Saturday, 21 November 2015

The Long Game: Intrigue with a Side of Indigestion

Greetings, fair traveler, and welcome back to D4sign! Let's continue The Long Game! When last we left our adventurers, they had barely sailed their ship to an outpost in Aes, Kalgar's home country. There, they were recuperating, and waiting to speak with Admiral Draksha concerning Kalgar's fate...

All was quiet. The Shockrosia, such as it was, was docked at the island outpost in the south of Aes. The view was bleak; fog lay heavy and humid in every direction, and the wind barely stirred.

Beside the Shockrosia, only one other ship was docked, one of the Angrimich Shivi's. From there, the tower that stood as both watchtower and lighthouse, could barely be seen through the fog.

At the end of one of the empty piers, monk Tong si Gong sat, cross-legged, giving a lecture on psionic morals to a series of disciples, fading in and out of reality through the Reverie. The mystical realm allowed the teachings of Ioun, and its followers, to stay connected all around the world. Tong took a deep breath, the fog of the Reverie mixing with the fog of Aes.

Later in the day, Captain Sora, dragonborn Aesian sailor in charge of this outpost, took our adventurers on a tour of the small outpost. Leading away from the piers, the island slopes upward, revealing a bunker whose height was half buried in the ground, with the tower above that. Inside, there were four sailors sitting at a table, playing cards, braziers burned along the walls. While it was very warm outside, inside was worse, combining the humidity and the fire's heat. Down the hall, there were doors leading to other rooms, storage and such, and to lower levels. One passage led to a spiral staircase leading up, to the tower.

The ship and crew had a few days respite from their latest adventurers; Sora informed them that Admiral Draksha was on her way and would arrive in a few days' time.

Sora and Kalgar stood on his ship, the wind had picked up some.
"Does this outpost have any spare supplies, for ship repair?" Kalgar asked, he could tell Sora was not liking the humidity so he flexed his wings, creating a breeze.

"Some, yes, but not all of the damage can be fixed with our supplies here. You may need to go to a more equipped outpost." Sora answered, welcoming the breeze.

Kalgar nodded, and called over some of the crew, Kildrak, Vondal, and Logann, three of the crew's most able smiths and tinkerers, and told them, "We don't have a lot of materials here, so do what you can, keep the ship afloat-"

One of the dwarfs scoffed at him, ostentatiously.

"-yes, well, you have time. Work on some new designs, we have a chance here to make the ship even better!" The dwarves nodded and descended below decks.

At that moment, Tong approached, "Kalgar, I have a question for you."

"I've thought for much length on your journey and mine, and while I was musing over my own training with my disciples, it occurred to me that we are walking a narrow and stormy path, one that leads to your death. Do you find these prophecies true, in your own heart?" Tong's hair, robes, and spiritual energy swayed according to their own logic.

Kalgar frowned and said, "I think...I think it's going to be one of the most dangerous paths that I've ever taken. One that I started years ago, but it's's time. It has to be done. We are the ones to move this forward. We've gone through some crazy stuff so, we are the ones to make this happen, if we're not stupid."

"I've walked away from my own past, I've left Canitian history as an eternally-closed home. Could you not do the same!?" the lines of stress and concern were showing on Tong's face.

If it were possible for Kalgar to look more stern, he did so. "Look. The whole world is starting to build to war. Aes is the country I know the best, and if we can make a stand, here, then we have a place to fall back on and we have a place to build from. That's my thinking."

Tong tried to interrupt him, but was cut off.

"Because we really don't have anywhere else to go. Canitia, as you said, you've abandoned, Chalybs is besieged, we really don't have a single place that we can call our own, beyond the other reasons I have for wanting to make Aes better, that's another good one. We need to start fixing things!"

Tong nodded deeply. "Your tongue is like a rope connected to the mighty belfry of your heart."

"...yes?" Kalgar answered, hesitantly.

Tong gives a knowing smile, as if Kalgar's 'yes' contains cosmic profundity, and then exclaims, "Perhaps this is the first thing we will be able to...unbreak?" Looking at his hands, Tong walked away.

As the monk walked away, Kalgar called out, "Keep an eye out for Alvyn!"

"You haven't seen him?"

"No, he snuck off somewhere."

During all of this, Alvyn had been walking around the outpost. He spent years learning how to keep himself hidden, gathering information on his friends and foes alike, why would now be any different? The island was quite small, his recon taking less than an hour, and satisfied that he knew all there was to learn, he came back.

"Alvyn! Where have you been? Was it another spiritual journey of your shattered past, involving the entire pantheon of gods?" Tong asked, recalling another incident in Aes, and exaggerating the current situation, as always.

"No." Alvyn said, handing some Aesian hardtack to Kalgar. "Just like old times."

Alvyn's recon had not revealed much new to him, Sora had showed them most of the outpost, but he had learned that the lower levels of the outpost appeared to be flooded, their doors blocked off. The tower's masonry was quite old and was showing obvious signs of wear.

Tong stared at the hardtack, an Aesian sailor's common ration, and said, "This reminds me of the Scroll of Mindfulness, 'The hard man's soul is like hardtack, impossible to chew."

Ignoring that, Kalgar waved over another dwarf, "Do you think we could do something about that?" he nodded toward the tower. The dwarf seemed unsure, saying that much of it had to be de-flooded first. Kalgar instructed a few dwarves to check out the tower, in their spare time, see if there was something they could do, to repay the kindness Sora had showed them.

Meanwhile, Tong's eyes lit up, "...hardtack, impossible to chew...Wait!" Thinking about the Scrolls of Mindfulness, Tong si Gong realized that this wasn't one of the Scrolls, he had just created it! Out of his own mind, it was an utterance on the same level as that he had learned in the temple. His eyes shone white as he pointed his finger down at his upturned palm. Kalgar and Alvyn recognized this, Tong was preaching into the Reverie again. His words, visualized in spectral light as he spoke them, disappeared into that other place.

Sora had other duties to perform, so she left the ship and walked back to the tower. Kalgar kept his crew busy with ship repairs and maintenance, and any crew not thus occupied, Kalgar was leading them through some fighting exercises, battle drills.

Alvyn left the ship, quietly, again, returning with an Angrimich Shivi cannon. Taking it down to the hold, Alvyn dropped it off in front of the dwarves and said, "Here, let's make this better." It was a boarding cannon, specially designed to fire many lines at once, catching a nearby ship and securing it in place.

Kalgar approached Alvyn, opened his bag, and said, "Do you see any problem in making a cloak out of this?"

Looking into Kalgar's bag was kind of horrifying. It was a Bag of Holding so it could carry a lot of things quite easily, and looking into such a bag often brought a sense of vertigo, nausea. This feeling would be made worse if, like Kalgar, you kept one of every type of weapon you had ever found, a few magical weapons, a few magically-stripped weapons, oh, and the heads of the dragons you and your allies had killed so far.

However, Alvyn, has had a tough life so after looking around, he said, "No, not a problem." And jumped right in.

Alvyn, Tong, and Kalgar had learned the great secret of the world, that the dragons were not extinct and were in fact playing a secret game for rule of Cyfandir. The dragons had a set of very strict, but loosely interpreted, rules that they had to follow, one of the strictest is to keep their existence secret. So far, our adventurers had defeated two fully grown dragons and a younger one, and Kalgar had kept their severed heads, both as trophy, but also for a strange reason he could not entirely identify. Mostly, he presumed they may be needed at some point, so he kept them safe.

Kalgar's thinking regarding the cloak was fairly straight-forward. Intimidation spurs others to fight, or to cower. Kalgar used intimidation to challenge foes and lead his crew. While the cloak itself would not do much to regular foes, Kalgar thought it may infuriate the next dragon they met, and Kalgar grinned at the image he was making for himself.

The next couple of days were mostly uneventful, as Kalgar's crew worked on repairs both on the ship and on the outpost tower. Inside the tower, the dwarves removed some water and patched up some of the structure, but they noted that there was too much rubble and water in the lower levels and so the main storehouse was closed. One of the older solders noted that the room had been used for storing larger and more extensive supplies, ship masts, gunpowder, etc.

Toward the end of the fourth day, three flares cut through the fog from somewhere in the north, signalling Admiral Draksha's impending arrival. As Kalgar watched this from the prow of his ship, one of his lieutenant's, Dwight, approached him.

"Sir? Sir!'s Chenn...Chenn's dead, there's blood everywhere!"

Kalgar quickly recalled him. Malark Chenn. The juggler. Kalgar and his crew had picked him, and others, up in the Crimson Fields in Aurum, after the incident in Hyacintho. Chenn was an entertainer, always looking to make people laugh, enjoy life. It was a tough role, considering how serious our adventurers can be, but Malark brought a spark of life and adventure to the ship, and lead many a merry tune on long nights.

"Where? In the hold? On the ship?" Kalgar grabbed Dwight's shoulders, then waved over Alvyn and Tong over.

Sora, sensing some issues, signaled to the Admiral to halt her progress, until they worked out what was wrong.

Some of the dwarves were tugging their beards and muttering.

"He looked alright, a little under the weather, maybe."
"We thought it was just motion sickness, or altitude sickness."
"There was that storm after all."

Walking down into the hold, Haymitch was there, squinting at the body. There, Malark Chenn laid facedown, in his own blood. Alvyn looked closely, there were no noticeable wounds on this side. In the blood, there were streak marks like something had been dragged through it.

Kneeling down, Kalgar grabbed Chenn's shoulder, and flipped him over. Chenn's face was contorted in pain and fear, and his chest was ripped open. Blood, guts, organs, all violently ripped apart.

Taking out some of his surgical tools, which he had acquired from the Iron Tower, Alvyn inspected the body. It appeared as if something had ripped itself out from the inside. A closer inspection led him to believe that something had been growing in Chenn before he died, as the organs were compressed, like something had been pushing against them for some time.

"Tong..." Kalgar called, eyes closed as he voiced words to Kord and Melora, his patron gods.

"Yes." the monk answered.

"Can you take a good look around?" Kalgar knew that Tong's psionic abilities allowed him to see things beyond the material plane. Tong's eyes rolled in his head as he reached out with his mind. He could sense the people in this room, the energy of life leaving Malark, and he could sense others on the ship. He reached out farther, sensing Sora, her soldiers, even the guard in the lighthouse who was confused by the delay on Admiral Draksha's ship. He could even tune his thoughts to catch the life-force of small animals scuttling and living on/around the island. However, none of what he could sense was unusual.

Upon hearing this, Alvyn asked around, looking to see if anyone else was feeling sick. No one was.

"Did Chenn follow any specific deity, perhaps someone who begins with an O, and ends with an rcus?" Tong asked. In spite of the situation, Alvyn and Kalgar smiled, Orcus being the orc demigod.

Kalgar snorted, "Chenn didn't follow any god other than coin and a good audience."

Tong scowled, "I hope he finds his way into the Infinite Knowing, this is no fate for an entertainer!"

Nothing within the wound appeared alien to Chenn, Alvyn noted. Moving out from the body, Alvyn inspected the streaks of blood on the floor. Looking around, the adventurers noted that whatever was here had left the ship.

"Perhaps this is now under the purview of Aesian military law, and no longer an issue for our ship." Tong noted.

"Pretty sure the dead guy on our ship makes it our problem." Alvyn quipped.

"Ah, your retort burns, like a hot poker."

Alvyn looked at Kalgar, "We should find an arcanist." Alvyn found himself in an amusing situation. All of his life, he had been a powerful wizard, too powerful in fact, but since his transformation, he had no innate magical ability. "We could use him to maybe scry or track down what was here."

"Sounds good." Kalgar said.

"I'm wondering if we should lie, to Sora and the Admiral." Tong suggested.

"Isn't Ioun all about truth and knowledge?" Kalgar retorted.

"Knowledge is dangerous. A fire in your brazier provides light, a fire in your hands provides wounds."

Kalgar was looking to wound someone, getting more upset by the minute, "Whatever direction we take on the truth-telling, we have to start fixing our problems." He stalked up to the upper deck. Calling over the sailors on duty, he told them to stay very vigilant, rotate the guard duty, and he flagged Sora, asking for any arcanist she had to come over.

Soon, a figure approached the gangplank. With giant bushy eyebrows, skinny arms, and thick legs, the man introduced himself as Porset. Kalgar led him over to Alvyn, whose knowledge trumps his own in these matters.

Staring up at him with his coal-black eyes, and sharp teeth, Alvyn said, "Not to be rude, but to be blunt, how powerful are you?"

Taking slightly aback by this, the man answered, "Well, quite strong with wind-magic specifically."

"How about real magic?"

The mage frowned quite hard.

"So, I imagine scrying to not be too high on your list of skills."

Kalgar interjected, "Could...could you help him, with you knowledge?"

Alvyn rocked his head from side to side. "Well, maybe, I could help direct him. Look, something was here" he shows the man the corpse of Chenn, "and I need you to find it. Now there are two ways you can do this-"

"Some...thing?" the man looked skeptical.

"Yeah, well, the chest bits, mostly. There's a hole, obviously something was in this hole, I need you to find it. Because it was either taken, or it left.


"Scrying is the most efficient technique for this, but if that's too much, we have other options."

Sitting down next to the body, the man stuck his hands in the blood and smeared it all over his face.

"Heretical!" Tong cried out, and left.
"You Aesians are so gross!" Alvyn shook his head.
"This isn't a tradition of ours." Kalgar says, staring intently at the man.

Dwight threw up.

"This could take a few hours." the man said.

Suddenly, Alvyn had another idea, "Tong. What do we know about this person? Nothing. We know it came out of a person, but where do you imagine we could find information on things like this?"

"A book!"

"Yes, and do you know anyone we could ask to read, say, 1000 books at once?"

"Yeah, me!"

"No, do you think you could ask your people to look around and try to find information on this for us?"

"Yes! Great idea! I will use an old technique, older than my old master Ting Tang Wong Gong, to instruct my disciples to look, the ancient technique of Goo-gal!" Suddenly a plume of smoke erupted from Tong, revealing the Eidolawn Fortress, the realm between the Reverie and the Astral Sea. Tracing the connection back through the lineage of the old masters, Tong searched for information.

"No...nothing. They have seen nothing like this before."

All of their investigation lead our adventurers to feel more and more certain that the creature was from the Iron Tower. The Iron Dragon had been experimenting, creating abominations, this must be one of her new, terrible creatures.

Returning to the body, Kalgar asked Alvyn and the sorcerer, "We can move this body, yes? It doesn't have to stay here?"

"Yeah, I'd like to keep it. We may need to study it further."

Kalgar knelt down, picked up the body, and wrapped it in some of the materials from the old sails. He placed the body on Alvyn's workbench, and handed a mop to Dwight who still looked very shaken.

"Dwight, you're a lieutenant, act like it. Blood is like water, get it off my ship." For a moment, Kalgar's intimidating stance took on an almost fatherly tone, and Dwight strengthened his resolve.

Climbing the stairs, Kalgar reached the main deck, there he found Sora, "What's going on?" she asked.

Kalgar had known Sora for a very long time. She knew him as he had been before, and as he was now. He would not lie to her. He told her all about Chenn and their investigation, and mentioned the thought that the threat came from the Iron Tower. He apologized for bringing this to her, but asked for her help, and for her knowledge and discretion in dealing with the Admiral.

She nodded, gravely, and told Kalgar that they had to have a better assessment of the threat before the Admiral would even think about coming in. Kalgar promised her that they were still looking, and would do everything they could to find it.

Heading back below deck, Alvyn, Tong, yielded no new information, but the sorcerer deduced that the creature may have gone west to one of the nearby isles. He told the party that there were some nearby islands with some tunnels beneath them which had been used to move between the island without arousing suspicion. If the creature was not here, it may be there, he suggested.

"So you're not completely useless. But mostly. Work on that." Alvyn quipped, Porset frowned. "And wash your face!"

Getting some Aesian long-kayaks from Sora, Kalgar instructed his crew to stay extremely vigilant.

"Yeah, and if any of you start acting weird or sick in any way, don't forget to kill yourself and have someone examine your body!" Kalgar looked down at Alvyn, who was smiling mischievously.

The dragonborn sighed. "Belay that." With a strict, military pivot, Kalgar turned on his heel and walked away. Sora told Kalgar that the western patrol had not returned.

Sighing, Kalgar placed his hand behind Sora's head, and she returned the gesture. They leaned together and closed their eyes. It was a very intimate gesture.

Our three adventurers pushed off with their kayaks, hoping to confront the creature and get some answers.

Stay tuned next time for more exciting adventure from The Long Game!

No comments:

Post a Comment