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  #121  
Old Nov 5th, 2021, 02:23 AM
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Zenda, Swordswoman of Ishadia
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"Stay down!"

Zenda cursed quietly at the bony monstrosity still held tight in Bato's grasp, even as the thing twisted around and brought its axe to bear against the gnoll. She could hear more approaching, and del Magrina quickly led his force to intercept. They needed to finish this one off quickly before they became surrounded. She continued to rain blows down upon the beast, and two more swings shattered whatever dark magic held the parts together, leaving the Constrictor holding nothing but a moldy bundle of bones. The Ishadian spared only a glance for Bato's supposed axe wound. He looked completely uninjured. "Let's move."

Without another word, she spun in place and darted out of the alleyway towards the next battle where the captain and his crew already faced off against another skeletal minotaur. She took up a position on Milkherem’s flank and lashed out yet another blow, her hasty blow barely scratching at pale bone gleaming dully in the night.

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  #122  
Old Nov 5th, 2021, 03:37 AM
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As the minotaur's skeletal body collapsed and scattered onto the cobblestone, its axe clattered to the ground as well revealing not a wound where it had struck out at Batoyangi, but the smooth dark carapace of his tail wrapped about his long broad midriff. The monstrous appendage had swiped forward and intercepted the blow in the blink of an eye, leaving the Great Constrictor completely unarmed.

"Huuu....huuuu..." Spittle dripped from his maw as his eyes flicked up and away from his first victim, following the Ishadian who was sprinting gracefully down the alley. Bato followed with a powerful three-legged gallop, his free arm gripping and pulling away at the rotten buildings around him, propelling himself forward before leap, his footwrapped feet taking him easily up and over the Captain's head to land besides Milkherem and the skeleton that had wounded him.

He lashed out with his tail, two swift thrusting blows that passed through the ribcage of the creature and briefly out the other side, sending bits of dried bone flying before the gnoll spun, landing only a glancing blow with Adarga that wasn't likely to do much more than throw the creature off-balance for a moment.


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  #123  
Old Nov 5th, 2021, 10:52 AM
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Her lips pulled back in a grimace, Azar bobbed and weaved, trying to get a view of the downed minotur skeleton behind the forms of Zenda and Batoyangi, but in no time at all first the dancer and then the pitfighter were gone, leaving nothing behind but a pile of bones.

They work fast, she noted, and there was a hint of bitterness about it. She wanted to kill something so much at that moment, to burn the life out of something in order to sate her anger somewhat. She knew, however, that combat was not her forte. She had to control her anger and be smart. She had to remember that every kill that the group made was partly hers as well.

These thoughts flitted through her mind in an instant, and she was hot on the heels of the others almost immediately, gingerly picking her way through the bones of their previous enemy so as not to stumble. She rounded the corner of the ruined building and got her first view of the lost one, and she was momentarily taken aback. Could any minotaur be so large in life? Surely not, surely whatever power had animated the body had also twisted and enlarged its flesh at the same time.

The other skeleton was taking blows from the ship crew and somehow Zenda and Bato had already laid into it. Azar was sure that it couldn't last much longer so she turned instead to the bigger threat. The fire in her stomach burned hot and she wanted to just unleash it, to burn the monstrosity to ash, but she knew that she had to husband her resources. They were bound to face more enemies soon and if her fire burned too low she might never have her revenge.

"Kill that thing quickly," she snarled at her allies, "I will attempt to delay the lost one!"

She selected only a candle-worth of the flame inside of herself, swirling it and feeding it and then directed it forwards before letting it gutter out right as she unleashed it. The remaining heat washed over the lost one, carrying with it stinging smoke to blind its eyes.

 

 
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  #124  
Old Nov 5th, 2021, 11:06 PM
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Nae’laa waited silently with Skrihn Vat across from where the others entered the structure. A strange sensation crept over her as they disappeared from view. Unease. Anxiety... Concern? It had been so long since she felt such attachment to a group of people. Perhaps that was why the perceived betrayal hurt so much. She was relieved to learn that it had been a misunderstanding, yet still there was a lingering tension between the others that she couldn’t quite seem to shake. Then again, maybe it was in her own mind.

She pushed back against the uneasiness that seemed to settle in her stomach. Everything told her to flee, yet again something stronger held her feet in place. For so long she had relied on her instincts, trusting even the smallest inkling that it was time to move. Fighting wasn’t an option. It was a last resort that always left a trail behind, one as bright as a fire in the midst of a desert during the new moon. One easy enough for the one who chased her to follow with little difficulty. Yet, she couldn’t help but feel like her third battle in as many weeks was upon her. How long could she get away with acting so recklessly? When the others learned the truth about the bounty, about her master, would they stand by her? Neither thought frightened her so much as the next, the one that she fought to ignore.

She craved to harness her power again. Not in the small, hidden ways she often did while on the run. No. She longed for the pulsing power that spread through her as she called upon the elements. The rush of adrenaline as she spoke the words of her people and felt her magic release to devastating effects. She wanted a reason to fight.

With a shake of her head, she refocused on the alley before her. Skrihn Vat was silent at her side but she could make out his silhouette in the dark-red haze that her vision allowed her. Behind them, she heard movement as the others began to stir. Not knowing was unsettling. It was the antithesis of everything that she had worked to become.

Her curiosity was sated as sounds of battle rang out behind her. She spared a glance at her companion, but he had already read her mind.

"Help the others," he had said.

She didn’t wait to be told twice. Without a glance back, she sprinted forward, desperately trying to get a look at whatever lay waiting for them. As she turned the corner, she caught a glimpse of the behemoth that waited beyond her friends.

"Uhhh," she said, skidding to a start, "what is that?! Is that?! Do I attack it?!" she demanded.

Waiting for their answer, her skin brightened as rivulets of liquid fire seemed to branch across her form.


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  #125  
Old Nov 6th, 2021, 07:16 AM
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The creature winced at the smoke, a gratifying sight, but Azar didn’t linger; she ran back towards the house where they had sheltered. Let the others take the brunt of any attacks, she would protect them with her magic.

Just as she was passing the melee she saw movement ahead, something small and dark. Her heart lurched and she almost fell trying to change direction, and then she heard Nae’laa’s voice, before the ashen woman lit up with the fire coursing through her! It was a beautiful sight and for just a moment Azar’s anger was forgotten, and then Nae’laa’s words registered and it all came flooding back. Her face twisted in a mask of rage.

"BURN IT!" she yelled, her voice cracking with the emotion.

 

 
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  #126  
Old Nov 6th, 2021, 03:39 PM
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When you get cut down...
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These people wouldn’t know stealth if it bit them on the arse!

Kazimir growled at the doorway, watching as each of his so-called “protectors” run straight towards dead and ugly, and deader and ugliest. And woe was Kazimir for it, as his brilliant plan of luring the undead goons out of sight and out of mind was ruined before it got the chance to truly shine. If only Batoyangi didn’t have to get his soddin’ tail in a knot at the first sign of trouble, then things woulda be different, things woulda been smooth sailing straight through the bull’s spooky maze.

That said, Kazimir couldn’t deny that the wolf put on a spectacular show, slamming ole bag of bones into the ground, "Uhhh? Is anyone else concerned 'bout that? Is he-- does he--does he do 'at normally, the twitchin' an' the droolin' an'-- BY THE NINE REALMS, WHAT IS THAT COMIN' OUT HIS BACK-SIDE?!"while his flesh writhed and wiggled into a new terrifying shape, something akin to a livin’ nightmare. Beautiful stuff that. Gorgeous work. But by Odin’s bulging eye, he could have waited until Kazimir’s fine work amounted to something more than a bag of bones getting the drop on his boy, Milkherem.

Kazimir cringed at the nasty, low blow Milkherem took. Blood splattered onto the broken cobblestone streets, a red streak painting Milkherem’s thigh as fresh blood dripped from the skeleton’s axe. Kazimir cursed. He told him to stick with him. He told him. And now look what happened, wounded in a city full of the hungry dead! "Bastards are gonna be the death o’ me," seethed Kazimir, peeking his head through the doorway, and checking for any more trouble coming down the street. "Coulda stayed in Candano. Coulda just let Scarlet have her way wit me. But naaaaw, dyin’ at the ripe age o’ hundred is not good enough fer ole Kazimir, naw, lad, he just had to follow Red straight into the mouth o’ hell. Some days it just dinnae pay to think wit me dick…"

The street was clear as clear could be with a zombie horde down to the south and two nasty undead beasts to the north. Bad news no matter which way he cut it. Kazimir was just straight boned. "Heh, boned," Kazimir grinned, "Need ta remember that one fer later. Genius stuff, aye…" Brilliance aside, what was he going to do? What could he do? Other than…

"Ah." Kazimir’s squinty eyes widened in realization. He had to do that to survive. It’d been a long while since he worked his magic so. Long enough for him to hesitate when he drew his case from his bag, as if he feared it’d spurn him like a viper rattled from its nest. But what did he have to lose, eh? His life? People been hounding him for that for ages, and between you and him, he wasn’t exactly sure it was worth all the huff and puff. Popping open the case, Kazimir bare a mad grin as he ran his blue hands across the body of his lute. It was the only thing of his that remained in pristine condition in all the time he’s walked this god forsaken earth. A beautiful instrument carved from the whitest birch oak, and threaded with strings plucked from a unicorn’s mane.

"Beautiful girl…" crooned Kazimir, "It is time ta make some sweet music together."

The seeds of chaos bloomed bright under the moonless night. Already the viper, Azar, worked her magic, blinding the Lost One with a puff of smoke that seared its evil eye to its cold, dead center. While Red and Batoyangi danced the dance of blood and violence, rending their dance partners to pieces with both tooth and blade. And now, it was time for Kazimir to take center stage. He sprinted down the middle of street, his feet sliding through ash like powdered snow. And with his arm raised high, he swung it down over the strings of his lute, and let loose a melodious note that would ring hard and clear in Milkherem’s ear.

"Hey!" Kazimir shouted over the clang of metal against bone. "Milkherem, get yer arse in gear an’ fight!" Certain he had the raging bull’s attention now, Kazimir cut his eyes down to his hands, and started to play.

"HEY! You get cut down, but you get back up again!
Don’t ever let them keep you down!
You get cut down, but you get back up again!
Don’t ever let them keep you down!
You get cut down, but you get back up again!
Don’t ever let them keep you down!
You get cut down, but you get back up again!
Don’t ever let them keep you down!

I said HEY!"



 
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  #127  
Old Nov 8th, 2021, 12:24 AM
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GramvarMilkherem seems almost heedless of Kazimir’s melodic encouragement, enraged as he is. But his axe strikes the skeleton before him with enough force to break the skull into pieces just the same! Fragments of bone pelt the derelict wall behind the thing, and the rest of the bones crumple into a pile on the street.

With Nae’laa’s scorching rays arcing over his head, Vrakiras charges up the street in their fiery wake toward the Lost One! As his heavy legs pump, he lets out a bellowing cry that is both mournful and enraged! His mighty head drops low and his battle-scarred horns tilt downward. The silver bull’s charge is toward the undead minotaur before him, but his wrath and hatred is directed at the dragons who brought this on his people! His greataxe trailing at his side, sending sparks up from the cobblestone where it strikes, Vrakiras collides with tremendous force, driving the points of his horns deep into the dead, blue flesh!

The Lost One rocks backward, surprised by the suddenness of the attack with his vision obscured by magical smoke. But sheer size and brute strength keep the monster on his legs, as his hooves dig in behind him.

Vrakiras withdraws his horns, leaving deep punctures in the flesh of his enemy. Without a beating heart, the Lost One bleeds but a little. The big bosun backs away, but never turns his back, scraping his hooves on the stone street in preparation for another charge!

Into the opening comes Thiago del Magrina, his hand-and-a-half sword held out to the side in a practiced grip. He does not run, like his companion, but strides steadily like a swordsman toward the Lost One. His blade is a blur of blue steel, slicing down and across, each time scoring deep cuts in the putrid flesh. The captain allows his momentum to spin him around and drives the large blade point-first into the stomach of the bloated minotaur! He withdraws it, pulling ichor out of the wound. Then, nimbly, he sidesteps to his left and clear of the path of the raging undead!

Proving del Magrina prescient, the soulless creature charges forward, filling the space the captain just abandoned with its bulk. Recklessly, it builds speed as it runs blindly down the street toward the retreating Vrakiras. The Lost One swings wildly with an axe of black steel, gripping the blood-soaked wooden haft tightly. The blade hits Vrakiras in the side of the head, opening a long gash beneath his horn! The bosun’s bellows turn to pain and despair as death magic enters through the wound!

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  #128  
Old Nov 8th, 2021, 01:54 AM
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The massive abomination charged them, blinded by smoke and swinging wildly. Bato bared his teeth in in a beastial grin, ducking smoothly under one of the Lost One's hazard blows as he circled their undead foe, his eyes dilated and glittering as they sought any opening, any weakness, the scent of blood from this bloodless thing.

The moment presented itself as the creature turned to strike at the elder minotaur once more, exposing its back to the pit fighter. The gnoll's body seemed to move without any thought, leaping with supernatural strength into the air and grabbing, with one arm, one of the long wickedly curved horns of the Lost One. The creature bellowed its terrifying sound as it was pulled to the side, its upper body bent to the earth by the Constrictor's strength. "Huuuuu...! "They were locked in that struggle for an eternal moment. The gnoll with a horn under one arm, his entire broad back bulging and vibrating with the effort it took to keep ground. The Lost One prepared to buck and send him flying when the gnoll spun suddenly, expertly, landing a pummeling blow with Adarga that was so precise that it completely threw the larger monster's weight out from under it.


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Last edited by Vislands; Nov 8th, 2021 at 01:55 AM.
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  #129  
Old Nov 12th, 2021, 01:36 AM
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Zenda, Swordswoman of Ishadia
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Swords, horns and spells flashed in the night. Another skeleton collapsed before the group's concentrated efforts and then Bato was moving, a hint of brown fur in the night. The next moment found the Lost One taken down, tangled in the gnoll's relentless grip. The tactic had worked well enough against the other walking dead, Zenda saw little reason to adjust now.

She continued up the street, a whirl of silks and skirts as she closed in on her target, held in place... for now. Twin blades lanced out, once, twice, thrice. The blades sank deep, but could draw no blood from the bloodless. Still, she would keep cutting until the thing stopped moving... or managed to loose itself from Batoyangi's arms. Such things did not merit consideration. No time to dwell on what-ifs. Time only for the instantaneous now and the battle music that rang in her ears.

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  #130  
Old Nov 12th, 2021, 03:37 AM
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Once again Batoyangi and Zenda were proving a devastating team, and even the might of the Lost One was unable to provide much of a counter. As soon as the gnoll had dumped the creature to the ground Azar had started to advance, watching with satisfaction as Zenda's swords flashed and chopped chunks out of the dead flesh. As she came closer she could see that its eyes were clearing, and that big black cow eye turned to her, focusing on the flickering flame she held in her hand. It knew what was coming.

Azar's lips pulled back in imitation of a smile as she pulled her hand back, and then with a growl she hurled the flame directly into its face. It didn't react like a real, living being, but after a few more feeble attempts to buck Batoyangi it finally stopped thrashing. That would have to do.

"Do not get in my way," she growled.

 

 
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  #131  
Old Nov 22nd, 2021, 06:01 AM
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Streets of GramvarFor a moment all is silent as the raiders of the Sighing Lady stand over the smoldering body of the Lost Minotaur. The fire has taken hold of its pelt and writhing embers crawl over the flesh, slowly turning it to ash. The smell is intense, and del Magrina steps back. The captain pulls a cloth from his coat and wipes the ichor from his sword.

Skrihn Vat steps around the corner of the building at the end of the street, followed by the crewmen who had held that end of the block. Old Mister Mendogen curses as one of the mates ties a bandage around a bloody spot on his shoulder. "Damned blighter! I thought you were watching that side, Cavartas."

The ratfolk officer scurries across the cobblestones, staying to the shadows seemingly out of habit. He approaches the captain and straightens. "All the men accounted for, sir. Mendogen got the worst of it, but he’ll be alright. They made a good show of themselves."

Distant moaning from the north cuts the report short. Several voices, likely more of the zombies attracted by the sounds of battle, are coming this way.

Skrihn’s round ears twitch at the sound, and his nose wrinkles at the air. "A few blocks, I’d say."

del Magrina nods grimly. "Remember the plan, Mister Vat. And no unnecessary risks!"

Skrihn nods, or bobs his head as his neck isn’t made for a traditional nod. "Aye sir. The lads and I’ll stay outta sight, best we can, and keep the street clear so you lot have somewhere to return to after this fool errand."

Another cry rises into the dark night! An otherworldly bellow that sets Milkherem and Vrakiras’ backs straight, despite their injuries. The call is eerily similar to the Lost One’s challenge a few minutes before. Of course there are more...

The captain looks hesitantly to his ratfolk second-mate, but Mister Vat just turns back toward where the crew is gathered and says, "You’d best hurry, sir." With an uncharacteristic flick of his tail he adds, "And don’t be too long, if you please."

del Magrina breathes heavily and returns his attention to his smaller group, no doubt the strongest of the detachment; Vrakiras, Milkherem, and their unlikely company of passengers. "Lead the way, Mister Roshgazi."

Vrakiras leads them south, through the archway at the end of the street. Buildings rise up on either side, blocking most of the view, but a broken temple dome, obscured by the falling mist, can be seen off to the left through a gated courtyard as they pass deeper into the labyrinthine alley. Vrakiras ignores the distraction, but Milkherem traces a triangle and a circle in the air as they continue on.

"Your minstrel song strengthens the arm and the heart," Milkherem says quietly to Kazimir when the two find themselves near each other in the procession of the living through the land of the dead.

Short minutes later, Vrakiras leads them all into a widening space where the buildings have given way to a tall ridge, near vertical, of rough sandstone walls and crumbling stone pillars set within. The geographic feature looks impassable to either side, but the walls to the right and to the left run inward toward a natural alcove. Just beyond, heavy, iron-banded doors of stone are set into the cliff. As they approach, the raiders can see the relief carvings that cover the doors. The right door depicts the sea, with a fleet of vessels leaving the shore behind. The left door bears a carving of three daggers most prominently, on a circular field. Around the circle are many names, in the style of the bull-folk.

Set between the doors is a thick brass lock. The keyhole is nearly as big as Azar’s fist. The key that fits such a lock must be as long as her forearm!

Vrakiras puts a hand on Milkherem’s back. "Come brother," he says. "Let us hope the years have weakened the bolt."

Milkherem approaches the door and reverently places a large hand upon it. He closes his eyes and speaks clearly for all to hear, "Master of Ways; Keeper of all Portals and Halls; Watcher at the Gate, forgive us this trespass against your bars." Then he grasps one of the great iron handles set into the stone.

Vrakiras has hold of the other, but before he makes any exertion, his large grey eyes look to Batoyangi. "We would welcome your strength in this, Mighty One of the Plains." There is great respect in the way the bosun pronounces the ad-hoc title.

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Last edited by 4eyedBadger; Nov 22nd, 2021 at 06:27 AM.
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  #132  
Old Nov 23rd, 2021, 12:57 AM
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Zenda, Swordswoman of Ishadia
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Zenda flicked dark ichor off her blades but did not bother to resheathe them, she was sure they would be needed again before long. She stood watch while the crew bandaged their wounds, glad that she and her companions had escaped unscathed... this time. She silently followed del Magrin and the pair of living minotaurs as the group made their way through the streets of Gramvar, standing anxiously to one side as the three strongest among them prepared to open the way before them.

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  #133  
Old Nov 23rd, 2021, 08:54 AM
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The fight was over but Azar found herself unsatisfied, as though, hungry, she had stumbled upon an illusory feast. The fire still raged within her breast and it had no outlet. Would it consume her? That had always been a possibility, so she had been taught in the seminary of the kobold slavemaster, Satra bin-Riks. So she had witnessed with her own eyes as other children had lost control and been engulfed in their own fire. She had always been certain, however, that such a fate could never befall her; she was too strong, she was in control.

And yet, as she stood watching the corpse of the great undead minotaur slowly burning, she could feel the flames on her own skin. What would it take to get her fire back under control? Would the price be worth it, or would she be better just giving in and reveling in one final agony?

The others were moving on and Azar turned slowly to follow, still lost in her own thoughts. It wasn't until they had reached the great stone doors that she realised that she had naturally fallen into step with Nae'laa. She stole a look at the woman whose skin was a dark dusty ash. If anybody could understand what she was going through it would be her.

"Ah…" the noise was barely a sound, more like a breath beginning to be expelled before a word was uttered. What could she say? 'I fear my fire may consume me'? She knew how she would react to such weakness! She knew precisely how she would react, because she had already done so. She had watched without pity as one of her 'sisters' had lost control, had erupted into glorious flame even as she reached out a pleading hand to Azar. How had she reacted? She had been relieved that it wasn't her. She had smiled.

She seemed to watch the minotaurs and Batoyangi struggle with the door, but really she was looking at Nae'laa out of the corner of her eye. She swallowed as she resolved never to let the Jinnborn know how much she struggled.

"Your magic was very potent," she said casually as the doors finally relented, "the way it continued to burn. You must show me how to do that some time."

 

 
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Last edited by Lazer; Nov 23rd, 2021 at 09:24 AM.
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  #134  
Old Nov 24th, 2021, 09:31 AM
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A bad feeling...
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Wait. It was over? They won? Huh. And here Kazimir thought for sure Hel herself would have taken her fair share from the lot. Her toll for allowing them to gallivant in a land that reeked of her fearsome power. And yet he didn’t see much ruin among their numbers.

Red and his favorite little viper stood triumph over their twice-corpsed corpses. Batoyangi was, well, he was still something, what with his creepy crawliness that made Kazimir’s skin itch, but he was an alive something, and that was just as good as anything. Better even. As Kazimir liked to keep that’un alive, for he were made for killing. And as for the Badlands Witch, Kazimir was right to be wary of her wicked looks. A brimstone fire burned in that lass that’d soon turn him to ash with but a look, and nearly came close, too, when her flames flung over his head to help return the last of the Lost Ones to the land of the dead.

Kazimir whistled appreciatively at the whole lot of them, which turned into quick applause after he swung his lute over his shoulder, its straps holding him tightly like a clinging babe. Hands held up, he clapped like he were at one of them fancy plays that always said he weren’t dressed well enough to attend, but were too ignorant to know men of his wiles knew all manner of ways to get into places he weren’t wanted. "Bravo! Bravo! Ye masters o’ slaughter. Artisans o’ murder. Ye blood-bathers an’ ruin-dancers an’ general menaces ta society. Beautiful work, friends, beautiful work. Beautiful--"

Kazimir winced at the roar that erupted from the city belly. The nasty snarl of a Lost One who's ready to take the place of his fallen comrades. Kazimir immediately straightened, and booked it after Nae’laa, slipping past her with a wink and a, "Nice work, witch," before he found his place safely beside Milkherem again... who wasn’t exactly in the best of shape, if Kazimir were honest, and he rarely was on most days. But the gash on Milkherem’s called for that rarity, as it was a deep, gouging wound that wouldn’t do the bull any favors if speed were called in favor of strength. Yet his friend acted like it were nothing, instead praising Kazimir for his work.

Kazimir smirked. His squinty eyes vanished beneath his brow as he thumbed his stubbled chin in mock thought. "Aye, aye, it does, but ye hardly needed it, didja? Ye soddin’ meathead." He punched his arm playfully. "Told ye to keep yer head good an’ safe, an’ ye go chargin’ in, anyways! I know yer the Unyielding Hoof but ye coulda gave a friend a warnin’. Worried I was gonna have to step in, an’ save ye wit me own muscles. Can’t have ‘at, can we? I worked hard to keep me handsome self in one piece."

Jokes aside, though, he eyed that wound again. A sterner expression crossed the elf’s features, as his hands twitched idly on the leather bands stretched across his chest. "Lemme know if the leg ‘comes a burden, Milkherem. Ye know what I am. What I can do. An’ I’d always spare it for you…" He muttered, just before Vrakiras called for Milkherem to help him with the gate to the labyrinth. The walk to their next challenge already finished. He shifted on his feet. Nerves settling into him in a way that left him antsy, and fearful of the ancient piece of history that stood before them. The carvings of men and bull, of sea and land, of hundreds and thousands of names writ across the stone-- it was all too ominous, here, in the foglight, where ash and fire and rotted flesh mingled in the air like a spoiled soup.

Kazimir tore his eyes away before they even started to push the doors open, and muttered to Red, who was still and confident as ever. "It is an accursed thing. Enterin’ the catacombs tonight. I got a bad feelin’ ‘bout it. A real bad feelin’..."



 
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Status: *Dabs*
DMing: And the Devil Dances Beneath a Mosaic Sky
Characters: Thunder in the Morning - Harp Strum - Captain Tavosh - Kazimir

Last edited by Strangemund; Nov 24th, 2021 at 09:33 AM.
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  #135  
Old Nov 28th, 2021, 04:29 AM
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4eyedBadger 4eyedBadger is offline
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Labyrinth Necropolis of GramvarVrakiras and Milkherem set their broad shoulders to the doors. Their hooves slip a bit on the cobblestone as the bulls grunt with exertion. The large doors bow inward, but the large brass fittings in the center hold out against the onslaught, stubborn as the dwarves that likely crafted the hardware. It is not until Batoyangi lends his own strength to the effort, his shoulder muscles matching the Minotaurs’ own for mass and power, that the heavy throw begins to buckle and creak.

Snap! Even metal and the skill of dwarves has its limits. In the end, the thick bolt holds. It is the heads of the screw that set the mechanism in place that fail. Some break off, leaving their threaded bodies set deep in the stone. Others pull free entirely. The lock hangs dejectedly from the right-hand door as the stone slabs swing inward, their hinges creaking under the strain.

Silence and darkness greet the trespassers from within.

del Magrina gestures to Milkherem, who retrieves a torch from his small pack and ignites it with a tinderbox. He passes the light source to his captain, who takes a step forward, through the threshold.

The building orange flame casts flickering light all around, falling on sandy-colored stone blocks lining the interior of a portico, of sorts. Carved columns support the stone ceiling, and the many tons of earth above it. Stone blocks jointed together form the floor, upon which is painted a hunched-over bull in profile. Ornately painted lines with the angles and passages of a rudimentary maze form a ring around the bull.

Ahead, a rectangular entryway leads to a darker hall, disappearing to the left and to the right.

At the edge of the torchlight, just nearly in the colorless world of darkness that his nocturnal eyes can see, Bato sees the dust and dirt that covers the floor rise up, swirling just a bit in the distant hallway. It could just be the residual movement of the air from their entry. Couldn't it?

A moaning, formless and cold, rises up from the corridor ahead. Grains of sand come rushing from that hall, like refugees fleeing something that comes after them! The wail grows louder, the rush of air, and inaudible voices carried on a wind.

Then it bursts from the maze into the portico! A maelstrom of foul air, filled with the dust of a thousand bodies, the stench of rot and decay and the mournful cries of the restless dead whose dust is carried in the stale air! The rotting wind drives forward, carrying its foul debris and seeking to drive that dust of death into the nostrils and eyes of those living souls that dare enter this domain of the dead!

Vrakiras and Milkherem each shut their nostrils and cover their faces with muscular arms! del Magrina is slower to react. The wind drives ash and sand and death into his face! He gasps in shock and the desiccation fills his throat before rushing onward toward the rest of the interlopers!

Batoyangi’s yellow pelt is buffeted in the wind! Azar’s robes are twisted around her body. Sand drives itself against Zenda’s blades, causing a faint melody, like a dirge, as the tiny missiles strike the metal. The heat and embers that seem to always play across Nae’laa’s skin, rather than being fanned brighter by the wind, are subdued. The ashy quality between the bright spaces is magnified. And Kazimir feels the stinging pelting of the driven sand against his face, seeking a way into his minstrel’s throat!

In seconds, the wind passes, rushing out into the terrible scene of death and loss that is the city of Gramvar.

Captain del Magrina coughs harshly, trying desperately to expel the foul contents of the wind. The fit lasts for several seconds. Eventually, he straightens and drinks from his water skin. The handsome man looks shaken by the encounter, but he just nods to the rest and gestures toward the open corridor ahead.

OOC
 
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