal, 5.B

    asxetos:
    1.A>D, 2.A, 3.A, 4. D: x / T: x, 5.x

    Kz3r0:
    1.E, 2.D, 3.B, 4. D: Greater Firebolt / T: Greater Energy Bolt, 5.A

    Jester:
    1.E, 2.D, 3.A, 4. D: Heal / T: Heal, 5.A

    1. Blackrock Reinforcement:
    A) 1 vote
    B)
    C) 1 vote
    D) 2 votes
    E) 5 votes

    2. Information:
    A) 1 vote
    B) 3 votes
    C)
    D) 5 votes

    3. Demon's Deal
    A) 7 votes
    B) 2 votes

    4. Spell Rings
    Derryth:
    Greater Firebolt - 1 votes
    Heal - 3 votes
    Energy Bolt - 2 votes

    Thaïs' Ring:
    Greater Energy Bolt - 2 votes
    Heal - 3 votes
    Greater Firebolt - 1 vote

    5. Operation: Mole Hill
    A) 4 votes
    B) 1 vote

    Post-Flop:

    1. Blackrock Reinforcement:
    A) 1 vote
    B)
    C) 1 vote
    D) 2 votes
    E) 5 votes

    2. Information:
    A) 1 vote
    B) 3 votes
    C)
    D) 5 votes

    3. Demon's Deal
    A) 7 votes
    B) 2 votes

    4. Spell Rings
    Derryth:
    Greater Firebolt - 2 votes
    Heal - 3 votes
    Energy Bolt - 1 vote

    Thaïs' Ring:
    Greater Energy Bolt - 3 votes
    Heal - 3 votes

    5. Operation: Mole Hill
    A) 4 votes
    B) 1 vote
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2014
    • Brofist Brofist x 2
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  21. Fangshi Arcane

    Fangshi
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2014
    Messages:
    1,997
    Interlude 4: The Golden Empress

    Dozens of voices chant in unison within the vile temple. Their voices carried high into its vaulted roof, they echo out into the darkness that crowds around the dim lime flames of the temple, the first temple to Bahlíal, the Watcher.

    Deep in the heart of the mountains, perched upon the very lip of the Great Devoid. His followers gather to worship his grandeur and bask within his power. A great herd of ghôls gather in silent worship as their priests dance and sing to their patron.

    All are joined in this purpose, all are joined in this worship. Or so the priests say but there are many who crave freedom from their new 'master', many that are willing to seize it and she hopes that they will be ready, for tonight her war begins.

    "Exalted is he who dies in the name of the Master!" the fat little priest screams upon his dais, "All those that serve loyally shall find immortality in His name!"

    It is a line she has heard hundreds of times in the last year alone. They squawk on constantly; those little 'crows', the black robed priests of the Watcher, the Mad Goat of the Fens, Bahl'al or Bahlíal as whim takes him.

    Bastard has far too many names she thinks and none of them are worth the time it takes to say them.

    She is gathered with the other captains, chiefs and shamans of the clans. They stand together in long rows at the base of the priest's platform. A show of solidarity to reinforce the hold the Watcher has on their people.

    From her place she looks out over a sea of faces, young and old, rich and poor, slaves all of them. Slaves of this mage, bought and sold without ever really realizing all they have lost.

    Tonight, that changes.

    The high priest stretches his arms wide, triumphantly he presses on, impressed and absorbed by his own sermon, "Give thanks to Him, all you gathered here in his glory!" he raises a single hand to point at the statue above them, a black monstrosity carved into the very rock of the temple. From what she understands it is a faithful recreation of the man they all serve, a monstrosity from the dim prehistory of the world. He lets the gaze of his herd drift up to the statue and really focus on it for a moment before continuing. He sweats profusely as he dances upon his platform, invoking the power of his cold, dark lord, "Who here would be anything without his glory! Who here would be great! Who here would be powerful! Who here would be free!"

    That is her cue, "Who says we are free now!"

    Instantly the service comes to a screeching halt, the high priest stops short and almost tumbles down the steps of his altar so surprised is he that someone would interrupt him, "What do you mean Servant Nanshe? Our master has freed us from the gods of old. He has freed us from the dwarves. He has-"

    "Enslaved us!" the chieftain exclaims as she mounts the stairs, stalking closer to her prey, "He has bound us! He has confined us! And when the time is right he will cull us! He is a dead thing in love with dead things and there is but one way our service to him will end! He will betray us, he will kill us, and none will remain to remember our deeds, none will remain to mourn us. None, none will remain, even to laugh at our stupidity!"

    The high priest chokes and sputters with rage, "By the Master's will you will be punished, Servant Nanshe!" he reaches into his cloak and draws forth a rod but he has let her get too close. She does not grab at the rod, to do so would be to throw herself into a direct battle of wills with the archmage, a fight she could not hope to win. Instead she grabs the priest by the arm and pulls.

    Ghôls are strong and a ghôl bred and forged in battle is stronger still. The little priest screams and tries to break free but she will have none of it. With a foot on his chest she pulls with all her strength and tears his arm off.

    He falls to the ground crying as she pitches the rod across the room, "Where is your master, priest! Where are his dark powers! Where is his greatness! Will he save you! No, you will die and none will remember you, none will mourn you, none will even revile you."

    She spits at the prone priest, then reaching low she grabs his great, long head in both hands and she pulls.

    The remaining priests race for the exits as she gives her signal.

    Still with the priest's head in hands she works her spell, an old one, invaluable to life in the desert. It begins to rain, for the first time in an age water touches the stone in this deep cavern, it snuffs out the green flames and plunges the room into utter darkness.

    Her people must first be shown how far they have fallen. Far from the waters of the great southern river, far from the light of the sun and the moon, far from their homes. They are nothing, they are the dead and like the dead they must pass through the cold, uncaring, filthy earth.

    The herd weeps, it quails, it screams but she will not leave them in the dark. She will lead them back to the light.

    Her second spell strikes the Watcher's statue, again and again she hammers it with lightning until it splits in two and collapses to the ground killing a few unlucky priests as it does so.

    As she lights the chamber with silver and gold rays her soldiers sweep in with long crooked blades and deadly crossbows. They massacre the priests but they are also careful to let a few get away.

    She turns back to the herd, no, not a herd, not any longer, a pack, her pack, and raising the head of the high priest in the air she pitches the priest's head into the crowd. A few of the younger pups scurry away from it but one young hunter picks up the head and howls in triumph.

    Slowly they begin to chant her name and the names of the Old Gods.

    Her little stage show has won over the people but their leaders will require a different approach.

    Her fellow chiefs simply watch her in horror.

    "Nanshe, you have killed us all," Ninhursag speaks for the group, she slowly circles Nanshe.

    "Perhaps if we kill her the Watcher's Creature will spare us," mutters old Nammu.

    "Yes, we should hang her and cut her head from her shoulders," whispers solemn Irkalla.

    They begin to encircle her but she does not move. Like it or not she needs their support for this to work, to Ninhursag she speaks, her voice burning with her conviction, "If this," she gestures about the dim cavern, "If this is life. Then what do we fear. It is no better than the dark halls of the dead. If you can not see that then strike me down and damn yourselves, your sons, your daughters, to this fate forever. If you want something better then join with me and help me destroy this man who believes himself a god."

    The assembled lords seem shaken, perhaps, just perhaps they will follow her. A thin, bent ghôl ambles up to her, Enki, the greatest of them and the one she will have to impress. He shows only the slightest hint of concern, "Young Nanshe, you would lead us but how can we fight a war when our enemy knows our exact location at all times? How can our armies fight with us there to betray them? And if we stay, how will our armies fight without chiefs to lead them, without shamans to guide them? They will be lost, we will be lost, and we will die all the same."

    The young chief smiles, great lips pulled back over perfect fangs, "I can hide us from the Creature and his hounds. In fact if you will all play along I can demonstrate my power in, oh, three minutes or so."

    The chiefs nod, they will give her this one chance.

    ------------------------------------------

    The hound bounds, rolls, leaps down the corridors of the compound.

    One of the Master's toys has misbehaved, it must be killed, such slights will not be tolerated, and it must be done in front of the rest of the herd lest the servants decide to follow this traitor to their damnation.

    It spins around the corner, steadies itself with a free talon and begins sprinting again. It builds speed as it charges and slams through the main doors of the temple. The servants scream and cower before it. Tiny little beasts unworthy of its attention. It twists and rolls across the room, claws, paws, talons and fins cycling beneath it as it spins forward and slithers up the to the corpse of the dead priest.

    It sniffs the air, scans the room, it can feel each of the little leaders around it. Each clicks in the back of its mind but none are a match. None are the traitor. It circles the room slowly, did it flee? Could it have run so far, so fast? Such things should be impossible. None can escape the Master's hounds, none can escape it.

    It weaves through the arches of the temple, it springs from enclave to enclave, it peeks behind stairs, it scatters the crowd time and again and it finds nothing.

    Only the barest scent of the target but hardly enough to sniff it out.

    If only it could-

    ---------------------------------------

    She is only going to have one shot at this but she knows exactly how she wants to do this.

    It took her hours to set up the contingencies, acquire the components, and prepare her apprentice but she is certain it will work.

    After all it worked on her.

    She spreads her arms and lets the wind take her.

    ----------------------------------------

    Why didn't it sense the traitor?

    It lies bleeding on the ground, dying. Is it dying? Yes. Yes it is dying and such things should not even be possible.

    It racks its mind, trying to determine what went wrong.

    One moment it was stalking along, searching for a scent and then- ah, and then the wind had picked up, a foul wind had pushed its way into the hound's nostrils.

    At first it had thought that, that was the plan. To confound it, ruin it and allow the prey to escape. It had not thought for even a moment that it would be an attack.

    Then the traitor hit it. Fire and iron slamming into its back. The first blow broke one of its spines and rendered a set of legs paralyzed. The second blow seared off a claw. The third splattered a tentacle and the blows simply kept coming.

    It tried to fight back, tried to ward off this colossal iron warrior but to no avail.

    It was beaten, from the very first moment, it was beaten.

    All it feels as it slips into darkness is curiosity. How did its prey hide? Why did it have to die?

    -----------------------------------------

    She stands over the broken creature, coated in blue fluids and gore, "I can fight them, I can fight Him, and I can win! Join me! Join me and we can win!"

    The assembled leaders push through the throng, "You can hide from them. You can beat them," they whisper to one another.

    Enki steps forward, leaning on his great staff, "Well, young Nanshe perhaps you have what it takes to be our Warleader."

    She grins, "Not your Warleader. That position has done our people more harm than good. The age of a single despot lording over his or her followers is over," she turns, making a slow circle, basking in the attention of the crowd, "Ghôls are meant to be free! I will not rule over you as some petty tyrant! I will not break you! I will not have you trade one master for another! I will lead you as the first amongst equals! I will lead you as your Empress!"

    A great cheer comes up from the crowd and most of the chiefs and shamans nod to one another before saluting her.

    Old Enki merely smirks and leans in to embrace her, "I have been to the human lands girl. I know all too well what an 'Empress' really is. A permanent Warleader."

    She whispers back as her hand moves to her knife, "And what do you have to say to that."

    He grabs her hand, looks her in the eyes and grins, "It is exactly what our people need to be great again."

    He turns to the assembled lords, "All hail Nanshe! True servant of the Golden Ones! The first Empress of the Ghôls! Nanshe the Golden Empress!"

    The call goes up as her people, unified, begin their rebellion.

    Not a moment too soon either, in the distance she swears she can hear screaming.

    -----------------------------------

    No stars, no moon, only darkness. The sort of darkness that haunts the imagination of a man, the sort of darkness that conjures up all sorts of apparitions and horrors before the mind's eye. The darkness of childhood, a fear diminished by age and yet always ready to flare back to life.

    At least that is how she sees it but she seems to be the only one. So she hides in her wagon and tends to her child, dear little thing, "We are going to go see daddy, darling."

    She gurgles happily in response, somewhere between waking and sleep, secure in her mother's arms.

    "Cass! More ale!" the caravan master bellows into the night.

    She sighs, "Sweetie, I have to go for a second. I will be right back. I promise."

    The child murmurs and gurgles as she wraps it in a fur and slips out of the wagon.

    The Caravan Master is thin for a dwarf with a large hooked nose and sharp eyes. He is a hard man and expects all to pull their weight but she thinks fondly of him anyway.

    Few would have taken her in as he has, fewer still would expect so little in return.

    She tends to the men, cooks their meals, and mends the odd piece of clothing but they do not lay a hand on her. Last man to try ate the Master's sword for his troubles.

    She skirts the great campfires that dot their encampment. A few meagre sparks of light against the seemingly eternal darkness of this night.

    She shakes her head, this feels wrong. Camping out in the open like this. It invites disaster.

    Not that they have a choice really.

    The last outpost had been levelled and the one before it looked like a strong breeze could knock it over.

    Not surprising then that the Master elected to push on.

    Still, this darkness feels unnatural, like she is being watched.

    She tries to shake the feeling, just get to the ale wagon, get the next barrel, get it to the Master, then get back to her baby.

    She quickens her pace and feels just slightly stupid for doing so.

    She reaches the wagon, she rolls down the next barrel and begins to roll it back toward the fires.

    As the light builds around her, her fears dissipate, tricks of her mind and nothing more she sighs in relief.

    The Master smiles at her and waves, "Good, Cass. We were just running out and I need another drink if I am going to believe half the shit Flea is sayin'."

    Flea, perhaps the shortest dwarf she has ever seen snorts, "I am tellin' ya boss. I fought a Trow once! Would ha won too if the big ol' coward had not run off!"

    The guards gathered round the great fire burst into a chorus of deep, rolling laughter.

    The master joins them, "Sure boy. I believe ya'. Hell, we all believe ya!"

    Flea hops to his feet and rakes the group with a furious glance, "It's true I tell ya! I am a master fighter! I am the stealthiest, the most dangerous, the most lethal an' the quickest motherfucker ya ever se-"

    In an instant the laughter stops.

    Flea gags and looks down at his chest. He looks down at the sliver of metal poking out from between the ribs. His eyes water, "I don't wanna die..."

    The little dwarf pitches forward into the fire as a wave of howling laughter pours in from the dark.

    The Master is on his feet, as are his men, "Back to the wagon Cass!"

    She remains frozen to the spot, her eyes fixated on Flea's burning, twitching body.

    "Cass! Back to the wagon!" he shouts again.

    She just barely hears his words.

    The wagon, her child, she remembers and she runs for it.

    Behind her she hears the low thud of arrows, the screams of dying men and laughter from the dark.

    Leaping figures dance along the edges of the firelight. Long arms carry them along at a quick pace as they close with the remaining guards.

    So many of them, there are just so many of them. The thought races through her mind but she pushes it down, she just has to get to the wagon.

    The wagon is close now, just a little farther and she will be there.

    One of the beasts leaps over a cart and comes to a skidding stop in front of her.

    It raises its curved, cruel blade over its head.

    On instinct alone she jumps out of the way and slips under the wagon.

    The creature is after her in a instant. It grabs her by the boot and pulls.

    Frantic she reaches out for a handhold, a weapon, anything.

    She grabs a stone and as it pulls her out with all its might she turns and swings.

    They are both surprised by the outcome.

    The stone comes up and the beast goes down.

    She is on it before it hits the ground.

    She swings that sharp, heavy stone, over and over again she drives it into the creature's face until their is little left but a puddle of pulp and bone shards.

    She almost faints from the sight of it, but the fear, the sheer terror she feels and the thought of her daughter pushes her on.

    She grabs the creature's blade and slips into her wagon.

    With her child in one arm and the blade extended in the other she huddles in the dark.

    She does not cry, she does not make a single sound, as slowly the sounds of battle disappear.

    She can hear someone moving outside the wagon. She can feel the wagon moving as well.

    Maybe they won? Maybe the Caravan Master and his guards won and now they are leaving? But why has no one come to find her then?

    Slowly she edges toward the side of the wagon and carefully lifts the canvas.

    She sees a long arm and a cruel, curved blade.

    Silently she shifts back to the center of the wagon.

    She contemplates jumping out of the wagon, running off into the desert with her child.

    Can she outrun them? Probably not.

    That creature that leapt into her path was far faster than she is.

    Can she fight them? Definitely not.

    It was only luck and that beast's carelessness that saw her to victory earlier. Against a pack of them, a group strong enough to kill the Master and his guards, she stands little chance.

    So she waits, for what seems like an age.

    ----------------------------------------------

    Noise builds in the distance.

    The sound of many wagons, the sound of many feet and the sound of people. Bruig, Dwarven and something else, lower and darker that she can not place. Probably the sounds of these creatures.

    She hears weeping, she hears praying, she hears screaming but she also hears laughter, she hears joy and roars of victory.

    Once more she hazards a peek.

    Before her is a city of canvas and rope, pitched before a temple of red stone.

    From every direction come groups much like her own. War parties dragging back prisoners for some unknown but likely diabolical purpose.

    As they near this 'city' her group falls into line, joining a grand parade down the largest avenue in the massive encampment.

    Crowds gather outside the tents. Small beasts, likely children, jump and cheer with their elders watching on. The warriors wave and shake their weapons, some even begin to sing in their vile tongue and soon the entire city is filled with song almost drowning out the weeping of the prisoners.

    The impossibility of escape hits her then and she barely chokes back a sob.

    All this noise finally wakes her child and the little girl begins to cry, "Hush now darling. You have to be quiet, please be quiet."

    Desperately she tries to silence the child but to no avail.

    The sounds of this parade and the other prisoners go a long way towards masquerading her presence but it is only a matter of time till someone hears her daughter.

    Tiny fingers slip under the canvas of her wagon and slowly raise it.

    A hideous little face stares at her in awe.

    "Oh please, please. Just go away. Don't say anything please," she begs quietly.

    The little beast howls and dozens of fingers slip under the canvas.

    Great fists seize upon the fabric.

    She screams.

    ----------------------------------------

    The High Temple of Šauška. One of the greatest of the Old Gods worshiped by the ghôls and a bloody one as well.

    "How long do we have to do this for?" Nanshe has precious little patience for ritual when there are practical matters to attend to. They have wasted days looking for a sign that will never come.

    "We must do this until the gods show us favour," Enki wags a finger at her, "You know our ways child."

    The assembled priests crowd toward her throne and express their agreement vociferously.

    "Oh very well," she waves dismissively, "Just get this over with."

    A pair of priests exit the room while their fellow clear off the altar. Chunks of dwarf and man are swept away while three large ghôls with ebony brushes set to work cleaning the sacrificial instruments.

    Having the favour of the gods may seem nice in theory but Nanshe is well aware that in practice they tend to do very little.

    Some days she is certain they are not even there at all, though her spell, her Nightmare, would seemingly put the lie to that.

    The priests return dragging a human woman by the hair, a great mop of auburn curls, in her arms is an infant child.

    Gods, human children are even more ugly than the adults are.

    The woman kicks and screams at the priests as they tear at her simple dress and attempt to take the child. The child screams as well and bites at the priests.

    Nanshe shifts uncomfortably in her throne, "Should you not have done this before you brought her in?"

    "Y- Yes Empress," one of the acolytes stutters an apology, "We have just been having such problems with this one. It hid in one of our supply wagons and even murdered a fine young warrior."

    Nanshe cocks an eyebrow at that, "That," she points at the screaming woman, "That woman killed a ghôl warrior?"

    One of the more senior priests nods, "Yes, it was found with his scimitar, seventy two notches it had!"

    The rest of the shamans mutter amongst themselves.

    "But don't worry Empress," he bows low, "We shall have it subdued momentarily."

    Nanshe watches in silence. Something about that woman, the way she struggles for life is strangely compelling. Perhaps it is as simple as her hair colour, maybe it is something more fundamental, her spirit or something. Hell, maybe it is just the fact that Nanshe has not slept in four days, anyway she cuts it though there is something about this woman that piques the Ghôl Empress' curiosity.

    The Golden Empress leans forward, her fine, strong jaw resting delicately on one great hand, "Bring her here."

    Enki whispers in her ear, "Nanshe, the ritual."

    She rolls her eyes and gives a most unladylike snort, for one moment merely a person and not an empress, quietly she offers her retort, "Then get someone else. I want to talk with this 'murderer', then maybe if she bores me, you and your priests can sacrifice her or something."

    Enki mutters to himself but gives the order. For now the woman and her child will be spared.

    --------------------------------------

    They drag her to the throne, at first she fights but quickly she realizes that they are leading her away from the altar and stops.

    They release her with a parting shove and shuffle off to find a new sacrifice.

    Cautiously she eyes the group before her.

    Four large beasts stand upon a raised platform. Their long and powerful limbs wrapped round in simple leather and iron armour. They treat her with a mixture of disdain and disgust.

    Above them and behind them are an additional two figures. One wears but a simple red robe and leans upon a great old staff of twisted black wood. The second is dressed in finery, a long and surprisingly elegant black dress covers her inhuman form. A great crown of gold rests upon her brow, she leans forward, her head resting on one massive white hand as she scrutinizes Cassandra with her deep red eyes. She is the only being in the room that does not pour hatred upon her.

    The creature on the throne gestures at her and gives a command in its dark tongue. One of its, guards perhaps, steps forward and tries to take her child.

    Naturally she resists as the child continues to scream.

    Then something happens that she never expected.

    It speaks to her, in near perfect Dwarven it speaks to her, "Please, let me see your child."

    She is not sure what she expected but it was not that and in her shock the guard snatches up her baby. Instantly she is upon him.

    "Stop!" the creature on the throne demands and all three of them, the guard, Cassandra and her child instantly halt.

    For a second she wonders if perhaps all the creatures can understand Dwarven but quickly the leader lapses back into her incomprehensible tongue. The guard adjusts his hold on the child, showing far greater care now as the figure on the throne turns her attention back to Cassandra, "Please let go of my soldier."

    She does so as the guard brings the child up to the throne and carefully hands her over. Curiously the creature begins to coo and rock the child, for the first time since the attack her daughter giggles and gurgles happily.

    It looks up at her, "Do you understand my words human?"

    "Yes," her reply comes slowly but calmly though she remains terrified. All that hiding, all that fighting, maybe she just does not have it in her to cower anymore.

    "Brave girl," the creature mutters, "Do you know who you are speaking to?"

    "No," the answer comes quickly now, something about this creature is reassuring. It has a certain relaxed aura about it that puts Cassandra at ease.

    "My name is Nanshe," the creature informs her with a slight smile.

    Cass squints at the creature rocking her child. The name sound familiar but- she gasps, "The Butcher."

    The creature grins, "That is what some call me yes, but I am also known as the Hand of Justice and now as the Golden Empress," she pauses for a moment and wags a single long finger before her daughter's mouth, "One person's monster is another's hero and things are rarely if ever that simple. But I have no wish to talk about myself, what I want to talk about is you."

    "What do you want to know," Cass responds cautiously, doing her best to conceal the concern she feels for her daughter.

    "Well for starters who are you?" the creature, a ghôl if what she says is true, gently bounces Cass' daughter in her lap, the kid merrily laughs.

    "No one," Cass replies, "Absolutely no one of any importance."

    The ghôl shakes her head, "Everyone is someone to someone. If you tell me that you are no one then no one will miss you when you are gone and I may as well turn you over to my priests."

    At the mention of her priests another victim is pulled in screaming and driven to the altar.

    Nanshe snaps her fingers, drawing Cass' gaze back to the throne, "I would not look at that if I were you. It will get rather messy and you have more important things to worry about. So I ask again, who are you?"

    "Just, just the wife of a clerk in Myrgard," she drops her gaze, "We were going to visit him."

    Nanshe nods sympathetically, "Poor time to be on the roads."

    Cass smiles weakly, "Yes, that is what they told me."

    Nanshe rocks the child slowly, "So, you are 'just the wife of a clerk', hmm, so then am I correct in assuming that you can read and write Dwarven?"

    Cass nods.

    Nanshe grins widely, "And can you speak and read Bruig, being a human I imagine you can?"

    Again she nods.

    "Good," she give a slight nod, "What is your name?"

    "Cass, er, Cassandra. But everyone calls me Cass," the woman answers with a slight shrug, "Why do you want to know all this?"

    The prisoner screams behind her, Nanshe stares over her shoulder, frowns and gestures for her priests to retrieve another prisoner.

    Cass swallows slowly, "Why, why are you doing this?"

    The ghôl merely smiles, "Well Cass, one final question. You were found in possession of a weapon belonging to an honoured brave. Did you kill him?"

    Cass begins to answer, to deny it, but stops short as Nanshe wraps on great hand around the child's neck. For the moment she is merely supporting the back of her head but one twist and...

    The ghôl speaks, "This is an important question. I want the truth, complete and absolute. Did you kill my brave?"

    She hesitates, sweat beading on her forehead. She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath and answers, "Yes."

    "How," Nanshe presses, her tone flat.

    "A, a rock," she shakes slightly, not for herself but for her daughter, "He was pulling on my leg and I grabbed a rock and I swung, and I swung, and I swung until he was dead."

    "What were you thinking of when you did it?" Nanshe slides to the edge of her throne as Cass opens her eyes.

    "What?" the woman replies in surprise, "What was I thinking?"

    With a thin smile the ghôl nods, "What were you thinking of when you murdered one of my braves?"

    "I, my, my daughter," she clenches her fist, "I had to make it back, I had to do whatever I could to win."

    Nanshe relaxes her grip on the child and leans back in her throne. She stares down at the child and once more begins rocking her slightly, "Then you have answered your own question. The ghôlish people are my children and I will do all that you see here and more to protect them. In truth I do not believe in these rituals but they do and so I will indulge them a little now so that I can demand of them service in the future. They will serve willingly and from their service will grow a grand empire in the south to rival even that of the Cath Bruig."

    Such a declaration sounds insane but Cass has no response. It is all so much bigger than she is, it is all so unreal, she just wants to go home and she tells Nanshe so, "Please, please just let my daughter and I go."

    "Can't do that I am afraid," the Empress shakes her head slowly, "Not after what you have seen."

    Cass blanches, "You, you aren't going to kill us are you?"

    The ghôl has to think about that for a moment, "No, no I suppose I won't. I won't kill you, but I can not free you either. What I will do is employ you."

    Now that truly is insane, "Employ me?"

    Nanshe grins as the idea takes hold, "Yes, I think I shall employ you. I need a maid and a clerk for myself. Perhaps you can even teach me Bruig, it would not sit well if the Empress of the South could not speak the common tongue of men now would it?"

    "I, I suppose," Cass begins, bewildered.

    "Excellent," Nanshe grins at the child, then at Cassandra. She rises from her throne and issues orders to her courtiers. They grumble but she ignores them, "Come with me and we will get you settled in your new quarters immediately."

    As she follows her new employer from the room she tries to protest, "But, my husband in Myrgard."

    Nanshe slips an arm around her and leads her towards the stairs, "Now, now Cass. Do not fret, we shall reunite you with your husband when I take Myrgard."

    "Take Myrgard? But you would have to destroy the Dwarven Kingdom to do that!" the clerk replies in shock as her employer pushes her onward.

    "Exactly my dear," Nanshe continues without breaking stride, "The Dwarven Kingdom rests in the very heart of ancient ghôl lands. My empire will not be complete until it is gone."

    Cass' head spins, "But, but how? What will you do? How far will you go?"

    Nanshe stops and with a grin and a wink replies, "Well, just watch me."
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2014
    • Brofist Brofist x 4
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  22. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    11,060
    Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    To quote Baltika9,
    :bravo:
    Yay us.

    The resurrection of Mazzarin, the release of the Faceless, and now this. The world is sooo fucked. :lol:

    Sorry, Nanny, but I think you'll have to relocate your Empire elsewhere. Can't let you have all our money.

    Still, a nice hook for Chapter 3 if we ever live through the current one.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2014
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  23. Azira Arcane Patron

    Azira
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2004
    Messages:
    8,175
    Location:
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Codex 2012
    Yeah, Nanshe needs to be put in her place at some time. Then again, with the archmages so far on the loose, Derryth has her hands full.

    Now we just need to free TWM from the Watcher, and set him to battling Nanshe, and the confusion is complete. :lol:
     
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  24. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    11,060
    Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    If Grimgravy reverses his vote on the spells, we will get exactly what he is voting for - one ring with the Greater Energy Bolt, and one with Heal - instead of a tie. Who gets which ring is hardly important, as we never separate with Thais and can swap rings as we see fit.
     
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  25. Kipeci Magister

    Kipeci
    Joined:
    May 22, 2012
    Messages:
    2,932
    Location:
    Vicksburg
    Ah, think of the value we could have had...
     
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