Friday, July 29, 2016

World of the Lost, Session 10: Among Family

From Here.
After taking stock of the shortcomings of Edonis new body (in particular that it now lacked arms) Gerald crept over to the corpse of their recently-met and now dead companion on his now knobby and thickly scaled legs, which almost bent like a birds. After sliding on the strange bracelets found in Khirima (those that let one pull off limbs like apple stems and stick them onto other bodies like balls of honey), Gerald plucked off his now tiny shriveled arms, and approached the armless Edoni.

He affixed these to either side of his now broad and scaly chest, which caused him a particular agony as they became attached near his collar bones. He now had two somewhat useful limbs to operate, with hand-like claws near the ends. The two trudged back towards their raft, and away from the pus like churning oozes that gurgled out of this reeking pit in the ground. They now moved more slowly, their bodies being now streaked with odd lizard parts and rough feathers in inconsistent patches like the discolorations of a piece of inferior marble. They had changed, their faces were now blended with something like that of a featherless chicken, or a sickly iguana. Their musculature and skeletal structures had been bent and stretched into something hideous, a point between several unknown forms. Now winged they were like gargoyle, though not as consistently formed. They flew back mostly, as walking now came to them much slower.

Edith had remained at the raft, dozing. She was awoken by the sounds of chiseling and unspooling rope. An interloper nearby, a stranger. She approached him cautiously, then offered a greeting. Edoni and Gerald then arrived. Both the stranger and Edith were horrified at their gruesome reptilian deformations, but these had mercifully left something of their face intact, just enough so that Edith could recognize them as the people she once knew.

Once the fear subsided they tried to converse with the stranger, and in time they found a common tongue. Through this they spoke, and learned his name (Nasr Al-saleem), and his profession (A tinkerer of sorts, one with a talent for machines). Through his expertise they were able to construct a system of pulleys, by which they lowered their fine raft to the waters below, and the four now continued their journey onward down the river. Edoni and Gerald soared above them, to observe the vast jungle surrounding them and what might lie ahead.

After they had drifted for several hours Edith and Nasr felt an impossibility as the raft tilted somehow uphill while they continued forward; now seeing the trees from some 10 feet higher up than where the river ran before. Seeing this strangeness from above, as a shadow cast from the edge of the water, Gerald and Edoni both swooped down to examine it more closely.

They saw decaying old fish and startled new ones flopping in the dry dust beneath the river, which was somehow held up above the former bottom. Gerald walked beneath it, and not a drop of water touched him as the water roared a few feet above the tips of his wings. The river stretched like this, a ribbon in the air, for some 100 yards before it sloped down into a more natural place once again. No visible thing caused this, no force or figure. It simply was.

On the banks of the river was a circle of large stones, obviously arranged there because of their size. More unusual still was the thing moving between them: a kind of multifaceted sphere or polyhedron made of a white material which shined like a metal, yet face of which glowed red. This face glowed for but a moment before it dimmed, at which point another would light up. From the bottom of it hung a long tail of sorts, segmented like a scorpion.

It swooped between the stones in tight arcs, its tail dragging in the ground beneath it. This created a delicate impression in the dirt, a tight and intricate layering of loops and circles.

As it did this it emitted a cacophony of unnatural sounds and babbles in disharmonic scales of harsh tones. This was continuous and followed no discernible pattern.

In the midst of the drawn circles sat a conspicuous bottle.

Edith, Abdul, and Gerald pondered this scene after bringing their raft to the shore, as Edoni looked down from above. In the thick growth beyond the circle something massive and shining trundled through the vegetation, hidden by  the canopy.

Edith deliberately disturbed the patterns created by the hovering noisome thing, to see what it might do. It seemed to have awareness of the disturbances, but simply continued on. She held a branch out in its path, and its thick tail simply snapped it. It drifted ever closer to the bottle, and before it could harm it Edith snatched it away.

Gerald smelt the contents, and recognized them from numerous places in Khirima. He had smelled this in temples, in kitchens. It was a good volume of fine palm oil.

Abdul, meanwhile, was keenly interested in the inner workings of this odd device. He fashioned a quick netting  out of his rope, and then flung this over the gibbering thing as it passed. It began to honk and bellow and flash red all over as they held it to the ground and bashed at it, looking for a seam or weak point.

There was one edge, and Abdul pressed a blade deep into it. There was hissing, and a foul smoke. It moved no more, and it lay silent. He split the thing in two, and looked inside. There was a tangle of shining threads, wafer-like panels in spiraling layers. Small wound sculptural forms and tiny jewels, sparkling linear calligraphies across eggshell shining surfaces, and a series of round metallic weights with central holes stacked equidistant upon a perfectly smooth column. A device unlike anything he had ever seen or imagined, a true wonder.

He pried apart the two outer shells and fashioned them into simple chestplates more suitable for the malformed torsos of Gerald and Edoni, and they all continued on.

Edoni had watched little of this as observed the great unseen thing followed a path that took it thankfully away from the others, and not closer.

A form undulated over the almost still surface of the river far ahead, cloud-like and somewhat dark with countless flashes of color all throughout. Flickers of blue, then orange, then green, then yellow, all like tiny scales and ever-changing. The form was tremendous, it spanned the breadth of the river easily while it stretched and contracted, pulsing and bulging into new configurations. They were going towards it, and would soon pass through.

Gerald looked down, and on the surface of the raft he saw two great and similar patches of red wax and wane slowly and then lay flat, these were attached to a tiny black cylinder which lead in one direction to a great spiral, and this body was sitting atop pairs of thin legs. A wondrous butterfly, the most magnificent he had ever seen.

There was then another near it, a blue one. Then an orange. A green one landed upon his mangled hand all half-dappled with scales. He sat down carefully, and then he and all his fellow travelers were engulfed. They floated into the butterfly cloud, their ears filled with the infinite flutter of countless wings as an army of near weightless passengers covered the raft and its passengers. Little could be seen beyond the kaleidoscopic breeze that swirled around them, the quiet rampage of the gentle legion of iridescent travelers muffling the hum of the jungle.

As they flew onward and away from the raft, and the raft drifted away from them, the countless butterflies left a subtle dusting of sparkle and pigmentation over the surfaces of everything on the raft. After some consideration, Gerald swept up this into the air with a flapping of his yawning wingspan, creating a twinkling in the air that quickly dissipated, vanishing into the humid air.

There was something on the shore to the north, a hastily buried thing that was still visible. Edoni sailed over and pulled the thing out of the ground, a simple bag of woven grasses, with his tiny clawed hands and dug through it. Inside it was a blade of sharpened stone with leather wrapped about the base to form a handle, a small phial with a sweet smelling liquid inside, and a lock of red human hair, with a crimson red ribbon tied around it. There were words on the ribbon, they spelled out “BEWARE THE DEVIL HUNTERS”, and yet more that was obscured by it being wound around the hair it held.


They drifted onward, down the river towards places where the pinkish haze finally thinned, and the air no longer smelled of strange vapors and volatile odors for which they had no name.

A small peninsula jutted into the water, thickly forested. On the shore of this formation lay a motionless body, with the long wooden shaft of a spear rising up from its head like a flagpole.

Near this body crouched an inhuman furry thing, but it dipped hands into water and drank in a man-like fashion. The body it had was one with two arms and two legs, but head was grotesque and seemed almost conical in shape. A garish and mask-like snout like a beet red club jutted down terminated in two gaping nostrils, and was flanked by powder blue ridges. Below all this was a tiny beard in a point below the mouth. This face was haloed by yellowish fur distinct from the grey-brown that covered the rest of it, and it gazed at them with tiny eyes just above the blue, set under a heavy brow.

It began to rise up, and its lips peeled back to reveal a most menacing arrangement of significantly large and pointed teeth. It’s mouth opened wide, and wider still as it rose. It was much larger than any man, and it let out a threatening roaring or snarling noise.

Alasr pointed one of his very-finely crafted and exquisitely designed pistols towards the gaudy visage of the beast and pulled the trigger then, and birds flew up and out of the forest after the blast erupted and the bullet went forth. The beast's head was punctured in the fore and blasted open in the aft by the hot projectile passing through it, the body falling down lifeless as a puff of smoke drifted away from the pistol's barrel, while the fresh splattering of blood and cranial scraps dripped down off the various leaves that had been just beyond the unfriendly creature.

The dead man seemed European, an Outsider like they. He was dressed like a traveler, from what remained of his clothing. The spear pushed through the side of his skull was stone-tipped. He had an empty scabbard, and a sheath for a missing dagger. The weapons were nowhere to be found. He had a pouch on him too, untouched though it was on the same belt as the scabbard, and with a good weight of silver coins still inside.
Around the body were many footprints, and they bore a noticeable resemblance to the sort of feet now on the ends of the legs that Edoni and Gerald now had. Lizard-like, or almost like the claws of a rooster or hen. Some had heel-prints like bare footed humans, while others were all clawed and spindly. These tracks could be easily followed to where they lead, somewhere to the southwest, and so they followed them.

After a lengthy walk to follow those tracks the four came to a more open space among the trees, and in that space they could see five beings. They were beings with skin-covered wings, and ugly strange faces. They were scaly, rough, sometimes feathered. They were like Edoni, and like Gerald. They pulled and prodded at something on the ground while they crouched near it. They held sharpened pieces of bone, some lashed to lengths of wood. The body was bloody, and their weapons were also.

They were far enough to be unseen, and so while Edoni obscured himself among high branches, and Nasr hid himself nearer to the forest floor, Gerald and Edith made themselves known to the gathering of scaled men by walking forward. The crouching men all stood tall, and very still once they became aware of the two who approached. Around their necks, hanging onto their chests, were strings of teeth. Some of these teeth were those of animals, but many were clearly human. They wore them like jewelry.

They made no sounds at first, they only stood tall with their wings tucked and their weapons held tight. They held this form solidly as their eyes saw Edith, but when their eyes fell upon Gerald they suddenly overflowed with warmth and welcome, and their postures went soft. Their various faces did not have lips that were capable of smiles, but their tones of voice still conveyed a startling friendliness and excitement.

Gerald had been transformed by the blessings, so they said, and he was now one of their family. A beloved and chosen person now, he was their brother! They had a home for him to come to and see, the Aerie it was called, the peak of a great mountain that could be seen above the jungle. Their great kingdom!

He was to come with them to meet the Sky Mother, the merciless and wise warrior queen called Burns-All-Hands. There he must be welcomed to the family, and there he could learn of the war against the hated and vain ones called the Exiles, and join them in inevitable victory and dominance. The one he traveled with, though, who was she? She was no Exile, for the Exiles would kill them on sight.

They could hardly believe what Gerald told them, that Edith was in fact a friend and fellow traveler, despite not being transformed as he was. Once he explained that there was another who had been changed too they urged him to show himself, and after a warm welcome to Edoni were shocked once again to learn of Nasr, once he showed himself as well.

Once their skepticism had been assuaged by Gerald, the five winged men agreed that these humans must be taken to also meet with Burns-All-Hands. This was a great blessing, an unimaginable gift, as no humans had ever been permitted to set foot inside the Aerie, the home of the superior beings who would one day rule the whole of the plateau.

Nasr made a few adjustments to the net, so that he and Edith might be safely slung in it and carried by the winged men. Once Edith and he were securely inside of this the winged men all took hold, and then suddenly they all flew. With an alarming speed they reached a terrifying height before beginning to head towards the mountains the winged men spoke of, and while they soared high above the trees and passed through low clouds Nasr was unable to bring himself to even open his eyes, the wind roaring in his cold ears.

The high peaks of the jagged mountain they flew to where a network of large crevices and tunnels and caves created the interconnected network of windswept chambers and passageways called the Aerie by the flying men. They could be seen all over, perched on the edges of other sheltered ledges and gliding along the air around the place. There were many more of them.

Through patches of steamy cloud the four looked out and saw other lesser peaks below, and the acrid haze of where they had been changed. They saw a vast dark form, something like a tower, rising up from the jungle to the west, and north beyond that a vast expanse of shining emptiness, what looked like a perfect circle containing no jungle. That was the Temple, so the flying men said, but that could be spoken of later. Now they must go to see Burns-All-Hands.

The walked through tunnels lined with long bones that had been filed to fine points, and stone spears like the one they had pulled from the dead man's head, and they came to wide round open area with a sort of plinth or dais of stone, and upon that was a winged being, with a taut and muscular body that still retained some hints of a human femininity through the scales. The face was all lizard, and almost beaked.

What it had draped around it’s neck was nearer to a kind of robe or smock compared to the simple tooth necklaces of those who had brought them. She wore what must have been hundreds of teeth all strung together, samples of both apex predators and human dentistry creating a kind of pattern. It spoke in a woman's voice, a stern and even voice that was hard and proud and commanding. She welcomed the new children, and then spoke her name. She was Burns-All-Hands.

There were others near her too, their chests were also weighed down heavily with molars and incisors, but much fewer than what she wore. They said nothing. They all held strange objects though, metallic things that were cubic and cylindrical and triangular and of an unknown origin and purpose. They held them with an air of superiority, that much was clear.

Burns-All-Hands spoke to Edoni and Gerald of what life in the plateau was, which was the only life they now had. There was no escape from the plateau, she said. None could ever leave, and the sky itself was as solid as a stone if one tried. All that was outside the plateau, and all they had been before, was nothing now.

There was only war now. The Exiles, the vain and arrogant humans to the northeast, would not recognize their inferiority to Burns-All-Hands, and hated all who had been blessed. They called those who had been changed tainted, and decried them as ugly, and would attack them on sight. They must all be killed, said Burns-All-Hands, and their weapons taken, so that the plasmics might be exterminated as well.

The plasmics, she explained, were the hated phlegmy things that lurked to the west and befouled the place where all were blessed. They were wicked creatures of fire, and lightning, and falsehoods. Burns-All-Hands and all her children warred against these things without mercy, and would exterminate them all and become the great rulers of the plateau, once they had the weapons of the Exiles of course.

Edith interrupted, asking if peace could be possible. Burns-All-Hands laughed at this. None would surrender their teeth willingly! There was no peace with humans, at least not with Exiles.

But why must teeth be taken?

They were all one had in the Great Devouring. The Great Devouring was the life after this life, where one must battle for supremacy eternally. The only teeth one had would be those one had left from this life, or took from others. Burns-All-Hands described this with complete sincerity. This was not metaphor.

Once it was revealed that Nasr was capable of creating metal weaponry Burns-All-Hands came around to the idea of trusting the humans, on one condition: they must bring the severed head of an Exile to the Aerie, and with it one of their metal weapons. Nasr must then create a duplicate of this weapon.

It was when this deal was proposed that Nasr threw down a small vial of gunpowder he had fashioned into a sort of small explosive. This detonated on impact with a stone, create a loud bang and sudden flash within the chamber.

Why aspire to have mere metal weapons when I have power such as this? Said he.

At this point Burns-All-Hands pointed the strange device she held, a tubular form somewhat similar to a pistol, at another stone. It emitted a translucent red line and a piercing, shrill noise. The stone it struck glowed red too, and a sizzling heat filled the air. In a moment the rock split, then shattered, the crumbled. They would be recovering a metal weapon, and the head of an exile.

There was no further discussion as they left the chamber, led away by an attendant.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

World of the Lost, Session 9: To The Air

Some might call it a "River Horse", from here.
Mithra Katkar was unintimidated by the hippo across the waterway that snuffed and bellowed at him and his fellow explorers, and so decided he would deal with the creature through a magical spell that would cause a violation of time and space around both he and it, and perhaps kill it.

He directed his magics toward a nearby tree, which rose up great and tall near the river's edge. The effect of his magic was subtle and profound once it was noticed: a portion of the trunk of this tree could be seen existing where it ought to near the water, and also where it ought not: some fifty feet above the great hippo across the riverbank. Mithra directed this great hunk of wood to be above the hippo, its cast shadow drifting along the bank to stay above the beast.

Although his hope would be that this second trunk would plummet like a great weight and strike the creature dead once the magic had subsided, it instead vanished from the sky and reappeared as a woven wicker effigy at the exact location of the original; so precisely tightly wound that it instantaneously burst apart, causing an irritating shower of shredded material to shower all over them.

Frustrated at this miscalculation Mithra then attempted to call forth another enchantment, but this was less successful than the first one. Instead of manipulating the space around him his magic became deformed, and instead warped the interiors of his mind. He looked up, and instead saw the sky for what it truly was: a vast open hole like a mouth, ready to swallow him like dust up a nostril at any second with no notice. Horrified, he covered his face and closed his eyes, and he knew he could not bear to gaze upon such horrors ever again.

The hippo still paced, unharmed.

Seeing his new companion now suddenly brought to near apoplectica by the sight of the clear blue sky and hot sun, Edoni gazed upon the hippo, and saw that around its left tusk was some small glittering object. Taking a keen interest in this object he pulled out his great rifle and dropped to one knee, leveling it and taking aim at the great waddling beast. His shot blasted echoing through the humming jungle, and there was a great cloud of smoke from the barrel and a wet thud before a roar from the big gray beast as the bullet punched through its hide and a great red gout of blood spurted out into the waters.

The hippo, now enraged, charged into and under the water. Realizing his single bullet was not enough to slay the creature, Edoni dropped his rifle and began hurriedly muttering the incantations to call forth some abyssal creature that might be able to fight back against the great gray monster that would soon be upon them.

As the final words left his lips the sand before him began to shudder. A large round patch began to quiver then rise up, a mound forming and then shaking to scatter off a layer of mud to reveal a pinkish undulating landscape beneath. A tremendous brain lay there wriggling in the muck. It weighed perhaps some 200 pounds, and projected an aura of complete submission and servitude towards Edoni as the 4000 some-odd pound hippo erupted from the water like a roaring boulder and began charging towards them with it’s great gaping maw wide open.

Mithra, now twice horrified, ran towards the somewhat docile mound of flesh Edoni had called forth. He had in his repertoire another enchantment which he thought might save him: he placed an eldritch mark upon the damp flesh of the brain, and this mark caused it to function as a sort of portal. Mithra then stepped into the brain, appearing to walk down between the crack of the two lobes as if there were a tiny stairwell.

Mithra Katkar then existed in a very strange and uncomfortably moist place for a brief moment, but then was able to navigate towards and emerge from a doorway he had prepared inside his humble home for an occasion like this one.
Along the river's the grotesque brain was nearly made unconscious by the strain of Mithras passing, but managed to maintain itself just long enough for the massive body of the hippo to collide with it and then squish into and tumble through the very same obscure portal that had been opened by Mithra. It existed in an uncomfortably moist place for but a moment.

Mithra stepped out from the darkness of the room beyond the doorframe he had kept in preparation as a receptive portal, and then stretched his arms up victoriously and sighed with relief, the sour stink of the jungle still burning in his nostrils as the hippo shot out of that portal too, as a cannonball leaves the barrel.

It’s maw snapped shut on him, and Mithras chest and head were then both crushed and perforated by the great teeth of the creature, his body also battered and smashed as it thrashed him about the room, the walls of his home crumbling as the creature continued to rampage trapped in a space too small for it to ever enter naturally.

On the river's edge the large brain went still, then began to deflate and also sink down into the sand until it vanished.

Though many who would think to steal the great tribute of silver from the forbidden temple on the plateau do indeed manage to find their way towards it using both bravery and guile a great many also do not.

A man named Jonathan Dowe did travel to Nigeria, and would perhaps have made it were he not ended by a plague that reduced his innards to a brownish paste, and turned his bones into a crumbling powder.

The adventurer known as Robert Paulsonne perhaps would have too, were he not to have traveled to Akabo before Khirima, and had his flesh torn off and consumed by the murderous resurrected dead.

The Portuguese soldier called Juan Montoya was one who did indeed make it into the plateau, but now found himself without weaponry or companions as he sprinted through the jungle. He and his fellow adventurers had gone to sleep in the deep jungle, in the midst of a bit of serious drinking. From this Juan awoke disoriented, as his companions were assaulted by a crowd of ravenous baboons that were rapidly tearing them to ribbons. He ran, as fast as he could manage, having only time to throw on his armor he abandoned even his weaponry. He went towards the river, the only landmark he knew.

He came upon a strange scene, with much wailing and unearthly noise, and after parting the leaves and stepping forth he saw before him the two figures he would soon know as Gerald and Edoni, standing before a raft that would soon depart with the three of them after a brief introduction and proposal of companionship.

The three drifted down the river with a sting in their noses and eyes from the mauve and oleander haze in the air around them, sniffling while the river became more tumultuous. It then curved suddenly, and revealed that it was now rapidly rushing them towards a falls.

Quick thinking and quicker movement allowed them a chance to quickly shove the raft to shore, and secure it there before it might tumble off the edge. All immediate paths down to the water below were slick and wrapped with tangled roots, so the three of them decided to instead venture further into the jungle and see if there might be another way.

Edoni, Gerald, and Juan then stumbled through the stinking hazy jungle, hoping to find some egress, some way to the river below. At one point Gerald was overcome with a feverish vision, a beautiful island with a shining hill now existed in the center of the great lake near Khirima. On this island was She-Who-Never-Lives, and she knew who Gerald was, and she was aware of Gerald, and Gerald knew this too.

Their march through the jungle was suddenly halted, as the three were now faced with a new obstacle. The jungle around them was now withered and dead, with bare scab colored dirt below their feet. The pink haze now almost like smoke, and they saw ahead of them a great gouge in the earth, something like a sinkhole after a storm. It churned and bubbled with a thick red fluid, and this spewed and spit into the air and was the clear source of the corruption. They looked upon it perplexed, and unsure.

It was then that Gerald was the first to be transformed. He felt his skin become waxy and tight on his face and back, his body painfully dry and hot all over. His chest compressed, he felt his head drop and his body lower to the ground. With a sensation like knives being pushed through his toes thick claws now burst through the tips of shoes, and his shirt ripped in half as his feathery torso spread wider. There was both cracking and tearing as the twin wet wings spread upwards and outwards from either side of his spine towards the sky.

Edoni looked to his hands and saw them widen, then flatten, then spread and disappear. His arms thinned and widened, he saw the hairs on his forearm thicken and fray into coarse feathers. They moved backwards, and wider, they now rested differently on his body. His knees bent him down, and his armor split and fell off of him.

Juan saw this and so understood what the pain must have meant as his hands too began to melt and stretch, but as his new wings began to spread his overall anatomy began to fail him. This malformation was too severe for him, and blinded with stinking fumes and squealing with unbearable pain his lungs ceased to draw breath as his transformation completed, and he fell dead; unrecognizable as the man he once was.

Gerald and Edoni could each hardly recognize the other, but could see that each of them was still alive (albeit changed completely). The fog no longer burned their nostrils, and while their wretched, half-scaled and feathered bodies were crying out with soreness their new limbs felt understandable, even as natural as their old hands and legs had been.

After a few tentative swipes they then found themselves able to achieve flight, able to rise above the haze and look over the vast canopy of the jungle below.

They then realized a raft was no longer needed.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

World of the Lost, Session Eight: A Sudden Division

From Here.
Picking up almost precisely where Session 7 left off, in the wake of the execution of the slug the adventurers had received a strong urging to become prepared for sudden travel.

The abandoned boat of the hated dead slug had continued to drift upwards through the night as the adventurers slept, reaching the highest point it could go to a few scant hours before dawn. It hung there for only a few moments in the sky before the magics that held it there dissolved, and then the great ship fell to earth creating a great disaster when it collided with what was down below.

The Adventurers awoke in the early morning darkness confused by all the noise created by this, and the public reaction to it. They stumbled out into the predawn murk and trailed the scattered groups walking towards a gathered crowd, where all those gathered there gazed at the adventurers with obvious disdain and palpable disgust. A few mangled bodies could be seen, stacked near a great heap of rubble, a mess of stone and wood and sailcloth.

Gerald stepped up and began trying to pull rocks away, while the crowd started at him and murmured. He called out for them to help, even though he couldn't speak their language. Only a few would step up to aid him, and even then they kept a wide distance. The crowd stared as he exposed an arm beneath the wreckage, a very small one. A very young one.

Edoni kept his distance, fully conscious of the tension in the air. There were no outsiders left, save Dietrich and Gerald. He handed off his dogs to Gerald, hoping they might protect him, and then he and Dietrich hurried back towards the inn. Dietrich was shocks, irritated by the silent crowd who seemed most ungrateful for all they’d done, and was supremely irritated to find another crowd gathering outside their inn as he returned to it.

Gerald was suddenly confronted by a visibly furious man, flanked by several others. They wore no insignia of the military or guilds, they were commoners. The dogs growled and lunged as the man shouted at him, gesturing in a rage. Gerald pulled out a pistol, and leveled it towards him. The man backed down, and the crowd parted as Gerald turned to leave. Upon returning to the inn Gerald saw a crowd grown unruly, and as he entered the owner was pressing his companions to gather their things and leave: they were no longer welcome.

They proceeded to the barn to quickly load their things and be on their way, as the sounds outside became ever more foreboding. An imp was called forth by Dietrich to aid in this endeavor. It was a fully nude man only not even two feet tall, with the hairy horned head of a great goat atop the shoulders. It bleated to communicate during his period of servitude, and dutifully hid under a blanket to watch for intruders and thieves as instructed.

Though they worked as quickly as they could, they were soon interrupted by a group of soldiers who marched in with spears lowered as the sun finally rose. Just as they realized they could be in danger, but before they thought to retaliate, they noticed that the leader of these men was wearing a magnificent arm band in the image of a snake, which he pointed to as he approached them. He was with Odafin, he said, and they must trust him and come along and do as he said, and nothing else. They agreed to this, and then cloth sacks were pulled over their heads and ropes tied roughly around their arms.

With their wagon quickly loaded and towed behind them they were marched out past the jeers of the bloodthirsty crowd. A stinking rotten hunk of squash collided with Gerald's head, soaking him in a sour smelling juice and nauseating yellow pulp. He swore hell and vengeance on whoever had thrown it, should he ever find them. When the sacks were at last removed from their heads they were standing before Odafin, who as he was placing the arm-band back onto his own arm asked them terse and solemn. “Are you ready?” They said they were.

They were hidden under many heavy bags of grain, which were then covered with a blanket. They were told to be still, and totally silent as they left. They heard Khirima fade as they left it behind. They were up in the mountains, high above Khirima, before they were allowed to reveal themselves, and understand their surroundings. They approached the great waterfall, and went behind it. They were taken into a cave, down a hallway of rough wet stone. This stone became smooth deep within, and the walls glowed with strange markings. Some resembling the tiny creatures seen in water, others lines, others curves and dots. They were in a rounded chamber like the inside of a vase or bottle, with a wide hole in the center, a hole that angled downward like the side slope of a triangle into the darkness.

Odafin was there with them, with his most loyal guards. This is where the silver was taken, he said. It was thrown into that pit. This was what he had promised them, he had taken them to this place and he could do no more. He then left them, with their cart and their mules, standing in this most forbidden cave before a hole leading into unknown darkness. After some deliberation Dietrich leaped in first, then Edoni encouraged two of the mules to follow with encouragement from his hounds. Gerald sent the rest after with a discharge from his pistol, the great noise echoing through the chamber along with the mule brays and the clatter of their wagon as he slid down after them as well.

After some minutes spent sliding down each felt a distinct sensation, like hitting a heavy velvet curtain and continuing through, with an odd pressure in the ears and on the eyes. After several more minutes the severity of the angle decreased, and each then realized they were on a new kind of surface, it gripped them in a way that felt sticky without having any sort of slime, and they also realized that it moved, gradually and always towards some mysterious endpoint that could not be seen. They each lit candles in turn, revealing smooth walls like the chamber above as they walked towards each other. They gathered their scattered animals and possessions, and once together then spent hours sitting in this strange moving darkness, winding along an unknown path only eventually seeing a very distant point of light.

It was early evening when they emerged. They saw a vast jungle before them, and the rocky walls of what was surely the plateau for once behind them. It was hot, much hotter than it was outside. The air was thick with wetness and humidity, like putting one's face over a tea kettle after being in cool evening air. There were distant sounds that were sometimes familiar, other times not. Wails perhaps, roars.

They were in a wide, flat area, and the ground was very flat bare earth. There was a river nearby. Across that river was some great beast, like the one they saw inside the library. They approached it cautiously, but it took notice of them and fled into the jungle. The jungle itself was also permeated with a noxious, pinkish haze or mist. There was a stinging, acidic smell in the air.

They returned their attention to the ground around them, they were coins here and there, silver coins. A good amount, several hundred, but no vast fortune like what they knew had been given. It must have been taken, surely, but there were no tracks to be seen around them besides their own.

They explored further, and saw that the jungle around them was coated in a thick cloud of spiders webs, all populated by spiders larger than an outstretched hand. Some ate birds. Near the ground in one, thankfully far from any spiders, was found a piece of parchment. They pulled this down, and unfurled it. It was a map, like the map they had of the kingdom. This one was different though, as it had landmarks drawn on the usually blank plateau. These marks looked somewhat like an image of a skull, and it also showed that the river before them wound through most of the region. They thought they might use this to their advantage.

At the edge of the river Dietrich called forth for a demon, and the call was answered: out from the jungle there came a humming sound, before the creature emerged. Held aloft by six great legs like those of a grasshopper, a squid-like cranium with six identical and lovely muscled male arms around the circumference of it.
Under the control of Dietrich and bound to this reality until the completion of a defined task, Dietrich willed for it to construct for them a fine raft from the local vegetation. The creature silently accepted this command, and then crawled and clambered into and out of the jungle for the rest of that day building it, stripping bark, bending branches, and winding vine into string until a fine and sturdy raft appeared before them complete with stout poles for guidance and navigation. The creature walked into the thick vegetation once again when it had finished, this time disappearing from the world forever.

That next morning they departed on their infernally created raft, and began drifting lazily down the murky river ahead. In an area thick with overhead canopy Edoni was overcome by a searing pain, emanating from his neck, while Gerald and Dietrich saw a thick tube or tendril of some kind affix itself to his exposed neck. They in turn heard hissing as they were surrounded by their own snakes, which all hung down from the limbs of the trees above. A mule was felled in a single bite from one, frothing at the mouth and falling down dead while another brayed out in overwhelming pain, and Edoni felt his body began to be ravaged by poison.

Dietrich blasted on in twain with his pistol, and Gerald then unleashed a roaring belch of pink flame from deep within his throat, and it enveloped all those serpents around them, their burnt bodies falling like smoldering unwound rope into their raft. Once certain they were safe they stripped the dead mules of any provisions and kicked their poisoned bodies into the water.

Some hours later along a muddy bank was a rather large specimen of the beasts they saw along the lake near Khirima, a great crocodile. Beyond this threatening but mundane thing was something much stranger, and more intriguing: a great sculpture of a strange amorphous form posed seemingly triumphant atop a mound of dead and mangled human bodies. Atop the base of this sculpture were heaped even more bodies: the carcassess of various animals in a range of states of decay, once colorful birds, small mammals, primates, and reptiles. Old blood and viscera poured down the sides, staining it from top to bottom.

Taking an interest in this odd monument and wishing to investigate it further Gerald and Dietrich sought to remove the crocodile. They withdrew their respective firearms and blasted the obstructive lizard, both of their payloads landing  true and punching past its armor of scales and causing it noticeable wounds.

These were not enough to end the great beast, and were quite enough to provoke it. With alarming speed it launched itself  forward into the water, sending out a great splash and wake, then in the briefest second after rising up over the edge of the raft before Dietrich. Its’ great jaws were open wide as if to welcome him inside, each extending beyond him. It’s lower jaw could be seen positioned before his back and the upper jaw in front of his stomach in the instant before they snapped shut with a terrific force, snapping his spine like an old broomstick and tearing down through the muscular wall of his belly like a sheet of wet burlap, the two halves of it’s dental structure to come into contact once again with the various layers of Dietrich compressed between them.

The crocodile then lurched back and whipped its head skyward with a twist, fully separating the upper half of Dietrich from the lower. His legs and lower torso fell forward into the river with a splash while his upper half was flailed about gracelessly in the air as its innards spilled down and out to join the legs in that same current of dirty water.

With the lizards pale belly exposed Edoni then assaulted it with offensive magic: a malicious energy in the form of a pure white line like a rope of hot glass that emerged out from the depths of the jungle in a perfectly straight trajectory, puncturing the thick hide of the creature instantly and reducing its heart to wet ash before emerging out the underside of it, leaving a hole large enough to reach an arm through cleanly. The now lifeless body of the beast continued to drift backwards, propelled by inertia, and landed on the banks near the mysterious statue.

It is unknown how long Dietrich remained conscious beyond the moment of bisection, but he was indisputably dead upon his landing on the shore with his now dead assailant still clamped, albeit loosely, onto his upper half.

After a moment of shock Edoni and Gerald then quickly pushed the raft to shore and disembarked. They gathered up the wayward legs of Dietrich and brought them nearer to his body, which they removed from the crocodile's jaws. They then stripped those two halves of their former companion of all valuables as these dead portions no longer had any need for them.

After this had been attended to they then began sifting through the funereal heaps of animals on the plinth of the odd sculpture, and among the moldering scraps Edoni found an artifact that emanated a magic of some kind: An elephant's tusk, a small one, sharpened to a needle-like point and covered in delicate and mystical etchings. Affixed to, wound and draped on it, was the spinal cord of a snake.

As a means of testing the effects of this tool Edoni strode over to the body of Dietrich, and pressed the tip of it into his flesh and dragged it, causing some partially coagulated blood to spill out.

As this blood spilled Edoni felt a force begin to act upon him, at first very subtle but then unmistakeable: the barrel of his gun, the gunshot in his pouch, the tip of his spear, and even the coins he carried with him were being pushed away from the body of Dietrich as if being compelled to by an unseen hand.

He stepped away from this odd phenomenon, and pierced the flesh of the crocodile to see if it might be repeated. At first he felt nothing, and thought nothing had happened, until he saw that the dead lizard seemed to lie heavier on the damp ground it did the moment before he cut it. It began to press into the mud noticeably, and then seemed to sink as its increasing heaviness pressed it under the surface of the earth until it was covered, leaving only a sort of dent after it was finally gone. Now feeling a greater pull on their metals from the body of Dietrich, the two then returned to their raft and continued on down the winding river, their dead companion a new addition to the heaps around the statue.

Mithra Katkar had long practiced the mystical arts, and had gained a modicum of skill. Through this practice he had learned to travel great distances in an instant, and perform other miraculous feats that defied the common boundaries and limitations of dimensional space for many others in the human world. Despite his confidence in his ability he was ultimately a student, not a master, and so was not immune to error. He was most grateful to have been carrying his pistol when a mistake in his sorcery had caused him to emerge not from the doorway he had intended to step forth from in Italy, but instead from a door-like arrangement of branches in a hot and balmy jungle much unlike the landscapes he had become accustomed to in the northern regions of India. This place was filled with unfamiliar noises and even an odd and offensive smell that burned his nostrils.

He was not comforted by recognizing the bulky form of an aggressive hippo lurking along the banks on the other side of the river he was near, but was quite pleased to notice a pair of men quickly landing a simple raft on the shore nearby seemingly (and wisely) avoiding the hippo.

Gerald and Edoni were quite relieved to discover that this unexpected interloper could speak to them in English, and this made explaining where precisely he had found himself much easier. He realized he was quite remarkably far from Italy, and would be in need of a great deal of money where he ever to get himself there, or back home, and so agreed to join Gerald and Edoni on their quest for silver. United by this common goal, the three of them then looked towards the yawning maw of the hippo, their common obstacle, its beady eyes fixated on them as it paced the opposite bank of the river.