CAST OF PLAYERS:
Debora Silkotch…………..Casey Gavin…………………………Human Psionic
Jera Morrison……………….Alseyne Aulaudin…………………Sidhe Changeling
Jeremy Whitener…………Korin Alabaster………………………Were Mongoose
Aron Head……………….Story/Setting/Everything Else…….Game Master
THRUUUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMM…. The loud humming of some device filled the chamber, as a dozen Redcaps and an ogre charged toward the group of chained Fae and their would-be rescuers.
Korin tensed. “You know Casey … it would be great if you could just float this catwalk away from those guys. Or I don’t know, turn their end into quicksand maybe?”
“Wish I could help you there,” Casey smiled tightly, picking up on his nervous tension. “Catwalk’s way too heavy for me, and I left my magic wand at home today.”
As Wynne freed one of the bound Changelings, the remainder pushed past Casey and Korin and moved toward the open doorway on the side of the Machine. Alseyne mumbled something incoherent, drifting toward the Machine as well.
“What’d you say?” Wynne asked, frowning as Alseyne wandered past Casey and the others toward the Machine’s doorway.
“Her collar!” Percyndi cried out.
Casey stepped in quickly as Alseyne moved past her. “Here, let me help you with that.” She unclasped the sidhe’s metal collar and removed it from her neck.
Alseyne’s eyes cleared. The reality of Pip’s death remained a painful wound, but Casey sensed a sudden lightening in the sidhe’s spirit. A burden had been lifted from her.
Korin flexed his long fingers into fists, the knuckles popping. Cocking his head to one side he looked at Elijah. “Race you to the big one?”
The vampire smiled. “You got it, chief!”
“We’ll hold them off … I guess. Get those collars off.” Korin sprang off trying, but not too hard, to beat Elijah to the Ogre.
Casey moved swiftly to uncollar another Machine-bound changeling. “We need to free the others,” she called over her shoulder to Alseyne, “fast!”
Alseyne scrambled forward, grabbing a sluagh by his shoulders. She hauled back with everything she had; she and the sluagh fell to the metal floor of the catwalk along with the rest of the chained prisoners.
Casey dropped to a knee and began unclasping collars as quickly as she could.
Scrambling back to her feet Alseyne looked past the captives toward the Redcaps, her sword held tightly in her hand. At the front of the line, Elijah and Korin were doing an admirable job of keeping the onslaught repelled … for the moment anyway. Alseyne turned to grab the nearest prisoners and started yanking the chains off as quickly as she could one-handed. She kept most of her attention on the fighting rather than the prisoners.
Casey fell on a satyr, loosing her from the collar. Her eyes cleared, “Oh God!”
Percyndi assisted with another.
Wynne squinted above to where the Goblin King and his men were. “He won’t be able to hold ’em much longer. We gotta roll!”
Casey slid to the next captive, fingers flying. “I’m not leaving any of them behind. Who won’t be able to hold who much longer?”
Wynne pointed “Pip!”
“WHAT?” Alseyne jerked her head around towards Wynne, and then looked in the direction the sluagh was pointing. She glimpsed her beloved Pip — alive and well — fighting against numerous foes some distance away. “But … but he’s …” she trembled, unable to comprehend what she was seeing.
Casey caught a glimpse of the satyr cracking a guardsman with his quarterstaff as he backflipped away to his next opponent. She blinked, stunned for an instant — then scowled back down at the collar she’d just removed, tossing it aside and moving to the next captive.
Tricks upon lies upon traps. If Pip was really alive, then that conversation between Mardmor and Burton had been staged for her own benefit … but why? Another of the Goblin King’s deceptions, to lower her guard? Had her escape been part of the same illusion?
Was she going to open her eyes sometime soon to find herself still sitting bound in that damned chair?
No. She’d spoken to Falco; tested him. He’d known things that Mardmor couldn’t know.
Korin and Elijah were dead. She’d seen them swallowed by tons of living stone.
Maybe she really had fallen asleep in that corridor. Maybe right now she was lying there on the cold pavestones, dreaming of a glorious battle and a happy reunion with all her fallen comrades. Claws should be along any minute now.
Falco had said he couldn’t sense the Machine, only her. Was any of this really happening?
Deceptions, illusions, snares within snares.
The only thing you could do in a dream was keep walking through it. Until she knew more about what was really going on, her choices were beautifully limited: proceed as though it actually mattered, even though it probably didn’t.
Casey worked her way down the line of prisoners, trying not to let her growing sense of doom slow her down. “The guards we killed all had weapons,” she said to the changelings as the last one was released. “Go arm yourselves. Even if you don’t know how to fight, you can defend yourselves better with weapons than without them.”
There were nine freed prisoners, not including Percyndi. One of them — a stout, shortish fellow with thick mutton chop sideburns and thinning hair atop his head — was the first to reach down for one of the bloodied weapons. The pommel of the short sword was sticky in his hands, but he seemed not to mind. “I’m with you, miss,” he growled. He had the look of a man given to enjoying a beer and laughing at bawdy jokes. Not at all the man for whom the murderous expression he now bore seemed organic.
The others fell in, only a few appearing reluctant.
Casey nodded approval. “Good. Stay together, back here away from the fighting. But if any guards should reach you, don’t be afraid to use those weapons.” Hopefully they’d manage to avoid hitting each other with them. ** Pana, I need some dogs up here, four or five, to help guard the changelings. **
:: Yes, ma’am! Coming right up! ::
To Wynne Casey muttered irritably, “What about the Machine? It still needs to be destroyed.”
Wynne cast a glance at it, blinking. “Why? What’s it do?”
“Honestly? Who the hell knows for sure. Here’s what I do know: Mardmor’s been abducting changelings to feed into it, and one of his henchmen called that a ‘meaningful sacrifice’ that’ll make it possible to open the gates of Arcadia. If we take these changelings out of here, Mardmor will either go abduct some more to take their place, or just toss a bunch of his own guards in instead. Either way, we’ll have accomplished nothing here tonight if we don’t shut this thing down once and for all.”
“Okay,” Wynne nodded “Machine bad. Break machine. Got it.” She chewed her lip. “Any big ideas on how to do that?”
Forward of Alseyne’s position, Elijah slammed into two advancing Redcaps, tearing out one of the guardsmen’s throat with his bare teeth. Korin hurled himself against the charging Ogre, catching him just before the intersecting gantry to the Machine doorway.
“RAAAAR!” The ogre roared as the Mangoose slashed at him. He slapped Korin away. “What the hell are you?!?”
In a low hoarse whisper: “I’m Batman!” Then quickly tucking into a ball Korin tumbled and rolled between the ogre’s legs and popped up behind him. The Mangoose leaped upon the giant’s back, claws raking hard across the mail-shirt.
The Ogre reached behind him, grabbing Korin by the scruff of the neck and wrenched him free. In a brutal arc, he pulled the were mongoose forward and slammed him into the grating.
WHAM! A supernova of stars erupted in Korin’s head as the metal collided with his skull and left shoulder. He staggered again to his feet.
“Ratman is more like it,” The Ogre grunted.
Alseyne winced, intervening between Korin and the ogre. She brought her sword up, the ogre snorting a laugh while Korin shook the stars from his head.
“What’s the little elf going to do?” He chuckled darkly, “Prick with her letter opener?”
Alseyne hacked at him; the blade bit into his armored gauntlet.
“Now you’re making me mad, girl!” He backhanded the sidhe noble, busting her lip, blood flying. The Redcaps were crowding in now, climbing around the ogre and passing.
“Got a couple things I’d like to try,” Casey replied to Wynne while moving to the assistance of Korin and Alseyne. “You know, after we exterminate this enormous goblin army and everything.”
“Goblins,” Wynne sneered. She whipped out a slender, razor sharp blade from her belt. “Got a lotta cuttin’ to do…”
Casey examined the ogre for amulets and such. Fire hadn’t worked very well on the last ogre she’d fought. She searched this one for anything like the green amulet the other had worn, but saw no similar adornment. Nothing glowy.
She needed to hone her attack skills; brute mental force was sloppy and graceless. This seemed to be as good a time as any to practice, with strong allies around her in case she failed. She gazed up at the ogre’s coarse, brutal face, staying well out of reach of his long arms. Sought out the brain in that massive skull…and attempted to incinerate it.
“URRR?” The ogre shook his head, snorting. He appeared bothered, but not damaged.
Something in this room was dulling her powers; complex skills like flight and pyrokinesis weren’t working well at all. Back to basics then. Casey pulled out her weapon, extending the blade.
Alseyne attempted to take advantage of the ogre’s momentary distraction, but was crowded back by the advancing Redcaps.
Korin propelled himself into the ogre’s knee, attempting to cut him down in stature a bit. He didn’t have the mass necessary to knock him over by sheer force, but he shredded the back of the ogre’s knee which did the trick! With a loud howl, the ogre crashed to the gantry.
Alseyne met the first Redcap head on, her sword parrying his thrust.
Casey picked another guard and closed on him, sword slashing. The Redcap leaped, her blade passing beneath him!
Alseyne smiled in grim satisfaction as her own opponent’s head went flying. *** Casey, if you hear this, tell Wynne to make sure and keep a watch on the other end of this gantry to make sure we don’t get blindsided by anyone coming up behind us. I don’t want to say anything out loud and give those bastards ideas. ***
Casey passed the message along. ** Wynne, Alseyne wants you to guard the rear and make sure we don’t get attacked from behind. **
:: I can do that…! ::
Casey thrust — and her opponent ducked and sprang up like a cobra, snatching for her sword hand. She’d been distracted by the multi-tasking, or maybe this guy just got a jump on her. Either way, his grip was steel as he forced her back painfully against the railing. Drool overflowed from his mouth as he eyed her hungrily…