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RunePunk: ScatterPoint Stories [Spoilers]
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In ScatterPoint, when things get way beyond words, my preferred course of action is to...
Engage in the voracious thrill of hand to hand combat.
33%
 33%  [ 7 ]
Fast draw a firearm and solve my problem with an explosion of hot lead.
33%
 33%  [ 7 ]
Elegantly sketch a rune of power that succinctly makes my point for me.
9%
 9%  [ 2 ]
Subtly call upon the blessings of Umbriel to aid me in my vindication.
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
Rely on the synergistic foundation of applied and theoretical science used in an inventive manner.
4%
 4%  [ 1 ]
Run…run fast…run now !!!
19%
 19%  [ 4 ]
Total Votes : 21

Author Message
Captain Blood
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Joined: 18 Feb 2007
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2007 10:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

At least you are honest with your shameless flattery. Cool
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"A man must sometimes laugh at himself or go mad. Few realize it. That is why there are so many madmen in the world."
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Marcos
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Joined: 28 Apr 2006
Posts: 98
Location: Hickory, NC

PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 10:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Capt. Blood & Muse,

Thank you both for the kind posts. It is always nice to hear that one’s efforts are appreciated and I am glad both of you are having fun. Hopefully we will all be able to maintain this current level of enjoyment throughout the course of the campaign. Very Happy

Good Gaming,
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Mark

Second watch. Roll for surprise.
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Marcos
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Joined: 28 Apr 2006
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Location: Hickory, NC

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2007 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1st of Madness 1107p.t.

The morning dawned with a cool, light rain; the remnants of a pre-dawn runestorm, which had been transformed by the runetowers into a harmless shower that chilled the air and set the walkways and ramps of GreyMesa a shine. Jonathon shook the beaded droplets from his dark cloak and stubbed out his tanglevine smoke as he approached Veruna and Katryn’s door.

The shadowpriest was in better spirits now that the stress of the prior evening had passed. The Andari knew that his companions, especially Veruna, were unsure of what to make of his behavior at the Society of Entropy. Some things were best played close to the chest, thought Jonathon in a cavalier attitude as he knocked at the ladies’ door. Ideally, the conversation for the day would pertain to last evening’s main events, centering on the Chancellor’s assignment and Roxton’s performances and not on a moody Andari’s reasons for behaving poorly.

The door opened to reveal the tired and somewhat haggard visage of Veruna. Beyond her Jonathon could see Nicodemus sitting on the ladies’ rumpled couch, his head hanging in his hands and his glasses resting on the tea table. He still wore the clothing from the night before, his jacket and top hat lying on the floor in a crumpled heap.

Veruna gave Jonathon’s damp appearance a dismissive look before motioning the Andari in. She had been up most of the night taking care of her roommate and the runecaster, and the small smile on the shadowpriest’s lips along with his pleasant demeanor made her want to pop her claws from pent up frustration. Putting the urge to the back of her mind as she wondered why Jonathon’s arrival set her teeth on edge, Veruna mustered a smile and asked him to fix some tea for everyone.

Jonathon closed the door, hanging up his weapon belt and then his cloak while deftly fishing his flask from one of its hidden pockets. He then proceeded into the kitchen to put a kettle of water on the gas stove before taking one of Veruna’s recently purchased tea cups and filling it half full with gloom. The Andari then walked back into the sitting room and presented the cup to Nicodemus remarking “A little hair of the growler that bit you.”

Nicodemus took the teacup and did not register what Jonathon had said or realize that the cup was not heated. One sip later and the runecaster felt the steady burn of the gloom and nearly choked, managing to control his urge to sputter and spray the witchgrass whiskey across the tea table. Nodding in sarcastic thanks, Nicodemus took another sip and held the teacup in one hand while holding his head in the other.

Katryn came out of her room, her hair still damp from her recent bath, and garbed once more in her usual many-pocketed attire. From the restless energy being displayed as she moved about the room and the ceaseless mutterings under her breath as she did so, Jonathon knew that Katryn was still dwelling on last night’s events. Her ill humor did seem to have one beneficial result, burning off any lingering aftermath of her recent alcoholic indulgence.

A short time later, Jonathon was reclined in an end chair and the four jobbers were sipping cups of tanglevine tea, though Jonathon’s had a healthy splash of gloom to make it, to his thinking, palatable. A period of silence had fallen, the four lost in their respective thoughts, when Veruna began talking about the information they had gained at the Society of Entropy.

The Malakar asked Jonathon what BlackShackle was like and what they could expect. Before the Andari could answer, Veruna went on about the information they would need such as train schedules, if far door travel was a viable option, needing a travel chest for their cloudbreather garments, and other such factors, all said in a rush. She’d had plenty of time to think about all this as she had played nursemaid to her friends throughout the night.

As the wayfinder outlined her thoughts, seldom pausing to allow for deliberation or interjection, Nicodemus pantomimed talking with his fingers while slightly shaking his throbbing head and rolling his bloodshot eyes. Jonathon smiled slightly and when Veruna took notice of the runecaster’s actions, her stream of conversation faltered and the shadowpriest suggested that Veruna just enjoy her tea.

The remark caused Veruna to look across at her friend, her anger simmering at the nonchalant tone and Jonathon’s thin smile. Still not sure why she kept feeling on edge towards Jonathon and not liking Nicodemus’ mocking attitude after she had helped him with the aftermath of his drunken binge, the Malakar picked up her tea and sipped it in a huff.

Katryn meanwhile had decided that she needed to get moving as she was becoming stir-crazy waiting with everyone for Roxton to join them. She realized that the longer they waited, the more time she was spending thinking about Roxton’s reported behavior of the previous evening with the cloudbreather woman, and the angrier she was becoming. Looking across at the bedraggled and miserable runecaster, Katryn saw her opportunity to leave, and perhaps to cause Roxton some annoyance at having to wait for their return.

It did not take much convincing to get Nicodemus motivated to head back to his place to get cleaned up. He asked if Katryn knew any reliable chemists that might have a tonic for his hangover. Katryn said she knew of a nearby apothecary shop and that they could stop by on the way to his place. The inventor then put on her KEVLAR belt with the holstered LASER pistol, helped Nicodemus to his feet and helped him out the door.

In the hall, Katryn saw that the lift was coming up to her floor and grabbed Nicodemus’ arm, placing it about her shoulder as she supported him about the waist. Before Nicodemus could protest, the lift’s door opened revealing Roxton, once more armed and in his retriever’s attire.

“Hey, I’m taking Nicky to his place to get a change of clothes” greeted Katryn a bit too cheerfully as she maneuvered the runecaster into the waiting lift and Roxton stepped out. As the two men passed they each muttered in puzzled tones to themselves “Nicky?” before the lift door closed and the retriever made his way to Katryn and Veruna’s flat.

Once inside, Roxton took in the obviously slept-on couch and the general disarray of the sitting room, with the discarded blankets and forgotten tea service, the scent still lingering in the air. Jonathon bade him greetings, his hand unconsciously fiddling with a cigarette while Veruna mumbled a greeting and then proceeded to her room and closed the door.

Roxton shook his head, somewhat perplexed, and asked Jonathon what was going on. Jonathon explained the misunderstandings that had arisen from the group’s investigations the night before, insinuating that if he and Veruna had not arrived back to the carriage when they had that something might have occurred between Nicodemus and Katryn.

Roxton could not believe what he was hearing, but could see how his actions might have been misconstrued. He then asked Jonathon who was most upset with him.

Jonathon thought to himself before replying. He had noticed throughout the morning that Veruna had been annoyed with him ever since he had arrived. The shadowpriest had his suspicions as to why, but knew that it was not a conversation he was quite ready for or even wanted to have. Looking up from his unlit cigarette, Jonathon looked at Roxton and decided that the retriever might serve as an excellent foil to alleviate the tension between himself and the Malakar.

Jonathon told him that Katryn seemed to be the angrier of the two, but that Veruna seemed upset with him as well, motioning to the room that the passer had retreated to upon Roxton’s entry. The shadowpriest then moved to collect his cloak and weapon belt, remarking that he was off to look at the train schedules for GreyMesa to BlackShackle and that he would return shortly.

Down in the street Nicodemus and Katryn moved through the light press of low-level bureaucrats, the damp air feeling cool against the runecaster’s brow. They had stopped at the apothecary’s shop and now Nicodemus, his purse fifty royals lighter, carried a wax-sealed glass tube of what the chemist had dubbed a restorative.

As they walked the streets, ramps, and stairs downward, Katryn asked Nicodemus what he remembered of the previous evening. “Nothing” the Bloodrune scion tersely remarked and the inventor fell silent, realizing that the route that Nicodemus was taking to his apartment was leading down into the industrial tiers of the district.

As the pair descended, the humidity rose, causing the once cool air to feel clinging and their clothes to feel stifling. The puddles shone with the skim of oil in the amber hued arc lights diffused by the steam and fog that hung in the air. Moments later, leaving the press of cotters that were heading to the lower tier markets, Katryn and Nicodemus entered his apartment building and thereafter his one bedroom efficiency.

The room was as depressing as Katryn remembered her own apartment being when she had first set out on her journeyman training. The room’s threadbare carpet was stained beyond whatever patterns it once held. A conceal-a-bed was lowered out from its wall closet and a small gravity shower was evident in the far corner, its thin witchgrass panel pushed aside. A couple of chairs covered in patched slip covers, a rickety witchgrass table with two different woven tanglevine chairs, a small kitchenette area, and a steam vent heater finished the room’s accommodations.

Nicodemus worked the hand pump at the small sink and filled a small teakettle. He then placed it on the steam vent heater’s cover to warm rather than stoking the small coal powered stove. As he went about his task, the runecaster realized that Katryn was looking at him and then back at the room. Finally the inventor spoke, remarking in an offhand manner that he should now be able to afford a better place.

Nicodemus stifled a sarcastic reply, realizing that none of his companions could understand just how much he had lost and how far he had to go to regain it. With that thought came the remembrance of why he had begun drinking last night in the first place.

When Nicodemus didn’t answer, Katryn volunteered to wait out in the hall so he could take his shower, saying they would go and get a bite of lunch afterward. Once Katryn had left, Nicodemus verified that the copper kettle was heated, poured the restorative tonic into his tea and drank it down. Almost immediately he could fill his head clearing and proceeded to prep the heater for the shower before climbing in under its near scalding stream of water.

Across town Roxton knocked at Veruna’s bedroom door with his foot, his hands occupied with a serving tray laden with fresh tea and scones. Veruna let him in and Roxton could see a variety of different outfits hanging about the passer’s room, including the recently used Dr. McDermott outfit and a Bluecoat LeatherJack.

Roxton set the tray down on a small table and, once they each had a scone and cup of tea, set about asking if the Malakar was upset with him. The question caught the sleep-deprived wayfinder off guard and she collapsed into frustrated tears and half sobs.

Roxton was astonished at Veruna’s reaction to the question and more than a little relieved when she began explaining that it was Jonathon that she was upset with. In between sobs and sips of tea, the Malakar explained how she had been disappointed in Jonathon’s behavior at the Society the night before.

She told the retriever how each time she had attempted to further the ruse of a loving couple, Jonathon had withdrawn or made some excuse to separate himself. Veruna asked if she was too intimidating, to which Roxton answered no and offered a comforting arm.

As Roxton waited for Veruna to collect herself, he asked her what her feelings were for the shadowpriest. The Malakar dried her eyes and tried to be evasive, saying that she liked everyone in the group. Roxton was not to be so easily deterred and asked her again.

The retriever’s question was making Veruna look at how she did feel for the Andari. Rather than give a solid yes or no to a question she currently considered childish at best and thought provoking on her part at worst, she directed his attention to the clothing on the walls and asked which outfits he thought she should pack.

As she was attempting to distract Roxton, she inwardly considered her current anger and frustration towards the shadowpriest. She could admit to herself that she was miffed that Jonathan hadn’t been more willing to play the part of the loving couple, but was it because she liked Jonathan more than the other gentlemen she’d met since coming to Grey Mesa? It hardly seemed likely, given his depressing attitude.

Veruna was brought back from her musings when she realized that Roxton had asked what she suggested he do about patching up the misunderstanding with Katryn. He had asked about the reasons for Katryn’s reaction, given that she seemed so taken with Nicodemus.

Veruna really didn’t know her own motivations in this new territory of relationships – and was stunned to realize that she was being asked her expertise on the subject. Like any new shapeshifting role, she tried to reason it as if she were Katryn and to give advice from her roommate’s point of view.

Veruna suggested showing Katryn particular attention over the next few days, to show that he didn’t have feelings for the other lady. Further, the Malakar hinted that her roommate particularly liked clockworks and that perhaps a gift of a small clockwork mechanism would be appropriate.

Roxton shook his head and said that he didn’t know if that was the best course, since Nicodemus had obviously spent the night. “She called him Nicky,” said the exasperated retriever.

“”Nicky” spent most of last night on the couch, when he wasn’t busy being sick,” replied Veruna.

Roxton shook his head, thinking to himself that he needed to patch things up with his fellow jobber, but unsure if Veruna’s suggested course of action was the best. Excusing himself, suggesting that Veruna should take a nap, Roxton gathered his weapons and coat, setting out to do some shopping.

Meanwhile, the near scalding jets of water, coupled with the restorative, brought Nicodemus’ thoughts into clarity. Scouring himself with the thin bar of soap, he instructed Kay to relate exactly what she had witnessed between Roxton and the woman she had seen him with.

The rune wraith, in a clipped and unbiased tone, related what she had witnessed. Rinsing quickly as the water rapidly began turning cool, Nicodemus decided that he really did not want to play the role of a relationship counselor, but more than that he did not like being put into the middle of Katryn and Roxton’s spat.

Toweling off and dressing in clean clothes, Nicodemus packed a small parcel with the few belongings he believed he might need for the group’s inevitable trip to BlackShackle. He then bundled up his soured cloudbreather ensemble and met Katryn out in the hallway.

The pair proceeded back towards Katryn and Veruna’s flat, stopping along the way to leave Nicodemus’ ensemble for laundering and to grab a bite of lunch at a small diner a few blocks from the ladies’ flat. When the jobbers finally arrived back, Veruna was fast asleep and neither of their other companions were about.

Katryn busied herself with cleaning up the sitting area and filling the bathtub to wash out her new cloudbreather dress. Nicodemus took a seat once Katryn had cleared the couch and proceeded to work on runecrafting his LeatherJack, Katryn’s mumbling creating an almost soothing background murmur as she went about her tasks.

About half an hour later Brother Keeganfall returned, bearing the train schedules and a copy of the GreyMesa Gazette. As he tossed the papers down on the tea table, the shadowpriest remarked that “Rocks Sloane” had made the headlines of gossip columnist Felicia Spring.

Katryn paused in her cleaning, scooped up the paper, and took a seat. The inventor read about the evening activities from the gossip columnist’s point of view. It described in almost melodramatic fashion what the Society members wore and prominent members’ reactions to various events of the party, such as Lord Topper’s pouting that his guest “Rocks Sloane” had upstaged him, the scandalous appearance of Nicodemus Bloodrune, and musings about the unknown woman upon Nicodemus’ arm.

“So it appears here that you are someone of note,” remarked Katryn to Nicodemus. The runecaster looked up from his work on his LeatherJack and shrugged his shoulders.

When she did not receive any more of an answer, the inventor continued reading Felicia’s account and arrived at the part describing the charming and darkly handsome “Rocks Sloane” and his seduction of Maria Sauvignon. She barely finished reading the column before tossing the paper over her shoulder and muttering, “Just how many women did he flirt with at the party?” before resuming her cleaning with a disproportionate amount of vigor.

Veruna emerged from her rooms some time later, refreshed and with a renewed appetite. She noticed Jonathon and Nicodemus sitting down while Katryn moved about finishing her cleaning. Veruna saw the train schedules along with the discarded gazette, scooped both up, and made her way to the kitchen. There she finished off the cooled tea and another scone as she looked over the train schedules and the gossip column.

Looking up from her reading she saw Katryn going into their bathroom and caught a flash of green being lowered into the bathtub from the inventor’s hands. Fearing the worst, the Malakar rushed across the room and let out a panicked cry as she saw the delicate silk cloudbreather dress running green into the tub’s wash water.

Jonathon looked up from his reading of the chapbook of Lord Angst’s poetry at the same time Nicodemus looked up from his runecrafting. The shadowpriest suggested that the pair go and secure tickets for that evening’s express train since they would be looking at an eighteen-hour journey to BlackShackle, not counting a night’s layover in GauntWhistle for taking the evening train.

The runecaster concurred with the shadowpriest’s excuse to vacate the flat and the pair announced their intention to secure the tickets. Veruna paused in her distressed lecturing of Katryn to tell the men to buy a trunk for the trip. She then turned back and began arguing with Katryn about what she should do, stating there was no point in buying a new dress here in GreyMesa since BlackShackle might have different fashions in style.

Roxton passed Nicodemus and Jonathon as he returned from his shopping expedition. He caught part of what the runecaster was saying to the shadowpriest regarding Kay’s recap of the events from the previous night before the two exchanged greetings with the retriever. The pair explained that they were off to secure tickets for the evening express train to BlackShackle and that they would be back shortly. With that they were off and Roxton boarded the lift up to the ladies’ floor.

Roxton entered the ladies’ flat as the two were still arguing over the damaged dress. Katryn, upon seeing Roxton, declared that she was taking the dress to a professional cleaner to see if they might be able to salvage it. After giving a somewhat indifferent greeting to the retriever, the inventor fairly flew out of the apartment.

Veruna sighed in exasperation at the morning’s events and at Roxton’s bewildered watching of the door closing with Katryn’s departure. Asking if the retriever had secured a gift, the Malakar urged him to pursue her roommate and present the gift to her. Feeling self-conscious but at the same time wanting the tension between them ended, Roxton donned his slouch hat once more and went after the inventor.

Roxton caught Katryn as she was hailing a carriage. The newt-drawn carriage pulled up to the curb as the retriever produced the wrapped parcel from within his coat.

Katryn tucked the wet dress under one arm and looked skeptically at Roxton as she removed the wrapping paper. Within the brown tanglevine parchment was a set of jeweled hairpins that were designed to also serve as lock picks. The silver and jade trinkets had set Roxton back three hundred royals, but after having spent several hours looking at various clockwork bric-a-brac, he had decided that a gift of jewelry coupled with functionality was a better expenditure of his hard earned coin.

The inventor did not quite know what to make of the retriever’s gesture and awkwardly thanked Roxton as the cabbie continued to ask if it was one fare or two and what the destination was. With thinly veiled relief, Katryn carefully pocketed the gift and gave the cabbie her destination as she boarded the conveyance.

Roxton watched Katryn ride off wondering if he had done the right thing. Shrugging his shoulders, he set off for his own place to retrieve his gear for the night’s departure.

That night saw the five jobbers boarding the night train for GauntWhistle, the first stop on their journey to BlackShackle. Jonathon had used his voucher from the Chancellor to secure their express tickets while Nicodemus had purchased a trunk of blue newt leather for the ladies’ outfits and gear. Veruna had made sure to pay the runecaster back after he was certain to make mention of how much the trunk had cost.

The group was shown to a private passenger car that was divided into a set of private witchgrass paneled cabins. Veruna asked for the window seat as Katryn settled in beside her on the padded bench. Jonathon sat opposite Veruna as Nicodemus invited Roxton to go with him to see if there was a dining car with a bar.

Jonathon leaned back, laid his head against the cool glass of the window as the train began its ponderous motion forward, and feigned sleep. Across from him Katryn produced the hairpins and told Veruna that Roxton had given them to her. Veruna told her that maybe Roxton felt bad about what had happened and the gift was a way of showing his concern for their relationship. Katryn shook her head at her friends’ misunderstanding and explained that she didn’t know how to use them in her hair and needed Veruna’s help. Veruna then proceeded to show Katryn several possible styling options and to make small talk, relieved at not having to have another conversation about relationships that day.

Elsewhere on the train, Nicodemus had launched into a conversation with Roxton about Katryn, himself, and the retriever. The runecaster told Roxton of what had transpired the night before at the Society after Kay had reported that Roxton was with Maria, and subsequently Katryn’s reaction when the rune wraith stated that the two of them were not talking.

As he finished relating what had occurred, Nicodemus said, “I don’t care. I just don’t want to get involved with these women.”

Roxton then explained why he had thought Nicodemus and Katryn were more involved, pointing out that it was why he had not really considered the inventor interested in himself.

“I didn’t realize that you were insane,” quipped Nicodemus sarcastically before explaining that his dinner weeks before with Katryn had been to work out the arrangements for sharing the rented workshop in the storage facility.

“So you’re saying that there’s nothing going on with you and Kat?” asked Roxton wanting to be absolutely clear about the runecaster’s intentions toward the inventor.

“By the goddess, no!” exclaimed the runecaster as the conductor walked up asking for the pair’s tickets.

“What’s wrong with Kat?” asked Roxton. “She’s intelligent and witty…and she’s beautiful,” he added.

“I have a brotherly affection for her” said Nicodemus as the pair took back their punched tickets. He then explained that Roxton and Katryn getting together was the best course of action for him personally since it would remove the runecaster from being in the middle.

The pair talked a bit more, trying to determine how best to fix the situation, before realizing that they were talking in circles. With that the two finished their walk between the railcars and returned to their cabin. Once there, Roxton headed back out with Veruna as she expressed an interest in seeing more of the train before the jobbers settled in for their six-hour journey.

The train descended from GreyMesa on towering terraced arches of massive steel girders. As the train descended the sensation of speed increased and the clacking of the train’s wheels upon the tracks took on a droning cadence. Beyond the windows was pitch-blackness, lending a surreal quality to the scene as the sensation of motion filled the cabin, but no visual clue was available for reference.

The group arrived just after midnight in GauntWhistle, the train-manufacturing hub of ScatterPoint. Massive walls of steel and stone surrounded the city district and the thunderous sound of industry filled the air as the jobber’s train slowly climbed the terraced archways above the protective wall.

Beyond the steamed windows of the train cabin could be seen the blazing banks of arc light arrays illuminating the foundries and rail yards. Distant clusters of cotters could be seen working beneath the glaring lights upon the steam powered engines and the assorted railcars.

The train pulled into a massively constructed tower that served as the express terminal. At this late hour the loading platforms were deserted, except for some groups of rail engineers and Whitecloak watch members. Disembarking, the jobbers were directed by the conductor to the nearby hotel known as The Junction.

The Junction occupied most of the lower floors of the tower beneath the level of the loading platforms. It catered to the rising middle class of ScatterPoint and the rooms had soft beds with clean sheets, private baths, thick carpets and drapes, with incredible soundproofing due to the tanglevine cork material insulating its walls.

The jobbers retired to their respective rooms and settled in to sleep before their trip resumed the next morning.
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Mark

Second watch. Roll for surprise.
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Marcos
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Joined: 28 Apr 2006
Posts: 98
Location: Hickory, NC

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2007 5:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

2nd of Madness 1107p.t.

Six that morning saw the jobbers once more settling into a private train cabin for the next leg of their trip to PitchPit. The group had partaken of packaged breakfasts offered by enterprising vendors out on the loading platforms. In addition, Roxton purchased the available rag sheets to catch any news he could find pertaining to the city districts that the jobbers were traveling to.

The trip to PitchPit was uneventful, with Roxton sharing his papers with the others, Katryn tinkering with her SITE, Nicodemus runecrafting his LeatherJack, Jonathon reading the poetry chapbook, and Veruna looking out at the sunlit barrens as the miles rolled seemingly ceaseless beneath the train tracks.

The layover in PitchPit lasted just over half an hour and in that time the five companions could see why this city district of ScatterPoint was considered to be booming. The rail platforms were choked full of people of all descriptions and social strata. In the distance could be seen newly constructed refineries, working to convert the black scar of the tar pits to precious oils. On the nearby walls were flyers advertising the latest BloodCircle events and many of the train’s passengers seemed to be in town for the gladiatorial games.

Lunch was at a nearby café off of the main rail platform and consisted of roasted meat-vat sandwiches that had been exotically flavored using new mixtures discovered by the Zorad-Kane processing center. The small respite was a welcome relief after having been on the train all morning. Tensions seemed to have eased amongst the jobbers and everyone went out of their way to keep it as such.

Before long the group was once more ensconced in their cabin and on their way toward their final destination of BlackShackle. As before at GauntWhistle, Roxton had purchased the latest newssheets and read that in BlackShackle a criminal inventor, Professor Payne, had been recently apprehended. His Andari accomplice, Evangeline Summersmith, was still at large. In addition, he read that Malakar raiders had been harassing trains entering and leaving BlackShackle. As a result, the district had beefed up patrols with the cooperation of the Barren Knights in Iron Hollows in an effort to curtail the raiders.

The jobbers had just started to doze off in the midafternoon as their train rolled on towards BlackShackle. Suddenly the screech of the train’s brakes filled the air and the jobbers were jarred to wakefulness as they were nearly thrown from their padded bench seats.

Roxton leaned over Jonathon and dropped the cabin’s rectangular window. Leaning out he glimpsed through the engine’s billowing white exhaust cloud that the rails ahead of the train had been torn up and fashioned into a makeshift barrier. Veruna also leaned out her window and glimpsed Malakar warriors with growlers running at their feet moving to the public car of the train.

As Katryn and Veruna shrugged into their LeatherJack, Nicodemus crossed over into the private cabin that was opposite the jobbers and looked out that cabin’s window. A flash of light, which resolved itself to be the flickering of runic energy playing about Malakar claws, allowed the runecaster to see another group of Malakar rushing the engine itself.

As the sound of Malakar war cries filled the air, Nicodemus announced that he and Kay would deal with the Malakar rushing the engine. The Bloodrune scion called forth his arcane companion and together the two of them disembarked out onto the sand and scrub of the Iron Hollow barrens.

The heat off the dry pan lent a shimmer to the air, but it wasn’t enough to fully obscure the rushing Malakar. Nicodemus, with Kay mirroring his movements, sent a barrage of runic lances cutting into the group. The ruby colored bolts killed one and scorched another across the shoulders, throwing him off balance.

On the other side of the train car Katryn told Veruna to clear the opening. The Malakar passer grabbed the window frame and launched herself into a diving roll. Coming up, a cloud of dust rising at her feet, the Malakar dropped her human disguise while brandishing her fighting talons.

“Not this train! Not today!” she cried in challenge, drawing the Malakar raiders rushing the passenger car towards her instead.

“That’s not what I meant by get out of the way,” called Katryn from the window, as Roxton was rushing to the railcar’s back door to see what was occurring behind the train.

The retriever came out onto the back runner of the car and peered toward the caboose. Only his agile reflexes saved him from taking a flashing bolt in the head as a Malakar armored in ChainJack fired on him with a massive crossbow. Roxton’s own hurried shot in return echoed in the air as the large caliber round punched into the dirt at the Malakar’s feet.

Veruna watched as the Malakar warriors rushed towards her, their growler easily pulling ahead and launching itself at her. Veruna sidestepped the rush even as the growler’s jaws snapped down into the hem of her LeatherJack.

At the back of the car, the Malakar crossbowman sent the growler with him charging at the retriever. Roxton attempted to dodge aside, without giving up his clear field of fire, but only saved himself a bite by swinging his FlintFlicker Fifty into the side of the growler’s shaggy head.

Jonathon exited from the back of the car, moving to support Veruna’s reckless engagement while reciting a prayer to Umbriel. Arriving at the wayfinder’s flank, the shadowpriest laid his hand on Veruna’s shoulder while finishing the recitation. Veruna felt a tingle rush through her body then watched as her claws went completely devoid of color, seeming to become a black that drank in the available light.

“That’s the best thing you’ve done for me lately, Jonathon,” quipped Veruna, some of her resentment towards the Andari leaking out.

“Let’s just see if it can help keep you on your feet this time - unlike our last few conflicts,” said the shadowpriest sarcastically in reply.

Inside the now vacated cabin, Katryn drew her LASER and allowed the SITE to steady her aim through the window as she drew a bead on one of the Malakar still closing with the wayfinder and shadowpriest. A streak of blazing white cut through the dust-filled air and the Malakar pitched over backward, dead.

One of the Malakar rushing the engine broke off towards the source of the runic attack, directing his growler at Kay even as he slammed into Nicodemus knocking the air out of him. Kay retaliated by sending three ruby colored lances of runic energy into the Malakar raiders, killing the one attacking Nicodemus, another at the engine, and scorching a third.

A moment later the growler launched itself into the crimson blazing rune wraith, locking its jaws into the arcane companion’s neck and dragging her off balance.

On the opposite side of the train, Veruna slashed in at the closest Malakar, easily evading his parry and burying her talon into his leather armored chest. The Malakar raider arched up backward, gasping in disbelief as his life essence rushed forth into Veruna.

The wayfinder felt the energy surge through her and a primal elation filled her being. The energy coursed through her limbs, bolstering her with an arcane strength even as she fought not to lose herself in its heady rush.

Seeing that Veruna and Jonathon seemed to have things well in hand, Katryn moved to support Roxton’s engagement with the foes attacking the caboose. The inventor stepped out and sent a stream of white shards blasting towards the Malakar raiders at the rear of the train. Two shards punched into the closest one, sending him sprawling, while the other raider ducked the shot sent his way.

A split second before, Roxton had jerked his head back a second time when another runic charged crossbow bolt buried itself into the private passenger car. Thanking Katryn for her assistance he pulled the trigger, sending another round down range at the crossbowman. The round slammed into the raider’s ChainJack, which absorbed the lethal energy of the heavy round.

As the report of the FlintFlicker faded, the retriever and inventor heard the crossbowman barking a command and another growler emerged from between the railcars to charge Katryn even as the one already snapping at Roxton caused the retriever to leap over its massive jaws.

Jonathon drew his rapier and shifted his stance as the growler bit into Veruna’s shin. A quick thrust behind the growler’s ear caused it to fall dead, releasing Veruna’s leg. The Andari then heard Katryn calling for him to aid Roxton. Advising Veruna that the blessing of the black blade would last but a moment more, he hurried to help his companions.

Roxton cursed under his breath as the pain in his shoulder caused him to sway. The crossbowman had managed to get off a lucky shot and the runic charged bolt had blasted clean through the retriever’s shoulder. The retriever felt the blood pounding in his ears even as it poured down his chest and back. The growler’s snapping jaws caused him to jerk back upright, and then he felt the cool energy of Jonathon’s spell knitting his shoulder closed.

Katryn saw that the shadowpriest had arrived and pondered her chances of hitting the crossbowman where he had taken cover after shooting Roxton. Opting instead to put the growlers out of the fight, the inventor ignored the growler lunging at her to shoot the growler attacking Roxton, the white shard punching it through the head.

Nicodemus fought to catch his breath, gasping to Kay to attack the growler on him and then to defend the engineers from the remaining Malakar raider that had just boarded. The rune wraith complied, her claws tearing a bruising gash in the growler’s flank before rushing towards the engine.

Jonathon paused in his ministrations to the retriever, knowing that his first prayer had only stopped the blood loss and had not fully repaired the shoulder. However, he knew that if he could free up Katryn, the inventor’s marksmanship could turn the fight quickly. The Andari executed an overextending lunge at the growler before Katryn, his weight aiding the rapier in skewering the beast through the lungs and heart.

On the other side of the train Veruna was locked in claw-to-claw combat with the remainder of her foes. The Malakar raider feinted high and before Veruna could recover she felt his claw tear through her stomach, sending her stumbling back clutching at the deep wound as she fought to regain her equilibrium.

The raider, mistakenly sensing a victory, pressed his advantage against the wayfinder. His leering visage and his bloody claws snapped Veruna’s pain-filled thoughts back to the battle. The Malakar passer swept her left claw out wide, catching both of her assailant’s and throwing them out of position. Her other claw streaked forward and buried itself to the back of her hand.

As before, Veruna felt the life energy of her foe rushing to fill her body. However, rather than boosting her strength, black light played out of her wounds, rapidly shifting through deep red to gleaming white. As the raider’s body crumpled to the dry plain Veruna felt the blessing of Umbriel fade, her claws resuming their normal runic sheen even as her wound was completely mended and her supernatural strength expired.

“Jonathon, that was one hell of a prayer!” Veruna hollered as she looked towards the caboose to see another raider emerging, blood staining his clothes and dripping from his talons. “I want that again!” she cried as she broke into a charge.

As Veruna’s cries carried over the train, Roxton suppressed the pain still coming from his partially healed shoulder to break cover, swinging wide, to bring the crossbowman into view. The crossbowman’s bolt had been fired moments before and Katryn’s dodge had been enough to only have the bolt slice her ribs instead of burying into her chest.

Roxton’s long legs ate up the dusty ground, taunting the crossbowman as he fired his heavy pistol. The round ricocheted off of the train car where the Malakar had taken cover and the retriever dropped the firearm to pull forth his rapier.

The Malakar raider responded in a mocking tone, dropping the heavy crossbow to the ground and brandishing his fighting talons, runic energy playing along them. The retriever skipped backward, rolling his rapier in a defensive pattern, but still felt the raider’s right claw slice lightly along his stomach through his LeatherJack short coat.

Knowing that Roxton was at less than full health, the shadowpriest moved quickly behind the retriever saying “Let’s have a fair fight,” before reciting a second prayer of healing and finishing restoring Roxton’s mobility in his shoulder.

“Let’s not!” snapped Katryn, feeling the burning in her side from the glancing hit the crossbow quarrel had inflicted. The inventor raised the LASER and white shards blasted through the Malakar’s ChainJack sending him crashing back into the dust beside the rails.

At the same moment, Kay disemboweled the lone Malakar that had managed to reach the engine. The arcane companion’s claws had torn through the Malakar’s attempt to defend himself and the three crewmembers had to shield their eyes from the rune wraith’s glaringly bright aura.

Nicodemus had dodged the growler’s renewed attacks and had managed to regain his breath. The runecaster had timed out the beast’s last two lunges and when it attempted its third, the head of Nicodemus’ sword cane swung in, forcing the growler back and on its side. Not hesitating, Nicodemus drew upon his runic magic and the smell of scorched fur filled the air as the ruby energy lance branded the flank of the beast clean through to the other side.

Roxton called for Jonathon to move toward the front cars to verify that the raiders had all been dealt with even as he closed with the last raider who had met Veruna’s charge and set the wayfinder back onto her heels. “Turn or take it in the back” called the retriever and he caught the Malakar in mid turn, the long thin blade of his rapier taking him under the arm and through the heart.

The jobbers spent the next few minutes verifying that the train site had been secured. Once satisfied, Nicodemus went searching in the direction the Malakar attacking the engine had appeared from.

The runecaster discovered a concealed campsite, with several packs stowed away in a covered pit. The packs contained preserved foods, personal belongings, and a smattering of Royals. Nicodemus pocketed the black metal coins on his return to the group, announcing he had found the raider’s camp.

Veruna looked up from where she was searching the raiders’ bodies. The wayfinder had discovered that each raider bore a tattoo of broken shackles on the inside of their left wrists, but no wealth on their persons other than their sun bleached armor and the Malakar crossbow with a few spare bolts.

The wayfinder went over to the raiders’ camp and her trained eyes caught the signs that Nicodemus could not have known to look for. The tracks about the area revealed that this group was only a portion of a larger whole. The wayfinder estimated that an additional score of Malakar made up the raiders’ band and that the troop had several large skirrs for their use. In addition, Veruna uncovered two additional pits, these much larger, and she determined that they must have been dug to hold the goods taken from the train if the raid had been successful.

During this time, Katryn and Roxton looked over the damaged rail tracks. The tracks had been torn up for several feet and the planks and beams positioned to form the barrier that had stopped the train. The inventor told the retriever that temporary repairs could be made, but that it would depend on how much of the materials could be salvaged, what the train carried in way of materials, and the work of the passengers if the repairs needed to be made quickly.

Roxton nodded in understanding and, upon receiving Veruna’s news of additional raiders in the area, agreed that time was of the essence. The retriever instructed the train crew to talk with Katryn while leaving Veruna, once more in her human guise, and Nicodemus to talk with the passengers. Roxton then recruited the shadowpriest’s aid in moving the bodies to the pits so as to spare the jobbers and passengers from the smell of the carnage that they had wrought.

The makeshift repairs had taken almost an hour and as a result the jobber’s train pulled into BlackShackle just after seven that evening amidst heavy rain and the distant sound of thunder, the train having just outrun an extensive runestorm that had struck the black walled city district.

The train platform was lit by immense banks of arc lights that cut through the heavy downpour causing the air to seem filled with grayish blue sheets. A heavily armed patrol of Whitecloaks with their Redcloak captain boarded the private passenger car, water soaking the white cloaks but sheeting off the red one.

The captain pulled back her hood and introduced herself as Samantha Aldwyn. She had short, curly red hair, bright green eyes and a strong jaw. The captain asked what had occurred out on the plains that afternoon, explaining that all of the passengers and crew were being questioned to have as complete a report as possible.

Roxton played the part of the jobber’s spokesperson, with the others answering questions as they were put to them until the details of the afternoon had been recounted to Captain Aldwyn’s satisfaction. The Redcloak then asked what the jobbers’ business was in BlackShackle and Roxton told her that they were retrievers looking for work.

Captain Aldwyn said that the Andari Evangeline Summersmith was still at large and could make for a nice bounty if the group was so inclined. Roxton smiled his rakish grin and said that they would look into it, but were keeping their options open.

The interrogation concluded, the jobbers asked after suitable lodgings and the Redcloak told them that there were two hotels nearby depending on their means, The Maximillion and The Respite, with The Respite being the cheaper of the two. The jobbers thanked the captain and disembarked through the rain and into the massive black metal depot.

The jobbers decided with the foul weather that walking with Veruna’s trunk for several blocks was not something they wanted to do. The interrogation had put the time at after eight and all the five wanted to do was to get settled, freshen up, and have a meal or drink, not necessarily in that order depending on the jobber in question.

The group hired a carriage drawn and run by a massive, balding Overwrought, his personal arc lights casting his features into shadow. The Overwrought loaded the jobbers’ luggage and took the five companions to The Respite.

The hotel was made from the same black metal that made up the majority of the buildings within BlackShackle and wall mounted arc lights illuminated the gold painted letters that proclaimed the hotel’s name. Rain pounded down like a drum on the battered awning and the faded carpet beneath it was soaked through, splashing water as the group hurried in out of the storm.

A short time later saw the jobbers arriving down in the hotel’s flywheel for food and drink. Veruna decided to sit at the bar, her curiosity about the local scene and the urge to eavesdrop motivating her decision. Jonathon had proceeded straight into the flywheel when the group had arrived and empty tumblers surrounded a half eaten bowl of cotter’s chowder on his table when Roxton and Nicodemus joined him.

The three talked over what they knew of Lord Shaw, his gothic tastes, and supposedly fiendish appetites. This led to them discussing the merits of exploring the night-shrouded streets and the less than prestigious environs often found in the lower tiers of a district. Jonathon, already feeling restless and warding off a growing feeling of edginess, rose and said he would look into any possible leads. When Roxton made to accompany him, Jonathon dissuaded him, directing his glance to the arriving Katryn to forestall any argument.
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Marcos
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2007 5:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

3rd of Madness 1107p.t.

The morning found the streets of BlackShackle soaking wet and possessing a grayish cast against the black metal buildings that made up the majority of the district. The storm from the night before had dissipated much of its fury until only a steady light rain remained to cool the air and to cause fog to arise in the lower tiers.

Roxton met Jonathon in the flywheel at eight that morning, the Andari sitting at a table near the fire, the crushed butts of tanglevine cigarettes resting in an empty tumbler while a second half-filled tumbler occupied the shadowpriest’s hands. Brother Keeganfall told the retriever that for all the light of the law in BlackShackle, the vices here were that much darker in the resulting shadows.

Roxton looked at the shadowpriest’s drawn features, the dark smudges under his eyes, and his soaking wet clothes that hung like rags on his thin frame. Jonathon confirmed Roxton’s suspicions that he had only recently returned from his nocturnal wanderings and that they had been somewhat fruitful. The shadowpriest paused to allow Nicodemus to join them, the runecaster having stopped off at the reception desk to hire a bellhop to run an errand for him when he had originally come downstairs with Sloan.

Once he was seated, Jonathon told the pair that he had learned that Lord Shaw was not completely unknown to the criminal element of the district. Rumors said that the young lord entertained on the wrong side of the street and had paid blood money to the local crime families for the occasional prostitute death. In addition, a wealthy uncle who supposedly earned his coin by sifting, or reaping depending on one’s point of view, apparently subsidized Lord Shaw’s lifestyle.

The three discussed the possibility that Lord Shaw’s uncle had been Robert Shaw, the reaper that they had fought in GreyMesa’s fringe. Ultimately they realized it did not matter, other than for the fact that Veruna had claimed Robert’s customized LeatherJack for herself and if Robert was Lord Shaw’s uncle, then the armor served as a tell of their encounter.

Nicodemus said that he would recommend to Veruna that Kay and she switch armor for the time being and with that Jonathon rose from the table to go and get some sleep. He passed Veruna and Katryn coming downstairs. The shadowpriest told them that Roxton and Nicodemus were waiting for them and that he was off to get some rest.

The passer and inventor joined the retriever and runecaster and the pair brought them up to speed on what Jonathon had learned. The four decided that more information would be prudent and as they made ready to depart, Nicodemus’ purchases were delivered.

With the inclement weather, the runecaster had decided that hats were in order for himself and Katryn, having inadvertently believed that Roxton’s loan of a hat the night before at the train depot to Veruna was more lasting than it truly had been. For the inventor he had sent out for a brown newt leather workman’s cap with a snap-fastened bill and for himself a black bowler. Those with headgear donned it and the four jobbers headed out into rain slick streets.

As Jonathon had described during the jobbers’ trip to the Prison District, the presence of the law in the district was much more pronounced. Intermixed with the cotters and boyars of the city heading out for their day’s activities could be seen numerous white and red cloaks. The patrol forces were predominantly human, though a disproportionate number of Overwrought could be seen in their ranks compared to Ferren and the occasional Malakar.

Roxton headed off to the fog filled lower tiers with intentions of visiting the morgues to see if Lucinda had already been killed and her body left for discovery. Veruna and Katryn set out to purchase Veruna a hat of her own and to get a better feel for the city district, especially the higher tiers of the city since Lord Shaw was a cloudbreather. Lastly, Nicodemus went in search of the main library of BlackShackle to look for listings of Lord Shaw’s properties.

Roxton worked his way down to the lower levels and the further from the middle tiers he roamed, the more deserted the streets and alleyways became. The lower tiers of the district were lent a surreal atmosphere as flickering arc lights were diffused through the thick fog. The smell of decay and waste was subdued from the previous night’s downpour and the run off could still be heard rushing through the drainage pipes. With the preponderance of law officers in the city district, Sloan soon realized that the overt criminal element waited for night’s sheltering embrace to conduct its business. As a result he paid the surroundings little mind and before long arrived at one of the morgues he sought.

The smell of formaldehyde and other reagents mingled with the cloying odor of decomposition in the front room of the lower tier morgue, scalding Roxton’s nasal passages. The building was a smaller structure of the city district, with swinging doors across from the main entrance that led back to where the bodies were kept for examination before being shipped to ChalkChain for processing. Another smaller door off to the retriever’s right led to the coroner’s private office.

The coroner was an older doctor, dressed in a reddish brown stained smock, thick glasses, coarse brown pants, and stained leather boots. Thinning grey hair topped a liver spotted scalp and yellow stained teeth filled the cynical smile of one who was too comfortable with death’s many forms.

Roxton spun a tale of half-truth, saying he was a retriever sent to find a wayward daughter who had fallen into the oldest of professions. Sloan went on to describe Lucinda’s appearance and the type of crime he feared might have been visited upon her. The coroner looked the retriever over and seemed to consider the sincerity of Roxton’s tale. He then invited Roxton to join him in his private office.

The private office was cluttered with paperwork that buried the desk and chairs. Clearing a space for each of them to sit, the coroner confided that he had not had such a woman come across his table, but others had and that it was rumored to be the work of a cloudbreather demonologist. The coroner went on to tell Roxton how the deaths were uncommon, but often enough that one should have happened recently and was now overdue.

Roxton thanked the coroner for his help and gave him ten royals to send word to his attention at The Respite if such a body came in within the next few days. The retriever then visited a couple more morgues in the lower tiers, using the same story with similar results before leaving a fistful of royals and instructions to contact him should a matching body be discovered. His investigations concluded, Roxton made his way back to The Respite to meet with his companions.

Katryn and Veruna had worked their way up to the boyar levels of BlackShackle when they ran into Captain Samantha Aldwyn. The Redcloak was not in her uniform from the night before and as the three ladies exchanged greetings the jobbers learned that Samantha was a night watch captain and was just starting her day. Further conversation had the three walking to a nearby café for an early lunch with Samantha entertaining the jobber’s questions about the district and its notable sights.

Katryn and Veruna enjoyed their meal with Samantha, which consisted of fresh fruits and vegetables from a local glassgarden. The conversation had given the inventor and wayfinder the tourist highlights of BlackShackle, but nothing immediately pertinent to their Church given assignment. As the three finished up their lunch with spiced tanglevine tea, Samantha asked after the jobbers’ experiences and Veruna entertained the Redcloak with an edited version of the group’s retrieval job in the fringe of GreyMesa.

Samantha seemed to enjoy Veruna’s account of the jobbers’ adventure and wished the two ladies well on their endeavors in BlackShackle. As the Redcloak waved her goodbyes and headed off towards one of the nearby lifts, Veruna and Katryn decided that any useful exploration of the cloudbreather sections would require more time than they had available. Turning in the opposite direction of Captain Aldwyn, the inventor and wayfinder set back off towards mid tiers and The Respite.

The Bloodrune scion enjoyed his walk through the cool, though damp, air of the Prison District. The time away from his companions was a welcome respite since the previous tensions amongst the group had grown on his nerves, despite the civil veneer that they were all currently maintaining. The runecaster could understand why Jonathon had gone out the night before, despite the foul weather.

The main library was an imposing structure that was a combination of the black steel that made up the district’s architectural signature and majestic polished granite. The interior was softly lit by recessed arc lighting and flickering wall-mounted gas hurricane lamps. The furnishings were leather chairs and polished witchgrass tables with golden brown hues. The smell of preserved paper and parchment permeated the air.

The runecaster’s search through the stacks yielded up a listing of Lord Shaw’s properties, including a condemned tower in the district’s lower west side near the Academy of Zurvan, the citadel where Sequitors were trained. Lord Shaw’s possession of the condemned tower seemed a likely lead and Nicodemus recorded his findings and made ready to leave when he overheard a voice at the main desk say the name Lord Shaw.

Nicodemus maneuvered his way around towards the front entranceway of the library and observed a finely dressed gentleman in his early twenties. He was dressed in a dark grey suit with black trim and a silk top hat of the same colors. His skin was smooth and pale, his eyes a dark blue, and his thick hair was a shiny black wave to his shoulders.

The Lord Shaw asked after a parcel he was waiting on and the desk clerk said that the mail had not yet arrived. Obviously upset at the delay, the cloudbreather announced that he would check back and Nicodemus watched him board a private coach of dark grey witchgrass, drawn by a pair of exotic greenish yellow newts. A reserved looking coachman secured the door and then climbed to the bench seat before driving off into the district.

Nicodemus approached the main desk and after a bit of conversation learned that Lord Shaw was normally much more congenial, but had been waiting for a chap book of poetry from Lord Angst’s private collection. Thinking that the chapbook might have been on the very train that the jobbers had traveled on, Nicodemus rushed back to the rail depot, only to learn that the mail parcels had already been taken to the government center for dispersal to the addressed parties. The runecaster returned with haste to the library, plotting on how he could intercept the parcel to see what it contained.

Just after the lunch hour Nicodemus’ stakeout of the main desk bore fruit as Kay softly announced from her ethereal state that the postman had called and delivered the mail. The runecaster’s plan to retrieve the book had been formulated while he had waited, and having gathered the needed materials, he now put it into action.

Back in the stacks, he had Kay materialize long enough to create a disturbance by dropping heavy books loudly to the floor before reverting back to her ethereal state. While the desk clerk moved off to investigate, Nicodemus went behind the main desk and retrieved the parcel.

Moving quickly, the runecaster scooped up a like size book and used his magic to call upon runic spirits to aid his forgery efforts. Using the wrapping materials he had purchased and the original package as a guide, Nicodemus wrapped the pilfered book and wrote out the original address in as close to the same handwriting as possible. He then placed his fake parcel in the original’s place before moving off to carefully unwrap the chapbook from Lord Angst.

As Nicodemus was returning to his table in the library, he caught Lord Shaw entering out of the corner of his eye. The desk clerk was still tending to Kay’s diversion and the Bloodrune scion watched as the young lord saw the decoy parcel and took it up from behind the desk. Lord Shaw then exited the library and Nicodemus knew he had little time to see what Lord Angst had sent their suspect.

The chapbook bore the title Meditations On The Well Of Mourning and was filled with the Andari poet’s morose style. Tucked inside, a folded letter informed Lord Shaw that the Society had come to the conclusion that the young lady he had captured was an independent operative and that he was free to dispose of her in whatever manner he deemed best.

Nicodemus decided to keep the letter and painstakingly rewrapped the chapbook before setting it back at the main desk on his way out of the library. As he called a carriage to take him back to The Respite, he figured he had bought Sister Cannondale a little more time by removing the letter. However, the runecaster knew that once the confusion of the switched books passed, time would be rapidly running out on their efforts to recover the missing priestess of shadow.
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razorwise
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great job as always. You're really bringing the city to life and sounds like your gang is having a blast.

Regads,

Sean
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Marcos
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

razorwise wrote:
Great job as always. You're really bringing the city to life and sounds like your gang is having a blast.

Regads,

Sean


Sean,

I'm glad you are still enjoying following my group’s adventures in ScatterPoint. I certainly enjoy writing them up to share. Smile

As for my players, they do seem to be having a blast, which just makes running the game that much more fun behind the screen. The current scenario has certainly challenged them and the one they have recently embarked on should push the players and their characters to the limit. Twisted Evil

Thanks again for the wonderful setting and look for the latest exploits below.

Good Gaming,
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Marcos
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

3rd of Madness 1107p.t. continued

The jobbers met back at The Respite that midafternoon and shared what their ventures into BlackShackle had yielded. The letter Nicodemus had recovered confirmed that Lord Arthur Shaw was the person who had taken Sister Cannondale and that they had to act quickly if they wished to save her.

Roxton asked Nicodemus to share with the group what he knew concerning demonologists. The runecaster thought back to his studies at the University and informed his companions that to face a demonologist was to face a fully trained runecaster who had learned to bind hellish creatures from the outer void to do his bidding. Nicodemus went on to list the traits that all demons seemed to possess, adding that even though there were similarities amongst the different circles, no two demons were ever truly the same.

Once Nicodemus finished briefing them on what they might be facing, Roxton asked Jonathon to pen a letter to the Chancellor detailing everything that they had learned regarding the missing priestess and to put the letter Nicodemus had obtained with it. The retriever reasoned that if they failed to rescue Sister Cannondale, at least the Church of Twilight would have some idea of what had occurred.

Jonathon said that he would and that he intended to leave the letter in the care of the local Hall of Shadow with instructions to send the letter on should they not arrive by the following morning. The jobbers then made what preparations they could and set out for the squalor that Nicodemus’ research had revealed Lord Shaw owned.

The late afternoon streets of BlackShackle’s lower tiers were filled with thick, billowing fog that wrapped about the black metal buildings like a shroud. The sound of the jobbers’ footsteps and the rushing of water through the drain pipes were muted and the air shone golden amber as the fog diffused the over-charged arc lights. The five companions saw little street traffic as they ventured into the lower Westside and soon they arrived at the address discovered by Nicodemus.

The oval shaped structure was over seven stories tall, resembling an enormous smokestack made of rusted black metal as it took up almost the entire block. Large brass and bronze rivets on its surface could be seen through the clinging fog, a green patina leaking about them like ulcerous wounds. Before the tower ran a single street, its cobblestones broken and uprooted. A decrepit looking flywheel resided on one of the street’s corners, lit by a flickering arc light.

The jobbers proceeded down the slick, ruined street, looking over the structure for any signs of occupation. No windows were visible, even to the Andari’s twilight eyes, and the only entrance apparent was a large steel door with a wheel handle set in its center.

The group discussed their options and Nicodemus decided to send Kay ahead through the wall to see what lay beyond the door. Kay obeyed and ventured ethereally into the pitted metal that bordered the steel door. As she passed through the wall, a flare of reddish light outlined her, resolving itself into strands of runic symbols that ensnared the arcane companion.

In the light of the pentagram that was forming about her, Kay saw that the outer door led to an arc shaped hallway that ended in a set of witchgrass double doors set in mortared stone. Not taking more than the single glance, Kay strove against the runic trap, breaking its hold and emerging back onto the street to inform Nicodemus what she had learned and what had occurred.

Nicodemus thought about what had occurred and concluded that the ward was most likely put into place to keep something supernatural from escaping rather than to keep anything out. He decided that having Kay materialized might circumvent the warding and ordered her to do so. Roxton meanwhile strove against the wheel handle, attempting to break the accumulated rust that covered the handle’s shaft.

The retriever’s efforts proved to be in vain, as the wheel refused to budge. Katryn volunteered to take a look and her examination revealed that the wheel had been welded into place and had not been an original part of the door. In addition, she discovered a covered keyhole situated beneath the wheel handle.

Selecting a set of lock picks from one of her many pockets, the inventor set to the task. However, the lock thwarted her attempt and she turned to Roxton to see if he might do better. Roxton took the offered picks and examined the lock in the diffused fog. A moment later there was an audible click and the sound of bars being moved. The heavy door then gave off the brief sound of hissing air, as it silently swung inward.

The jobbers hurried in as a recessed amber colored light flickered on in the hallway that connected the steel door with the double witchgrass doors. However, as Kay and Nicodemus passed through the hatchway like opening, a red glowing pentagram once more snared the rune wraith. Unlike before, the runic ward manifested completely and held the arcane companion fast.

The manifestation of the ward caught the group by surprise, causing Roxton to spring ahead towards the double doors, even as he caught an impression of an opening in the right hand side wall. Katryn spun about with her LASER drawn, while Veruna went into a fighting crouch and Jonathon drew his rapier.

Kay struggled against the warding that held her fast in place while the steel door began to swing closed. The door came to rest against the paralyzed rune wraith as Nicodemus and Veruna heard a surprised call from the street saying that the tower’s door was opened.

Nicodemus thought quickly, ordering Kay to become ethereal, as he himself moved out of the door’s path. She did as ordered and the door finished closing, sealing tightly, with thick metal locking bars sliding into steel collars.

When the door closed, the amber light winked out, leaving the group lit with the fading remnants of the shattered pentagram that Kay had at last overcome. Roxton pulled out his personal arc light and pressed the lighting stud on its hilt. The light flared on, sending out a brilliant blue-white beam as it drew upon the housed runestone.

The retriever, not having seen any armed response to their intrusion, took a moment to examine the wall for the impression he had glimpsed. As he had hoped, there was a concealed door set into the metal wall. It was several feet in diameter and flushed near perfectly with the surrounding metal.

As Veruna remarked that it was most likely the escape route from where they wanted to go, the retriever showed Katryn where the near perfect seam of the door was located. The inventor examined the secret door and, with the additional light provided by Nicodemus ordering Kay to re-manifest, concluded that the triggering mechanism had to be located on the other side of the wall.

The group discussed their options and Nicodemus seemed reluctant to send Kay through yet another wall. Roxton said that he understood but if Veruna’s observation was correct concerning the door’s purpose, being able to bypass Shaw’s guards would be a tremendous advantage.

Nicodemus agreed that the risk was worth the possible advantage and ordered Kay on through to discover a means of opening the door. At the same time, Roxton and Katryn moved towards the witchgrass doors to examine them more closely.

The double doors were of an older design, bearing brass fixtures covered in verdigris, while the surrounding walls were of mortared stone, the gaps stained with mold and mildew. The doors had swollen shut from the ambient moisture that filled the tunnel’s air and no obvious keyholes were evident. As the pair set about looking for a concealed release mechanism, they caught the sound of boots scuffing against a stone floor on the other side of the door.

As Roxton and Katryn listened more closely, they ascertained that the sound of the boots was receding away from the door. Fearing discovery, they made ready to force the door when behind them the secret door swung violently open along its center axis, forcing Jonathon, Veruna, and Nicodemus to dodge aside.

Kay had gone ethereally through the wall and had once more been snared by a red glowing pentagram. Fighting the slowing effects of the runic ward, she explored the tunnel beyond until she discovered a pressure plate set in the smooth floor. Shattering the last effects of the pentagram, Kay resumed solidity and pressed down on the plate causing the secret door to spring open.

The five companions hurried into the open passageway beyond the secret door. As with the outer door, the secret door closed slowly on its own, leaving the jobbers in an upward sloping tunnel almost ten feet in diameter that eased gently into a left hand turn. In the light of Roxton’s arc light and Kay’s ambient glow, the group could see that the tunnel itself was a smooth metal circle, slightly flattened out at the bottom with brass-caged arc lights set in the ceiling.

Jonathon produced a swath of white cloth from within his cloak and applied a mint-scented unguent to it. He then stuck the cloth on the pressure plate that Kay had discovered so that if the group returned back down the tunnel they would readily see it. Once finished Jonathon stowed the remaining unguent back into a cloak pocket and the group made ready to proceed up the spiral.

As they walked upwards, Jonathon verified that they were all in agreement that Sister Cannondale’s rescue was their priority. Several comments from Nicodemus and Roxton at The Respite and on the group’s way to the tower had caused the shadowpriest to become concerned that the group meant to visit punishment upon Lord Shaw regardless of what was ultimately discovered concerning Lucinda. The group answered that they still considered Sister Cannondale’s rescue the primary objective.

“Shaw’s another day,” said the shadowpriest, directing the comment at Roxton and Nicodemus.

“Unless that day’s today,” remarked Nicodemus with a smile that did not reach his eyes.

Jonathon did not reply, merely setting his attentions back to the group’s march in the ever long, upward spiraling passageway. To himself he realized that no matter what happened, if Lucy was still alive and Shaw was present, he could only trust himself to see her to safety. The others were too keen on the confrontation not to see it through to the bitter end. Of course rescuing Lucy was only the start of his problems, but he would have to be alive to worry about the rest of them.

The Andari’s thoughts were soon interrupted as his keen ears caught the sound of movement in the tunnel ahead and his eyes noticed a brightening reflected from the dark metal walls that his companions could not see.

“Sounds like a growler,” remarked Roxton as he played his arc light up the tunnel.

“It’s not just a beast, there are boots as well,” said Jonathon as he moved to the outside edge of the passage hoping to see further up.
An ear splitting howl echoed through the tunnel, causing Katryn to fumble her attempt to activate a KEVLAR field about Roxton. A moment later a massive white furred growler bounded into the blue-white beam of the retriever’s arc light. The beast was the largest any of the jobbers had ever seen, with a broad chest and a head that seemed overlarge for its body. Its eyes burned like smoldering coals as it gave another howl, baring a muzzle full of jagged fangs.

All of the jobbers shook off an unnatural fear that seemed to rise within them as the creature stalked forward, its limbs moving as if it had too many joints. Veruna charged forward ahead of her companions, her claws flashing in a sweeping arc as she dodged the beast’s own lunging bite. The Malakar’s talon scored the creature on its side and reddish black blood seeped from the wound.

“It’s found them!” came a cry from up the tunnel and the glow of rushing torches filled the tunnel’s bend ahead of the jobbers.

Nicodemus ordered Kay to support Veruna’s battle with the supernatural growler before charging ahead himself. In the oncoming torchlight the runecaster saw half a dozen men in LeatherJack, armed with pistols and showing clubs at their belts while whistles hung about their necks.

The runecaster wasted no time and sketched a rune of summoning into the air before him, adding a binding pattern as he did so. About the onrushing guards arose a host of crimson glowing spirits, their spectral arms grappling the surprised men. Two were caught completely off guard and found themselves restrained by the ghostly attackers. Another fought against the spirit that attacked him while another of his companions evaded the spectral grapple and raised his PitchPit, firing at Nicodemus.

The round sparked off of the tunnel wall, ricocheting about the jobbers before disappearing in the tunnel behind them. Roxton rushed forward, executing a foot stamping series of thrusts that forced the guard to fall back or be impaled.

Behind the retriever, Veruna pivoted her stance to keep the unnatural growler flanked and swung both of her claws in a crisscrossing arc that tore the creature asunder. The beast stumbled aside before it rapidly dissipated into a foul smelling cloud of sulfur and brimstone that caused the Malakar to gag.

The two grappled guards still fought against their spectral assailants but were unable to get free. Their companion met with better success, shaking free and firing at the advancing rune wraith. The bullet slammed into Kay’s borrowed LeatherJack without slowing the arcane companion’s advance on one of the grappled guards.

Another guard shot at the shadowpriest as he dodged forward with his rapier leading and his cloak flaring out behind him. The round punched through the Andari’s cloak, scattering a tanglevine tobacco cloud in Jonathon’s wake.

“Do you know how much fine tobacco costs?” quipped Jonathon as he thrust forward and the guard fell back to avoid being skewered.

The guard at the back of the group of men took off running back up the tunnel as Roxton’s opponent dropped his pistol and ripped his club from his belt in an upward swing. The retriever saw the guard’s intentions and as the man pulled up the club, Roxton’s rapier stung him across the back of his knuckles forcing him to fumble his hold on the weapon. Katryn moved up behind the retriever and managed to activate a KEVLAR field around him.

Behind Roxton, Nicodemus and Kay advanced on the grappled guards with cold intent. The runecaster drew his sword cane and slashed one of the guards across the throat as his arcane companion slashed the other restrained guard through his LeatherJack, opening his chest wide. As the two men fell dead, Roxton, in an attempt to avoid becoming entangled in the bodies on the floor, miss-timed his rapier thrust and watched as his blade bent against his foe’s LeatherJack. Beside him, Jonathon knocked away his foe’s attempted block and piked the man through the hip. The man clutched his side in pain and Jonathon easily parried the return swing. Likewise, Roxton evaded his attacker’s efforts as Nicodemus ordered Kay to aid Jonathon.

The runecaster then sprinted forward up the tunnel slope, his lungs burning with the effort as he attempted to close the distance between himself and the fleeing guard. Only a moment later Nicodemus saw the guard’s silhouette flailing madly against the tunnel wall as he ran, his torch bearing arm pumping with exertion.

Nicodemus poured on another ounce of speed and the moment he saw the guard running all out in front of him, hurriedly sketched a rune of attack. The ruby lance of runic energy slammed into the guard’s back, sending the man forward off his feet to smash face first into the tunnel floor dead.

“That’s what happens when you make a Bloodrune run!” exclaimed the runecaster in a gasp as he slowed and jogged up near the body.

Back in the tunnel where the jobbers were still engaged, Veruna dispatched the foe before Roxton earning a sigh of disappointment from the retriever. Beside the pair, Jonathon whipped his rapier up through the bottom of his opponent’s chin and out the top of his head. Katryn began to move forward up the tunnel, thinking to provide aid to Nicodemus if needed, but was distracted by a minor malfunction of her KEVLAR device.

The last guard looked desperately about him, setting himself to run. Before he could do so, Roxton sprang forward and slammed his rapier’s basket hilt into the side of the man’s head, sending him to the floor unconscious.

The jobbers soon reunited and Jonathon handed Sloan a small capsule of smelling salts once the retriever voiced his intention to question their captured foe. The group set up around the prisoner, with Jonathon keeping a watch up the tunnel in the direction from which their foes had come.

Roxton broke the capsule under the guard’s nose and the man came jerking awake, the pain of his swelling face plain to see. Roxton gave the man a cheerful greeting and a smile that was genuine only in its promise of more pain if the guard did not cooperate.

The retriever gave the man Sister Cannondale’s description and the guard confirmed that Lucinda was in a chamber at the top of the tunnel laid upon an altar of bone and sinew. In addition, the guard told the jobbers that Lord Shaw, his captain Lieutenant Tucker, several of his fellow guardsmen, and a demonic creature from beyond the veil waited in the room. Lord Shaw had been engaged in some blasphemous ritual that the guard had been happy to leave when his fellow guards below had sent word of an intrusion and the order was given to investigate the tunnel.

Roxton told the man to consider it his lucky day and to get out of the tower. The guardsman looked at where his fallen comrades lay in pools of blood before quickly finding his feet, grabbing a torch and fleeing down the tunnel with the light dancing madly off of the circular walls.

As the guardsman fled downward, the companions raced upward, their strides ringing dully in the confines of the metal tunnel. Soon the five arrived gasping to where the tunnel leveled off before ending against a mortared stone wall.

Nicodemus was particularly winded and leaned heavily against the cool metal, panting from his unaccustomed exertion. The rest of the group moved cautiously forward, Roxton playing the beam of his arc light over the end of the tunnel.

In its cool blue-white beam the jobbers saw a well-made bicycle near the tunnel wall, propped by an attached kickstand. A large silver lamp was affixed to the handlebars, with wires running down to the pedals and chain assembly. Across its back fender rested sleek metal saddlebags, which upon examination revealed three far door passes and a heavy money belt. Above the bike was a small metal shelf that held a sleek black sphere.

Katryn tossed the money belt into her pack and handed all but one of the far door passes to Roxton before loosening the bolts that held the bike’s wheels in place. The inventor hoped if Lord Shaw attempted to use the bike in an escape, as Nicodemus had suggested when the jobbers had discussed the bike’s presence in the tunnel, that the sabotage would thwart his efforts while at the same time inflicting bodily harm.

Roxton pocketed the sleek metal sphere that Nicodemus had identified as a demon bomb and the far door passes before moving to listen at the stone wall with Veruna.

The pair could barely make out the sound of chanting coming through the stone wall. Looking over the tunnel the pair could see no mechanism for opening the concealed door they knew had to be there.

Katryn announced that she was done with the bike and Roxton determined that faking a whistle might get the guards on the other side to open the door. The group made ready to enter the chamber beyond and Nicodemus pulled his fatigued frame upright, confident that he could handle whatever next awaited them.

The retriever placed his fingers in his mouth and let out a screeching whistle that he warbled at the end to approximate what he figured the guards’ whistles would sound like. The bluff worked and the jobbers watched the stone wall before them pull open revealing a demonic shrine beyond.

The chamber was constructed of dressed stonework that was lit by flickering torches resting in black metal sconces about the room, revealing an arched entranceway leading out. Near both the entrance and the concealed door were more guardsmen, armed and armored like the ones the jobbers had fought below.

Leading them was a massively muscled man with long reddish brown hair and a full beard. He was dressed in an oiled suit of ChainJack with a sheathed sword across his back and a FlintFlicker Fifty in his hands. Dark eyes locked with those of the jobbers as he moved to direct his men.

In the center rose a stone dais upon which rested a demonic altar made of sinew-wrapped bones etched with profane sigils. Laid out on the altar was Sister Cannondale, unconscious and dressed in a thin, bloodied smock. Before her stood a man dressed in a large maroon robe, a deep hood hiding his features as he gestured and chanted over the comatose woman. Next to him stood a creature of the nether pits, covered in deep green scales, with four muscular arms that ended in claws sparking runic energy. Its eyes were a fetid yellow and its maw was filled with black stained teeth as it turned in the direction of the concealed door, a terrible smile upon its fiendish countenance.

“They must not be allowed to disturb the ritual!” yelled Shaw to his men, before taking cover by one of the altar’s end caps and beginning to chant, sketching runes of dark bluish black energy. Immediately a large pentagram formed around Veruna, Roxton, Katryn, and Nicodemus. The arcane energy seized at their limbs, holding them fast in the concealed doorway, effectively stopping the jobbers’ advance.

Katryn fought against the binding circle, her disciplined mind rallying against the enchantment. The strain was enormous, her mind burning with the effort and then abruptly she could move. Not wasting any time, the inventor rushed forward, sweeping her LASER in an arc, burning white shards blooding one guard and sending two others ducking for cover.

Like Katryn, Roxton put his mind to the task of breaking the circle’s hold upon him. The retriever’s thoughts raced and within a moment his long legs propelled him into the room, his rapier thrust forcing one of Shaw’s men back, fumbling for his heavy club.

Nicodemus coolly evaluated the pentagram, having already seen the previous one at the entranceway that had bound Kay. The circle had been adjusted to bind corporeal opponents, but the locking rune was only slightly changed. The runecaster set his will against the key rune and the restraining force against him evaporated in a rush. Freed, Nicodemus moved forward, ordering Kay to cast a rune of protection upon him. Kay did so and Nicodemus felt the shielding energy of the rune infuse his skin.

Seeing the jobbers breaking through his lord’s pentagram, Lieutenant Tucker ordered his men to open fire while he sighted on Roxton. The FlintFlicker Fifty boomed in the confines of the room and the retriever barely avoided the heavy round as it slammed into the stone wall, showering him with masonry chips. The retriever then swung his rapier in a wide arc, intercepting his foe’s club swing while trying to blink the stinging dust from his eyes.

Likewise the reports of PitchPits filled the room and Katryn was forced to dodge and weave, evading one round as another burned across her arm. Behind the retriever, Brother Keeganfall recited a prayer and his rapier turned pitch black, seeming to drink in the light. The shadowpriest then rushed forward, closing in on the demonic altar, even as its infernal guardian stepped forward to intercept him.

As Jonathon rushed by, Veruna railed against the pentagram, her Malakar heritage disrupting the runic energies that bound her. Freed, the wayfinder brandished her fighting talons and moved forward to support Katryn even as the inventor sighted in on Tucker.

The inventor, her hand guided by the SITE, pulled the trigger on the LASER, spitting a shard of white burning magnesium alloy across the chamber. Tucker crouched down at the last moment behind the dais’ stair, foiling the shot.

“Shaw, your uncle died on his knees!” yelled Roxton from where he fought the guard, his rapier doing little more than tearing the man’s LeatherJack. “You will be no different!” he added as he went back on guard.

“You killed my best friend you son of a…!” yelled Tucker, the rest lost in the roar of the heavy pistol bucking in his hand. The round slammed through Roxton’s LeatherJack short coat, scalding his back and taking his breath.

The Andari closed with the massive demon, its four arms lashing out with malicious intent. The shadowpriest parried rapidly, the blows numbing his arm to the shoulder as runic energy spit from the fiend’s claws. Adjusting his stance, Jonathon counterattacked, thrusting his black blade at the paler scales running down the demon’s chest and abdomen. The creature’s shorter arms intercepted the thrust, forcing the rapier blade out wide.

Upon the dais, behind the demon, Lord Shaw continued to chant. His hands sketched a complex series of runes into the air and suddenly the floor about Veruna and Katryn erupted into a boiling swarm of black-scaled scab beetles.

The large insects rapidly covered the two ladies’ legs and the sound of the creatures’ legs seemed to fill the air with the sibilant chant of “Flesh…kill…eats…”Katryn, the beginnings of a quip falling from her lips, instead began screaming, “Get them off! Get them off!” in a shrill voice as the horror of the situation filled her mind.

Veruna could sense a similar panic rising within her, but at the sight of her friend’s distress, a cold rage filled the Malakar instead. A faint corona of runic energy rose off of the wayfinder’s skin as she swept her claws against the horde of insects that continued to rise from the floor over her and Katryn. Missed pistol shots ricocheted about her but the Malakar did not notice.

The sound of chitin striking the floor competed against the insistent, sibilant chant and the inventor’s screams of terror as Nicodemus took in the scene before him. The runecaster knew that the latest demon Shaw had summoned was a difficult one to combat, but that the demonic bodyguard that Jonathon fought was every bit as deadly. Deciding quickly, Nicodemus sent Kay to the shadowpriest’s aid as he himself waded into the swarm about Katryn and Veruna.

A near blinding series of red flashes burst about the rune caster as the runic armor Kay had bestowed upon him flared at the bites of the demonic horde of scab beetles. Undeterred, Nicodemus stomped down hard, the sound of cracking shells adding to the pandemonium on that side of the chamber.

At the same moment Kay rushed forward past Jonathon, ducking under the two longer arms of the demon and seizing one of its shorter ones. Planting her feet, the rune wraith sunk her claws into the scaled appendage and pulled with all of her strength. A sickening, wrenching sound preceded a wet pop causing the demon to howl in pain-filled rage as it disappeared into a cloud of sulfurous brimstone.

Seeing his arcane companion’s success, Nicodemus advanced, ordering Kay to protect Sister Cannondale as he moved to confront Shaw. The demonologist watched the Bloodrune scion’s approach and spat out an insult concerning the runecaster’s lineage. Nicodemus responded disdainfully, sketching a red attack rune only to watch it splash against a flaring field of silver-onyx protecting the BlackShackle cloudbreather.

On the floor of the chamber, Tucker’s men continued to try and repel the jobbers’ attack. Pistol rounds skipped about Katryn and Veruna while another slammed hard against Nicodemus, sending off a red flash even as it knocked the breath out of him. Seeking to take advantage of the off balance runecaster, Lord Shaw sent a bolt of jagged blue-black energy into him only to watch another flare of red runes foil the attack.

Roxton continued to parry and dodge the guardsman who had become lost in his rage to kill the retriever. Several club hits had already landed against his LeatherJack short coat, causing painful welts. More dangerous were the steady shots of Lieutenant Tucker. They had already scored his flesh twice with near lethal hits.

Roxton took a quick glance about the room. He saw Jonathon arriving on the dais, scooping up Lucinda even as his rapier lost its black aura and Shaw screaming in rage at the loss of the girl. Off to his right he saw Veruna still swiping at the horde of demonic scab beetles despite their painful bites. Katryn had ceased her screaming as she struggled out of the horde, but by her pale face Roxton knew that the event had left its mark upon her psyche.

“The girl will wait!” spat Tucker to Shaw as he fired another shot at the retriever.

“Maybe you should try a sword,” taunted Roxton as he dodged the bullet and was forced back on his heels from the club-swinging guardsman.

Veruna meanwhile felt a bullet slam painfully into her borrowed ChainJack as her runic claws scythed through the swarm, dissipating it into a cloud of roiling, sulfurous, brimstone. Holding her breath, the Malakar stalked through the foul cloud at the demonologist, claws at the ready.

Upon the dais, Lord Shaw let loose twin bolts of jagged energy at Kay and Jonathon. The rune wraith ducked the arcane assault while the Andari spun, taking the scorching hit upon his back as he shielded the shadowpriestess’ limp form. Gritting his teeth against the pain, Jonathon leapt off of the dais, moving towards the door the jobbers had entered from.

Katryn covered the shadowpriest, sending three blazing streams of white shards across the room forcing one guard to dive for cover, another to reel back as the shards hit his armor, and killing a third. The inventor then moved to line up shots on the other guardsmen.

Nicodemus ordered Kay to go for Lord Shaw’s throat as he sent three ruby lances of power blasting into the demonologist. Onyx-silver light flared about the cloudbreather, but he was forced back, casting off his hood, smoke rising. Seconds later he was forced to weave to the side of the altar as he evaded the rune wraith’s sweeping claws.

The runecaster felt his ire rising and spat a taunt at the demonologist even as he summoned forth a minor spirit bearing the form of Lord Shaw’s vanquished uncle. The spirit glared menacingly at the cloudbreather and in an angered tone called “You’re nothing without me! And you’ll be less than nothing now that I’m dead!”. Lord Shaw seemed nonplussed as he ducked Kay’s relentless attack.

Katryn pulled the trigger of her LASER and another guard fell dead while a second sought cover. Her gaze was then eclipsed as Tucker leapt from the dias, pulling a ShatterSword from the scabbard on his back.

The mercenary captain landed easily, the blue steel serrated edged weapon cutting downward at the retriever. Roxton whipped his rapier in line for the parry and realized that guns were just a hobby for Tucker even as they were for him. The blades sparked off of each other and Roxton deftly rolled his blade away from the weapon breaking serrations.

“Finally, you got into the fight!” taunted Roxton, shifting his stance to send his rapier punching through Tucker’s ChainJack and deeply into his stomach. The guards’ leader stared at Roxton in disbelief, the ShatterSword falling from his weakening grip to clang on the flagstone floor.

As Roxton pushed Tucker’s body off of his blade, Veruna launched into a charge at Shaw. The wayfinder slashed at the demonologist with her claws and discovered that Shaw’s protections warded equally well against her naturally runic weapons.

Undismayed, the Malakar set herself for Shaw’s counterstrike, only to watch him ignore her and pull a runic rapier from a scabbard beneath his robes. The cloudbreather then lunged at Nicodemus’ arcane companion forcing Kay to swat the ornate weapon away, glaring as she did so.

Jonathon had reached the dubious safety of the metal tunnel and gently set Lucinda down next to the bike. He could tell she had been drugged and surmised that she had been subjected to crush. Quickly he recited a prayer of healing over his former paramour’s twin sister, only to watch the shadow light barely flicker out of her limp form in a dim red glow.

The shadowpriest could hear the battle still raging in the altar room and felt torn as to what he should do. The objective had been to save Lucy and deal with Shaw another day. As he had suspected, once his companions had engaged the demonologist, they were reluctant to quit the field. Sighing to himself, Jonathon rose to his feet and turned back towards the altar room to see the fight through to the end.

Nicodemus and Kay continued to press the attack against Shaw with runic bolts and sweeping claws. The combined assault set the demonologist back on his heels and into the reach of Veruna’s claws.

The Malakar was bleeding from a pistol shot that had caught her unawares, but Veruna ignored the pain and swung hard at the reeling cloudbreather calling “End of the line Shaw!”

Veruna’s claws laid the demonologist’s back open and forced him to spin about and off of the dais. A moment later twin shards of burning magnesium alloy punched through Shaw’s back and out of his chest causing him to stagger. Katryn smiled grimly and sighted in for her next shot even as one of the guards bolted out through the archway and down a flight of spiraling stairs.

Across the room, Jonathon and Roxton finished off the guardsmen that remained with quick sword work even as Shaw desperately tried to rally against the jobbers that closed about him. His runic rapier parried away Veruna’s claws and stabbed through Kay’s LeatherJack, foiling her attack against him. A moment later more pain blossomed in his lungs from another of Katryn’s deadly shards.

Nicodemus sent another ruby lance of energy at the faltering lord, mocking Shaw with a reference to his uncle’s last moments. The runic attack was foiled by the silver-onyx shield that still protected the dying demonologist, but only delayed the inevitable as Veruna plunged her claws up into his lungs.

Lord Shaw dropped heavily to the flagstone floor, his dimming consciousness fixating on the ruby glow of Kay’s claws descending towards his throat.

A moment later the jobbers stood victorious in the demonic altar room. Jonathon healed Veruna’s wound and informed his companions that Sister Cannondale had been poisoned with a large dose of crush.

Roxton offered up a vial of antitoxin that Jonathon readily accepted. However, he refused the retriever’s offer to carry the shadowpriestess out of the tower, stating that he would see to it himself.

Veruna went with the shadowpriest and watched him administer the antitoxin before wrapping Lucinda in his cloak. The lean Andari then lifted the slight human and started down the metal tunnel, Veruna in tow holding a pilfered torch for light.

The other jobbers quickly shook down their vanquished foes, taking anything that looked to be of value or enchantment. Once satisfied with their findings, the three jobbers and the arcane companion proceeded down through the levels of the tower, pillaging anything of value from personal papers to left behind banknotes and royals.

Several minutes later saw the group reunited in the entry tunnel and planning their egress back to the Hall of Shadows in BlackShackle.
_________________
Mark

Second watch. Roll for surprise.
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Marcos
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Joined: 28 Apr 2006
Posts: 98
Location: Hickory, NC

PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2007 10:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

3rd of Madness 1107p.t. continued

The jobbers had reunited in the passageway that connected the ancient stone tower with the massive, metallic, smokestack shaped one. Roxton, Katryn, and Nicodemus briefly told Jonathon and Veruna what they had discovered on their quick search as the companions made ready to head out into the fog shrouded streets.

The group quickly decided in what order they would travel and exited the tower, Brother Keeganfall still carrying Sister Cannondale. Once out in the street, the group turned to retrace their steps back to the middle tiers of BlackShackle and the local Hall of Shadow. However, Jonathon’s keen eyes spotted two shadowy forms near the decrepit flywheel rushing from underneath the flickering arc light back into the establishment.

Fearing that the fleeing silhouettes had been posted watchers, the group changed their course back past Shaw’s tower and down the dark street that they had not taken the opportunity to reconnoiter when they had first arrived on the lower Westside. The street ran for about a block before turning right and becoming a descending ramp that linked into a five-point intersection. Behind the jobbers, upon the tier they had just descended from, could be seen flashing arc lights sweeping their back trail.

Roxton turned right onto the street that led back and parallel to the route they had just descended from, the group setting off at a hurried pace. Behind them they heard the distorted echo of whistles being blown, urging them on.

The group had jogged for almost three blocks before slowing their flight. Jonathon was panting hard from having carried Lucinda, but still refused to relinquish her for someone else to carry. As the group walked along, catching their breath in the sewer-tainted air, they came upon a lift station, its metal cage gleaming with condensation.

Roxton looked at the continuing street then back at the lift, wondering how far up it ran and if the other stations along its route might have become Whitecloak check points. Nicodemus took the decision from him as the runecaster stepped forward and pressed the call button. As the car descended with a shuddering stop, Roxton said he didn’t think that the group had gone far enough to evade pursuit. Fatigued from the run, Nicodemus replied that he was confident that they had and the jobbers boarded the lift.

Nicodemus pressed the button for the highest level the lift ran to, which was two tiers above the level of Lord Shaw’s tower, and with a shudder, the lift began to rise. The sound of distant steam works and hissing cables filled the compartment as the lift climbed even with the tier where Lord Shaw’s tower resided before coming to an abrupt halt. The glare of an arc light blinded the jobbers and a deep voice ordered them off of the lift.

Through the glare, the companions saw three whitecloaks standing at the ready with their longswords drawn and shields braced. The arc light that swept across them was affixed into a brass bracket on the spokesman’s shield rim, the beam playing back and forth as he adjusted his stance.

The jobbers complied, with everyone keeping their hands visible and away from their weapons. Jonathon eased out of the lift, supporting Lucinda as Roxton inquired after the reason for the stopping of the lift. The shadowed silhouette of the sergeant informed the retriever that they were looking for a group of murderers.

Roxton attempted to dissuade the Whitecloaks of their suspicions, using half-truths concerning their rescue of Lucinda as a retrieving job. In addition, he mentioned that Captain Aldwyn knew of them and their business in BlackShackle. Katryn and Jonathon added their own input, hinting that Lucinda was in dire need of immediate medical attention and that the group was on their way to the Hall of Shadows to seek treatment for her.

Eventually, the whitecloaks allowed the jobbers to depart after taking their names and the name of their residence within the district. However, the companions could tell that the sergeant had not been completely convinced of their innocence, having made several leading remarks and commenting on the gear the jobbers carried. Once away from the Whitecloaks, Roxton instructed Veruna and Nicodemus to return to their rooms at The Respite to collect the group’s gear before rendezvousing at the Hall of Shadows.

Jonathon with Lucinda, Katryn and Roxton arrived at the Hall of Shadows. The imposing structure was made of the same black metal that dominated the architectural style of the city district. Recessed arc lighting placed at the base of the temple highlighted its sculpted walls, showing its baroque imagery in stark relief.

Entering the dimly lit interior, Brother Keeganfall spoke with his brethren and the group was directed back to a finely appointed sitting room, lit with candles. Jonathon eased Sister Cannondale gently onto the long newt leather sofa and stepped back allowing a senior priestess to administer to her injuries.

The middle-aged woman was dressed in the more formal grey and black raiment of the Church and carried herself with sure confidence. Verifying that Jonathon’s assessment concerning the poison was correct, the priestess recited a long prayer that resonated with power.

Sister Cannondale’s body became completely suffused with black energy, appearing as a negative image one might see on a film plate. A moment later the energy flashed out of the unconscious shadowpriestess in a display of white light. When the jobbers could see once more, Sister Cannondale’s breathing was much easier and color had returned to her features.

Across the district, Nicodemus and Veruna went through their own and their companions’ rooms, packing the jobbers’ gear. Once finished, Nicodemus lingered over checking the group out of The Respite, while Veruna hailed a carriage and loaded the bags. Once the runecaster joined her, the pair rode through the foggy streets to arrive at the Hall of Shadows.

There, Veruna exited the carriage and began unloading the gear; giving Nicodemus a scathing look as he watched. The former cloudbreather shook his head and offered the driver an additional incentive to help the wayfinder, the sound of clanking royals dropping into the driver’s palm paying for the fare and the portage of the luggage.

Once the group was reunited inside one of the many private rooms found in the lower floors of the Hall, Jonathon reported that Lucinda had been moved to a more comfortable room and was expected to make a full recovery. The group’s discussion then turned to staying at the temple or fleeing by rail to GreyMesa.

Back and forth the discussion went, with serious consideration as to what the possible fallout could be with either course. Eventually the weary jobbers decided to stay at the temple, arranging for Jonathon’s brethren to hold any possible incriminating items in trust and sending a letter to inform the watch that they had moved lodgings and where they could currently be found.

Veruna volunteered to take the letter back to The Respite, citing restlessness and the belief that on the mid to upper tiers of BlackShackle, she should be safe. The others did not argue and the Malakar departed out into the foggy streets.

As Veruna walked, her mind roved over the events of the last few weeks. With a little surprise, she realized that Jonathan’s concern for Sister Cannondale had resurfaced a longing for more significant companionship. After describing the qualities of a potential mate to herself – someone kind, caring, and determined to show her a good time – she realized with a sinking feeling that Roxton Sloan had been doing all of those things from the moment he had met her. And she had just pushed him into the arms of Katryn, who was also the first human to look beyond her Malakar heritage and enthusiastically embrace a sort of sisterhood with her. Resolving to suppress her feelings for the good of their friendship, as the inventor and retriever seemed interested in each other, Veruna walked on through the night trying not to feel sorry for herself.

4th of Madness

Roxton was awakened by the sound of a firm knock at his door. Outside waited a shadow acolyte in light grey robes. The young man informed the retriever that a group of Whitecloaks had arrived and had asked for Roxton by name.

The retriever told the young acolyte to inform the Whitecloaks that he would be right down. He then finished dressing into his adventuring gear, belting his weapons on, checking their draw while hoping he would not need them.

Roxton arrived in the shadow filled sanctuary to see Captain Samantha Aldwyn waiting with the street sergeant from the night before and half a dozen more men and women with more red stains than white showing in their cloaks. Roxton put an easy smile on his rugged face that he did not feel and greeted the attractive Redcloak, tipping his slouch hat.

Captain Aldwyn looked over the retriever and inquired as to why he had used her name the night before when the group had been stopped in the lower Westside. Roxton explained that the jobbers had accepted a private contract to recover the young woman listed as Lucy in the sergeant’s report. Samantha asked after the patron’s identity and Roxton replied that the group’s employer wished to remain anonymous.

Captain Aldwyn shook her head, her short, curly red hair bouncing as her bright green eyes flashed a warning of how short her tolerance was for the retriever’s evasiveness. Taking Roxton’s arm she led the retriever away from the gathered Whitecloaks and hissed, “I don’t know what you’re playing at Mr. Sloan, but a lord died last night.”

“I can tell you honestly I had nothing to do with his death,” Roxton equivocated calmly while inwardly hating that his first tenuous contact in BlackShackle was being expended so quickly over being involved in the killing of a vile demonologist such as Shaw.

Captain Aldwyn looked Roxton in the eye and referenced the gear that the sergeant reported seeing Roxton carrying, but no longer had. Maintaining his cool exterior, Roxton claimed that in the bad lighting and fog there was no way that the sergeant could be certain what he had seen.

The retriever then attempted to give Captain Aldwyn a subtle hint concerning Shaw and his men by describing those men as base creatures that had held their charge by keeping her subdued with crush. Samantha looked unimpressed and by the set of her strong jaw Roxton knew that she was well aware of what had transpired.

“I suggest you conclude your business in BlackShackle as soon as you can” said the Redcloak in a tight voiced whisper. She then turned back to the sergeant, telling him that Roxton had revealed the name of the contract holder to her and was therefore no longer a suspect.

The sergeant obviously could not believe what Captain Aldwyn was instructing him to do and began to argue with her. The Redcloak seemed to gain stature as she looked down at the sergeant and cut the argument short by reminding him of their respective ranks. As the Whitecloaks filed out of the dimly lit sanctuary, Samantha looked over her shoulder and sternly said “Today, Roxton,” before following after.

Roxton watched the attractive Redcloak depart; seething that his only contact of note in BlackShackle had just been exhausted. Shaking his mane of dark hair, Roxton returned upstairs and roused the others saying that they needed to meet over breakfast. When Nicodemus sarcastically asked if it was really necessary, Roxton angrily shot back “The watch just showed up. It’s necessary.”

A short time later the five companions had gathered together in a private dining room furnished in dark stained witchgrass fixtures. They were seated at a large table covered in a fine white linen tablecloth adorned with religious symbols worked in gold thread. As the group ate the simple meal of day-old fruits, fresh baked bread, and cool water, Roxton informed them of what had transpired with the Whitecloaks and Captain Aldwyn, holding back his frustration with the whole affair.

As he talked, Roxton noticed that Veruna seemed distracted and asked if she was all right. Veruna looked up from her barely touched meal, to the man who had occupied her thoughts the entire night before, until she had finally fallen off into dreamless sleep. Smiling weakly, the Malakar said that she had been up late and left it at that, thankful that the retriever did not press the issue.

“So the Chancellor sent you, of all people?” asked Sister Lucinda Cannondale as she entered the dining room, catching the group by surprise. She seemed well rested and a smile played about her sun freckled features. Her full auburn hair was pulled back into an intricate braid and her sky blue eyes fixed on the morose Andari.

“Sister Cannondale, it is good to see you are well,” replied Jonathon neutrally as he fought to suppress the memories of another lifetime from overwhelming him.

“Jon, it’s all right…” began Lucinda as she sensed her friend’s distress, wanting to offer him compassion and understanding.

“No, it’s not all right. If the Chancellor could have sent anyone else, he would have,” said Jonathon abruptly, cutting her off.

Brother Keeganfall made to leave, his need to escape the room and the memories Lucinda was causing to arise urging him up out of his chair. However, his retreat was foiled, as entering through the door past Sister Cannondale’s shoulder was Chancellor Gregory Peake the IV.

Jonathon bowed his head as the others realized who had entered the room and stood in greeting, with Veruna fighting a sudden coughing fit brought on by the Chancellor’s unexpected arrival. The church official was dressed much as the jobbers had last seen him several days prior, in fine robes with immaculate grooming.

Like a concerned father, the Chancellor inquired after Sister Cannondale’s health, putting his hands on her shoulders and giving her a warm, affectionate smile. Across the table Jonathon began reaching into his cloak for his flask, catching himself at the last minute as he realized what he was doing.

“Well done Brother Keeganfall,” began the Chancellor, his rich voice filling the dining room “It is good to see that you and Sister Cannondale can still work together,” he added.

“Actually Chancellor, the sister’s rescue is due more to my companions,” answered the Andari, not quite keeping a note of sarcasm from his reply.

“Jon…” began Lucinda.

“This is neither the time, nor the place,” was his cold, anger-tinged reply.

“Actually, we need to be going. This rescue business means we need to leave today,” interjected Roxton not wanting to watch the shadowpriests verbally fence across the room.

“Pish posh,” answered the Chancellor, waving away the retriever’s concern as he seated himself at the jobbers’ table. With an inclination of his head he bade the companions to be seated once more as he asked after what Sister Cannondale had been able to learn from her infiltration of the Society of Entropy.

Lucinda paused a moment to gather her thoughts and then began to tell the group that she had confirmed the Church’s suspicion that the Society was a front for something far more serious. Before she could continue, a statuesque middle aged human woman with dark brown hair entered the dining room, flanked by two male attendants, one dressed in robes of gleaming white and the other in robes of the deepest black. The woman herself was dressed in the finest silk robes of deepening grey; a large black diamond hung about her neck and in her strong hands was an ornate witchgrass staff covered in runes. A slight squint lent her dark eyes a sense of hidden knowledge and deep wisdom.

Chancellor Peake and the other shadowpriests rose, bowing low as the Chancellor greeted the woman saying “Maegas, what an unexpected and pleasant honor,” even as Veruna was thinking it was the goddess herself entering the room.

The Maegas smiled warmly at the Chancellor and bade that he and the other priests rise and be at ease. After her attendants had her seated and had taken up positions flanking the doorway, she invited Lucinda to continue.

Sister Cannondale nodded and smoothed her robes as she recollected her thoughts. She then resumed her tale, explaining that Lord Angst, Lady Ennui, and their Malakar companion Heretic are planning to try and destroy all of ScatterPoint with some kind of machine.

“Are they insane?” cut in Katryn incredulously.

Lucinda did not answer and continued her tale explaining that before she was discovered she overheard the inner circle of the Society discussing plans to perform some sort of test in a remote area of ScatterPoint.

“As Ms. Romney says, it is madness to even contemplate such an idea. Furthermore, there is no reason to alarm the general populace,” spoke the Maegas in a rich voice that carried easily about the room. She then greeted the others by name, including addressing Nicodemus as Lord Bloodrune and Veruna as Ms. Rustwalker.

The Maegas thanked the jobbers for their efforts, directing the Chancellor to see that they received far door passes back to GreyMesa. Rising, her two attendants closing ranks about her, she reminded them all that the preceding conversation was not to leave the room. The Maegas then raised her hand in benediction and with her entourage departed.

“What happens if you’re already an Andari and the far door malfunctions?” wondered Veruna aloud when the Maegas had left.

“Hopefully you die,” remarked Jonathon sincerely as he went by, fishing his lighter and a tanglevine cigarette from his cloak pockets.

Katryn, her curiosity aroused by the prospect of some new technology, asked Lucinda if she knew anything else about the machine. The shadowpriestess turned back from having watched Brother Keeganfall’s departure, and explained that she had not been afforded an opportunity to learn more before she was taken captive. Katryn thanked her and exited the room with Roxton.

As Nicodemus made ready to exit the room he stopped by Sister Cannondale saying “I hope to see you in the future.”

“Of course. Watch over Jonathon for me.”

“It’s a pleasure to see how you light up his personality…of course you apparently have to be unconscious.” Nicodemus remarked dryly.

“Well, maybe enough time has not passed” trailed off Lucinda cryptically.

Veruna was the last to depart, stopping to ask the Chancellor about the Maegas. The Chancellor smiled graciously and explained that the position of the Maegas was considered to be the consort of Umbriel, the highest of the order.

Outside in the hallway, Roxton tried to offer Katryn one of the recovered far door passes, but Nicodemus snagged it out of his hand. Before Roxton could protest, Katryn laughed and said that she had already secured one the night before. As Nicodemus smirked at the retriever’s incredulous look, Veruna walked up asking about the conversation they just had with the Maegas.

Roxton cut her off saying, “This mission never happened.”

“You can certainly tell by our payment,” added Nicodemus sarcastically, prompting Katryn to tell the group to come by her room so that they could divvy the spoils taken from Shaw’s tower. Once the recovered wealth had been distributed, the jobbers took some time to themselves as they awaited the promised far door passes.

Nicodemus decided to go for a brief walk to escape the shadowy halls of the church. As he strolled about the upper tiers of BlackShackle he thought of the emotions Jonathon had apparently been dealing with and bought the shadowpriest a bottle of excellent gloom.

When he returned to the Hall of Shadows, he presented the gift saying, “You’ll need this.”

“More than you know,” answered Jonathon with genuine appreciation.

“I have some idea,’ was the Bloodrune scion’s reply, thinking back to the start of the mission they had just finished and his own emotional turmoil.

As the group waited, Roxton took the opportunity to pen a missive to Captain Aldwyn, explaining what had transpired in veiled terms in an effort to preserve his contact in BlackShackle. Finishing the note, he sealed it and made arrangements for it to be delivered after the group had departed for GreyMesa.

An hour or so after the group’s meeting with the Chancellor and the Maegas, an acolyte arrived bearing ivory plaques inlaid with an image of a phoenix done in red-gold metal. The plaques were the size of playing cards and were express far door passes to GreyMesa. There was one for each member of the group, except for Kay who had been ethereal since the night before and was unknown to the acolyte sent to secure the passes.

The group took possession of the plaques and retrieved the items that had been taken from Shaw’s person and tower. The jobbers placed the more noticeable ones in Veruna’s trunk and made arrangements for a carriage.

The group arrived outside the far door station, located near the rail station in BlackShackle’s efforts to consolidate its transportation hub. The far door station was an ornate government building of black steel and polished granite. The interior was well appointed with expensive interior decorations, fixtures, and flooring.

Ascending a set of marble inlaid stairs, the jobbers arrived in a circular room containing the far doors. Like the other portions of the building it too was richly appointed, though the companions’ eyes were drawn to the thirteen rune-covered archways, one for each district of ScatterPoint.

Each arch was of the finest marble and inlaid with tracings of flowmetal. Within each arch was what seemed to be a curtain of shifting light and fog, except for the one labeled as being for the city district of FlintFlicker. The view within that arch was only of the polished granite walls that made up the room.

Attendants were present dressed in the formal business attire of government employees; dark suits with the crest of the phoenix upon their lapels. The attendants managed the cordoned off pathways that led into the room, collecting the far door passes and then routing the passengers to their correct far door.

Roxton decided to go first and was smoothly directed to the far door to GreyMesa. Seeing that his pass was for express transit, an attendant runecaster adjusted the flowmetal runes upon the arch, causing the shifting patterns within the archway to churn frantically. The attendants warned Roxton to expect a sense of vertigo and to concentrate on stepping boldly forward. The retriever nodded in understanding and stepped through the archway.

Roxton felt a momentary sense of surreal vertigo, almost a second sense of self, before he finished his stride, emerging into the far door terminal in GreyMesa. As with the station he had left in BlackShackle, the room was richly appointed and government attendants were at hand to assist the far door passengers.

Nicodemus watched as the retriever disappeared through the churning curtain of light and mist before approaching an attendant to redeem the far door pass he had taken from Roxton for Kay. The attendant looked over the far door pass, a simple black cardboard ticket, inlaid with the red and gold phoenix symbol of ScatterPoint done in ink.

The attendant looked back at the Bloodrune scion and explained that the pass was a non-express pass; good for any destination, but that it would take an hour for his companion to emerge in GreyMesa. Hinting that a man of Nicodemus’ means should easily be able to afford an upgrade, the attendant directed the runecaster to where he could complete the needed transaction, which Nicodemus decided to do.

Meanwhile, Katryn decided to proceed and after receiving the standard warning from the attendants, stepped on through. Roxton greeted her on the other side, taking her hand as the inventor steadied herself. He then led her over to one of the cushioned benches to sit with her while they awaited the others.

Veruna nervously approached the attendant once Katryn was away and released her shapeshifted form, revealing that she was a Malakar in case her race might cause a problem to occur with the far door. Her unexpected and direct approach startled the attendants and the wayfinder had to do some fast-talking to avoid a panicked response.

Once things had settled back down, the attendants told Veruna that she would most likely fair better than her peers due to her race’s ability to channel runic energy and she had nothing to worry about. Nicodemus overheard what the attendant had said just before Veruna departed and offered Jonathon the pin he had taken off of Lord Shaw to help with the transit.

Jonathon accepted the offer, taking a long hit off of the gloom Nicodemus had given him before following Veruna through the far door. Arriving on the other side in GreyMesa, the shadowpriest could tell that Veruna had enjoyed the experience even as she was shapeshifting back to her human form, much to the shock of the GreyMesa attendants. Shortly thereafter Nicodemus and Kay arrived, both seeming drained by the experience but alive.

The group, now reunited in GreyMesa, left the ornate surroundings of the far door station and retired back through the sunny streets of the district to the ladies’ flat. The gear was separated back out of Veruna’s trunk and the men departed, as the ladies had decided to get some well-earned rest.

Once the men were back outside of Katryn and Veruna’s flat, Jonathon invited Nicodemus and Roxton to join him for dinner and a few drinks. The Andari took the pair by his rented apartment to drop off their gear and to freshen up. Once they were ready, Jonathon took his fellow jobbers to a boyar tier restaurant, followed by several flywheels where he proceeded to spend almost six hundred royals for their dinner and drinks. By dawn, the runecaster and retriever had to carry the inebriated shadowpriest back home after their night of spinning the flywheels.

10th of Madness

Several days had passed and each of the jobbers had kept themselves busy. Nicodemus helped Roxton change out the hilt of Lord Shaw’s runic rapier for his own well-worn one. In addition, the two men often visited Roxton’s gentlemen club, The Last Riposte. There the pair dueled as the retriever attempted to instruct the runecaster in the finer points of fencing.

Katryn spent her days at the rented storage shed turned workshop. She had slowly been scrounging and gathering various supplies to finally begin a project that had been occupying her thoughts for several weeks. Now the days seemed too short as her fevered mind set about turning her ideas into reality.

Veruna filled her days with wandering the reaches of GreyMesa, timing her sojourns to avoid having to see Roxton. The Malakar found she was uncomfortable in his presence lately, and also told herself she was freeing him up to focus on Katryn.

Jonathon for his part fulfilled his duties to the Church of Twilight as they came up, but avoided the Hall of Shadows at the onset of evening, spending his nights at his rented flat. The Andari had only interacted with the others at a couple of meals, otherwise keeping to himself, as he was wont to do.

That morning Veruna answered a knock at the door to see Sister Cannondale, dressed in shadowpriest street raiment with a long sword across her back and a PitchPit in a cross draw rig at her belt. She told the jobbers that she had originally sought out Jonathon, but could not locate him at the Church of Twilight. The next address she obtained had been theirs and she hoped they understood.

After Veruna invited her in and Katryn joined them in the sitting room, Sister Cannondale explained that her unannounced visit was partially due to her having been removed from all active duties, barring those that were the most routine or menial. As a result, she was concerned that the Church was not going to follow up on what her infiltration of the Society for Entropy had uncovered.

Lucinda related that a contact of hers had given her information that the Society intended to test their prototype machine at Broken Palace in the next couple of days. A group of Society soldiers, whom the contact had dubbed The Nightmare Brigade, would be guarding The Entropy Engine: the name the contact had given for the Society’s device.

Lucinda went on to tell the ladies that she did not know who she could trust or turn to. Looking earnestly at the two jobbers, the shadowpriestess asked them to see if their group would be willing to try and capture the machine or, barring that, destroy it and obtain the schematics. If the group could obtain the machine, Lucinda instructed them to seek out Sebastian Evers in WardenCliff to arrange its transport back to GreyMesa.

Katryn’s interest had immediately peaked at the mention of the Society’s Entropy Engine and the inventor could tell that Veruna’s sense of duty to the Church provided the motivation for the wayfinder to want to undertake the mission. Taking the initiative, Katryn questioned Lucinda about her source for the information, suspecting that the information could be bait for a trap. Sister Cannondale nodded her head in understanding, but told the inventor she would not give up her source and she had faith that the information was legitimate. Realizing the shadowpriestess would not be swayed, the ladies agreed to meet with the men and they would meet with the sister on the morrow.

The ladies then broached the question concerning Lucinda’s relationship with Jonathon. At first the Sister was reluctant to share the history between herself and her fellow shadowpriest, but Veruna was persistent and convinced her to tell them what had happened.

Sister Cannondale explained that before Jonathon was an Andari he had been involved with her twin sister Meagan. Several months ago they had been dispatched on a Church mission involving the infiltration of a boyar conspiracy. Jonathon was a pretty fast and loose operative at the time, counting on his sheer audacity and daring to see him through several close missions. However, during that mission, the group had been compromised and a battle had erupted at the far door terminal. One of the boyars was a runecaster and his attack spells slammed into Meagan when she dived in front of Jonathon, sending them both through an active far door. An hour later, Jonathon emerged in ShatterStone as an Andari and Meagan had been slain.

The Church of course had covered up the whole affair, but Jonathon could not seem to recover, blaming himself for everything that had happened, his faith shaken. The remaining members of their group had been reassigned and before last week, Lucinda had not seen Jonathon since her sister’s funeral at ChalkChain.

Veruna and Katryn offered their sympathy and understanding. For Veruna, the shadowpriestess’ story had shed light on Jonathon’s behavior at the Society of Entropy and she was inclined to forgive his lack of attentions in playing the role of an Andari couple.

Taking their leave of Sister Cannondale, Katryn and Veruna split up to fetch their fellow jobbers for a lunch meeting at Brass Tacks. An hour later found the five companions seated at a back table, having a lunch of seared vat meat or cotters’ chowder depending on their appetite.

Katryn and Veruna shared what Sister Cannondale had told them concerning the Society’s plans and the group reviewed what they knew about Broken Palace while discussing whether or not to take the offered mission. The discussion centered on the fact that the offered payment was only some VIP travel vouchers for the railways, worth almost two thousand royals each, but only in so far as the group was able to make use of them. For the most part, the men wanted monetary compensation to pursue their respective goals and to maintain their lifestyles for another month or more.

Changing tact, Roxton asked Katryn if following up on Lucinda’s lead and the supposed machine was what she wanted to do. The inventor, a gleam of excitement in her eye, replied that it was. With that the retriever agreed to the job, looking to the others and saying that if in the future there was a retrieval he wanted to undertake, he expected the others to help him as readily.

Nicodemus smirked, stating that he would take that trade: this mission for one of his own in the future, no questions asked. Katryn balked at the runecaster’s tone and attitude, saying, “I would like to think that if you needed help with something, you would feel you could ask us.”

Further discussion ensued, with Nicodemus ultimately agreeing, his offer of a mission for a mission put aside for the moment. Jonathon said that as always he would need to verify that he would be available, though by his attitude it seemed to the others that he did not want to take Lucinda’s mission because of the fact that it was coming from her. The shadowpriest then rose to depart, saying that if he was at the ladies’ flat in the morning then he was in.

With Brother Keeganfall’s departure the meeting was concluded and Veruna mentioned that she was going to look into what gear the group might need to purchase for their trek into the Barrens to reach Broken Palace. Roxton offered to accompany Veruna on her shopping expedition, but the Malakar wayfinder quickly declined, saying she was going home instead. With that she finished her can of glee and departed.

Katryn and Nicodemus watched Veruna depart and decided to relax and have a drink. Roxton thought for a moment about Veruna’s odd behavior and the fact that she had avoided him over the last several days and decided to catch up with her to find out what was wrong.

Roxton’s long strides allowed the retriever to catch up to Veruna along the crowded streets of the lower tiers. Taking her arm, he gently pulled her about and asked her what was wrong as cotters flowed about them on their various tasks.

Veruna tried to persuade him that nothing was wrong and tried to move on, but her nervousness said otherwise and he kept after her for a more satisfactory answer. Her temper and voice rising, she tried to convince him that his place was with Katryn, since she had worked so hard to get the two of them together, and that he should return to the flywheel.

Veruna’s answer was confusing and seemingly disjointed to the retriever, so he questioned her again - loudly. It was only moments after the shouting began that they attracted the attention of busy cotters stopping to watch and consequently obstructing the busy flow of traffic. A pair of Whitecloaks walked up to them, instructing them that they needed to take their business off of the streets.

Veruna walked on, Roxton a step behind. A few steps later Roxton asked again, grabbing the passer’s arm a little more forcefully than before. In frustration, Veruna finally shouted he needed to leave her alone because she liked him.

Pulling free, Veruna rushed off back to her flat, leaving a stunned Roxton to watch her disappear into the GreyMesa crowds.

11th of Madness

Jonathon arrived at the ladies’ flat that morning saying that the Chancellor himself had told him that he was not needed for the next week or so and was free to accompany the group. Shortly thereafter Lucy arrived, bearing the promised VIP travel vouchers and reiterating the deal concerning the Entropy Engine and contacting Sebastian Evers to arrange transport out of WardenCliff.

“I would go with you if the Chancellor would allow it” said Sister Cannondale with an earnest expression upon her features. Jonathon looked up at his fellow shadowpriest and griped that she must have arranged with the Chancellor to send him on the trip.

Lucinda attempted to reason with the sulking Andari, but as before he cut her off, saying that it was neither the time nor the place before rising in a flare of his cloak and exiting the flat. As the door slammed behind him, Lucinda looked at the closed door and quietly remarked, “I guess all things take time.”

With Jonathon’s departure, the group rose, telling Sister Cannondale not to worry and that they would be setting off that very day. Once the shadowpriestess was shown out, the group gathered their belongings and met Brother Keeganfall out on the street, where he was finishing a cigarette.

Reunited, the group set off shopping with Veruna leading the expedition and pointing out the gear she thought that they would need. The men all balked at wearing the barren muckers, with Jonathon revealing that shadowpriests could only be out of their official raiment with special dispensation from the church. Dispensation he did not currently have. Veruna purchased barren muckers and gear for everyone, deciding she would use the spare sets eventually and that having a spare for each person was a worthy precaution.

Once the shopping was finished, the group made their way to the GreyMesa rail hub and boarded the noon express train to WormWood and ultimately to WardenCliff, the closest city district from which to launch out for Broken Palace. Along the way the jobbers took in the PhaseWood and the Petrified Forest of LockLeaf as the train clanked steadily onward. At WormWood the group had a quick meal before transferring trains for the one bound for WardenCliff, expecting to arrive at midnight.

The train ride had fallen into a droning cadence and the companions were each lost in their own endeavors, whether runecrafting, tinkering, reading, or dozing. It was near ten that night when the jobbers heard movement out on the connector between their rail car and the public rail car ahead of them. Rousing themselves as a gust of wind whipped through their cabin, the jobbers saw a crowd of rough looking Ferren fanning out into their car, pistols drawn.

At the same moment, the back door was wrenched open, causing the roar of the wheels on the rails to fill the car as a form obscured by a swirling cloak of shadows and wielding a black bladed long sword stalked in. The blade whipped downward, splitting Roxton’s seatback next to his head even as the retriever twisted to take in the assailant’s entrance.

Nicodemus commanded Kay to manifest and to engage the Ferren even as he sketched a rune of attack, sending a ruby bolt at the shadow-cloaked attacker. The bolt flared through the darkness cloaking the assailant, briefly illuminating the black and grey garb of a shadowpriest.

As the bolt flared above him, Roxton took his rapier in its scabbard and slammed the hilt up over his head at his attacker, impacting against ChainJack hidden by the swirling darkness. Realizing that he needed to get to his feet and engage directly, the retriever spun up out of the chair to confront the foe.

Across the car, Veruna unsheathed her claws, tearing into the Ferren. One fell beneath the wayfinder’s charge and Veruna glared at the others, yelling “Bad mistake” over the roar of the wind and rails.

“For you, Malakar” one spat back as shots filled the train car. One scored Veruna along her ribs and two more slammed into Kay’s ChainJack, stunning the rune wraith. Katryn drew her LASER and sent a blazing white shard at the obscured attacker, missing due to the swirling shadows. Across the aisle, Jonathon stood, drawing his rapier and moving to support Roxton as he recognized the shadowmagic being used.

Roxton pulled his rapier, dropped its sheath, and stabbed in hard at the black blade wielder. The long sword intercepted the thrust, sending sparks flying and screeching over the sound of the rumbling train and wind.

From over the retriever’s shoulder came a stream of white-hot magnesium alloy. Katryn’s LASER shot punched through the shadow attacker’s ChainJack and flecks of blood spattered out of the shadows, propelled by a wheezing gasp to land on the witchgrass floorboards.

Veruna pressed the attack against the Ferren, dropping another with her scything claws even as Kay shook off the bruising pain of the bullet hits. To her left, Nicodemus came around; drawing his sword cane and executing one of the basic moves Roxton had shown him in their sparring matches. The runecaster mocked the previous instruction in a singsong voice before he realized he had completely telegraphed his attack, allowing the Ferren grub to dodge.

The Ferren grubs continued to shoot into the train car, forcing Kay to twist about to dodge the barrage. However, Nicodemus and Veruna were not as fortunate. Nicodemus was shot clean through, the pain knocking him back and his blood spraying across Katryn even as his spectacles hit her in the back of the head. Veruna ducked one, the round plucking through the top of Roxton’s slouch hat while the other hit her in the guts, doubling her over coughing blood.

Jonathon lowered his rapier, diverting his advance to help Roxton to place his hand upon Veruna’s back. The prayer fell quickly from his lips and shadow light played out of the wayfinders’ wound in a red glow.

“I’m glad you decided to join us Jonathon,” gasped Veruna as she attempted to straighten back up to face the Ferren.

Beside her, Nicodemus fought to keep from passing out and raised a blood-covered hand to sketch the summoning rune he had mastered back in BlackShackle. Crimson glowing spirits rose about the attacking Ferren, grappling them to foil their shots. Kay attempted to capitalize on the distraction, but was unable to land a telling hit as the attackers dodged her claws.

Roxton set his long legs, distracting the swordsman with a taunt on his ineptitude at playing the part of an assassin. The ploy worked allowing the retriever to roll his blade over his opponent’s angered parry to put his weapon into his side.

Behind him, Katryn switched her attention to the Ferren, sending an arc of white shards into their ranks, killing two and wounding a third.

The shadows dropped from the cloaked attacker, revealing a tall, severe looking Andari wearing the formal robes of a shadowpriest over a mantle of ChainJack. His face was drawn, his reddish eyes, blood flecked lips, and receding hairline lending a ghoulish cast to his pale features. With a fanatic gleam filling his eyes, the shadowpriest slammed his black bladed long sword through Roxton’s attempted block, tearing open his chest and stomach.

The retriever choked in pain, feeling his very life force ripped out along with his blood as the blade passed through his midsection. Staggering back, he watched as the Andari’s face took on a look of rapture, his wounds healing as the energy was transferred along the enchanted steel.

Jonathon looked from Nicodemus to Roxton, both horribly wounded and on opposite ends of the train car. Making his decision, he recited a prayer of healing; sending shadow energy into the retriever so he could hold off the opposing shadowpriest even as the Ferren blasted out the windows and paneling with another volley of gunfire.

Katryn, having seen what the shadowpriest attacker had done to Roxton out of the corner of her eye, snapped a quick shard into a grappled Ferren, killing him, before swinging the LASER back at the Andari swordsman and hitting him twice more.

Jonathon recited another prayer of healing over Roxton, closing his wound completely even as the retriever rediscovered his equilibrium. Behind them, Nicodemus and Kay double-teamed another of the Ferren gunmen.

Nicodemus forced the attacker back with an overextending lunge that caused him to gasp in pain. Before the Ferren could react, Kay’s claws whipped across his snout, tearing it off in a spray of blood.

“Another day traitor!” spat the shadowpriest attacker at Jonathon as he feinted and turned to jump. Roxton’s rapier flashed out, scoring the Andari in the side even as he went over the railing to the rushing ground below, lost in the night.

Katryn sprang forward, past Roxton, sighting with her pistol but unable to see any sign of the would-be assassin.

“Don’t worry Kat, we’ll see him again if he’s alive,” said the retriever cynically before turning to see how the others were faring.

One Ferren was still alive, backing through the passenger car, having just wounded Veruna with another pistol shot. Roxton rushed forward, wanting answers, and slammed the hilt of his rapier into the side of the Ferren’s head, stunning him.

Nicodemus squinted past the retriever, trying to see the reeling Ferren. Drawing a blood tasting breath, the Bloodrune scion sketched a rune of attack, sending a ruby lance scorching into the doorframe where Roxton and the grub fought. Correcting, Nicodemus sent another bolt, this one burning through the retriever’s foe and filling the rushing air with the brief smell of burned fur.

Jonathon came up behind Nicodemus and recited a prayer of healing while guiding Nicodemus to a nearby seat. Katryn inquired if the jobbers should stop the train to which an angry Roxton replied “Why, to throw Nicodemus off?” before storming back to the ruined private car to verify that it was secure.

The group discussed the attack, with Roxton giving Jonathon a clearer description of his attacker, including the bizarre fact he had apparently been barefoot. Jonathon thought for a moment before replying that the description reminded him of an Andari named Tamberlane. From what little Jonathon knew of the man, he was a sworn Ascetic and fanatically devoted to the Maegas.

Moving their belongings to the public car to get out of the wind, Roxton offered to help Veruna to a seat, smiling a rakish grin.

“Will you stop that?” insisted Veruna causing Jonathon to pause in his approach to the wounded Malakar. Veruna clarified that the comment was directed at the retriever, who shrugged and headed to the engine to let the conductor know what had transpired.

After bandaging Veruna, Jonathon turned back to where Nicodemus rested. The former cloudbreather was quiet, a new appreciation for mortality playing upon his mind as he fiddled with his spectacles, cleaning the blood droplets off of them.

As the shadowpriest proceeded to bandage his wounds, the runecaster asked Jonathon if Tamberlane’s comment concerning him being a traitor was due to him misconstruing Jonathon’s actions out of raiment when the jobbers had gone after Sister Cannondale. Brother Keeganfall shrugged, looking the Bloodrune scion in the eye, and with a wan smile, remarked how could anyone know anyone else’s’ mind.

With that the wearied group settled into the now vacant public car and awaited their arrival in WardenCliff.
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Marcos
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2007 10:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

11th of Madness 1107p.t. continued

The group arrived in WardenCliff at midnight. The arrival was much quieter than any of the other city districts, with the rail terminal lit by subdued lighting. From the windows of the passenger car, the jobbers could see that the architectural design of WardenCliff was predominately marble and steel terraced against a rising cliff face. Whites and creams were the dominant colors of the structures that made up the district and at the top of the cliff could be glimpsed the border of Zurvan’s Veil.

Much like the jobbers’ arrival in BlackShackle, a squad of Whitecloaks met them in the passenger car and questioned them about the attack on the train. As the group answered the questions of the well-groomed and efficient guardsmen, they caught a glimpse of a black-cloaked Sequitor observing them briefly before departing.

As the interview concluded, with the Whitecloaks taking the jobbers names, it was obvious that the guardsmen knew Nicodemus’ surname. The runecaster, already feeling anxious with the memories the district was evoking of happier times, felt himself becoming more on edge with the Whitecloaks’ scrutiny.

It was then that the other jobbers asked after lodgings and were told of The Arch, a modest hotel a couple of blocks away. As the jobbers began collecting their baggage, Veruna asked after a place to find wayfinders recently out of LockLeaf. The Whitecloak captain thought for a moment and told her that a flywheel known as The Saw, located near the southeastern gate, would be her best place to start. Veruna thanked the captain and shouldered her pack to join the others who were already disembarking.

As the group walked the night streets, they saw that they were well lit and well patrolled. The companions noticed also that the typical noises associated with a city district were more subdued. The normal sounds of the steam works were quieter and the air was clear, carrying background scents not of industry, but of service.

Along the way to The Arch, Veruna joked with Jonathon that she hoped he had purchased enough gloom and cigarettes for the trip into the barrens. Jonathon smiled ruefully and said that he would be sure to pick up some more as he handed over a pack of tanglevine smokes to Nicodemus, along with the loan of his lighter, so that the runecaster could work to calm his nerves.

The Arch was a modest hotel, ten stories tall with fluted columns and a marble arch set with runes of welcome done in silver. The interior was of plush carpeting and lightly varnished witchgrass furnishings. Gleaming bronze doors covered the lifts and liveried men and women presented themselves to assist the jobbers to their rooms. The rooms were all finely furnished, with well-appointed baths and soft beds.

As the jobbers settled in, only Nicodemus and Jonathon, their experiences more diverse and themselves more used to the nuances of the wealthy, took the liveried bellhop’s hints of a tip. Each also presumed that the other members of their group would not understand their own bell hops’ pauses and so over tipped with instructions to share with their compatriots to avoid any hard feelings amongst the hotel staff.

12th of Madness

The group arrived downstairs and met in the well-appointed dining hall for their complimentary breakfast of soft-boiled newt eggs, fresh bread, preserves, fruit, and spiced tanglevine tea. The aromas of the finely prepared food filled the room and the soft conversations of boyars partaking of breakfast before heading to their respective jobs and errands provided a soft droning.

Veruna could not believe the amount of free food and not wanting to waste anything, proceeded to stash a loaf of bread into her pack. The wayfinder’s actions did not escape the notice of the wait staff and a snobbish waiter arrived at the table, presenting another fresh loaf. Veruna completely misinterpreted the veiled insult as a genuine offer and with a smile and word of thanks stuffed the second loaf into her pack as well.

Jonathon and Nicodemus exchanged a wearied glance at their companions’ actions as Veruna, Roxton, and Katryn made a display of thoroughly enjoying themselves. While eating the group discussed purchasing a newt or skirr to help carry the gear Veruna insisted they needed. When the jobbers finally reached their fill, the shadowpriest and runecaster again left tips to cover them all. Veruna noticed what the two men had done, and figured that she should as well, but believed she was paying for the bread rather than leaving a tip.

Emerging outside, under a clear, sunlit sky with a faint tracing of clouds, the group briefly discussed what they wanted or needed to take care of. It was decided that Nicodemus and Jonathon would go to lay eyes on Sebastian Evers and that Roxton, Veruna, and Katryn would proceed to The Saw to locate a wayfinder to ask about the current conditions in LockLeaf.

The streets of WardenCliff were remarkably clean and it soon became evident to the jobbers that the lowest incomes in the mid to upper reaches of the district were wealthy boyars. As the two groups walked about the tiers, they saw the rare star barges moving with a majestic though ponderous grace and some personal hot air balloons gliding serenely in the skies above the district.

The star barges were immense craft, each over sixty feet in length, half as wide, and a quarter as deep. They were made of a flowmetal alloy and glowing runes winked and flowed like a multicolored kaleidoscope. A towering control bridge of burnished steel and glass with an angled front facing rose a further fifteen feet in height, set at the rear end of the floating platform. The bridge overlooked a storage deck bordered with a gleaming steel safety rail and covered with lashed down crates and busy deck hands, some swinging on ropes from one end of the craft to the other.

As the runecaster and shadowpriest neared the star barge union hall, the pair saw multiple skyways connecting to the towering structure that rose over fifty stories in height. A variety of crated or tarp covered freight could be seen being taken into or departing the massive structure. Nearing one of the loading areas, a guard carrying a clipboard approached the jobbers.

The guard was dressed in the dark blue livery of a star barge employee, the symbol of a phoenix on one shoulder and a stylized star burst on the other, with a dark belt holding a holstered PitchPit pistol. He inquired after the pair’s business and Nicodemus informed him that they were there for a meeting with a Mr. Evers. The guard told them they needed to head upwards to the 25th floor to check in with the administrative level. Nicodemus thanked the man and the two made their way to a nearby lift.

Soon the jobbers were entering into the star barge union hall, past a towering overwrought dressed in finer livery than the outside guardsmen. The interior was a richly appointed office reception area, with fine witchgrass furnishings and spun glass fixtures chased with brass and dark wrought iron.

Nicodemus continued with the bluff of having a meeting with Sebastian Evers, only to claim a different week due to confusion, asking to leave a note. After he penned a short missive hinting that he might need to meet with the administrator on a private commission, the runecaster watched the secretary place it in a mail slot.

Jonathon observed the office number of the slot the note was placed in, before claiming to need to use the office’s facilities. Following the courteous directions from the secretary, the Andari scouted the hallway that contained Mr. Evers’ office. On his way back through the hallway, the shadowpriest ducked into Mr. Evers’ office, querying the administrator for a place nearby he could go to have lunch.

Sebastian Evers was a tall man with a full build softened with the paunch of success. The dark suit he wore was finely tailored, the Star Barge Crest prominent on the breast pocket. His thinning blond hair was neatly combed and alert blue eyes looked up over brass rimmed reading glasses.

With a look of slight annoyance that only grew as the administrator took in the shadowpriest garb that Jonathon wore, Mr. Evers recommended The Guillotine. Thanking the man for his time, Brother Keeganfall left the office, collecting Nicodemus in the reception area and departing the union hall.

Once out in the clear air of WardenCliff, with the muted sounds of the various conveyances rising about them, Jonathon produced his flask of gloom and took a long draught before describing the man he took to be Evers. When Jonathon mentioned The Guillotine as Sebastian’s recommendation for lunch, Nicodemus looked back ruefully, informing the shadowpriest that The Guillotine was one of the finest restaurants in all of ScatterPoint, let alone WardenCliff.

The runecaster thought for a moment and recalled a restaurant he had frequented in better circumstances, The Silver Stake. It was an upscale restaurant, specializing in skewered foods. The quality of the food had been always been comparable with the establishment’s prices and Nicodemus changed directions along the skyway, leading Jonathon to The Silver Stake for an early lunch.

Across town Veruna, Roxton, and Katryn had finally arrived at The Saw. Along the way they had seen leisurely shoppers, strolling boyars, and not a few cloudbreathers. Whitecloak patrols were readily evident and hardly any personal weapons were in evidence amongst the street goers.

Towards the lower tiers, near the defensive wall and the commerce gates, the people on the street had more of a jobber’s appearance. Weapons were more evident and the clothes had more of a rough and used appearance.

The businesses that the jobbers had passed had been predominantly service industries, the smells of bakeries, outdoor cafes, and fine eating establishments filling the air. In the lower tiers the odors took on more familiar aspects of what the three companions were accustomed to: oil, steam, sweat and humanity.

The three found The Saw nestled in a section of structures located near the wall, not far from the southeastern gate. The alleyway beside it had been converted into a metallic pen corralling skirrs and newts. Katryn’s anxiety about the scab beetles that attacked her in Lord Shaw’s tower resurfaced when she saw the benign skirr. Roxton and Veruna noted her discomfort and with a communicative glance both determined to steer her clear of the large beetles.

The Saw was a rectangular two-story structure, made of stone and witchgrass timbers. The lower portion opened out onto the street on the short facing, running long towards the outer wall of the district. Table lamps held by metal clamps provided pools of golden illumination throughout the interior, revealing tables and chairs bolted to the floor. A smattering of sawdust across the battered floorboards added to the ambiance while providing a fresh scent to the air. A long bar, with an equally long mirror behind it, dominated the right hand side of the flywheel. A few patrons were seated at the tables, minding their own business, only glancing up briefly when the jobbers entered.

The three approached the bar, with Veruna taking the lead. The wayfinder asked after her mother and the bartender did not recognize the name. She then asked after the conditions in LockLeaf and the bartender directed the passer to a human woman at a nearby table. Roxton decided to remain at the bar while Veruna and Katryn went over to the lady’s table with a couple of cans of glee.

The two met Victoria Marshland, a tall woman with short dark hair, bright amethyst eyes, and a lightly tanned complexion. She was dressed in well-worn barren muckers of brown and green, while a long shimmering duster lay across the back of a spare chair and a scabbard containing a short sword hung off the peg of her own chair.

The three exchanged a bit of small talk before Veruna, with an incentive fee of sixty royals, convinced Victoria to tell them of recent happenings in LockLeaf. The human wayfinder told the jobbers about seeing a large contingent of what she took to be Malakar heading towards Broken Palace. She also informed them that the slag rats had been uncommonly aggressive in the area over the last couple of weeks.

Veruna asked how long ago Victoria had seen the Malakar troop and the wayfinder answered that if Broken Palace had been their objective they would have arrived there either last night or this day.

Changing topics, Veruna asked after her mother and Victoria did not recognize the name. Victoria told Veruna that she herself commonly worked out of LockLeaf, The GearLost Vale, and HawkHaven and offered to convey a message if she would run across her mother. Veruna considered the offer and told Victoria to tell her mother that she was fine and had asked about her.

While the women were talking with Victoria, Roxton talked with the bartender and learned that The Saw had five newts for sale. The retriever accompanied the bartender outside to look the newts over. The five all seemed to be of good stock, with two seeming slightly larger than their brethren.

The bartender could tell Roxton was interested in the mounts and began talking of an offer. When he was finished, Roxton decided to buy one, along with a set of tack, for four hundred royals.

When Roxton returned inside to finish the transaction, Veruna and Katryn were waiting for him. The two shared what they had learned from Victoria and, at Katryn’s suggestion, the three jobbers decided to place a deposit on the remaining newts, hoping that the group had enough resources to purchase them to cut the travel time down from three or four days to less than two.

The jobbers eventually rendezvoused at The Arch and shared the information that they had learned. Jonathon volunteered the use of his savings and was able to cover the cost of three of the remaining newts, leaving Katryn to cover the fourth.

With the newts purchased, the group decided that they needed a sixth newt as a spare and Roxton sought out another seller, haggling the same arrangement as he had at The Saw and obtained the newt and tack for only three hundred royals. While the retriever was occupied and Veruna was readying the five newts already purchased, Nicodemus visited a nearby supply shop and purchased what the proprietor told him were ‘fresh’ trail rations.

It was early afternoon when the group had finally concluded its business and began to depart the city, leading the newts on foot rather than trying to ride them. Their exit took them through a tunnel in the titanic marble and steel walls of the city. In the roof of the passageway could be seen the bottoms of massive steel doors that could be dropped to seal the tunnel at multiple points to thwart any enemy advance.

Outside of the city district, the group discovered that there was no Fringe as with GreyMesa or the other city districts. Rather the ground was cleared for a hundred yards before the majestic Petrified Forest of LockLeaf rose in stoic glory.

The group mounted up within the eves of LockLeaf, not wanting to have their inexperience witnessed by the guards upon WardenCliff’s wall. Veruna, the only accomplished rider, had no problem, unlike her companions who met with varying degrees of success. Once the jobbers were settled in their saddles, Veruna took a bearing and led the companions deeper into the motionless forest.

The trees of LockLeaf had leaves of vibrant green and trunks of dark brown. Unlike the forests described in the Forgotten Fables, there was no feeling of primordial life to LockLeaf with its trees of stone. No ground clutter was evident on the shaded floor of the forest, other than the sparse growths of tanglevine or runestorm seeded clusters of thriving witchgrass.

That evening the group set a camp and Veruna insisted on a set of watches, disregarding Nicodemus’ comments that Kay did not need to sleep and could watch the camp by herself. The other companions offered scant comment and finally acquiesced so that the Malakar would let the matter drop. Since she doubted Nicodemus would stay awake to perform his watch duties, Veruna decided to sleep in her uncomfortable ChainJack.

It was the second watch when Roxton noticed that the newts were becoming agitated underneath the trees where they were hobbled. Peering into the shadowed darkness beyond the darklamp that Veruna had set in the center of the camp, the retriever detected the sleek silhouettes of crouching slag rats a moment before they sprang.

The retriever pulled his FlintFlicker Fifty and ordered Kay, who had been standing nearby, to wake the camp. As the arcane companion acknowledged the order, the heavy pistol roared, sending a round scorching down the back of one of the beasts as it charged in. From her position closer to the center of the campsite, Katryn had not seen any movement in the darkness beyond and was caught slightly off guard by the sudden report of Roxton’s pistol.

The slag rats had encircled the camp, with two attacking the newts, another leaping at Kay, two rushing the retriever, and a sixth stalking in on the awakening wayfinder leaving Katryn free to maneuver into a position where she would have a visible target for her LASER. The newts’ powerful hind legs kept the predators at bay, while Kay evaded the one attacking her. Roxton skipped back as the one he shot landed where he had previously stood. However, the rush exposed him to the slag rat’s pack mate and its oversized incisors tore the retriever’s LeatherJack.

Veruna was startled out of her sleep when the pistol shot had roared out into the forest. Shaking her head to clear it of sleep, she felt pain flash in her side as her coat of ChainJack thwarted the slag rat’s bite.

Twisting away, the wayfinder rolled to her feet, unsheathing her claws and swinging in at the slavering beast. The first claw scored the slag rat along its flank as it sought to avoid the Malakar’s claw swipes. The second claw struck true, the talon punching through its eye and into its brain, killing it.

Behind Veruna, the inventor moved to get a sight line on the slag rats attacking the newts. The lighting was poor on that side of the camp, and all Katryn could see was lurching shadows and gleaming teeth. Using the SITE to steady her aim, Katryn sent three blazing shards across the camp at three different foes, none of which landed telling hits.

Roxton dropped his heavy pistol and ripped his rapier from its sheath, moving to engage the slag rat he had clipped with his shot. The slag rat tried to twist away from the retriever’s long lunge, but the runic rapier punched into its hide, momentarily stunning it.

Its companion however was not deterred by Roxton’s swordsmanship and roared in, teeth snapping. Roxton turned to face the creature’s onslaught and his deft parries stung the slag rat’s snout, turning the attack.

One of the slag rats attacking the newts suffered a stunning kick from the powerful legs of one of the panicked mounts, while its companion was forced back to avoid the same fate. Near Nicodemus, Kay dodged the slag rat’s leap and took up a defensive stance.

Nicodemus rolled up off of the bed his arcane companion had prepared for him during first watch, ordering the rune of armor from Kay. As the red rune faded into his skin, the runecaster directed Kay to defend the newts, even as he sent twin bolts of runic energy into the slag rat threatening her, scorching its hide.

Across the camp Jonathon awoke and, seeing the camp clearly thanks to his Andari heritage, rushed to help Roxton. The shadowpriest used the momentum of his rush and skewered one of the slag rats through the throat, quipping, “I wasn’t sleeping anyway.”

Roxton just smiled in reply, turning his footing to square up on his remaining slag rat. The beast was too lost in its bloodlust to realize that its pack mates were falling to the jobbers and it sprang just as the retriever had expected.

As the slag rat’s forelimbs extended, Roxton leaned low and forward, driving his rapier expertly through the creature’s breastbone, into its heart. Whipping the thrust back in the blink of an eye, Roxton spun away and the creature crashed to the forest floor where he had been a moment before.

Behind Jonathon and Roxton, Katryn sent a flaring stream of shards shooting into the slag rat that was turning to attack Nicodemus. The stinging attack distracted the beast, allowing the runecaster to sketch a rune of attack that felled it.

Near the newts, Veruna’s claws lashed out in blood-flecked arcs, cutting deeply into another slag rat, killing it. Beside her, Kay’s runic claws found purchase in a dazed slag rat’s muscled neck. With a bone-cracking wrench she snapped its neck, killing it as well.

With the night attack over, Veruna had the group move their camp away from the battle site before working at calming the newts back down. Nicodemus had Kay move the tanglevine bed she had made for him and joined Jonathon in keeping a watch while the pair took a nip off of their flasks.

Once the camp was moved to the wayfinder’s satisfaction, Roxton had Katryn go on to bed saying that he would keep the remainder of the second watch with Veruna and Kay until Jonathon joined them. The inventor smiled her thanks and went to her bedroll and a few moments later the camp was settled.

When the wayfinder had thought that the camp had settled, she went over to Roxton and whispered, “Forget about what I said the other day.”

“Forget what?” was Roxton’s seemingly sarcastic reply, though his smile took any malice out of it.

“Exactly” confirmed Veruna quickly if a bit self-consciously.

“You mean when you said that you liked me?” taunted the retriever, sensing the Malakar’s discomfort and curious to see what was on Veruna’s mind.

“You mean that embarrassing scene on the street? Yeah, forget that” was the wayfinder’s hissed reply.

“If that’s how you want it,” replied Roxton more seriously, but Veruna had already moved off, her emotions threatening to rise again beyond her control.

Jonathon rose quietly from his new bed site to relieve Roxton and join Veruna. As he fished out a cigarette and lit up on his way to stand guard, the Andari casually remarked to Roxton “I know from experience; it never works out.” before walking on by. Roxton looked at the shadowpriest’s back, shrugging away a pointless rejoinder and moved to his bedroll beside Katryn’s to get some sleep.

13th of Madness

Crisp, clean air, wispy clouds, and a cool breeze heralded the dawn. Nicodemus shrugged on his enchanted LeatherJack and dragged his tanglevine bedding over to the newts for their breakfast. Breakfast for the jobbers was a cold meal of their canned trail rations along with Veruna’s pilfered bread from the day before.

Once breakfast was over, the jobbers mounted painfully onto their newts. Nicodemus summoned runic spirits to assist himself and Katryn while Roxton continued to have difficulty, eventually getting his newt to cooperate after it danced around in circles.

The morning trek was uneventful and Veruna’s wayfinder skills allowed her to find a snack of tanglevine berries, which she passed back through the ranks in a piece of cloth.

The berries made their way down the line, with Jonathon, Nicodemus, and Katryn abstaining. When the slightly crushed snack reached Roxton, he gleeful exclaimed “Oh, Berries!” causing the companions to share in a light-hearted laugh.

Near noon, the wayfinder’s path had brought the jobbers to the remnants of an old stone fortification. Broken masonry, wrecked and smashed years ago, littered the preserved forest floor. Smashed, tanglevine-covered doors of witchgrass rested within the forlorn archway and a collapsed watchtower was scattered to the right of the structure as the group approached.

The jobbers decided to investigate the ruin, looking to find some possible salvage. The remains of a large fire only a couple of weeks old were evident, though the source or the cause could not be determined. The jobbers decided to split up, with Roxton and Katryn checking the tower and Nicodemus, Jonathon, and Veruna taking the small keep’s courtyard.

A sudden swirling wind whipped through the ruin and four rust puppets formed out of the bits of twisted steel and the abundant masonry. They rose over six feet in height and were two thirds as wide at the shoulders with green glowing sparks serving as their eyes.

Nicodemus ordered Kay to scribe the rune of armor upon him while he himself sketched two runes of attack. The first smashed the rust puppet back into its component pieces and the second lanced through the falling debris with no further effect.

Veruna unsheathed her claws and merely scratched her assailant’s stone hide, muttering a curse at the ineffective strike. The rust puppet slammed its massive fists down at the Malakar, but Veruna ducked aside at the last minute and the fists smashed into the ruined courtyard.

Jonathon ducked his assailant’s swiping blow and executed a flawless riposte with the dagger he had in hand. The rust puppet’s defenses were too strong and the maneuver was completely ineffectual, forcing the shadowpriest to dance back.

Katryn and Roxton faced off against the rust puppet menacing them. The inventor, knowing her LASER would be less than adequate versus the golem of steel and stone, drew her RiddleRock Tappet and fell back across the tower rubble. The rust puppet was faster than she thought and managed to catch her with a sweeping clubbed fist, knocking the wind out of her.

Roxton drew his rapier and the runic steel rang off of the creature’s stone hide, causing its head to swivel to face the retriever. “Now that I have your attention, don’t hit my girl,” quipped Roxton as he set his footing for battle.

The creature took a thunderous step forward and swung in hard, forcing Roxton to duck low, his hat tumbling away in the draft of the near miss. Coming back up he let loose a screeching hit, but the rust puppet was unfazed and continued to press.

Within the courtyard, Veruna rolled away from a bruising hit to her shoulder even as Jonathon danced around his assailant’s own clumsy blows and executed another ineffectual blow in return. Nicodemus sent another pair of crimson bolts flashing through the air, blasting the shadowpriest’s foe into rubble once more, before ordering Kay to aid the wayfinder.

The rune wraith flashed across the courtyard, seizing the rust puppet’s masonry arm and, sinking her runic claws into the stone, ripped the arm completely away in a cloud of masonry chips and rust flakes. The creature collapsed and Veruna sprinted out of the courtyard to aid Roxton and Katryn.

Kay, following Veruna as was her charge from Nicodemus, overtook the wayfinder and advanced on the remaining rust puppet, her master not far behind. Veruna poured on the speed and leapt wildly in at the rust puppet, her talons flashing off its runic aura even as Roxton’s rapier screeched again off its stone hide.

The rust puppet turned its gaze to the new opponents and its massive fists forced Kay to duck back and caught the off-balance wayfinder, breaking her ribs.

A lance of blue-white energy cut across the rust puppet’s chest and Jonathon saw that Katryn had recovered, gripping the runic pistol in both hands, sighting her next shot. The shadowpriest, his dagger still in hand, altered his course and let fly with the balanced blade only to watch it careen away off of the rust puppet’s head.

Reeling from the runic pistol shot, the rust puppet could not withstand the combined attacks of the jobbers and it fell into a pile of rubble when Nicodemus’ runic sword cane caught it about the head and sent it flying.

Jonathon jogged up to the injured wayfinder and laid his hands against her broken ribs, reciting a prayer to Umbriel. As the shadow light radiated away in white light Veruna sighed and said, “Sometimes I think I like this part best.” Jonathon offered no reply, moving off into the petrified forest to find his ricocheted dagger.

Deciding that an extended rest period would not be too detrimental, the group set about seriously searching the ruined watch fort. An hour later their efforts had turned up a fragile treatise on survival techniques, an intact tool kit forgotten within an old forge, and a quartz crystal etched with the rune to summon a rust puppet.

Veruna was anxious to study the treatise, but Nicodemus informed her that such works usually took more than a simple perusal to be of any benefit. Roxton expressed his interest in the tome and persuaded the wayfinder to part with it after a neck rub. As the retriever took the tome from the smiling and relaxed Malakar, Jonathon fixed him with a look and turned away tapping out a cigarette.

The tool kit was loaded onto the newts and Nicodemus pocketed the rune-etched quartz, he and Kay being the only ones capable of activating it.

The group set back out and at four that afternoon came across the tracks of a score or more of people moving with at least a couple of large skirr. The group decided to follow and an hour later began to see that machines had thinned the petrified forest some time in the distant past. When they came across the remnants of a stone paved road and ruined dwellings, the jobbers realized they were close to Broken Palace.

Shortly thereafter the group saw the edges of a ruined town, its wall of petrified trees and mortared stone still standing, albeit with large gaping holes that revealed the sight of burned out and destroyed buildings.

Veruna guided the jobbers off of the road’s remnants and into the few surrounding petrified trees, looking for a place to hide the newts so that the group could infiltrate the town. Nicodemus caught the reflection of metal from within the ruined walls and thought that he had seen an overwrought moving about.

The group found a burned out home and concealed the newts therein. The jobbers then proceeded to hide the gear they intended to leave behind. They took care to leave the newt harnesses out for easy discovery in case the newts were found; the idea being that the easy find would distract any would be thieves from searching further.

The jobbers had a simple meal of trail rations with Nicodemus beginning to think that his rations might not be any better than the ones his friends were eating. Once finished, the companions followed Veruna’s lead, and approached the ruined town. At the edge of the remaining tree line, over fifty yards away from the shattered barrier, the group took cover and observed the walls for any movement.

The average height of the structures still standing in the town seemed to rise about eight stories. Rising above the buildings near the center of the town was a rune-etched pinnacle of rock, thrusting upward at a slight angle. It was a testament to the Consortium’s power, a runetower constructed long after the Tempest and ScatterPoint’s subsequent arrival. Staining the evening air was the smear of rising blue tinged smoke from a large number of cook fires. Their origin was near the base of the runetower.

Just as Veruna was ready to lead the jobbers across the scattered rubble that separated the tree line from the wall, Nicodemus proposed that everyone take a moment to observe the wall, his brief glance of a possible overwrought and Broken Palace’s reputation as a place where monsters gathered fresh in his mind.

It was a long moment before Nicodemus’ suggestion bore fruit as he and Roxton observed what they took to be one of the rumored monsters. It was a grotesque creature, its features twisted and deformed. A battered mantle of LeatherJack covered its hunched shoulders and a naked long sword was gripped in a clawed hand. Its arms were long and seemed to almost drag the ground, so short and hunched was the creature’s torso upon its abnormally muscled legs.

A moment later two more of the creatures became visible, their dress and armament similar, but sporting heads of bizarre animal-like features and slightly different builds, all malformed.

As the group took in the unsettling sight walking near the wall, Veruna saw another type of monster further in and slightly behind. This creature seemed more metal than man, though the flesh that was visible seemed like that of a cadaver in the evening light. It moved in a very stiff manner compared to the earlier creatures and it did not seem to carry any visible weaponry.

The group decided to wait a while longer and observed more of the grotesque and shocking creatures moving in completely random and staggered patrols within the walls. As they whispered what course of action to take, Jonathon reminded the group that Sister Cannondale’s informant had mentioned something about the Society’s soldiers being referred to as the Nightmare Brigade.

Deciding that no time was better than another, the group began sneaking forward, Veruna using her skills as a wayfinder to set the path to aid the others in their covert approach. About thirty yards away from the ruined gateway, three of the metallic cadavers began crossing when one grunted to the others and turned out of the gate, moving towards the jobbers.

Veruna snatched a pebble from the scattered stones and flicked it away, the skittering sound drawing the monster’s attention. As it changed direction after the stone, Roxton spotted a cloaked and hooded figure bearing a witchgrass staff and accompanied by three of the “beast men.”

The small group caught sight of the mechanical cadaver men outside the walls and the hooded form ordered one of the beast men to bring them back inside the walls. The beast man moved with speed and agility over the rough terrain and in a tortured, gravelly voice ordered the strange, overwrought-like beings back inside the walls.

The hooded form waited and then repeated his patrol instructions to the mechanical monstrosities in a commanding though exasperated voice. The cadaver men resumed their patrol while the hooded form and three beast men moved further into the town before setting back into their own patrol.

The group rushed forward into the momentarily unwatched area, the wayfinder guiding the group into the ground floor of a building just within the shattered walls. The odor of musty debris filled the room as the jobbers’ entrance disturbed the accumulated dust on the floor. Taking positions to watch out of the windows and doors, the group discussed a course of action.

The consensus was soon reached to take their chances in the Zone Underground, or as it was more commonly referred to, the ZU, rather than trying to dodge patrols going street to street while trying to get near the rune tower. Kay spied a lift a couple of blocks away and the group made for it, Veruna leading once more.

After a tense moment when a patrol of what Nicodemus had dubbed “Overwights” went past the alleyway where the group crouched in the shadows preparing to descend into the ZU, they found themselves at the base of the lift shaft, a masonry lined tunnel moving off in the light of Roxton’s arc light.

Veruna took a bearing with her compass and with Roxton’s arc light led the group into the ZU.

The tunnels gradually changed from worked masonry to more natural seeming stone. The smell of stagnant air filled the tunnels and the sound of the group’s booted feet echoed strangely off of the stone walls.

Veruna led the companions on, often checking her bearings as the tunnel system guided the jobbers to roundabouts, dead ends, and oblique angles to the direction they wished to proceed. It was as the wayfinder approached an intersection with three branching passageways that she detected the sound of metal being placed ponderously upon the stone.

Emerging into the light were four automatons, strange metal constructs standing just less than five feet in height, armed with scythe shaped blades and massive hammers in place of hands. The four moved with purpose, closing in on the jobbers with relentless inevitability, eye slits glowing a baleful red.

Roxton moved up beside Veruna to ward one of the tunnels. However the automaton emerging from that tunnel was faster than the retriever expected, its oversized, blood stained hammer blasting the wind out of Roxton, staggering him back. Shaking off the dizzying blow, he stabbed in hard with his runic rapier, the blade sparking as it failed to penetrate the machine’s armored chassis.

A pair of the automatons focused their attention on Veruna, executing a pincer maneuver with their hammer blows to force the wayfinder into their scything blades. The razor edged weapons cut through Veruna’s ChainJack, leaving her wounded and off balance, causing her to shift to her native form even as Kay stepped forward to engage one of them with no effect. The last automaton continued to advance, closing ranks with its fellows.

Jonathon moved up behind the wounded Malakar and recited a prayer of healing, closing the worst of Veruna’s wounds. The shadowpriest then recited the blessing of the black blade over her, causing her fighting talons to become pitch black.

Her confidence bolstered by Jonathon’s action, Veruna leapt forward, her talons tearing through one of the automaton’s chest cavity, causing it to collapse to the floor in a sparking heap. The Malakar waited to feel the euphoric rush that accompanied a mortal blow, but no such effect occurred. Behind her, Jonathon remarked that while he had known that healing was unlikely, he had hoped that with her heritage she could have fed off of the runic energy that powered the constructs to grow stronger.

Beside Veruna, Roxton adopted a strategy of finesse, changing his stance and slipping his rapier’s blade into the shoulder joint that wielded the hammer hand. As the runic weapon parted through the thinner armor of the movable joint, Roxton gripped his hilt in both hands and pressed down hard, applying his weight. The fulcrum like action provided the necessary force and in a shower of sparks the arm fell useless at the automaton’s side.

Off balance, the automaton on the retriever missed with its scythe hand. Veruna’s remaining opponent connected with its hammer hand, causing her to stagger and her arm to go numb. The remaining automaton surged into Jonathon, knocking the Andari to the ground with a blow of its hammer, cracking the shadowpriest’s ribs.

Kay closed with the automaton on Veruna, landing a distracting claw hit, but accomplishing little else. As the rune wraith changed position, Nicodemus spat “We don’t have time for this!” and sketched three runes of attack.

The triad of ruby colored lances of runic energy flashed in the chaotic lighting of the tunnels. Two of them splashed off of an arcane field that surrounded the construct while the third scorched its chest plating.

“Obviously a runecaster was involved in the construction of these things,” quipped Nicodemus as Katryn sent a barrage of white blazing shards at the mechanical beings. The LASER’s shards flattened against the automaton’s plating, prompting Nicodemus to say that runic attacks were going to be needed. Nodding in agreement, the inventor began holstering her weapon while reaching for her RiddleRock Tappet.

The automatons pressed their attack against the jobbers relentlessly and Veruna’s ChainJack deflected one scythe blade, even as Jonathon rolled away from another, pieces of his cloak fluttering to the ground. Veruna counter-attacked, her talons sparking off of its arcane field and armor plating as did Kay’s attack beside her.

Nicodemus sketched two more runes of attack, sending them into the automaton attacking Jonathon. The first crimson beam splashed away harmlessly while the second melted armor plate, causing the construct to step back and turn to avoid a prolonged burn.

Jonathon wasted no time, setting his feet and reciting a prayer of healing over Veruna even as he fought to ignore the pain of his own injury. The spell flowed from shadow light to clear white and Veruna remarked “I’m just going to have to keep you right beside me Jon!” with a blood flecked smile.

“Glad to be appreciated,” gasped the shadowpriest cynically.

“Oh, I do” was the laughing reply.

Roxton continued his strategy of disarmament and with an almost identical maneuver, slid his runic rapier through the construct’s scythe arm, rendering it as useless as its hammer hand. Undaunted, the mechanical being rushed forward trying to smash the retriever with its armored chest, but to no avail.

Katryn, the RiddleRock Tappet now in hand, sighted on the wounded construct that still menaced the shadowpriest. A blue-white energy beam cut across the tunnel melee, punching through the automaton’s glowing eye slit and blowing out the back of its head cavity. With a groan of straining metal, the mechanical guardian crashed back onto the stone floor.

Veruna continued to stand against the automaton pressing her. The Malakar’s fighting talons were losing their shadow-dark sheen, even as they were defeated once more by the thing’s armored torso.

The mechanical guardian struck back mercilessly, its scythe hand ripping Veruna deeply across the mid section. As the wayfinder fell backwards, Jonathon caught her, a prayer of healing suturing the majority of the gaping stomach wound in a flash of dark sanguineous light.

Nicodemus ordered Kay to reach in and pull out the machine’s components. The rune wraith obeyed and, with a feat of titanic strength that left her near defenseless, seized the lower edge of the construct’s chest, tearing the plating free in a cloud of spark filled smoke. With a loud crash, the attacker fell back to the floor.

Roxton and Katryn plied their runic weapons against the remaining construct, but to no avail. As the automaton flailed about with its useless arms, Nicodemus fed energy into a single, powerful attack rune. As Veruna suffered a glancing hit by the flailing hammer hand, the ruby red bolt streaked forward, burning the construct clean through, causing it to finally collapse.

In the echoing silence that followed, Jonathon recited yet another prayer of healing over the wounded Malakar. As the shadow light emerged in a soft white glow, leaving the wayfinder’s stomach wound as no more than a painful memory; Jonathon announced that his reserves of divine power were almost depleted. The shadowpriest then set himself down next to the tunnel wall and proceeded to produce more mundane healing materials to care for his damaged ribs.

Nicodemus looked over the mangled automatons, before producing the quartz crystal he had found earlier that day. Feeding a tendril of runic energy into the summoning rune, the quartz crystal glowed red, before flowing out of Nicodemus’ hand like molten steel and into the chest cavity of the automaton the runecaster had selected.

The rune of summoning manifested as a crystal inlay on the machine’s chest plate and the construct’s eye slit glowed once more as it regained its feet. Looking about, the machine’s eye slit settled on Veruna and Roxton wondered aloud if the machine’s original program had not been to defend the city against the Malakar so long ago.

As the runecaster instructed the rust puppet to guard the area, Katryn moved up one of the tunnels, having spied an opening just ahead. The inventor entered the room, the glow of Roxton’s arc light just enough to make out the fact that it was some sort of work shop.

Calling back over her shoulder, Katryn had the others come forward with the light. As the room brightened, a dust-covered workbench was revealed along with what appeared to be a dust covered metallic mechanical man standing on a raised pedestal at the back of the room. It seemed a combination of ancient plate armor fused with riveted sheets of steel topped with a cylindrical shaped head. Two faceted crystals served as eyes and care had been taken to weld a nose and to affix a hinged jaw.

The inventor thrilled inside to see the ancient construct, its design seemingly archaic compared to the current clockwork companions occasionally seen on the streets of GreyMesa. Stepping forward, Katryn realized that its chest cavity was open and her eyes turned back to the workbench. There, just as she had hoped, lay a clockwork difference engine resting under a fine layer of dust.

As her companions moved into the room, Katryn went to the workbench, removing a small fine brush from one of her numerous pockets. A moment later the difference engine was cleaned and the inventor saw that all it lacked was a runestone to energize it.

Without hesitation, the inventor pulled forth one of her spare runestones for the RiddleRock Tappet and inserted it into the clockwork engine. Immediately a soft glow emerged from the runestone and the clockwork gears began to turn in complex patterns.

With steady hands Katryn took up the difference engine and moved to the archaic looking clockwork companion. A quick assessment of the chest cavity showed how the engine was to be placed and the inventor did so.

Closing the chest cavity, a slight hum filled the workshop and the construct’s crystal eyes glowed with a soft, gold light.

“Instructions?” queried the mechanical man in a voice of clacking gears and valves, its hinged jaw moving in time to its speech.

“Follow me,” was Katryn’s immediate reply, which caused the clockwork companion to fix its crystal gaze upon her.

From the doorway, Nicodemus called out to the construct “Are you a good creature or an evil creature?” the previous battle only moments before still fresh in his mind.

“Mistress?” was the quizzical reply to which Nicodemus sarcastically said, “Well that answers that question, ” followed by “What is your name?”

Again the clockwork companion looked to Katryn for its answer. The inventor looked over her newly found construct, her mind ablaze with all the possible customizations she could do to it. Thinking of her other works and some of her immediate plans for the mechanical man Katryn said “Mechanically Enhanced Kinetic Animatron… MEKA.”

“I am MEKA,” stated the clockwork man, its voice becoming clearer and the humming noise lowering to a barely noticeable drone. “One hundred percent fully functional.”
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Bill
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a fantastic write up Marcos! I am very impressed with your capture of detail. I am copyting this to a word document for my reading pleasure and to use some of the fantastic descriptions you have generated in the document. I really appreciate you taking the time to write these up and share your players adventures!
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razorwise
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finally having an opportunity to get caught up with your story, I must say, you're doing a terrific job! I really am enjoying the sharing of your jobbers' adventures!

Regards,

Sean
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Captain Blood
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2007 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You should try being one of those jobbers! Sheesh! #1crying
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razorwise
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2007 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Captain Blood wrote:
You should try being one of those jobbers! Sheesh! #1crying


Heh. From what I've heard, you've got a lot in store for you! Savage Jack

Welcome to ScatterPoint!

Regards,

Sean
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Marcos
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2007 6:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi All,

Just wanted to put up a quick post saying I have added a poll to keep the ScatterPoint Stories from being removed inadvertently due to the auto-cleaning function of the forum. In addition, for those following my jobbers’ escapades, thank you for the continued interest and rest assured that the campaign is still going strong. Believe me when I say, our intrepid jobbers have been busy and the month of Madness seems to have been aptly named. As for the heroes’ growth, they have just recently reached the rank of Veteran and were all rewarded with Common Bond, or in the case of the retriever and runecaster, Uncommon Bond. Laughing

So please look for the updates to resume in the near future, picking up where the story had last left off.

Good Gaming,
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2007 8:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I look forward to them!
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2007 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark,

Great poll. I encourage everyone to vote!

I look forward to more of your intriguing tales of ScatterPoint.

Keep up the good work.

Regards,

Sean
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I liked the poll..... Smile
I don't think we ever ran from a fight, even when it was in our best interest. Twisted Evil
It usually goes like this: The GM begins the enemy's description and flavor text....
"I waste 'em with my LASER!"
"Rapier here, GM!"
"Dropping my human form!"
"Readying a Rune Bolt, 3d!"
Then the Gm simply sobs muttering about a plot point blown out of the water.
Laughing
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Thrallking
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Please Sir, may I 'ave some more?" , holds out porridge bowl wistfully, and wishfully.

This was my favorite read, and made me get Runepunk, and all this waiting for the next installment is killer!! #1crying

Heh, I can hardly wait for more, this thread is FANTASTIC!!!!
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 8:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't worry he's still working on it. I beat him repeatedly about the head and shoulders to keep him going when he slacks. Twisted Evil
As always real life has a way to keep writers from finishing projects. I made him promise to post within the next week. (not really, but I wanted to freak him out!) Laughing
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