CAST OF PLAYERS:
Debora Silkotch…………..Casey Gavin…………………………Human Psionic
Aron Head……………….Story/Setting/Everything Else…….Game Master
The corridor was dimly illumined by white electric lamps in steel cages. Off to Casey’s left was a stairwell with steps leading both up and down. To her right, the hall curved away.
She sent her perceptions out as far as they would reach in search of familiar minds, anyone she’d ‘touched’ before.
No familiar minds … but she did sense the approach of a number of men — six of them — headed her direction from the curving hallway. She stiffened in alarm, focusing her perceptions sharply in that direction to see what kind of men they were.
Changelings. Casey moved off to one side of the corridor, maintaining the invisibility illusion.
Six very rough customers in black leathers and steel armor plating on their shoulders and chest rumbled past her. Their flesh was mottled and gray where it wasn’t green. They each bore scars and jagged, gnarled teeth. They were heavily armed with clubs and guns.
She shifted indecisively for a moment, then followed them. Might as well see where the party was at. Picking one of them at random, she dipped into his mind for surface thoughts.
Hunger. Hunger like she’d never known before. In fact, he was thinking of eating the guy in front of him if he didn’t hurry along.
Her own stomach growled loudly and she began to salivate. With a silent groan she withdrew from the changeling’s mind.
As they descended the stairs, she sensed something familiar above. She turned her perceptions up in that direction, still keeping pace with the men. She wouldn’t mind having one or two of their guns before she went exploring around. Maybe if she was really lucky they’d lead her to a guardroom or armory, some place where she could weapon up without drawing attention to herself.
Another tickle of recognition as her mind climbed upward. Her intelligence probed … what was …?
Her weapon! Hot diggetty dog! She changed course immediately, abandoning the pursuit of the changeling grunts, and slipped quietly up the other staircase. Her senses led her up two levels and then down a hallway to a heavy wooden door. Standing outside, she probed cautiously through the door and into the chamber beyond.
Yes, her weapon was there.
There was an intelligence there as well…and she sensed that it was aware of her!
She recoiled, as startled as if someone had unexpectedly laid a hand upon her shoulder.
Who — what — would Mardmor have set to guard her sword?
There was a time, not so very long ago, when Casey might have turned away then, and gone in search of some more easily-acquired weapon. She was undeniably weary; the night had been one exhausting ordeal after another. She wondered if the sun had risen yet on a new day, and how close Mardmor was to setting his mad scheme into motion, and whether she was the last of her companions still left alive.
She wondered why she wasn’t more afraid of whatever was on the other side of that door.
It sank in fully then, for the first time. Less than two days ago a couple of two-bit vampire thugs had been the most terrifying thing she’d ever come across in her young life. She wasn’t the same girl that Falco had rescued that night; she wasn’t even the same girl who had set out a few hours ago with new powers and naive determination to offer her aid to Alseyne’s cause. Tonight had been a trial by fire, both literally and figuratively, and she had emerged from the flames a new creature.
Falco had said that the blade of that weapon was as strong as her own will.
At that particular moment, she couldn’t envision the existence of anything stronger.
She laid a hand on the wooden door, then paused again. Strength was one thing, recklessness another. Her mind reached again for the presence within the room. **Who’s there?**
:: Come in, Casey Gavin, and we can make proper introductions. ::
She frowned. Whatever was in there, it had been waiting for her. This was almost certainly one of Mardmor’s ubiquitous traps, baited with her sword because he’d known she wouldn’t leave it behind.
And he was right. She wouldn’t leave it here for him to add to his arsenal.
**What a lovely idea.** Casey opened the door and looked cautiously in. She didn’t step across the threshold, nor did she let go of her invisibility illusion. She saw a comfortable room with draperies adorning the walls. A sitting area with what appeared to be a rather comfortable leather club chair and cloth sofa were present as well as a a dark wood coffee table on which lay a number of assorted tomes.
Beyond, she saw an opening into another area. Her weapon was there, she sensed.
Movement on the back of the couch.
A creature skittered there. It had a head reminiscent of a cephalopod, but the cheek structure and cunning eyes of a man. Tentacles flowed beneath it, allowing movement.
:: Ms. Gavin, a pleasure to meet you. I am Yrinith. ::
She stepped slowly into the room, glancing around at the cozy setting. The rich, comfortable decor seemed out of place in this cold stark part of the dungeon; she wondered if it was an illusion created for her benefit by the psionic creature on the sofa. He didn’t look like he’d have much use for human furnishings himself. **Nice to meet you too, Yrinith,** she returned easily. **Mind if I go collect my sword while we chat?**
:: Not at all. The sword is lovely, but I thought it belonged to the elf woman. The other item… the crystal rod…? It is yours, no? ::
She gave him a quizzical smile over her shoulder as she moved toward her weapon. He knew who she was and what she’d come for, but apparently not why she wanted it.
“The rod’s mine.” She spoke aloud this time, curious to see if he could or would answer in kind. “I like to call it my sword; it’s kind of a private joke.” Stepping into the next room, she saw a desk pushed against the near wall with her crystalline sword in its inactive state lying atop. Alseyne’s sword was there as well, which of course actually looked like a sword.
The room’s floor was a dark slate. The room was otherwise empty, but she noted that in the center of the room was a stained glass overhead shining a spray of color onto the floor.
Casey took in the scene with a wary eye. The sight of Alseyne’s sword brought a fresh pang of guilt; the last time she’d seen it it had been clutched in Korin’s frantic grip, right before he and Elijah had been swallowed by tons of living stone. Mardmor must have retrieved it from his suffocated body after the elemental had withdrawn.
Elijah would have been harder to kill. He didn’t need air, and if the stone’s weight hadn’t damaged the elfsword it probably wasn’t enough to crush the vampire’s body beyond repair. If the Goblin King had sent henchmen to finish him off and fetch Alseyne’s sword instead of doing the job himself, it was even possible that Elijah might have escaped alive. Or, well, undead. Casey smiled wryly at the strength of her own hope for the vampire’s survival — funny how a person’s perspectives could change in a few hours’ time.
She looked up at the stained glass, focusing her perceptions into it and the ceiling above. The same ticklish feeling she’d sensed on previous exposures to magic greeted her.
An old Millay poem ran through her mind as her eyes skimmed back down across the bright splash of color on the floor. “But ah my foes and oh my friends,” she murmured the last lines softly, “It gives a lovely light.”
She turned her attention to the slate floor itself. Strange that a different flooring material would be used in here; she’d only seen the regular pavestones elsewhere in the dungeon. She searched it for magical or otherwise noteworthy properties, but sensed none.
She walked cautiously over to the desk, staying near the walls to avoid stepping into the colored light. Picked up the inert leather-wrapped hilt and slipped it into its sheath beneath her jacket. If it came to a fight with Yrinith this wouldn’t be her sword of choice: it was a psionic’s weapon, and she strongly suspected that if Yrinith learned how it worked he could wield it at least as well as she could. Having the Adamas blade turned against her wasn’t something she was eager to experience.
Next she picksed up the Fae blade. Alseyne would want that back if she was still alive; Casey abruptly resolved to return it to the Sidhe if it could be done. Meanwhile it wasn’t a bad backup weapon for her own use.
Holding the elfsword lightly in her right hand, Casey sent her perceptions searching through the desk’s drawers for anything of interest within. Her extended vision revealed, among other thing not of note, a file.
Slowly, carefully, she opened the drawer that contained the file. When nothing went boom, she took out the file and looked through it.
It was a manila file folder. Opening it, she saw a picture of her and Falco in her truck. It was taken in the parking garage when the two of them were liberating Houseman.
Casey frowned, unpleasantly surprised.
Another picture of Falco walking along the street.
A picture of Camille walking out of a building at UT. A picture of her drinking coffee at a diner. Another of her walking up the stairs to her apartment.
Casey’s frown deepened. Apparently Falco’s concern for Camille’s safety was not unfounded.
There were a dozen more. She shuffled through them until she’d seen them all, then returned them to the folder and returned the folder to the desk. She went through the other drawers by hand, just in the interest of being thorough, but found nothing important.
Then she returned to the other room, still taking care to stay out of the colored light.
Yrinith was still there. She gave him a neutral/friendly nod. “Some interesting stuff in there.”
:: Indeed. I see you have met the dear Camille. Tell me, does she bear your abilities as well? ::
Casey leaned against the wall, settling in for a chat. ** No. ** Without thinking about it she slipped back into the mental contact. ** What’s your interest in them? **
:: This Falco fellow turns up in the most interesting places. We’ve been watching him for some time, but beyond those pictures we have failed to get close to him. Our agents assigned to him have a tendency of disappearing. But then there’s you. And the girl Camille. You appear to be quite able to defend yourself. She doesn’t seem as … self-reliant as you. We believe we can use her.”
** For what? **
:: To obtain details about this man Falco. He is a puzzle. ::
Aha. ** I’m afraid I don’t know him very well, and Camille even less. Can’t really help you there. So what’s your stake in all of this…are the golden fields of Arcadia calling you home too? **
:: Nah. Paid consultant. ::
Casey studied the creature, weighing her need to keep moving against her desire for more information.
The need to keep moving won out. Comrades to rescue, swords to return, a mentor to warn. She straightened, sword lowered, body language unthreatening. ** So…I’ve got what I came for. I’ll be going now, if that’s alright. **
:: ‘fraid not. ::
He didn’t move, didn’t even twitch. But Casey was hurled across the room, slamming into the wall. Her head cracked against the bookcase. Tumbling to the floor, she saw stars.
She lay still for a moment, waiting for the room to stop spinning. She wasn’t truly surprised; she hadn’t really expected it to be that easy. The question now was, exactly how difficult was it going to be? Slowly, she sat up and turned to face Yrinith.
He wasn’t there.
Her eyes widened in alarm, then swept across the room in search of him. Alseyne’s weapon was still clutched in her hand, but it was probably going to be worthless in this fight.
Like a swordsman cautiously testing his blade against that of an unfamiliar opponent, she attempted to locate and dip into Yrinith’s mind. It was a passive, unaggressive touch, just to see if she could get in there, and to what extent. She cast about, searching…
A skittering above her!
She gasped as she sensed a dark, malevolence descend upon her. She failed to turn in time. Clammy tentacles gripped from behind as the weight of the creature slammed against her head.
Yrinith’s tendrils clutched around her face, her eyes blocked and mouth covered. A searing pain like an icicle stabbing her in the brain forced a scream from her mouth… or would have if her mouth and throat weren’t being choked full of tentacles. She gagged, bright cold panic driving out all rational thought.
He was inside her. :: That’s better ::
She squirmed in revulsion, trying hard to refocus.
:: Amazing… amazing… a girl of so few years has so much power… and so much potential yet untapped. :: She could feel him rummaging about in her mind.
The feeling of helplessness overwhelmed her, and as always it pushed her to desperate, thoughtless action. She bit down hard, as hard as she could on the tentacles in her mouth, piercing their flesh. Her mouth was flooded with the foul ichor flowing from the wound, and she gagged again. Retching, her stomach roiling — still she didn’t loosen her jaws’ grip. She ground her teeth together, determined to bite through the tentacles and push the severed ends out of her mouth. The noxious fluid drooled from her lips as her gagging throat stubbornly refused to swallow it.
She dropped Alseyne’s sword and reached up with both hands to clutch Yrinith’s head, her thumbs searching mercilessly for his eyes. Her hands fumbled across the monster’s weird skin. Just as her fingers danced across its cheeks…
:: Stop. ::
And she did.
Another tear of pain shocked through her. She could feel something filling her, crowding her.
:: …Going to have to make some room in here… ::
On the heels of panic, an explosive fury rolled through her. It was HER head, dammit; she wasn’t taking any new tenants. Sweeping her perceptions up to the “icicles” stabbing into her brain, she felt them out to learn whether this was a tangible physical violation or some kind of telepathic invasion.
They were purely psychic. She channeled all of her fury and power into a telekinetic blast intended to knock him loose and off of her head and hopefully stun him. She felt a slight hesitation, almost as if the power wouldn’t come… then it was there, exploding forth.
:: Yaaaii…! :: Yrinith rocketed away, flung across the room.
Casey whirled, not about to lose sight of him again. Power leapt up within her, bright wild flame with a life of its own.
Before he smashed into the far wall, he made a right angle turn in mid-air and landed on the back of a chair. He paused only a slight moment before hurling himself back to Casey, tentacles whipping in the air like viscous serpents.
She was ready this time: a swift gesture sent fire to meet his advance. If the creature could burn, she intended to incinerate him.
The fire erupted from her, blazing hot. It peeled away from Yrinith and doubled back, striking at Casey!
With a startled yelp she shifted gears, from fire to a shield. The flames flashed across it, her face flushed with the sudden heat.
Once the barrier was up she enlarged it into a sphere, just big enough to completely encircle her without exceeding the reach of her quickly-recovered elfsword.
Been a while since that snack at the tavern. Might be time for some sushi.