Between the Spaces I: Portal-Slayer

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Bob the Efreet's picture
Joined: 2004-05-11
Between the Spaces I: Portal-Slayer

Prologue: Slayer Visits Fire

In an infinite multiverse, you can’t see everything. Everybody understands that. What most people don’t realise is that there are places between the spaces that we know. These are dangerous, wicked places, worse than the Lower Planes. They seep, innocuously and vilely, through our experience and perception. Creatures, alien and malign, horrible in form and function, lying just below sight. They get here somehow. They must. Fortunately, I have been granted the sight to see them and the blades to fight them. And my first job is to find the hole in reality that lets them in. Portals. They are the paths between the spaces. They are to be my enemy.

The man, tall and solidly built, stood on a ledge of basalt floating in the liquid fire sea. Ripples of heat distorted the air in all directions. Silver blades wavered and became fluid, flowing up against gravity's pull to reform into bracers on the man's arms. Behind him, the portal from Regulus to the plane of Fire crackled, sizzled, and dimmed, never to open again. Despite the heat, the man wore a long, heavy coat and a leather mask obscured his face. He tilted his head upwards, sniffing at the searing air. The next one in the chain was close.

Over an hour later found the man standing ankle-deep in a magma flow, his heavy boots immune to the flames. Three salamanders stood before him, barring his way with halberds.

'We're guarding this gate,' one said.

'Nobody gets through. This portal's considered dangerous to the plane,' said another.

'That is why I must go through it,' the tall man said, his voice deep and gravely. 'I will make your plane safer.'

'Nobody gets through,' the second salamander repeated. 'Those are the orders.' He didn't notice the man's silver bracers flowing down, melted and dripping, over his hands. If he had, he might have lived.

One salamander remained alive, lying at the man's feet. 'Tell your boss your job isn't needed anymore,' the man said as he stepped over the creature. 'Tell him that Portal-Slayer will be ensuring the safety of the multiverse.' A cold wind swept through the open portal, flurries of snow melting, then vaporising, the clouds of steam swept away to join the mixture of gases that served for air on the plane of Fire. The man stepped through, his arms extended out to his sides.


Pants of the North!

Bob the Efreet's picture
Joined: 2004-05-11
Between the Spaces I: Portal-Slayer

Sigil, the City of Doors, crossroads of the multiverse. Dawn breaks, not in the dramatic, glorious way that it does on the Prime, but as a slow lightening of the smoggy sky above haphazard rooftops. Few are awake to enjoy it, anyway, so dawn might as well not bother. It was some hours later that a female air genasi found herself outside Madam Fastindatius' Interplanar Mercenary Service. She presented her problem to the secretary, and was led to a particular building in which four individuals waited.

'Red' was the largest member of the team, standing at nine and a half feet tall. Clearly of some draconic origin, he made an imposing figure, with his great leathery wings, his horns, and his fifteen-foot spear. A member of the Fated, his nickname came from the distinctive reddish cast to his scales. Terragon was a Cipher and a tiefling, with a particular affinity for the paraelemental plane of Ice. His dark skin was not unusual, and his slightly clawed hands could be explained a number of ways, but the small tail that swayed in tune to an unheard rhythm clearly gave away his fiendish heritage. He wore a special suit of plated armour that was designed to be modular, and the chain wrapped around his waist could be mistaken for a belt rather than the weapon it actually was. Kineshka was one of the team's two Indep kobolds. A devout servant of the ruby sorceress, Wee Jas, her plate armour would almost make it difficult to discern she was a kobold, if she didn't have a noticeable reptilian snout. The other Indep kobold went by the name 'Tick'. If there was a power by the name of Avarice, Tick would be that power's proxy. Instead, Tick was just your average cowardly kleptomaniac kobold. Tick was the newest member of the team, despite the fact that he had been working for Madam Fastindatius' Interplanar Mercenary Service the longest. Apparently he'd had troubles with other teams, and kept getting shuffled around to new ones.

It was these four individuals who were met by a female air genasi. 'Um, hello,' she said, hovering in the doorway. 'I'm Amarya, here on behalf of Kylie the Tout.' She paused, glancing around at the four, expecting recognition of the name. 'We've had... a problem. One of our guides accidentally led a pair of vulpinals through the wrong portal, and they've, erm... ended up on the Waste. In Niflheim. We can give you 800 jink if you get them back, or...'

'820!' Tick shouted, interrupting the girl.

'Or half if only one makes it back alive,' she said.

'Half? It's not like we only have half the danger if only one is rescued. How about 600?' Kineshka asked.

'No! That's less,' Tick said. '820!'

'I meant, 600 for one, and 800 for both of them,' Kineshka said.

'Well... okay, I guess... we can do that. 600 jink if only one survives,' Amarya said. 'The portal they were taken through is in the Lower Ward, three blocks spireward of the Great Foundry, in a gate to a small, sickly garden.' She pulled a long tooth out of her pocket. 'The key is a wolf's fang.' The fang had disappeared into Tick's pouch before she stopped talking.

'Excellent,' Terragon said. 'Can you tell us more about these... vulpinals?'

'Um, yes,' Amarya said. 'They're a kind of guardinal rarely seen away from Elysium. They're a lot like lupinals, but they resemble foxes instead of wolves. The ones were, ah, missing are named Mertol and Baeniseth; Baeniseth is female. Mertol has dark red fur with black... ah, but you're headed to the Waste. Well, they were both wearing robes, and Baeniseth, I'm told, was wearing a necklace.'

'Very well,' Terragon said. 'We leave immediately.'

It didn't take long to get to the Lower Ward, where the air was considerably worse than in the rest of Sigil. Tick pulled his shirt over his mouth, which only helped very slightly. The four found themselves in front of a garden, next to a small house, which was small and sickly indeed, although for Sigil it was quite an excellent garden. As Tick approached, a blue crackling of energy sprung into life within the arch of the gateway, forming a shimmering portal. Being an experienced planewalker, Tick knows not to go through first, unless there was something scary on this side of the portal. In fact, Tick knows that it's best to go through a portal last, which he does.

After a slight tugging sensation deep within them, and a faint tingling sensation crawling over their skin, Red, Tick, Kineshka, and Terragon found themselves in the colourless, misty forests of Niflheim, second layer of the Grey Waste. The four of them stood around looking at each other for a few minutes before they adjusted to the plane and realised that it was cold. Furthermore, they saw that snow covered the ground. As soon as he realised this, Tick turned to Terragon. 'Where did they go?'

Being a specialist in the cold, Terragon kneeled and tasted the snow, which carried the flavour of frozen evil. 'This is a lower plane,' he said, helpfully.

However, since there was snow on the ground, it was easy to find the foxlike footprints of the missing vulpinals. Unfortunately, after an hour of following them, they saw that the footprints are clearly intercepted by a group of creatures, after which the vulpinal tracks disappear.

'That's not good,' Kineshka said. 'We'd better hurry.'

As they hurried through the snowy, grey pine forest, they gradually became aware of the sound of wings in the mist above them, and it's not coming from Red. Wisely, they opted not to investigate and pressed onwards, until crunching in the snow to their left gave away the presence of a large wolf, which Kineshka recognised as a winter wolf. Wary of the creature's assault, she warded the four of them from the cold just before the wolf loped in and belched forth a gout of ice. Red dove in and landed a mighty blow with his spear, as Kineshka called upon the power of her deity again to enhance her team's weapons. Imbued with divine prowess, Terragon was able to quickly finish the wolf with an assault from his chain.

Continuing onwards for a couple more hours, they eventually saw a group of four mezzoloths escorting two vulpinals, one of which appeared to be wounded. Boldly, Kineshka stepped forward and addressed them in Yugoloth, 'Hello, travellers!'

The mezzoloths, surprised at actually hearing their language spoken, turned around. The look of surprise was slowly replaced by a pleased look, and one stepped forward to speak. 'You're far from home. What brings you to the Waste?'

'Well,' Kineshka said, 'I think we have something in common.'

The mezzoloths laughed, a raspy sort of noise. 'We have nothing in common with you.'

'Oh, no, you see, you're escorting a pair of foxy people, and we want them. Perhaps we could negotiate--'

'There will be no negotiation,' the lead mezzoloth cut her off. 'She wants these two. However, we are feeling generous,' the three other mezzoloths laughed again, 'and will allow you to live.' After watching to make sure that Kineshka did, indeed, retreat, the mezzoloths continued escorting their celestial prisoners through the snow.

'We need a new plan,' Kineshka said after she returned to the others.

'How about we kill them?' Red suggested.

'Excellent,' Terragon said. 'How about you,' he indicated Red, 'fly in front of them, and then the rest of us come up from behind.'

'Better idea,' Tick said, his voice seeming to come from thin air. At some point he had disappeared into they greyness of Niflheim's fog. 'How about he flies ahead and kills them, and then we go up and see what stuff they have?'

Having formulated an excellent plan, Kineshka cast a spell to keep them all in telepathic communication, and Red flew up into the mists. A few moments later he descended from the heavens (figuratively speaking), mist swirling around him, and landed heavily in front of the mezzoloths, spraying snow in a circle around himself. Terragon ran up from behind to flank them. With their heightened mental sensitivity, Terragon and Red could detect that the mezzoloths briefly conferred telepathically, though they couldn't make out what was being said. They could guess, though, as two of the 'loths moved to attack Terragon, and the other two engaged Red. The two attacking Terragon quickly flanked him and stabbed him with their evil-forged tridents, though Terragon's innate toughness allowed him to remain standing. Red, though, was apparently invulnerable, as the mezzoloth tridents couldn't pierce his mighty hide. Wounded, Terragon unwinds his chain and lashes out at one of the mezzoloths, connecting solidly. Unfortunately, he wasn't taking into account the sheer tenacity of evil, and his blow was weakened. Now understanding the toughness of these creatures, he tapped into the Cadence of the Planes, listening to its pulse and hum, tainted though it was by the despair and evil of the Waste. His senses and reflexes heightened, he swung his chain out at where he knew the mezzoloth would be, aiming to fatally injure it. However, even a Cipher can be off, and the pervasive evil that was fighting a fiend on its home plane mislead his blow, transforming it from a mortal wound to another glancing blow. Tick, sneaking up from behind, slips next to one of the mezzoloths and touches its hard, chitinous shell, painfully disrupting its very essence. Unfortunately from him, this angered the mezzoloth, and it projected into his mind, with a deep voice resonating with the clicking and chittering of mandibles, 'I will kill you first. You look small and tasty.' This pronouncement was followed by a vigourous bout of stabbing from that 'loth's trident, and Tick limped away, towards the cowering vulpinals.

Red had been easily meeting two mezzoloths in hand-to-hand combat, kept safe by his aerial tactics. Tired of such difficult prey, the two mezzoloths fighting him disengaged to go slay his weaker friends. It was around this time that Terragon's trance subsided, and he stood dazed as he tried to quickly reattune his senses to a slower timeframe. The mezzoloths, naturally sensing his point of weakness, surrounded him and stabbed him. Terragon was wounded and bleeding, but still managed to stay upright. At this time, Kineshka swooped in, magically flying, and healed Terragon's wounds. While she was there, she enhanced his weapon further, imbuing it against the very evil of the plane. With the onset of her spell, the air around Terragon's chain hissed in reaction, as though the plane itself was offended at its presence. Terragon sheathed himself in a protective layer of ice and prepared to do battle again. One of the 'loths hisses in Yugoloth, 'God-servant!' and moves to assault Kineshka.

'We're here to rescue you,' Tick said, in Celestial, to the vulpinals. 'What's it worth to you?'
'What?' Baeniseth said. She looked, hopefully, back at the other three who were fighting the mezzoloths.
'We can get you out of here. What can you give me?' Tick said.
'We are pilgrims from Elysium. We do not carry much.'
Tick looked the two over. They were both dressed in robes. Mertol had a belt with a pair of daggers, and Baeniseth had a necklace with the symbol of Elysium. Tick's eyes brightened at the sight of the necklace. 'How about that?' he asked, pointing to it. Baeniseth put a hand to the necklace protectively. 'Just the chain,' he clarified. 'You can keep the other part.'
'Well... all right,' Baeniseth said, but she didn't seem too happy about it. 'If you can get us out of the Waste, you can have the chain.' Tick held his hand out expectantly. 'If you get us out, you can have the chain.'
'No! Chain now. We could leave you here,' Tick said.
'I am sorry, but we're on the Grey Waste. I'm not entirely sure we can trust you. I assure you, though, as soon as we're safe I'll give you the chain.'
'I speak Celestial,' Tick said, as though the vulpinals needed a reminder. 'That means one of your people trusted me.' Baeniseth shook her head. 'But it's a secret language!' he said.
'It's not. Even the fiends may blaspheme our language by speaking it. But I promise, I'll give you this chain if we are taken to safety.'

Red flew over to slay one of the mezzoloths, defeating it through sheer output of damage before Kineshka, aerially dodging the attacking yugoloths, imbued his spear with the ability to effectivly harm the 'loths. His chain similarly enhanced, Terragon punched a searing hole in the chest of a charging mezzoloth, killing it before it can harm him. The battle raged longer, one more mezzoloth dying, leaving one more. It waves its trident in the air, swirling the essence of evil into a tiny maelstrom above its head, but before it can complete the ritual, the maelstrom disperses. Yugoloths are treacherous beings, and don't always respond to each other's calls. The mezzoloth knows it can't abandon its charge. If it dies, it will reform eventually. If it fails, though... She will be angry with it. Thus, it must kill these hunters or die trying. It chattered its mandibles, letting out a low, inhuman scream and spraying evil spittle on the ground before it, and charged Terragon. Unfortunately, Terragon's Cipher reflexes and good-imbued chain, along with aerial support from Red, proved too much and the final mezzoloth was slain.

The vulpinals rescued, the team escorted them back to Sigil. Since Mertol was injured, Kineshka healed him (and her wounded companions) as they travelled. Safely back in the City of Doors, Baeniseth gave Tick the chain from her necklace, as promised. That was hung on his wall, as a memoir of his trip to the Grey Waste. Kylie was greatly pleased at the return of her missing clients, and arranged for the delivery of 800 jink to each team member (Tick's attempts at haggling having been completely ignored). Another mission successfully completed, the team settled in to rest and await their next job.


Pants of the North!

Bob the Efreet's picture
Joined: 2004-05-11
Between the Spaces I: Portal-Slayer

It was two days later, at lunchtime, when the four received their next call from Madam Fastindatius. This time, Kylie came personally to deliver the request for help.

"I have a small bit of trouble," she said. "You remember those guardinals you rescued? Well, I'm trying to get them back to Elysium, and strangely I can't find the key I need in town. I need a beer mug from Bytopia, and Mertol specifically asked for your help. Think you cutters could pick me up a beer mug from Bytopia? I can get you each 150 jink for your trouble."

"160!" Tick exclaimed.

After giving the kobold a considering look, Kylie nodded. "160 it is, then. Now, I know a good portal to Dothion down by the Great Gym. It's between the legs of the large aasimar statue out front. You just need to give a good, hearty shout to scare the portal open. Come find me when you've got the mug." With a wink, Kylie sauntered off.

Terragon, being a Cipher, knew exactly how to get to the Great Gymnasium. He had, in fact, seen the large aasimar warrior statue many times without even realising it was a portal. Once standing beneath it, Tick gave a feeble squeak. Apparently that served as a good shout for a kobold, though, as the portal opened, admitting the team to Dothion, the calmer layer of Bytopia.

A couple hours walk brought them to a small town, in both scope and scale. The inn, though, seemed to be one of the few buildings sized for big people. It was quite a tall and spacious gnomish building, with the ceiling a full six feet high. Tick made it to the counter first, and ordered food and drink. Kineshka, though, just started inquiring as to the price of dishware.

"How much for just a mug?" she asked as the bartender made Tick's meal.

"An empty mug?" the plump gnomish man asked, clearly not accustomed to such a request.

"Yes. I just want the mug."

"Well, I'm not entirely accustomed to selling my mugs. I need them, you know." The bartender set a plate of food and mug of beer on the counter in front of Tick.

"But if you were, how much would-" Kineshka began, but was interrupted by a sound of triumph from Tick, who grabbed his meal and ran out the door.

"Hey.. hey! Your little friend just stole a plate and mug."

"Okay," Kineshka said. "How much for that mug, then?" Big Red went outside, following Tick.

"Well, I suppose... there's this man from Sigil who's been bothering us. He wanders through town, shouting something about powers and frauds. If you could get him to leave, then, I guess you could keep the mug."

"We'll take care of him for you," Terragon said, and he and Kineshka left to find the other two.

They found Tick crouched in an alleyway, eating his liberated food. Red stood nearby.

"We're ready to go, then?" Red asked.

"Not quite," Kineshka said. "There's a man we need to get rid of, for the mug."

"Why?" Red asked. Charity wasn't exactly in his nature, and they already had the mug.

"As payment. Tick stole the mug," Kineshka explained.

"No! If we pay, it's not stealing," Tick said.

There was a bit of argument on the subject, with Kineshka and Terragon insisting that they should pay, and Red and Tick finding there to be no need for it. Eventually, though, the fact that Kineshka had agreed to help won out, and they went to the edge of town, where the problematic man was situated. They found him, sitting on a small log outside a small tent, cooking food over a small fire. He glanced up at their approach.

"Oh, hello. What can I do for you?" he asked.

"What is your name?" Red asked.

"I'm Jennic."

"You need to leave," Red said.

"Leave? But I'm not done here yet," Jennic protested.

"What are you doing here?" Terragon asked.

"Trying to show people the truth. People must be informed that the powers are frauds, undeserving of our worship."

"And have you convinced many people of your lies?" Kineshka asked. That's when Jennic noticed the holy symbol she wore.

"Oh. You're one of them," he said, his contemptuous use of the word 'them' indicating that he meant 'priest', and he didn't like it at all.

"You need to leave," Red said again.

"You're bothering people," Terragon said. "They want you to go."

"Oh, but I've barely enlightened anyone. I can't go back to Sigil yet."

"You need to leave," Red said for the third time. This time it seemed to unsettle Jennic.

"Well, yes... I suppose, if nobody here can see our message, understand our vision... yes, I'll just pack up and head back to the Cage, then." Jennic stood, and gathered his things.

They returned to Sigil, having collected the portal key and made Bytopia a slightly more pleasant place. Kylie was quite happy to have the mug, and assured them that the vulpinal pilgrims would be very grateful for the help.


Pants of the North!

Bob the Efreet's picture
Joined: 2004-05-11
A Job for Estevan

Three people were summoned back to the main office of Madam Fastindatius' Interplanar Mercenary Service: Red, Kineshka, and Tick. Upon their arrival, they were told that Estevan the ogre mage, head of the Planar Trade Consortium, had a job for them, and they were redirected to his office. Sitting in comfortable-looking chairs in front of the blue giant's desk, he made his offer.

'I've got some cargo I need moved. You'll be meeting up with a man named Harvock an hour spireward of Bedlam, and picking the goods up from him. Then, I need them to go to Nethros, the psionic academy on Phlegethon. I'm offering you each 850 jink to make this delivery.'

Realising that Phlegethon was the third layer of Pandemonium, and that Pandemonium had very dangerous winds (especially for a pair of small kobolds), Tick negotiated Estevan up to 1000 gold each. Upon further inquiry, Estevan let them know that the Bleakers would probably know of a way to Bedlam, so they were off to the Gatehouse.

'Yes?' the Bleaker on guard asked boredly.

'We'd like to get to Bedlam,' Kineshka said.

'Oh. S'pose you'll be wanting the portal, then,' the Bleaker said, and waved vaguely towards a number of nearby doors. 'The portal is only open some of the time. Usually every other day, every four hours, for about 25 minutes. It'll probably open in about half an hour, and the key's depressing thoughts. You should just stand over there and think them until the way opens for you.'

Kineshka handled most of this, with dark, brooding thoughts. She was used to this kind of thing. Eventually, the portal opened and the three travelled to the Outlands. An hour's walk spireward put them in the middle of a large plain, with no contact nearby to meet them. Shortly, though, a great black dragon appeared in the sky. As it gently floated towards the ground, not moving its wings, they could make out the riggings of a ship on the back of the beast - this was Neverest, a planar pirate ship made out of the corpse of an ancient dragon. Upon landing, a rather dashing man gracefully made his way down a foreleg to the ground, and motioned for a small crane to lower a wooden crate to the ground next to him.

'Ho there!' the man said, approaching the party with the crate. 'I'm Harvock, and ye must be the lads Estevan sent to get this.' He patted the crate for emphasis.

'What's in it?' Tick asked, eyeing the crate.

'This is a very special cargo, which only I can provide,' Harvock replied. 'I don't know what they're doing down in Nethros - some kind of psychic place - but they be needin' some sleep. And that's what I've got for 'em.' Tick seemed dubious. He again patted the crate, then set it on the ground. 'I'm told I'm to be paid when Estevan can confirm you've gotten the stuff.' He stood, looking at the three reptiles expectantly.

When Kineshka reached out to touch the crate, Harvock nodded, apparently satisfied, and strode back to his dragon-ship. It departed as abruptly as it arrived. Red scanned the box, discerning that it contained a number of magical auras inside, but lacked the knowledge to discern what kind. Tick shook the box experimentally, and was rewarded with the sound of well-cushioned glass objects occasionally clinking against each other.

Back to Bedlam, then, to the permanent portal to Pandemonium within. Bedlam is built on a hill, with the portal at the base of a great tower at the bottom of the hill, like a clawed hand reaching out of Pandemonium to find solace in the considerably saner Outlands. Madness and wind seem to radiate out from the portal, with the town being notably more organised and safer near the top of the hill. The three ignored the various muggings, murders, and riots on their way to the destination. Once at the portal, they entered.

The first thing they noticed was the wind. It blew, bone-jarringly and mind-rattlingly, constantly through the tunnels. A quickly uttered prayer by Kineshka removed the worst effects of the wind, though, and they travelled through the tunnels in relative peace. After half an hour of travel, they could faintly make out a howling sound that didn't originate from the wind. The sound followed them for about ten minutes until they could make out, beyond the light of Red's flaming ranseur, a small pack of howlers stalking them. Tick abruptly moved the light from Red's weapon to the howlers, though, and that seemed to frighten them off.

Another hour of travel brought them to a larger tunnel, in which a river spiralled around the tunnel, following a strange gravity attracting it to what seemed to be the walls and ceiling. Tick and Kineshka immediately recognised it as the River Styx, renowned across the planes as a destroyer of memory. Tick also recalled the marraenoloths, a race of yugoloth whose only purpose seems to be patrolling the Styx and providing passage for paying travellers. As they sat to wait for a marraenoloth to sail by, Tick started pondering the value of Styx water. Surely, something so dangerous would be worth something to somebody. Opening a glass vial, he leaned over the river to take a sample. Unfortunately, the rock was slightly slippery so close to the river, and an almost maliciously timed gust of wind knocked Tick off balance. Luckily, he was able to grab a bit of rock to prevent himself from falling in. Unluckily, he dipped his arm into the Styx almost up to his elbow.

Red and Kineshka looked at Tick worriedly as he sat on the bank of the river, vial of Styx water in hand, foul-smelling oily ichor dripping from his arm. 'Are you okay?' Red asked.

Tick looked confused, as though he wasn't sure he was the one being addressed. When Red repeated the question, Tick asked, 'Who, me?'

'Yes, you. Are you all right?'

'Of course. Who are you?'

Red and Kineshka shook their heads sadly. Tick's memory had been wiped. Over the next twenty minutes, Red explained to Tick what he knew about the kobold's life, starting with, 'Your name is Tick. You're a mercenary.'

The review was interrupted by a faint mist creeping up along the river. It slowly became thicker and more voluminous, until a shadowy form became visible in the mist. The fog faded, abruptly, to reveal a skeletal boatman on a raft - a marraenoloth had arrived, chuckling as its gaze fell on Tick.

'We want to go to Nethros, the psionic academy,' Red said.

'Three to Phlegethon,' the yugoloth said in a dry voice, then stared at them expectantly.

Tick held up a gold coin. The marraenoloth continued to just stare.

'I think he wants more,' Red said.

'More than this?' Tick asked, apparently confused by that thought.

'What would the standard rate be?' Kineshka asked.

'Three to Phlegethon. The "standard", as you call it, would be three hundred coins,' the marraenoloth said.

'Three hundred of those?' Kineshka asked, indicating Tick's gold piece. The marraenoloth nodded.

'Two hundred ninety!' Tick shouted.

'We don't want to negotiate with this guy,' Red said.

'Why not?' Tick asked.

'I'll explain on the way,' Red said. At the implications of Tick's memory loss, the fiend chuckled again.

Kineshka paid the fare, in the form of pearls, and Red tipped him three platinum pieces. 'You may board,' the yugoloth announced.

The three arrived at Phlegethon, presumedly, and Red and Tick disembarked, Red having explained that if you don't pay marraenoloths enough, they tend to leave you somewhere other than where you wanted to go. Kineshka remained on the raft. 'Can anything be done about our friend?' she asked.

The marraenoloth chuckled again. 'Perhaps. You would need to speak to someone more than a boatman, though.'

'Well, anything can be had if you've enough money,' Kineshka said.

'The price is more than gold. But you have the right idea. If you are important or bold enough to seek out others of my kind, something may be had for you.'

Kineshka stepped off the raft. 'Well, goodbye,' she said, but her farewell was directed to nothingness.

A short time travelling further through the tunnels led them to a large cavern, in which the wind was strangely dampened. In the cavern was a large monastery, forged from wood and crystal. Flanking the wide steps up to the main entrance were two red, crystalline golems. As the three approached, a light appeared inside the chest of each golem, and a faint purple glow surrounded Tick. Despite his best efforts, he couldn't make the light around him dissipate. Shortly, three people emerged from the monastery. The light around Tick and in the golems winked out.

The tall, older man spoke. 'Ah, you must be the deliverymen from Estevan. Wonderful, wonderful.' The boy, standing on his left, looked at Tick strangely, and beckoned the older man down to speak with him. Tick, immensely curious, made the sound of their conversation come to him, triggering a glow to erupt into being inside the crystal golems. He was able to discern that they spoke of Tick, and were saying something about 'empty', before the older man looked his way and summarily dismissed Tick's manifested power. After another few seconds of conversation, he directed the boy to go collect the crate and take it inside.

'You're a group of psionic people, aren't you?' Kineshka asked.

The girl, standing to the man's right, nodded. 'We are.'

'Our friend lost his memory. Can you fix that?'

'Maybe.' The girl looked up to the older man entreatingly, and he nodded.

'Show the other two to some rooms,' he told her. 'I'll take a look at your friend,' he said to the group.

Tick was led to a chamber deep within Nethros, and directed to sit in a large stone chair. Along the way, the older man had asked Tick his name, what happened to him, and what he was able to remember. Although doubtful if he could help, he vowed to try. After nearly an hour of psionic probing, the old man shook his head. 'I'm sorry. Your memories are just... not there anymore.'

'Where'd they go?' Tick asked.

'I suspect the river stole them, and swept them away in its waters.'

'Oh!' Tick fished out his vial of Styx water. 'Could they be in here?'

The man regarded the vial, clearly intrigued. 'I will see. That will take time, though. Show Tick to his room.' This last comment was directed at a dromite who had appeared in the doorway, almost as though he knew he'd be needed at just that time.

Helxan had found two of them, but he couldn't get to the third yet. It would be too dangerous to get that close to himself. This was definitely the group, though - his memory had served him well. He always did have an impeccable sense of time. Ah, there he is. That's all three. There were others, of course, but only three had come to Nethros that day. If only he could interfere, yet. Perhaps never knowing about the secrets Ice held would mean they'd never walk that path, and... but no. It was too early to affect change. All Helxan could do now was watch. It'd be almost a day before they went back to Sigil.

Late that evening, Tick was summoned back to the room with the large stone chair. 'I was able to retrieve some memories from the water,' the older man said, 'but I think only one of them was yours.'

'Were the other ones good?' Tick asked.

'One of them was... interesting,' he said. As though musing to himself, he continued. 'Maybe it would be best to give it to you... yes, that's probably a good idea.' Perhaps somebody else would know what it meant.

Tick stood in the middle of a snowy pine forest. He was negotiating with two fox-people, something about their rescue and freedom. An indeterminate period of time later, Tick and the two fox-people were in a big city, and one of the fox-people gave Tick the chain from its necklace. Tick was very happy about this. Another indeterminate period of time later, Tick was inside a windowless room, hanging his new chain on a peg on the wall. Plenty of other great things were in the room, and Tick knew they were all his.

A man sat in a big city, eating lunch and discussing a new business venture with another man.

A tall, winged man, clearly some kind of celestial, stood in a cold place, surrounded by snow and ice. In a huge sheet of ice before him are frozen massive winged creatures, apparently celestial in origin and incredibly ancient. The winged man is in awe, and trying to figure out what these things could be, when suddenly a number of other people appear, wolf-people and cat-people and a single bear-person. The wolf-people and cat-people beat the winged man into submission, and tie him up. An indeterminate period of time later, the man is on a vast, wasted plain. In the distance two armies of fiends move to clash with each other. The man is surrounded by jackal-headed fiends, who toss him, still bound, into a dirty, oily river that cuts across the plain.

'I'm sorry, that's all I am able to restore to you,' the older man told Tick. 'I think, if you could find the source of the Styx, where all the memories it steals must flow to... although, that would likely mean dealing with the yugoloths, which I wouldn't advise.'

Tick, though, knew something more important. He had to find that room, and get his stuff.

Upon returning to Sigil, Red asked at Madam Fastindatius' Interplanar Mercenary Service if they could do anything for Tick. They said they couldn't, but they would contact the Free League about him. An hour later, an Indep who apparently knew Tick came, and took him to the Fierce Ethyk, an Indep-owned inn on the edge of the Great Bazaar, where they have a room for him until he gets himself settled. Tick and Kineshka spent the next few days searching Sigil for Tick's house (through clever use of divination spells), but to no avail - apparently Tick guarded his domicile well against intrusion. They do have one lead, though - the Indeps knew Tick lived somewhere in the Lower Ward, near the border to the Hive.


Pants of the North!

Bob the Efreet's picture
Joined: 2004-05-11
Behind the Scenes: Samaerna's Quest

The young firre eladrin was worried. He should have been back by now. After a few minutes of pacing, she made up her mind. If the archon wouldn’t return to her, she should go find him.

‘Samaerna, where ya headed?’ a coure asked, flitting about her head as she gathered her things.

‘The inner planes,’ she replied much more nonchalantly than she actually felt. The coure landed on her backpack, crossing his arms and glaring up at her.

‘Rolec wanted you to stay here. You know it’s not safe to go that far from Arborea.’

'He should have been back days ago. What if something happened to him?’ She made shooing motions at the little eladrin, but he refused to move.

‘If you’re going, I’m gonna keep an eye on you. I can’t be losing my favourite cousin because she forgets the belief-art doesn’t work away from the Wheel.’ The coure got off of her things, then, and let her finish packing.

‘Thanks, Avex. I appreciate the help.’

It took longer than she had thought to find a portal to the inner planes. Eventually she found passage with a Rrakkma team, heading to Earth to assault a den of illithids. They insisted on sending the two eladrin away before they moved towards their objective, though.

‘It’s so closed in here. I don’t think Rolec would be somewhere he couldn’t use his wings,’ Samaerna said, musing out loud as much as she was talking to her tiny companion. ‘What about Fire? That has an open sky, doesn’t it?’

‘Whoa, hey, no way!’ Avex waved his arms so vigorously that he almost knocked himself out of the air. ‘You might be immune to the flames, kid, but me an’ Rolec would go up faster’n a drunk bralani. Why don’t we try Water instead?’

‘Going somewhere?’ a slow, ponderous voice asked from the tunnel wall next to them. ‘Won’t get far without someone who knows where it is you’re headed.’

‘Yes! We’re looking to get to Water. Without passing through Ooze, if possible. I’d never get all that filth off my wings,’ Avex said.

A face appeared in the wall. ‘I’m a bit hungry. If you don’t mind, a meal would jog my memory on a shortcut to Water.’

Avex nudged Samaerna’s arm. ‘Hey, Sam, what ya got for this guy?’

Samaerna looked through her bag, pulling out a number of objects before finding an Elysian stone that the elemental thought looked absolutely delicious. ‘This way, then,’ it said, and emerged fully from the wall to grind its way down the passage.

A few hours’ travel brought them into a tunnel with ankle-deep standing water. ‘Here you go. Enjoy your stay,’ the elemental said, and disappeared into the surrounding stone.

‘Oh, hey, eat this,’ Avex said, handing Samaerna a small berry before eating one of his own.

Samaerna eyed the fruit curiously. ‘What is it?’

‘Air fruit. We use it to get around on Thalasia. Should work here, too.’

After consuming the fruit, Samaerna waded further into the pool. When she was waist-deep in the water, a strange tugging sensation enveloped her, starting at her feet and moving slowly up her legs. Avex brushed off her concerned look. ‘It’s an elemental vortex. Those are naturally different than a portal. Go on, I want to get onto Water as well, you know.’

It felt, at first, like she was drowning. She was completely surrounded by water. No, Water. The very essence of liquid enveloped her, and flowed through her. After a few moments, she realised that she was breathing the water. She wasn’t in any danger. Still, it felt so real, so heavy. She wasn’t accustomed to dealing with actual, physical reality in its purest form.

A pair of celestials suddenly popping into the plane was apparently something of interest, as Samaerna could feel the presence of a number of creatures around her. She couldn’t see them, but she could feel them in the ever-present water. It must have been more elementals. Although she could breathe, she found that the fruit didn’t allow her to speak underwater with any effectiveness, so she gestured and pointed vaguely, making indications of a winged person and some kind of direction. She got from the elementals a guide, which brought her to the City of Glass – a haven on Water for air-breathers. She never really realised how much she appreciated not being completely submersed. Avex was shaking his wings and complaining about how long it would take them to dry, and he wouldn’t be able to fly for at least a day, and could he ride on Sam’s shoulder so as not to slow them down?

Once here, she was able to get down to business: finding Rolec. Archons were somewhat rare visitors to the City as of late, so at Samaerna’s detailed description of him, she was quickly able to discern his location. He was last seen heading through the local portal to Ice.


Pants of the North!

Bob the Efreet's picture
Joined: 2004-05-11
Recovering the Stolen

Back in Sigil, Red, Kineshka, and Tick were meeting with Terragon, to recount their mission in Pandemonium. It turns out that a previous mercenary group Terragon had belonged to was down a member, and they'd needed his help to recover the person.

The trouble, though, was that Tick had no memories. Terragon offered to search through various libraries in Sigil, seeking information on the Styx. Red took Tick around town, hoping he could berate the kobold into remembering something. Kineshka went to the Bleakers.

'Yes?' a bored-looking acolyte said when he answered the door.

'I have a friend who's lost his memories,' Kineshka said. 'I was hoping somebody could restore them.'

'That depends on how the memories were lost.'

'Well, you see, he fell into the River Styx...'

'Nothing we can do. Much like there's no purpose or hope in the multiverse, there's no purpose or hope for your friend. We could take care of him, though, if he's a bother to you.'

Thus, over the next few days, nobody could figure out what to do about Tick. Until a man came to them, seeking their services specifically.

Nekrotheptis Skorpios walked into their office. 'I hear you've been looking into the River Styx.'

'Yes. Our friend lost his memory,' Kineshka said.

'I am a proxy of Set. My illustrious master has a problem which He wishes resolved, and in exchange He can grant knowledge and assistance in your problem.'

'What kind of assistance?' Big Red asked.

'He can help to restore your friend's memories.'

'We'll do it!' Tick shouted.

'What are we to do?' Terragon asked.

'The so-called ruler of Stygia, Levistus, has been encroaching on my master's territory. He requires that it cease.'

A few minutes discussion led the party to realise that none of them were particularly skilled in negotiations.

'Can your master provide a diplomat for us?' Red asked.

'I'm sure it can be arranged. Come with me.'

The four followed Skorpios through the streets of Sigil, and through a portal into the desert realm of Ankhwugaht. Skorpios led them to a small oasis. 'Wait here,' he said, and strode off into the desert. After a short wait, a naga slithered into view, and introduced itself as Klenmus, diplomat for the great Set. The five of them went out into the snowy wastes of Stygia, a marked difference from the shadowed desert of Ankhwugaht. Only a short distance across the layer brought a pair of gelugons down in front of them.

'Where does a group of mortals go within the domains of Prince Levistus?' one asked.

'We're looking to talk to Levistus,' Red said.

The gelugons laughed. 'Good luck with that. Shout loud enough, and maybe he'll hear. The frozen prince speaks to no one.'

'Then where is his general? Who leads his armies?' Red asked.

'After what he's done, Levistus does not have his own army. Do you see that mighty glacier there?' it asked, pointing into the distance. 'Levistus is deep within the centre of it. Suitable punishment for his treacheries.'

'We are not familiar with Baator's history,' Terragon said. 'What treachery?'

'Long ago, the other Lords sought to rise up against the Lord of the Ninth and claim rule of Hell from him. He defeated them all, and some were punished. We shall not stop you from yelling at Prince Levistus' prison.' With that taunt, the gelugons flew away.

Standing outside Levistus' prison, Red asked Klenmus, 'How are we going to negotiate with him?'

'I was hoping,' the diplomat said, 'that we could get his attention.'

'I know!' Tick exclaimed, and put his hand to the ice. After a few seconds, steam rose from his hand, and a trickle of water ran down from the spot he touched. Terragon, realising what he was doing, surrounded his chain in flame and began applying it liberally to the prison.

'I don't think--' Klenmus began, when stormclouds flooded the sky. Lightning flashed, the ground rumbled with the potency of its thunder. Six pit fiends appeared around the mercenaries, trapping them against the mighty glacier.

A cacophony of six shouting, thunderous voices forced its way into their heads. 'BY ORDER OF THE LORD OF THE NINTH, YOU WILL CEASE YOUR ATTEMPTS TO FREE LEVISTUS.'

'We're not trying to free him,' Kineshka said. 'We just wanted his attention.'

Klenmus slithered forward to address the fiends. 'In the name of the mighty and glorious Lord Set, we have come to request that Prince Levistus cease his intrusion of the Lord Set's rightful domain in Baator.'

Moments passed in silence. Then the voices came again. 'COME WITH US.'

They found themselves in a dim room, walls and floor made of a dark stone. A table lie in the centre of the room, carved of the same stone, attended by chairs too large for a man. At the head of the table floated a symbol made of fire, a pentagram with a stylized '9' in the middle, with eight other nines surrounding it. The six baatezu sat in the three closest chairs on each side to the symbol. The mercenaries and their diplomat sat at the other end of the table.

State your case. The voice seemed to come from the entire room.

'In the name of the mighty and glorious Lord Set, we have come to request that Prince Levistus cease his intrusion of the Lord Set's rightful domain in Baator,' Klenmus said, and the negotiations began. It started with veiled threats regarding assistance from the rest of Set's pantheon.

I removed the entire orcish and goblin pantheons from my plane. Your god will be no trouble to my power.

It ended with promises of assistance towards the Lords of the Nine and the assurance that Levistus would be adequately dealt with.

The symbol seemed to focus, then, on the four mercenaries. And what is your part in this?

'Our friend lost his memory to Styx,' Red said. 'Set's servants offered us assistance with that if we helped him.'

Would you like to have protection against such accidents in the future?

'Well, we don't really need it, but if you want to give us...' Kineshka began.

Protection is not given. It is earned. If you are interested, you will be contacted in the future.

The five found themselves back in Ankhwugaht. 'I will tell my Lord Set that you have helped us,' Klenmus said, then slithered off into the sands. It took about fifteen minutes for them to notice a crevasse working its way across the land, towards their oasis. Red took to the air, for safety. As the gap got closer, it brought with it the sounds of torrential water, and they could see it was the River Styx, cutting jerkily across the sands. When it got to the oasis it stopped, and suddenly a marraenoloth was there. 'Come with me,' it said. 'I am told you are to be taken to the Heart.'

This journey along the Styx was different than before, as it became fast and very dangerous for a time, rapidly shifting between planes and navigating fast, deadly waters. When it was over, they were in a grand cavern, housing an underground sea. The marraenoloth's skiff came to ground on the rocky shore.

'Where are we to go?' Kineshka asked.

The marraenoloth pointed up at the wall of the cavern. 'There is a room. Stairs will take you to it.'

'What's in the room?' Kineshka asked.

'There is a room. Charon will see to you.'

The stairs led to a room, which had a single round table. The rear wall had a sheet of Styx water falling down it, and it is in this wall of water that a skeletal visage appeared. It came forward, abruptly taking on the third dimension, and a robe fell from the bottom of the skull. It waved a skeletal hand towards the table, as if inviting them to sit, despite the fact that there were no chairs.

'You have come to me,' the voice was barely audible, yet perfectly clear, 'seeking remedy. Normally we would ask for a great favour, if we even chose to grant such a boon. But you have already done something for us. Your work in Baator has upset some of the Nine, and will incidentally...' Charon trailed off, staring at the doorway. With a wave of his hand, he dismissed the lurking observer. 'It will make some of our work easier.' It waved a hand at one wall, which parted like a curtain of liquid stone. 'It will take time to extract the memories. Wait there and I will contact you again.'

Once inside the room, the wall closed behind them, leaving them in the dark. Though he ate some of the food, Red was sure to avoid the pitcher of water. In the morning, the wall opened again. The adjoining room was empty, except for a mug of black, oily water. They eventually figured that Tick had nothing to lose, so even if it was just your daily recommended dose of memory loss, he drank it anyway. Upon finishing the mug, he set it back on the table, and promptly fell unconscious.

They waited five minutes to see if he'd awaken. When a marraenoloth appeared at the top of the stairs to declare that they must leave, having concluded their business, they did so. Part way through the journey, it warned them. 'This next part is dangerous. You should close your eyes.' When they did, they felt a splash, and the sensation of being slowly pulled apart, then no more motion.

'Boatman?' Red asked. 'Can we open our eyes?' At hearing no response, he opened them anyway. They stood near the Ditch, in Sigil, the border between the Lower and Hive wards. After just a moment, Tick regained consciousness. He could remember everything.


Pants of the North!

Bob the Efreet's picture
Joined: 2004-05-11
Between the Spaces I: Portal-Slayer

This game has come to an end. Though I intend to restart Between the Spaces I in some capacity, it will likely not build off of this material.


Pants of the North!

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