< Seeing Ghosts | Red Ice Logs | A Dark Meeting >

Once Mendhari and Iron Horse had gone to sleep, only the Red and the Green remained in the small room the two men were sharing at the refugee-stuffed inn at the edge of Vengrad. Iron Horse's snores and Mendhari's tossing could be heard through the left wall. The right produced intermittent sobs and sniffles. Their single candle was burning low and the stars provided no light. Only the sickly-green moon gave true illumination to the room through a tiny window.

  • Kinqueduran perches on the windowsill, staring almost defiantly up at the perverted moon. His journal was out, his pen in hand, but he found himself without words.
  • Anstice is content to settle back into the chair, half-shrouded in shadow, the moon giving his skin a distinctly unworldly cast.

Kinqueduran: After a while, the silence bothers K enough that he speaks up. "What caused the change in the moon, do you think?"

Kinqueduran gets the feeling that the worker's ghost still hangs about, but hesitates to return to its malevolent activities for fear of attracting the Envoy once more.

Anstice: "Vast amounts of essence... maybe Luna accepted an indecent proposal. Who knows?"

  • Kinqueduran fidgets a little, feeling a little chill run down his spine. "I wonder if it's Ligier, masking Luna's face."

Anstice: "Perhaps. But if it was that simple, why bother?"

Kinqueduran: "Think about how unnerving it would be ... how much disturbance, ill will, and terror something as simple as a green moon could sow over a region."

Anstice: "Never underestimate the capacity of people to get used to anything."

Kinqueduran: "I tend to focus on not underestimating their capacity for overreaction."

Anstice: "Good point... Well, if the Realm blows up Creation, it's not like the demons will have anything to escape to."

Kinqueduran: "I'm more worried, presently, about the demons escaping and preventing the Realm from blowing up Creation. I'm sure there's a good side somewhere. Or maybe a slightly less bad side."

  • Anstice shrugs. "There is that. Hopefully we can find the source and stop it. Preferably by killing it into dead."
  • Kinqueduran closes his eyes, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Yes, hopefully there's a stabbable source."

Anstice: "I have faith in your ability to solve any problem with gratuitous violence."

Kinqueduran: "I have other talents, too. None of them seem remotely relevant, of course...but I do have them."

Anstice: "Oh? Like what?"

Kinqueduran: "I used to write poetry."

Anstice: "Did someone force you to stop?"

Kinqueduran: "No, I just ended up occupied with other things."

  • Iron Horse half stumbles into the room, rubbing his eyes a bit and yawning.
  • Kinqueduran looks up at the Yellow, too tired to muster any interesting expression.

Iron Horse: "... mrnin'."

Anstice: "No. Night."

Kinqueduran: "Very night."

Iron Horse: "m'up. Must be mornin'"

  • Iron Horse promptly flumps down into the nearest convenient chair

Kinqueduran: "Don't argue. It's night."

Anstice: "Unless the sun turned green and dim, too."

Kinqueduran: "...which, at this point, wouldn't surprise me."

Anstice: "Should we wake Mendhari to tell her?"

Kinqueduran: "No, she's pleasant right now."

Iron Horse: "... mmm... woke up too early? ... like back home, I guess..."

Anstice: "I would never have pictured you for an early riser."

Iron Horse: "... You never worked in a farm."

Anstice: "No. It's hard to farm tundra."

  • Iron Horse lets his head rest on a nearby table. "Wake up early to tend animals, crops rest of the day... odd jobs in between..."

Kinqueduran: "Anstice, you're the puppet master, what's our next move?"

Anstice: "Sleep late. Keep Mendhari from smothering us with a pillow."

Kinqueduran: "A preemptive strike, then?"

  • Anstice shrugs. "To be honest, all we can do is move to Crystal and make the appointment. I'll have us able to make the other by then."

Kinqueduran: "Good. I should probably study up a bit."

Iron Horse: "... mmm. I wish I could help."

Kinqueduran: "Don't worry, you can help."

Iron Horse: "Yeah?"

Kinqueduran: "I'm not sure how, yet."

  • Iron Horse frowns and slumps down on the table. On him though, it tends to look more like a pout.

Anstice: "By getting us to crystal early enough to talk to some important people?"

Kinqueduran: "Exactly!"

Anstice: "You'll also be useful in the Underways."

  • Iron Horse seems to cheer up a bit "... ok, I can do that!"
  • Kinqueduran turns back to the window, staring at the moon
  • Anstice nods. "Of course... How is Mendhari, by the way? Are we going to see her irritable from lack of sleep tomorrow?"

Iron Horse: "... I dunno. She seemed to be sleeping pretty well."

Anstice: "Mmmm... how does she do it? All of us are awake."

Iron Horse: "Dunno. Envy her though."

Anstice: "Maybe I'll ask later. I'm sure we could all use the sleep of the innocent."

  • Kinqueduran looked back at the others. "I like her when she's asleep."

Anstice: "Heh. Not so much when she is actively hating you?"

  • Kinqueduran looks back at the window. "Actually, I like Mendhari. Except when she makes active efforts at being utterly intolerable."

Anstice: "I'll be sure to convey your sentiment."

Kinqueduran: "I'd rather you didn't, she'd probably misread it and just be more of a bitch towards me."

  • Anstice shrugs. "What, so I should tell her you wish she was a person-sized cigarette instead?"

Kinqueduran: "...that doesn't even make sense, Anstice."

Anstice and Iron Horse hear a sound in the silence that follows Kinqueduran's response. A muted thump and crash from outside in the square. A whiff of copper and tar reaches their noses, the smell of something unclean and out of place in this world. Moments later, they hear near-silent sobs and wet smacking noises. Kinqueduran mistakes them for sobs from the room next door.

  • Iron Horse 's previously sleepy eyes snap open and he quickly jumps to his feet.
  • Anstice grabs his daispear from where it rests in the corner. "That is not a good sound."
  • Kinqueduran glances back at Anstice. "What? They've been doing that all night."

Anstice: "Don't you smell that?"

Kinqueduran: "I'd say 'smell what?', but that would be silly."

  • Kinqueduran sniffs the air, then blinks. "...oh, that."

Anstice: "There's a demon out there, and our vaunted demon slayer didn't notice. Great."

Kinqueduran: "Sometimes even chumps like you get lucky."

  • Iron Horse rubs his nose for a moment. "We should get going."
  • Kinqueduran grabs his spear and shield, nodding a little.
  • Anstice will let the two big people go first, but follow after quickly.

In the chill, green-lit night outside the inn, the source of the sounds becomes obvious. A single home has a light in the window, the glow a fire inside outlining a massive, indistinct shadow that is the undeniable source of the demonic smell. The fire inside throbs dangerously, likely an uncontrolled blaze waiting to burn down the home. A splatter of red mars the single small window of the house.

  • Kinqueduran pauses a bit away. "Should we try to surprise it, or just break down the door and kill it?"

Kinqueduran: "I'd vote, but I expect that you two can guess."

  • Iron Horse shrugs, bracelets transforming into wicked claws

Anstice: "Why not both? Split up."

Kinqueduran: "I'll take the front door. You two, move around the sides. I'll raise a ruckus, you two keep an eye on our quarry's reaction."

  • Iron Horse nods. "You are the hunter..."

Kinqueduran: "I'm not a hunter."

  • Anstice just moves around to the sides.
  • Kinqueduran takes up his position in front, steadying his breathing, then strikes his shield with his spear haft, sending out an echoing cry with unmistakable warlike intent.
  • Iron Horse moves around to the other side quickly

The demon inside turns, its distorted form moving with dark blurs to face the window. Its growl rattles the window and another splatter of blood stains the window."

  • Kinqueduran approaches the door, starting with a jog, fully sprinting by the time he comes close enough to leap, one booted foot lashing out at the door.
  • Anstice doesn't really have much money... well, not really any money after making his deal with Cerilla, so slams his palm against the window frame, slipping the daispear in the crack to slash through the wood and bring the window, still intact, out to the snow. He points at the window and nods to Iron Horse.

The door thunders to the floor inside, displaying the interior. Inside, a pair of young people lay on the ground. The man was probably a laborer, his torso is well-muscled and he wears his hair in the traditional short crop of a northern worker. Everything below his stomach is missing, however. The woman is worse off, only the left half of her torso remains, the head is flattened across the far left wall. The demon itself chews idly on the man's foot. It peers calmly at the three men outside. "I assume you are entering. Please do so before you attract much more attention."

Kinqueduran: "You're telling a man dressed in shiny red armor not to attract attention?"

The demon is a massive affair, the mal-formed body of a rhinoceros plated in dark chitin and oily blond-black hair surely weighs hundreds of bounds. From the pot-bellied body emerges a wiry human torso with mottled fins protruding from its back. The two sets of arms are overly muscled, making :the entire creature seem out of proportion to itself. It chews quietly.

Demon: "It may. But standing in the cold while this fire burns will cause more."

Kinqueduran: "I'm not good at conversation. Do you mind if we skip to the part where I stab you in the face?"

  • Demon laughs! "I do mind, in fact. I need to speak with you. All of you. Please, come in."
  • Demon backs up, leaving space for the three men to enter, provided they don't mind walked across and through the remains of the former inhabitants
  • Kinqueduran glances momentarily at the window, then back at the demon. "You know, you could have just knocked on our door. Killing the villagers just makes me want to kill you."

Demon: "I would have attracted attention in the common-house. The fire will consume their bodies. Regardless, I was hungry. The man had an impressive amount of meat on his bones and his marrow is most tasty."

  • Iron Horse glances in Kinqueduran's direction with a frown, hands balling into a fist...

Kinqueduran: "You do realize that there is an extraordinary likelihood that I will kill you after we talk, I trust?"

Demon: "I do not think so."

  • Anstice steps in, picking his way through the stains and managing to keep blood off his shoes. "Just stop posturing and let's find out what is so hellishly important."

Kinqueduran: "Let's skip the bullshit. You want to talk, start talking."

Demon: "I believe you have been following the trail of the Algorans and have encountered other demons recently, correct?"

Kinqueduran: "You already know the answer to that."

  • Anstice nods. "Multiple others."
  • Iron Horse winces a bit at the memory.
  • Demon nods. One massive hand taps against the rail-thin stomach of the beast and it belches slightly. A smell of blood emerges from its mouth, and a small scream. Iron Horse and Kinqueduran can discern a change in the surface of the demon's body. Where knots of muscle would be on a human stomach, small faces exist on this demon. One is obviously that of the dead man, the other might be his mate.

Kinqueduran can tell from the short scream that accompanies the belch that the demon has devoured the souls of his victims and is storing them in its belly for some reason.

  • Kinqueduran frowns, his hand tightening on his spear haft. "Do you have anything more to say?"
  • Iron Horse grits his teeth as he sees the faces.

Demon: "Excuse my manners. I am not practiced in this. Regardless, this brings to my attention that certain…others may have contacted you. Offering help against my fellows. To take them up on their offer, on any offer, would be unwise. They are death itself, if you have not noticed."

Kinqueduran: "...the whole point of this charade was for you to ask us not to make an ally against you?"

  • Anstice shrugs. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend. They have been far more useful to me than your kind thus far."

Kinqueduran: "And they don't smell as bad. Anstice, can I stab this thing now?"

Anstice: "No. Let's see what else it has to offer."

Kinqueduran: "You're no fun."

Demon: "You simply accept the word of the dead? They have no interest in this world. They would see it destroyed by their beloved void. We would not. You could even become powerful in the world my great-grandsire envisions."

Kinqueduran: "Tell me something ... what do you offer us? Do you have a better offer?"

Demon: "Indeed. I offer you life. If you aid them, they will kill you to further their goals. But we will give you power and riches. And you will survive. Arrangements, bargains can be made. If you wish to learn more, I can arrange a meeting with my father."

Kinqueduran: "And what would be the cost of life in your deal? You would, what, run amok over the world? Eat whomever you please?"

Demon: "Eventually. In many years, centuries, millennia. But we wish to rule Creation. Not destroy it. And even those who warred against their rightful masters may find a place in the restored order of Creation."

Anstice: "See, here's what I don't get. They're not even the same things that lost. How can they be the rightful masters?"

  • Kinqueduran glances at Anstice, then at Iron Horse. He bites his tongue thoughtfully, taking a half-step back. "When would this meeting be, if it were arranged?"
  • Iron Horse does not look very happy.
  • Demon names the same date the Envoy named. "You will meet with him in a temple some days to the southwest, if you choose to meet."

Kinqueduran: "We will consider your offer. Today, you are not unmade."

  • Demon offers a bloody smile. "Very well. If that is all, I will finish my meal and then let the blaze consume this house. Then I will depart."

Kinqueduran: "You will not finish your meal. Go now."

  • Demon looks confused. "But I must. If I do not, they will be half within and half without."

Kinqueduran: "Remove the half within and leave it."

  • Demon blinks. "I can not. If you do not let me finish my meal, they will suffer more. They are torn. They must be reunited."
  • Kinqueduran glances to Anstice.

Anstice: "It's quite possible. Do not get caught, do not leave a trace."

  • Kinqueduran 's eyes sparkle with a subtle glint of red mischief. "Tell me, demon. How long will it take to convey the message to your master that we will consider meeting?"
  • Demon blinks. "He knows already."
  • Kinqueduran doesn't reply, but his lance does. Glittering Starmetal shrieks gleefully as the Red lunges, his shield slamming into the demon's bulk, crimson motes sparkling in K's hair and eyes.
  • Demon rears back on his hind legs, howling in anger as Kin stabs him. The souls in his belly cry too, pleading for release from their torment. One flickers and dies, fading away into the demon's flesh as it draws on the souls' power to fuel its magics. The heavy, over muscled arms lash out against its attackers
  • Kinqueduran grits his teeth, letting the demon strike at him, twisting fate against every strike, deflecting the pain etched on his destiny into the demon's Essence.
  • Anstice decides to roll into the attack, fingers snapping out and digging through the beast's flesh, coming away with the essence of it tangled in his hand.
  • Kinqueduran crouches, legs uncoiling to fling him into the demon. K levers his shoulder into the monster's "belly", throwing the creature up and over him onto the floor.
  • Anstice leaps up, springing off of K's shoulder to drive his spear into the demon, pinning it to the floor.
  • Demon shrieks, a braying scream that seems more bestial then demonic. Heavy hooves lash out, catching Kinqueduran in the chest and hurling him backwards. Iron Horse deftly deflects a blow to the stomach, turning the force back against the demon. Bleeding and enraged, it rears again!
  • Kinqueduran is hurled back onto the wall, grunting in pain. Standing, he spits blood, and throws himself at the beast once more, the Lance of Mars Descending trailing red flame, shrieking gleefully as it rends infernal flesh!
  • Iron Horse lets out a roar, not unlike that of a tiger, and jumps towards the roof... turning in mid air to plant his feet on the ceiling and then pushing himself with great power towards the demon, the Mighty Tigers lashing out and clawing at the demon's bloated stomach!
  • Demon manages only a glancing blow at Iron Horse's face before collapsing to the ground. Four screams sound from inside the ruined demon and all three men can sense the prisoned souls fleeing. There is a brief moment of peace as two gather themselves whole before fleeing to the underworld.

Breathing hard, K drops his spear and shield, staring down at the demon's corpse. The massive corpse steams in the chill night, not moving at all.

Anstice: "Well. That was interesting."

  • Iron Horse swipes his claws into the air, cleaning off the blood, before they return to bracelet form... and then winces and clutches his head. "... stupid demons..."
  • Kinqueduran kneels over the slain monster, gloved hands taking firm hold of the demonic head. He grunts, twisting the head, willing his arms and shoulders to be strong enough to sunder mountains, eventually ripping the demon's head off.

The ill-fleshed head stares blankly at Kin, its mouth open to display fragments of flesh and bone between its massive teeth.

  • Kinqueduran throws the head down, still breathing hard, bleeding a bit. He swallows hard, regaining his composure. "Don't let me forget to take that to the meeting."

Anstice: "We're going to have to split up now, you know."

Kinqueduran: "I agree, unfortunately. Who goes where?"

Anstice: "You and Iron horse to the Yozi. I and Mendhari to the Malfean. That way, each of us has an excellent chance of making it back to Ur.

Kinqueduran: "The only problem I see is that I am not exactly a paragon of negotiation, and I'm not sure Iron Horse will be able to compensate for that."

Iron Horse: "... didn't that one guy said we all needed to be there?"

Kinqueduran: "We all have to be at Ur, though they might give us a break if we leave behind dead members of our circle."

Anstice: "Maybe we should ask the Malfeans for that."

Iron Horse: "Come again?"

  • Kinqueduran lifts his hand to massage the bridge of his nose, then realizes his glove is soaked in blood, and lowers it again. "In a perfect world, we could make all three meetings."

Anstice: "We still can. Given a little but of luck and essence."

Kinqueduran: "Do tell."

Anstice: "Path of Mercury."

Kinqueduran: "You know this path?"

Anstice: "I'm getting there. Should know it in time to walk it."

Kinqueduran: "I suppose that's a step towards victory. In the meanwhile, I guess I'll work on a few techniques."

Iron Horse: "... mmm... "

<Red Ice Logs|>