Friday, October 28, 2016

Deep Carbon Observatory, Session 4 & 5: Animals & Men, The Living & The Dead

From here. By Rembrandt.

A butcher makes a pact with a crow, rejecting partnership with a mouse, and a Blacksmith flees a church before it crumbles. A scholar aids in the desecration of a tomb, while a candle-maker batters stone to gravel with a rusted blade. A Doctor arrives too late.

After the sphere of weightlessness brought about by the miscasting of Oricks spell subsided, the Adventurers found their skiff floating some distance from the sunken bridge where the two wizards had dueled. In one direction they saw the ruins of Carrowmere, and before that another ship in the distance. In the other they saw a hillside, and on that hillside they saw what seemed to be a church or chapel; a building on its side atop a rocky outcropping.

They went to the church, and they anchored their skiff in the mud. They dragged in the great pike they had killed too, and the stone sarcophagus. Talon looked it over and by examining a seam along the edge saw it could be opened, and he pried open the lid with surprising ease. Inside there lay a body, clearly ancient from the stale dust and dirt that drifted out when it was exposed. It wore a burial mask of lapis lazuli and gold, intricate and beautiful. In one hand it gripped a silver key, and in the other a tremendous iron blade thoroughly pitted and perhaps even crumbling with rust.

Orick used his talents to detect if there was sorcerous power around the body, and he felt plenty. Words came to him, "Ambatoharana", "Varistor". Having no trust of pretentious corpses they all then doused the body with lantern oil and then positioned themselves to pluck these treasures from the body: Orick by the key, Talon by the mask, and Victor by the blade. On the count of three they all grasped at their respective prizes.

The corpses resisted: at the moment Talon pulled the mask he discovered it was tied on with straps, and Victor saw the hand pull down as the key moved up, and Orick saw the blade move only a fraction of an inch before the fingers clenched tightly. The body lurched up, the head and knees rising as it began to stand.

Orick stepped back as it rose up, and from his hand burst a thunderbolt that danced all over the delicate wrappings of the withered carcass before him: the lamp oil ignited in a flash and the bandages all over it began to burn. It stood before them engulfed in flames, and began swinging its blade at them in great and menacing arcs.

Orick thrust at it with his pike, but the near-skeletal thing weaved and bobbed so continuously that he found it difficult to land a blow, even as he stood behind it. Orick then removed all friction from the mask with a spell, hoping that it was the source of animation for the body. As it continued to flail the mask the slipped off, glittering in the air before landing with a thud nearby.

The withered face of the corpse was revealed, and it continued swinging the rusty blade. Talon was able to narrowly dodge it with well-timed steps for a few moments as he fruitlessly swung a sword of his own, but the corpse soon chopped deeply into him just beneath the ribs, with a wet thud.

This delayed the thing just long enough for Orick to impale it on the end of his pike, and as the point punched through the chest of it it fell to pieces,crumbling into a smoldering pile of cracked bone and what looked like dry peat moss and burnt parchment.

Holding up the sword victor felt an odd sensation, the subtle but pervasive unease all this strangeness had brought up in him faded from his heart entirely. He looked over the blade. While from a short distance it looked as if it could not possibly hold an edge, any area examined closely was razor sharp. When he handed the blade to Talon, so he could examine it,  Victor felt his vague fears return.

The sword was then given to Catherine, so she might polish it up, and scour away the worst of the corrosion. Meanwhile they would butcher the great dead pike, and rest before they enter the old church that lay before them.

The strange boat still floated in the distance, closer than before but still far off. It went away from them as night fell. Not back towards the city, but elsewhere on the flooded plain. They could not see if it lingered there during the nights watch, but it was gone by dawn. Talon heard faint croaking over the side of the hill, but did not approach it.

The church had to be climbed into, as it had been knocked onto its side in the flood. This was not even the hillside it had been built on.

They prepared a hook and rope, and climbed to the great front doors halfway up the side. They unlocked them, with the key given to them back in Carrowmere. Inside there were were overturned pews, and scattered hymnals, and small puddles. The shrine lay in a corner, dented but still whole. There were ten small wafers inside, and ten vials of liquid. Victor took one wafer, and placed it into a vial. It crumbled and dissolved, and as the wafer vanished the water began to glow. Victor gulped it down, and packed away the rest.

Now in shelter, Orick commenced the lengthy ritual that would call to him a Familiar. He heaped up all the valuables he had, and got to burning all the candles and incense he had carried with him. After many hours everyone gathered in the church felt the skin on their neck and arms prickle with bumps. Orick saw a pure white rodent scamper along the edge of an overturned pew. It faced him and spoke, and its voice almost shook the walls. It was deep and resonant and radiated authority.

"Greetings Orick! I have heard your call, and might accompany you! What is it that you seek?", bellowed the mouse.

Orick spoke of how he sought knowledge, and wisdom. He sought learning and experience.

"Do you not seek power, and dominance? Do you not wish to crush the weak beneath you, and conquer the foolish?"

Orick did not, not really.

"That is all I desire! A partnership shall not work, then!" sputtered the mouse, and it ran off into a nearby shadow. The goosebumps on everyone skin settled, and Orick continued the ritual hoping for a Familiar with desires more in line with his own.

Several hours later a black fluttering swooped into the candlelit church from the open doors, and stopped near Orick. It was a crow, a crow so black it had no shine on its feathers. It spoke to Orick in a creaking, reedy voice.

"Orick, what is it that you seek?"

It was quite pleased to hear he sought knowledge.

"That is excellent Orick! I want for you to explore new places, and see new things! I want to visit new places Orick, and the unseen, with your help! And I can help you too, Orick. I have great powers, and I have great wisdom. Shall we work together?"

Orick agreed, and the riches he had piled up disintegrated. The bird pricked his finger, and a bond was forged between the two of them. Orick asked it what it's name was, and it said it did not have one. He said he would called it "Pepsil", and so that became it's name.

"You look tired Orick, have this."

The bird ruffled through it's feathers, and pulled out what looked like a lumpy marble. It placed it in Oricks hand.

"It's a good nights sleep. I took it from some kid, you look like you could use it!"

Orick swallowed it, and felt restored. Indeed, as if he had slept a whole night. Victor tried to speak to Pepsil, but when the bird turned to him it only croaked in reply. It spoke to Orick again.

"We're a team now, you and I. That first favor is free but the rest you'll have to pay for, do you understand?"

Orick asked Pepsil if it might go any examine the tombs they were headed for, to see if there might be any dangers. It sat there for a moment, like it was pondering something. It looked around the room.

"Why yes, I could do that. But would you do something for me? Could you burn this place down after you're finished with it?"

Orick agreed to this service, and when Pepsil flew away it flew backwards.

In the morning they left the church to scout out the tombs, but Wit and Catherine waited behind. Orick, Victor, and Talon found themselves floating between two landmarks after some time: a small hill and a lonesome windmill.

They drifted first towards the windmill. It was a strange sight: a woman hung out the its single window, a grunting hysterically she swung a long pole at crabs that had scrambled up along the swirling blades, knocking these off caused them to fall back down into a vast gathered mass of other crabs that scurried about the bottom. There were dozens upon dozens of these pale crustaceans, and they were a few feet across at least.

Orick bid Victor steer the boat closer, and he threw out great three bolts of blue light that crackled and hissed along the crab bodies, sending up hot specks of mud and mildew scented steam. Arcing along the backs of these creatures, the cast majority of them were killed instantly. The air now filled with a heavy aroma of seared crab flesh, as the surviving ones now scuttled towards the boat.

Orick then attempted to produce a great flash of blinding light to impede these other invaders, but his magic went awry: the flashes discharged uselessly around him, and a warbling pitch higher than whistle filled the air. Victor was startled to comprehend vision that functioned in a full circle around him, and Talon felt himself (as did the others) begin to experience weightlessness overcome them. The high keening of the pitch was too much for their various glass objects to bear though, and these things all shattered. They lost a spyglass, and the numerous vials they had recovered from the toppled chapel back in Carrowmere.

As the crabs climbed into their skiff they were overcome with weightlessness, and began to spin around in the air. Victor, who now saw in all directions, swung Varistor wildly and split these invading crabs into pieces. Over a few short moments the air around them quickly filled with bits of crabshell and meat, creating a sort of nebula redolent with the stench of seafood.

They had now floated closer to the hillside, and as the magical disruptions around them subsided and the crab debris settled into the water they observed the scene before them: a herd of sheep and various other herbivores were gathered on the island, along with a small group of ragged looking wolves. They all stalked about this hillside nervously, seemingly unafraid of each other despite their natural opposition.

The reason for their alliance soon revealed itself: a great mass was thrusting towards them in the water. Talon let loose an arrow that sank into it, and Victor readied his pike: as the creature burst up before them he impaled it deeply, as its many tentacles flailed about in the air. It began to wrap these tentacles around the Adventurers, and gnashed its beak deep into Victors arm. Orick hacked at these tentacles, and Victor too, and soon its grip loosened, and it died and sank into the murky water.

The wolves and sheep look on, and moments later the wolves began to growl. They chased the sheep across the hill, and soon the cries of slaughter filled the cool air.

They returned to the windmill, and spoke with the woman there. Many children were inside the windmill with her, and they were now very happily feasting on burnt crab. Her name was Tana Che Urla, and these fifteen children were all victims of the flood in way or another. They promised to return, at some point, and help them. They began to head back to the church, where Catherine and Wit awaited them.

From here.
A sudden sound interrupted the dull quiet inside the church where Catherine and Wit waited in dim light. Thuds across the roof, like footsteps.

Catherine climbed up the rope they had lowered in, through the former door that was now a window.

On the roof stood a man, it seemed. He was of slight build, and not too tall. Most of his face was covered in a black cloth, and he had a wild, determined sort of grimace on his face. He was flinging stones from a small sling.

Catherine looked towards what he flung these stones at. It was a very thick and stocky quadripedal form, of rough textured but expertly hewn stone. In the space between the large bulges of it that were like shoulders floated a sort of pyramid shape, of a smooth white material. This floated inexplicably. It had one tremendous hand, and the other limb tapered and spiraled to a sort of rotating point, like a mechanical drill. The bends and curves of this mass were almost fleshlike, in a way, and it was lumbering towards her, and the church, and the man throwing stones at a steady and unrelenting pace. Catherine dropped back down to Wit, and the masked man ran off the rooftop. The great foot of the stone figure crushed the tail of the great dead pike, and it raised both limbs as it plowed through the church wall.

It went straight through, scattering pews beneath great stone legs, as Wit and Catherine took cover and hid. It did not see them as it walked through the opposite wall from the one it had entered, and they both ran out before it pulled out the remaining supportive timbers and brought the whole thing crashing to the ground. Wit dove into the mouth of the dead fish, and Catherine ran up the hillside towards the top, and from there she saw in the distance two boats: one the familiar skiff that carried Orick, Victor, and Talon and the other that unknown boat that had watched them the day before. The man with the cloth-wrapped face was sprinting towards this boat, and the great pyramid-headed stone was lumbering after him and her both.

Talon, recognizing the boat and seeing a figure running towards it, shot him with an arrow and slowed his escape. Shortly after this, an arrow flew forth from the waiting boat and struck Talon. It merely stung as it entered him, but filled him with agony as his flesh ripped while he pulled out its many coppery barbs.

Orick then created a frictionless zone beneath the feet of the fleeing man, and he instantly fell to the ground. He did a similar thing to the great stone figure that lurched behind Catherine, and it crashed into the ground with a great smash. Catherine ran to the side of the fallen man, and asked him:

"Will you help me?"

He said yes, and then readied his weapon, a sort of upward facing axe at the end of a long pole, and took a defensive posture as the great stone thing rose to its own feet and then swung its fist at them towards the ground. It narrowly missed them both.

The two boats were now quite close to each other, and so Talon leapt into the other vessel along with Victor, as the unknown archer therein shot an arrow into Orick, that caused a stinging pain inside his eye.

While Victor approached this archer with Varistor unsheathed and ready, Talon had leapt into an area he thought unoccupied. He was wrong. A figure rose up from hiding, and from out this figure came a long chain. This whirled through the air in a clean curve, and struck and wrapped around Talon quickly. At the end of this chain was a sharp pointed blade, and this punctured into Talon near the clavicle causing his blood to spill out into the boat.

After the stone figures fist smashed into the ground spattering mud, the masked man simply turned and ran away. He leapt into the boat, and with an expertly fluid motion swung his axe-tipped pole towards Talon as he struggled against the tight-wrapped chains. The axe blade sliced his throat so far back his head was all but detached, and a great sputtering fountain of blood shot forth as began to fall to his knees, and the chains loosened.

Orick pulled out the rather small silver arrow, and blasted a blue arc of lightning towards the chain wielding assailant. This burnt both her and Talon quite severely.

Simultaneously, the archer had tucked away his bow and was slashing at Victor with a hand axe, and Victor was chopping him ever more deeply with the blade Varistor. After narrowly dodging several chops, Victor saw an opening and landed a fatal blow: he brought Varistor down at the center of the archers head, and split it nearly clean between the eyeballs. He crumpled as the blade pulled out.

The stone figure now swung and smashed the side of the boat as it moved in closer. Orick then conjured up blinding, flashing lights from the flames that rose from the burning remains of Talon, and singed the eyes of the chain-wielder and the masked man. Victor ducked beneath both chain and pole-axe as the two swung them around now wildly and ineptly, their eyes made useless.

Catherine now ran onto the boat, and seized the chain-wielding woman and clobbered her unconscious, and threw her into their own skiff. As this happened, the stone figure raised its drill-pointed limb and plunged it into the waiting sternum of the masked man. It began to spin the bit, and as it crushed him it also pierced through his ribcage with a widening hole. His body begin to spin along the spiral of the drill faster and faster, and soon his flailing limbs and lifeless head were detached and scattered about the the insides of the rapidly sinking vessel.

Orick quickly grabbed the pole-axe, and he and Victor exited the wreckage. Before the stone figure could retaliate Orick conjured another Frictionless field beneath it, and with a thunderous thud it fell into the mud. Victor tried pulling at the white-stone pyramid it seemed to carry for a head, but it would not budge. They began clobbering at it with pole-axe and sword as it fruitlessly tried to rise to its feet. The hard stone would sometimes be struck as if it were soft clay, and soon great pieces began to flake and crumble. After a flurry of sustained blow it soon began to disintegrate, and it fell apart into great chunks of gravel. All that was unchanged was the pyramidal stone.

As the life left his ruined body Talon was only able to gaze at the top of the hill, as his vision blurred. Wit appeared there, covered in dirt and fish guts. The last thing Talon saw was this, a fish-stained orphan, and he remembered that he truly hated him as he died.

As Orick and Victor they pulled what they could from the bodies as the boat sank and fell to pieces, and as Catherine bound their captive, a canoe appeared around the side of the hill. It was perhaps drawn by the column of smoke that rose from the church wreckage, which Orick had moments before set alight. The man piloting it was called Grifon Parry.

Grifon Parry had left the fields near Carrowmere to study Physick, the art of healing, many years ago. He had now returned only to see it all drowned, and was navigating formerly familiar ground by canoe. He sought answers, and joined Orick, Catherine, Wit, and Victor shortly after meeting them. He was unfortunately just a bit too late to do a thing for Talon, though.

*the voice of Pepsil is a somehow slightly croakier William S. Burroughs