Monday, November 22, 2010

Episode 22, Part 2: "Hey Guys, Let's Split Up!"

Xeno came to, on his back, Kobayashi slapping him back and forth.

"Be silent!" he hissed. "Not sure where we are, but I have feeling it not good."

Xeno looked around the dim room. Low niches in the wall, the damp smell of decay, what looked to be a dim outline of a skeleton...

"Oh, it's just a crypt." Xeno rolled free and examined the situation. 18 alcoves, all occupied. One door out. And no window from whence they came. Some weird sort of teleportation was involved, and he didn't like it.

Kobayashi found one of the interred was wearing a robe embroidered with yellow triangles. After some lengthy debate on the Nature of Grave Robbing, the Usefulness of Disguise in an Enemy Encampment and the likelihood of the corpse being infected with some sort of flesh-eating spores, one of them (I'm not saying who) decided to heave the corpse onto the floor in order to strip it of its vestments.

It hit the ground with a sickening plop and exploded into a million black, flesh-eating spores.

Kobayashi's lungs filled with the stuff. Xeno's nose and ears were overwhelmed with the rancid-smelling dust of mouldering decay. They coughed and hacked and made their way to the door, but stopped short as they heard voices and saw shadows under the door. They both kneeled, filling their lungs with what air seeped under the door. The smell of the grave was closing in and threatening to suffocate them both. Something had to be done.

Xeno threw open the door and fell onto the ground at the feet of two burly guards.


The two guards, who had incidentally just been discussing the fact that their wages had not, of late, realistically reflected the recent increase in risk and danger to their persons and who were, in fact, giving serious consideration to dropping the whole guard business like a hot rock and getting into the collectibles business, looked down to see a writhing black midget covered in death-smelling soot screaming at them and decided it wasn't even worth a moral check. They legged it.

Xeno chuckled to himself before extending the Middle Finger of Icy Doom. A Cone of Cold, flush with fives and sixes, left the two hapless guards cold and lifeless in the middle of a long, stone corridor.

Kobayashi immediately stripped off one of the guard's armor - it was brown and covered with small yellow triangles.

"Ever see Wizard of Oz?" said the monk to the gnome. Xeno just scratched his head. This guy just may be as crazy as I am, he thought...


Takemiya followed Longbottom's thoughts out the door and into a long corridor. He saw two figures appear from around a turn ion the hall some 20 yards distant. A female, stern and in flowing robes, walked with a quick agitation that told Takemiya she wielded power and was looking forward to using it on some hapless intruder. Behind her was Jordj. Takemiya, still invisible, backed himself into a corner and allowed them to pass. She wasn't going to be happy to find the guard in the pit, so he had just a few moments to move on and locate Longbottom.

Soon, after a few turnings, he located a row of cells.

He could hear a slow, steady series of sickening thuds. Combined with a high-pitched creaking sound, it sounded as someone was being repeatedly drubbed by a number of carp attached to a small metal wheel...

Takemiya crept up to the first cell and peered in. A humanoid lay curled up in a small dingy cot, facing the wall, unmoving. The second cell contained a large burly man with a booshy beard. He was unconscious and chained to the wall, and looked like he'd been there a while. The third cell contained the jackpot. Longbottom, stripped to the waist, was chained to a low bench. On the cell floor by his head was a small, three-spoked wheel. The wheel was being turned via a small crank by a tiny imp. The imp looked bored and on the verge of falling asleep. At the end of each of the three spokes was a fish. A dead fish. As the imp turned the wheel, the fish would, in turn, smack Longbottom in the forehead. His head was silvery with scales. Takemiya recognized the fish. They were indeed carp.


Xoe turned to look down at Ben.

"So what the hell's going on here? And why am I heading out this window?"

"This place is built on a mountain of temporal instability. I noticed a shift when we came in this way. You need to just pop out for a moment to see if we're still in the past. If we are, come back in and we'll try Plan B."

"And if we aren't?"

"Then hopefully we'll meet in the past when I'm a bit younger." Ben winked and gave Xoe a wave as she headed out into the night air.

Night air that was suspiciously devoid of smoke.

She listened and heard nothing. She looked at the hedge. It was three feet tall.

Quickly she turned and went through the window. Ben wasn't there. The trunks and banners and polearms weren't there. And where the alcove was, was...

A statue.

Or, half of one, actually. A kneeling figure, in monkly robes, lay half-constructed in the space where he alcove had been. Around it, workmen had left trowels ans loose stonework. They seemed to be constructing some sort of pool in front of it.

Xoe heard someone entering a door at the far end of the room. Two men entered, carrying a large painting draped in velvet. Xoe hopped down and piked her way through the workman's leavings in order to get a better look. They were talking to each other.

"Where'd they want it?"

Oh, I dunno. Anywhere safe, t'be sure. Wouldn't want to see it get damaged."

"Cor - hell's to pay if we nicked up her ladyship, hehe."

The two chuckled at what appeared to be an inside joke, and carefully left the painting leaning up against the far wall. The two stopped, lit their cigarettes, and ambled slowly out of the room.

Xoe couldn't resist. Making sure the two were long gone, she slipped over to the painting and lifted the cover...

A tall, radiant goddess in a mandorla gazed beatifically down at her. The artist had obviously been so taken by his subject that he imbued it with a special glowing power. The goddess was clad in sparse bits of chain mail - so sparse that it didn't quite cover her obviously swollen belly. Xoe looked up into the goddess' eyes and saw a look she recognized.

She blinked.

She took a few steps back and looked again.

It was Iryien.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Episode 22, Part 1: "Hey Guys, Let's Split Up!"

"What're you after? Obviously some wires got crossed here."

"Ah, well if you could help me, perhapsss I can exsssplain."

Xoe hopped into the room, albiet cautiously. The figure gestured towards Ben.

"I recognissse your friend, but he isss much changed. I do not think he will be helpful right now." With a wave of his hand, Ben was trapped behind a crystalline wall. The figure assured Xoe that he was fine. He then proceeded to roll an iridescent layer of skin off of one of his fingers and place it into the large trunk behind him before asking Xoe to assist him.

She noticed 4 smaller chests inside the larger one - each with a curious hexagonal keyhole in the top. One chest still had a key in it - a crystalline key, amber in color and triangular in shape. The lizard wizard had her remove the key and place it in a pouch he was wearing. He then had her help him drag the large chest into a curtained alcove. The curtain then shimmered - and Xoe realized she wasn't in Kansas anymore...

Meanwhile, Kobayashi emerged from his 'ordeal', none the worse for wear, if not a little confused. As Saladin and Xeno tried to decide where to head next, angry female monks could be heard in the main body of the temple. Saladin melded with stone and headed out to round up the Death Commandos. Xeno and Kobayashi moved quickly to an alcove in the rear of the temple where they found a throne, mounted on a gem-encrusted base. The body of the throne seemed to be made of a clear, crystalline material that was filled with a bubbling fluid. Two flaming sconces topped off the throne.

Xeno quickly scanned the alcove and found that the only way out lay through one of the five stained-glass windows at the back. Looking for something to break out a pane of glass, he found a golden censer and immediately picked it up. "Does it feel evil?" he asked himself.

The next thing Kobayashi knew, an enraged, bespittled gnome was hurling the censer then himself through the first window. Kobayashi followed suit in order to flee the acolytes who were now entering the back of the temple...

Somewhere deep underground, Takemiya sat up and scanned the hallway. Exits in both directions, but as he scanned around with the Helm of Telepathy, he found one direction alone led towards Longbottom, and that's the way he went. A door barred his way, and as he snuck up to it, he could hear voices, low and argumentative...

...then the floor gave way and he fell with a thud.

The pit trap had been clever, and quite luckily, not designed to maim. Bruised and flustered, Takemiya looked up into tines of two very long and very pointy tridents.

"Hey! Who're you? And what you doin' down 'ere? You're not even wearin' the right robes!"

Ah, Takemiya thought. First level guards, the staple of every great dungeon crawl.

"Many apologies. I have become lost whilst looking for most elusive exit. I shall await the arrival of your superior, and I assure you she shall not be in felicitous mood."

"Oi, whas he sayin' Karl?"

"Dunno, Jordj. Some sort of foreigner, I reckon. You better go get the Mistress. She ain't gonna be happy when she finds him 'ere."

One guard took off to fetch the Mistress while the remaining guard lit up a cigarette and relaxed in the door frame that overlooked the pit. Takemiya then detatched his head and sent it upwards to engage the guard in one of the more unfortunate bits of hand-to-head combat he'd experienced in his career. This allowed Takemiya's body to invisibly clamber up the walls of the pit and nimbly dump the guard into the pit. He then turned to the door at the back of the guardroom and, homing in on Longbottom's voice, dove deeper into the dungeon.

The wizard lizard pulled the curtain aside, revealing a different room entirely. A great storehouse of art objects were here, including one statue that seemed to be concealing an assassin. As the wizard backed into the room, dragging the chest, Xoe pushed from behind (keeping low, behind the chest) and kept one eye on the lurker. As he pulled the chest into the room the wizard thanked Xoe for her help, then the curtain fell back in place. Xoe heard the familiar chink-THUD of a crossbow bolt hitting home. The wizard gasped, uttered some famous last words, then ~

Xoe was back in the room with Ben. The wall was gone, and he was white with worry.

"Do you have any idea who that is you were with?" he gasped.

"Who that was, you mean. I believe he just expired." Xoe explained what she had seen and heard in the alcove below, then stopped as the facts marched by for her. Wizard. Killed. Painting. Past. Lizard...


"Yes. I believe you just witnessed the death of Loca'Luongo. And, I might add, you may have contributed to it indirectly having previously discharged his protection spell with your earlier attempt at a backstab."


"And now that we find ourselves back in the past, the only way we can reunite with the others is to either attempt a risky, draining attempt at time travel or try and head out the way we came in..."

Xoe looked at the window.

"Let's roll," she said, as she clambered up the wall...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Episode 21: Assault on the Temple of Perpetual Dawn, Part 3

Saladin raced into the back room of the temple, and much to his surprise he found a large, reptilian statue set against the back wall and dominating the center of the room. A large, eelike head sat on a humanoid body, kneeling in a meditative pose. Arms were tucked into its sleeves, while on the ground at its knees an inky pool of water sat malevolently still. Horrified yet fascinated, Saladin took a step towards the monstrosity, only to pause as he heard something. From behind a door set in the wall behind him, he heard noises - cries of someone, apparently in a great amount of pain. This person also seemed to be invoking the names of a great number of local deities. He strode forward resolutely to help.

Takemiya, while grateful for the confusion and chaos that provided excellent cover, decided that a little more caution was called for, and quietly shifted planes into the Ethereal. Sounds became muffled and shapes dimmed as he crossed the boundary of this reality and entered the next. But he could now see into the back room, see Saladin’s look of horror as he discovered the statue, and as he entered the back chamber through the wall, he could also see through the door the source of the strange, plaintiff cries issuing from the side room.

He had to admit, there were worse ways for someone to suffer…

Cold, damp and thoroughly annoyed, Xeno decided he’d had enough. Spying a window to the back of the temple, he decided to sneak in. Aaa’ooo’aaa had been dispatched to the top of the building to see what he could see, so Xeno took advantage of the chaos and clambered up and into…

A small, dark room.

He could see some sort of tabletop. He hopped down onto it and found himself tumbling amongst a number of objects. Fortunately for him, they seemed to be mostly made of rubber, so no suspicious noises were made to alert and of the guards. He managed to make his way to the floor, and after tripping over a few more rubbery items, he finally cast a light spell to see exactly what it was that had been giving him so much trouble.


It looked like the Spanish Inquisition had set up a special branch for bachelorette parties in here. Xeno didn’t know much about medieval rubber manufacture and molding, but he had a pretty good idea that this was a real good sampling of some of the best that the trade’s most clever and devious minds had to offer, and quite frankly it gave him the willies. LOTS of willies, to be exact.

He quickly slipped through the door opposite and into a large room containing Saladin, an large eel and a slowly apparating Takemiya.

“Don’t open that door.” Takemiya’s voice was cold, clear and full of authority. It froze Saladin with his hand on the knob.

“But someone sounds like they’re in pain! It could be Kobayashi! Oh, hi Xeno.”

Xeno shut the door behind him and eyed the room, and his eyes stopped on a pair of large, glinty eyes.

“Are those gems?” he asked, pointing to the statue’s large, green peepers.

“Yes,” sighed Takemiya wearily. “Those are indeed emeralds the size of my fist, and that is indeed Kobayashi,” he turned to face Saladin again, “but I can tell you that while he is indeed ‘in’ something, it is most definitely not pain.”

It's called 'Monkey Escapes Naughty Treehouse', actually, he thought to himself. And the lad's quite good at it.

“Still, don’t you think we should help him?” Saladin cried. “Who knows what’s going on in there? Xeno, should you really be climbing up there?” He was halfway up the eel’s head before Takemiya turned to gaze into the pool of black water.

“Xeno, shouldn’t you be detecting traps or something before you go prying gems from a statue’s eyes?” He thought he could see something in the water. The outline of a door.

“That’s Xoe. She’s the thief. I’m more of a sticky, stabby kind of guy.” Pling! The statue’s right eye popped out of its socket and into Xeno’s hand. He quickly pocketed it and moved over to the other eye and started prying it out with his knife.

Yes, thought Takemiya, there is a door at the bottom of the pool. A small trapdoor about the size of a-



Suddenly, Takemiya was sucked down, down, down into the noise and the black. Falling faster and faster he felt exploded apart only to be rammed back together again and find himself lying heaving and panting on the bottom of a passage floor. Water oozed out from his clothes. He could see an old, ancient stone ceiling above him, but he heard nothing but the trickle of water from his boots. He closed his eyes and turned on his telepathy, searching for minds that could tell him where he was.

He found one.

It was small, and it was weak, and it repeated over and over:

“My name is Ryan Longbottom. My name… is Ryan… Longbottom…”

Perhaps he was on the right track, after all.

Episode 21: Assault on the Temple of Perpetual Dawn, Part 2

Meanwhile, the Matron stepped aside and gestured to the young ladies kneeling around the mat. She looked at Kobayashi.
“Would you like to choose two opponents, or shall I choose for you?”
Kobayashi stuttered, then spluttered. He’d never seen so many… bosoms before.
“Ah, you may choose, ah, please.”
With an almost imperceptable nod, the Madam singled out two girls, and each sprung to the mat with surprising quickness.

Saladin, in raven form, sat on Takemiya’s shoulder and counted. 14 girls. Two monks. These guys BETTER be good, he thought…

“Be… careful,” Takemiya’s voice echoed inside Kobayashi’s head. He was glad that his master had the ability to communicate with him like this. These girls made him nervous for many reasons; their glistening skin, their supple limbs and their deadly quickness. How would he perform? Could he defeat them both? Why had their arrival been expected? Too many questions, and not enough time for answers. He was led onto the mat. The two girls, minimally clad, took their guard…

Outside in the night, Xeno was getting impatient. He was listening for a signal from Takemiya, but for now, all was silent. He decided that a closer look was warranted. With a whisper, Xeno’ s shape morphed into that of the hedge that surrounded the temple. Slowly and carefully, Xeno crept towards the side entrance to the temple.

The martial arts practice had come to an end, and a bare chested, muscular male had come to the temple door and held it open for the young ladies as they reentered the temple. As the last girl went inside, the man produced a cigarette, lit it, and casually smoked it as he leaned against the open door. Xeno could see the columns and hanging banners of the inner temple, but little else. He was about to move in for a closer look when he felt a presence behind him, then felt a warmth running down the back of his leg.

“STOP THAT!” he hissed at Aaa’ooo’aaa, the vulturesque Death Commando. Aaa let out a short, sharp squawk, and only after a frantic bout of aquatic inaccurracy did he manage to eventually stop what he was doing. “Do you HAVE to do that HERE, on ME????” Xeno was livid. And quite damp.

“SQUAA! Sorry, mon,” croaked the commando. “SQUAA! Why you hidin’ here, lookin’ like a boosh?”

Xeno shook his foot with as much irritability he could muster. “It’s called being incognito. You should look it up sometime.” Xeno turned back to the temple. The man had finished his smoke, and was turning to go inside. Xeno moved as quickly as he dared to get a look inside the temple before the door closed, but saw nothing. “Takemiya!” he growled in his head, “What’s going on in there???”

Kobayashi was now facing the two girls, and with a clap of the Matron’s hands, they pounced…

There were hands and feet raining from every direction. Kobayashi used all his training and skill to avid most of them. They seemed trained to fight as a team, one appearing where the other had just been, never letting him have a moment to recover. Kick, dodge, block, dodge, punch, dodge, dodge. He didn’t know how long he could keep it up.

He felt a great pain in his side, as all the muscles down his left side seemed to explode. He stifled a cry, but the next moment the Matron clapped her hands and yelled “Hai!” the girls stopped immediately, and stood still, arms raised, bosoms heaving.

“You friend is hurt,” she said. “He needs attending. Ladies, take him to a healing room and make him whole again.” The two girls took Kobayashi by the arms and led him to the back of the temple. As they exited through a door at the back, the Matron turned to Takemiya. “I am sorry your friend was injured. I hope you prove a more virile specimen.”

Kobayashi was led to the mat, and as he stepped onto the woven surface, Saladin suddenly morphed back into human form and appeared next to him. He had had enough.
“I'VE HAD ENOUGH!” he cried, and his bone staff appeared in his hand. Suddenly, every girl leaped to the ready, poised to strike.

Takemiya heard Xeno’s plaintiff cries in his head. He linked to Xeno’s mind at the very edge of his telepathic range and said “We have been seperated. We are outnumbered by very capable female combatants. They seem to be interested in us for nefarious reasons. I think a distraction would be in order.’

As soon as he thought those words, he regretted them, but could not take them back. He counted to five, about as long as he figure it would take Xeno to point his finger skyward, and silently said a word of prayer…

“Please don’t roll a one. This place is mostly wood and straw.”

Almost on cue, the night turned to day outside the temple. Windows exploded inwards, hot molten glass strafed the girls, and chaos ensued.

"I get what I ask for," Takemiya said to himself ruefully as he and Saladin scrambled to the back of the temple, stepping over wounded women and avoiding the small fires that were now burning everywhere in the temple. They came to a door in the back wall and entered quickly, hoping to find Kobayashi before anything bad could happen to him...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Episode 21: Assault on the Temple of Perpetual Dawn, Part 1

After discussing the curious results of Saladin's Precognition, the crew of Der Mobile headed up into the hills of Rosencrantz to Chateau Moebius...

An uber-paranoid Xeno began searching the all corners of Marguerite's sitting room until she turned up and immediately put his mind (and body) to rest. As he snoozed fitfully in the corner, the others learned that Pomegranate Shen comes from a family who prides itself on its talent for haunting. Both Pomegranate's aunt and grandmother successfully drove their murderers to insanity-riddled deaths, and it looked so far like Pomegranate had some of the old family skills. Other than some propitiative act on Xeno's part towards his ghostly companion, Marguerite seemed to think that finding Pomegranate's sister, Bronwyn, and convincing her to call off the vendetta was the party's next best hope. Good thing they were already on their way to the Temple of Perpetual Dawn...

The plan was made and the crew ascended Eldritch Mountain. The Guidos, the Death Commandos and Xeno staked out the perimeter of the temple, mingling with the delightful hedge that circumnavigated the temple grounds. Xeno and Ben took advantage of some fortuitous shadows and made their way to a window towards the back of the temple. Takemiya and Kobayashi, along with Saladin in raven form, made their way to the temple gates under the guise of being sent to the temple by a vision.

They were greeted, however, by a matron of the temple who seemed to be expecting them. She and her lamp-bearing acolytes led them past the dozen or so sweat-bedewed young women practicing a peculiar blend of tai-chi and judo on the temple grounds. The matron led them inside to a large, square mat surrounded by pillows. Another group of limber females was sparring inside, and with a clap from the matron, the young ladies, sheer garments still clinging to their heaving bosoms, took their places on the cushions.

Kobayashi leaned close to the masked form of Takemiya and whispered, "I've got a bad feeling about this."

Meanwhile, Xoe had gained entrance to the temple through the side window, but after hoisting Ben up through the window, he partially collapsed with what looked like extreme dizziness. "I'll be OK," he assured Xoe. "You wouldn't happen to have any mustard seed on you, would you?" After learning that she did not, Ben patted down his coat. "I have some on me somewhere - you look around while I look for it."

Xoe crept around the long, dark room, finding a trunk full of heavy objects wrapped in plush velvet bags, some ancient and classy heraldic flags and a set of schmancy polearms. But a muffled explosion interrupted her search, and soon after a figure entered the room and made its way to a large trunk at the back of the room. Tall, wizardly and smoking slightly, a scaly humanoid hurried into the room and threw open a chest at the back,  hurriedly tinkling around the contents. Xoe, naturally, snuck up behind him and tried to backstab him - only to find herself hurtling backwards due to a powerfully explosive defensive spell. Through the wall she flew, landing on her back in what looked like a museum. Sculptures, abs-reliefs and paintings covered the walls - including a VERY familiar painting of an old, decrepit-looking man on a tiny canvas, say, about big enough to fit into a theif's pouch.

As Xoe contemplated the painting's location and the implications of it being here, the lizard wizard poked his head through the Xoe-shaped hole in the wall.

"You're not ssuppossed to be here," he hisssed. His large, glassy eyes blinked once, then his head disappeared back through the wall. Xoe, gathering up herself (and her measly handful of hit points) leapt up to the hole and whispered to the wizard. "What're you after? Obviously some wires got crossed here." 

"You can say that again," said Ben Firenze, who Xoe could now see in the back corner of the room, standing waist-deep in a patch of blood red mustard plants. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Little Precognition Goes A Long Way

Saladin took a moment to gather his thoughts before attempting his Precognition. The rusty synapses in his brain had loosened up considerably when he and Xeno had been playing with The Deck, and he was feeling a little more confident about his chances of successfully navigating the myriad of possible futures that lay ahead of him and his crew. All that was left was to focus on Xeno and Marguerite...

Saladin closed his eyes and let the Third Eye of his consciousness open. His gaze wandered across the waters to Rosencrantz and Chateau Moebius. Somewhere in the distance he could hear what sounded like the rattle of ancient bones.

Then he saw her.

A young girl, long black hair, lithe of limb. She's laughing as she dances circles around Xeno. He lies on a cold, marble floor - an elegant pattern of flagstones beneath his trembling, curled-up body. The girl stops and leans over Xeno, bringing her lips close to his. Just before they touch, Xeno's eyes roll back in his head and a vile green foam oozes forth from his mouth. The girl flings her head back and squeals in delight. Xeno stops moving and the girl dances again. As she circles, Xeno starts trembling again. Saladin now notices Marguerite. She's standing behind Xeno and the girl, watching the dance through one, two, three cycles.

She looks up at Saladin at last and says: "A young wife fell sick and was about to die. "I love you so much," she told her husband, "I do not want to leave you. Do not go from me to any other woman. If you do, I will return as a ghost and cause you endless trouble."

Soon the wife passed away. The husband respected her last wish for the first three months, but then he met another woman and fell in love with her. They became engaged to be married.

Immediately after the engagement a ghost appeared every night to the man, blaming him for not keeping his promise. The ghost was clever too. She told him exactly what had transpired between himself and his new sweetheart. Whenever he gave his fiancee a present, the ghost would describe it in detail. She would even repeat conversations, and it so annoyed the man that he could not sleep. Someone advised him to take his problem to a Zen master who lived close to the village. At length, in despair, the poor man went to him for help.

"Your former wife became a ghost and knows everything you do, " commented the master. "Whatever you do or say, whatever you give your beloved, she knows. She must be a very wise ghost. Really you should admire such a ghost. The next time she appears, bargain with her. Tell her that she knows so much you can hide nothing from her, and that if she will answer you one question, you promise to break your engagement and remain single."

"What is the question I must ask her?" inquired the man.

The master replied: "Take a large handful of soy beans and ask her exactly how many beans you hold in your hand. If she cannot tell you, you will know that she is only a figment of your imagination and will trouble you no longer."

The next night, when the ghost appeared the man flattered her and told her that she knew everything. "Indeed," replied the ghost, "and I know you went to see that Zen master today."
"And since you know so much," demanded the man, "tell me how many beans I hold in this hand!"

There was no longer any ghost to answer the question."

Saladin shook his head and was back in the room. Everyone was staring intently at him, especially Xeno...