Monday, July 8, 2013

Bang Sticks

A good ridiculously-early-morning to you fine sirs and ladies. This here Dungeons and Dragons short took way longer to write than I expected. So you'd better enjoy it *narrows tired, bloodshot eyes at you*

Lereahl woke up with an unusually powerful headache. Weird lights popped in front of his eyes. The second sense to come back to him was smell. He wrinkled his nose immediately. All he could smell was the horrible, sickly scent of rotting meat and garbage. He forced himself to remember what had happened. He remembered Planeswalker City. He remembered being very annoyed that Lady Celerean would be joining them on this trip through the crystal gate. Who else had come with him? Wolfenight of course. The blundering wizard had stuck close by the blonde half-elf ever since his, uh, “donation” to Wolfenight’s limited funds. Then there was the weird, sissy elf Eolderin and a new companion, a dwarf by the name of Targar Ironsoul. He was red-haired and stocky, a warhammer not far from his right hand, and a halberd not far from his left.
Hearing came back next. Lereahl could hear the others moving around him. Soft footsteps approached and the puzzled face of Wolfenight came into view.
“Hm. Not dead after all,” he said.
“You sound disappointed,” muttered Lereahl, getting up with a hand to his still fuzzy head. He drew the hand away in shock. There was filth in his hair. In his hair.
“Well, you know – brains and things are always handy to have fresh,” Wolfenight said airily and wandered away. Lereahl’s look of shock only increased.
The rest of his memory came back shortly thereafter. There wasn’t much to remember though. They had fluffed about in the city getting ready for the expedition, but as soon as they had stepped through the portal, something had gone terribly wrong. They had walked through the swirling white magic and straight into a smooth, dark room. Something must have sensed that they were there immediately and the room had begun to fill with choking gas. If that wasn’t enough, they had all been shot with some kind of poison dart. Now that Lereahl was able to look around, he realised that they had merely been tipped with some sort of sleeping potion. They had been taken and dumped in a kind of underground sewer. The horrid rotting smell was coming from a huge mound of dead bodies piled in the dimly lit cavern. Lereahl had to look away when he saw it. Before he did though, he noticed that the beings were unlike any he’d seen before. They were bipedal, with ochre skin and twisted, angry looking faces.
“There’s something weird going on here. I hope it’s not just me that senses it,” Lereahl said, looking anywhere but the corpses. The others nodded slowly. The angry red creatures looked very out of place in this smooth, artificial grey stone room.
“Oh, quite right. The magic is bent here,” said Wolfenight and walked off. Eol turned and looked quizzically at Lereahl. The half-elf shrugged, just as befuddled, and then followed Wolfenight down the corridor.

Celerean had just complained for the sixth time that she had muck on her new shoes when they rounded a corner in the sewer and came face to face with two very strangely dressed people. There was a man and a woman who were clad in very similar black outfits. The planeswalkers and the strangers stopped and stared at each other in alarm for a few seconds. The strange woman was the first to recover, whipping out a small, grey and black object and pointing it at the planeswalkers. They knew not what the device was, but as warriors, they recognised it as some form of weapon and drew their own. Faced with a dazzling display of glinting arrows, tight bowstrings, a huge warhammer and a dithering man in a bathrobe and a pointed hat, the man’s hands were shaking as he drew his own silver-black weapon.
The fight was incredibly confusing and extremely loud. The stranger’s weapons emitted cracks like lightning bolts, and tiny, impossibly fast darts ricocheted off the walls around the Planeswalkers. The two enemies were blasted back with a wave from Wolfenight. More deafening cracks resounded in the closed space as Targar leapt forwards to finish off the man. An arrow through the heart from Lereahl dispatched the woman. Targar was a little too enthusiastic and continued to hit the bodies after they were dead. The others approached, but before they could get a good look at the strange weapons the man and woman had been using, Eol had picked them up and thrown them into the murky sewer channel. Celerean glared at the elf. What they were sure of though, was the fact that none of them had ever seen weapons like them before.
They found more oddly dressed men in a room behind a heavy metal door. These men were equally surprised to see them, although they were dressed in white coats. Their weapons were elongated and sprayed chattering rounds of shrapnel. Wolfenight shrieked as the hail of metal fell on the Planeswalkers and he seemed to react instinctively.
“Friend!” he squeaked covering his head with his arms.
A blue ball of light rocketed wildly around the room and then hit one of the white coated men in the chest, knocking him on his ass. He sat up, looked around a little stunned and put down his weapon. Wolfenight peeked out from between his elbows.
“Friend!” he said happily, seeing the now pacified man.
“Get his – uh – the banging stick-thing!” yelled Eol. Celerean skipped happily forwards to collect the man’s weapon. Targar rushed in next as the second man was struggling with his weapon, appearing to swap out some sort of box. Targar grabbed the man by the shoulders and tried to wrestle him to the ground. Unfortunately, the dwarf tripped and crashed to the ground himself. This sudden attack on his comrade seemed to wake the charmed man up. He got to his feet, angry, and lunged for the weapon in Celerean’s hands.
“No! Bad friend!” said Wolfenight, frowning, and a blast of white magic knocked the man over again. He lay on the ground, shocked and dead.
“Oh no! Friend! I’m sorry!” shouted Wolfenight. The remaining man had managed to get the black box into his weapon and turned it on Targar, who was still cursing on the ground. Celerean had to think fast. She’d seen the men using these weapons and they seemed eerily familiar to her flintlock pistol. She grasped the gun properly, and pulled the smooth, matte black trigger. The gun spat bullets and recoiled wildly, but the remaining man was sufficiently distracted. Lereahl darted into the fray with a misjudged tumble, leaping up right into the man’s line of fire. Two bullets flew through the tall half-elf’s shoulder before he loosed an arrow into the man’s neck, silencing the gunfire.
The room beyond appeared to be a barracks of some kind. There was a military feel to the neat cots and uniform colours, although an alien one. There were more of the artificial grey stone walls here and the feeling that the travellers were very out of place. Targar’s eyes were sharp enough to spot the only other thing out of place. Behind one of the cots was a brick that was slightly askew. When removed, a little drawstring bag of jewels fell out, followed by a small, incredibly lifelike painting. The painting was of a young girl and man. The girl was sitting on the man’s shoulders and they were both smiling happily. Lereahl grew sad when he recognised the man in the picture as the one he had just shot through the neck. Targar pocketed the picture and the bag of jewels with an unhappy look.
The companions stopped before the end of the next corridor, not sure what kind of enemies might lie beyond. Wolfenight was talking to himself. Or was he talking to thin air? Lereahl leaned forwards, his keen ears catching the whisperings of what sounded like another voice.
“Just tell us how many are in there,” murmured Wolfenight, his gaze fixed on something no one else could see. There was a faint hiss and Wolfenight flinched a little.
“Sorry! Sorry! I meant, could you please tell us how many are in there?” he said hurriedly. Lereahl looked on in puzzlement as Wolfenight stood quietly for a moment, and then turned back to the group.
“Three large men up ahead armed with big, uh...” he waved vaguely at Cerelean’s new weapon, “Bang sticks. Now, I’ll create a diversion with my Ghost Sounds spell.”
They crept towards the end of the hall. The room beyond was filled with tables and strange chairs with one leg that ended in six spokes. On the tables were boxes and flat squares that glowed with strange lights. Wolfenight peeked out, muttered a few more words and then ducked back behind cover. They heard some strange shuffling and banging noises from the door across the room. The three men looked quizzically towards the sounds.
“Go check it out. I’ll stay here,” said the biggest of the three. The others nodded and went to investigate. Once they were in the room and the last man’s back was turned, Wolfenight gestured furiously to Lereahl. Lereahl eventually got the hint and crept silently into the room. He nocked an arrow, drew a bead on the man and fired. The large guard slumped quietly to the ground. The rest of the Planeswalkers hurried quietly into the room. With a quick levitation spell, Wolfenight moved a table in front of the door. The men on the other side tried to open the door, but found themselves stuck because of the table. There was muffled shouting and thumping on the door. Then there was a tiny moment of silence. Realising that the men were about to try to ram the door open, Wolfenight whisked the table out of the way. The men came crashing through the door, tumbled and fell over one other. Wolfenight waved his hands again and sent several blast of white magic at the man who had made it through the door first. He spun, twisting and flailing as something else electrocuted him as well. The second man got Lereahl’s arrow through his arm, and Celerean’s through his shin. He fell, screaming to the ground. Targar walked up to him, warhammer raised.
“Drop your weapon,” the dwarf growled. The man whimpered and his gun clattered to the floor. Targar reached into his pack for a rope and tied the man up. Lereahl knelt down next to the dwarf and helped with the knots.
“Now,” said Targar turning back to the man.
“TELL US EVERYTHING!” shouted Eol leaping forwards and shoving the decapitated head of one of the other men into the trussed guard’s face. The bound man cried out in shock and screwed up his eyes.
“Get out of here you idiot!” snapped Lereahl, shoving the elf away. Eol stumbled backwards, only to be smacked on the head with a staff by a disapproving Wolfenight.
“Sorry about him,” said Lereahl to the guard. He slowly opened his eyes again.
“What’s your name?” asked Targar.
“S-Stuart,” mumbled the guard.
“Nice to meet you Stuart. Now, what exactly is going on here?” asked Targar.
“I don’t know anything! I’m just a guard!” the man whimpered.
“Okay then. Who does know what’s going on?”
“The scientists? Maybe?”
“Science-ists?” asked Wolfenight.
“Yeah. The scientists. Guys in white coats. Doing experiments and tests and other freaky crap.”
“There are people here dedicated to doing science?” Wolfenight seemed baffled. It was unheard of for anyone in Planeswalker City or any other plane he’d visited to study science. Everybody was quite happy with thaumatology and magic.
“Okay. Now, do you know this girl?” Targar asked Stuart, pulling out the tiny painting they had found.
“T-that’s Sierra Rose. And that’s her father, Joel. I knew him. Why do you want to know?”
“Never mind that. Just tell us where we can find her,” said Targar looking grim.
“Not far from here. You can look up their address on the computer over there,” Stuart said, nodding towards one of the tables.
“A compa-what?” asked Targar, looking confused.
“The computer. You know. Google,” the man said. He was met with more blank looks.
“Shall I, uh, do it for you?” asked Stuart.
Targar looked at the others who only shrugged in confusion.
“Sure. Why not?” said Targar. He let the man up. His hands were still bound tightly, but Targar kept a hold of the rope just in case he tried anything. Stuart led them over to one of the strange glowing boxes atop a table. Everyone was quite alarmed when Stuart began tapping on buttons and the flat square lit up with pictures and light.
“Yes, here it is. That’s their address. I knew it wasn’t too far from here,” said Stuart, pointing to some odd runes that had just magically appeared on the lit square.
“Well, lead the way then,” said Targar, tugging on the lead rope. The group followed as Stuart led them out of the room. Lereahl paused one last time to admire the strange picture machine. Wolfenight paused to lick it.
Little did they know, but the group now looked even stranger. Stuart had suggested that the Planeswalkers might want to trade some of their otherworldly armour for clothes of this civilian realm.  Eol was now wearing long pants of some rough blue material, a strange cap thing with a stiff brim at the front and a short, white tunic with odd colourings on the front. Targar was wearing the only thing that fit him, a medium length tunic coloured pink with flowers printed on it. Stuart had advised him against it, but the Dwarf had ignored him. Wolfenight seemed appalled at the thought of giving up his robe and hat.
“How will people know I’m a wizard without my wizard’s hat and robe?” he’d said.
Lereahl had also declined to change his attire, turning up his nose at the odd garments he’d been offered. None of them matched his style. Celerean was of a similar mindset.
So like this they walked through the streets, Stuart still tied up, the end of his rope held by Targar like a dog. The buildings were grey and in bad repair. They looked war-torn. The people looked the same; dull, battered and weary.
Before they reached the address they were looking for, they came across a small grassy park full of children and metal equipment upon which they climbed and played. Among them was the small girl from the picture.
“Sierra!” called Stuart. The little girl looked up and walked cautiously over to them. She looked from one Planeswalker to the next, her young face slowly growing more puzzled.
“You’re Daddy’s friend,” she said, pointing to Stuart. Stuart nodded.
“But you’re strangers,” she said, pointing at Targar.
“Sierra, we have something for you from your father,” said Targar softly. He didn’t have to kneel – he was already at eye level with the child, but he did so anyway. He held out the small bag of gems and the photograph of Sierra and her father. The girl took the items. She looked at the picture, then back to Targar’s sad face.
“Where’s my Daddy?” she asked, her eyes wide.
“I’m sorry,” said Targar.
Sierra’s small chin began to quiver. Suddenly, there was an arrow protruding from her forehead. She keeled over backwards with a soft thump. Everyone turned in shock. Eol was looking disgustedly at the dead girl. He suddenly felt everyone’s gazes.
“What?” His tone was indignant. “She was gonna cry. I hate crying children. Especially human infants. Ugh.” He shuddered and crinkled his nose.
Targar’s face slowly turned redder than his hair. His knuckles cracked as his fingers tightened on his warhammer. Lady Celerean’s new gun clicked as she loaded it and aimed at the elf in anger. She got off several shots; two to Eol’s chest and one, ironically, to his head before Targar stormed up and caved his skull in, finishing him off. Angry that she didn’t get the last shot in, Celerean turned on Targar and cocked her gun again. Before the dwarf could react, Wolfenight stepped in. He fluttered his fingers at the bard. For a second, nothing happened. Then Celerean paused, confused as a small piece of parchment fluttered down in front of her. She bent to pick it up. One side was blank. She turned it over to read aloud a single word: Pity. As soon as the syllables had passed her lips, the runes on the paper ignited and blew with the force of a small bomb.
When the smoke cleared, Celerean lay dead and charred in the pool of dark blood seeping from the holes in Eol’s body. Lereahl could only stand and stare in shock. Targar snorted with satisfaction at the sight, but then turned sadly back to Sierra’s body. Gently, he closed her eyes, removed the arrow from her head and wiped away the blood. Then he began to dig.
Targar patted down the soft earth. The playground was silent now. The children had all run away in terror. They had buried Sierra with the photo of her father and the tiny bag of gems in her hands. Targar stood and dusted the earth from his knees. He looked sadly at the plain mound, obviously wanting something more. Wolfenight stepped forwards and cleared his throat softly. He cupped his hands and a look of concentration came over his face. Coloured lights spilled from his hands and flowed onto the fresh dirt. They took shape, forming into the ghostly figure of Targar kneeling before Sierra. Targar turned away gruffly, wiping furiously at his wet face.
Stuart had unfortunately been hit in the scuffle and as such, the three remaining Planeswalkers had to find their own way back to the compound they had arrived in. Upon reaching the door, they realised that none of them had a key to get back in. There appeared to be no lock to pick either.
“I have an idea!” said Wolfenight. “Hold onto me tight.”
Lereahl looked at Targar, puzzled for the umpteenth time that day. Targar shrugged and grasped the Wizard’s skinny shoulders. Lereahl hugged Wolfenight around the middle with a concealed grin. Wolfenight squeezed his eyes shut.
“Let’s just hope we don’t end up in a wall,” he said, much to the alarm of the other two.
Suddenly, they were inside. Targar and Lereahl let go, feeling a little nauseous.
“Any dizziness or nausea is to be expected,” Wofenight said casually. “Dimensional doors are hard to get used to.”
Lereahl was bent nearly double trying to get his breath back.
“You don’t say,” he wheezed.
They found their way back to the room with the ‘computers’. Wolfenight was tempted to stay and investigate them a little more, but Targar was able to drag him away. They found themselves in a corridor with a dead end, a very heavy-duty, locked metal door and a metal cupboard. Lereahl couldn’t figure out how to unlock this door either, but the cupboard was quite easy. Inside they found lots of short, brass coloured metal tubes, the likes of which they had seen Celerean fitting into her new weapon. There were also stacks of small papers with strange green marks all over them and a palm sized rectangle of some strange flexible material. Wolfenight took it, interested in its hard but pliable properties.
They then turned to the door. There appeared to be a similar locking mechanism to the outside door here, and again they could not figure it out. Targar was quick to offer to try and break the door down with brute strength, but Wolfenight shook his head with a wild grin. He began collecting the brass tubes from the cupboard, popping them open and pouring the powder inside onto a pile on the floor at the door. Lereahl sniffed. The acrid smell of gunpowder filled the narrow corridor. He understood now what the Wizard was up to.
When Wolfenight had created a sufficiently large pile of black powder, he looked around for some sort of fuse. There was none to be found.
“How about this paper?” asked Targar, holding up one of the neat sheafs of green.
“Sure, that’ll light it on fire, but you’ll be much too close. You’ll go up with it,” said Wolfenight. He put a finger to his chin, thinking. His eyes strayed to Lereahl. The half-elf was inspecting the nick in one of his arrowheads with a frown on his pointed face. Wolfenight grinned.
The wad of green paper took the flame merrily on the end of Lereahl’s arrow. The others stood behind him as he aimed from around the corner of the far end of the corridor. He fired. The explosion was deafening and blew the metal door completely off its frame. The companions hurried towards the room beyond. In it, a man in a fine, but now powder coated, military uniform was coughing and spluttering and looking enraged. Wolfenight squeaked in alarm, pointed at the man and shouted,
The man went cross-eyed for a moment, froze, and then crumpled to the ground, snoring.
The charm spell Wolfenight used this time was much stronger, so when the man woke up, he was quite amicable about the blast patterns on the floor and the bent metal door.
“Commander Gerald,” he said in a hoarse, well-used voice, shaking each of the Planeswalkers’ hands as they introduced themselves too. He explained to them that he didn’t usually take well to strangers like them. Wolfenight carefully avoided the commander’s eye at these words. But Gerald went on to explain why. There was something wrong with their world. One day, hundreds upon thousands of demon-like creatures had come pouring through some kind of invisible door. These creatures pillaged and burned and destroyed whatever they came into contact. Commander Gerald was the leader of the force organised to stop this slaughter and turn back the tide of rampaging monsters. The mountain of rotting, ochre skinned creatures in the sewers now made sense.
“So, this door, where is it?” asked Wolfenight.
“What does it matter to you?” asked the commander, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
“Well, I sensed a disturbance in the thaumatical flow of this plane the moment we stepped into it. I was just wondering if we might be able to help with your problem,” he said.
Commander Gerald looked at him, confused.
“I don’t know how you’re going to help. My best scientists can’t even tell me exactly what the damned thing is,” he said.
“Just try us,” said Lereahl, putting a hand on the man’s shoulder. Gerald sighed.
“It’s right there,” he said, pointing to the far end of the room. They all looked.
At the end of the room, there was a small, raised platform of more of the cold, grey, artificial stone. There were yellow and black markings all around the edges. The area on the platform looked normal enough at first glance, but when one looked harder, the air seemed to warp slightly, like a heat haze. Wolfenight approached the platform, looking curiously at the phenomenon.
“Hm...” he said ponderously and reached out a hand. The bent air seemed to move out of the way of his hand.
“It appears to be only one way,” he mumbled.
“Yeah. That we know,” growled Gerald. “We’ve tried throwing the creatures back through it, but it just moves around them.”
Wolfenight reached into a pocket and pulled out what appeared to be an old crab leg. Lereahl looked on in disgust as the Wizard tossed the leg through the heat haze. The warped air moved around the crustacean limb and it clattered to the floor, confirming the commander’s words. Wolfenight walked around the platform and retrieved the leg. He tapped it thoughtfully on his nose. The next second, the wizard had vanished. Lereahl started forwards, alarmed. Wolfenight suddenly appeared on the top of the platform. The rippling air around him seemed to quiver, shrink and disappear. Wolfenight smiled.
“All fixed,” he said. Commander Gerald stared at him, gobsmacked.
“Wh-what? H-how? How did you do that?” he stammered, rubbing his eyes again.
“Oh. Simple really. What you had there was a spatial-temporal rift in the planar fabric, caused by wayward magical emissions,” replied Wolfenight, stepping off the platform.
“A-a what?”
“A door. A door between dimensions. I have a spell that lets me open such doors. I opened one, walked through it, and closed both behind me.” Wolfenight shrugged.
Gerald looked as if he could kiss Wolfenight. He settled instead on furiously pumping his hand and then offering them stacks and stacks of the green paper they had seen earlier.
“Paper? Why would we want this?” asked Wolfenight, staggering as Gerald shoved it into his arms.
“Paper? This is money!”

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