CAST OF PLAYERS:
Jeremy Whitener…………Korin Alabaster………………………Were-Mongoose
Jera Morrison……………….Alseyne Aulaudin…………………Sidhe Changeling
Debora Silkotch…………..Casey Gavin…………………………Human Psionic
Aron Head……………….Story/Setting/Everything Else…….Game Master
Alseyne put her hands up to Pip’s face, caressing his eye and kissing it and then the other bruises on his face, whispering, “My kiss hath balm to heal thy wounds.”
The swelling receded at once, returning his eye to normal. He blinked. “Thanks.”
Stepping back, she said a bit louder, “I want my purse and my shoes from your bag before we go. I’d prefer something a bit more comfortable if we need to run.”
He dug the items out and handed them to her.
She unbuckled her high-heeled boot monstrosities and replaced them with the comfortable walking shoes she’d worn in the Whataburger. She slung her purse bolero-style over her torso, then handed the box and the other boots back to Pip. “Thanks, love. This is MUCH more comfortable.” She pulled two more lemon sours from the box and handed one to Pip before she popped the other in her mouth with a grimace. She put several more of the lemon sours in her purse and then handed the box back to Pip as well. “As much as I hate the taste of these things, I’m really glad you had them with you tonight.” Back at Casey, she said, “Any chance you would be able to mentally link all of us, Casey? Being able to communicate that way would be a lot faster … and wouldn’t give our strategy away in battle.”
“I’m not sure….” Casey thought about it. “I’ve never tried anything like that before. I guess we could give it a shot.”
“Pip…since we don’t have any armor with us, let’s get some protection going at least,” Alseyne reminded him. “And give Casey a chance to see if she can link us mentally. It will only take a moment to test that while we give everyone some Oakenshield. If we’re going up against stone creatures we will probably NEED that edge.”
“Manage it on the move,” Pip said as he headed down the corridor.
She sighed, looking mildly exasperated. “Fine. You handle Casey and Elijah and yourself. I will do Claws, myself and Korin.”
“I’m ready when you guys are,” Korin nodded, falling in. “Let’s get your friend and get out of here. Oh and before we go…she’s hot right?”
Pip stopped at that.
“I mean we’re not committing suicide for an ugly chick are we?” The Mongoose smirked at his own wit, though he was the only one who did.
The satyr turned, slowly. Casey sensed a sudden change. There was an air of danger here; menace, even. Somehow Korin had managed to ‘step in it.’
Pip glowered at him. “You speak of the daughter of Duke Varggys Thorntree, the King on the Brazos — a more noble house there has never been. When you speak of the Princess Percyndi, ensure that your tone is respectful. Otherwise I will be given to schooling you in manners appropriate to such subjects, my friend.”
“Pip, he had no way of knowing that,” Alseyne said softly. “He may have been a a bit irreverent but he didn’t know who we were going after. You just said ’employer’s daughter’ — how could he know it was a duke?” Alseyne tried to soothe her lover, knowing his fiery temper once it was aroused.
Pip shook it off.”You’re right,” he nodded, then looked to Korin. “Sorry.”
“Hey no offense…sarcasm is my defense mech … take that from me and you may as well take Elijah’s shirt from my waist too. I really meant no offense.”
Casey, whose attention had been divided just about evenly between the dark corridor ahead of them and wondering how to begin creating a psionic “party line” amongst the group, suddenly found something new to wonder about. “Korin knows Percyndi,” she interjected. “Or of her. He knows enough about her to mimic her, anyway.”
Korin’s head turned quizzically to the side. “I beg your pardon? Mimic who? I’m pretty sure I would know if I could talk like a girl…and I can’t.” There was an air of injured indignation to his tone, as of a man falsely accused. “Maybe she was in my cell at some point? I’m…I’m not sure.”
Casey frowned at the were-mongoose. “How *do* you know Percyndi, exactly?”
Pip nodded. “I’d like to know the answer to that myself.”
“You and me both,” Korin protested. “None of this makes sense to me….How could I possibly imitate a girl I’ve never knowingly met?”
“Casey,” Pip asked, “Why do you say that he knows Percyndi?”
“When I first found him…” she trailed off, trying to remember details through the haze of fear and adrenaline that had gripped her in that dismal stone room. Pana had tracked Percyndi’s scent to a cell…Casey had spoken to its occupant, thinking — hoping — that she had found the Duke’s daughter safe and well. But had Korin intentionally misled her, or had she simply been guilty of wishful thinking? She replayed the conversation in her mind, recalling the frightened, husky, imperious voice from within the cell.
You cannot hold me here! Why am I here?
I came to help. Your father the Duke sent people to search for you…
You know my father?
Casey shook her head. “Actually,” she answered Pip indirectly, “I think it was just a case of mistaken identity on my part. Korin didn’t exactly go out of his way to set me straight, though.” She smiled wryly. “Maybe he was afraid I wouldn’t let him out of the cell if I knew he wasn’t the one I was looking for.”
Pip nodded, satisfied.
As they moved down the hall, Alseyne pulled out her sword and touched Claws on the shoulder. “Leather, Iron, Steel, Neutronium.” On Korin she tapped and said, “Strong as an oak protect this bloke.” She tapped herself on the torso. “Clothes make the man, armor makes the woman.” She popped the last two sours she had kept out of the box as they moved.
The party, with Pip at point, moved through the midnight corridor as it wound down, deeper beneath Austin….
At last, they approached the arched entryway to a wide, round chamber constructed of brick and stone. Sconces adorned the walls casting a sickly green light all around. Across the room a stairway climbed high up to another level that peered down upon their position.
A doorway just beyond the top of the stairs.
The groan of stone grinding against stone could be heard… but the source of the sound could not be discerned as it echoed all about the chamber.
Korin had been here before. He tensed visibly.
“I’ll go ahead and try to link us all up,” Casey offered. “Might as well see if that’s going to work.” She had decided that adding one person at a time was her best bet. She opened a connection with Alseyne, then tried to open a simultaneous connection with Pip.
She stopped abruptly, feeling a bit faint… nauseous, too. Pip’s mind was wracked with worry — it overwhelmed her. Tears welled in her eyes.
It was too much. She didn’t have enough strength left in her own reserves to offer him any comfort or reassurance, or even to resist the way his distress chewed into her own fragile confidence. She withdrew from Pip’s mind, and then from Alseyne’s.
Pip stepped forward, extending his hand to her. “You alright?”
She nodded, respecting his desire to conceal his deep worry. “I’m okay. Thanks.”
Alseyne had noticed her distress. “What’s wrong, Casey? Are you in pain?”
“I, um,” she wiped her eyes self-consciously, “I don’t think the group link is such a good idea. Emotions are running kind of high right now…I think we might be more of a distraction to one another than a help. As anxious as we all are, I think it could degenerate into mental chaos pretty quickly.” She gave the Sidhe a crooked grin. “Better if we all just continue on under the nice delusion that everyone else is as cool and collected as they look.”
Alseyne frowned, clearly disappointed. “Very well, Casey. In that case, can you keep an ‘ear’ open for all of us here and if one of us mentally ‘yells’ at you to pass some information along, do you think you could do that?”
Alseyne stopped, thought for a second and then added, “Umm…come to think of it, could you try to scan ahead mentally and see if you pick up any minds as we go along? Not try to contact them — just see if there are any minds there. It could give us a much needed warning, though we shouldn’t let down our guard even if you don’t ‘hear’ anything.”
Casey nodded. She reached into the chamber with her perceptions, searching for any sentient presence within. She sensed a number of minds… three? Wait! Five! Or was it one? “There’s somebody in there. More than one…I think. I can’t tell how many.”
“Sounds like the stone things either have company or they are not exactly just moving statues,” Alseyne said as she drew her sword quietly. “Given what happened before with the Ogre and magic, I doubt we’ll get off lightly with a couple of stone disintegrating Eldritch Primes, Pip. But maybe we should start with that and see if we get lucky.”
He nodded, considering. “Korin couldn’t get past them. So these stone creatures are fast. He said the steps disappeared. An illusion? And he said they guarded the door up top.” He looks back to the war party. “Elijah, I’ve seen you jump. You’re pretty damn spry. Forget the stairs. Ignore us and get to that door. You too, Korin. That’s your job.”
Pip looked to Casey, Claws, and Alseyne: “The rest of us get to play with the stone giants. Ready?”
Casey nodded, extending her crystalline blade. “I guess so.” On impulse she reached out to the satyr’s mind, enduring the overwhelming rush of worry long enough to send a wordless pulse of reassurance and comfort. Of the six of them, Pip seemed to be the most knowledgeable about their current situation — which might explain why he was the most worried. He probably knew more about what they were up against down here than anyone else, and to Casey’s perceptions he felt perilously distraught about it. But as she touched his mind, she got a more solid sense of his worry. He wasn’t worried about Casey, or Wynne, or even Alseyne. In fact, she sensed a certainty in that regard. They were all warriors in his mind, capable and brave.
No, his concern was for Percyndi. He feared the worst… and suspected they would be too late to save her.
Casey experienced a deep pang of shared anxiety for Percyndi, though she herself didn’t know the girl. Her general sense of moral obligation regarding this mission sharpened abruptly into something more profound and personal. Concern for the Duke’s daughter tightened suddenly in her own chest.
And Pip knew more now. Apparently he’d gained new information in Sanctuary. A Goblin King was behind the Fae disappearances; Pip was convinced that this King was the mysterious figure of corruption behind all the recent upheavals among Austin’s hidden powers.
Pip looked back to Casey. An understanding passed between them, and the satyr nodded in appreciation.
She met his gaze, returning the nod, then turned her attention to the sound of grinding stone, trying to track down where it was coming from. The desire to find and rescue Percyndi had become more urgent for her, more immediate.
“You break left, I break right and we each try an Eldritch Prime spell first?” Alseyne asked Pip as she readied herself.
Pip shook his head, “I want to see these things in action before I blow any spells on ’em. You go ahead though. If it shows any signs of working, that may be the route and I will follow up with one of my own.”
“Here’s hoping,” she muttered to herself, looking around on the floor for some dust to use. Finding none, she dug down in her purse and scraped some lint out of the bottom to use as a material assist for her spell.
“Let’s do this.” Korin looked over at Elijah, “Race you to the top.”
“Last one there buys the beer.”