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Old 12-03-2008, 07:20 PM
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Default Meeting at the Tavern

Story, not an RPG. I'll add more later. Please forgive my spelling

Ressinger cringed as he looked at the table he had reserved. His guests had arrived early, and he late. Damn that serving wench for tempting him so. The delay had been enjoyable enough, but he had important matters to see to. He made his way to the table as quietly and inconpsicuously as he could and no one noticed his passage.
The two other attendees for the meeting sat directly across from each other, their untouched tankards of ale on the table between them, and stared. Though neither made a hostile move, or any other kind of move, Ressinger felt certain that anyone coming between them would suffer a horrible fate under the combined weight of their hateful gazes.
The man on Ressinger's right wore a sword and chakram in his belt, marking him as one of the dreaded inquisitors of the Steel Empire. The angry scars on the left side of the man's face marked him as Alshok Demonsbane, the terror of those from the other planes who sought to make a home in this world. He was worse than Ressinger's worst fear: he was the person that Ressinger's worst fears were afraid of.
The man on Ressinger's left wore a black robe that fairly radiated magic. No one knew his name. Instead they called him by a descriptive title: Ratmage. A black seer of immense power, rumor had it that he had fought an ancient magical essence in Stangwood that had tried to turn him into a rat. The transformation had been half complete when Ratmage's own magic had stolen the soul of the caster and stopped the spell. Now his fingers ended in claws and his teeth curved wickedly. His nose and mouth had extended into a short muzzle, and his nose twitched constantly as he smelled the world around him. The rumors said that the powerful magician could easily transform himself back to his fully human form, but that the benefits of this shape had convinced him to remain a wererat. Practicality was the first virtue of the Deadlands.
"Apologies for my tardiness," Ressinger said as he set his tankard on the table and pulled up a chair.
"I was wondering when you'd join us," Ratmage said without looking at him. "I smelled you from halfway across the room. You're nervous."
Alshok smiled, and Ressinger felt a chill run down his spine. "I've never met an infiltrator who carried himself with decent composure. Too much hiding and sneaking around. That was a pleasant bit of small talk." He turned his gaze to Ressinger, and the infiltrator was glad that he had stopped at the privies to relieve himslef on the way in. Alshok's gaze could make a man's bladder weak. "Now, why have you summoned us? I was on the trail of a very nasty group of Madri when I received your summons."
"And I was disposing of one of the more annoying troll clans in the Dreadmarsh," Ratmage added. "This had better be important."
Ressinger took a quick sip of his ale and cleared his throat. "I summoned you because there is a venture that would require all of our skills, and from which we could all benefit."
Ratmage eyed the infiltrator. The solid black eyes and rodent features of the black seer were impossible to read, and part of Ressinger was very glad for that. Another, much larger part urged him to melt into the shadows and find a fast horse to anywhere but here.
"Are you both familiar with Ravenwatch?"
"The city that fell to the pirates," Alshok replied grimly. Everyone knew the story. Ravenwatch had been betrayed from within, its fleet sunk and its outer defenses destroyed, and then the city had fallen to swarms of gnorls, zombies, and river raiders who had come off the pirate vessles. Every adventurer in the land would have come to the defense of the city, it was a noble cause and the wealthy citizens would certainly be grateful. But there had been no time.
"What of it?" Ratmage asked.
"I have word from a very reliable source that Ravenwatch Keep is still holding out."
Alshok's eyes rose at that. "Stout fellows to keep fighting even now."
Ratmage perked up. "There's something there. Something very valuable."
"Something worth fighting to the bitter end over," Ressinger added confidently.
"You know what it is?" Alshok asked.
"No," Ressinger admitted. "I do know that it either something incredibly valuable that we might as well take as that keep can't hold out forever, or a magical item of immense power, or a secret that both of you would like to know."
"What if it's just some foolish last stand by the citizens?" Ratmage asked.
Ressinger nodded. He had been expecting this and was prepared. "The Dead Navy is a floating abomination to the Steel Empire and has gone renegade against the Deadlands. The Rancid Roamer, their flagship, is sitting at anchor in the harbor. It would be a fine notch in both your belts."
Ratmage made a wheezing sound that might have been a chuckle. "I'm in. What say you, rust maggot?"
Alshok smiled at the particularly nasty slur for the people of the Steel Empire. "I will go as well, though I do hope that we can all agree on what to do with whatever we find. A disagreement would be . . . unpleasant."
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Old 01-03-2009, 10:01 PM
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Part 2:
Ratmage stood on a small hill overlooking the city. He could not see much for the thick smoke rising from the many fires in different parts of town. From here he could see the Raven's Eye Tower, once the city's first line of defense. Three ships sat at anchor in the dockyard below the tower. One was bigger than the other two put together. This titan of the water, he knew was the Long Whisker, a ship that won victory by releasing its hordes of gnorl goblins on enemy ships and towns.
Just out of cannon range sat another vessel, a ship that was oddly off white instead of the normal brown of sea going vessels. Ratmage could not make out the details, but he knew that this was the Rancid Roamer and that odd coloring was the result of the ship having been built out of bone and not wood. The more damage he could inflict on this vessel, a ship that had come from and turned renegade against his homeland, the happier the Deadlands Council would be with him. Even in the Deadlands, black seers were reviled and he more than most due to the strange transformation to which he had been victim. The favor of the council could improve his life greatly.
The third ship had not actually entered the harbor. It sat at anchor at the point where the river emptied into the harbor, awaiting the time when its famed captain Ruggar the Penniless would order the slaves to begin the arduous process of rowing the vessel upstream, back into the river network that the Sandy Beggar terrorized. The ship held no particular interest for Ratmage, but that would not stop him from exploring it and killing the crew. He was a black seer. Death was his business, and a pirate ship was bound to hold some wealth.
He cast a glance at an oak tree growing not far from where he stood and let out one of his wheezing chuckles. The air shimmered between him and the tree and Alshok Demonsbane appeared before him, his sword and chakram in his belt, his body glowing with the magical auras that turned aside spells and blades alike.
"You're late," Ratmage said by way of a greeting.
"I was at my morning prayers," the inquisitor replied.
"How do you use the tavern transport," Ratmage asked, his nose twitching. "You rust maggots aren't supposed to use magic."
Alshok stepped past the Deadlander and surveyed the city, looking for the keep amid the fog of smoke that hung over everything. "There's nothing magical about it. It was built by Osterberg, a lengendary engineer."
Ratmage wheezed another chuckle. "I suppose that was before he was executed for witchcraft."
Alshok turned at that and smiled his icy smile. "The emperor frowns on the use of tezzuti demons in the building of children's toys."
A passerby would have thought Ratmage was having an asthma attakced, he wheezed so.
Alshok made a face. He pitied the Deadlanders. Their desperation in their ongoing war with the denizens of Dreadmarsh had driven them to employ the darkest of magic and embrace allies and methods that the Steel Empire and even the rustics of the Mountain Kingdoms would never consider. His pity did not extend to anything resembling affection, nor did it prevent him from thinking that the life of every Deadlander could be greatly improved by a merciful end. The Steel Empire would have undertaken this endeavor long ago, had they not faced the greater threats of the goblinoids, demons, and outworlders forever prepared to swarm over the entire land at the first opportunity. In a way the subjects of the Empire were no better than the Deadlanders, willing to allay themselves with whoever they had to if it meant preserving their land and lives. The thought disturbed Alshok and he shook his head irritably. "Where's Ressinger?"
Ratmage nodded at the oak tree. "He's over there."
Alshok looked at the tree and saw nothing . . . until Ressinger stepped out of the tree's shadow. "How did you know I was here?"
Ratmage tapped his nose, then turned back to the city. "I can't see the keep from here and I don't know the city. Have either of you been here before?"
Neither of them had.
Ressinger shook his head. "The only way in takes us past the docks."
"If we can get in," Alshok added.
The nearest gate was the site of complicated battle. Several well armed humans fought with a group of furry gnorl. A group of ragged, poorly armed humans were trying to fight their way through as they fled from a wailing throng of walking corpses. Short, filthy gnomes scurried among the fighting, looting corpses and picking pockets as they went. Horned demonic looking creatures were also in the fray, fighting everything and apparently reveling in the chaos.
Ratmage indicated a breach in the wall. It would be difficult climbing over the rubble and they had no way of knowing what waited on the other side, but it certainly looked more inviting than the melee at the gate.
Alshok drew his sword with his right hand and took up his chakram in his left. "Very sneaky. Let's go."
Ressinger ran ahead, moving from shadow to shadow and seeming to disappear in place everywhere he stopped and periodically waving the other two forward.
"Seems kinda jumpy," Alshok said as he began to walk toward the wall.
"Yeah," Ratmage replied as he fell into step beside the Inquisitor. "This should be interesting."
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Old 03-14-2009, 05:28 PM
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Ressinger scrambled over the debris of the wall, carrying a knife in his teeth in preparation for whatever waited on the other side. A line of the most wretched humans he had ever scene sat against the wall of one of the few buildings not currently on fire or under attack.
"Spare some coins for a crippled soldier?" one of them said, holding a bowl with one hand and indicating where his leg should have been with the other.
"A little help for a lost Alomite?" another said. Ressinger looked at the priest. He had the same despondent look as the rest of the beggars, though he seemd healthy enough and unlike the others he had managed to keep some of his (or someone's) possessions in a sack that sat next to him on the pavement. The Alomite clerics had once tended the religious life of the city, but some misfortune had befallen their temple. The infiltrator briefly thought about recruiting the cleric, but quickly decided against it. If this man had any power he would have used it to fight the invaders or escape.
Ressinger turned to survey the street. The presence of the beggars indicated that the area must be relatively safe. Still, one could not be too . . . CRACK! Ressinger stumbled forward, dropping his dagger. The fallen cleric's worldly possessions had apparently consisted of a sack of doorknobs. No doubt he meant to add something from Ressinger's backpack to his meager collection.
"Bugger!" the possibly Alomite said as he realized the pack was empty. He turned to run, and took a chakram in the throat.
Alshok climbed down from the wreckage of the wall and examined his kill. The chakram had stopped about halfway into the beggar's spine. Getting it out would be messy.
"You alright?" Ratmage asked as he sidled up to Ressinger.
The infiltrator bent down and retrieved his dagger. "I'll live." He gave the corpse a swift kick. "Bastard."
Retrieving the chakram turned out to be a wet, cruchy affair. The other beggars looked on indifferently. They had seen enough violence and gore that nothing phased them anymore.
Ratmage approached one of them, a fellow with the sagging look of someone who had until recently been well fed. "Which way to the keep."
The beggar looked appraisingly at the seer and held out his bowl.
Ratmage shook his head and muttered something under his breath. The beggar straightened up, his eyes widening and his face going pale. "Tell me which way, or your soul will know something far worse than anything the Alomites ever dreamed of."
"That way," the man said desperately. "Past the docks. Just follow the battles and you'll get there."
Ressinger muttered something else. The beggar gasped, then relaxed. "We Deadlanders do not bargain," Ratmage said. He dropped a handful of coins into the man's bowl. "We are also not above pity for those in misery."
The beggar looked at the coins in disbelief. Most of them were copper, not very valubale, but the black seer's sudden change of heart would have been too much to hope for a moment ealier.
"Thank you, sir," he said dutifully.
Ratmage nodded in satisfaction. "I can call on you at any time. I have a hold on your soul." He waved a hand dismissively as the beggar's eyes widened and his mouth gaped. "No need to worry. You don't look very useful. I probably won't use your services again. But if I do you will be rewarded."
Alshok's stare would have melted necrotonium. Ratmage only nodded and started off toward the docks. "Was all that really necessary?" the Inquisitor asked as they started walking.
"The beggar's life has improved for the addition of a few coins and we now know where we're going. What else do you want?"
"He does have a point," Ressinger said.
Alshok shook his head. He had battled evil most people could not even imagine and risen through the ranks of the inquisitors, gaining the personal approval of Torquerench, the Grand Inquisitor, himself, only to find himself in the company of two rats.
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Old 03-18-2009, 10:37 PM
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The street opened up onto a scene that made Ressinger think of a swap meet in hell. Men and giants of the river pirates, mangy gnorls, and putrid zombies all struggled to drag treasure to their respective ships. Gnomes smapered here and there, selling and bartering loot and stealing from the less attentive pirates, often in the same transaction. There was obviously a fight to be had here, but where to start was anybody's guess. Several brawls had already broken out between different groups of pirates as they got in each other's way or tried to steal each other's loot. Ressinger found the safety of the nearest shadow as he contemplated his next move.
"Where did he go?" Alshok asked.
Ratmage shrugged. "Looks like we have work to do."
Alshok nodded and threw his chakram into the nearest group, three zombies dragging a chest of loot. The weapon struck , ricocheted, and struck again, feeling two of the abominations in one throw. The third advanced and met a quick end at the inquisitor's sword.
A shoal giant dropped the sack he had been carrying and advanced, apparently confident that the inquisitor's weapons would be ineffective against his hulking mass. Ratmage pointed to him and spoke a power word in an ancient and vile language. The giant sidestepped as the bolt of eldritch energy flew, but he could not do it fast enough and he fell, uninjured but as lifeless as if he had been pierced through the heart.
This caught the attention of five gnorl, who had been haggling with a gnome over some shop goods. The gnome looked at the two adventutrers, then at the gnorl, and demonstrated his people's legendary courage by fleeing into an alley.
The biggest of the rodent-men advanced and the others followed, drawing weapons as they went. The leader stopped and looked down, wondering how his chest had sprouted a dagger handle before collapsing onto the dock. The others paused in confusion and a shadow passed behind one of the group. He clutched at his throat in a vain attempt to staunch the flow of blood. Two more fell before the last one took to his heels . . . and dropped with a throwing knife between his shoulder blades before he had taken three steps.
Ressinger retrieved his daggers and rifled the bodies as Alshok and Ratmage approached.
"Buggers'll steal anything," the infiltrator said as he stuffed a bundle of silverware into his pack. "Who's next?"
"They're gone," Alshok said. The pirates had all made their way back to their row boats or to the gangplanks leading back to their ships. "I guess we've taught them a lesson."
Ratmage sniffed the air. His fur crackled and stood on end. "I don't think so. I think they knew what was coming." The surface of the water exploded and the ground rolled as something big, heavy, and putrid landed on the docks. "Ever heard of Half-Eye?"
The squid dragged itself forward on its massiven tentacles, dropping bits of flesh and various sea-going scavengers as it went.
"How do we kill that thing?" Ressinger asked.
"We don't," Ratmage replied. "It's already dead. You two deal with the tentacles. I'll dispel the magic that holds it together."
The charkram and a several daggers flew. Alshok's weapon flew in arc, sliccing through four tentacles before returning to his waiting hand. Ressingers daggers also struck true, though the extent of the damage to the tentacles was less certain. The creature continued to advance and dropped a massive tentacle on the inquisitor. Alshok did not budge. The slimy appendage struck the wards that protected him and glanced off, splintering several of the boards of the dock before being sliced of by the inquisitor's sword. Ressinger had a harder time off it, ducking and dodging amid the squirming mass of tentacles and striking where ever he could with his blade. A tentacle hooked around his foot and yanked him into the air. "Oh bugger," the inquisitor managed as he was flung end for end across the dock yard. He instinctively curled into a ball and blew all the air out of his lungs before he collided with a brick wall and fell back to the dock. "That hurt,' he said as he picked himself up and limped back in the direction of the fight."
Alshok advanced, hacking fiercely at the undead best. A tentacle struck at his head while another struck for hit groin. The head shot glanced off the ward, but the ward could not protect him everywhere at once and he took what amounted to a tree trunk in the crotch.
Ratmage held the cadence of his spell as the inquisitor skidded past him, though his eyes widened as the dead squid resumed its advance toward him. Half-Eye's five remaining tentacles rose over the black seer's head as he finished the spell. The arms fell, but did not strike. The mighty Half-Eye lay motionless.
"Nicely done," Ressinger said as he limped up alongside the Deadlander.
"I would not have minded if you had done it a little sooner," Alshok replied. He had managed to get to his feet, but he was bent double with his hands resting on his knees.
"What now?" Ratmage asked. "The Rancid Roamer is way out in the bay. Do you plan to take over the Long Whisker and use her to attack?"
"We could do that," Ressinger replied. "Or we could use that rowboat."
"That would be good," Alshok said. "I need to sit down for a while."
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Old 04-15-2009, 11:35 PM
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The boat bumped gently against the hull of the Rancid Roamer. Ressinger winced at the noise while Alshok and Ratmage did not seem to notice. "How do we get up there?" Ratmage hissed.
Ressinger produced a grapnel from his backpack. The implement had a cloth cover sewn over its metal parts. Alshok reached out and squeezed one of the hooks. It had quite a bit of give, though he could feel the steel underneath the padding. Ressinger flung the grapnel up onto the rail of the ship. It caught silently and after and experimental tug the Infiltrator began to haul himself up hand over hand. Alshok followed. Ratmage watched them go, his nose twitching in the salty air.
Ressinger pulled himself over the railing, breathed a sigh of relief, and seized with pain. He had heard of the life wards used by the Dead Navy to protect their ships, but he had never imagined it would be so painful. Alshok helped him to his feet. The inquisitor held his sleeve over his nose. "This is the foulest smelling place I've ever been, and I've been to some of the demonic planes."
"Try it with this nose," Ratmage said as he floated down to the deck.
"You can fly?" Alshok asked.
The black seer shook his furry head. "I don't fly, but the right invocation does allow me to levitate."
"Could you have levitated us?" Alshok asked.
Ratmage nodded.
"Why didn't you?"
Ratmage rolled his black eyes. "I'm evil, remember. Besides, using that much magic would have attracted the attention of the necromancers on board."
"It's a bit late to worry about attracting attention," Ressinger said a he dodged a flying axe and pulled a throwing dagger.
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