Saturday, May 19, 2018

Master of Strings Ch 38: Curious Wanderer

Zilo and Leo stand between their mysterious savior and the fallen friend, Jin. The being that stands before them looks to be a normal man, with a black robe and some black gauntlets and grieves. While his appearance may be typical-

"Typical! Screw you!" Remarks the red-headed, pony tailed man from another world. The man holds the sheet of Jin Shi, which currently has zero HP.

"Typical! Really, the guy who just one-shotted a bandersnatch and is dressed in all black!?"

"I wouldn't say one-shotted, we hit is a few times." Says the man with the hat and Zilo's character sheet.

"Either way, He cutscened the attack, clearly he's stronger than most things we've come across." Says the skinny man with Leo's sheet. Meanwhile Zilo and Leo keep their weapons gripped tightly as the stranger motions to them.

"If you really believe that you can strike me down then please, try." Speaks the man in a condescending monotone deep voice. Zilo and Leo side look to each other, and Leo sheaths his blade. Zilo changes his bow back to it's musical form. Leo is the first to address the figure.

"Do you mean us harm?"

"How presumptive, I don't even know you. I suppose I have no benefit from your death, so no."

Zilo smiles and puts out his hand without fear, "Thank you for saving us, friend."

The figure stoically takes the gesture in, but doesn't look to physically respond. "May I ask why you three decided to engage a creature beyond your ability?"

At that Zilo looks back to the creature and takes out an empty vial, as he responds, "We needed some of it's sweat for our friend." Zilo skips over to the dead beast and swipes off some of the sweat from the beast's body.

"Does he typically risk his life over such tasks?" The man asks Leo. Leo is much less open then Zilo, still keeping his body still and focusing everything on the stranger.

"Zilo puts everything into everything, I don't think 'restraint' is in his vocabulary."

"And its in yours?"

Now on his favorite subject Leo thumb points to himself and lets out a smug smile, "Let's just say I'll help if it benefits me, and this little trip will make our boss rather happy, which helps me."

The man looks Leo up and down then to Jin and he says, "I would ask your... Ally, but he seems too wounded at the moment to get a feel for his character."

Leo looks over to Jin and answers for the downed monk, "That's Jin, He's always looking for a fight and drinking... I'm sure there is more than that, but to be fair, he's a recent addition."

"He looks to have something wrong with him."

Leo looks to see that the black on Jin's arm had spread up past his shoulder and onto his neck. Leo panics and shouts, "ZILO, GET OVER HERE!"

Zilo runs back to Jin's side as Leo looms over. Leo bites his thumb and says, "His condition is worse, can you use your Sending Shells to tell Maldrek our position, and have him teleport us?"

"I already had Aria do a task today, We need to wait til dawn to use it again." Leo spins about and throws his hands up, and says, "We don't have until dawn! He's lucky if he gets an hour!"

Zilo takes off Jin's robe and looks at how far it's spread, then he shakes his head.

"Sadly, its less, that fight must have made his blood pump. It's advanced to his torso, his organs will be shot in as little as a few minutes." Leo punches a tree and shouts, "Damn the gods! Can you do anything!?"

Zilo stops for a moment and solemnly shakes his head. Leo kicks a nearby rock into the tree line, and the stranger walks up to him, and says, "Do you intend to attract the rest of the predators of this forest, because you are on the right track." Leo looks at the man, who kneels down beside Zilo and asks, "What ails your friend?"

"He was bit by a werewolf that has vampire blood."

"No normal medicine can save him then." And with that, Zilo's heart drops. Zilo kneels back, spreading his legs forward and falling back to his back. He slams his fist into the ground in frustration. The man stands and begins to make his way back down the path, but once he is no more than a few steps away, Leo shouts,

"What do you mean 'normal medicine'!?" The wanderer turns his head back and stares at Leo as Zilo sits up again, hopeful with remnants of tears forming on his face.

"I see no point in explaining."

"NO!" Shouts Zilo, standing up. "You know how to save him! So help us!"

The man turns back around and says, "I would need something you cannot give, for it is not yours to give."

"So who's is it?" Asks Leo. Then the man points to the motionless monkey. Zilo looks to his friend and shouts, "I don't know where you come from, but where we are from, we don't like to die! If you really need something of his, then I promise you, as his good friend, I know he would give it in a heartbeat!"

The man looks the stalwart bard in the eyes, and notes his conviction. The man closes his eyes and hangs his head, then with a dejected sigh he walks back to Zilo and Jin.

"What do you want us to do?" Asks Leo. The man kneels down to Jin and says, "Leave."

"What!?" Asks Leo, confused.

"Do you want me to save him or not? Continue on the path, and leave us." Says the man, with a more stern tone than before. Leo's face shows his frustration, but Zilo places his hand to Leo's shoulder and with a smile he says,

"Jin's gonna be fine, don't worry." Leo looks back to his friend and the man, then he and Zilo continue down the path to the elven city.

The path to the city looked clear for the next half a day's walk, but Zilo and Leo decided to camp out away from the city, since they still suspected the elves were responsible for the attack on the dwarves. After another half day, just as the sun began setting Zilo spotted the crew of their ship walking down the path to the city. Leo was resting for the trip back to the ship.

Once he looks over the group, Zilo begins shaking Leo awake. With the magus forced awake he looks to see the crew as well, and leading them toward the City was a familiar figure. Jin Shi Wukong smiled happily with his drink suspended from his tail and a smile so wide that he forced his eyes closed.

Jin waved his arm, which now looks to be fully healed. Leo and Zilo whisper back and forth wondering what to think, but they both decided it didn't matter, since their friend now seemed to be standing tall.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sky of Tears

 Run, run, soldier boy
The sky is turning black
Mind your head and watch your feet
The hounds are at your back 

Vori walked.

Simply walking was not something the neophytes often had a chance to do. Between the drills, training, and slightly insane teachers, most of a neophytes' time was spent running from one late appointment to another.

So, when Vori has a chance to walk back to his room that night, no responsibilities, he relished in the stride. He didn’t think much of the lack of front guards. Believe it or not, the position wasn’t always kept up. Something about living on top of a frozen, desolate mountain in the northern end of creation kept out the salesman. So when Vori passed he empty posts by the doors, nothing seemed off.

Still lost in his thoughts from his one night off a season, he didn’t notice the empty hallways as he walked through. Even for a military order of monks, they were quiet. Contemplation, Master Raykus always said, was the window to your own soul. Know yourself to know your art.

Which meant a quiet, empty hallway didn’t raise the alarm bells it should have for Vori. In fact, for the first few hundred feat into the quiet monastery, nothing raised the alarms until he stumbled over the first corpse.

Hide, hide, soldier boy
The end is coming fast
Say your prayers and make your peace
This fight will be your last

Vori ran.

The body had been Master Raykus. The students at the monastery all learned the art called the Mirrored Mind, the ability to split your mind into pieces to think on several things at once. Vori did this, which allowed him to panic while he ran away from the body. Two more pieces of mind debated. One, Logic, knew who had killed Master Raykus.

"Two long cuts, perfectly parallel, accompanied by lightning burns. The trademark of-"

"No!" Screamed the shard called Compassion. "He didn’t do it, couldn’t have, not possible. He would never attack a fellow Brother."

"Look at the facts," Logic stated in the mental debate hall. "No one else could have."

Vori let them debate, Urgency and Anxiety taking over his body as he ran. He didn’t spare a glance at the other bodies. Couldn’t. Wouldn’t. He had one goal, the first thing all brothers had to do when the monastery was attacked. He had to get to the Cradle. Make sure it was safe.

It was not safe, even if Vori didn’t fully understand why the familiar figure looming over the cradle threatened him so.

"See?" Logic gloated. "I told you."

Crawl, crawl, soldier boy
Why do you bleed so red?
Take you sword and take your shield
Maybe you’re better dead

Vori stood.

At this moment, fully a dozen different shards held court in the burly half-orc’s mind. Each shouted out a different viewpoint, a reason as to why he did this or why it wasn’t him.

Standing over the cradle, Master Avaritus removed one of his swords from a fellow neophytes chest, and watched her lightning scorched corpse fall to the ground. Vori closed his eyes in denial, rage, and any other emotion he could use to block out the scene. When he closed them, he was somewhere else.

Vori looked over the warm, sunlit balcony that adorned the monasteries northern edge. He wondered, briefly, what magic had forced him there before looking over at the other two figures and realizing . He saw the younger man, a half orc so coated in layers of flat, slab-like muscle that he still looked squat despite standing a head taller than most men.

He saw the scarred face with the too-distant eyes, the grey eyes of an old man in a young body. Eyes that saw too much and wanted to close just for once. Vori saw himself, before looking away at the man his younger self was sparring with in this memory.

Junius Avaritus had always looked more like a heroic form in a painting than a real person. The long, aquiline nose, jaw sharp enough to cut a demons hide. The master was famously a distant man, often preferring to speak in koans than in normal words. Why he had taken the stout, direct half orc under his wing was the subject of the monasteries largest betting pool.

The two soldiers, for soldiers that both were, sat after a sparring match. Vori knew this memory well, knew that he had just learned how to fight using his whole body as a weapon. Vori knew the conversation that came next and tried to close his eyes, shut his ears, to not be reminded of-

Avaritus, murderer, traitor, and the closest thing Vori ever had to a father, spoke

“Vori” he said, and the young half orc rolled his eyes. He knew that tone meant thinking questions.
“Do you know” Avaritus continued “the most difficult step a man can take?”

Vori blinked and answered “Uphill?” Vori hated stupid questions like this. They were here to hunt demons and slay monsters, why all this storm-cursed philosophy.

“The most important step” Avaritus said, gazing out over the mountain range “is the next one. Always the next step. Each day we have here is a gift, not a right. To earn it we must struggle. Do you understand? It is not the first step, it is each step after. You remember, yes, what the most important words a man can say are?”

“I'll be better” Vori answered, still not understanding.

Die, die, soldier boy
Close your eyes and sleep
The war is done, the day is gone
Just let your mother weep

Vori returned to himself in a room filled with staring monks. He knew he’d been lost a while, as Avaritus was gone. In his place, the wizened form of Master Taevar stood and looked at Vori. The half orc stood motionless and staring, the tears flowing down his slab-like face.

“Vori” Master Taevar urged, obviously having been trying to reach the young man for a long time, “Vori, you must answer. The Cradle is empty, Who was with him? Who else took the Children?”

Vori only shook his head at the question. Words were beyond his shocked mind at this point. What could he say? How could he explain all the betrayal? How could he explain anything with that storm raging through his veins, the terror threatening to tear him apart.

“What do you mean, Vori? You don’t expect me to believe that...oh lords. Oh Lord of All, he didn’t. Vori, you must tell me he didn’t. Not all seven Children.”

Vori shook his head again, then opened his palm. There, for a brief second, the hand was visible, with a single knife cut across the palm. Then the hand burst into a rich, eldritch flame. Blood red, purple, and silver flames danced across the palm, and for a heartbeat a single figure danced among them.

A name rang through Vori's mind, in a voice he never heard before. Master Taevar stepped back in an understandable feat. Vori was the only pupil of Avaritus, the man who just slaughtered almost every neophyte and bonded almost all of the Seven Children of Damnation, the most powerful fiendish spirits the Order has ever claimed. And now that Pupil was standing here, apparently preparing to keep following the master that he loved so much.

Vori shook his head a third time “Avaritus betrayed us. I know, Master, that you expect me to do as he did. That you expect me to follow his footsteps and bring more darkness to this world” Vori pauses as Taevar nodded, one hand on his sword “Master Taevar, I promise you something, something I only now understand” Vori said, his posture changing to a resolute position.

 “I promise to do the most important thing I have ever done. I vow to do better”

Vori took his next step.

Why, why, soldier boy?
Why do you try to live?
What worth is in your broken soul?
What have you left to give?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Master of Strings Chapter 37: Almost Dead

With Falx now quarantined via his contract to the bottom of the ship. Zilo, Leo, and Jin looked to the shores. Along the bank of the land is a gigantic miles and miles of an enchanted forest border. Jin smiled weakly thinking of how much he could flip and trick in that vast forest.

Zilo had never seen such a forest in his time in this plane yet, and so he began to write a title border for a new song. Leo looked down at the bard who was using the rail as a back to write on and shook his head.

Jin looks to his shoulder, which still has the bite mark of Falx. "I was hopin to stop by the elf city soon, see if dey have a way to fix this, not gonna lie to ye, I'm startin to lose feelin in my shoulder."

Zilo pops his head up, "I thought I fixed it already? Does it still hurt?" Zilo puts his hands the shoulder and his a face loses it's color and he faces Leo.

"Leo, his shoulder is ice cold. It's like the shoulder of a dead man."

Leo pulls back the robe as the ship comes ashore. The shoulder looks black, and seems like it is stiffening. Jin leaps up at the sight, and begins to shake his arm, but it seems that his shoulder reacts unnaturally, much more rigid and cumbersome than a typical arm.

"AH! WHAT IS DIS!?" Zilo slaps Jin across the face and shouts at him, "Get a hold of yourself! I'm sure we can fix this. Leo, Ideas?"

Leo looks over the wound and snaps his fingers, "I'll bet that Falx's lycanthropy and vampirism isn't mixing well with a living body. Looks like it is killing you slowly."

Jin points into the forest with his dying arm and says, "Let's get moving then."

The group disembarks in the direction of the city, deep in the forest, as the rest of the crew shores up the ship to the land. Once night falls, Jin's arm seems to hang lifeless and it seems that his whole arm has gone black. Leo takes out a map taken from the ship and grimaces.

"Not good Jin, looks like the city is to far, no chance we'll make it there-" Leo is suddenly Jabbed in the side by Zilo.

"*Cough* *Cough* unless we *Cough* pick up the pace a bit."

Jin rubs his slowly dying arm and says, " Can our luck get any-"

Leo kicks Jin to the ground before he can finish the thought, hoping to stop the cliche before it is too late.

"Worse?" Questions Zilo, earning a daggers stare from Leo turning quickly. Almost right on queue, Jin's tail stiffens and his ears twitch as he kneels up.

"Something is coming... It's... Hunting."

"See ya!" Says Leo quickly casting Invisibility.

"DAMNIT LEO!" Shouts Jin squaring up with Zilo, who smiles and responds with, "Good thinking friend! We'll distract it." Jin shakes his head as he slings his limp arm into the inside of his robe to avoid it getting in the way. Zilo readies Harmony. As they stare into the forest line.

For moments the world feels still before, in an instant, sharp projectiles are sent at them from the treeline. Zilo gets hit in the gut, while Jin uses his good arm to snatch the projectile an inch from his face.

"AH!!! By the gods!" Shouts Zilo as Jin looks over the weapon. It looks like a quill from some sort of huge creature. Zilo cures his open wound and out of the tree line they see a 20 foot long feline figure stalking them. Zilo's eyes go wide looking to the creature and says,

"Jin, that's a Bandersnatch!"

"Don't we need sweat from one of those!?" As Jin looks to Zilo questioningly the giant beast steps forward and as it does, Leo pops back into sight and he feels his body to make sure he is really visible. Zilo's eyes widen and he points to Leo,

"It's a Magicbane Bandersnatch! We did need one of those, great work Leo."

Leo looks to Zilo who is smiling right at him with his thumb up, confirming Leo's fear. As he finally turns to face the creature he is battered away by It's long slick tail. He is sent spiraling into a tree, and slides down to his knees.

Zilo fires off an arrow at the beast and plants it into it's left shoulder, but as it began to stalk over to him, his Violin fell into his off hand. His music would be of no use this fight. Jin used his tail to take a drink, his muscle's tensing as he rushes in, and flips up to crack the beast across the face, dodging it's claws in the process.

Jin lands wincing as his foot had been stabbed by some of the quills on the beast's forehead. Leo stood, readying his blade and rushing to join Jin, but the Bandersnatch saw him coming, and lashed out with his mouth as the magus approached. In an instant the trickster bit across the side and his assault was halted.

Zilo shouted, "Leo, fall back!"

"I'll holder her off!" Shouted Jin standing firm.

The bandersnatch bared down on Leo and Jin, but the monk stood between the monster and Leo. In a lightning quick barrage of attacks, Jin was ripped apart, but somehow managed to keep it together. Leo fell back, barely managing to avoid another lash from it's tail. Zilo back up out of the range of the creature's dispelling range.

Zilo found Leo's wound much worse than expected and used his strongest healing spell, Cure Serious Wounds. Leo roses, much better, but Jin was now the one struggling. Leo frowns and says, "This thing is far beyond us, Zilo. We stand no chance."

"Well, we can't win them all." Says the bard with a wink and another arrow shot into the fray. As the beast continued to shred the three friends, they suddenly felt something... something powerful. There was a pressure, almost as if the air had become thicker, and movements had become arduous.

Leo looked for the source, and looking down the trail he say a lone figure in a black robe. Jin, weak from the fight, and from his spreading injury, fell from exhaustion, and was out cold. The Bandersnatch dropped into a pouncing position, waiting for the new being to attack.

The being simply continued to walk. On instinct the monster leaped at the figure, but in the next moment, the creature was smashed into the ground faster than the three heroes could see, and the beast's head was caved in and spattered.

The two uneasy friends stared at the robed figure who approached them with an aura of sheer authority. The being looked over the three and only uttered one word.


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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Misadventures of Ink Ch1: Two Feet Under

Lord Ekkard strode out to his lavish courtyard filled with rows and rows of well-kempt gardens. He had just escaped a grueling meeting with a few merchants who just wouldn’t take “no" for an answer, and his mood was rather foul because of it. He was very close to executing them but they wised up and left the steaming noble before things got too unsavory.

His father died from an old war wound and left the young man in charge of his extensive estate. Ever since then, he was bombarded with con artists and sleazy merchants trying to scam the youth of the late lord’s small fortune. However, no matter how angry or frustrated he would get, the oasis of greenery would calm his nerves.

Ekkard waltzed through the gardens and felt his frustrations melt away. He nodded to the ex-military guards and even the servants he’d usually ignore. The lord couldn’t place it, but something about the place always kept him in high spirits. He made his way to the gazebo in the middle of the foliage, but he stopped when he noticed one of his new acquisitions planting flowers around the pavilion.

It was called a kitsune, a rare sentient creature of magical blood and fey heritage. Usually a sight never seen by the majority of the world, he had come across the tod when a slaver offered him in exchange for a healthy portion of his fortune. The young man, suddenly in possession of a vast sum of gold at the time, didn't hesitate on the offer. After a month of learning how to handle his money, he still didn't regret the purchase, even though he recently realized it was a tad overpriced.

He walked up behind the fox and watched him work, every small action done with fluid efficiency. He was a well-behaved thing, his free spirit presumably already broken by the drow slaver, though his body language seemed to imply some kind of training or professionalism. The vulpine’s tail, fluffy but covered with dirt here and there, brushed up against the noble’s leg. He turned and jumped when he saw his master, followed by a hasty bow.

“O-oh, master! I’m sorry! I didn’t know you were here” he apologized. Ekkard chuckled and patted the tod on his head. It was his family’s etiquette to not own slaves since they could easily afford any number of servants, but a pet was different, even if it could walk and talk. The noble walked up the steps of the gazebo and sat in a padded wicker chair. He waved the kitsune back to work.

Finally off of his feet, Ekkard winced at his sore soles. Taking care of the myriad of responsibilities his father had left him made him all too aware that his overly fancy shoes were not made for constant walking. He kicked the gaudy things off and stretched his toes, hearing each digit crack as he flexed them. After a few moments, an idea came to mind and he peered over to his furry trophy with a questionable grin.

“Fox, come.” The lord ordered and the tod obeyed. He stood before his master, paws caked with dirt, and awaited further instruction. “Fox, tell me, do you come with a name?”

“Um, it’s Ink, sir." He replied, averting his gaze.

“Ink, huh? Strange name. I might come up with a better one for you, but it'll suffice. Regardless, my feet ache and require attention. Tend to them, and" Ekkard pointed toward Ink’s filthy extremities “care not to soil them further. I’m sure an animal such as yourself has a better method to manage one’s body, yes?”

It took Ink a second to understand the lord’s words. With a slight grimace, he knelt before him placed his paws on the ground for additional support. Ekkard noticed the bestial position but chose to say nothing. Ink lightly nipped the noble’s sock, taking care not to bite his foot, and pulled it off. He did the same for the other.

The sweaty dew on his feet glistened in the sun. Ink bit his lip and silently sighed, the smell of foot odor invading his nose. He rolled out his long tongue and started licking the noble’s foot. Ekkard’s grin faded to a smile as he enjoyed the odd yet pleasing care he was receiving. The tongue-bath lasted for a good ten minutes before a feminine figure marched up behind the reclining lord.

“My lord." The woman started. “The duke will be here any minute. You should be preparing for his arrival.” Ekkard looked up and glared at her. She was his stepmother and adviser, a strong-willed woman with a stern face and a sneer that gave off the “evil vizier” vibe.

His birth-mother died years back from sickness and his father remarried. A younger Ekkard would have spread rumors about his father’s death being her doing, but even though she despised the young lord, she doted on her husband. His sudden death shook her as much as it did Ekkard.

“We also must finish our discussion about raising the people’s tax-" She was cut off by the noble.

Taxes?! Again?!” He interrupted. The sudden outburst startled Ink and he paused, but some prodding with his big toe signaled the fox to resume. “Tell me, why must we tax the people so soon after the departure of their lord? Hmm?”

“Because of the costs associated with the transfer of power, notably your father’s funeral and your coronation, and your recent purchases.” She rolled her eyes toward Ink. Ekkard sighed and motioned Ink to stop. He threw on his socks and shoes.

“Very well. After the duke, we will discuss our financial issues.” He stood and turned to Ink. “We will continue this tonight. Be at my quarters after sunset.” Ekkard left the gazebo with his adviser in tow. She turned her head and gave Ink a knowing look. He responded with a nod. Tonight.

It was dusk when Ink finished his chores. He washed himself with water from the well, clearing away the dirt that matted his body and making himself presentable. Figuring it was the appropriate time, he made his way to Ekkard’s chambers. A guard stood watch outside is door and as Ink approached, he moved into his way.

“Halt. Gotta search ya. The master’s orders." The half-orc grunted with a deadpan look. He ordered the kitsune to strip and once he verified that he didn't have any weapons or other harmful objects on him, he cleared the way for the tod. Ink reached for his clothes but the guard cleared his throat. Ink took it as a warning and walked up to the door nude.

Ekkard reclined on his bed with a glass of wine in his hand. After the lengthy meeting with the duke and a surprisingly smooth talk with his stepmother, he stayed the rest of the afternoon in his room with a bottle of wine she gave him. She explained that, even though she, in her own words, “doesn't give a rat’s ass" about him, the estate was her highest priority and she felt it was necessary to at least quell the hostilities between them.

He swirled the half-empty bottle in his hand, the other half of the contents already in his stomach. He was quite the drinker, something his stepmother admonished him about, so her gift of extraordinary wine was a surprise. Maybe they could make amends.

Ekkard was about to take another sip when someone knocked on the door. He set his glass on his nightstand and straightened himself. “Enter" he commanded, having a good idea who it was. Ink opened the door and stepped inside. Ekkard gave Ink a once over and liked what he saw; the fox, albeit male, was quite feminine in appearance and if he didn’t have certain parts, he could easily pass as a flat-chested vixen.

The young lord gave Ink a smile and wiggled his bare feet. Without word, the tod climbed onto the large bed and kneeled. With a foot in hand, Ink resumed his work from earlier, this time added in his acceptably clean paws for a lewd foot massage. The feeling was simply divine on his sore feet and Ekkard allowed himself a quiet moan, though it went unheard over the fox’s suckling.

Letting the booze talk, he ordered Ink to stop and beckoned him forward. “Let’s put that tongue to better use, hmm?” he said, his voice betraying his inebriation. Ink slowly crawled up the man and straddled him with a coy smile. His eyes were filled with a lust not uncommon for fox-folk and he slid his tongue across his lips. Everything was perfect. Too perfect.

Ink tilted his head back slightly and closed his eyes halfway. His smile stretched to a toothy grin, and from Ekkard’s position, the fox started to look quite evil. Weakened from the alcohol, he gave little resistance as Ink held him down. With his other paw balled into a fist, Ink brought it down into the noble’s throat, crushing his windpipe and voice box. Ekkard attempted to scream but it only came out as a gasping wheeze.

In his new position of power, Ink brought his fist down again and again, the resounding thumps echoing throughout the room. He giggled maniacally as he brought down weeks of pent up frustration, frustration not from playing servant but having to hold back his sadistic nature and rampant sex drive. Tonight he would quell one of those urges; the other would have to wait.

When Ink finally wore himself out, the bloody mess below him was barely recognizable as human. Oopsies, Ink thought, realizing that his assassins guild’s preferred method of verifying a kill, the head, was nearly unusable as proof. Oh well, we have clerics for that. Ink nodded in approval, his tail lazily waving behind him in contentment.

Looking around, Ink spotted a blunt display sword on the wall. Shrugging, he took the blade and sloppily hacked at the noble’s neck, spraying blood all over himself and whatever parts of the bed that weren't already soaked. It took several swings but he managed to dislocate the head, letting it hang for a bit to allow the blood to drain from its ragged neck. He wrapped it in a sheet and tied it around his waist, leaving the bloodied sword on the body. The Red Blade sends its regards.

Ink peered out the window and found the night sky to be clouded. “I’m such a lucky boy" he said to himself with a smile as he climbed out of the room and down the stone walls. He silently landed onto the ground without incident and took note of his surroundings; the lord’s quarters faced the gardens, familiar territory to the pretend-slave.

Guards patrolled the area for intruders, but a month of late-night pruning and cleaning had allowed him to learn their routines. He managed to get halfway through the area before a loud, shrill scream echoed throughout the grounds. And there’s where the luck stops.

Additional guards flooded the premises, searching high and low for the assassin. It didn't matter if they knew it was Ink or not, they were out for blood. Stealthily, Ink crawled his way through bushes and flowers, cautious about the placement of his steps. A loose twig or a misplaced tool could easily spell the end for the tod.

Despite his care, there was one thing he could not hide: the scent of blood. It was this that stopped one of the soldiers mid-stride, the half-orc from before noticing the metallic smell and, seconds after, catching a whiff of Ink’s own natural odor. He followed the scent, leading him to the tod’s location. Hoping that the half-breed didn’t have a connection to the magical arts, Ink mumbled a spell under his breath.

The magic in his blood flared to life, warping the light around him. The guard pushed aside the brush that was hiding his prey and found another in the exact location he believed his target resided. He stared at the foliage with a questioning glare, but the rifling of another guard’s search nearby snapped him from his thoughts. Shaking his head, the orc hybrid walked off. “I’m not paid enough for this” Ink heard him mumble.

Sighing in relief, Ink undid the Minor Illusion and finished his trek to the gate. There was one last guard, stationed to prevent the intruder from leaving. Smirking, he picked up a stone and tossed it at a wall nearby when the armored man wasn't looking. The rock smacked the brick and clattered into the bushes, prompting him to inspect it. Ink managed to maintain his giggles as he snuck past the dull lookout.

Ink prowled his way to the predetermined meeting point, a small shack at the edge of town. Inside waiting for him was his mentor, a drow woman who could kill with a tap of her fingers and a body to get her close enough to do so, and Lord Ekkard’s stepmother. Ink undid his bundle and hung the noble’s head by the hair.

The sight of the bloody mess caused the drow to snicker while the adviser looked away in disgust, barely stopping herself from retching. Much to Ink’s convenience, they didn’t need to repair the face to know who’s head it was. The soon-to-be lady of the estate tossed a bag filled with gems onto the table, each worth thousands of gold a piece. They burned the head and buried the remains. Once the crime was sufficiently covered up, they went their separate ways.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

Master of Strings Ch 36: Werewolf on Deck

The storm clouds rumble and begin to lightly shower the deck of the ship where Leo, Jin, and Zilo stare down Falx in his new Threatening wolf form. Leo looks to the stairwell below deck, where the more fearful members of the crew are retreating.

Leo shouts to one of the calmer looking ones named Jackson, "Hey, find my scroll, or this is gonna get bad really quick!" The man looks to the viscous wolfman and back to Leo before nodding. Zilo reaches for his silver blade, but rethinks his choice and grabs at his whip.

Leo thinks to bust out his new Versatile Weapon spell, but unlike Zilo who's conscious halted him, Jin had to be the one to stop him with a motion of his hand. With that interference Falx pounces into action. Jin's moment of distraction leads to him being shunted across the deck and cracking against the mast.

Leo swings his blade at the beast, but it counters with a claw stopping the blade, and the other claw aimed at Leo's arm. Zilo jukes around the trickster and flicks out his whip to save Leo from the claw. Falx begins spinning and whirls both his opponents around and hurling them both farther away.

Zilo crashes into the railing and in an instant the wolf is on him. He leaps up and back off the ship, dodging a low sweep. He then snaps his whip out and snags it on the railing. He then swings down off the whip and dives in through the cannon hole. Zilo looks around to see the crew panicking running around like headless chickens.

"Hey! You all need to keep calm!" But none of the crew listen, and Zilo is forced to screech his violin. Everyone grabs their ears but lets up, staring at the bard. Zilo smiles and shouts, "We'll do our job and stop the wolf, but you all need to your jobs and get us through the storm."

They all look nervous and Zilo flick his bo around and assures them, "Don't worry I'll lend you a hand." Zilo begins playing his inspirational music and riles the crew up into a magic fueled frenzy. Zilo and about a dozen of them charge up the stairs. The storm is now in full force, and the waves bash the ship's sides.

Once on deck the crew dashes to their spots as Zilo floats his violin into the air and quickly slashes his whip at the back of the wolf baring down on Jin, who was holding back the giant claws. The wolf turned back and Jin took that chance to pull back his fist and plant a Stunning Fist into Falx.

The wolf stands still, and Jin takes a moment to take a swig as Leo leaps at the Wolf and takes out some manacles. In one swift motion the manacles are planted right on the beast's arms. Zilo shouts down the stairs, "Find the scroll yet!?"

"I ain't know what I'm looking for!" yelled back Jackson

"It's in Infernal!"

"I never seen that before! What it look like!?!"

"It's like-!"

Zilo is immediately pulled back into the fight as he hears the sound of bending and snapping metal. the wolf is holding Leo bet the throat and he smashes him into the ground. Then as Jin tries to help from behind, but the wolf donkey kicks the monk overboard. The wolf looks at the magus and growls out.

"You tied me to the front of the ship."

"Yeah, I also told you to keep quiet." responds Leo with a smarmy smile. The wolf raises the magus off the ground and almost like a series of barks he shouts,

"I'll claw that smile from your face!"

As the wolf rears back the claw Zilo snaps his whip to stop the attack, Falx momentarily glares at Zilo, only to heft Leo slightly into the air with his other claw, then quick snap his claw back across Leo's smiling face, forcing the Magus into the ground, unmoving. The wolf turns to Zilo with a snarl and remarks,

"You are next, peasant."

By this point the storm has almost totally drowned out the sounds of the crew trying to keep the ship stable as best they can. Luckily for Zilo and Jin, their weeks aboard the ship has helped them earn some sea legs, but the wolf is moving as easily as a fish to water as he stands up straight and lets out a smirk.

The wolf raises his hand and casts Summon Monster VI. A projection of shadows extend from his hand and out forms three lions with fur as black as night and eyes that glow a eerie yellow glow like they were touched by the shadows. The wolf looks to his three great cats, and points to Zilo.

The lions begin to circle the bard, who now trades out his whip for his silver longsword. One of the beast pounces at Zilo, and he snaps into a roll and slashes across the creature's side, making it disperse into the air. The rain poking holes in the dark mist as it fades away.

Another brings down it's claw, but the bard manages to hold back the large beast's attack with his buckler. As he did so the last lion reared up behind him and slashed through his studded armor from behind, and the two beasts leap back to Falx's side.

Zilo felt faint as he pointed his sword at the beasts and his tunes from his violin wavered. Just as the creatures had begun to move in, Jin rushed in, a little wobbly and with a rib cracking kick from his Drunken Strength, he sends one of the lions spiraling into the other, destroying the both of them. He took a long hard drink of his flask then belched out,

"Good kitties"

Falx's nostrils flared  as he bared his teeth at the monkey, who looked look at at him side long and responded, "Pupper wanna play too, okeh den."

Zilo watched as the now fully plastered Jin was able to match the wolf in power, like some kind of Drunken Demon. Zilo then looked away from the fight to Leo, who was still having his pool of blood get washed away in the storm.

Zilo runs over and begins to do his best to fix him up, but the three giant slashes across his face didn't look very good. He through out a Cure Moderate Wounds but even so the trickster's face still showed a bit of disfigurement. Zilo was then shocked that Leo wasn't waking up, even thought he was healed and breathing just fine. The bard shrugged and looked back to the monkey and wolf.

While the monk was just as strong as the wolf, and maybe just as fast, none of his rapid strikes seemed to be affecting him. In the moment he remembered his friends initial plan to use more lethal methods, and Jin decided to pull out a new trick.

Jin leaped back at least 20 feet and up 10 feet landing on the boom of the mast with grace, then proceed to focus his Ki into his fists and feet. The wolf climbed the mast and rushed the monk, swiping at his legs trying to knock him overboard.

Jin saw the slash coming and flipped up and as he finished out the flip he planted a powerful axe kick, accented by a visible crescent silver streak into the wolf's back, leaving an impacting at least 2 inches deep into him, leaving a small spray of blood with the strike. The wolf coughed up blood and fell to the ship's floor.

Jin landed at the wolf's body, and began examining him, saying, "I hope I didnit hit him too bad."

The wolf's eyes shoot open and for a moment Falx's meticulous hatred was gone, and only a savage beast remained. He shot up and pinned Jin to the ground, and before the monk could react the wolf's fangs were in the monk's shoulder. Jin shouted a pained death wail as the monk's scream puttered out and the beast looked up as Zilo, ready to continue it's hunt.

Zilo wasn't sure to grab for his sword or his whip. His hesitation was shattered as the thunder of a lightning strike echoed though his being and he looked up to see the wolf charging. Zilo reached raised his buckler, ready for what was to come as the wolf leaped at him from 5 meters away followed by... nothing.

Zilo lowered his defense to look and see that the wolf was crushed under a pile of wood and fire, with bits of copper speckled on the ground around the pile. Leo popped up after opening one of his eyes, Which looked at the pile, then the destroyed crow's nest.

"Hey the plan worked! Awesome!" Smiled the Trickster as Jackson finally popped up from below deck clutching the scroll and shouts, "I got it mista Leo!"

"And the good news keeps rolling!" Shouts Leo, a bit overly happy not to be dead. He pats Jackson on the shoulder as he stands and snatches both the scroll and one of the copper pieces from the crow's nest pile.

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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Master of Strings Ch35: Gloom Storm

Zilo, Leo, and Jin walked back to the ship with a scroll and two new companions, Falx and his Eidolon, Xlaf. The scroll was written in Abyssal, a tongue that none in the group knew, but they knew that the scroll was a written agreement of servitude by the Fetchling Shadow Caller to serve in return for his life.

The scroll was signed with his last words while alive, 'And you're sure this is okay?' Jin looked to their new traveling mate and asked, "Out of curiosity, what were you asking about?"

"Your birth-giver." Responded the summoner with a clever smile. Leo snatched the scroll from Zilo, who barely even responded. With the scroll in hand Leo said, "What do your last words mean?" and the scroll burned the lettering in fire.

Falx grimaced and said," I was asking my compatriot if his blood was safe to drink, little did I know that he had been struck with vampirism. It didn't meld well with my lycanthropic body, and I expired."

Jin and Leo both let loose a snicker while Zilo opened the door back to the foot of the mountain. The ship was there waiting for the group to return. Falx and Xlaf walk past the bard and Falx claps his hands twice.

"This dinky little vessel will have to do, now I'll need you three to fetch me a comb, some tooth powder, and a halfway decent meal, chop chop."

Leo, Jin, and Zilo look at him confused, before Leo turns to his two friends and says, "go tell the captain about the dwarves and to make sail, I'll help our friend."

Jin Nods and he heads up the gangplank, Zilo follows wordless. Falx looks over the ship as Leo approaches and asks, "Tell me, in your state of half life, why would you need a meal?"

"While true, I have no need of food, I still feel the pains of hunger, and it is not pleasant."

"I'm sure you'll manage." Says Leo as he places a hand to Falx's shoulder. Falx looked to Leo questioningly, to see a devious smile and the contract blazing.

On board a few minutes later the ship Falx and Xlaf oddly enough couldn't be seen. Jin informs the captain of the loss of the dwarves and the captain responds with, "Darnit! We were depending on them for supplies. We'll need to go round to the elves then."

"But cap'n! Word is that there's a storm that way!"

"It's a storm or starvation, I'll take a chance on the storm."

Zilo lean on the railing of the ship as it made its way away from the mountain port. The crew anticipated that the bard could raise their spirits with a jaunty tune, but Zilo's mood just wasn't in a playful mood.

Leo and Jin both observed the bard from the upper deck. Leo turned to the monkey and said, "Lucky us Zilo had a trick like dwarven spirit raising up his sleeve, or we'd be dead men."

Jin took a swing and said, "True nuff. Hey that reminds me, where is our prize?"

"Taken care of, he won't bug us during the voyage."

"Then tell me."

"No way, you aren't the best at secret keeping my friend."

Jin raised a finger to argue, but conceded the point before looking back to Zilo, "Think he's okay?"

"What do you mean?"

"Look at the guy, he looks like Sparky just immolated his grandma."

Leo shrugs and says, "Who cares, So long as we find the last three items, he can wallow all he likes."

"Fat chance of that. We need to catch lightning, and get parts of two extremely dangerous creatures. Here I thought the Lich would be the hard part."

"Well didn't you say we're sailing into a storm?" To that Jin nods at Leo, who stares up at the crow's nest.

"I got an idea, you go make sure Zilo don't jump over board, I guess. I got something to look into."

Leo scampered up the main mast to the top of the crow's nest where he met a member of the crew looking out to the coming storm. The crewman looked to the new arrival and said, " You're mister Leo right? Can I help you?"

"Just checking out the view, do you mind?"

"Go right ahead, just head back down after, any metal in the crow's nest is likely to cause some trouble"

"I'm counting on it." Thinks the magus as he jams the first of a bunch of copper pieces in between two pieces of loose wood. As Leo plants the seeds of trouble above their head, Jin waltzes over to Zilo and asks, "Why so glum cum?"

Zilo looks up from the ocean and says, "Huh, oh hey Jin, what's happening?"

Jin squints at the sad Fetchling and offers him a bit of the ale slung on his tail. Along with the offer he states, "Ever since you bested that there demon you been sadder than I am drunk... well, almost, so what's eatin ya?"

Zilo looks back out to the sea and says, "I'm fine, it's just... That's the first time I had to play that song since I cam e to this plane. I hate that song."

"Why do you hate it?"

"I came to this plane because I had heard that they had happy songs here, ones that when played would be joyous and wrap people into a festive frenzy when played. That made me very hopeful. Where I come from songs are stern, and ceremonial, only being played at sobering or sad events."

Zilo turns back to Jin and says, "For years I perfected and rehearsed the exact notes of those songs, and was punished if I played a note out of tune. I became skilled, no doubt, but the constricting, suffocating nature of that teaching was... agony. I wished to play music that I like, not the music I was forced to play."

Zilo grips Harmony, staring at it, and grumbling, "I had hopes that I'd learned enough to beat Grozzit on the merits of the music I feel in my heart, but only with songs learnt from the shadows could I win."

Zilo takes out his violin in his other hand, and continues, "I'm no different from Falx, my true power is from darkness, as with all of my race. The only way I could save us was to destroy my own code. I... I don't know what to do."

Jin takes this all in and pats Zilo on the shoulder, "And here I thought you're just sea-sick. Well let me ask Zilo, why would you voluntarily cripple yourself like that? With such power you could do a lot of good, you saw what you did for those dwarves, you saved their souls."

Zilo looks back at Jin looking legitimately confused and says, "I did what?" Jin says back, "You saved the dwarves' souls."

"I did?"

"Yeah, didn't you see the spirits?"

Zilo points to his face and says, "My eyes were closed, I didn't see crap.  What happened?" Jin's jaw drops for a moment before he explains the results of his song. Zilo nods excitedly before finally responding.

"That makes sense, the song I played is meant to be played at funerals, and it is customary to bow your head out of respect for the dead."

"So your people just... ignore the souls passing on?"

"huh, I guess we do. good to know I did some good with some bad, thanks for telling me Jin."

"No problem, I think."

Jin walks away from the newly smiling bard. Jin's face is a little more confused that when he started, but nothing a bit more drinking couldn't solve. Leo returns from the top of the mast just as night falls and the ship begins to enter the storm.

Zilo looks up to the sky and says, "A shame, I was hoping to write a new sonnet before the sky got covered up."

Leo looks to his friend and says, "Oh yeah? What's got you inspired."

"Take a look." Says Zilo pointing up at the full moon starting to get covered by the clouds. Leo freezes as he looks at the moon, then he looks to the front of the ship. Leo begins running to the front and looks over the front of the ship.

Suddenly Leo reaches into his bag to get something, but he is suddenly forced back off the bow and falls over the protective railing, and a piece of paper flies through the air and down bellow deck. Zilo and Jin look to their friend, then turn their gaze back to the thing that attacked him.

Before them stood a grey werewolf in Falx's robe. He looked like he had the remnants of some rope restraints and a gag. The wolf howled as a crack of lightning silhouetted his large muscular frame. Leo stood, sword ready as Jin and Zilo formed up to help him with the coming fight.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Mad Maiden Ch6: Featherlily

Valery hated mountains. The party had now been traversing this mountain for the last few hours, and they were only half way up. Everyone else was in full clothing and armor, while she was still in her combat skirt and breastplate.

Cerin said the scouts found the Kaiju’s nest near the cliff face. Comino was driving the cart as usual with Val in the middle, and Clark is next to her. Mickey was ahead scouting and looking for danger with Kyle. Jin-Shi was walking next to the cart drinking while Eris sat in the cart drinking some tea.

“Ow!” Clark suddenly winces in pain attracting most of the people’s attention. “You okay der Clark? Not sitting on stick are you?” Clark smiled and waved Jin-Shi off. “No no not at all, I checked. It might be pains from sitting too much.” Val scowls at him “I have a feeling there might be something else wrong with him.” 

Comino nods “I’ll keep an eye on him.” A few minutes go by, and suddenly the wind starts to pick up. A screech is heard from the far distance. Clark is now clutching his hip in pain. Comino calls him out about it,

“Clark are you sure you are okay? You seem like you need assistance with whatever is going on.”

Clark shakes his head yet again when Mickey screams “WATCH OUT!” She dives backwards to the cart as a strong wind brushes by knocking Val to the ground. As she falls she also sees the path explode as a beak came down, striking the road just feet away from Kyle.

Standing up and unfolding her Scythe, she got her first look at the creature, and oh boy it was big. The Kaiju was perched on the cliff looking down at the party . It was green,  as tall as a castle and is wings were larger that her home town spread out. It's two giant heads had beaks that looked to be ten times larger than a typical lance, and just as sharp.

The rest of the party joins her standing side by side facing what could be their deaths. Comino states “There is no way we can fight this thing! It’s too big!” 

“That’s what she said.”

Mickey commands “Lets see if we can pot shot this thing until we can devise a plan.” Everyone (besides Val) then proceeds to pull out their range weapons and start firing.

For a while nothing was working. Arrows didn’t work, and they couldn’t get close enough to hit it directly without taking a severe amount of damage while trying. Val was at a loss for a plan too when she heard Eris say “Comino! Clark’s hip is glowing!”

To Val’s surprise it was. Comino, Val and Mickey rushed over while Kyle, Jin-Shi, Eris, and the clockwork soldiers continued to fight the Kaiju. “Clark! What is going on!?” yelled Comino.

“I’m not quite sure! My tattoo is glowing now instead of stinging, it’s just warm!” 

“Wait his tattoo is on his ass!? Why didn’t he say it was there!” 

Mickey slit the part of the garment where the tattoo was, and lo and behold there was a tattoo of some arcane symbol that Val didn’t quite understand. Comino looks at Val “Go get Kyle! Take his place and distract the Kaiju while he looks at this.”

Val nods and does as she is told. Running up to Kyle she shoves him back pointing at Clark and holds up her scythe. Luckily Kyle understood her and rushes over in time to dodge a blow from the Kaiju. Just a few seconds later Val saw an opening and got a really nice hit in, but regretted it immediately when the Kaiju swept it’s wing sending Val flying.

She crashed through the cart’s top and landed face down in rubble and wood. Hurt Val looked up to see the progress of the fight and how Kyle was doing with Clark. She was able to see Kyle trying multiple spells to no avail. However when Mickey came up and straight up smacked Clark’s tattoo as hard as she could, what she saw would amaze anyone.

There was a blinding flash of light and when it died down there stood a man looking around unsure of what just happened. the man stood around Comino's height with a long white beard that fell to 2/3's of his height. He looked to be bald and wrinkled with a flowing white robe with grey and black arcane symbols on it. Mickey, Kyle and Val were wide eyed at this event, while Clark was just surprised.

“Zelron!?” The man turns around and gives Clark the biggest smile ever. “Clark! Well done! I see you managed to figure out the spell I put on you!”

“Uh okay? Who the hell is that?”

Comino nods “Val makes a point. Who is this Clark?” 

"He's my mentor, Zelron, Wizard of the Ages. He sent me to find the Featherlily, he also put that mark on my... place."

The old man chuckled, "Indeed it was designed to activate once you found Feathe-"


Zelron turns around holding his hands up, “Featherlily my darling! How long has it been! Please relax these people mean no harm!” To everyone's surprise the Kaiju did indeed stop its attacks. It leaned down far enough to rest its head on the road as Zelron walks up and hugs the beast’s right snout.

Dumbfounded Kyle says, “Wait so all this time ‘Featherlily’ wasn’t a plant?” A clang was herd when Val dropped her Scythe. “FEATHERLILY WAS THE KAIJU THIS WHOLE TIME!?”

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