The Unstoppable

The city hadn’t woken yet.

 

The streets of Mariposa were bare, the morning condensation still pooling on the cobblestone roads vining down into the lower market districts, shutters still closed against the night’s chill. The treaded boots of the blacksmith made a low “thuft, thuft.”

He liked the city like this. Sure, it had a certain charm when the streets were filled with commerce, but the quiet allowed him room for thought. Plus, he didn’t have to talk to anyone. He wasn’t much of a talker.

As he reached the eastern gates, he looked up to the watchtower window. He waited, listening. He could hear the sounds of the mass of merchants and tradesmen just on the other side of the gate, waiting for sunrise when the large doors would open to them. Doc glanced up again, watching the horizon of dusk-light lower past the top of the window’s frame. He brushed at the back of his ears where the morning fog had made his fur begin to drip, and huffed into his mustache.

He waited patiently, and fiddled with the latches on his merchant’s pack. The left one was clasped at an odd angle. He bent it back into place with a furrowed brow. Squinting upwards at the tower, he could see light was now falling past the lower sill. He picked a rock up off the mortar of the cassay, just about the size of a chestnut, and winged it up into the open window overhead. A ricochet off the wood ceiling was followed with a startled expletive.

“Who threw that up here? Who goes there?!” the guard shouted, leaning out of the window pulling his conical helmet on and rubbing the reddening spot where the stone had struck him. “Keratin! Gods’ sake. Couldn’t give me just a few minutes, could you? I was having the best dream.”

“I’ve got a long hike today, Mirchell. I want to make Jhethra by nightfall.”

“There was this elf girl in it, golden hair, and her body!” he bit his lip and stared off. “She was a mage from Whedonola Academy.”


“We’re still talking about a dream, right?”

“Yep.”

“Well, now that you’re awake, what do you say about opening the city gates so I can be on my way?”

“You don’t want to hear about what she did with her ghost hand?”

“Not even in the slightest.”

“Suit yourself.” Mirchell said, disappearing back into the tower. The portcullis began to raise. “Safe travels, blacksmith.”

“See you in a week.”

The large doors opened to a queue of wagons and carriages. Doc made his way out past them as the merchants began to clammer, getting their belongings together after their nights spent awaiting entrance to Mariposa’s trade district. It was nearly a mile before the carriages thinned, the line ending with a small Bullywug wagon being pulled by a giant salamander who stuck out his tongue as Doc walked by.

Doc set a brisk pace as he left the city. It would be a long trip and he had ground to cover before the sun went down. He hiked his pack up and lowered his head as he trudged, passing through wooded areas, over bridged streams, and down into the flats of the lowlands. Occasionally he would pass another traveler on the road, but with a polite excuse he was able to avoid long conversations that would delay his travel.

- +++ -

It was only yesterday the refugees had come seeking shelter in Mariposa. He had been whittling a small bird out of a piece of pine at his stand near the gates when they walked past- hundreds of injured and weary. Those in better health pulled gurneys and walked while the less fortunate were all but stacked on top of each other on small wagons.

“What happened to your lot?” he asked, rising from his stool. He noted the bright colors of the land of Nisei. “War in the east?”

An aged gnome with a splinted arm moved out of the procession and leaned against a tree, “May as well be, dogger. There’s not much left, o’ her.”

“Well what caused it? Looks like half of Nisei is here,” Doc said, walking over to the gnome. “Give it here.”

The gnome lifted his arm up, “Not half. This is it.” He continued as silver light began to form an intricate lattice around his shattered forearm. “Whole town pack’ up, those still left witta breath.” He grimaced as muscle knitted itself together. “Feck, careful there!”
Doc raised an eyebrow as the healing magics continued reconstruct the limb.

“A juggernaut. We couldn’t stop it, neither. Went through city walls lik’a paper. An don’ think we dinnit try none neither! After the five mages wenna down, though, we ‘ad nottin.” The light faded and the gnome held up his arm to the sun, looking at the healer’s work. “Sorry ta say, dogger, but I cannit pay ya none.”

“It’s on me,” Doc said, walking back to his stand. “The mages fell?” He started putting the relics inside that stand and closed the doors.

“Fasser than a wingless roc… Lil early to be shuddindown shop, innit?” the gnome said, confused.

“Not at all my friend. I forgot I have some vacation days left, and I haven’t seen the Dawnbreak Mountains in years…”

- +++ -

 

Sheldon (Pt 2)

As the party talked anxiously about their plans, Sheldon nodded, stonefaced.

They all had plans, they had been places, they knew people. Cabins, abandoned stores, they had ages of experience. Sheldon had been to Harkenwood... He couldn't hear them anymore, just moving mouths in a circle. "I can take Sheldon," he heard someone say. "He'll be safe that way."

"This is because of you, husk..." the whisper said in his ear, a tendril of smoke, unnoticable in the night. "They will die because of you..."

"That's not true," Sheldon said quietly. No one was listening to him, anyway. He was the child. They had their own discussion about what he should do. "We're all fighting together."

"You brought them together. You are killing them."

"We're friends."

"That was never true. They all know what you are. They all know deep down that you will end them all. Just no one has said it yet. You can't be friends with your death."

"It's not me they're afraid of, it's you."

"And you think that you can stop me? I will devour their souls while wearing your face, husk. Or is it you have not realized who you have summoned?"

"A devil... A stupid devil that let himself be caught by a teenager with a book." Sheldon looked at the faces around him. The strong minotaur, the nimble halfling, the wise mage, and the bold druid. "You can't push me around anymore, we can stop you."

A chuckle lifted eerily from the smoke. "You haven't have you? Let me give you a hint..." The dark shadow whispered three words into Sheldon's ear that made the teenager's eyes grow wide.

"Alone! I'm going by myself!" Sheldon said, startling the gathering. "It's final, I've made up my mind! I'm going alone! The iron ring is after us, and it's all because of me. One tiefling is easier to hide than 2 anythings! I've written down where you guys said we're meeting once things cool down, so I'll be fine. I'm me, you know? I'm getting really good at my magic and that stuff and, yeah, I'm going to be fine. I've got this. You guys... I'm really set, but man, look at the time. There's no time like the present!" Sheldon grabbed his knapsack, and ran off into the darkness.

Sheldon took off throught the forest. It was dark, but he'd seen darker. North. He went north. Easy to find, easy to keep going. He ran through marshes. He crossed rivers. He tried hunting for his own food, but he was shite at it. He found money through trade of skill, working as a scribe for travelling merchants he came across. Not much, but enough to keep him fed. He kept moving north. He skirted a desert. He ran, but not once since that night did he hear the voice of his shadowy companion.

He began hearing of a city in the north. A city of learning- a city of knowledge. He was excited, and he hadn't felt this way in a long time. Not since before the book, before the bullies. What had become of him to make him forget who he was? Was it the running, the fighting, the one who he was now attached to? He sought out the city of Silverymoon. He spent the last of what he had on an inn. He applied for a job at the university's library, but didn't get it. This was a city of scholars. He was merely an educated adventurer. He instead found work at a local accountant's shop, keeping the books. He was alright with math, and his handwriting made the ledgers easy to read. It also kept him out of sight from the patrons. While most in Silverymoon were accepting of all races, there were still a select few who still held tieflings and other less "normal" races in suspicion.

He had been working at the accountants for three months when it happened. He was walking from the market back to the shop when a call caught his ear.

"THIEF!" the woman called again. Sheldon turned to see a half-ogre running towards him, with a small chest under his arm. "Somebody stop him, please!" Sheldon's body reacted as it had many times in the past. His hand raised, fire surrounding it. A splash of flames licked at the leather armored hooligan, who kept running.

"Stop," Sheldon said, nearly a whisper. "Please stop."There was no way past the young tiefling in the alleyway except through him. He lowered his shoulder like a ram and charged into him.

A single ember caught the thug's eye, floating on the slightest breeze. Time had stopped for the briefest of seconds. The tiefling was frozen in front of him, hands held up to brace for impact, an odd look on his face... Was it fear? No, the tiefling's face had a look upon it that belied the bravery of his outward appearance. It was a look of begrudging acceptance. What could have caused a look like that on one so young, the thief did not know.

Time came rushing back, and the half-orc barrelled into the adolecent. Like cheese against a grater, he combusted against hellish flames. The scent of brimstone was the last thing he sensed before his entire body was rendered to ashes. The small box clattered to the ground. Sheldon moved to stand up, and felt hands grab his arms. He was lifted up to his feet. "Are you okay?" a voice asked. "You stopped him, you did it!" said another. "Did you see that, he must be at the university!" "'At's a brave ting you did t'ere, laddie!" "Get him some water, will you?" Sheldon found himself sitting down, a crowd from the market gathered around him.

A man came to him, "Whose class are you in, boy?"

"Class?"

"At the university, or are you apprenticing?"

"No, sir. I've just trained myself. I can't afford the university yet, but I spend a lot of time in their libraries."

"This... What you've just done. You should not be anywhere near the level of proficiancy that you show. Those magics are not only high leveled but also quite rare. Not many can weild them."

Sheldon shrugged, rubbing his elbow where he had fallen to the street.

"I'm going to nominate you for a scholarship, child. Those magics you possess- you could become great. Tell me, what is your name?"

Sheldon looked up at him, knowing that this was what he was meant to do. He had been brought here for a reason.

"My name?" Sheldon paused before giving the man the name he had been using to conceal his identity since he had left that night 6 months ago, the coolest name that he could think of...

"My name's Ace, Ace Steele."

Team Up Moves

I've been working on some team-up moves for Doc. Here are my rough ideas...

Doc + Gub:
1) Ember: A portal opens and a two giant anchors on chains shoot out of it. Kosseph Peak can be seen through the portal, and the chain runs over the lip of the volcano. Gub and Doc both grab the anchors and pull them. A massive lava demigod is pulled out of the volcano by a golden collar, and sticks it's head through the portal, spraying fire and lava all over the field. As it cools, it turns into obsidian. Targets are immobilized, save ends. While immobilized, they suffer 1d6 fire damage per turn.

2) Atonement: Doc kneels and the spectre of Sef rises behind him. Sef begins playing a song on his lute, and all of Gub's tattoos begin to glow. Around Gub the spirits of those he's assassinated appear to aid him in his fighting. They guide his blade, and deflect blows directed towards him.  Doc is dazed, but Gub gets 2 standards per turn while the effect persists.

Doc + Arience:
1) Sturgical Strike: Doc pulls a copper snake figurine out from his bag, and throws it at an enemy. It comes to life, coiling around the enemy multiple times, constricting them. Arience calls forth lightning, turning the enemy into a giant electro magnet. All enemies wearing metal burst 5 are pulled adjacent to the elctro-magnet. Arience finishes them off by creating a massive explosion at the center of the clump.

2) Dog in a China Shop: A crown of lightning appears on Arience's head as he floats into the air. He raises the scepter of Thunderblood, and the ground under him erupts as jagged pieces of the Shimmerglass slice up from the earth. Enemies hit are trapped inside the glass. Doc dodges the glass, but is cut and becomes bloodied, instantly shifting him into his Longtooth form. He goes into a rampage, charging all trapped enemies, leaving shattered pieces of them behind. He can continue to charge different creatures until he misses.

Doc + Gralford:
1) Bampher Up: Doc starts spinning with his great spear, knocking enemies flying. Gralford teleports around in bursts of lightning, knocking them back towards Doc for multiple attack opportunities. 

2) The Dwarven Basket Trick: Doc pole-vaults high into the air as Gralford slams his shield into the ground, causing it to crack and rupture. Stone walls form a prison around the enemy with the insignia of the Stoneshields. Doc lands on top of the dome, and giant glowing radiant swords stab the prison like a magician's trick.

Doc + Dar'Jjeeki:
1) Hengeyoken: Dar'Jjeeki shifts into rabbit form and Doc picks him up. Doc spins, using his great spear as a counterweight. Electric sparks begin forming as the air resistance builds up on the tiny bunny. Doc throws him, as he bursts into an electric bunny skull of death. The earth behind him is torn from the ground leaving difficult terrain. 

Archivus

 

It is rumored that many years ago there was a Deva merchant whose wealth was only surpassed by his thirst for adventure. Stories say that he was a collector of items precious and rare, and that his manor contained items of value incomprehensible to you or me. Villa Opes was built with stones excavated from ancient temples, and were covered in inscriptions and runes protecting his cache from thievery and siege. It was rumored that none could even see the estate without the proper incantation.

There were many that attempted to plunder the mansion of its goods, but none succeeded until Samel Roene. Samel, a profiteer and religious leader of a sect of followers of Mephistopheles, possessed a relic from a primordial alter of his god that allowed him to pass through any barrier magical or earthen – at a cost. (The whispering lord of the 8th circle of Hell offers great power for those willing to serve him in his frozen labyrinth.)  On a hot August night, Samel sacrificed all but the highest in his congregation, and resurrected his undead followers, “I Silenti.”

Once past the outer barriers the undead made it the massive noblestone golems, programmed to engage the living, and began to lay siege to Villa Opes. The manor’s traps and defenses were unable to stop the assault, as small rocks on the beach cannot halt the tide. The horde quietly moved through the manor, past the locked vaults, past the long tables where place settings had been left for the gods to dine at, and up the staircase to where the merchant slept. However, when I Silente burst into the merchant’s bed chamber, he was nowhere to be found.

Unbeknownst to Samel, the manor contained a secret within its very construction. All the floors of the estate were made from rare bloodstone from the Shadowfell. With a single drop of blood, this specific rock transforms from a porous surface to that of a smooth reddish marble. The transformation creates a living bond between the owner of the blood and the stone. By the time the first boney foot of Samel’s army crossed over the threshold of the Villa Opes, the merchant was aware and making preparations. It was just before the first artifact was removed from the manor when orange flame ripped through the halls, searing all within with the fury of gods and demons long forgotten.

It is unknown to many outside the Deva race the reincarnation of the self. The calm exterior of the Deva betrays the experiences which they suffer after death. To guarantee the passing on of their knowledge, the immortal race of Devas pays their penance threefold - the first to pay for their sins in their previous life, the second to pay the exodus toll to the Lords of the underworld, and the third to secure their soul within a new vessel. With the amount of avarice the merchant possessed, it was just shy of an eternity before his soul broke free of the bounds of hell and inhabited a new body.

 ----------------------------------------------------------------

They were his first words; it was the place that haunted his dreams as a boy – Villa Opes. Archivus saw it often, a burning mansion filled with horrors, dead twice over – flames bursting out of the building past the iron gates bearing the same symbol Archivus bore on his forehead. 

He began to study the ancient tomes found in the city of Chanian, and learning the ways of the Pelor clerics, known for their potency against the undead. No matter how the skittering hordes of skeletons and daemons followed him in his dreams, he was determined they would not stand up to him in his waking life.

He was still young the day that he and his fellow missionaries were assigned to the mountains north of the Greenfields. It was rumored that the Outlanders there had suffered attacks from creatures during the night. Townsfolk had begun going missing, and temples and other places of worship had been razed to the ground. It was their job to rebuild the temple of Pelor, and assist the townsfolk in securing their city.

It was late at night their second week in town when they stumbled across a charred stone along the timberline of the mountains just outside of the city while on a walk. AsArchivus reached out and touched the rock, one of the other missionaries jumped back in shock. The marking on Archivus’s head had begun to glow blue in the night air. The rock looked familiar to him. In fact, the mountain looked familiar to him!

Archivus began to sprint up the mountain, searching for the trail that he had traveled so many times in his dreams. Centuries of neglect had given the trail over to the mountain, but Archivus was following the ghost of his memories past. He neglected the shouts from his companions trying to follow behind him. He didn’t feel the branches of the trees rip at his face and hands. The insignia on his head glowed brightly enough for him to see his next steps, and he continued at a frenzied pace. Finally he broke free near the summit into a clearing.

The clearing was massive, spanning a large portion of the ridgeline of the mountain. Bits of wrought iron were scattered around the perimeter, and in the middle of the clearing rose a pile of burnt rubble. The arm of a stone golem protruded out of another edge of the ridge. It all felt so familiar, so true to Archivus. He walked over to the base of the debris and looked for any clues as to what had happened to the manor of his dreams. He cleared a few rocks and brush away from what appeared to be a door to a cellar. The lock on the door had long ago rusted, and a single hit from a stone shattered the oxidized iron.

As he slid the bolt free and opened the door, Archivus heard his name being called from across the ridge. He turned to see his missionary party cresting over the ridge, up into the clearing. He strained his ears to hear what his colleagues were shouting in their Elven tongue. He was calling back to them, asking them to join him in his exploration of the ruins when the skeletal hand shot from the darkness, plunging a jagged katar into his heart. Archivus dropped to the ground and collapsed against the blood red stones that littered the mountain.

As he coughed up blood onto his talbard of Pelor, he was able to see three undead rush from the cellar door. His eyes closed, and he heard the screams of his fellow missionaries. When his heart stopped, he remembered everything. But it was too late - within seconds he and the other two of the unarmed clerics that had been assigned to the Greenfields were dead.

Purgatory was a waiting room for judgement, and Archivus had no desire to wait. He commanded his soul from the abyss, returning it to its mortal coil. His blood was sucked from his clothing and returned into the gash in his chest. A primal scream escaped his mouth and echoed all through the Greenfields when shattered pieces of his ribs returned to place. He called out Pelor’s name and seared the wound closed with brilliant holy fire.

The undead turned from where they were devouring Archivus’s comrades at his scream. They hastily advanced to where he stood hunched over on the stoop. Archivusreached out and grabbed an iron gatepost from the wreckage. The first ghoul pounced at him like a feral beast, but was struck down from the heavens by a cascade of light, pinning him to the ground. He was finished when the emblemed gatepost pierced its skull.

The second and third I Silente attacked in unison, the latter brandishing the arm of one of the missionaries. The horror holding the arm was stuck down with a brilliant lance of radiant light, and its body disintegrated into a pile of glowing dust. The other evaded the barrage of holy might and ripped at Archivus, severing the tendons in his left arm. With a grimace that looked more like a crazed grin, the muscle and sinew twisted back together and his hand flexed, shooting out and smashing the undead’s cranium into the ruins.

His white eyes looking up from the steps, Archivus saw the reanimated remains of his missionary party shambling toward him.