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Kalamere
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Legendary Adventurer
Legendary Adventurer


Joined: 31 Oct 2005
Posts: 1427
Locksmith, Gambler
Location: Dragon's Gate
109,029 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 12:16 pm    Post subject: Nature's Warnings Reply with quote

The Line hasn't always been a gambling den. Before the prior owner had his unfortunate accident that allowed me to buy the place from his creditors, it was just a house. During reconstruction to turn it into a sports bar and upstairs loft, I also got a pretty good deal with a dwarven excavation team to add my underground kitchen. I guess I could call it a lab, but that makes it sound too fancy and I'm not really the mad scientist type. Of course, I'm no Wolfgang Puck either and you certainly don't want to be dining on anything prepped down here. It's more the type of thing you save for a special occasion. Like a last meal.

The shelves stock an assortment of herbs and animal life all in neatly labeled containers. Most of it I buy from specialized merchants in Badside, though every now and then I'll venture out in the wild to pick my own. I discovered a great little spot in the tropics that I like to visit and pick up dart frogs. These little guys can be used for a number of different toxins and their bright colors make them easy to find. Sunlit yellow, crimson red, electric blue. No camouflage for them and no need. The brilliant coloration is mother nature's flashing red danger sign.

They're also pretty cute. I know, not the sentiment someone in my particular line of work ought to be admitting to. They are though! I like having them sit in glass aquariums, but sometimes I let them hang around too long to be useful. Deprived of the usual diet of whatever it is they eat in the rainforest, their poison fades beyond a level where they're useful to me. At that point I either return them to their natural habitat to be harvested again another day, or sometimes I give them to Jerry to make a special treat for Rath. He likes to paint little "M"'s on their backs.

On this day I had a couple new vials stowed in my cloak and a box of would be ogre snacks tucked under my arm as I climbed the stairs up from the subterranean cooking space. Moving with a bit of a limp, I emerged through the hidden panel into my office. Mel gave up Shadoweaver in the end last night, but she'd done a number on my knee before things concluded. It didn't seem like anything a bit of time wouldn't fix though.

As I moved out into the hallway, I could hear the techs in the office next to mine arguing in what seemed to be a foreign language. There were lots of acronyms of letters I recognized, but didn't comprehend. Things like DNS and TCP; something about DDOS, which sounded dangerous as, apparently, this creature was assaulting their gateway. Curious now, I paused in my snack delivery to pay a visit and see if they had any screen images of this DDOS creature.

"Evening, lads." I greeted them as I opened the door and stepped inside, cautious as always to stay on the safe side of the raised golden line. "What seems to be the prob ..."

I never got the chance to finish the question. The explosion that ripped through the room propelled me bodily back through the doorway. My vision seared by the blinding flash of orange and crimson as flame burst forth from the monitors and machinery. The sickly sweet scent of charred flesh nearly suffocating as I slid down the hallway wall, fighting to stay conscious and unable to tell if it was my own or that of the techs who had been enveloped by the blast.

The stench of burnt plastic intermingled with that of skin and hair, though I can't say if that made things better or worse. Shrapnel was everywhere. Crystalline chunks of monitor glass, a chair arm twisted near beyond recognition and what I'm fairly sure was Ken's arm, severed at the elbow the skin charcoal black and shriveled by the heat. A collection of keyboard keys lie at the doorway, dark blood pooling around them in some kind of macabre alphabet soup.

I'd say that my legs went out from under me, though that implies I'd managed to get them down in the first place. Impressions of my back and head were sure to have been left in the sheet rock wall I'd slammed into. The crack of my head as it impacted the underlying stud near as loud to my ears as the explosion that sent me there. I crumpled to the hardwood floor, pelted by flying debris.

I tried to roll away, but found my limbs unresponsive. I tried to call out to Jerry, or even Rath. My voice wouldn't come. I could feel the slow warm trickle of blood running down my chest, a piece of the door frame expelled by the blast and lodged in my neck. I wondered, as my eyes slowly closed, whether the little dart frog prints were left from my blood or someone else's ... and then the world went dark.


Last edited by Kalamere on Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:39 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Kalamere
Devils Advocate
Legendary Adventurer
Legendary Adventurer


Joined: 31 Oct 2005
Posts: 1427
Locksmith, Gambler
Location: Dragon's Gate
109,029 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Wed Oct 30, 2013 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The hand that brushed my cheek was warm and soft, skin devoid of the rough calluses work and combat training are wont to form. I hadn't heard the hand's owner approach, though in fairness my ears were still ringing from the blast as I lie collapsed on the hallway floor. I like to think I was just resting my eyes. As the touch pulled me back to consciousness I wanted to ask the intelligent questions, like "What happened?" or "Who are you?" but all I managed was an incoherent stream of consonants in a barely audible whisper.

"Hush now, my champion. Rest and allow me to look at you." It was a woman speaking, though I didn't recognize the voice and couldn't make myself turn to get a look at her. Shushing was fine, since Rath was my oratory superior at the moment anyway and my limbs were currently uncooperative, which made the resting part easy as well. I was trying not to let this panic me. She sounded attractive and seemed to think I was a champion for some reason, degenerating into hysteria might shatter the illusion. Her touch was gentle as smooth skinned hands explored my body, presumably judging the extent of my injuries. I decided she was not an immediate threat, but could not have done a thing about it if she were.

"You are not what I thought you to be," she mused as she saw to my wounds. "I'd thought you descended from the lords of the silver wood. You have their look. But no, not bred from my old captures at all, are you? I sense a darker heritage. This is good." I didn't know why it was good, nor who the lords of the silver wood were. I might have been slightly disturbed that she seemed to know my background wasn't tied to your typical nature loving elves, but mostly my thoughts were focused on how I didn't want her to stop. Her voice was like honey, rich and silken, penetrating my thoughts while nimble fingers soothed. Each touch brought sensation where there had been none, a sensual kind of heat that roused thoughts my near lifeless body couldn't hope to act upon.

Despite my best efforts, I whimpered as she turned her attentions to the neck wound. As light as it was, her touch still jostled the chunk of door frame turned projectile, sending a spasm of pain through my body as it tickled the cervical nerve. Fine, fine. In truth I tried to scream and might have briefly passed out again. I hoped that didn't ruin my champion cred.

"Sit up for me now," she said as she helped me to roll over. There was more strength in those tender hands than I would have thought, being able to contribute almost nothing myself to movement. "Your servant will come to check on you soon. I would have you responsive before he does." Jerry wouldn’t much like to hear himself referred to as my servant. Still though, I could only assume he was responsible for her presence and I was going to owe him big for that. Being called the servant might check his ego a little.

She steadied my head as we got my back positioned up against the wall, adding what scant strength I had to the process. Opening my eyes, I was finally able to get a look at my healer and immediately decided I owed Jerry more than I'd estimated. She was breath taking. I judged her to be some portion elvish by the gradual point of one exposed ear and her slightly almond shaped eyes. The eyes themselves a molten gold that drank in the light around her. Flawless lightly tanned skin, she was clad in black silk that was somehow both tight and loose in all the right places. Her hair like wild cherries, a red so dark it was nearly onyx, fell in gentle curls to her breasts. It occurred to me that I really needed to spend more time in Old Temple manor. To get to know the people better of course, not to scour the district in search of whatever church it is produces clerics who look like this.

"A service for a service, young elf lord. I am empowered to remove your pain and restore control of your limbs, but all things have a cost." This is why I'll never understand how churches get tax breaks as charities. Good healing is always expensive though and it would be nice not to have a giant scar on my neck. Walking again would also be a bonus.

"What?" was all I was able to ask in a scratchy whisper. She obviously had the better bargaining position here, but I should at least get an idea of what I was about to sign up for.

"How is it you think this happened?" delaying the name of her task, she waved a hand casually towards the charred remains of the computer room. "What manner of creature has this control over technology?"

It was an odd line of questioning, but I was willing to play along. I wanted to figure this out myself and get acquainted with the perpetrator once I was mobile again. I had a nicely edged dagger to show him. Until now I had been a little too pre-occupied contemplating my own plight to consider who might have done this though and no one sprang to mind. There was the chance that Shadoweaver’s presence in my cloak had somehow amplified the blood magic of my ring and triggered this despite my never crossing the line. I didn’t want to believe that I was the cause though and, besides, there was no burning around my ring finger like the last time I’d mistakenly blown things up.

“DDOS?” I offered. I didn’t know what that was still, and the techs did sound pretty concerned that it had surmounted a wall of fire and besieged their gateway. It all sounded kinda techno-magical to me. The flat stare this earned me, however, said I was off the mark.

“That creature sounds more a minion than a master. What power could have sent it?”

“Some technomancer.” I shrugged, or tried to anyway. This was a realm of magic far outside my comfort zone, but if the attack came from the outside and over Brandon’s cross dimensional network, then that was really the only choice.

“A technomancer,” she repeated, seeming oddly unfamiliar with the term. Odd because I thought this was a line of leading questions, but instead now it seemed she’d truly been seeking new information. “Of course. I have never run across this talent. Bring me such a man, I have use of him.”

“Alive?” I asked, disappointed. That didn’t at all mesh with what I’d been thinking. She grinned at this, amused by my taste for vengeance. It was a wicked, devilish grin that brought a sparkle to her already bright golden eyes. It was a more sinister look than one might expect worn by a healer, but oh so very appealing.

“Worry not my sweet champion, you shall have him returned to you once I have availed myself of his services.” Lithe fingers delicately caressed my neck, though I tensed as they eased towards the wound. “I will have your word on this, Kalamere Ar’Din, before I continue. I know of you. The things that you do here and elsewhere, as well the wonderfully fluid sense of morals you follow. I know too that, despite this, you are dutifully bound once your word is given.”

She had me at ‘shall have him returned’, though I couldn’t fathom how she might know the rest. The number of people fully aware of what I do outside RhyDin can be counted on one hand, with fingers left over. Jerry and I were going to need to have a little chat.

“Agreed,” I forced out.

“Excellent,” she purred and moved yet closer to me, one lissom leg brought across my lifeless pair as she knelt over me. “We will have a fruitful association, you and I. No white knight. No, not you, but my dark champion for certes. “ She closed her fingers around the article of pain, a warm soothing sensation cascaded across my neck, rather than the shock to my nerves I’d expected.

“Soon after today we will talk again,” she continued, her right hand reached to take my left and gently stroked the blackened metal of the ring I wore. “I can help you to live without this once you’ve forgiven me and consider giving yourself over.” Bending her head over mine while she spoke, radiant eyes smoldering as her rich red hair brushed brushed across my cheek.

There was something wrong in those words. A far distant barely audible alarm was going off in my brain. What she was saying, the knowledge of me she seemed to have, her red hair itself. Somewhere at the edge of conscious thought I knew this would turn out badly. The rest of my consciousness wasn’t paying attention. Her scent was intoxicating the closer she got and I barely even cared about the explosion, the technomancer or the shrapnel she was supposed to be removing.

The only thing solidly registering was the heat in her eyes and the tip of her tongue as it wet her full red lips just before we kissed.
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Kalamere
Devils Advocate
Legendary Adventurer
Legendary Adventurer


Joined: 31 Oct 2005
Posts: 1427
Locksmith, Gambler
Location: Dragon's Gate
109,029 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The cinnamon scent of her hair and taste of Summer wine on her lips drown out my other senses as the kiss drew on. Well, most of them anyway. The nagging little voice at the edge of consciousness was growing a bit louder. It thought it was important that I find out more about this giving myself over thing and what it was I would need to forgive her for. It also wondered if she had a name. That part was probably fair, but still not something that needed urgent exploration. Strength was flooding back into my body and talking wasn’t exactly tops on my list of how I might put it to use.

Our lips drew apart slowly, a lingering that promised they’d return as she rested back and moved her hands down my chest. No longer the healers touch, yet no less sensual. Names are overrated, I tried to explain to the voice. It didn’t believe me. It was being stubbornly intrusive and even went so far as to recruit help.

“Hey, Boss,” said Jerry, without sounding the least bit apologetic for the interruption.

“Busy,” I growled back. The smoldering heat in the woman’s eyes shifted to amusement. She lifted one perfectly manicured finger to her lips and winked at me.

“If you say so. Say, is that a snack box for Rath? I’ll just take that for the big guy and you can go back to your nap. Your loft would probably be more comfortable than the floor here though.”

My eyes snapped open. An odd experience being as I thought they were open already. In the fog between dream and reality as my surroundings came into focus, I watched Jerry’s hand reach down through a highly amused, redheaded healer to pluck a box of dart frogs from my lap. A box I recalled having fell from my grip as the explosion expelled me from the computer room.

“What? .. How? .. Who?” My head on a swivel, I swung my gaze back and forth along the hallway. I could hear the techs talking behind a closed and very intact door across from me. There was no blast debris, no pool of blood, no exotic healer seeing to my wounds. There were no wounds. Half a dozen questions fell from my lips as one.

“You really need to stop letting the orc hit you in the head, Boss.” was all Jerry replied with. Shaking his head, he took the box and retreated, returning to the bar area to prepare Rath’s snack.

A dream? It had been an incredibly vivid one if so. Some of the toxins I keep downstairs could have an effect like that, though my ring should have fought it off. Bleary and confused, I pushed back to my feet. I turned toward my office, where an old bottle of scotch waited to help me make sense of things.

“Don’t blame the half-orc, I rather like him. He brought us to this place after all.” said the silky sweet voice behind me, after I’d turned.

I’d like to say this didn’t startle me. Being the cool and collected professional I am, the sudden return of my mystery woman was completely expected and didn’t cause me to jump several feet down the hall, draw a blade and spin back to face her in a fighting crouch once I’d landed. Let’s go with that.

“I thought we were going for a scotch?”, she said, ignoring the dagger in my hand. “We need to talk about this technomancer you owe me.” A smug smile on her lips.

I’d like to blame Jake, that would be easier. Or the dart frogs, as I was sure Rath’s fangs were about to mete out gooey retribution. Her reference to my neighbor was the clue I needed to figure out who she was though and this one was on me.

“I wasn’t aware Opals had a taste for scotch,” I grumbled, turning to lead the way.

I was already replaying the illusion she’d sunk me into, hoping I’d be able to find a way out. I’d been tricked rather thoroughly and can’t say I liked the taste of it. Entering the office, I moved to the wet bar to pour two glasses of Lagavulin. One for me, the other for Shadoweaver.
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Kalamere
Devils Advocate
Legendary Adventurer
Legendary Adventurer


Joined: 31 Oct 2005
Posts: 1427
Locksmith, Gambler
Location: Dragon's Gate
109,029 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chapter Two:

Having the right intelligence makes all the difference. Whether it's setting and adjusting odds at The Line, knowing if a customer is a good credit risk or planning something off the books. Like a kidnapping. If you don't have enough information you risk losing more than the business can afford, over working your collections department (which really hits the bottom line in food expense) or dead; the least preferred of the options. Dead is generally bad. Unless you're a vampire, I guess. I'm not.

Over the years I've built up a fairly sizable cadre of informants. It's not cheap to maintain and it occasionally means a favor here or using information from one source to change the heart of another there (blackmail is such an ugly term), but the expense and effort have proved time and again to be well worthwhile. Putting together the pile of blue prints, pictures and evaluations, currently covering the entirety of my desk, had required tapping a number of these sources.

After a couple days spent working with the guys in the tech office and finding out more about the attack they had been fending off, we learned a few things. Firstly, there is no actual fire involved in a firewall. I was highly disappointed. It also turns out that a Distributed Denial of Service attack is much more like a bunch of bee swarms than it is a raging monstrosity. Another let down. To the credit of Ken, Whats-his-name, and a number of their off-world friends though, we were able to narrow down the most likely origination point for the attack and, with that, the technomancer responsible.

The next step was to get eyes on the scene. If you ever need this type of work done, I highly recommend Kattria Minx. Meet with her outside of your place of business and don’t carry anything you’re attached to when you do, but otherwise you really can’t go wrong here. I’ve taken to planting a little something extra on someone nearby for her to make off with as a tip. This helps fend off complaints about not wanting to meet her at The Line.

I was able to drop Katt into the city the target resides in and let her go to work. It was what you might term a modern era dimension, with little magic use and no elves. She has a little trick she calls glamour, apparently common in the elves of her world, that lets her blend in when necessary, but otherwise she’s near as comfortable in the shadows as I am, so the racially curious didn’t pose a problem.

It took about a week of Katt prowling the streets and directing the activities of some of my other contacts, as well as the techs next door, but we looked to have finally tracked down the technomancer who went by the name Davinci. That was the last of the good news I received on the subject.

“This guy could give Jake lessons in security,” I grumbled. Sifting again through the photographs and blueprints.

“Why can you not just open a portal and walk in?” asked the woman standing across the desk from me as she tapped a picture of the mansion with one long, french tipped nail. Today she had shifted back to the form she had originally appeared to me in; a tall half-elven woman with golden brown eyes and long, dark red hair. She was dressed in a man’s loose fitting black silk shirt. My shirt, I believed. My concentration on the task at hand would have been improved if she’d secured a couple more buttons.

She could appear however she wished. It was blondes for a little while, trying on Rena and Teagan’s skins, even my first Lady of Honor, Merewyne. Then she moved through Yeardley, Jaycy and Maria. I had to put my foot down when she appeared to me as Candy. The last thing I needed was a third version of that woman in my life. We’d settled on the original aspect so I knew who it was I was imagining to be there, and the red hair was a good clue that I needed to tread carefully. Let’s not discuss how I’d ignored that the first time around.

“See these runes here, here and here?” I asked, pointing to each of the carved runes on the stone walls that surrounded the estate. “Portal prevention dome. Probably prevents someone from stepping through, though could potentially redirect you somewhere else. Any other life threatening ideas to offer, Shae?” Shadoweaver is a lot to say, so I’d taken to shortening her name. I think it was growing on her.

“Stop calling me that.” She didn’t mean it.

“I don’t see how we’re getting in there short of recruiting a small army.”

“Oh, well that sounds like fun. You should recruit the half-orc, but let’s leave Morgana here.” I think she saw Morgan as competition. She also seemed to have missed the sarcasm in my tone. I gave her a flat look. “What? She’s bossy.”

I sighed and went back to considering the reports. No matter what angle I took it from, I couldn’t spot a quick and easy way in. “How soon do we need to do this?” I asked as I reached for the connections analysis. If breaking and entering was out, maybe I could play a long con to flush him out and away from his security.

“When do you fight the Egyptian? It wouldn’t do to have your debt still outstanding if you lose and he becomes my steward. Not that I mind which of you I sit with, though you do serve different purposes.”

“Next week,” I sighed again. Anubis standing between me and the long con.

There was something else in what she said though that gave me an idea. The short con was a little riskier, but as I started manipulating the pieces in my mind I thought it just might work.

“I need to go chat with the techs again, but how do you feel about a little off-world travel?”


Last edited by Kalamere on Fri Feb 24, 2017 2:52 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Kalamere
Devils Advocate
Legendary Adventurer
Legendary Adventurer


Joined: 31 Oct 2005
Posts: 1427
Locksmith, Gambler
Location: Dragon's Gate
109,029 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ken was back to manning the terminals when I opened the door to the tech office and stepped inside. He gave me a friendly smile and his typical “Mr. Ar’Din” greeting, though didn’t notice Shae as she stepped in after me. I swear she is not just a figment of my imagination. She simply doesn’t wish to be seen. I’m standing by this.

“I have some follow up questions, Ken.” I said, answering his inquisitive look as I settled into a chair on the safe side of the golden strip. Shae took a perch on the desk between, flaunting her ability to cross the line, where she could easily see us both. Ken’s partner, whose name I still hadn’t caught, was out to retrieve lunch, so it was just the three of us. Or the two of us, depending on your viewpoint.

“About Davinci? Those reports you got have a lot more information than I do. I’m not asking how you got them.”

“He wants to know though,” added Shae, “look at the curiosity in those beady little eyes of his.”

“Be nice,” I said, giving her a glance.

“Pardon?” asked Ken, who could neither hear nor see the spectre of Shadoweaver. I wished she’d stayed in my office.

“Be nice … to hear your opinion on a few things,” I covered. “Davinci, from all appearances, has a pretty strong business himself. Why’s he taking the time to mess with mine?”

“Oh, that was in the analysis reports.” Eager to show he’d done his homework and made it through the assigned reading, Ken picked up his copy of the report and flipped through until he found the section he was looking for. “See, your network here, actually, all of SwordPlay’s inter dimensional lines, was created by Inferi Tech. Davinci’s company, Artisan Networks, was in the running for the contract along with a few others, but SwordPlay elected the Inferi bid to get the work done.”

“So, what? He’s bitter?”

“Sorta,” Ken gave me a nod and pointed at the part of the report he was reading from. “Davinci and Inferi apprenticed for the same guy. They have very similar talents according to the report and something of a sibling rivalry. Like wolverine siblings.”

“I can appreciate that sort of familial affection,” added Shae.

“It could be financial too though.” he continued, “If the Inferi work can’t stand up to the abuse, then maybe SwordPlay rethinks the contract and goes with Artisan Networks as a replacement.”

Considering the means by which people advance the ranks in my own profession, I didn’t have much ground to stand on in condemning the practice. “Wouldn’t B have a problem with this lad disrupting SwordPlay’s business? This doesn’t seem like a great way to get in the good graces of the people you want to be hired by.”

“He’s actually picked the perfect target. Meaning no offense, Mr. Ar’Din.” Ken was looking sheepish as he went on to explain. “The subnet that The Line sits behind looks to be the only place he’s attacking. He must have done his homework and found out how well you and Mr. Fox get along.”

My business partner. What a guy.

“Unfortunately,” Ken went on, “Inferi must know this too, ‘cause he’s not defending nearly as well as I would have expected, even if it is a pretty minor offensive.” The master tech frowned as this occurred to him for perhaps the first time.

It was only a ‘minor offensive’. I had to remind myself of this. A bit of network intrusion that slowed down the techs and took their time away from working the odds and feeds programs they were here to man. Not the bloody explosion Shadoweaver had projected for me to see and experience. I grimaced at the memory of what hadn’t actually happened and gave her a glare. She responded with a bright smile of pearly white teeth, obviously abashed.

I tapped my chin as I considered the situation, projecting my best thoughtful expression for Ken’s benefit before slipping fingers into my cloak and withdrawing a coin. I flipped it into the air so he’d be sure to catch the shine of gold before catching it smoothly and setting it to dance across the back of my hand.

“Show off.” Shae opined.

Maybe a little, but it drew Ken’s attention and hopefully moved his focus to where I wanted it. “Ken, how much convincing do you think it would take for Inferi to lend a little more security, or help me arrange a meeting with Davinci?” I flipped the coin off my thumb to tumble down into his hand and show I was happy to lend a bit of this convincing to him as well.

Ken stared at the coin in his hand for a minute before he gave me a nod and slid it into a pocket. “I know a couple people at Inferi Tech who could help arrange a meeting. My boss will be livid if he finds out though and I really have no idea how much it’ll cost you for his services. It’s way beyond my pay grade.”

“To smooth the way with your contacts,” I said as I handed over a small pouch of silver coins. “What to do about B finding out though?”

“I don’t know Mr. Ar’Din. This could really put my job in jeopardy.” I tried not to grin as he gave the part of my cloak I’d pulled the gold coin from a minute ago a meaningful and in no way subtle look. This would have been much more difficult if Brandon paid his people well. “Also though, if Inferi knows who you are, which we think he does, he may not even take the meeting.”

“Fair point,” I admitted. A second and third coin were now in hand, slowly rotating across my fingers. “How about you get me in under the guise of new business? Give them another name to put on the books to at least get me in the door. Once I’m in, I can be pretty persuasive.” The way Ken’s eyes moved to watch the coins spin, I was afraid he was going to make himself dizzy.

“Who? What kind of business? I guess it could work, but it’ll have to be something we can sell.”

“Anubis Karos. I’m sure a good computer network would be helpful in the slave trade.”

Ken was in and from there it was just details. We haggled a little bit over what he and his contacts would need to pave the way for the meeting and agreed it would be best if no one else knew it was me who’d be attending. I rather enjoy keeping Brandon in the dark on as much as possible anyway.

“Use one technomancer to get to another?” asked Shae with some curiosity as we headed upstairs to the loft. “You’re sure this Inferi will be able to help?”

“Oh, aye,” I smiled back to her, “he’ll have exactly the piece I need to close our deal.”
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Kalamere
Devils Advocate
Legendary Adventurer
Legendary Adventurer


Joined: 31 Oct 2005
Posts: 1427
Locksmith, Gambler
Location: Dragon's Gate
109,029 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After a final stroke of the brush, I sat back to admire my own work. I was downstairs, sitting at the table in the subterranean kitchen with a titanium briefcase lain open before me. Within the case were neatly arranged golden bars, each stamped with the eye of horus which I had just finished painting red for effect. More than a red paint really, it was a crimson gel like substance that glittered in the light and was sure to catch the eye. The Egyptian symbology probably wasn’t strictly necessary, but I figured if I was going to play this role I might as well add a few touches to sell it.

A lithe arm reached out to wrap around me, the scent of cinnamon filling the air as a woman’s cheek slid smoothly along mine, her blue tresses falling down over my shoulder as she glanced down to see what I’d been working on. Had I known she was in the room at all, I might not have thrown the still wet brush across the room to smack into the dart frog aquarium. I did manage to keep from drawing a knife this time though. It was the scent of her hair that gave her away as non-threatening. Well, not an immediate threat anyway.

“Couldn’t you add a hint of sound to your footfalls when you do this?”

“I could,” Shae responded, giving no indication that she’d actually consider doing so. “The paint is a nice touch.”

As the shock of her sudden appearance dissipated, my mind found a bit of focus and circled back to the blue hair that had fallen over my shoulder. Turning in my chair to get a better look, I let out a sigh. “Jewell now? I thought we had an agreement.”

“Did we?” she replied in a tone that clearly said we didn’t. “I believe I rather like the look of your squire. So do you if I’m any judge of these things. Temptation is sort of my business, you know.” she paused, Jewell’s grey eyes studying my face before breaking into a surprised smile. Stepping closer, she put a delicate hand on my cheek and nearly purred, “You’re protective of this one!”

I thought perhaps if I kept my mouth shut she might move past this topic and we could get back to planning the kidnapping of a technomancer, which seemed likely to involve some amount of torture and possibly a gruesome death before my debt was paid. This felt like a better subject.

“My dark champion. Master assassin, having sworn off attachment for how long? What is it about the little blue haired sidhe, hmm?”

“I took the lass as a squire. I’ve an obligation.” Like a number of other things lately, this was an arrangement I might have better thought through before extending the offer. I’d been caught up in Hydra and lending a magical weapon out to a teammate seemed like good strategy. That it also linked me to her as an instructor, carrying all the typical master / apprentice connotations, didn’t really occur to me until later.

“Ahh, of course.” she said, her lips taking on a sinister grin that didn’t quite match with the face she wore. “A chink in your armour, young elven lord. We’ll have to remember this... as well to see what happens once you’ve given into other temptations this woman presents.”

I liked this conversation less the more she continued, my eyes narrowing dangerously in her direction. I was pretty sure that dropping the opal in a bit of hydrofluoric acid wouldn’t actually accomplish anything, but the glance I gave her said I had some I was willing to waste in order to find out.

Shae chuckled darkly, but relinquished. She retained the form of my squire still, but did at least move on to a different topic. “So, are we ready for our trip now?” waving her hand towards the case. “You have Inferi’s payment together and I am certainly familiar enough with Anubis to lend you his appearance. Though it would be easier if you were shorter.” she added after consideration.

“Aye, tomorrow. Ken’s contacts within the company have us on the books for his last appointment of the day. The illusion of our slaver friend is not all that I’ll be needing from you though, aye? We’ve discussed this.”

“Yes, yes, I know. A touch more of my shadow powers. I’ve granted it to you. You blend into them more effectively than anyone your size and description has the right to do already, I don’t see why you feel you’ll need to animate them.”

The benefit of being ShadoWeaver’s steward, beyond the constant presence of a charming illusionary woman set on bending me to her will in some nefarious plot, is the access to some of her lesser talents. All her holders were granted a very limited control over shadows. These just seem to emanate from holding the opal; the first taste of what she might offer if you’re willing to make a deal with her. I’d argued that we already had a deal and if she wanted me to be able to pull it off, I needed just the slightest bit more.

Using the abilities is dangerous and seductive, generally leading to larger deals and tangling one’s self further into her schemes. This was a risk, but I’d told myself I’d use them sparingly. I was, after all, nothing if not careful.

Sometimes.

Stop laughing.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2014 1:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chapter Three:

It was late afternoon and the sun had already dipped low in the sky as we made our way down the city street towards Inferi Corp. I’ve paid my share of visits to ‘modern era’ dimensions, with their many storied buildings and asphalt paved streets packed full of automobiles. I’m no forest elf, but I don’t think I’ll ever be quite comfortable in a place like this. The magic was sparse and hard to reach, while the technology was omnipresent. Still though, to complete the job this is where I needed to be.

Shae walked next to me, the long legs of her half elvish form easily keeping pace. She was quiet as we walked, which was odd for an evil mastermind who usually alternated between taunting or tempting me.

“We’re almost there,” I pointed out. “Another block West, then around the corner.”

This elicited no response beyond a gloomy look cast in my direction. I probably should have been happy with the silence, but she had her bottom lip out in something of a petulant little pout and curiosity got the better of me.

“This is the next step in the plan, I figured you’d be happy to finally be out of The Line.”

“Happy. Yes, happy would be good, but you, champion mine, are not at all making me happy.”

“Aren’t I?” I’d spent the better part of two weeks devising a way to snatch a technomancer for her because of a promise she’d tricked me into. A plot we were very close to moving into the next stage of. I rather thought that should make her happy.

“No.” she replied simply, ignoring the venom I’d put in the words. “After weeks together you still refuse to open your mind to me. First, the locked door that forces me to create an avatar to converse with you and now an active veil to obscure your thoughts! Not to mention giving me only the vaguest details about the plan. The lack of trust makes me sad.”

The veil was a trick Raven taught me years ago. I don’t have the type of mental acuity to form a complete shield and keep a would be thought snatcher out of my head altogether. This is a simpler tactic. It doesn’t hide the thoughts so much as obscure them behind layers of innocuous memories. It’s like throwing gauze over something. If you look long and hard enough you can eventually figure out what’s there, but it takes time and you’re unlikely to ever really make out the fine details. She proved to know more than enough about me when we first met. Continued, unfettered access seemed unwise.

The locked door, well that’s another story. The ring is the key and she’s been trying to coax me into removing it since our first encounter. While the ring is on, she’s unable to speak directly to my mind and instead must resort to tricking the rest of my senses with illusions. Life might be simpler if I did just let her in, but that lock is place for a reason. Doors swing both ways and what’s back there needs to stay put.

“Are you willing to explain to me why I need to kidnap a technomancer?” I asked.

Shae shook her head in the negative, which I had assumed would be the answer.

“Well then, there you have it. Puts us on even footing by my account.” Ok, maybe it was a little petty not to share details with her at this point, but I like to think I was still justifiably annoyed over being blown up. Or, well, made to think I’d been. And the whole being tricked into the deal that brought me to this strange city thing.

A minute later, still walking in silence, we reached the final corner. One last turn and Inferi Tech would be in sight. Peaking around the bend I could see the giant monstrosity of steel and glass. Sixty floors worth. Hung over the front entrance, the deep red electric lettering of the corporate sign was just coming to life in the dim light of early evening; slashing, angled text that read “Inferi”.

“Alright, darlin’,” I said, after checking to make sure no one would be close enough to see the change. “Time for your part.”

Nothing. She harrumphed and simply stood there looking at me with her arms crossed.

“Seriously? The appointment is in half an hour and I was hoping to have time to case the lobby. Let’s make with the Egyptian-ification.”

“Fine,” she said with a sigh. “But I’m doing it under protest. For the next part I want in under the veil.”

Nothing good could possibly come from that, but it wasn’t the best time to argue. I had turned to look at my reflection in the plate glass window of the building we were hovering near, waiting to no longer look like my tall half-elven self, and I could see a couple approaching from down the block behind us.

“Objection noted, We’ll tackle that when back in RhyDin, aye?”

She smiled and gave no further protest. That was bad. Damnit, I must have phrased that wrong and, in retrospect, may have just agreed to her demands. Before I could recant and attempt to rephrase, she gave the slightest wave of her hand and my reflected image began to shimmer.

A second later it was Anubis staring back at me from the mirrored surface.


Last edited by Kalamere on Fri Feb 24, 2017 2:52 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 7:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Moving with long brusque strides, hempan sandaled feet ambulated my lithe athletic form towards the ingress, its tinctured glass the dusky grey of tenebrous smoke. One coppery, sinuous limb thrust forward to propel the polished portal agape. I paused upon passing the threshold, almond oculi cast in disdainful inspection of the proletarian attendants tasked with safeguarding the extensive edifice.

“What are you doing?” asked Shae, looking at me quizzically.

The wretched sentry before me motioned, indicative that the titanium transport which chambered Inferi’s prospective requital be lain upon the surface of the table his corpulent torso labored abaft. Upon execution he tracked within greater proximity, an alabaster baton extended to confirm the absence of martial implementations upon my august embodiment. This drew a feral smile from sallow lips projecting both contempt and malice, an avowal of tempestuous repercussions should the lout transgress surfeit.

“You might be taking this new look a touch too far.”

Maneuvering next to the cast case, his porcine digits disengaged the fastening and flung wide the apical occlusion, revealing the aureate bounty contained within. Golden ingots shone in the pale fluorescent illumination and the coruscation of avarice materialized in his erstwhile languorous eyes. Professing a requirement for perlustration he extended to palpate the shimmering hoard, a single unctuous extremity slithered along the resplendent surface beginning at the base and aspiring to conclude upon the eye of Horace engraving.

With the consummate celerity and precision of a striking viper, my own hand thrust rapaciously forward to encircle his wrist in a vice like grasp, arresting his progress midway along its trajectory with a bone jarring force.

“This is more wealth than your family will see in a generation, cretin. Unhand it now. Your inspection is complete,” my voice rumbling darkly with an animalistic snarl. Abyssal irises an omen of vehement reprisal should he persist.

“Ok, really. Just stop.” said Shae.

I reclaimed the case and gave Shae a covert smirk as we moved away from the guard station. I thought it was a rather passable Anubis impression, but now that we’d made it past the entry and been caught on camera, I could afford to relax a bit as we moved to the lobby.

The waiting area was comfortably decorated with half a dozen plush chairs and a pair of couches. A coffee table held a number of technical looking magazines and a large wall mounted television showed the local news. Personally, I found the guard station located maybe 15 yards further down the hall to be more interesting and paid closer attention to their comings and goings than I did to the seven day forecast. So far everything was syncing up nicely with Kattria’s report, but it never hurts to double check these things.

We’d arrived half an hour early on purpose, but were kept waiting another half an hour beyond that before being summoned. A mousy looking receptionist informed us that Mr. Inferi’s previous meeting had run long, but that he was ready for me now. I was escorted to the elevator bay where she punched in the 60th floor after swiping her security card.

I don’t care for elevators. I really don’t care for them when traveling 60 floors into the sky. The ride was smooth and fast at least, but being sealed into a metal box and left to the fates of some system of technology I don’t understand just doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies.

Stepping from the elevator once it reached the top floor was a relief. Another receptionist sat behind another large wooden desk and greeted me with a smile which quickly vanished when I returned Anubis’ dispassionate stare.

“He’s ready for you,” she said hurriedly and pressed a button to open the floor to ceiling mahogany doors that stood behind and to the left of her.

Entering the office was like stepping backwards through time. That’s not quite accurate. Going backwards might put you in a world like I come from where advanced technology is a crossbow. Maybe this would be sideways through time?

It had all the technological advances one would expect to find in the office of a man who practiced this odd form of magic and science, yet everything looked to be inexplicably gilded in brass. The furnishings were the finest in Victorian era posh, ornate clockworks and huge maps covered what wall space hadn’t already been claimed by network monitors. Across the spacious office, near to the picture windows that looked down on the entirety of the city, sat a tidy, near obsessively organized desk and, between desk and window, sat the man I had to assume was Inferi.

He was a heavy man, dressed in a rust brown three piece suit, the chain of a pocket watch glittered at his waistcoat; a neatly tied cravat at his throat. With the waxed handlebar mustache on his plump face he appeared like some kind of cross between Snidely Whiplash and a walrus. The look was completed with a top hat, which he tipped to me as he looked up from his keyboard, and a pair of aviator goggles, the latter flashing red as his gaze settled on me.

“Mr. Karos, is it?”, he asked. His voice held the touch of an English accent, though something about it made me think it an affectation. “You look to have surrounded yourself with quite a bit of magic. We’ll need to do something about this bit of glamour if we are to continue.” And then he lifted some kind of device that looked a lot like a brass remote control and pointed it in my direction.

“Well, that’s awkward,” opined Shae.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2016 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Click.

Inferi depressed a button on his remote while pointing it at me. Shae smirked as nothing happened.

Click, click. Click, click. Inferi frowned and smacked the device against his palm twice before pointing it at me again. Click, click-click, clickity-click.

“It’s cute that he keeps trying,” ventured an amused looking Shae. Inferi might be good in his particular field, but he wasn’t at a level where he could strip an illusion put up by an avatar of spirit magic if she didn’t want him to.

“Unacceptable!” Annoyed, Inferi slammed the remote down on his desk and made to reach for what I was certain would be an emergency call button to summon security.

“Easy now, my friend.” I held up one hand to remind him I was unarmed and here in peace. I’d have held up both, but the other was still holding the briefcase and gold is freaking heavy. Making Anubis’ face look non-threatening wasn’t easy, but I gave it my best shot. “Why don’t you have a look in the case before you decide to kick me out and then we can talk business. I’ll even drop the guise myself if that’ll make you more comfortable.” I gave a glance to Shae and hoped she’d be more cooperative in dropping the illusion when it was my idea.

He paused and gave a curt nod. I was relieved. Much as I felt naked to do so, I had come here without weapons. There was a letter opener on his desk I had spotted earlier, but I didn’t think it would survive an assault on more than one guard and I was pretty sure there would be several if he hit that button. Since he wasn’t calling in the calvary, it was my turn to hold to the bargain. A few steps to the side of his desk stood a raised table that looked like a good spot to set the case. There would have been enough room on his desk, but knowing how my ring interacts with the computers his company had set up back at The Line, I was more than a little hesitant to get close to his.

Before moving to the table, however, I needed to ditch the illusion. I set the case on the ground at my feet and began a complicated incantation. It was gibberish combined with useless elaborate hand gestures. Shae was the one who would be removing the glamour after all, I just needed to make it look like it was me. To that end I enlisted the shadow spawn she’d been so kind as to give me power over and sent them swirling around my form, melding in and out of the light to obscure my face and body. Slowly I began to have them melt away, skittering to the floor around me and dashing up the walls to vanish through vents and cracks, moving on to their next task.

When my little minions had all scurried away, I could tell from the look on Inferi’s face that Shae had done her bit as well. The way he pointed his finger accusingly and said “You!” was also a good indication.

“Me?” I asked. Sure, it was probably a little jarring to have a creepy Egyptian guy suddenly replaced by a tall, much better looking, half-elf, but he and I had never met, so the reaction seemed a bit much.

“You’re his elf.”

“His elf?” I frowned. He could mean none other than Brandon. “I rather like to think I’m my own elf.”

“Nonsense.” added Shae, “You’re my elf.”
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2016 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The irony of discussing the ownership of my person so soon after being disguised as a slaver wasn’t lost on me, but it seemed best to move past this. I stepped to the raised table and laid the briefcase down, undid the latch and threw open to lid to place a ransoms worth of gold bars on full display. Plucking one of them from the felt lining, I held it up for him to see, sighing as I ran my thumb across the etched and red dyed Eye of Horus stamp.

“You have to admit, this was a nice flourish, even if the effort was wasted. Credit to you though, those are some swanky goggles.” When in doubt, flattery. I left the bar I’d been handling aside the case and removed to a distance he wouldn’t find threatening.

“This bauble?”, his voice rang with false humility. “Tell me, Ar’Din, why the charade?”

“You obviously know of me through my work with Brandon. Would you have taken the meeting without asking for a reason, or knowing the reason was in opposition to the lawyer?”

“Good God no!”

“Well there you have it. Since I’m already here though and with an awful lot of gold, how about a chat?”

“You make an excellent point.” he agreed, his eyes turning to the gold. He adjusted the goggles to see through the magical spectrum and whatever else they were able to check, then moments later his fingers followed his eyes. There’s just something tactile about gold. It demands to be touched, held close and tested. He dug the blade of that letter opener into one edge and nodded, satisfied with the authenticity of the metal, then chuckled at the Egyptian symbolism I’d attempted to add and checked to see if it would brush off. It didn’t.

“As you say, you are already here and it is quite a lot of gold. The meeting will cost you one of those bars.” he had replaced the bar into the case and moved to a seating area to claim one of a pair of couches. He motioned to the other for me to sit. “Tell me what service you’re looking to pay the other five for.”

I was afraid the meeting was going to cost me two bars. Between making it into the office, not getting flagged by security and him now taking the meeting at half the anticipated cost, I was feeling pretty good about things when I took the seat across from him.

“Artisan Networks.” I began. “My information says you and Davinci know each other and maybe you can help me get a meeting with him.”

“I think his heart just stopped.” said Shae, and indeed the man had turned ashen at the mention of his competitor. He was still breathing, so I figured his heart was probably ok, but his fear of Davinci was palpable, which surprised me. I had half expected co-conspirators. After a few seconds he shook himself out of it and recovered a modicum of composure.

“To what end?” he asked.

“Look, I’m trying to run a business that ”

“A front.” he interrupted.

“A business,” I corrected back, though his correction showed Brandon had been sharing secrets. That would have been a violation of our contract if Inferi was told in RhyDin, but I didn’t doubt B had been shrewd enough to walk the line on that clause. Under normal circumstances I’d probably have been annoyed, but on this occasion I thought I could make it work to my benefit.

“A business that relies on your network rather heavily. My lads are spending all their time building up new walls of fire and other defenses, instead of doing their actual jobs and helping the business earn more coin. I need that to stop.”

“And, what?” asked Inferi, “you think meeting with him can get him to back off? Offer him a bribe or try to buy his services?” He scoffed, obviously thinking a meeting with Davinci would prove fruitless. “The man is more vindictive than greedy. He’ll stop once he’s gotten bored or forced you out of business.”

“Paying him off would be one way to go, sure. But there is a more permanent solution if you can work your magic and show me a way of gaining access.”

Inferi raised an eyebrow at the suggestion, at once taken aback by its audacity and intrigued by what it could mean for his own business to have less competition. “You’re serious? You would kill a man over packet loss?”

“What can I say? They’re my packets.”


Last edited by Kalamere on Sat Feb 25, 2017 11:34 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 3:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And so we negotiated. We weaved through the various means he had of locating where Davinci might be holed up, since no one had actually seen the man in years and, as a master of his craft, he was virtually untraceable by normal means on the networks. Sure, I had found a location he might have been in, but had never gotten confirmation. Inferi should be able to provide that and, maybe, a better set of blue prints that would provide an entry point we'd missed. I very quickly got the sense that Infiri was outclassed by his one time brother apprentice and no amount of gold I could offer was going to get him to put himself in a position of high visibility. He'd help. He practically salivated at the idea of what heights his own company could ascend to with Davinci out of the picture, but he was also wanting to avoid undue risk of exposure in the event I wasn't up to the task of eliminating the man. I might have been somewhat insulted by this.

The majority of the technical aspects of what he proposed escaped me. It's just not my thing. The magic made sense though and beyond the risk aspect, I learned more about his capabilities based on the various paths we considered and discarded. Even when a given solution seemed to hide his efforts best, he would veer away from it if the magical cost came in too high. It made sense, given an overall low volume of magic on this particular world, but it also told me he wasn't comfortable handling high quantities. Naturally I began to push down those paths.

"That is an abundance of magic sunk into your task, Mr. Ar'Din." he complained.

"It's an abundance of gold I'm offering," I countered. "It keeps you very well hidden, locates his present location within a twenty mile radius and gets us a view from those satalight things you mentioned, so I can open a portal there without, you know, killing myself. Sounds perfect to me. Remember also, I am not the only one who gains here." It was still a ton of ground, but the idea was to find his residence if we could, rather than his fortified office, in hopes of more advantageous security conditions.

"Fine, but my price is the full case."

"Bah. Three bars. You want more than that, let's go back to talking about one of those direct assault plans you mentioned. Where his counter measures would let you pin his location down to a city block. The time savings in finding him then would be worth it." He blanched at the thought and nodded his head in agreement to the plan on the table.

He put on his best defeated face, but he knew he’d gotten a pretty good deal here and even broke out an excellent bottle of whiskey to seal the terms with a drink. “I do hope you are as good as Mr. Fox seems to think you are at this type of work,” he mentioned while sipping the single malt, dollar signs practically visible in his eyes.

“Brandon paying me a compliment. Huh. Wonders never cease.” I grinned and lifted the glass towards him. “This is very good by the way. Here’s to your seeing for yourself.” He nodded in return and I turned slightly to check the clock. Negotiations had taken about an hour. I had planned for about an hour and a half before things got under way, so the schedule was still in line. Shae had kept quiet during the discussion, but I could see she was growing impatient. “How soon before we can begin?” I asked.

“Hmm.” Infiri tugged on his large walrus looking mustache and looked around his office, the face of a man checking off a mental inventory list. He set the whiskey down on the coffee table and ventured over to his desk where he rifled through drawers; withdrawing a ring from one, a book from another and what looked like a tuning fork from a third. He held the last one up, looking through the gap towards one of the large network monitors attached the wall and whispered something into it. The fork sparked brightly and Infiri nearly dropped it in shock, but the monitor tuned to what I assumed was a world map. Shae arched a delicate brow towards me, questioningly, but I just shrugged in return.

“Very good,” he said, quickly moving on, though leaving the tuning fork on his desk. “I have all the necessary accoutrements on hand. Shall we say opening of business tomorrow?”

“Why not tonight then? Save me the cost of a hotel. Plus I’d get a lot more scouting done if I got there under cover of night than in broad daylight.” Which was all true enough, though my tone carried an undercurrent of mistrust. I’d have given fifty-fifty odds that left alone for a night, Infiri’s better sense would win out over his greed and he’d sell me out to Brandon rather than go forward with the deal.

“I. Well. Tonight, you say?”

“Aye. Let’s remove the opportunity for getting cold feet.” Might as well make the meaning clear rather than rely on tones and dirty looks, “You have what you need. I have what I need. Let’s do this now. My preference is to leave here through a portal, but if I have to walk out that door the gold is coming with me.”

“What are you implying?!” he asked, indignant.

“Careful. Don’t lose him now,” cautioned Shae.

“I apologize.” She was right. I’d made my point, but needed to take the edge off it lest he get his back up and cancel the whole thing. “My work is best done at night though and I have both a timeline to stick to and a lot of ground to cover. A twenty mile radius is going to take me much longer than I’d hoped, so the sooner we begin the better.”

He harrumphed, but seemed to accept both the apology and the reasoning. He gave the gold a glance too though, figuring I would probably still make good on the threat to leave with it. This would have been an accurate assumption on his part. He took a deep breath and then nodded. “Very well.”

“Show time!” exclaimed Shae. Thrilled to have gotten past the negotiations and getting back to some action. She had no idea.


Last edited by Kalamere on Sat Feb 25, 2017 11:38 am; edited 3 times in total
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 24, 2017 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Inferi gathered his tools. The ring slipped on the thumb of his left hand, tuning fork picked up in his right. He carried the book to the side table where I had left the gold and motioned for me to join him once he’d flipped it open to the page he wanted. I did, as did Shae, and after unloading two more of the bars to make a total of three lying on the table I closed and latched the case, taking it back in hand.

The book he’d opened was unlike any spellbook I’ve used or seen before. My experience is with dusty old tomes, typically written is a flowery script and the occasional artistic rendering of the tools to be used or creature being summoned. His was done in precise square letters upon grid lined paper. Interspaced between the words were mathematical equations with Greek lettering and mechanical drawings that as far as I could tell were circuitry outlines. Needless to say, it made no sense to me. I shrugged and turned a questioning glance towards the technomancer.

“Turn your attention to those two monitors”, he began and waived the tuning fork in the direction of the screens. “The one on the right specifically is what you will need. The ring will assist me in gathering the magic I need and the fork to focus my will into the monitor on the left where the true work of the spell takes place. Satellite imagery will show you the area on the right screen and a small picture in picture box on the bottom should give you all the information you need to create a portal safely.”

I nodded that I had understood. “How long will I have?”

“Two minutes. If I hold the spell longer my intrusion will be noticed. I expect it to take around five minutes to complete my spell and tune the satellite. The screen on the left will turn green though, so you will know things are ready.”

“Alright.”

He flexed his fingers preparing to begin and, as his eyes lowered to the book to read through the mechanical incantation, I took a few subtle steps to the side.

Interesting note about casting spells directly out of a spellbook: stopping is hard. In fairness, stopping any spell mid flow is difficult because half an incantation could be some other incantation altogether and gods only know what you might have just done, so you have to ease out and try to direct the energy into something harmless. Spellbooks themselves hold a little bit of magic though and can be touchy. Triggered wrong you can cause the spell to vanish from the book. Worse you could destroy the whole book, sometimes violently. It’s a thing best not done if you can avoid it.

Infiri’s thumb ring began to glow as he read through the page before him. He didn’t notice it immediately, or maybe the ring always glowed faintly when he used it. Another sentence in, however, and the glow became brighter still, shifting to an angry molten orange. It crackled as magic sparked around his whole hand. A virtual storm of mana spun and twisted visibly, circling violently around the ring, his hand, his arm. The technomancer’s eyes flashed wide in surprised panic, but he knew he couldn’t stop. He continued a sentence at a time, the power continuing to build as he looked for a safe a way to terminate the spell. I took another couple steps away.

Sweat was beading up on his face as exertion mixed with fear, steam beginning to billow up from the ring on his thumb. Then he found his exit point, a branch of the spell that allowed him to divest himself of the building mana and shortcut the enchantment into something else. Not even half complete, he’d built up more raw magic than he had ever handled at one time and knew he could not throw it all into the locating of Davinci or for certain would be discovered. He pointed the tuning fork at a different monitor altogether and spoke the words of release.

Now, see, here’s the problem with the particular choice he made. For the magic to make it from point A (the ring on his left hand) and be released from point B (the tuning fork in his right), it needed to flow through the rest of his body.

The cyclone of sparking blue mana descended fully into the ring and down his arm, ripping a scream of pain from his throat as it torched a nervous system that couldn’t deal with the overload. Visible veins in his neck and forehead bulged from the stress of it, his body and mind acting as a reservoir for the collected magic before it could spill down his right arm and out the extended tuning fork. Neon sparks surfaced as flashes in his eyes just before they rolled back up into his head. Power poured from the silver fork towards the monitor, but fell short of the mark as he collapsed, first forward onto the standing table where he struck his head against the bars of gold and then sliding off the side to collapse into a heap on the floor.

Shae was shocked. She blinked a couple times looking from Infiri’s crumpled body, where he lie drooling on the floor, then to me. “What have you done!? How are you going to deliver me a technomancer now?”

“What do you mean?” I asked as I refilled my glass of whiskey. It really was very good stuff. I nodded towards the large man lying prone at her feet, “I just did.”
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Kalamere
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Locksmith, Gambler
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2017 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“You just… You, what?” asked Shae.

“Just did,” I repeated as I took a comfortable spot on the couch and propped my feet up on the coffee table. “Delivered you a technomancer, that is. Remember the other day when we were talking about this challenge from Anubis; that he and I both served our purpose and you didn’t mind which you sat with?”

“Yes,” she admitted, though her tone and narrowed eyes said she didn’t like where this was going.

“That reminded me that I had promised you A technomancer. Not a specific technomancer. So, there ya go,” I waved a hand at the prone form of Inferi, “you have a technomancer.”

“I wanted him alive. I was quite clear that you do not get to kill him until I was finished with him.”

“Bah, he’s alive. Look, his eyelids are twitching.”

She did look and indeed his eyelids were twitching. His whole body actually convulsed a few times. Shae kicked him in the shoulder or, you know, would have if she were more than just an illusion only I could see.

“I am unhappy.” she stated flatly. “What did you do to him? I saw him check for poison. Will he regain consciousness and be of some use to me?”

“What? I was being helpful. I added a mana enhancer to the paint. Not my fault he only checks for things that would harm him.” There’s an alchemist I know who makes the stuff; it’s outstanding if you’re ever in the need. It tunes the body to the local ley lines and character of surrounding wild magic, allowing you to pull it in at five times efficiency. Say for a big spell that takes a lot of juice or something you need to get off quickly. It does help to know that you’re doing it though.

I glanced at Inferi who had thankfully stopped with the spasms by now and then shrugged at Shae. “Not sure about the consciousness part. He may have permanently fried something. You’re the mind magic lass though, I figure you should be able to do something with him. Be quick about it, will you? I have your shadow minions up there blocking out all the cameras. Security is bound to get antsy and pay us a visit to check on him before too long. Maybe you can play puppeteer?”

“Just so we’re clear, I’m going to be rooting for Anubis now.” she grumbled and stalked around Inferi, looking him over as to judge just what she could do with him. With a sigh she crooked a finger to beckon me over. “Come here. Place the opal in his hand. I need direct contact for this.”

I did as requested and placed the smooth stone into Inferi’s hand, wrapping his fingers around it. The body remained still for a few long moments and then his eyes blinked open. Black mist swirled through the whites of his eyes, the pupils initially unfocused. They dilated and contracted and then blinked again before he spoke. Or she spoke. I have to say it was creepy when his lips opened and her sultry, honey dipped voice came out.

“Help me up.” he said, or she said. They said? “Ugg, I hate possession and you made a terrible mess of this brain. Gods I’m hideous.” she, cause it was definitely she, complained. “Ohhhh, this is nice though,” before taking my hand she moved her/his fingers in an independant little wave motion throwing electric blues sparks from one to the next to the next. “Mana enhancer. I like it.”

Standing upright now, Shae moved the man’s hands to his forehead and concentrated, burrowing through his memories and knowledge looking for… well, I didn’t know what it was she was looking for or why she needed a technomancer in the first place.

“Good, I think I found it.” Inferi’s face grinned darkly. I was thinking I probably should have asked more questions about what this was all for right about then. Not that it would have mattered though I guess, I wasn’t going to go back on the oath anyway.

“Don’t think you’re off the hook either, knight of mine.” the grin faded and she turned the man’s eyes on me. “Did I mention how much I hate to do possessions? And, uggg, this body is disgusting.”

“Fine, fine. Wrathful vengeance later. You have control now, aye? I need to release the shades before security storms in.”

“I’ll take care of the shadows. I need them to help build the device anyway.” Device? Oh, that couldn’t be good. “It’ll be an hour or two. Be a dear and hand me one of the gold bars from the table behind you.”

When I mentioned wrathful vengeance, I hadn’t been expecting quite so fast an enactment. I didn’t know what use gold would be to her, but if she needed it to get this done and get us out of here, I was happy to hand it to her. As it happened, she didn’t need the gold. She just needed me turning away so she could land the sucker punch.

Inferi’s ham hock fist, complete with what I’d like to point out was far more of an electrical mana charge than was strictly necessary, caught me behind the ear. I went down hard. At least I assume I did judging by the lump on my head I’d wake up with later. I don’t remember anything after the sound of buzzing electricity in my ear.
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Kalamere
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Locksmith, Gambler
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 4:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Epilogue:

I sat at the bar of The Line with a plate of eggs for breakfast and a badsider to wash it down. It had been a few days since I’d stopped in to see on things; not since the trip off world to see Inferi and the challenge a couple days later where Anubis took ShadoWeaver from me in a pair of sudden death bouts. It was early still and we weren’t open for business, but Jerry was prepping the bar and a handful of delivery guys were pushing hand trucks, loaded with boxes of new computer equipment that had ‘Artisan Networks’ printed on the sides.

“So, she suckered punched you and you went down like a cheap.. ahem.. She knocked you out.” said Jerry with his usual tact, following along as I recounted events for him. “How’d you get out?”

“Walked,” I shrugged. “I woke up a bit later and found her, well Inferi, at his desk with a bunch of equipment scattered about that hadn’t been there before my nap. She said they’d need a couple more hours, but dressed me back up as Anubis to leave so it wouldn’t look weird to have us leaving together and nobody would be wondering where the elf came from. I like to think I taught her a bit of strategy while she was here.”

“Yeah, sure boss, you tell yourself that.” I returned his smirk with a glare over the edge of my beer. “She just met you somewhere later and you came back here then? What were they making? What happened with the techno-guy, Inferi?”

I just stared at him. One day he really was going to learn better than to ask me questions like that.

“I see...” he swallowed and looked away for a minute. “ I guess that explains the change in tech suppliers to this Artisan Networks outfit we’ve got moving in. Ken told me Inferi Tech had a massive stock hit after the CEO went missing and filed chapter, umm.. 32? I don’t know. Some part of a book I haven’t read. B seemed pretty pissed when he dropped by the other day looking for you.”

Ahh, good ol Brandon. I grinned at this, having won at least that little part of the game. With Inferi out of business, Davinci would have had dear Mr. Fox over barrel for the price negotiations. Yeah, I’d be on the hook for half of it, but it was worth it, not to mention the network disturbances Ken kept complaining of would suddenly vanish with the perpetrators becoming our suppliers.

“He’ll get over it. Or not,” I shrugged, “nothing he can do since our contract wasn’t violated.”

Jerry took the now empty plate away and refilled the badsider. “You need some ice for that neck, boss?” Hey, you go a few rounds with Anubis and see how you’re feeling the next day.

“Nah, it’ll pass. I’ll be in my office if anyone comes looking.”

“Sure thing, boss.”

Taking the mug with me I walked down the hall to my office, closing the door behind me. I unlocked the safe and sat down in front of it before going through the tedious process of dropping the wards I kept on the hidden inner compartment. Shae and Inferi had been at it for several hours back in his office and when she’d met up with me later, Inferi’s hand dropped the black opal into my right hand and their work product into my left before the body collapsed to the street.

I withdrew the object from my cloak and turned it over in my hand. I hadn’t the first idea what it was. A black box, about the size of two decks of cards stacked ontop of each other. A lid on it opened, where inside was carved out a divot the precise size and shape of the ShadoWeaver opal. The whole thing was constructed of a dark metal with the occasional bit of visible circuitry. At the base of it were input sockets. One I knew to be USB, I’d picked that up from the time spent in the tech room with Ken. The others I couldn’t identify.

“What IS this?” I wondered aloud and found I actually expected a sarcastic response in silken tones. But Shae was gone now, which was simultaneously a loss and a relief. I thought back to her last words to me, just before I’d handed the opal over after the challenge loss. The closest she came to giving me a serious answer about the device and what it was.

“The past.” is what she’d answered. “Keep it safe. Give it time, but then claim me again. Maybe I’ll tell you more.” she shrugged at her own comment and then turned that sultry, melt you where you stand, look on me. “Even if I don’t, I’m sure we’ll have fun.”

So, keep it safe I would. Why? I have no idea. I dropped the box into the hidden compartment and recharged the wards before closing the safe. A large part of me thought this was a horrible idea. Like I’d just contributed a piece towards the eventual destruction of all of RhyDin. But, since I had the ability to create a portal out, I guess that wouldn’t be the end of the world. Well, it would be. This world. But, you know what I mean. I certainly wasn’t going to be challenging to get her back any time soon though. I had enough ‘fun’ in my life as it was. Her dark, wild cherry like, red hair in the way she showed herself to me was all the warning I should have needed to know to stay far, far away. Why are animals so much better at heeding nature’s warning signs than men?

I cursed quietly as I moved away from the safe, knowing myself well enough to know that eventually I would challenge for her again. Sometimes I just can’t help but play with fire.
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