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Alumnus Post
Dec 29, 2009

They are weird and troubling. We owe it to our neighbors to kill them.


Pillbug

SERENITY
A huge white fierce snake bars the way! Wait, no; that's you, and you're not barring anyone's way. What you are is in the way, of a righteously pissed-off colony of chuul who just had a holy hand-grenade lobbed into their feeding grounds, and one of the survivors is sniffing around to make a meal out of you.

Your play-dead strategy doesn't fool this one in the slightest. Could be that you're still too blood-warm with living heat; could be your body's natural thaumoelectric field; could be just that chuulob don't mind dead prey. Whatever the cause, you're forced to abandon your disguise as the monster closes on you. You wriggle out of a delicate pincer-grip and flee blindly downwards for shelter, a hungry chuul hot on your tail!
Chuulob certainly qualify as Creatures Unusual. Maybe your bardic lore will help prevent this one from eating your face.

You fly from darkness into deeper darkness, adrenalin and frazzled nerves giving your escape an edge of desperate speed. Bonk -- your head cracks hard against a wide rough flatness, and there, a corner -- you dart into the cranny just in the nick of time. Fruitlessly you hunt for a pocket of air in the drowned structure. Your head's crammed up against its sheet metal ceiling, way back in the far top corner - maybe a restroom, an outbuilding, hard to tell without good light -- and the square-paned window opening you slipped in through is much too small for the pursuing chuul, try though it might to thrust its massive claw in after you to pluck you out. It swiftly changes tactics, and you hear metal grinding and screeching above you -- it's going to pull the roof off and come in after you, and then...there's going to be a feast.

You're not stunned anymore, but your breath won't last forever. What do you do?

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Shardix
Sep 14, 2011

The end! No moral.


Serenity
HP 20/20 | Armor 2 | Load 1/9 | XP 15/14

It was cramped in here - uncomfortably so. Whatever this structure was, it was not built to accommodate twenty feet of elf-snake. Hands braced against the walls, the bard watched the window warily. Most of her gear was back in the sled, not that any of it would help much. She still had Ramona's knife at least.

As she waited for a probing claw to investigate the entrance, a metallic tearing sound came from above.

Clever bastard.

Drawing the knife, she scrunched down as much as she could and readied herself for a fight. She thought back to her schooling and tried to recall what she knew of these creatures. They were crustaceans. They'd have thick armor and strength to spare. Even so, there must be a weak point.

Bardic Lore: What should I aim for to incapacitate a Chuul long enough to escape?

Alumnus Post
Dec 29, 2009

They are weird and troubling. We owe it to our neighbors to kill them.


Pillbug

SERENITY
Go for the eyestalks, or the base of an antenna cluster. You'll have to be quick and precise: Defy Danger (+DEX or +INT) to get your opening. Take +1 forward to act on this knowledge. What do you do?

Shardix
Sep 14, 2011

The end! No moral.


Serenity
HP 20/20 | Armor 2 | Load 1/9 | XP 15/14

Serenity willed her heart to slow, trying to conserve her air as much as possible. It was easier said than done. If there ever came a day where she could face danger with a calm heart, it would not be today.

As the roof was finally torn free she lunged. Her body uncoiled like a spring, aiming for a gap to escape the Chuul's trap. As she cut through the water, her knife lashed out towards an eyestalk - that ought to keep it distracted for long enough.

Defy Danger by...acting fast (+DEX): 2d6+1 14

slydingdoor
Oct 26, 2010

Are you in or are you out?

Ramona
18/26-1 HP; 4/14 XP; 1 Armor; 5/11 Load, Scarred
I got on overwatch climbing on buildings and in mangrove branches. Just like they hold down the soil from the eroding sea I'm holding back the chuul with darts. Fixing the problems the Bombardans brought on themselves, and loudly swearing so they know it. The invoice I sound out isn't worth the paper it's printed on, of course, but the principle is that they owe me. Not my crew, they're Bran's.

1d8+1d6+1 volley herc app = (6)+(6)+1 = 13
1d10 mf damage = (4) = 4

Shardix
Sep 14, 2011

The end! No moral.




Serenity hauled the sled onward, muscles straining at the weight. It bothered her not at all. Nor did the idea of being a pack mule for the Bombardens. To serve was a joy, and the only regret she held was that it was too risky to raise her voice in song right now. It would bolster spirits and ease the journey, but the risk was simply too high. Instead, she offered Ramona a kind smile before dipping her head respectfully.

"Ramona. I wished to speak with you, if I may." She paused a moment to collect her words, the smile slowly fading as her demeanor shifted. "I am deeply ashamed of my hurtful words. Of castigating you for your choices. I have no right to judge. If you can forgive me, I wish only to know what I may do to earn that forgiveness. Regardless, I wish you to know. I am here for you if you need me. I am probably not the woman you wish I was, and it is likely I can never entirely become that woman. But I promise I will try to be good enough."

slydingdoor
Oct 26, 2010

Are you in or are you out?

Ramona
18/26-1 HP; 4/14 XP; 1 Armor; 5/11 Load, Scarred
Nothing surprises me. What is this?

They're just words. Just words. Been telling myself about her words.

–Spare me the waterworks–

Ones like those have been coming back to me like waves on the shore, suddenly the tide's out. That doesn't mean she's earned the right to see my saltwater again though. I can't let her wipe the slate clean just by blurring my eyes. I know it's been scratched. She'll need time, sweat and oil, to brush with the grain until the gouges come out. "You've told me. Show me I mean something to you, keep showing me, and ask me again later." I blink hard and turn away. drat forked tongue can probably smell tears, what's the point. "And the feeling's mutual. I wasn't bluffing when I said I could take care of you and keep you safe, even though circumstances have changed a little into a snake."

How can I be there for your needs?

I need some air, I look around for something to climb. A vantage point, a sniper's nest, where I can see what approaches instead of this drat guessing. Hoping.

Alumnus Post
Dec 29, 2009

They are weird and troubling. We owe it to our neighbors to kill them.


Pillbug

SERENITY
Quick as a (ha, ha) striking snake, your knife-arm flashes out and lops an eyestalk clean off the attacking chuul. It spasms in agony and rears away in a tangle of disorganized limbs -- the coppery tang of chuul blood abruptly flavors the waters. You seize the opportunity and shoot surface-ward as fast as your threshing tail will carry you.
You struck a vulnerable spot. Deal your damage, ignoring armor.

At last your head breaks the surface with a splash -- air, blessed air! You emerge into a blooming skirmish: Ramona on high, providing covering fire to a knot of capsized Bombardans in a flat-out dash for their hover-sled transport; Branwen and Kaude still in the water; two Bombardans still unaccounted for, and Nori.

Your own personal predator may, of course, be along again shortly -- unless you either stab it in the brainpan or be on your way post-haste. But for a little while, nothing is menacing you.
What do you do?

* * *

RAMONA
Your target prudently declines to present any soft underbits to your volley of well-aimed death. Nevertheless, your flashing flechettes embed themselves in the chuul's thick dorsal plating, leaving it looking like it's just suplexed a porcupine. Beads of dark blood well up from the puncture-marks closest to a joint or a thin spot. Looks like that chitin is thick enough to stop flechette shots cold, unless you get it at a weak spot or find a place it doesn't protect. The creature chitters and hisses, coiling into a tight protective ball under your fire, abandoning for the moment its pursuit of fresh prey.

The capsized Bombardans, ever resourceful, seize the opportunity to dog-paddle frantically back to their hoversled, where Bigjob and Eithlinn have managed to hold on, and (between the two of them) wrestled some sort of clumsy control out of the lumbering machine. It sinks wheezily down to touch the swamp surface, and the bedraggled acolytes clamber aboard.

You'll claim no kill this time, huntress; but those Bombardans still bought themselves enough time to get away. Five saved; two left, Branwen and Kaude can handle themselves...and where in the high holy gently caress is Nori?
What you do now?

* * *

BRANWEN
Well, this certainly bloomed into a pleasant little mess, didn't it? Everyone's scattered, split up like grenade shrapnel. Fortunately not literal shrapnel -- that honor is as yet preserved for the two chuulob you've blown to kingdom come.

Strangely, the creatures don't keep coming as you'd expect - the two pursuing you turn with a flip of lobsterlike plated tail-ends and beat a hasty retreat, vanishing into the murky depths. Kaude moves just as quickly, darting minnow-swift for the flaking corpse of a long-dead ornamental tree. They swarm up the branch like a gecko, clutching a purloined chemlight (where did they get that?!) in their teeth, and don't stop until they're a good six feet above the water. In its pale green glimmer you can see the thief's chest heaving in and out like a bellows. Their eyes are white-rimmed and dilated - huge with fear.

That thief was bold enough to rob from Scrimshaw. What in this or any other hell could have them so afraid?

And do you really want to stick around to find out?
What do you do?

Alumnus Post fucked around with this message at Aug 9, 2018 around 14:03

Shardix
Sep 14, 2011

The end! No moral.


Serenity
HP 20/20 | Armor 2 | Load 1/9 | XP 15/14

Damage: 1d6 1

The bard streaked past her foe, her arm lashing out to strike at the chull as she went. As she broke the surface, her eyes darted about as she took stock of the situation. Things were hectic but they were not being routed, thank Nashira. Raising an arm, she made a series of quick hand signals to Ramona. Enemy behind; going to secure the clerics.

Taking a deep breath, she dove once more, sinuously cutting through the water as she tried to spot the two Bombardens that had not managed to regroup yet.

ArkInBlack
Mar 22, 2013


Branwen McAlister
HP 20/20 | Armor 1 | XP 11/12 | Load 4/12
Spells: Light[ ] Sanctify[ ] Guidance[ ] CLW[ ]
Bless[ ] Cause Fear[ ] Magic Weapon[ ] Speak W/ Dead[ ]
Boom[ ]


Branwen's feet find purchase and she drags herself splashing to her feet. Her outstretches her hand towards the fleeing creatures, crying out "Bask in Bombarda's echoing glory!" and a small mote of radiant light zips forth from her palm, leaving a small trail of smoke behind as it spirals towards the retreating beasts. As it nears, it flares up, increasing in both brightness and pace, smoke trail now a trail of furious flames. In the blink of an eye it darts and circles each of the animals before colliding with the side of a clattering claw. In a second blink the trail of flames exploding, peals of Bombarda's thunderous rapture blasting apart the creatures and splashing water in every direction.

SidekickBOT @ArkInBlack: 2d6+2 Cast-A-Spell = (4+5)+2 = 11
SidekickBOT @ArkInBlack: 2d6 BoomDamage = (6+5) = 11

Alumnus Post
Dec 29, 2009

They are weird and troubling. We owe it to our neighbors to kill them.


Pillbug

BRANWEN
There's no escaping your wrath for these clawing monstrosities. Your Goddess' thundering majesty streaks from your palms, a pair of dazzling comets that light the swamps of Silver-home with a darting radiance as bright as day. The bare-limbed shadows of treebranches dance starkly over the walls of the workhouse ahead.

The chuulob can't stand the glare. They chitter and wail, swatting uselessly at the motes of radiance. One of them strikes its onrushing death with an outstretched claw, and in an eyeblink the swamps are once more host to a choral symphony of thunderous noise, hurtling body-parts, and glaring light.

The unfortunate chuul who struck the blast head-on receives a merciful end: rendered swiftly into a gritty wave of pulp, it had no time to feel pain. The other one, blown into two ragged halves and an arterial gout of hemolymph, is not so lucky. You feel the blast like a hammerblow against your armor.

Strange hissing and popping noises come from inside the derelict workhouse as your light slants into the broken windows. The thief screams - the first noise you've heard them make, an inarticulate wail of grief and rage. Abandoning all pretense of safety or silence, they spring from their perch like a hunting cat, hit the water in a graceless belly-flop, and dive.

What, exactly, did you just do?

SERENITY
The Bombardans are easy enough to find: just wait for the humongous kaboom, then swim towards all the splashing and swearing. These two have somehow gotten completely turned around - if it hadn't been for Branwen's hooning great road flare just now, they might well have gone off into the dark like lost sheep.

"YEEAAARGH!!" One of them starts violently as you come up behind him. "FU--" --he turns, panic in his eyes, only to see that it's just you. "Thought you were one o' them things," he pants. "Lead th' way."

RAMONA
A silent prayer for Branwen's proclivity for explosions: as long as you know when they're coming, you've got plenty of light to scan the surroundings by. More light here in the last few minutes than the whole neighborhood's seen since the Sink. It's enough to see -- at least for a bit -- quite a ways out.

The swamps stretch on interminably, broken only by the reachings of sunken trees, stands of plant or fungal life, or the tumbled wrecks of buildings from before the Sink. You can't even see the edge of the dome from here, but you can see out to your ostensible destination. Maybe an eighth mile ahead, a miserly clumping of electric lights sits enwrapped in the pale green gloom of glowing fungi. Silver-home district square. Or whatever's left of it.

One thing, one person, you don't see. Nori. No sign of her, no signal, not even a floating glowstick to mark her passing. She's gone. Drowned? Lost? Eaten by a chuul? You could search, of course; either for her, or at least to find some closure. Call a halt, set up a dive platform. It'd be little different from diving for pearls...

Shardix
Sep 14, 2011

The end! No moral.


Serenity
HP 20/20 | Armor 2 | Load 1/9 | XP 15/14

"My apologies." As the pair calmed down from the start she gave them, Serenity seized them by their upper arms and turned the group around towards the hoversled. With a flick of her tail, she sped off towards the rest of the group, forcing herself to clear the distance as swiftly as possible.

Alumnus Post
Dec 29, 2009

They are weird and troubling. We owe it to our neighbors to kill them.


Pillbug

BRANWEN

quote:

@ArkInBlack: 2d6+2 Discern Realities = (3+2)+2 = 7
- What's about to happen here?

You look upon the destruction you've wrought and its likely consequences, ears still pleasantly ringing with the echoes of Bombarda's thundering majesty. The chuulob will trouble you and yours no more, if indeed they ever had a mind to trouble you at all. The few survivors are already fleeing, battered and bruised, and four among their number will flee no more.

A boil of furious activity suddenly erupts around the bifurcated corpse of your most recent kill. The water churns and roils madly - the fleshy mass bobs, upends itself, and slips beneath the surface. Bright lights and flashes were a signal, apparently - if the words of that damned thief are to be believed, a signal to some ill-defined "help[ers]" with the meaning of "OK."

So, this naturally begs the question: what exactly was it that all your lights and flashing noise just signaled to? It seems that evidently your signal has communicated "turn anything that's bleeding and swimming at the same time into a cloud of meat scraps", because there is nothing left of that body but chitin and mandibles, and the "help" doesn't seem to be satisfied with just one meal.

Further, it seems even the very light of a Bombardan blast is hazardous to something within that derelict workhouse up ahead; and that whatever-it-was you just damaged was important enough to overcome Kaude's entirely rational fear of their own "help" and drive them back into the water. One can surely surmise that, sooner or later, words will be had over what you've just done.

Hopefully, just words. It would not do to go entirely without allies in this gods-be-damned sunken shithole, not when a budding lich-king is gathering his charnel legions and a slumbering elemental stirs uneasily in its adamantine chains...
What do you do now?

Alumnus Post fucked around with this message at Aug 14, 2018 around 03:33

Alumnus Post
Dec 29, 2009

They are weird and troubling. We owe it to our neighbors to kill them.


Pillbug

EVERYBODY
You all follow the panicked Kaude into the derelict workhouse, leaving the injured and the dead to be devoured by the "help". The first-story entry is submerged completely, but its lintel-post is only a foot or two below water. An easy dive, and you're through, following the distraught thief up a narrow set of stairs.

SERENITY
The brick walls are wet and slick with mold; the cast-iron risers slick and treacherous to booted feet, but an easy glide for such as you and Kaude. The thief swarms up the stairway on all four limbs and bursts out the doorway into a wide high-ceilinged factory floor with you only a second or two behind; and Ramona and Branwen only a few moments behind you.



Your chemlight illuminates a scene of decay run wild. It is nothing like a building any more in here. Shuddering fungal growth riots from every pillar, wall and floor, the close-packed chaos marred by slashing scars of flash-burn white. The air has an acrid underbite to it, charred leaves and rain and rancid fat. Kaude doesn't even slow down - they scamper pell-mell into the wilderness, following some secret trail known only to them, not even a light to show the way.

The mycelial forest shudders like an arrythmic heart. Clear fluid wells from the white scars across the fungal caps and splashes to the damp tile floor. You could be back in some fantastic cavern back above the surface, some forgotten grotto that never knew the sun -- only now what's become of it, now that the Law of Bombarda's Light has shone aloud against its tender verdancy? What has Branwen done?
She did this. At least a little bit. What do you do?

Alumnus Post fucked around with this message at Aug 21, 2018 around 11:35

slydingdoor
Oct 26, 2010

Are you in or are you out?

Ramona
18/26-1 HP; 4/14 XP; 1 Armor; 5/11 Load, Scarred
I do my due diligence and stop the cleric before we continue, Kaude's shown us seen the limits of our knowledge of how this place's flora interacts with fire. The last time I trusted an explosives expert's judgment I was wearing armor and regretted it. "Don't risk igniting unfamiliar flora in confined spaces." I silently mark everyone with access to that kind of energy and mentally prepare to stop them if they ignore my warning, but then I remember ghosts who hunted meat lizards by driving them into burrows through controlled burning of brush. When they were enslaved, burning fields was outlawed and high-yield crops were planted instead.

I found myself in their lands and found no crops, no people, not even lizards and foliage, just wasteland, but on the spiritual plane the wailing and hissing of starving plants and animals deafened me. But the land itself wasn't crying out for rain, it was crying out for fire, the missing turn in a once fertile circular path that now lead to a dead end. I don't amend my warning, but I continue my preparations a step farther and imagine how to shape the environment to minimize the risk to myself and my team if fire proves necessary.

Alumnus Post
Dec 29, 2009

They are weird and troubling. We owe it to our neighbors to kill them.


Pillbug

RAMONA
Serenity runs on ahead, but you and Branwen (and her acolytes, none willing to be left behind) do the prudent thing and continue upwards a little more carefully. With a stern admonishment to the bomb-throwing zealots behind you, you lead the way into the overgrown factory floor.

Your chemical lights are almost more hindrance than help. The jutting vanes and gills of the fungal growth have their own subtle luminescence, washed out to invisibility by even the smallest external light source. Only when all other lights are doused can you look up and see the ceiling flower with rippling pastel shades: green and blue and auroral pink, chasing one another from stalk to stalk.

The white-scarred parts of the fungi emit no light at all, only the clear fluid that wells from their flesh like the exudate from a fresh burn. The scars are clearly delineated, sharp-edged and all angled in one direction: facing straight into the nearest row of windows, where Branwen cooked off her most recent firebomb.

Light -- any kind of light -- the flora must be incredibly sensitive to it. Only in darkness can it flourish unrestricted. What the burning light of a Goddess, Bombarda Herself, might do to it - hardly bears thinking. Nothing perceived by Divinity can fail to be changed by it, after all - and to Bombarda, all creation is but a target for the Holy Bomb. It doesn't take a professor to know what the Goddess of Explosions would want growing in Her garden.

There are a few ways you could go from this stairwell landing. The building looked like it was maybe three or four stories tall from outside, and the stairwell you're in looked like it kept going up from where you got off. Serenity went off to the right - her belly scales left a clear track in the undergrowth carpeting the floor. Off to the left, the fungal forest appears to be untrod. You'd need to kindle a light to go exploring in that direction, or else trust your keen senses not to lead you into any danger.

There's a silent tension in the air, and the balancía feels heavier than it should in your hand, as though it suddenly put on a few extra pounds. The molten heat of its imprisoned elemental presses unobtrusively against your consciousness, redoubling the sense of presence in the air. You feel the particular quiver in your gut you get whenever Savior is stirring up the spirit realm...but no ghosts cry out at you. No spirits stir here. The dead are quiet. Or, perhaps, not present at all.

You have entered a place of power. You should be on the lookout not to cause offense.

What do you do?

Alumnus Post fucked around with this message at Aug 23, 2018 around 03:40

Shardix
Sep 14, 2011

The end! No moral.


Serenity
HP 20/20 | Armor 2 | Load 1/9 | XP 15/14

Serenity followed the thief, keeping a watchful eye on them. She wasn't sure what Kaude's motives really were but they did not seem hostile to her or hers. For now, she would accept Kaude as one of hers and she would protect them as she was able.

Looking about, she found herself enraptured by the photo-luminescent fungus adorning the ceiling. The way the colors undulated through the stalks in this darkness was mesmerizing. Of course she hadn't thought to bring a camera. Then again, how long would it have survived all this? At best it might have lasted up until she shattered her ribs saving Isurus. Carefully squeezing the rest of the water from her hair, the bard absently meandered off to the right as she stared at the light displays. As she went, a thought came to her. "Kaude. What do you know of fungal diseases? On the surface, many people are being quarantined on account of an apparently nasty epidemic. Anything like that down here?"

Alumnus Post
Dec 29, 2009

They are weird and troubling. We owe it to our neighbors to kill them.


Pillbug

SERENITY ●◦◦
One hold spent, to: act as your eyes and ears.

Your eyes are beginning to adjust to the warm and humid darkness, enough that you can make out the most curious panoply of expressions spreading over Kaude's face in response to your question. Their emotions are an open book to you - so fixated on your presence, so open and vulnerable; neither word nor hand is needed for you to know their true feelings in this matter. No one else around to see it.

Hard-edged satisfaction first, before anything else: so it worked? Good. A flashing glance down at their feet, at the slimy matting of mildew, mosses, and miniature toadstools underfoot. Pain, next, the sort of pain you tell yourself you don't feel anymore; you thought you were used to it by now, why should it still hurt? Unconsciously, one hand steals to their chest, for reassurance or for comfort; it's hard to tell which: so that's how she sees it. A flash of resentment for being made to spill so much, overtaken by a tired, long-enduring smile, the weariness of a seasoned veteran at the end of a grueling combat tour: it worked, we made it, we're free. It's quickly snuffed out by a growing worry, the anxiety of a parent who quickly comes to find their child cares nothing for their preconceived expectations: did we do alright? Will it be okay? And of course you can never know, not once your child's grown; their life is their own. That pain, you know well.

Kaude's panicked flight into the fungal forest has slowed and halted as they, with you, study the interplay of lights up in the canopy above. They seem to find some sort of meaning in the phosphorescent play, but their brows furrow with uncertainty as they watch. The tension and fear give way a little, jostling for space with a deep-seated tension and a firm well of resolve.

*I - S - H - A will know,* they sign. *Come, go with me. Get [together], [speak] with I- S - H - A. We need your [help]. OK?*
What do you do?

Alumnus Post fucked around with this message at Aug 26, 2018 around 15:00

Shardix
Sep 14, 2011

The end! No moral.


Serenity
HP 20/20 | Armor 2 | Load 1/9 | XP 15/14

Serenity let the subtle cues and body language unfold a story. A story she could not quite understand yet, but one that held the promise of secrets.

"I am willing, but the choice depends on my companions. Should they agree? I will wish clear answers, to the best of your people's knowledge, of what has happened to this place. What happens after that we must simply wait and see."

Turning, she reluctantly tore her eyes from the light show and began to slither back to her friends. Pausing, she turned and beckoned to Kaude, giving them a kind smile. Answers would come when they must come. No need to press the matter.

Alumnus Post
Dec 29, 2009

They are weird and troubling. We owe it to our neighbors to kill them.


Pillbug

BRANWEN, RAMONA
Serenity and Kaude emerge from the darkness no worse for wear. The unusual little thief wears an expression of profound relief on their face: whatever they were so terrified Branwen's light would do to the fungal growth in here, it seems it didn't come to pass...but they do clamber up one of the wounded stalks, so they can slice away a sizeable section of the spongy, pallid flesh with a tiny hidden knife. It smells like gasoline and charred blankets, and oozes a clear honeyish oil when you squeeze it hard.
If anybody wants some, there's up to 3-uses total of ultra-flammable fungal timber (1-weight each) available for harvest here. There's probably a use for this stuff if anybody's clever and/or reckless enough to come up with one.

For a claustrophobic wilderness out of a carpenter's worst nightmares, it's remarkably non-threatening in here so far. After all, none of you count the undead among your numbers. The most frightening thing you've seen so far appears to be each of you...unless you count the implications of your environment and its flourishing. Knowng that, what will you do? Explore this strange place further, to go in search of secrets or treasure? Or just move on, to meet with wherever, and whoever, this man Isha really is?
Well, how 'bout it?

Alumnus Post
Dec 29, 2009

They are weird and troubling. We owe it to our neighbors to kill them.


Pillbug

EVERYBODY
Moving on. If you're taking the timber, add it to your inventory.
Serenity: I'm calling this location important. You might think otherwise, but if you agree: ask me for one fact from the history of this location.

You take your leave of this place, out of the workhouse and back again into the swampy dark. For once, no fresh horrors await you. A faint breeze tugs the air as you emerge; and inexplicably, it starts to rain as you cast off and get back to towing - a fine mist distinguishable from the general humidity only in that the droplets are a little bigger. Weather on the ocean bottom. Who'd have thunk it.

* * *

In brighter days, this district was once a place for artists and mundane artisans: small operations, specialist skills and hand labor, in stark contrast to the great seaports of Panakteia or the glittering marvels of Warwick's Wonderland. Tailor and fishmonger once rubbed shoulders with thaumotechs and hedge-wizards here; and the common saying among tourists was that you could find anything for sale in Silver-home, as long as you could find the right somebody to sell it to you.

Now, four months after the Sink, the thrumming medina quarter of Aqualantis is unrecognizable, lost in the flood for good and all. You row the cargo sled under the former ring-rail viaduct, now overgrown by mosses and algal mats. The tips of trailing vines brush your heads and shoulders as you pass, their fleshy leaves host to spreading eye-shaped patches of grey-black mold. It feels disquietingly like those eyes are watching as you pass through the hanging curtain. Except for the chirping of insects and unseen frogs, and the steady sploshing of the puller crew, it's as silent as the wild night out here.



Ahead, a low rise in the gloom as you approach the old district center. The light of civilization flowers here in the clammy mist, blooming in the night like some strange mutant shrub: chemical glow-tubes, a few flickering lanterns or bulbs, and the shifting phosphorescence of Silver-home's inexplicable fungal growth.

Kaude peers ahead into the lambent fog, rapt with quiet joy. Soon it's shallow enough to wade, then dry land entirely, though you're still no more than a few feet above the interminable swamps. You haven't seen a single living soul so far, but this place is far from uninhabited: there's plenty of footprints, tracked muddy onto the wet pavement. Humanish, a little smaller than Serenity's - webbed and froglike, like Kaude's; lots of them.

This is all that's left of civilization in Aqualantis? The decaying, windowless shells of storefronts, public buildings, offices - all moss-choked brick, damp stone, fountains flowing black with tannins? Fungi bloom from every wall and corner, or hang in drifting curtains of phosphorescence from the limbless skeletons of surface trees. Climbing strangler-vines twine up the masonry, as much as holding some of it together, blooming with strange and unusual fruits. A wild riot of scents is in the air, prowling the arcades like a pack of tigers: citrus, swamp-gas and punky wood, smoke and rain and wet soil and the scorched-insulation acridity of magic at work.

Welcome, travelers, to the New Annidate.

* * *

Kaude leads you quickly through the city center, down a pillared arcade grown over with sprawling lianas and into a large courtyard sprouting an enthusiastic thicket of bizarre plantlife. Thick encrustations of phosphorescent fungi cast an evershifting lambence onto the garden of chimerae, a hundred promiscuous amalgams of plant and fungus and lichen, all swaying and shushing in a light like noon under a coral reef.



*I - S - H - A [untranslatable], here, this is the [bottom].* Kaude motions, then more; in a sudden flood of words:

*We went [the opposite direction from] wrong here. I - S - H - A [exhaled?]...air, our [food], our [opposite direction?]; I - S - H - A [inhaled?] us, this, [gesturing vaguely at their torso] this here, here.* For the first time a look of frustration crosses the strange creature's face. They're having as hard a time communicating what this place is for as you are trying to understand it.

*Here is safe, OK? Go, go on. Meet I - S - H - A. Please, [help] us. Help [cutting-throat motion] us M - U - R - G - O.*



A stooped old toadshape shuffles out of the overgrowth and regards you all quietly. His skin is hardened and pebbled with age, mottled or painted with streaks of lichen, and a cephalic scar of powdery white mildew testifies to his blindness in one eye. He wears only a loincloth and a bit of rope for a belt, strung about with pouches and what look like distant cousins of gardener's tools.

Here he is. Master Isha, in the flesh.
What do you all do?

Alumnus Post fucked around with this message at Sep 3, 2018 around 15:16

Shardix
Sep 14, 2011

The end! No moral.


Serenity
HP 20/20 | Armor 2 | Load 1/9 | XP 15/14

Serenity's eyes narrowed. Isha was a name on many people's tongues for what he'd done. Or what it was said he had done, anyway.

"Isha Akkermans, I presume." Judging by his appearance, it seemed as though his experiments had caught up with him

And just what, she wondered, was his involvement with Silas Greene? Questions she burned to pursue...but they had time. For now.

Alumnus Post
Dec 29, 2009

They are weird and troubling. We owe it to our neighbors to kill them.


Pillbug

RAMONA
Isha's voice is rusty, clotted with age and disuse. "That's me," he says to Serenity, "and you obviously met the kid. Could've bothered to tell them your names." Kaude pushes past you, to greet the old frogman - Isha speaks with them quietly for a few moments, too low for you to hear, before the odd little thief scampers away into the garden beds. "Hmf," he grunts.

"You, girl, I can guess--" -- he waves a hand in your general direction -- "I could smell the curse on you a mile away. How big's the bounty on my head now, eh? Come on, out with it. If you're here to lop off my head you can at least bother to tell me how much it's worth to you."

SERENITY
Isha's gaze sharpens appreciatively as he looks at you. "You have the advantage of me, miss. Kaude there took on a deadly risk for us; you have my thanks for bringing them back. Is there anything I can do for you?"

BRANWEN
"And you -" he stops, sniffs the air, and shuffles a couple steps towards you, head cocked like a dog who's caught the scent. "You're the one who's been loving with my life support. I can smell it on you. Go on, what do you have to say for yourself?"
How many of the Bombardans are with you right now?

What do you do?

Alumnus Post fucked around with this message at Sep 4, 2018 around 04:37

ArkInBlack
Mar 22, 2013


Branwen McAlister
HP 20/20 | Armor 1 | XP 11/12 | Load 4/12
Spells: Light[ ] Sanctify[ ] Guidance[ ] CLW[ ]
Bless[ ] Cause Fear[ ] Magic Weapon[ ] Speak W/ Dead[ ]
Boom[ ]


Branwen doesn't let the wizened toad intimidate her, returning his stare. "That it would have been lovely to be told of your life support before the local fauna demanded to know Bombarda's Glories. Perhaps before Kaude tried to steal from us, or before they tossed some fungal concoction into our campfire without warning or explanation. Perhaps more to what you want to hear, it will be considered going forward, but I will do what duty demands of me."

However many wanted to come into the pow-wow I guess

Shardix
Sep 14, 2011

The end! No moral.


Serenity
HP 20/20 | Armor 2 | Load 1/9 | XP 15/14

Serenity could find no fault in Morning Glory's frustrations. If it was so important, the responsibility to secure it in these conditions lay on Isha. Yes, perhaps explosions were not the best idea in this place. When you found yourself assailed by chuuls and the living dead or her own cousin, however, such considerations took a necessary back seat to survival.

"Dame Serenity Greymist." She gave the mushroom man a courtly bow, mustering up all of her grace and dignity. No sense being rude when this individual might be useful, and knowledgeable. "And I am glad we could aid in Kaude's safe return. As for what you can do for me. I come on behalf of the Mother Serpent, The-Eye-of-Night. She has tasked me with learning the truth of Aqualantis, and why it rests on the bottom of the ocean." She locked eyes with Isha and stood tall, not arrogant but extremely determined.

"I would be very interested to hear what you know of these things. My companions would also no doubt be extremely grateful for any aid and succor you can provide." That last had some edge to it. She wasn't angry, but she was certainly in no mood for nonsense.

slydingdoor
Oct 26, 2010

Are you in or are you out?

Ramona
18/26-1 HP; 4/14 XP; 1 Armor; 5/11 Load, Scarred
More bother than worth, is what I think of bringing in small-fish-with-a-big-mouth. What can he do for Serenity? That's his path to being worth it for me to keep alive. As I knew, the Alchemists' Guild didn't offer a reward worth even the trip out here, so no hunters took it. I could think of two kinds that might, they'd be too either green to survive, he'd have caught them and gotten his number from them, or personally invested and the hateful way they told him'd mean he wouldn't believe it. I'm neither, so I'm the only one who can tell him the truth.

Alumnus Post
Dec 29, 2009

They are weird and troubling. We owe it to our neighbors to kill them.


Pillbug

BRANWEN
You've got Bigjob, Cromeen, and Niamh with you. The rest are off guarding the hoversled with the party's supplies on it.

The old toad's eyes narrow in suspicion. "A Bombardan," he says flatly. "And your little bomb squad, too." Bigjob gives him a hostile stare over the brow of his overlarge helmet. "Can't fault you there, I suppose. You're a ruddy fool to be bringing that power Down Here, lass, but, well, I can't say as it won't come in handy about now. And you didn't gently caress up anything I can't fix. Welcome, welcome. Make yourselves at home. Blow up my loving gardens and I'll feed you to the compost pits."

"Kaude says you came from Tian just before the dome came down. Thought you were with that mad old fucker Scrimshaw. Well, now you're with this mad old fucker instead. Ha!" He doubles over, laughing wheezily to himself until the fit of merriment turns into a spasm of wet, phlegmy coughing.

"Don't you (HACK, hack) worry, lass, you'll have your loving fill of duty before you're done here. In the meantime, 'f there's anything your lot needs, you have only to ask." He sketches a creaky approximation of a bow. "I am at your service."

* * *

RAMONA
You don't say anything to him, but Isha seems to get the message from your non-response and your lack of hostile action. "Not enough to be worth caring about, then," he grunts, satisfied. "Good."

"It's Ramona, isn't it? It has to be. What I'd give to know how you got here. I see you've met our mutual friend and his merry gang of loving horrors," he says, jabbing a finger at the enormous burn scar on your chest. He stops, scrutinizing the balancía in your hand and the concrete-wrapped Savior bumping against your thigh. His face slowly pales as he realizes the truth.

"So that's what he went out to Tian for. And you took it back from him? gently caress me. And you took his rod to seal the deal. You're a bigger lunatic than he is." He rubs cracked palms together and breathes slowly, in and out; the gaping smile on his face has entirely too many wide flat teeth for comfort.

"Glory loving be," he breathes. "We might just have a chance. You're here to kill him too, aren't you? Karthas loving Murgo."

* * *

SERENITY
Don't forget to give Kaude a chance to spend your last hold.

As you name to him Nashira's secret titles and the sacred mission she bestowed on you, Isha goes very quiet, very still. You can hear a subliminal rustling in the bushes; Kaude's still nearby, and you can't quite shake the sense that there's others around too, unseen but still hovering close. "The truth you're looking for..." Isha says to you carefully, "...it doesn't live here anymore. But I can take you to where it does, and I can tell you what I know."

He looks at you the way an ornithologist might look at a bird, that, long thought extinct, flutters into your kitchen garden of a morning, and your heart soars with painful joy - so does he approach and, hesitantly, reach out as if to lay a hand on your scaly flank. He's kind of little now, compared to you. The snake-half of you thinks he's about the right size for a meal.

"What are you?" he asks himself, wonderingly. "Did you come because of...?" He gets an abstracted, contemplative look on his face for a few moments; then his eyes snap to your face with deadly seriousness.

"gently caress me. How long we've been Down Here, feels like years; I should loving have seen it earlier..."

"Dame Greymist," Isha asks you in as formal a tone he can muster. "When is the next solar eclipse?"

* * *

What do you all do?

Alumnus Post fucked around with this message at Sep 9, 2018 around 19:32

Shardix
Sep 14, 2011

The end! No moral.


Serenity
HP 20/20 | Armor 2 | Load 1/9 | XP 15/14

"I am a servant. I am friend, lover, sister, mother, daughter, to those in need. It is, I think, the end of Metageitnion by Nashira's reckoning; the beginning of Autumn by the human kingdoms, and the twentieth year since the orc people threw off the shackles of human oppression. I cannot be certain as I have spent as much time recovering from grievous injury as I have attempting to find some shred of sanity in this war against the tritons. Yet. Have no fear. This city has been sunk for some months, not years."

At his final question, Serenity grew quiet. Isha was touching on the one secret not even Nashira was privy too. Her child came, and went, and did as she would, and none were permitted to know the how and why of it.

"...The sun will die when She chooses." One did not speak Her name carelessly. The Scourge was not one to be called upon lightly. "But...I think I will know when it approaches. My sovereign ladies and lords move through me, whisper in my ears, and She is no different. There will be signs and there will be omens, and by Her grace I will interpret them."

slydingdoor
Oct 26, 2010

Are you in or are you out?

Ramona
18/26-1 HP; 4/14 XP; 1 Armor; 5/11 Load, Scarred
Three questions, one easy answer. "Mmhm. If you want to help–or hide–now's the time.

"Also, threaten me or mine again and I take you out, no matter how worthless you are. See, you think that telling Bran that you'll kill her if she blows up your gardens is deterrence. What I hear that if anything happens to your gardens for any reason, I immediately have to eliminate you before you take it out on my people. Now, you want to give us a real reason to mind our fire, like I already have before we even met you? Or do you want to stay on my list."

slydingdoor fucked around with this message at Sep 11, 2018 around 19:07

Alumnus Post
Dec 29, 2009

They are weird and troubling. We owe it to our neighbors to kill them.


Pillbug

RAMONA
Isha sniffs, and wipes his nostrils on the back of his pebbly arm. "'Go ahead then," he says indifferently, "if you think I'm that stupid. Take me out. Do Murgo's work for him. Don't come crying to me when the air runs out."

"Or are you so in love with that thing--" (he jabs an index finger at Savior again) "--that the whole world's your enemy now? Get a real good price for that, I bet."
What do you do?

slydingdoor
Oct 26, 2010

Are you in or are you out?

Ramona
18/26-1 HP; 4/14 XP; 1 Armor; 5/11 Load, Scarred
So Murgo wants the air to run out down here, makes sense. Any genetically engineered stuff down here's gone far off the rails by now, and at worst been trapped and reprogrammed by the jackass taunting me right now. "T̨h̶e ̨only th͢ing ͠I͏ l̷ov̧e anymore is he̕aring ͢kn͞ow-n̴othing̵ ̸old ̕men tell me̶ all͜ ̴t̷hey ͏th̷in̕ķ t̕h̢eý know ̵a͠b̨óut͡ love, worth, ̶and especially ̷t͝h͢is ̧t̵hin͡g. Please continue, if you haven't already exhausted yourself."

Shardix
Sep 14, 2011

The end! No moral.


Serenity
HP 20/20 | Armor 2 | Load 1/9 | XP 15/14\

As Ramona and Isha exchanged heated words, Serenity managed to keep her tongue still. Jumping in now would be immensely disrespectful. Ramona was not a child that needed someone to speak on her behalf. Instead, she turned her attention to Branwen and her compatriots. "Is everyone doing well? Check your feet and change your socks if you can. Trenchfoot is no laughing matter."

Alumnus Post
Dec 29, 2009

They are weird and troubling. We owe it to our neighbors to kill them.


Pillbug

RAMONA
Isha doesn't bother to dignify your bitterness with a response, although you can see in his face and the set of his wide froggy jaw that he's clamping down on a surge of emotion. Kaude is nowhere near so circumspect. They burst from the fungal brush-stand behind Isha, and stomp towards you, eyes brimming with furious tears. Isha tries to stop them but only gets an angry brush-off. Kaude's hands literally shake with rage.

*Your people? Your [worth]? You loving tourist. This is our home! Our air, our [opposite direction], our new [body], all from I - S - H - A.*

*You more OK with [sound of rattling bones]. More OK with [punching one fist into an open hand] than with this! And we bring you in, into our safety, you act like this? Apologize!*

What do you do?

slydingdoor
Oct 26, 2010

Are you in or are you out?

Ramona
18/26-1 HP; 4/14 XP; 1 Armor; 5/11 Load, Scarred
I sign back at the minnow to sit down, that he's out of his depth: Isha and I are on equal footing for now, so we don't need to hide what we know or how we feel, like cheats. "Isn't that right?" I sneer at the old fish, mocking the idea that he's so offended he needs a youth to speak for him.

ArkInBlack
Mar 22, 2013


Branwen McAlister
HP 20/20 | Armor 1 | XP 8/12 | Load 4/12
Spells: Light[X] Sanctify[ ] Guidance[ ] CLW[X]
Bless[X] Cause Fear[ ] Magic Weapon[X] Speak W/ Dead[ ]
Boom[X]


"...Serenity..." Bran covers her face, struggling to find words. "I. That's." Finally she just exhales sharply and forces out "Thanks. For the reminder."

Alumnus Post
Dec 29, 2009

They are weird and troubling. We owe it to our neighbors to kill them.


Pillbug

SERENITY
Isha takes a distraught Kaude aside, to...speak?...again with them in private. There's words there, certainly - but there seems to be more to the communication than simple speech; touch and color-changing skin patches and something like the smell of the skin behind your ears. After a lot of angry gesticulation and low muttered whispers the other frog-creature stalks back off into the fungal brush, venting their frustration as they go with a fist slammed against the woody trunk of a towering amanita-cap.

When Isha shuffles back to you, there's a look in his eyes that makes you wonder how old this crusty toad really is.

"Alright," he croaks. "Come on through here. I'll tell you everything. Show you everything."

He looks at Ramona, and for a second you feel a sharp pang where your thigh used to be - right near where she's keeping her cursed pearl sealed up in concrete.

"When we're done, it'll be time for us to go to war."

* * *

EVERYBODY
Isha leads you deep into the courtyard gardens, until the walls are lost behind the thicket of fungal stalks - farther in than should be possible for a pocket garden of that size. He leads you a few steps underground, then out through a cut-stone doorway with a lintel of heavy, sodden timber. When you emerge again into the open air, you've somehow made your way to the district's heart. Literally.

The buildings here have all been demolished, their walls and roof-tiles all crushed and piled up together into a low, flat ringfort atoll. Within, a broad shallow tide-pool the size of a city block simmers and steams, belching a witch's brew of strange fumes into the air. At the center, a massive supporting pillar spears up hundreds of feet into the darkness, the glistening white of living wood. Everywhere you look, you see scattered knots of men and women - ordinary folks, creatures like Kaude, and older Aqualantean genmods - wading in the tidal flats or tending to the surrounding fungal growth. Heads turn and hands flutter as you approach the central pool, but nobody speaks a word, except for Isha.

"Here we are," he says quietly. "The last safe place in Aqualantis. The domes were my idea, you know; right from the start, before any of this ever happened. Johannes -- Dr. Warwick -- he knew I had the skill to give him what he needed. He hired me on, gave me everything I needed. When the Sink came on us, we were ready."

His mouth twists in a bitter smile. "He always was a forward thinker."
What do you all do? What do you ask him?

Shardix
Sep 14, 2011

The end! No moral.


Serenity
HP 20/20 | Armor 2 | Load 1/9 | XP 15/14

Serenity wondered to herself if she should not attempt conciliatory words to Kaude and to Isha. Her actions, and Bran's, and Ramona's had stirred up a hornets nest and no doubt derailed plans already in motion.

But no. Isha's words bent and bled in her mind and she could feel Nashira's touch within her, pulling at the strings of a package whose contents she suspected but could not confirm. Forcing herself and her companions into a submissive position would not tease that knot of truth free; they would simply be used, again, to whatever foolish end Isha envisioned. Dragged back into battle against people that were not her enemies.

"This...tells us nothing. Except perhaps that Warwick is a more disturbed man than I imagined." A thought had come to her in that moment and it was all she could do not to laugh at the idea. Not out of disbelief, but because it seemed so brilliantly obvious in hindsight. "Tell me, Isha. Was this the plan? To sink this city beneath the waves. To have a ready supply of people to work and to be worked on? People who could not escape, who would be forced to rely on those in authority to even survive? I ask, in spite of the offense you might take, because as I think back...far too many people involved in Aqualantis have proven themselves untrustworthy as regards the pursuit of research. Unwilling to even leave the bodies of my dead compatriots well alone. And I have to ask myself if this was merely their own failings, or a systemic belief wending it's way from the minds that built this place."

She slithered past the man, turning her gaze from this person to that person as they stared at the newcomers. O Shula, protect these poor people in this moonless reach. After a moment she glanced over her shoulder.

"So. Am I close?"

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slydingdoor
Oct 26, 2010

Are you in or are you out?

Ramona
18/26-1 HP; 4/14 XP; 1 Armor; 5/11 Load, Scarred
Having my unvoiced suspicion be validated by the bard of all people feels so sweet I purse my lips to hide a smile. And make them less dry. "Thought you'd all be fishers of men, and never having worked a day in your life, used a beginners' bobber rig for your lure. The bounty for your first fish probably seemed high to you then compared to the cost of the setup. Toy floating up top, bait suspended below until the strike sinks it and you set the hook, then just reel and meal. Except, because you who would treat people like fish have no honor or respect, you betrayed one another, and only the one who won that got anything close to what they wanted.

"Skip the part where you whine about how you've been doing the best you can since all for these poor unfortunate souls, as if that endless labor on that impossible job redeems you for causing the drat situation in the first place. Tell that to the tritons when they find you, al̛l I care about is Murgo."

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