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:i::c: - TARROK 

N’aska had identified three goals: training, money, and soldiers. 

The first I was well equipped to help with. The second, not so much. I was, in fact, just about skint broke at this time, to the point were I was skipping meals to save my coin. The third item I could not conjure for her, either — although the second item on that list could easily do so. However, I did not want make it seem as if I was only here to accomplish only one of the three goals. I wanted to position myself as integral, as vital to at least two out of the three. So I gave the following speech:

“If we have credit and cause, we will have the blades we need. They will follow us like the vultures that assemble above our heads when we march to war. Any warrior in Irnakk’s Tooth would gladly risk their life just to take part in the plunder of the legendary Fort Garsi.”

I focused my attention on N’ashka. 

“…as long as you are leader enough to convince them it is possible,” I told N’ashka. “But I swear on my life that you will be by the time we begin our war.”

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--------------   Tarrok | Korzaa | Verak | Kirik   --------------

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IC: Klidarg

Klidarg laughed mirthlessly.

"I doubt any of my old followers would rally to my call, but I will try. At least, my old enemies have suffered worse fates than I, so there is little worry of attracting those that might do us harm.

"As to mitts and clips..." Klidarg considered the question of coin. There was one possibility, but Klidarg hesitated to consider it. Was it too hasty?

No, if there ever was a time...

"There might be items of... value left in the remains of the old fort I once inhabited. Looters will have picked through it," he paused. "But I am confident that there are treasures that are inaccessible in the dungeons when the fort collapsed. Once we get enough hands, we can excavate it.

"Training should be no problem. Between the three of us, training a dozen bravos will be manageable. We could even take shelter in the ruins of the old fort for a short period of time."

OOC: @Visaru @Palm

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  • 3 weeks later...

IC: N'ashka Akkataka - Campsite - Outside Irnakk's Tooth

N'ashka turned towards Tarrok before nodding to him, and even allowed a small satisfied grin to creep across the side of her mouth. Then, listening purposefully to Klidarg, she faced the heat of the flame. What did it look like? What did her companions look like for that matter? What did the campsite look like? Were the stars above out? Or were clouds closing an enormous blind over the sky? What could she see now?


Vengeance.
Once, when that Muaka bit off my fingers, I reached down it's throat and pulled them out again, just before I crushed it's neck from the inside.
No-one takes a thing from me. Garsi will learn a very similar lesson.

 

When Klidarg finished, N'ashka rubbed her jaw for a moment, deliberating. Then she grumbled, "Your old fort sounds like a great first step, Klidarg, if there's shelter. We might have to kick out some unwelcome Skakdi."

OOC: @Visaru @NorikSigma

Edited by Palm
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:i::c: - TARROK

Finding forts to raid and loot is the business that makes a Warlords. Even it was was abandoned, picked clean, with only a few squatters. But retaking Kildarg’s ruined fortress would be the action that made N’ashka a warlord. 

And, I cannot help but note now, we begin the journey the way Kildarg’s ended. Poetic.

At the time, I was busy suspecting his ulterior motives in wishing to reclaim his property, but could not deny the wisdom in making that property our mark. The ex-lord knew exactly how to find it, approach it, and was most importantly, the best chance of uncovering whatever treasure still remained. He’d be in charge there. Indispensable. My awareness of the balance of power is a skill long honed. 

“You mentioned we’ll need help to excavate the fort. How many?”

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--------------   Tarrok | Korzaa | Verak | Kirik   --------------

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IC: Klidarg - Campsite - Outside Irnakk's Tooth

The Kaiakan gave a wan smile

"I would be happy to crack some skulls to evict unwanted inhabitants. The more squatters, the more hospitable the ruins are," he reasoned.

He turned to answer Tarrok.

"I confess I do not know. At least half a dozen, but numbers as few as that might mean taking as long as a month: an eternity if we are also to defend our settlement from other, ah, warriors."

OOC: @Palm @Visaru

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  • 2 weeks later...

OOC: Jam with the other members of the Blessed Order of the Acolytes of Ahk'Rei-Ahan, @Goose @Constructelf @Smudge8 'officially' bringing the Order into the game. Thank you all for your input!

IC:

Such blinding fury was visited on the enemy that they trembled before the faithful

For they knew then in their black hearts that on that day

The LORD OF MANY VOICES had brought doom on their fetid kingdoms.

The faithful rejoiced, for they knew the SAVIOUR was here as promised.

And the ARCHON said, "Behold

For now LIGHTBRINGER is come to you to topple the enemy.

The time of judgement arrives all the same

If faith holds true," Book of Salvation, Book 7, Chapter 30, Lines 85-91 

-           -           -           -           -

 

The Barrowfort - The Deep Caverns

The First Speaker emerged from the Red Hall, hurriedly making his way towards the access tunnels, passing Initiates and Acolytes alike as they rushed about the complex. The dead fort was particularly alive today, and as much as Ankrahl wished to see if the reports were true, something slowed his pace.

Cold iron. Dead face. Speech without soul.

His dreams - the gift of frustratingly vague visions granted to Masters of the Order - had become confusing and erratic recently. Vistas of the ocean, of unfamiliar places. Of an island he had never seen in any maps. But in the past week, another set of images had flashed into his mind.

Hellfire for hands. Power unchained. Eyes of light.

And a name.

Lightbringer

A name from the Book. A title, really, but far too obscure of a reference for the Speaker to remember anything about it.

Ankrahl knew that the report this morning had to be related to this. In recent weeks many of the old weapons had been reactivated or discovered, and Ankrahl knew that the recently rediscovered, buried Fort Buarkh, accessible now only by tunnels, held another gift. The Archivist department had handily dug up some records by a Nakihl chronicler centuries ago, and Buarkh was cryptically mentioned as containing some novel… something. The records were frustratingly incomplete, but with what the Knight in charge of the operation reported… this might be a new chapter of the Order.

 

-           -           -           -           -

 

“Please, take a seat.”

The towering Lesterin stood behind his desk, with his back to Akhna. The Skakdi hesitated, then awkwardly folded himself into the too-small chair. The Inquisitor did not sit down.

It was a rare dishonour to be invited into the Inquisitor’s office, a sure sign of wrongdoing or impending interrogation. Akhna allowed himself to hope that this was the rare exception, in which the Inquisitor brought someone in just to remind them that they were always under his scrutiny, lest anyone forget their place.

“Your dedication never fails to impress me, Akhna.” Akhna felt the Inquisitor’s voice reverberate in his chest - the soft-spoken voice that cut through all who heard it like the bitter cold, as deep and as dark as the waters below the dungeons. To be in the Inquisitor’s presence was to be returned to that place, the cage where Akhna had spent so many nights, with nothing but steel bars and gravity between him and the suffocating death he’d seen cellmates suffer.

“Thank you, Lord Inquisitor.”

“It hardly seems all that long ago that you were a mere prisoner, volunteering to join us, and now look at you. A model Novitiate, well on your way to becoming an Acolyte. No small feat, for one of your… background.” He had begun to pace, meandering closer and closer to Akhna.

Akhna resisted the urge to wince, out of embarrassment at his Skakdi heritage as much as at the Inquisitor’s thinly-veiled insult. “Thank you, Lord Inquisitor.”

“I do wonder, though…” Akhna’s blood froze. The Inquisitor was behind him, now; he could feel the Lesterin’s shadow upon him. “It seems to me that you are unsatisfied with your current position.”

Akhna cursed himself, and whatever rat had found its way to the Inquisitor’s ear. He should have known that venting his frustration upon the slaves would come back to bite him. “Lord Inquisitor, I only seek to serve the Order to the best of my ability-”

Don’t patronise me, you feckless worm. The Inquisitor grabbed Akhna’s chair and roughly spun it around to face him, his face scowling behind his Rode. “Lie to me again and you will be serving the Order in a very different capacity.”

“...I’ve proven myself capable, Lord Inquisitor. I’ve shown my dedication time and time again. I deserve the Revelation.” Akhna spat the words, finally allowing his indignation to boil over. He had been overlooked and underestimated too many times, forever treated as second-class, as unworthy. He could tolerate it no longer. “Should I be punished for ambition? For simply seeking to be more? Surely you once aspired to your rank?”

“No,” the Inquisitor said softly. “You should not.”

That was… unexpected. Akhna blinked in confusion, his frustration faltering in the absence of a clear target.

“But there is a difference, between ambition… and insubordination. My concern is that you do not defer to our authority; you do not trust us to know when you are ready. You think yourself unappreciated, and think your betters blind. Arrogance.”

Akhna now noticed the two Companions standing behind the Inquisitor, and felt acrid fear rise in his throat.

“You show potential, Akhna, that I will grant you. But you have forgotten your place.” The Inquisitor turned to his Companions. “Brothers? Remind him.”

The dungeon will do him good, Nessen thought, and smiled contentedly as the Skakdi Novitiate was dragged away in petrified silence. Best not to let the fear of death become too abstract.

 

-           -           -           -           -

 

Nessen exited his office from the front, leaving the Companions to their task. He made his way to the Red Hall, still mentally considering his next remonstrance when a voice from behind stopped him.

Inquisitor, it is time.

Surprised that he did not hear the man approach, Nessen turned. The First Speaker stood like a statue, appearing seemingly from nowhere, garbed in his robes of office, Idolscourge in hand and flanked by members of the Chorus. Nessen had not expected to see the other Lesterin so soon today. Nessen kept his surprise from his face as he answered.

Yes, my lord. The ruin has been secured?

The Speaker nodded.

Do not tarry. We leave soon,” the Speaker finished, before sweeping from the hall.

The Inquisitor frowned as he backtracked to his office to fetch his bodyguards. It was unusual to see the Speaker so early in the day outside the Hall.

He’s in a hurry. What did they find?

 

-           -           -           -           -

 

“I don’t think that will work, Lord Vizier.”

“Nonsense.”

Daegui was in one of the operating rooms used by Vizier Nahaki, the pair crouched over a corpse like carrion birds. The latter had enlisted his help to assist in the examination of a corpse, now lying on the table. Normally one of the Morturians would handle this, but this corpse belonged to an intruder, one who was caught and slain by Daegui while on patrol, but who took much more than the usual dose of poison to kill. He’d agreed to ‘test’ the vizier’s new poison as a favour, but at this juncture, he was beginning to reconsider is poking around a poisoned, bloating corpse was worth it.

“When I tell you, stab.”

Trauma injuries do not release-

“Listen, the spine slug cares not for the song of the necrofinch. I have my specialty, and so do you. Now I’m telling you, stab down before the poison dissipates!” Nahaki huffed.

Daegui ignored the pointed comment about slugs. Nahaki likely did not consider the species-specific nature of spine slugs, and Daegui was in general, unfortunately, becoming used to anti-Skakdi sentiment in general.

He’s not even using the idiom correctly.

“Three... two… one-”

Lord Vizier.

The pair froze and looked up from the corpse to see the First Speaker in the entrance of the operating room, Daegui mid-stab and Nahaki’s hands ready to dig into the corpse, outstretched and curled like claws. Their surprise disappeared in an instance and they scrambled to bow when the Speaker stopped them with a raised palm.

We are leaving soon for the ruin, if you would like to join us,” and with that, he left.

As soon as he left, the sounds of accelerated decomposition began to hiss from the corpse.

“The poison has reacted with the decaying offal…” Nahaki sighed. If only Daegui had listened…

The curse of genius amongst rabble.

“Well, that’s a bust.”

Nahaki removed his operating claws while Daegui shrugged and returned the knife to its place.

“Well, if you’d like to make up for that, you should accompany me. I can take my own notes while you… do whatever it is you do best.”

Fight?” Nahaki did not fail to pick up the acid in the Skakdi’s comment. Vizier of poisons, after all.

“Sure, if we need to fight crumbling ruins.”

 

-           -           -           -           -

 

Ankrahl had left as early as he was able. Let the others catch up.

He and his guards carefully navigated the winding tunnels and makeshift supports. As they exited the stable tunnel into the ‘branch’ that was recently uncovered, Ankrahl said a prayer to the Archon before stepping down the path.

This path was much narrower, though better-lit, as the lightstones embedded in the walls by the excavation team splayed their light in a tighter volume. After some time, Ankrahl began to worry they had taken the wrong branch when he saw the passageway open up ahead.

As they exited to a much broader tunnel, he saw the Knight in charge of the excavation up ahead, silhouetted against the lights installed in the excavated “entrance chamber” of the ruin. They had reached their destination. It was Sir Nukar, a Skakdi Knight of the Order and one of the few Ankrahl would trust with this task.

The Skakdi straightened when he saw Ankrahl emerge into the lit chamber.

Report, Acolyte.

The Knight saluted him. “Master, we finally breached the gate several hours ago. Took a lot of elemental heaving and careful firepower, but we did it.”

You’ve been at this for… a week, yes?

“Yes, milord. It’s been a lot easier clearing the passageways."

Any threats so far?” Ankrahl queried, observing the large entrance. How much of its damage was from the collapse and how much was from the excavation was hard to differentiate. A shame.

“None that we have seen, not worms or wild Arachnoleis,” the Acolyte said, a hint of bafflement in his voice.

Ankrahl did find it strange. He believed the report, but standing here in a ruined, submerged fort swallowed by the earth, the strange feeling began to tug at his mind.

“That said, there have been strange… noises. They fit with the sounds of slowly-breaking stone and metal, but nonetheless-”

You are right to bring it up. Thank you,” Ankrahl watched out of the corner of his eye as Nukar seemed to straighten with pride. Thanks were always a cheap price for loyalty.

He brushed aside the thought and examined what remained of the sunken gate. Very clearly a Skakdi design, although he could not properly place its age. Somewhen after Nektann, maybe before the Dissolution-

The sounds of footsteps and quiet conversation from behind caught Ankrahl’s attention. He turned and peered into the dimly lit passageway from whence he and his bodyguards came.

Now comes the flock.

The crowd- for that was what a dozen persons were in the tunnels of the underworld- consisted of various personages of the Order that had decided they needed to see Fort Buarkh and the rumours for themselves.

Heading the group was High Inquisitor Nessen, dressed in simple clothing, the few pieces of his armour reflecting the light of the lightstones. His bodyguards were much more intimidating, prepared for war, which, given the possible hidden dangers of the sunken fort, was still a distinct possibility.

Among the crowd was Nahaki, the esteemed Vizier of Poisons. The mysterious serpent man was mumbling to himself and scribbling something down in his notebook. Doubtless a scholar like himself was excited to see the mysteries of the ruin.

Bringing up the rear was Daegui, a recently-elevated Knight who kept a low profile. Not to Ankrahl’s eyes. He had paid special attention to that Skakdi. There was something to his quiet ambition and too-dead eyes.

The group fell silent when they finally reached Ankrahl. He angled his head in thanks.

I am pleased you could join us,” the First Speaker intoned, his voice barely above his usual volume. “It is time we discovered what waits for us in the dark.

“This way, Masters,” Nukar spoke up. “We’ve scouted a path into the heart of the ruin and marked it, but it’s not easy going. Though, I dare say it’s well worth the journey.”

The group followed Nukar into the yawning wound in the earth.

 

-           -           -           -           -

 

The entourage, almost a dozen strong, slowly wound their way through the sunken Fort Buarkh. Even for necromantic occultists, it was unnerving. The fort’s usual markers and features like walls, rooms, ceilings, passageways et al. were ripped, crushed, and squeezed into unusual forms by whatever catastrophe cast it into the bowels of the earth. The cleared passageway was closer to a tunnel in the earth than a hallway. Portions of walls seemed to grow out the earth on the sides, ceiling and floor ornaments were reversed, and occasionally the tunnel seemed to rotate on its side, with wall fixtures jutting from above and stick up from the ground. And yet, the phantom of a layout persisted. What now appeared to be a slope in the tunnel hinted at a grand spiral staircase, and here and there entire sideroom hallways grew out from the sides of the tunnel, almost intact.

The Inquisitor slowed his step, marvelling at the seemingly frozen ruin, letting the procession go ahead. He resumed his pace near the end of the line.

Daegui kept a straight face as the Inquisitor kept abreast.

Sir Knight, this place is breathtaking, is it not?

Daegui nodded.

“It is, my Lord.”

Look at their idols,” he smirked, as the group passed a set of toppled statues, almost unrecognisable. “Monuments to eternal glory, reduced to a legacy of rot and decay. A reminder of the weakness at the heart of their ‘ancestors’,” Nessen continued in an eerily whimsical voice.

Daegui stiffened. He clearly picked up on the Inquisitor’s meaning. He had heard rumours of increased surveillance and attention paid to the Skakdi of the Order. Was this a test?

“Imperfect and vile. While their strongholds die when they sink into the earth, the Order remains strong and pure. This ruin is a reminder and a gift,” Daegui replied evenly.

Nessen raised an eyebrow, despite himself. The Skakdi had parried the insinuation well.

Tell me, what have you heard about the gifts of this place?” Nessen probed.

Daegui cursed himself in his heart. The rumours were only just that, rumours. Was he even allowed to know of them? Was he even allowed here?

“Only what the Vizier told me when he requested my presence here,” Daegui said, carefully. If the Inquisitor wished to probe further, Nahaki would be a dead-end, with a legitimate and foolproof excuse for how Daegui heard of these things.

Nessen smiled warmly. It was a deeply unnerving sight, somehow far worse than his legendary temper.

Nahaki might be disappointed. Weapons and lore abound, as we can see, but hardly any… reagents, so to speak.

This one knows his place. Both as Knight and Skakdi.

Speaking of the Vizier, I would like to know his thoughts on… well, I really should go ask him myself. Thank you for your time, Sir Knight.

Daegui allowed himself a single gulp as the Inquisitor headed towards the Vizier. The only thing he felt was a certain indignation. The Inquisitor might fancy himself a dangerous man, but the Skakdi had worked for similar shade-whisperers for years. He had not been made Knight without stepping safely around these vipers.

 

-           -           -           -           -

 

Ankrahl heard chatter from the rest of the group but ignored it. He was focussed on the few legible carvings on the remaining stone walls. The dim light of Purple Lightstones was enough for him to read it.

We are in some sort of armoury wing. A shrine to The Brown King to the left, and what seems to be one for the Grasscutter on the right…

“Milord, watch your step,” Nukar said, his voice echoing through the tunnel. The Knight lit a Glowtorch and held it up. Ankrahl saw that the group were now at the threshold of a large chamber. The entrance stretched high up and wide, its frame reinforced with metal, still not corroded after all these years. Along its edge was marked in “proper” Skakdi lettering: Vault 23. It seemed to be out of alignment with the rest of the tunnel, and the entourage had to step over the frame that jutted up from the already uneven ground.

As they stepped in, the light of the Glowtorch, seemingly blinding earlier in the tunnel, was swallowed up by the dark, leaving only a strange… glow?- seemingly emanating from somewhere in the void. Ankrahl realised how massive this cavern -no, a veritable vault- truly was.

“You won’t believe it, but the lighting system still works.”

Nukar moved off to the side and felt along the wall. Ankrahl’s low-light vision allowed him to see that Nukar was searching for a recess in the wall, framed by some sort of unusual material.

“Here,” Nukar muttered, pushing the Glowtorch into the recess. The material surrounding the space in the hole, which Ankrahl now saw was some sort of crystal, lit up, absorbing, reflecting and seemingly intensifying the light of the Glowtorch, and he watched as the light seemed to travel along a network of veins along the walls, lighting up the entire vault with a soft glow, illuminating the contents in the vault.

Nessen stared, his tight jaw gone slack. It was not often he was taken aback, but this was… this was something else.

This truly was a gift… by the Archon!

By the Archon!

This finally got Nahaki to look up from his notes. “Amazing.” His scribbling grew more furious.

Daegui’s heart raced. This thing… he knew, deep in his bones. This ruin was more than a reminder. The dagger at its heart was a call from the past.

For him.

Ankrahl heard gasps and exclamation from the others, and he swivelled his head back towards what was now obviously the centre of the vault. His eyes widened, and for the first time in a long while, he felt his skin prickle.

In the centre of the vault, among rows of rubble, ruined machinery, and equipment so old it was unrecognisable, stood a machine that none here had ever seen, yet all instinctively understood.

It stood at thrice the height of a Skakdi, armoured in metal that drank light. Across its front was a crystalline coffin, catching light and twisting the view of its innards. In its appendages were cannons mounted with condensed hellfire, and all along its body were long, snaking vines of protosteel and unnatural alloys, which Ankhrahl knew to hold the strength of a demon.

It was an Exo-Skakdi.

The group began to chatter amongst themselves. Nahaki moved forward first, immediately sketching it out and making notes on its weaponry. The Inquisitor followed him, and Nahaki turned to the Lesterin.

“Nessen, you don’t think that’s a functioning Fire Arrow, do you? I’m not much of a weaponsmith these days, I’m afraid.”

And there I thought poison was a weapon,” Nessen absent-mindedly replied. He was much more intrigued by its internals - its transparent front made it easy to examine from outside, and the more he looked the more his amazement turned to worry.

Only a Skakdi can pilot this. It was clear from the spine-connections along the rear of the cockpit and the elemental conducting shells that lined its walls and fed into its arms.

A tapping sound drew his attention. Nahaki was tapping on it with his stylus.

The Vizier ignored the Inquisitor’s annoyed look. More than examining its armour (which the Iwikara knew was obviously about as thick as similar Exo-Skakdi models), he was carefully looking for rust or micro-particle flakes. To his surprise, there were none. Only dust flew off the surface.

Impeccably preserved.

Daegui approached too, making sure not to intrude on the examinations of one of the Lords. He could easily read the markings, and recognised it as belonging to a well-known Skakdi clan from the days of Nektann. He cracked a cold smile, as he remembered that its last known claimed descendant had died by Daegui’s hands in his days under the employ of the Nakihl.

His flesh would not have frozen so easily if he was in this.

Ankrahl slowly walked towards it. The armour seemed to shine with darkness. Its polished surface was unmarred, its mechanical gears seemingly untouched by age. Decorative markings along its side invoked the protection of the Skakdi’s Spawners, and named its builder in a coarse tongue. But one section stood out. In stylised font, in the script of what Ankrahl realised was the liturgical language gifted by Ahk’Rei-Ahan himself, he could make out an engraving along the flank of the machine:

Blessed Mount of the Archon’s Gauntlet: Lightbringer

The First Speaker almost fell back from the shock of revelation. How could this be? Why would a Skakdi of the warlords, centuries before the Archon’s return, name an Exo thus? And in this tongue? His mind raced, trying to recall if at least the title, an obscure reference in the Canon of the Archon, held any meaning to the Spine-Lords. He realised he could not recall anything off-hand, only the dreams.

This was the gift. The dreams were more literal than he thought. Here was proof of the Archon’s guidance, through space and time… but how?

This weapon… it is a tool of the unbelievers. I do not doubt the Archon has given it to our possession - but I wonder if our purpose is not to use it, but to destroy it. Lest it fall into the wrong hands.” Nessen spoke quietly, now standing beside the First Speaker. It was clear he had not seen the engraving.

Ankrahl shook his head, his mind now enraptured by the import of this moment.

No, Nessen. Every hand on this island is the wrong hands, and yet we work with what we have all the same. This… this will make those hands tremble before us."

Before Nessen could reply, a sharp noise like a metallic shriek pierced the chamber. Instinctively, all in the room raised their weapons.

Nukar cleared his throat.

“The noise has been occurring for some time, esteemed ones. It might be merely the stresses of a failing ceiling, but…”

The shriek echoed out again from the void. This time, something in Ankrahl’s soul recoiled. Nessen’s doubts took on a different edge now. The gift might not need to be destroyed, but this place…

Ankrahl gave the order.

Bring in the rest of the excavation team. Priority goes to the Exo-Skakdi, followed by any other still-functioning weaponry. Set charges and bring down this armoury and the entire ruin within the hour, whichever comes later.

Nahaki spoke up.

“But we could salvage much-”

“This fort might lead elsewhere, to the fortresses of the unbelievers. This Exo is the only remaining gift the Archon has bestowed on us here. It would be wise not to try His patience.”

Without waiting for a response, Ankrahl left the armoury.

 

-           -           -           -           -

 

An hour later

“Collapse imminent!” The voice of the excavation team leader wafted down the tunnel. Everyone was now far from the ruin of Fort Buarkh, back in the stable tunnel section leading back to the Barrowfort, the Exo-Skakdi, its equipment, and reams of parchment cataloguing the inscriptions and engravings having long since been carted off. The Acolytes had even found a few more usable weapons and small quantities of Najin, but nothing on the scale of the Exo-Skakdi.

Ankrahl waited as he heard the heavy footfalls of the excavation leader, the last to leave, as he ran back down the tunnel, putting as much distance from the ruin as he could before the fused explosives in the ruin detonated.

A dull thump reverberated through the rock, and the characteristic wooshing noise of dust blowing into the tunnel rushed out from the mouth of the tunnel, followed by the dust itself, blasting Ankrahl with a cloud of soot and gravel. As the wind died, the excavator’s footsteps could not be heard.

A minute passed. Without a word, the entourage turned and returned to the Barrowfort, their minds already focussed on the prize they had gained and little on the loss incurred.

Edited by NorikSigma
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:i::c: - TARROK

It was not a comfortable night -- I rested uneasy, waking often. The hard earth below me was uncomfortable, but I had slept on far worse. What kept me awake was my new companions: my body was not yet accustomed to their presence, and every time they stirred or moved I registered it as a potential threat. I was taking a leap here, throwing in my lot with two strangers I had only just met. That is the lot of a mercenary. To be good at this job, you need to make sure you can beat those strangers in a fight.

N'ashka, I knew I could handle, from experience now. That meant I trusted her. 

But Kildarg... it was his stirring that disquieted me the most that night. 

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--------------   Tarrok | Korzaa | Verak | Kirik   --------------

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IC:

Hm.

The witch paused in her chewing and allowed her eyes to focus anew, the query tinging the air before Deuandra's mouth with a plaintive gray. Water. Water... Her voluminous cloak shifted and rustled as she felt about her person and pockets, hand alighting on a worn canteen that she offered to the alchemist wordlessly. It wasn't purified, clearly it held within it something to give it the greenish tinge and slightly fruity smell that wafted from the mouth when the cap was removed.

"If we're leaving, Dee, I need hallucinogens. Taken in through the lungs."

fK5oqYf.jpg

 

On this eve, the thirtieth anniversary of that first colony, many are left to wonder; is the world fast approaching a breaking point?

 

 

  Breaking Point: An OTC Mecha RPG

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 12/25/2021 at 2:05 PM, Visaru said:

:i::c: - TARROK

It was not a comfortable night -- I rested uneasy, waking often. The hard earth below me was uncomfortable, but I had slept on far worse. What kept me awake was my new companions: my body was not yet accustomed to their presence, and every time they stirred or moved I registered it as a potential threat. I was taking a leap here, throwing in my lot with two strangers I had only just met. That is the lot of a mercenary. To be good at this job, you need to make sure you can beat those strangers in a fight.

N'ashka, I knew I could handle, from experience now. That meant I trusted her. 

But Kildarg... it was his stirring that disquieted me the most that night. 

IC: Klidarg - Here and elsewhere

 

He dreamed of the wind.

In the half-real haze of slumber, Klidarg could feel the cold again, if dully. It lightly grazed against his cheeks, the rest of his face covered by a mask.

No, not this mask...

The vision shifted. No longer the indistinct blur of shape, he saw the stark white of snow. Snow, all around, blanketing the ground.

No, not this again. Not here.

Sharp pain shifted his vision again. Wooden spikes dug into his forearms, spikes linked by a chain to two large Kaiakans. Red and White they were clad. The Eyrie's colours of death.

You will not take me, he wanted to shout. But the mask clamped his mouth shut, and he could but grunt.

The sensation of time passing washed over him again, and though he knew this to be a dream, it still felt as if he had skipped over hours of being dragged up the Magister's Road, up to highest peaks of the Eyrie. The ground was flat now, and the entourage had by now enlarged to more than just the chain men, a veritable host here to witness his end. They were dressed in their Hostcolours, none speaking, though several began to play ceremonial chimes.

He willed the dream to be over, to move quickly as if time was sped up. He only succeeded partially. Klidarg looked up from the blanket of snow covering the ground and saw he was now kneeled in front of a Tooth Fort, a court hastily set up in the open as the snow beat down and wind began to rise. The Kaiakans that were here to witness his end waited in a circle around the court and Klidarg. Directly in front of the chained man were several Kaiakans, weighed down by heavy robes of red and white. They wore masks of wood and bone, adorned with the symbols of the clans.

"Tlaw, Scion of Clan Beom. The ancestors are in attendance in this grave council," a voice boomed from on high.

Klidarg already knew who it was. The dream had been relived so many times.

"father..." he struggled to speak through the mask.

"The accused will not speak to the presiding magistrate," the facespeakers intoned as one.

Klidarg felt a knot tighten in his stomach.

Wake up, curse you.

He forced the dream to end, rushing past the arduous process of accusation. Again, it only partially worked. He was only half-aware of the court's back-and-forth with him as time seemed to stretch and compress. It was as if he was in his body, but watching it from the outside. Klidarg could feel the words in his mouth, playing out the same way it always did. He was not even sure if he spoke them this time. His own voice and that of the prosecuting magistrates rebounded in his mind, a rising cacophony. He knew it was useless. His fate was already decided. But the dream was yet unfinished, and had his part to play.

"...usurpation of the highest order..." "...unity of the clans..." "defiance of..." "...another way" "subverting the grand councils!" "...bleeding us..." "...rejection of the ancestors..." "...slaves in arms..."

The commotion suddenly disappeared. Klidarg was now painfully aware of inhabiting the dream again. Inside his body. The snow had piled heavily around the speakers and the court but they had not moved. The witnesses in attendance had disappeared from his periphery. Either an imperfection of the dream, or those who had come to see him die were none too pleased about the weather. He could feel acutely the snow smothering him.

His father finally stood up. The charade was over. The movement of his hand on the slab, the turn of his head. This was the moment. The one burned in Klidarg's mind.

"The accused has been found guilty of conspiracy to subvert the rule of Lord Nars of Clan Beom, of attempting to violate the Eyrie's Peace, and betrayal of the highest traditions of the clan by turning away from the path of the ancestors to that of the Spined Barbarians.

"Has the accused anything to say." Not a question. One last tainted mercy. A gift wrapped in molten iron.

"This is wrong. I have been misjudged, and the clans will suffer for continuing down this road, continuing into a slow, painful death."

"No. My clan will not burn in the fires of your ambition."

He felt the heat rise to his face again, an almost juvenile indignance.

"You are an old fool, and your idiocy will be the death of the clan."

Even in the dream, Klidarg quailed before the cold stare of his father, colder than the piles of snow threatening to smother him.

"The accused is no longer recognised as a Scion, and it no longer has a clan. Its name is stripped from its flesh and its soul no longer has a place After. It will be removed from the sight of the ancestors. Forever." His father finally pronounced. A gong sounded and the chain men abruptly pulled Klidarg up and out of the snow. The facespeakers did not even bother to chant a dirge for him.

The wind began to whistle faster into his mask as he was dragged backward. Frantically, Klidarg willed himself to wake, but he felt something blocking his mind. He was no longer conscious that he was in a dream. The fear, cold as the wind, dug into his mind.

He turned his head and saw the edge of the clearing approaching. Below was nothing but air and a long way down to the Tears. He could see the chained men, now four of them dragging him along.

Klidarg looked back to the front, and one of the facespeakers (not of his clan. He no longer earned that right) approached, mask permanently set in an expression of stern judgement, its clan symbols weaving around its frozen features. His father was gone from his high place in the Tooth.

Rage and fear mixed in his heart, a heady mix that threatened to shut his limbs down. Instinct finally kicked in, and he felt deep in his bones, that this was the end, unless he did something, anything!

No. I will not give them that satisfaction.

Klidarg stared into the facespeaker's mask as the chain men threw the weights off the side of the mountain. The chains rang as the falling weights pulled on the slack.

He stared even as the facespeaker gave him, now nameless and clanless, a meat-thing, no longer a Kaiakan in the eyes of his people, a single, hard, shove, pushing Klidarg over the cliff and into the air, into the snowflakes, into oblivion.

He dreamed of the wind.

 

OOC: @Palm @Visaru

Edited by NorikSigma
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IC: Arms [Khy'Barr]

In a nearly sagely gesture the behemoth’s triplicate gaze blinked slowly in recognition of the alchemical advice, his ponderous skull dipping in a nod as he accepted the vials, each of which looking worryingly fragile in his grasp. With a motion, the crystalline capsules disappeared into a pouch on his amalgam of armoring, and the warlord stood to what amounted to a height that the ceiling would allow. He regarded his assembled court of Khy;Barr one by one, as if mentally cataloging those which he planned on leaving with… or perhaps judging who would survive the trip.

Come,” his voice boomed, reverberating against the stone slab walls of Deuandra’s abode beneath the mountain, “Many nights before rest.”

And at that he was moving, a single stride taking him nearly to the door of the vaporous den, and then another taking him down to the maze of stone passageways and stairs which dotted the interior of the mountainside. His march onward, so assured, was as if the titan was guided by a marker visible only to himself, towards a destination and for an objective which he alone was privy to.

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IC: Shavrakk - The Foot of the Jaw; the Lip of the Rift

Your average Skakdi would proudly proclaim that it wasn't wise to stand with one’s back to a sheer cliff face, that it was surely inviting death at the merest slip of one’s footing or tremor of earth. Doubly so if that drop a mere bio away was straight down into the Rift. They would claim that one has imbibed more than one’s share of Cactus; one is delivering oneself straight into the clutches of Irnakk; one is a fool, a Heu:Nii, or some epithet or another.

The average Skakdi also ate so carelessly odds were that he would choke to death on a bone before he saw his fifth decade. Shavrakk was standing with his back to the Rift anyway.

If you stood the wrong way ‘round, nobody could approach stealthily from the rear, snatch your goods and give you a hearty shove to your likely death just for good measure without you seeing them. Not to mention it was the carking Rift of all places. The less you looked at it, the better your odds were of making it to that fabled fifty. Neither of these reasons were specifically why the scout was doing what others would jeer at him for. Held up to his hood-shrouded eyes were his scopes binoculars, peering up at a fairly steep angle towards the mountains west of where he stood - up towards the crest of the Jaw. From this middling point of purgatory between what could possibly be described as funhouse mirror versions of heaven and hеll, it was heavenward that Shavrakk could only barely spy the myriad structures of Irnakk’s Tooth, the closest thing he had to a home. Home shouldn’t smell like stale pіss and burning garbage. It might to the average Skakdi, though.

If he was correct, that lump of gray and bronze just barely visible over one of the peaks was the sprawling manse of Warlord-Whomever-the-Fuсk, because Shavrakk hadn’t bothered to remember his name. He was pretty sure the only reason the Warlord asked him to scout the Rift was because he was feeling bored and wanted to see if the Le-Skakdi would return a gibbering, incoherent mess, if he would return at all. This was only Shavrakk’s third outing into the Rift, but he intended to fulfill the second of those wishes and toss the first. He’d check the divide out for a day or two, trudge back up the mountain, and just tell the gate guards “I’m here to see your Master” or some such formality. Whether he’d get a refresher on the name was up in the air, but regardless he’d make sure to give monumentally bad intel if he got stiffed like he suspected he would. Then he could ask for the name once he got back into town and spit it into the dirt along with the rest of the refuse. He just wanted to get one last look at the place in the mountains…

Cool air drifted down from the peaks above tingling his face and spine beneath his garments, and Shavrakk huffed, lowering the binoculars satisfied that his fantasizing had got him sufficiently motivated to see the guy’s face again. It was always a gamble when going into the Rift, and he’d be lying if the place didn’t make him nervous. One of these days, he’d lose that gamble; not this time, though. He’d will himself to survive, as the saying went. He tilted his head down and surveyed the desolate rocky plateau between the mountains towering upward before him and the titan chasm behind. Satisfied that there was no such opportunist to send him down into the Rift quicker than he had planned, Shavrakk spun on his heel and now did as the average Skakdi would do. The sun was still high, so the stabbing silicate fingers of the Rift did not yet trail their long shadows behind them in a haunting depiction of the grasping, clawing specters of Kvere;lvi that sought to drag the unwary down to their forsaken depths. No, right now, they formed their own mottled claws of raw stone with pumping veins of antidermis. Comparatively peaceful.

Checking first and assuring that his leather had not somehow become sullied just by sheer proximity to this accursed place, he began to walk as he was so accustomed to doing, following the jagged lip of the Rift. After some time spent studying the cliff edge before him as he went, and a handful of promising but ultimately fruitless options, a suitable path down to the canyon floor was located. His palm unconsciously rested on the handle of his revolver as Shavrakk began his descent down, down, down into the place the average Skakdi spoke much of but feared to tread.

Edited by Perp
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On 10/31/2021 at 1:21 AM, Ghosthands said:

IC

"All right." said Vekus. "I think he'll be interested. No promises, mind. But I'll get your offer to him, and let you know what he says. I think one of his faster couriers is in town — should take a day or so to hear back."

IC: Kalzok and Vekus - Outside the Squal

Kalzok nodded, relieved.

That’s good to hear.

The silence stretched out again, but it was not altogether unpleasant.

Well, I’m not sure I can beat the crowd right now. Maybe in a few hours, when things have settled a bit in the Squal.

The comment caught the Thaumaturge by surprise. He watched as she shifted her weight from one leg to the other, her eyes focused on the crystal.

You don’t happen to have any plans in mind until then do you?

Without thinking, Kalzok replied:

Actually, I was thinking if you would like to catch up on old times. That is, if you’d like,” he added.

Vekus looked up, surprised at the offer.

I can start with explaining my spine.

Okay, yeah, that would be great, actually.

***

The conversation was long, and as the hours passed, they left the now dead campfire and decided to rest inside one of the abandoned huts, picking the one that seemed least like it was eaten by the earth.

They spend some time verifying the crystal again, making scratchings and diagrams to convey the information back to the Broker. Kalzok even handed over an inactive shard he’d dug up from the undisturbed ruin. Not precious enough to be tossed away to the Broker for free, but enough to verify that there was indeed a new ruin.

The rest of the night was a pleasant evening, as pleasant as one spent with an ex-husband could be, with the din of the processions and rituals slowly fading throughout the night. Vekus was glad she managed to bring two bottles of scratch-ale. Nowhere near as strong as Irnakk;Pii (or really, any drink that wasn’t flavoured Lesteri:Nii dew drops), but then again, Vekus knew Kalzok never did appreciate the harder stuff. This suited them both fine.

They were going through the last bottle when she finally asked:

Have you been doing anything else other than mutilating your spine for occult powers?

Kalzok leaned back, seeming to deflate into his cloak. He seemed smaller now, less intimidating.

I might ask the same of you. I doubt the Broker leaves his agents time for frivolous activities.

Vekus was silent. Did Kalzok just imply this was a waste of time?

What the is his problem?

"Sod off,” she growled.

Kalzok looked up.

What?

She bit her tongue and sighed. My nerves really are getting worse.

Never mind.

The silence was smothered by another swig from the bottle. Vekus stared out into the night.

Well, if you must know, employment under the Broker is a flexible work arrangement, but we don’t exactly choose the hours. Sometimes it’s nothing but running from angry warlords for weeks on end. Other times, staving off boredom in a safehouse is what occupies your attention.

Surely there’s other amenities near these safehouses.

Mhm. Especially if it’s the Tooth or Zarrava-“ she stopped herself, turning slowly to look at Kalzok, her mouth slightly agape.

Did you just-

Kalzok gave a short, sharp laugh.

Relax, I was not fishing for information. Just… honestly wanted to know if work was treating you well.

Kalzok looked away, which Vekus was glad for, since he wouldn’t see her expression.

Get a grip. Stop blushing like a Lester:nii fishwife. You’re not even a wife anymore!

She cleared her throat.

Thank you for your concern, but as far as things go, working for the Broker is a savoury gig. That’s enough out of me though,” she continued, passing the bottle to Kalzok. He took the hint and the bottle.

Robbing tombs, skulking in caves and delving dungeons does not leave one with much spare time, I must admit,” Kalzok said in between sips of the bottle. Vekus couldn’t help but grin when she saw his curled lip upon tasting the liquor.

Still have a preference for cadaverol?

Heh. I have grown to like that sludge a lot more these days.

The pair shared a laugh. The silence that followed was not altogether unpleasant, she thought.

***

They continued talking until the bottle was drained. It was the twilight watch, the watch just before dawn. The noise from the Squal had indeed settled down to a low buzz. Before dawn came, there would be another round of discordant chanting and music as the Covens prepared their new arrivals for the upcoming weeks of tests and rites.

Kalzok was quietly staring at his shotgun, still surprised at its condition, when he heard Vekus speak up.

Alright, I suppose it’s time I went and talked to the courier.

Kalzok turned away from the hat and nodded.

Thank you again for relaying my message. And for saving my belongings.

Vekus nodded in return and began to pack up her belongings into her bags.

Take good care of that gun. And like I said, no promises on the message, but my judgement is that the Broker will at least not dismiss this out of hand.

He noticed that she stopped after that.

Kalzok, I… after I pass the information over, the courier will continue communication with you. I will have to go, after that. Away, I mean. I have another assignment from the Broker.

I understand.

The words seemed to stop after they left Kalzok’s mouth.

He didn’t know what else to say. How far is it? How long will it take? Will you be safe?

They were no longer… together. Surely it made no sense to prod about this. And it was clear Vekus did not appreciate it when he tried earlier in the night.

Vekus-“he started.

She looked up from her sack, her eyes as still as the moons.

It is good to see you again.

Vekus cracked the old half-smile, wry and satisfied. A smile that brought back memories. She slung her pack over her shoulder and stood up, heading to the doorway of the hut. She stopped and looked back.

Likewise.

He watched as she left the hut, walking towards the horizon. He continued to watch even as she disappeared, finally falling asleep as dawn broke.

OOC: @Ghosthands Vekus delivering message to the courier and ready to begin her own assignment

Edited by NorikSigma
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IC: Klidarg

It had been several days since the Kaiakan had made his pact with the two Skakdi. They had been making their way down from the Jaw at a reasonable pace: Klidarg led the way and made sure the footpaths they had chosen were at least traversable by N'ashka's condition. The going was slower than Klidarg liked, but it gave them leeway to resupply from streams and copses.

His fellow travellers were a satisfactory bunch, all things considered. Tarrok was still guarded, but at least there was little hostile intent. The Blade-Wife was laser-focussed on the task at hand, and while it made her impatient, it also made her willing to put up with the inevitable difficulties of traversing the Jaw length-wise. Not a bad trade.

Their skills had also come in handy. As they left the unspoken peace of the Tooth and reached the lower passes of the Jaw, passers-by were replaced by wary vagabonds, which were in turn replaced by full-fledged marauders. Two separate gangs of the latter had attempted to hold up the trio, but even now Klidarg was satisfied to see that the dismissive attitude most warlords had of "crotch jumpers" (bandits inhabiting the Jaw and Badlands) still held true: they were dispatched without loss nor wound to the trio, though not without some effort.

"Unworthy," Tarrok had simply muttered, at the end of the second fight, cleaning his Sword Hammer.

"Do not underestimate them," N'ashka had replied simply.

"At least we know who will not be given the privilege of employment," Klidarg had added, though his words rang hollow even to himself. Sure, if the wanderers here were no threat, that meant re-establishing his fort (or merely taking shelter) would pose little trouble. But it did not bode well for the quality of bravo that they could hire in this region.

Presently, Klidarg led the group down a steep path seemingly cut into the rocky hills, the sides of the path rising several feet above the travellers, giving some welcome shade from the oppressive sun. Klidarg wanted to say he recognised the path, but though this place was presently empty of souls, the continual destruction and reconstruction of the landscape that even a fistful of Skakdi could do, coupled with the tumultuous winds that rushed down from the Jaw into the Nameless Plain that Klidarg once inhabited meant that whatever geographical knowledge he had was likely outdated by now.

He was the first to clear the pass and exit the high-walled path. N'ashka muttered something approving about the shade from behind but he was too distracted by the ruin less than a hundred feet away. Klidarg pulled Starslayer from his side as he called back to the group. Its walls were torn down, its foundations uprooted, and the central hold was nothing more than a few stones stacked into what appeared to be a makeshift dwelling, but there was no denying:

"We're here."

OOC: @Visaru @Palm

Edited by NorikSigma
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IC: N'ashka Akkataka - Eastern Zakaz - Abandoned Fort

N'ashka felt a new brush of wind and the familiar sensation of the beating sun on her back as she stepped outside of the protection of the wall. She listened to Klidarg's breathing as she stopped at his side. The signs she would typically use to try and get a beat on somebody weren't gone with her sight, not totally. There were many things to learn, to rethink, and to retrain.

"What do you think?" N'ashka asked both her companions. She herself would inspect what she could with her hands, but there was no hearing the old fort this time.


OOC: @Visaru @NorikSigma

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:i::c: - TARROK 

Over the last few days, Kildarg, N’ashka, and I made our way from Irnaakk’s jaw into the badlands. It is familiar territory for me: mercenaries have a lot of work to do here on the battlefields that make up this shattered landscape.

I have heard it said that the mountains of Irnakk’s jaw once stretched all the way to the coast, dotted with scenic valleys filled with lush trees and Rahi found nowhere else in the island. Warlords lived here in unassailable fortresses, hidden in the valley forests or high on mountain peaks. The difficulty in finding and wiping out these warlords finally enraged a would-be conquerer of these lands, so he mobilized a hundred Skakdi of rock and a hundred Skakdi of stone, and then leveled the entire landscape, mountain by mountain, until there was nowhere left for his enemies to hide.

I doubt it happened like that, but there is something to the tale that rings true about this war-torn land: the battles of Skakdi warlords have left their indelible scars on the landscape, and I have no doubt the practicalities of war have razed a thousand beautiful things here

One of these destroyed treasures was Kildarg's fort. Like the legendary mountains, its imposing strength was now reduced to nothing more than a pile of stones.

“What do you think?” N’ashka asked me, when I laid my eyes on it for the first time.

I told her that “it is a ruin, nothing more than an expanse rubble, the last remnants of a once mighty fort. There is some kind of hut made of stacked rock in the center there. Not original construction. Someone is living here. They may know something. They may try to kill us. Either way, we must address them."

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--------------   Tarrok | Korzaa | Verak | Kirik   --------------

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IC: Klidarg - Eastern Zakaz - Abandoned Fort

“What do you think?” N’ashka asked.

“It is a ruin, nothing more than an expanse rubble, the last remnants of a once mighty fort. There is some kind of hut made of stacked rock in the center there. Not original construction. Someone is living here. They may know something. They may try to kill us. Either way, we must address them."

Klidarg grunted his agreement, though he felt a slight sting at his ego regarding the state of the fortress. True, it had not even been originally his, and it was no shame that it was in this state after such a long (for this region, anyway) period of neglect, but it was still, for a while, home.

Before Klidarg could tell Tarrok to split up and approach the small hut from another angle, three Skakdi seem to pounce into the open, roughly 30 feet ahead, from the craggy ruins into the only open clearing between the travellers and the structure. They were dressed in torn armour of different hues and brandished a series of eclectic blades. None of these concerned the Kaiakan but their eyes gave him pause. They had the intense hunger and fear of cornered predators. They would fight for this place unless Kaiakan and his compatriots could somehow talk them down.

A holler came from the top of the hills behind them. Klidarg whirled around and saw two Skakdi at the top of the steep walls they had just passed, crouched against the sky, further off than the three Skakdi were from the travellers. Klidarg instinctually raised his bow to his eye and pulled the string back, the mechanism of Starslayer whirring as light seem to coalesce from the surroundings into a shining bolt nocked in the bow. Klidarg cursed himself silently for missing the two that had no doubt been shadowing them.

Drop your weapons!” one of the Skakdi in the clearing called out.

Three in front beyond the rubble, thirty feet. Two behind up on the hills,” Klidarg spoke, loud enough for N’ashka to hear.

Don’t try anything!” One of the two from above called out.

How would you two prefer to deal with this? I am amenable to wounds or words,” Klidarg asked his two companions.

OOC: @Palm @Visaru

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IC: Verakastian - Fortress Khy;Barr

Now was his chance. Go! Run, Verakastian!

Without uttering a word, he cut through the sickly nimbus permeating the entirety of the laboratory, a phantasmal affair of the scented steam billowing from one of a dozen crocks mixing with the acrid stench of ovuk-taht smoked one after another. He gave the proprietors of those vapours as wide a berth as he could in the confined space and bounded up the steps out into the wider Foundries of his Master’s domain. He felt safer with the titan than with those other four, and liberating himself of their company for even a few minutes would surely soothe the throbbing pain behind his eyes and calm the hammering of his heart against ribs.

“My Lord,” he started as he caught up with the seismic footfalls, “will you be needing anything else for your journey? Perhaps some tomes from your library? A shipment of weapons? We have a full crate of Pikes ready to send out to the Broker. O-or perhaps some liquor? I can send Larex to fetch some from Gohkar…”

Any excuse to call him away for those precious few minutes.

 

___ __ _

 

IC: Shavrakk - The Rift

Creeping cautiously into the capricious crevasse, Shavrakk’s eyes darted this way and that, flicking between jagged stalagmites in anticipation of being accosted by any sort of abyssal horror or mundane interloper should they jump out from behind them - either was as equally likely here as any other strange occurrence. Past visits to the Rift had yielded unto him merely optical illusions and minor hallucinations, but he admittedly hadn’t stayed within the boundaries of this cursed place for long, ensuring his guard was up and his mental fortitude was unblemished at every available opportunity. He would continue doing so now and in future visits until the technique proved inadequate. 

His footfalls seemed to become heavier as he reached the canyon floor, his boots penetrating deeper into the loose soil than felt normal. Grimacing, Shavrakk’s scanning ceased momentarily as his gaze shot downward upon his footwear to ensure he was not, indeed, sinking too deep and sullying his soles. Both satisfied and concerned that it was a mere trick of the mind, he continued scanning for danger and quickly found it when, rounding the corner of a rocky outcropping, he spied the edge of a pool of antidermis.

The bubbling ichor gave him pause. Welling up out of a broken stalagmite, the inky-black fluid pumped out in arterial spurts, complexifying the maelstrom patterns of its pearlescent greenish skin. The rhythmic nature of its expulsion drove thoughts into his mind of an evil heart moving the fluid deep within the recesses of the earth, giving life to the Rift itself. As Shavrakk stood contemplating a few bio away, the pool grew and grew as more antidermis coalesced aboveground and the mesmerizing eddies and currents almost invisible within it captured his attention. He resisted the temptation to examine it more closely, his fingers wrapping tighter around the carven bone of his revolver’s handle as was habit when he sensed danger. At last he tore his eyes away and turned on his heel, staring up at the canyon wall and the jagged path that had brought him down into the Rift proper. Presently he could not help but notice the way the daggers of stone towered up and seemed to close over him - as if Irnakk himself had been felled here and Zakaz made from his bones, his ribs becoming the stalagmites of the Rift and enclosing around him like a caged beast. The words “Irnakk has you now” echoed endlessly in the recesses of his mind, even after his thoughts became occupied with other matters. It did not help to allay his conceptions of geological anatomy.

It was as bad an omen as any, though real bones were quite common in the Rift if one were to search carefully enough. If they were not those of Irnakk, they were those of mortals whose souls had left their carcasses behind and plunged into Kino-Ur to dissipate into featurelessness or otherwise. Spectres invisible to him were certainly watching as Shavrakk made a mental note of where exactly he had entered the Rift, and continued deeper in, counting his paces as he went. The sizzling of the spreading antidermis soon quieted behind him.

* * *

An hour later, his eyes were once again staring out through the lenses of his binoculars, analyzing the knotted and twisted rock formations to the southeast, a dark orifice opening within its cobbled face - a mouth, a cave, opened wide to the world and swallowing all light that entered. It was a foreboding sight, and Shavrakk loathed to study it longer than he had to. The light itself was dimming. Ragged gray clouds had tumbled in and now blanketed the sky, softening the edges of the Rift’s aggressive shadows after the sun had changed its angle from ninety degrees overhead. It was some mild comfort against the unnerving sight of the cave in the distance. He’d decide whether or not it was worth entering as he made a closer approach. The binoculars were lowered and impacted upon his chest with a thump as he released them, the strap catching the back of his neck. He let them rest there and pound out a rhythm as his pace increased from a standstill and he continued his trek.

It was after a few minutes at a brisk pace that his eye was caught by a peculiar marking on the ground a short distance away - a dark spot in the soil, distinct from its surroundings. It neither bulged above the surface in the angular fashion of a waylaid item or queer rock nor roiled and twitched in the apparent motion of antidermis. The question of what it was lingered in his conscious for the minute or two it took him to stride over and check, determining before he was directly upon it that it was a stain. It was only after the Skakdi knelt down to examine it more closely that it revealed to him a worse omen.

The stain was blood. Old enough to have soaked into the ground, but fresh enough to not have completely dried. A grimace twisted itself across Shavrakk’s face and his stomach turned, uneasy at the implications. It was not unlike the Rift to induce trickery upon the minds of unwary visitors, but he couldn’t help but feel it was real blood, shed only recently by a real being. He dared not speculate on what exactly had transpired here. The Skakdi righted himself, smacking the leathers of his knee where it had touched the soil until it was without evidence of dirt - he would scrub it later when he made camp, and more thoroughly in one of the hostels of the Tooth when his business in the Rift was concluded. A shiver once again wracked his body as a blast of cool wind swept down from the clouds, screeching as it wove itself through the myriad stony spires and fluttered the fringe of his hood, threatening to push it back and expose his head. Wanting to ensure that this did not occur, Shavrakk turned himself away from the wind’s origin, and in doing so laid his eyes upon another such bloodstain, a few bio away from the first, partially obscured behind a loose stone.

His thumb idly brushed against his revolver’s holster, his hand again twitching closer to the grip with every beat of his heart. He could feel the pounding on his chest, though now he was standing still and the binoculars were motionless - the pounding was from within. He strode towards the new splotch of blood, and spied yet another beyond it, larger and with small chunks of viscera scattered nearby. Another stain lay beyond that, larger still and with more viscera. And another beyond that, and so on.

He glanced behind him, to the northwest, spotting another link in the trail of blood, smaller and wetter. The next was almost imperceptible, a mere few drops some ten or so paces away. There was no other evidence he could find beyond that - a dead end. He spun on his heel to again face the demarcated dotted line of increasing gore and spotted the terminus in the distance. It was a familiar sight: a much larger dark spot, perpendicular to the rest and without wetness of blood nor bits of flesh and bone in accompaniment. It was the open mouth of that dark cave set into the tumble of stone to the southeast. It was waiting for its next meal.

Edited by Perp
big shav in little rift
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  • 1 month later...

IC: N'ashka Akkataka - Eastern Zakaz - Abandoned Fort

N'ashka took one step forwards, "I am Ash;tak, the blind," she began, "And I'm willing to offer you a proposition, Skakdi," she slowly reached for her collapsible sword and carefully pulled it out for her enemies to see, "If one of you can best me in melee combat, you may keep this sword-" It made a soft 'thhh-ink!' noise as the blade extended from the hilt, no doubt catching the hot sun in a flash, "and you may take these teeth," she continued, sticking a clawed finger into her mouth to reveal her metallic incisors and canines, "I'll even yank them out for you myself."

N'ashka pulled off her cloak and tossed it onto the ground, "But if I best you," N'ashka's grin widened and crackled with small sparks as the electric teeth were pressed together. She sunk her blade into the ground in front of her, one hand on the hilt, chest rising, "I'll give you a head start when it's time for you to run."

She turned a little towards where she thought her own Skakdi still stood, and spoke with a quiet intensity, imagining the magnetic field around her sword. She would need her control over magnetism if she were to stand a chance, "Lend me your power, Tarrok."

It had only been a few days since N'ashka was blinded, and sparring an ally was much different than fighting an enemy who had the intent to steal or even kill, but she wasn't just talk. If they took her up on her offer, everyone here would see that.


If mere skids like these could kill me today, then I shouldn't get to live tomorrow.


But, it wasn't up to N'ashka. For all she knew, a bolt would whistle through the air right now and split through her throat, and she'd die choking on her own blood, clutching at her neck, gasping for air like some weak animal. It would be a more honorable state than the one Garsi left her in. She simply awaited their response, and prepared herself for anything.

OOC: @Visaru @NorikSigma

Edited by Palm
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samusbzpsig2.png.4c2dcd02e48c2219fb375b936c4a17ee.png
| BZPRPG Profiles |

 

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:i::c: - TARROK

I recall feeling a strange sense of pride for the skids lurking near the old fort. It was a good trap: the Skakdi with bows on the ridge behind us were well hidden from sight, difficult to reach, and had an excellent shot. In seconds we could be dead. Although the ramifications of that knowledge set my heart pounding, I did not think we'd lose the fight. I calculated that I could rush the ones on the hill using the grappling hook device on my left forearm. Most warriors don’t recognize it at first, and it can move me much faster than my bulk leads my enemies to expect, which would get me close to the archers and allow me to best them in close combat with my Sword-Hammer. Meanwhile, N’Ashka could cross blades with the warriors on the plain below, and Kildarg could keep me covered with his bow.

But that is not how things went. Instead, N’ashka bravely stepped forward and announced a new plan, an unexpected one, but a famous and an honorable one: a duel. 

7 hours ago, Palm said:

Then she turned a little towards where she thought her own Skakdi still stood, and spoke with a quiet intensity ... "Lend me your power, Tarrok."

Or, perhaps, not so honorable. No matter. We are not Kaiakan. We are Skakdi. It is victory that matters, not honor. Even among Skakdi, I am the wrong man to look to for scruples. I am a mercenary. Morals are not my trade.

So, silently and subtly, I reached out into the world, where I found N’ashka’s will already waiting for me. I met and joined that part of her mind that was outside of herself, in the world, and in that space outside of heads our wills joined together. The world too was in tune with our thoughts, part of us: I sensed the magnetic field bloom around her blade as if I too could control it, and my elemental power worked in complete tandem with hers as if the two elements were only two sides of the same coin: the air in the magnetic field slowly twisted, writhed, and spun in tune with the fluctuations of the field and our own thoughts. (Although my armor is the color of earth, I am a Skakdi of air. I will write of how I lost the green hue to my armor another time, for you will no doubt like to hear how this duel resolved first.)

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--------------   Tarrok | Korzaa | Verak | Kirik   --------------

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IC:

Their lord and master had spoken, all that remained was to obey. To do so in a timely fashion required that she dispense with some courtesy and grab what she needed herself. The witch pressed her canteen into Deaundra's hand with a care belied by her hand's sinister guise, patting it lightly once for emphasis, and slid off of her perch to gather what she needed. She did so quickly, without much time for lengthy consideration, as the titanic master of Khy;Barr's rumbling footsteps tinted her vision in waves of earthy tones. She pocketed an array of leaves and blossoms, somewhere within the folds of her cloak, trusting her own memory to sort them out later. Or her immunity to their effects should that fail.

There was little else to be done to prepare. The small creature of bones rattled into her person as well, into some small compartment of the fabric, and she took one last, slow drag on her ovuk-taht before smothering it between the thumb and index of her right hand. The ash was absently wiped on her thigh and the trash deposited in the bin of Deuandra's rejects before she began, at a more leisurely pace than Verakastian, to follow their master.

The feeling of her arms swinging freely at her sides, even if they did clink and clank, was enough to make any manner of errand worthwhile.

@sunflower@Perp@Razgriz@Haman Karn: A Magical Girl

fK5oqYf.jpg

 

On this eve, the thirtieth anniversary of that first colony, many are left to wonder; is the world fast approaching a breaking point?

 

 

  Breaking Point: An OTC Mecha RPG

 

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  • 1 month later...
On 1/31/2022 at 5:45 PM, Perp said:

IC: Verakastian - Fortress Khy;Barr

“O-or perhaps some liquor? I can send Larex to fetch some from Gohkar…”

IC:

"Whit d'ye mean fetch, lad? A'm right 'ere!"

Gohkar might have been oddly silent compared to his usual self, but he certainly hadn't left the entourage by any means.

profiles i guess

i'm a south american giant otter now

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

OOC: sorry for the delay, but I'm finally free! @Visaru @Palm

IC: Klidarg

"Well? Who's first? Don't tell me you're too scared to fight?" Klidarg called out to the Skaks. Inwardly, he smiled at the blade-wife's plan.

The leader of the Skakdi in the clearing, obviously bristling at the N'ashka's challenge. He dropped his makeshift spear and unsheathed a weapon from his back. Klidarg was surprised to realise he recognise it: a replica of Crescent Scythe, Nektann's legendary weapon.

"I am Reekla, scion of Nektann:Dii. Chief and Warlord of this warband. I accept your challenge, Ash;tak. May the ancestors favour the worthy, and the defeated find a place in Kino-Ur," he repeated the customary challenge.

Klidarg continued to keep an eye on the ambushers from behind, his bow still drawn.

"Compatriots," Klidarg whispered. "If you are in need of my bow... call me." The Kaiakan felt a pang of excitement and even devious pleasure in the possibility of... unfair assistance. Enough that he almost forgot how unlike a Kaiakan this behaviour was.

Almost.

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Posted (edited)

OOC: DOUBLE POST BECAUSE NEW SOFTWARE DOESNT LET US DELETE POSTS AND I POSTED A DRAFT ACCIDENTALLY

 
IC: Kalzok - Squal Outskirts

On 4/23/2022 at 7:23 PM, Ghosthands said:

I accept your offer. I will have an excavation team and escort ready within a week, together with the necessary equipment and supplies. Come to the Warrens and you may lead them to the location.

I look forward to doing business with you.

- V.

Kalzok smiled. The Broker was a reasonable man, after all. He thanked the messenger, a scrawny runt of a Skak, with a single mitt of currency. The kid smiled a toothy grin and disappeared. Kalzok got to his feet and packed his stuff, before exiting the abandoned hut for good.

In the days since he'd waited for the message, Kalzok had toured the Squal, taking in the old sights and sounds of the benighted town. It was a rotting, decaying, broken mess; its zealots were as zealous as ever, its deprived as poor as ever and its 'fixers' as incompetent as ever. The processions in the past week had led to clashes between rival Nakihl cults that resulted in dozens of casualties.

Home sweet home.

Alas, it was a home he would have to leave. And soon, Kalzok told himself, as he hurried south, away from the shanty-tropolis and back to the coast. He took one more look back at the Squal before hurrying away from the angry mob of Nakihl attendants on the horizon, looking to avenge their casualties on one of the men who'd caused it.

OOC: Kalzok to Westside to meet Broker

Edited by NorikSigma
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  • 2 months later...

IC: Shind Qorl Larin - The Rift

 

Qorl   

      had

       

           fallen

       

                 a

                 

                 long

       

                  way

 

                  down,

                   but he had seldom been so far below sea level as this. That thought betrayed him for what he was, and he felt like a lost child before it. How Seprillian it was of him to reckon things by sea level; how ill befitting Lamo-Lyco-Zakaz. But he was on Zakaz now. He would have chuckled, had he not been keeping silent. It was worse than that, in fact. Qorl was inside Zakaz. In his mind he could see the view that would face him, if only he were to tilt his gaze some ninety degrees upward. The jagged crags of the Rift blacking out the sky in triangular swathes. They weren't just stone, though, no. Qorl could see nothing but two rows of great and pointed teeth. He was within the mouth of the Skakdi themselves, of Irnakk:Dii himself.

By that, of course, he was saying nothing more than saying he was inside Zakaz. The two might as well be the same, separate examples of one identity, a fact which seemed so obvious to him now. In their legends the Skakdi claimed to have built Zakaz by hand. On Zakaz, it would be hard to believe otherwise, and not just because for Qorl to openly contradict the Skakdi narratives would be dangerous. The land was very much like the people.

Past the giant's dentition a crooked line of blue sky was visible. He imagined it brighter than it ever was on Seprilli, framed in contrast with the blackened stone of the Rift. It had to be hard to blame him for running, didn't it? Didn't it? If he had stayed he wouldn't be seeing any more of the sky than this. He would not see the sky as a few bright columns in a high barred window. And that was if he was lucky, they might just as easily have killed him. House arrest if his family considered him worth doing something illicit, which he doubted. Better to disown upon burial. Cross his name from any records they could reach. His people were nothing if not pragmatic.

All his rage at them was long spent. All his rage at that was long spent. He exhausted it in perfect darkness, as can only be found while creeping about in a ship's hold at night. Sipping brackish water to wash down rotten rations and discarded crumbs. And then he had slipped out to find himself on Zarrava's docks. The pirates and bandits and Skakdi couldn't care less where he came from or why. What reason could he have to be angry in their eyes? And so he was primed to accept one fact: he would have done the same thing. On Zakaz, pragmatism begat survival. For months he made that his policy.

Do anything you have to do to survive.

Walk out of there in one piece.

To karzhani with whatever comes after.

And yet, in that moment, he felt some of that old fire rise up within him. Though he was lying prone, his muscles tensed like a coiled spring. For a week he had fled across the wasteland. For two days he had chanced much movement only by night, sneaking some food and drink from his rations when he could be sure he was unobserved. For half an hour he had pressed his body close to the earth and done little more than breathe. All because of a bandit raid that had at first well, then gone very far south as soon as it was time to divide the loot. He had been sure at the time that, if he made it to the Rift, the place's reputation would be enough to dissuade any pursuit.

But then he had caught sight of a Skakdi, some hundred bio away across a field of jagged stones, and wondered. Had they found someone brave enough, someone violent enough, to chase him right into the Rift? For the better part of an hour he had just kept wondering, and watched unmoving as the Skakdi wound his way across his field of view. In tense repose, he questions wandered beyond the Rift. Had he been taking the wrong lessons from Zakaz? The Skakdi formed Zakaz and Zakaz formed them and they were not a pragmatic people. And Qorl had just continued living as if he were still drinking bilgewater. What had he been doing?

He couldn't quite see what he had to do, but he knew he needed to move to figure it out. And then Qorl did tilt his gaze up, as if to confirm his mental image. The dental aspect of the Rift's pointed protrusions was not as obvious in reality, but the resemblance was certainly there. The sky visible beyond really was a bright and pale blue. He dropped his gaze back down. The Skakdi hadn't visibly moved, but they could easily have noticed even that small movement. Qorl did not feel afraid. He could see the dark arcs of the teeth; he was standing at the edge of the great mouth. Where were his family? Where was Seprilli? He could answer that question. They were somewhere deep within that titanic gullet. But now, from where Qorl stood, he could see the sky. He only needed to keep moving, and he would surely reach the outside.

So move he did.

Qorl leapt to his feat, drew his revolver, and took off running. He laughed as he ran. His joints, stiff from stillness seemed to creak and cry out. He darted up and down crags of blackened stone, only his sandals keeping his feet from being shredded with abrasions. Dust and sand, kicked up by his sprinting swirled about him. But when he was close, close enough that the Skakdi condensed from anonymity into individual, particular being, Qorl slowed. He stepped only a few more paces, then stopped completely, his legs seeming to grow flexible beneath him. He raised his idle hand to his forehead, shading his vision, and let the other hand, and the weapon in it, drop harmlessly to his side. Beneath his hand he raised one eyebrow, and the corners of his mouth turned upwards into an incredulous smile.

"I'm sorry, but, don't I know you?"

 

OOC: @Perp

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  • 2 weeks later...

IC: Shavrakk - The Rift

Footsteps. Distorted and warped, but unmistakable nonetheless. The signals traveling from his ears to his brain were numbed, blurred into a dull tympanic thunder by whatever dark machinations permeated the Rift… but Shavrakk recognized the rhythm. Even through the befogged stupor, there were the telltale signs that set apart a gait from simple meter. Recognition was immediately replaced by fear. That lag, the extra time it took for the signal to reach his mind? It meant he was dead. Just another pile of bones and carnage left to rot in this godforsaken place, like the piles of viscera cookie-crumb-trailing towards another avenue of death. His last thoughts were, “I can’t fuсking believe this shіt.” In another life, he would’ve been a poet.

When death did not immediately come, instinct took control. Perhaps whatever was microseconds away from killing him was also delayed by similar forces, allowing his hand, already resting upon the ivory grip of his revolver, ample time to free the weapon from its holster. So far so good. He was not yet mangled, crushed, eviscerated nor poisoned (especially unlikely). As far as he could tell, none of his limbs had been severed, nor had his head, which would’ve been most unfortunate. At last, the revolver cleared leather as he began his turn. Both velocity and the gusting of wind as his body rotated contributed to blowing his hood clear and exposing his head to the elements. It would also make for a cleaner slice - so it was, on some level, a welcome development. His killer was just coming into view now, but his eyes still had not adjusted, and the figure was still blurred at the edges of his perception. The sensation of falling overwhelmed him before he could begin to analyze the grey-ish blob. Was he shot? Had he been knocked over? Oh, no, he was just dropping to one knee to better stabilize his aim. See, there was his other hand coming up to meet the one gripping the gun just now! His movement was still involuntary - he hoped it’d return soon. This was agonizing.

The being was coming into focus, and his other senses started to pick up the slack. It was something thin and ragged, beat to hеll and back, odd-smelling. Could’ve been his old mattress. Ah, yes. Of course, it’s a Lesterin. That explains a few things. Things were becoming clearer now - literally. Facial features: mouth moving, a smirk behind the motion. Clothing that had, at some point, been valuable. The gun.

The gun.

Fortunately, it was not pointed in his direction at the moment. Shavrakk could feel the firm grip of instinctual movement loosen a tiny bit, and it took a concerted effort for his finger not to clamp down on the trigger of his own weapon. Had he been a bit clearer-headed, he would’ve heard the footsteps - those telltale sounds which he certainly would have identified as Lesterin in origin - much sooner, circumventing this whole adrenaline-fueled, Rift-addled song and dance. The Lesterin’s mouth movements had since ceased. Only now were the spoken words being parsed by the Skakdi’s brain. Like the analyses which had riddled his mind in the few moments past, it was a question of recognition.

His arms slackened, his aim loosening and angling closer to the ground. The Lesterin had chosen to talk rather than to shoot, after all. Foolish, but welcome. Shavrakk was about to be foolish as well. The influence of both hormone and invasive psychosis had lessened enough to form words of his own. 

“Maybe.” His throat felt hoarse, the words sticky and dense.I know a lot of people.”

OOC: @oncertainty

Edited by Perp
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IC: Qorl - The Rift

The flesh adapted to a change of circumstances more slowly than the mind. Maybe this was an obvious truth to many. And yet, to the Lesterin who had only spent a matter of months living away from wind-sheltered villas on the coast of Seprilli, it was a revelation. He shivered in the nights that he no longer found cold. He sweat on days that no longer seemed hot to him. He trembled at the sound of war cries rolling across the plains, though he knew them to be impossibly distant, and knew himself to be beneath the notice of the criers. A tear came to his eye at the sight of Seprilli across the ocean, though he felt no desire to return home. The handle of his revolver felt large and uncomfortable in his hand, though he felt completely comfortable with the prospect of using it. A feeling could not be reduced to its conscious appraisal. Perhaps for this reason, or perhaps only because nervous energy made him grip it so hard his hand spasmed, Qorl's right hand shook around the handle of his gun.

The skakdi's hand was steady. He had braced it with his other hand. The barrel which projected from the clenched fist was now angled sightly towards the ground, but it didn't take a gunslinger to know that the Skakdi could bring it in line with Qorl quicker than Qorl could raise his arm. And at this range the revolver's accuracy was absolutely lethal. But this wasn’t as much of a gamble as it might have looked to an observer. For one, the Skakdi had reacted slowly. Slowly enough to give Qorl a chance. Zakaz still hadn’t made a soldier of him, but when it was a question of two people, two guns, alone? That time to react was everything. So Qorl wasn’t quite a debtor here. He guessed that he had seen this particular Skakdi before, and as reticent as he seemed to give Qorl anything, the fact that he hadn’t blown him away immediately meant that his guess had begun to pay off.

To speak, he had to fight against his ornery flesh. He had gone from hours of prone motionlessness to a full sprint. He could feel the inside of his lungs. He could feel his legs calling out to bend and collapse beneath him. He saw a fuzzy ring of darkness intruding at the edges of his vision. He swallowed.

"Maybe I do. Maybe I saw you, oh, call it a week ago."

It all seemed less certain now than it had only seconds ago. But he had to trust his split-second recollection. It was the attention to hygiene that had sold it to him. So rarely did you see a Skakdi that looked clean at all, when you happened upon one that was they really stuck in the mind.

"Say I'm right; you parleyed for information with a caravan master, one of my people, somewhere between here and Khy;Barr. And seeing as you're not all too acquainted with who I am, and you haven't seen fit to shoot me already, I'm going to say I'm right that you haven't spoken with that caravan master, or any of his people, since then. How am I doing?"

Maybe it was the desperation, but he was feeling convinced by his own reasoning. He was starting to see a chance.

OOC: @Perp

Edited by oncertainty
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