Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Post War Group - Tortured World - Grigori et al 8/8/2011

So, with the betrayal of Emmiven and Seren, I am now running two groups. This is the write up for the last game which involved the rest of the party...

EDIT:: The interdimensional and chrono-distortions of the Sundering briefly switched Ormid and Grigori over between campaigns it seems...I have corrected the time-space continuum and returned the heroes to their correct places in the multiverse...

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9/6/1472: (16 days Post sundering): A desolate hill stripped of all life by the opening of a terrible portal; a shimmering doorway that leaks souls from the realms of the dead, and radiates the unwholesome energies of those dismal, necrotic worlds. Cold winds blow constantly around the shimmering anomaly, despite the fact that mid-summer in this realm is only a couple of weeks away; swirling and shifting randomly as pressures unrelated to the weather play across the land.

A rumble shakes the hill, and small chases of blue fire briefly dance across its surface, leaving fuming ice behind and bringing the watchers up short, forcing them to drop down behind the low, dead shrubs that cluster about this barren rise. For a moment the leader – a brute dressed in heavy plate armour, and wreathed in the dark-grey robes of his order; his heavy mace belted to his back, the hourglass – symbol of his order - hanging against his armoured thigh by a thick rosary – fears the vile things that have just appeared through the rift may have noticed him and his. However, he quickly realises that they are too busy arguing or talking to do so – seven, no six....no, wait, four more lost souls - returned through the anomaly, in need of shepherding back into the nether.

Putting on his ceramic faceplate decorated with the rune of the final gate, he looks towards his allies; nine stalwart souls charged with the same sacred duty as he, clad in plate armour and bearing silvered scythes (save two who carry blessed muskets) – the instruments of exorcism. Bringers of balance. Servants of Azrael. Acolytes of the Weeping Angel.

Realising that it's now or never, Carlonius - Euthaniser and blessed of Azrael - orders his troops into a wide arc, hoping to engulf the rag tag undead on top of the dead hill in a net of steel and magic, backed up by the sanctified bullets of the two Releasers (who even now head back down the hill, seeking the cover of some half-dead blackthorns). Slowly, they march forth, and Carlonius begins to chant the litany of exorcism, its words giving him and his squad the strength they need to complete this grim but necessary task...

At first the undead at the top of the hill do not seem to notice the widening band of advancing exorcists, and Carlonius gets chance to have good look at them. Despite his earlier uncertainty (though he is sure there were more at first – an armoured one with a hammer, and a tall, robed one with what looked like horns, and for a moment, something terrible – a thing of darkness and malevolence) he can see there are just four now.

One is huge – clearly a massive warrior in life. It wears mouldering hide armour, and bears a huge jagged axe, who's blade drips black flames. It's hair is long and knotted, the colour of cobwebs, and a thick beard hangs from its face. Were it not for his training, Carlonius might mistake him for one of the living, for he moves with lively animation and apparent sentience. However, he can see the ghostly pallor of his skin, and can sense the dark power that beats where once a heart grew. Next to the brute is a smaller being; lithe and wreathed in an aura of snickering black sparks. Its hair is made from rays of ghostly indigo energy, and its body seems almost to be composed from banked coals – though coals that seethe with an unnatural, dark-blue flame. Its eyes drip pale blue light, and it bears the signs of a horrible death by poisoning; the bloom of corruption apparent beneath its finely crafted armour.

The third being appears openly distressed. It wails and howls, and as Carlonius nears, he can see a vile cloud of black light fading from around it – the apparent source of its distress. With a jolt, he realises that this fading power is a remnant of the foul thing he knew he saw a moment before, and for a moment, a flicker of fear licks at his heart. Like the first, the beast could pass for human to the untrained. It has long black hair and waxen flesh, its features drawn and gaunt. At present its eyes burn with a coppery light, and the Euthaniser can clearly see the extended canines in its upper jaw. It is clad in leathery armour that seems to have almost melted to its flesh, and bears a curiously misshapen sword – wrought to look as if it had melted into its current warped shape.

The last fiend is almost impossible to clearly see, for it is wreathed in pulsing, smoky darkness. He can sense its malevolence, and can feel its poisonous, deadly mind reaching out, and too late, he realises that he and his band have been spotted!

“Lost ones!” He roars at them, his voice powerful and steady, “Know that you violate the laws of nature by your very being. Submit to the mercy of our prayers and blades, and we shall grant you a peaceful passing!”

At the sound of his voice, the undead adopt cautious stances. The big one with the axe shouts something in a clotted voice - “Grigori, who the hell are these idiots?” - apparently towards the one with the melted sword.

“Azraelites” Grigori

“Not friendly then?” Asks the huge brute, scrabbling forwards to crouch in a rough patch of torn earth and jagged stones, his black axe flickering.

“Not in the slightest!”

Carlonius flinches as one of the Releasers far behind him fires a shimmering shot at the spark wreathed horror, the radiant bullet going wide and vanishing into the shimmering anomaly the hangs above and behind the horrors.

“For the balance! For the veil!”

It's one of the footsoldiers; a new recruit named Taskan. He raises his scythe and charges, a couple of his companions, caught up in the excitement doing the same.

“Hold fast! Maintain formation!” Screams Carlonius, his fury evident in his voice, “Alspear, accompany them before they...”

The sparking undead has moved forwards with deadly grace, the air curdling as he advances. With terrible speed, and practised skill he advances towards the three soldiers furthest up the hill; two of the over enthusiastic footsoldiers, and Alspear; a veteran warrior of the order. All three have stopped to face the approaching horror. Scythes are raised, battle chants ringing from them, but.

But.

The ghostly thing – some kind of undead elemental being, possibly a genasai – raises its straight blade, and the air prickles with magic. A moment later, and a cone of violet, black and dark red flame erupts, engulfing the three warriors and sending a shockwave of heat down the hill towards the others. Screams bubble from within its hellish heart, and a moment later, when the sorcerer's fire has gone, one of the footsoldiers – Taskan – lies dead; his armour melted and glowing, his flesh blistered and smoking. A cold wind, ripe with carrion's perfume, reaches the remaining cultists as the previously hidden figure – a humanoid shadow, more solid than darkness but as dead and hollow as the others – drifts to stand next to the flame bearer. Coalescing into the form of a slight male humanoid, its face a formless mass of darkness, it raises an arm, and a crossbow of smoky shadows forms there. A moment later, and the front line soldiers are once again swallowed by horror; a blast of ripping shadows that leave two more dead; twitching and frothing as some unholy venom goes to work in their systems. Suddenly poor Alspear is alone – and things are about to get worse!

From the west comes a scream – a female voice, that Carlonius recognises; the voice of a traitor, turned against the order when her personal life was allowed to eclipse her sacred duty.

“Lia! Fallen one! Apostate!” He screams, pointing at the armoured figure, “Brothers and sisters! Her head must be brought in! In Azrael's name, she must be punished!”

She charges from behind a withered tree, and moves with a deadly purpose and almost unearthly grace. Her face is almost hidden by a mask of raw psionic energy, and her inner power flares as a halo of shimmering motes, which dance like faceted flames around her head. In her hands she bears a strange greatsword; its blade wrought from a single psi-crystal, designed to resonate with its wielder's mental energies; a curious blade which she quickly puts to deadly use.

At first the Euthaniser thinks she has come to aid her former allies, perhaps to seek some kind of forgiveness for her vile betrayal. However, instead she sends her blade out in a deadly arc towards his second and lover – the Guardian Alarianna. Her psionically charged sword bites into Alarianna's shoulder, chipping the metal of the guard, but not penetrating. However, a burst of silvery distortion pulses from the Ardent's halo, and at once, the fire wielder is wreathed in energising power, his movements becoming swift and sure.

“KILL THE TRAITOR!!!”

Another bullet screams out, blasting into the fire bearer, the blessed radiance within it chewing a brutal wound in its shoulder. However, the wound is closed almost at once as Lia (curse her soul) sends a plume of psionic energy towards the horror, and reverses the damage done.

And now, finally, he is in the thick of it. Loudly chanting the Litany of Exorcism, his heavy mace - scribed with prayers of banishment and cleansing – raised high as he seeks to crush the abominations before him.

“Your struggles are for naught! The balance must be upheld!”.

Power blossoms within him, glorious and potent. He swings, vaguely aware that the fiend bearing the molten sword has joined the fray, his blade snickering against Alarianna's armour, eyes burning like circular crimson cinders...

..and misses, his destructive prayer wasted as the mace is caught and expertly swept aside by the blade of the fire bearer...

...Things do not improve from there on in...

Only one of the squad – a Releaser – makes it from the hill alive. All the others fall to the undead and their traitor ally.

06:40 – 06:45 - With the last of the Azraelites slain, Grigori stumbles back from the inert form of the huge brute, his mouth filled with the coppery tang of the Euthaniser's blood, the warmth of it spreading like poppy juice through his body. Around him his remaining allies (everyone save the treacherous sorceress Seren and that bastard Emmiven – both of whom were swept away by the vial moments before the group was attacked) stand still, their new forms neither out of breath or registering pain, despite the exertions and wounds of the battle.

The mortal – Lia she says her name is; a former member of the Weeping Angel's faithful, now turned rogue – is busily searching her former allies for anything of worth, and quickly recovers a small flask. Opening it, the priest recognises the tang of a resistance potion, and placing it within his bag of holding, he turns, still dazed a little by the events of the last few minutes, to regard the rest of the group. Suddenly however, the full reality of what he is, and what he has just done hits him, and with a strangled yelp, he turns and vomits up the thick, congealing blood he drank from the dead warrior-priest.

“We're.....we're....undead.” He gasps, wiping thick strings of spittle and gore from his mouth.

“Yes, it seems we are.” Whispers Jaeger happily; the assassin apparently at ease in his new, shadowy form.

“We need to get alive again.” Grunts Shnecke, as he tromps over with the silent genasai. “Who's gonna' let a monster drink beer in their inn? We need to get normal again.”

“Lia? Is it?” Begins Jager, addressing the mortal. “What the hell has happened here? We thought we were returning to the Fey Isles, but if this truly is home, then something terrible has occurred whilst we have been away. Tell us, what went on?”

Lia looks at the undead before her, memories of her recent horror at her order bitter in her mind. She looks into empty eyes that burn with cold blue flame, sullen red light, or which hold nothing but the emptiness of the void, and despite the physical forms of the monsters before her, sees the people they were in life – and could be again.

“Firstly,” She starts carefully, “I need to know I can trust you, and journey with you a while. I have recently turned on my former colleagues” she gestures at the bodies sprawled across the hillside, “and as such am alone and almost certainly hunted.”

“You can travel with us girl, but first, tell us what happened.”

“The Sundering.” She shrugs. “To be honest, no one knows what caused it, but something utterly catastrophic has hit this world, and indeed, they think, the entire universe. You currently stand on what used to be the western lands around Galeworth, Alac and Nelimi. However, when the universe convulsed, a huge amount of the continent broke free and drifted westwards, forming a massive island, and it is on this island that we all now stand.”

“At the same time that,” she points at the curiously twisting shimmer the group emerged from, “opened, and the recently, and less recently dead began to appear through it – often confused and frightened.”

“What are the Unified Order doing?” Asks Jaeger, a strange grin appearing eerily on his shifting, vaporous face.

Lia shrugs. “I have been avoiding any kind of civilisation since it happened, though from the number of refugees and dead I have seen, society has pretty much broken. Possibly nothing. I heard a rumour that those strong in magic, or close to potent sources of it were badly affected by the turmoil of the sundering. It could be they don't exist any more.”

As she speaks, the group begin to take in their surroundings. Strange pressures constantly move through the area, as if the air is thickened or vibrating. Whispered voices and low rumbles constantly thrum through the ether, and in the distance the group are shocked to see, briefly, an entirely different horizon appear. For a moment it is like a mirage. Then it becomes real – distant black peaks of ice, strange glittering snows – the ground rumbling as it settles. However, after a moment, a tremendous flickering weaves through the new horizon, like ripples through a reflection, and it vanishes leaving the “real” one behind – though now tainted with greyness.

“What, the HELL, was that?” Gasps Grigori.

“That is the universe still settling. An aftershock of the Sundering itself. I have no idea how long this kind of thing will..”

She stops as a blast of bitterly cold air, metallic and filled with insect like chittering blasts over the hillside – the shock wave from the brief intrusion of that other universe a moment before.

“...continue.”

“Just how big is this thing?” Asks Varracuda, his voice hollow and resonant, as if spoken from far below the ground, but still able to convey his utter disbelief at what is going on.

Lia looks at him with something akin to sympathy. “Bigger than anything that has ever happened before. Over the last two weeks I have seen the greater moon destroyed and turned to ash and falling stars. I have seen the very land shift and change before me, becoming alien and deadly. I have witness beings of utter horror and strange beauty simply walking, unbidden through our world, and have seen every single thing I thought I knew about or relied on, blasted, distorted or simply gone. The scale of this thing is too huge for me to comment, but it seems to me that reality has gone utterly insane. Nowhere is safe, and nothing can be trusted.”

“Did you just say Lunum is gone?” Asks Grigori, looking up towards the sky (and immediately wishing he had not, for, for a brief moment another sky is superimposed through it; a sky of flame and shadows, that swirls with maddening motion and hellish power).

“Yes, though the Lonely Moon, Aelnaerys, has been getting larger and larger ever since. Pieces of the old moon are constantly falling to the earth, usually as shooting stars, but now and then, like a bomb.”

A low rumble shakes the hillside, several plumes of blue flame erupt a few feet away, the air burning with cold as they snake and dance like small tornadoes.

“The earthquakes are constant too.” Lia whispers, “The death throes of the world Carlonius called them.”

The rumbling goes on for a while, the ground shaking and shivering.

“Anyway, we need to move. I can guarantee that more of my old order will be here soon, and there is every chance that an Angel Minor may be sent to hunt for us.”

“Is that bad?” Sighs Jaeger.

“Yes. That would be very, very bad, for all of us.”

“So, where to?” Asks Grigori, swaying as he continues to struggle to take in the changes in the world – and within himself; his ability to heal having been changed by Jantherak's parting curse to the ability only to harm, his holy symbol and mace melted into a jagged blade that hungers for living souls by the necromancers evil power.

“The nearest city.” Replies Jaeger. “We can make contact with the Order, and can seek some kind of remedy to our current state, though...I might just stay as I am. This new form has many advantages over my old body.”

He giggles, a little brokenly.

“The nearest city would be Galeworth, about 350 miles to the southwest of here. Are you sure you want to risk civilisation? They may not be too forgiving about your, umm, current state.”

“We have to!” Snaps Grigori, “I cannot stay like...like this! We need to remedy this, make contact with the Order, and stop our former colleagues from doing anything stupid.”

“And we need to make it back to Irin in time for the arena battles!” Pipes up Shnecke.

Everyone turns to look at him, and despite themselves, burst into laughter.

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