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Saturday, October 31

The Adventures of Lil Cthulhu

The best summary of the Call of Cthulhu universe, ever.

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posted by Michael Tresca at 10:19 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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Friday, October 30

Dawn Biozyme: Part 2 – Compromised Environment

Sparse night lights provided just enough light to see by, but little more—a few seemed to be out, while others flickered intermittently. All the visible doors were wholly or slightly ajar.

The wavering light revealed clean tile floors and antiseptically bare walls, although strange designs—hard to make out in the darkness—painted the floor and walls at random. The PA system was routed into the local country radio station, WTHQ 101.7. Unfortunately, the PA system was tinny and hollow and the country music eerily played in the darkened rooms and halls.

Hammer pointed at the door closest to the stairwell. It was slightly ajar.

Hammer and Jim-Bean took up positions on either side of the door, pistols out. Covering all angles, they pushed their way in.

Ventilation hoods competed with lab benches for wall and floor space. Every flat surface was covered with bottles filled with myriad chemicals, petri plates, slides, notebooks, and equipment ranging from easy-to-recognize microscopes to rotoevaporators, gel electrophoresis plates, and chromatography columns.

After confirming the room was empty, Hammer took a look at the microscope. "Take a look."

Jim-Bean examined the microscope. The slide showed two cells. They appeared to be much different from each other. They were joined at the ends but were completing the process of breaking off from each other.

"What in the world kind of cell structure is that?" asked Hammer.

"That's the point," said Jim-Bean, shaking his head. "I'm not sure it is any kind of cell structure. Biologically speaking."

There was a muffled thump from a door on the other side of the lab. more

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Chapter 62: Islands of the Damned - Introduction

This scenario is from the Black Sails Over Freeport adventure “Red Skies at Morning” by Green Ronin, adapted to the Arcanis setting. You can read more about Arcanis at http://www.onaraonline.org. Please note: This adventure contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

With the pending birth of my son, I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to game in the near future. So I had to wrap up a bunch of Black Sails Over Freeport adventures quickly. Five islands in just twelve hours...it seems impossible. What the time pressure did for me as a DM was really condense all the cool parts of Black Sails Over Freeport, allowing me to discard the stupid parts.

The adventure actually inserts a vampire mcguffin, whom I transplanted from the Arcanis game (the only friendly vampire who could possibly be interested in working with the PCs, I might add). Haron von Grebel wasn’t thrilled to be working with Kham, but it’s better than slaving away for all eternity under Daen Danud. I was particularly proud of the makeover I gave Daenud, whose Blood Magus powers came in…uh, handy. It also was the absolute longest battle in my twenty years of gaming; long enough that spell durations finally just ran out. The fact that I role-played Daen as a foul-mouthed Skeletor from the He-Man cartoons probably didn’t help his image.

Zalton Zaska’s creepy machinations remained, but the endless warring by his clones was glossed over. I also skipped the majority of the stupid Skull Dugger Drawler/Mauler/Trawler/Bawlers. Speaking of Zaska, Kham’s player wanted to remake his character, and Zaska allowed me to basically inject Antonio Banderas directly into his skull.

Upon defeating Zaska, the PCs are effectively in control of a floating fortress. Von Grebel helps them plot their attack on Sycorax (aka Black Jenny Ramsey), but things don’t go as planned. Thus we have a nail-biting race against time before the skull fortress smashes into Sycorax’s pyramid. There wasn’t too much monkeying around either, if you know what I mean.

That leaves one last bad guy, Moab Cys’varion. He’s no dummy. The PCs have three of the four artifacts, and the artifact Cys’varion controls allows him to gate anyone to anywhere. For once, the bad guy goes on the offensive!

Overall, the biggest challenge wasn’t escaping the islands. It was Kham and Sebastian’s frustration with getting lots of gold but no resolution. While Beldin and Vlad were rolling in riches, the two tortured souls wondered what the hell they were fighting for. In the next chapter, they’re about to find out. more

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Thursday, October 29

Dawn Biozyme: Part 1 – Dawn Biozyme Pharmaceuticals

Located on a five-acre plot on the northeast outskirts of Samson, Dawn Biozyme occupied a large new mirror-windowed building and warehouses at the end of a short dead-end street.

Three black SUVs rumbled past a twelve-foot high brick wall that surrounded the facility.

Hammer pointed behind the dark glass of the lead SUV. "See that? Heavy security for a simple lab."

Inconspicuous beneath the ivy toping was an additional two feet of projecting barbed wire, supporting arms, and various passive sensors to deter and detect intruders.

The SUVs rumbled on. The back of the facility opened on two acres of short, dry grass, not yet fully developed. On the other side were equally well-protected offices and facilities of other companies.

The main building was three stories high; the isolated production facility was one story topped by a maze of ventilators, scrubbers, alarms, and gaseous containment devices. The two warehouses were externally identical concrete structures, both three stories tall, both with narrow fixed windows near the roof.

Hammer, Jim-Bean, three lawyers and three accountants stepped of the vehicles. The lawyers and accountants were all identically dressed in gray suits and blue ties. The six office drones were more terrifying than the two agents.

Hammer smirked at the sign taped to the front door.

“Due to the recent tragedy, Dawn Biozyme Pharmaceuticals has temporarily closed its doors to the public. The company is confident the investigation will clear Dawn Biozyme Pharmaceuticals from any connection with the actions of its former employee. At that time, normal business hours will ensue.”

They entered the spacious reception area through wide glass doors. Two receptionists manned a large curving desk situated at the center of the room. At an inconspicuous desk near the only entrance to the rest of the building sat a security guard. Before the reception desk were couches, low tables, and magazines.

"Hello gentlemen," said a young, clean-cut man who smiled a little too much. He approached Hammer with hand extended. "I'm Brad Geary, and I'll be your guide during your review—"

"Who's in charge here?" asked Hammer, pushing past him to the entrance proper.

"Uh, I'm your liaison," said Geary. "Agent…?"

Jim-Bean patted Geary on the back. "That's Agent Hammer. I'm Agent Jim-Bean. These guys…" he turned to encompass them with a sweep of his arm. "Well it doesn't matter who they are, just what they do."

Geary nodded, focused on Hammer, who brushed past the security guards. "Uh, Agent Hammer, you need a visitor badge!" He rushed after Hammer, saying over his shoulder to Jim-Bean. "Please be sure to sign in!"

"Don't worry I'll sign him in," said Jim-Bean cheerfully. more

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Red Skies: Conclusion

The ship sank beneath the waves within the sextant’s protection. As it sank, Carthy began to change. His flesh took on a deathly pallor.

”I die now, but not with regret,” said Carthy. “You have given me a chance to pay for my past crimes, and I thank you for it. I was one of the Full-Fathom Five! I sailed with those vile brutes nearly two centuries ago. We were once the finest captains who ever sailed the seas, and we served proudly in Freeport’s navy. But Drac betrayed us and left us for dead; and to save our lives we traded our souls to Leviathan. The crimes we committed upon the oceans, I dare not speak. They grew too great for me to bear, and I knew the Five must be stopped.”

Beldin stood with Baldric in the pitching storm. “So that’s what’s been excised from Freeport’s history all this time?”

Carthy nodded. “Leviathan had five artifacts on his person. I stole the artifact that gave him command of the seas, the sextant. The captains of Freeport drove the Five into Hell’s Triangle, where the vortex swallowed them. But I fear they live still, those bloodthirsty brutes. And I fear they have collected the rest of Leviathan’s artifacts, which would make them unspeakably powerful.”

“Th’ same sextant that ended up in Drak Scarbelly’s gut,” said Baldric sadly. “And look where it has brought ye.”

“Beware the Full-Fathom Five, my courageous friends! They are cunning and vicious beyond my power to describe! But you must battle them all if you hope to return. For the artifacts unlock R’lyeh’s treasures. You need them all to find what you seek. But they hold secrets you can’t imagine…the dark powers of Leviathan…and his Son…”

“Son?” asked Beldin. “What son?” more

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Wednesday, October 28

Dawn Biozyme: Prologue

"That's all Sprague said?" asked Jim-Bean, looking bored as he sipped the special protein drink formulated especially for his hyperactive metabolism. He flavored it occasionally with different powders to try to improve the taste, but it never helped.

Hammer nodded. "Take down Dawn Biozyme." He tapped some keys. "The pharmaceutical company's not hard to find. They even have a public web site."

Dawn Biozyme was established in 1985 by Matthew Lewis, a graduate of the Harvard Business School and eldest son of a family long connected to Washington politics. One share was worth $23 the day Hammer looked it up, with two million shares outstanding. Dawn Biozyme was worth about $46 million.

"Looks like Walter Morrow's suicide really screwed up Tiger Transit's plans," said Hammer.

"Who?"

"Walter Morrow. Morrow killed himself because he was trapped by a Hound of Tindalos, remember? Tiger Transit was trying to get him to fork over his shares, but instead they transitioned to his ex-wife, Michelle. Tiger Transit owns twenty percent. Michelle owns twenty five percent and she's not selling."

"Who owns the rest?" asked Jim-Bean.

"MegaCosmos."

Jim-Bean sipped his drink. "Now that name rings a bell." more

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Red Skies: Part 11 – The Malestrom

The skies began to look dark and ominous and the winds picked up tremendously. Thunder rattled the decks and lightning lit up the skies. Then the seas turned rough and the rains came, bringing the storm in earnest. And still there was no sign of Kham.

Sebastian lifted the Moonsilver Orb over his head and the storm parted. The stars and the moon hung brightly in the sky. A swirling wind drove the Nǎoké toward the Triangle’s center. A massive, swirling patch of water opened up.

Lightning rose from its depths toward the cloudless sky. An ear-shattering thunder boomed occasionally, causing the hull to vibrate.

“Is it supposed to do that?” Beldin asked, staring dubiously at the huge whirlpool in the center.

“I have no idea!” shouted Sebastian over the thunder.

“It’ll tear us apart!” shouted Baldric.

As the ship closed in on the whirlpool, Carthy stood on the forecastle and raised the sextant above his head. He spoke a word in a strange tongue.

In an instant, a golden sphere of force surrounded the ship in a protective bubble. The lightning and water raged around them, but the sphere kept all within safe.

“Will that help any other ships nearby?” asked Beldin. “Just in case Kham’s still out there, I mean.”

Carthy blinked. “Perhaps. If he’s close enough…”

Suddenly, a dreadful presence overcame them. It was barely humanoid, with insectoid like legs and a skull for a head. Covered in bone and with a long, whipping tail behind it, the devil advanced on Carthy.

“An Osyluth!” shouted Sebastian. He handed the Orb to Baldric. “Beldin, get back!” more

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Tuesday, October 27

Chapter 47: Dawn Biozyme - Introduction

Joe L. couldn't play, so we were back to the buddy cop genre wherein one misstep could kill off our heroes. What starts out as a simple raid on a laboratory quickly spirals into chaos as the spawn of the "Source" prove to be much more resourceful and dangerous than the agents thought.

As always, the players surprised me. I didn't have a plan as to how things would play out, including the appearance of an Outer God. I kept my bag of tricks ready and at the appropriate stress points, introduced them. This kept the agents on their toes throughout the entire scenario. It helped that I had disgusting-looking miniatures and some cool sound effects. Specifically, a country music radio station plays in the background throughout the entire Dawn Biozyme facility, so I streamed country western music.

Early in the scenario, a disgusting opportunity presented itself that was almost as good as the "what's in the box" freak-out from a few sessions back. It was completely inspired and off the cuff, and an important lesson in scaring players by torturing non-player characters in front of them. more

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Red Skies: Part 10 – Death Fog

Eventually, the Nǎoké entered a patch of thick fog. The water was very still and there was only a slight breeze. Every sound was magnified in the stillness. The ropes rubbed against the mast, the ship’s boards creaked, and the lapping of the water on the ship’s hull combined to become both annoying and creepy.

“We’re at the center of Hell’s Triangle,” said Carthy. “We’re almost there.”

Suddenly, two sailors were yanked out of the fog. Beldin ran over to the edge, axe at the ready, only to be suddenly snatched into the mists by a huge tentacle.

“I can’t see it!” shouted Sebastian. He was afraid to fly too far away from the ship, lest he lose it completely. “Incendiares globus!”

The fog was burned away by a blast of flames in the sky. There, suction-cupped to the side of the Nǎoké, was a horrible green monstrosity. It had four tentacles, a single eyestalk, and a huge, lamprey-like maw.

Sebastian caught a glimpse of Beldin being tossed through the air like a seal at the mercy of a shark’s maw. Then he disappeared into the beast’s mouth. more

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Monday, October 26

Red Skies: Part 9 – The Islands of the Damned

Kham plunged into the water. He struggled for breath, trying to think of a way out of his predicament. He always managed to find one.

And yet, he had been tripped up again. Acts of derring-do that came so easily to him had suddenly become more difficult. He felt clumsy and slow. Perhaps Sebastian was right…maybe he had relied on the King in Yellow far more than he realized.

Then Kham remembered the box. It turned itself into a boat! He uttered the command word as he plummeted down, down, down…

And once again he experienced the world from Zoltan’s point of view, plummeting for days.

One moment they had been closing with the Freeport fleet, inflicting punishing losses on them, and the next…well, it was hard to say. A storm struck, and then a wave big enough to drown the entire world crashed into them.

When the four undead pirates regained their senses, they were clinging to the wreckage of their respective ships, floating through a chain of small islands.

Daen pleaded for Leviathan’s intercession. “Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!”

A charming young man with a roguish smile and icy eyes appeared in their minds eyes instead.

“Cadic!” wailed Moab.

“So dogs,” roared the towering apparition, “what capital mischief ye been making! But now, I’m calling an end to yer gamboling. I leave ye here, on these Islands of the Damned, to live out the dogs’ lives ye have chosen for yourselves, forever removed from the company of Freeport’s mortals—and their blood, which ye crave, and their trinkets, for which ye kill them.

Daen renewed his chant for Leviathan, but Cadic’s laughter nearly split their eardrums. “As for the whelp ye worship, he may be crafty, but he ain’t as clever as he claims. And now he’ll pay.”

With that, Cadic revealed Leviathan, hanging thirty feet above the water, surrounded by a whirling globe of chains. He still bore his avatar form, and the artifacts (minus the sextant) that focused his power circled around him.

“It’s come to this,” said Cadic. “One last chance I give ye; renounce yer ways and swear fealty to me.”

“You will die at my hands!” came Leviathan’s response.

Cadic gave out a great sigh. Then he ripped Leviathan to pieces.

There was a bursting as of an exploding bladder, a slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, and a stench as of a thousand opened graves. For an instant an acrid and blinding green cloud befouled the four pirates. Then bloody chunks of their master plummeted into the ocean, sending up great gusts of steam as they struck. But Cadic wasn’t done.

“So much fer yer flesh, whelp,” he spat. “Yer spirit I condemn to the Abyss.”

With that, he hurled the divine energy of Leviathan towards the island of R’lyeh where they had first met the squaminous being; it struck with the force of a meteor, plowing a mile-long furrow into the sod. The force propelled the artifacts from his body sending each flying toward a nearby island.

“And so ye won’t get lonesome,” jeered Cadic, “here’s the trinkets ye craved so greedily.” The god opened his palm, and thousands of pounds of gold and jewels and other valuables rained from the sky, burying what was left of Leviathan. Then Cadic blew across the face of the water, and the island vanished with a whisper of wind.

The pirates cringed, waiting for Cadic’s next attack, but the god had departed, leaving them to their fate. more

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Sunday, October 25

Owlshead Mountain: Conclusion

The agents stepped out of the mound. As soon as Hammer left the mound entrance, his cistron crackled.

"—forget it, leave them! Wherever they are they must have cleared the area—Wait! Sprague’s team is still down there!”

Hammer looked around. He could make out two agents standing at the base of a quietly whirring matte black Bell Helicopter 206B JetRanger III. Another sat in the center of the helicopter manning a heavy machinegun, while a fourth was in the pilot seat.

"This is Agent Hammer, who the hell—"

“This is Agent Bremmer to team leader! Get the hell out of there!”

"Oh great," said Jim-Bean. "It's the BLACK FLAG team to the rescue."

Agent Walach waved them towards the helicopter. “The thing seems drawn to that mound you came out of, so we’re using it as a lure! This place is set to blow a minute after it trips the motion sensors along the perimeter…”

Suddenly a series of high pitch tweets lit up on Walach's cistron. "Ah $#!T." more

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Red Skies: Part 8 – There’s a War Going On, You Know

The Triangle’s waters varied greatly. Most often, the seas surrounding it were rough, sporting whitecaps and making sailing difficult. Sometimes the Pale Sea’s wrath was terrible, with swells of up to twenty feet.

“All hands t’ battle stations!” shouted Baldric. “Enemy craft sighted!”

A small, fast galley with two masts was visible. A Kolter Titan GG swivel gun was mounted on the port and starboard sides, and its figurehead was carved in the shape of a snarling wolf.

“That’s Red Wolf’s ship,” said Kham. “A skohir tribesman.”

“Th’ must be hired by th’ Emperor,” said Baldric. “Already, th’ war has come t’ Freeport. Well then, let’s bring Freeport t’ th’ war!” He drew a cutlass and pointed at the ship. “Fire at will!”

Sebastian flew up into the air and unleashed a blast of flames. The heat washed over the ship to no effect.

There was a clap of thunder and a bolt of lightning blasted into Sebastian. He spiraled down to the Nǎoké’s deck, trailing smoke as he went.

“They’ve got powerful magic defenses,” Baldric said quietly.

The two ships pulled alongside each other. “Time to get up close and personal in that case!” shouted Kham. He grabbed some of the ship’s rigging and drew Talon.

Baldric stepped off the deck of the ship, using the power of Cho Sun’s ring to form a bridge made of water between the two ships. A dwarf stood on the other side. “Come, ye Illirite dog!” snarled the dwarf. “Stumpy Hookhand be waitin’ fer ye!”

More lightning arced between the ships as a one-eyed Altherian caster wearing a tall black top hat and a dress coat, but little else, gestured and chanted.

Sebastian got to his feet. “That’s it. Now he’s made me angry.”

Kham slashed the rope and swung through the air. As he was at the apex of the swing, the rope snapped.

“Son of a…”

Kham dropped like a rock into the water. more

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Friday, October 23

Owlshead Mountain: Part 9 – Cooter

A cool blue radiance leaked from several fist-sized hollows in the chamber’s walls ahead. Though dim, the light was strong enough to reveal a pit in the chamber’s foreground. Within the pit, skeletal fragments suggested the form of two bodies, one adult and one child. Both forms were dressed in the remnants of rotting ceremonial dress. Beyond the pit, dry grass was piled in an irregular circle four feet in diameter and two feet high.

"This is Chief Cornstalk's tomb." Waban leaned down on his knees to peer into the pit. "His son is interred here too."

Time had rendered both sets of remains into so many skeletal fragments posed in the hard soil. A small, ornately painted drum lay near the hand of the smaller form, while a strange wooden mask lay upon the fragments suggesting the head of the other.

"The talisman!" said Archive, pointing at the mask.

"Kawkiutl," said Waban.

Hammer inspected the grass beyond the pit. "That's odd."

"What isn't odd around here?" asked Jim-Bean.

"The grass is only a week or so old." Hammer picked something up. "This is Harold Gall's photo ID—"

With an awful shriek, a naked, crazed man lunged out of the grass with a woodsman's ax. more

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Red Skies: Part 7 – Hell’s Triangle

Captain Baldric, Peg-Leg Peligro, Sebastian, Beldin, and Carthy were all huddled on deck in front of the Nǎoké.

“Kham!” shouted Beldin. “You’re alive!”

Kham smiled and waved. “Great to see me too.” He was stinking drunk.

“We were just discussing which ship to take into Hell’s Triangle.” Sebastian indicated Captain Baldric and the Nǎoké. “But it seems that problem has been solved.”

“Aye, I’ll be takin’ ye into th’ Triangle mesself.”

Kham scratched the back of his head. “This wouldn’t have to do with the publicity coup that a victory would bring you in snaring that seat on the Captain’s Council, would it?”

Baldric shot a glare at Peligro with his good eye. “Ye sure he’s been dead all this time?” more

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Thursday, October 22

Owlshead Mountain: Part 8 – The Mound

The opening exuded the strong odor of new-turned earth. The orifice was only about three feet wide by five feet tall. Loose earth made up the floor, walls, and even ceiling, though countless tiny rootlets were visible in the dirt. The low ceiling and narrow tunnel made single file the only option.

Hammer entered, with Archive soon after. Waban stood uncertainly outside.

Jim-Bean paused at the entrance. "You're not coming?"

"I shouldn't. I'm an old man."

Jim-Bean chuckled. "Oh come on. Your knowledge will be critical."

"Why do you care so much?" asked Waban, suspicious.

Jim-Bean's gaze was momentarily distant. "You remind me of an old friend."

Waban stepped inside. Jim-Bean followed him. more

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Red Skies: Part 6 – The Apostate

Kham awoke gasping on an altar, Peg-Leg Peligro worriedly hovering over him.

“Cadic be praised!” he shouted. “Ye’ve been brought back!”

Kham sat up. “Brought…back? I was…dead?”

“Aye. And not just dead; yer spirit was nearly obliterated too. I didn’t think I had th’ power in me, and frankly I still don’t,” said Peg-Leg seriously. “Cadic must have somethin’ special in mind fer ye.”

Kham blinked. “I think I need a drink.” more

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Wednesday, October 21

Dissecting perfection

Michael describes The Perfect Game in today's installment of The Horror.

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Tuesday, October 20

Owlshead Mountain: Part 7 – Introducing BLACK FLAG

Sprague's download of the BLACK FLAG team's profiles told the agents all they needed to know.

AGENT BREMMER: Team Leader, U.S. Army Captain, Ret. Joseph Bremmer was a veteran of Vietnam. In his picture, he wore fatigues and old beaten boots. He leaned on a huge machinegun. With his frosted white hair and lined face, Bremmer looked the part of a grizzled old soldier.

AGENT WALACH: Demolitions Expert, U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant, Ret. Oliver Walach was a small, conservative-looking man. His picture showed a long, dark cigarette dangling from his lips, the glowing ember at its tip just barely visible. A bandolier of grenades was slung across his chest.

AGENT PRESTON: Heavy Weapons Specialist, U.S. Marine Corps Private, Ret. A dangerous-looking man with a bitter glare beneath his cap, Luke Preston held a huge rocket launcher, balanced over one shoulder.

AGENT HULL: Tracker, Big Game Hunter. Arthur Hull was an Australian with the trademark hat, buckskin coat, and huge knife. He was responsible for creating a database on cryptozoology.

All of this flashed across their cistrons to the tune of the A-Team.

"Stop that," muttered Hammer.

Jim-Bean stopped whistling the tune. "Sorry, couldn't help it. These guys are real bad asses, huh?"

"They think they are, anyway," said Hammer. He pulled up to the burial mound. more

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Part 5 – The Great Betrayal

Kham watched in utter shock from the deck of his ship, the Emma, as Francisco’s fleet was utterly obliterated by the collective Continental fleet. Only he wasn’t Kham anymore, he was Zoltan Zaska, a vain, swaggering, swashbuckler.

“Drac betrayed Francisco!” shouted the beautiful Black Jenny Ramsey, the love of Zoltan’s life. She was a flighty, fiery heiress whom Zoltan had initiated into the life of piracy. “He betrayed us!”

Carthy was there, shaking his head, chuckling to himself. “I should have seen it.” The explosions were deafening. Pirates abandoned their ships, swimming desperately to nowhere. “Drac must have made some sort of deal with Coryan. He’s getting rid of his enemies and making Freeport legitimate in one fell swoop!”

“Our fleets will be destroyed,” his Daen Danud, a proud, cruel captain. “All of my plans…lost…”

Moab Cys’varion, the elorii, shook his head. “I owe a blood debt to Francisco. And this is how he repays me?”

“We are running out of options,” said Zoltan. “Perhaps it is time to reconsider His offer.”

Cannonfire tore through plank and sail. Pirates screamed all around them.

“Would he…would He offer it again?” asked Daen, suddenly hopeful. “We all had the same dream…”

“Perhaps,” said Carthy. “If we all swore an oath together, He might reconsider.”

“Then I so swear!” shouted Moab, his face twisted into a hideous expression of rage. “Leviathan! If you save me now I will serve you!”

“As will I!” shouted Daen.

“And I,” said Carthy, a little less enthusiastically.

Seeing her lover make such an oath, Jenny grabbed his hand and shouted into the storm of fire and death. “As do I.”

Zoltan was overcome with jealousy. But he managed to keep his voice steady. “I do so swear,” he said as heroically as he could muster.

Suddenly, the explosions stopped. They were standing upon a coastline of mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which could be nothing less than the tangible substance of earth's supreme terror - the nightmare corpse-city of R'lyeh, that was built in measureless aeons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. Only a single mountaintop, the hideous monolith-crowned citadel whereon great Leviathan was buried, actually emerged from the waters. more

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Owlshead Mountain: Part 6 – Old Thomas

Old Thomas Waban was a full-blooded Pennacook Indian who grew up in and around the Townsend area. Nearing eighty, he still managed for himself, living in a shack in the divot between Clastonbury and Owlshead Mountain.

Thomas' shack was a three-room lodge that existed in the wooded depression. The path was too small for motor vehicles, forcing the agents to park by the roadside.

The path wound through the sweet-smelling forest of spruce, pine, and cedar trees for three-hundred yards before opening up into a small clearing. It was located next to a small freshwater stream in a beautiful grassy clearing rich in wildflowers.

The old American Indian was, perhaps surprisingly, splitting wood with an axe.

Hammer stepped out into the clearing, raising his badge. "Are You Thomas Waban?"

Thomas wiped his brow with a handkerchief in his pocket. "Yes. And you are with the government?"

"You could say that," said Jim-Bean with a smirk. more

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Red Skies: Part 4 – Desecrated Temple

Kham kicked open the double doors.

Several mosaics depicted humanoid fish-like creatures performing rituals to an octopus-headed god. Although all of the scenes illustrated joyous events—bountiful harvests, successful hunts, and the like—they seemed dreadfully wrong somehow. Arcane symbols riddled the six columns that ran the length of the temple, some of which were etched with knives and chisels, some painted with large swaths of blood. But it was what lay in front of the altar that stopped Kham in his tracks. Or rather who.

Lying in a pool of his own blood, his clothes in tatters around his battered form, was Ezekiel Carthy. He was breathing, barely.

A line of cultists stood in front of the three steps that led to the altar, and more stood on either end of the platform on which the altar rested. A man with a shock of thinning, greasy hair, slick back straight on his head, stood over Carthy. He slowly lowered a cocked pistol to his prisoner’s head, another pistol in his other hand. Though he was some distance away, his threats were clear.

“Look at you!” he bellowed. “Standing there like you’re just going to !#(%ing stride in here and just !#(%ing take what I worked so hard to steal? NO you won’t, you !#(%ers!” He addressed the other cultists. “You’re all a !#(%ing disappointment. I’m so !#(%ing disappointed.”

“Well if it isn’t Billy Bones,” said Kham. He cocked both of his pistols. “Let Carthy go.”

“I don’t think you’re in a !#(%ing position to be giving orders, do you? If you take just one more step, ONE MORE, your friend here won’t live to see you take another!”

Kham fired both pistols. Billy Bones’ own pistols went flying.

“You dumb !#(%er!” Billy rubbed his hands. “Kill them!”

The cultists unleashed a barrage of pistol fire. Kham and Beldin ducked behind the nearest pillars as Sebastian stepped out.

The temple was long and narrow, no more than twenty five feet wide.

One of the cultists got out: “Uh oh.” more

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Monday, October 19

Owlshead Mountain: Part 5 – Making a Withdrawal

Jim-Bean used Dr. Kline's keys to open the body bank door.

"It's a good thing Kline dismissed everyone for his pathetic booby trap," said Hammer, "or we'd have bigger problems right now."

The chilly chamber was walled on all sides by banks of metallic fifty-centimeter-by-fifty-centimeter metal drawers, three drawers high. Several height-adjustable metal carts stood in the chamber’s center.

Jim-Bean tried to point his pistol everywhere at once. "So which one is it?"

"Hard to tell," said Archive quietly. "Last time we saw the thing in action it was burrowing into you. If it wasn't for the fact that you're not really…"

"Human?" asked Jim-Bean wryly.

"…I was going to say made of terrestrial flesh. My point is we don't know if it can reanimate a corpse or needs a living host."

"It can reanimate a corpse," said Hammer, looking past Jim-Bean.

"How do you know?" asked Archive.

On the far side of the room, a body was sitting up, cloaked in a blue sheet. more

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Red Skies: Part 3 – Antechamber

Sebastian found a wheel that opened a secret door in the bottom of the tower. It led to a shaft, with a ladder that ended in darkness. Kham went first.

As he was climbing down, there was a strange creaking sound and the ladder suddenly snapped into the wall. Kham let go and slid to the bottom.

He kicked out both of his feet just as he neared the bottom, catching himself in a corner of the tight shaft. He skidded to a halt. Looming below him were several sharp spikes.

Kham let out a long, shuddering breath. “Whew.”

A second later several hundred pounds of armored dwarf landed on top of him. They rolled and fell. Kham grunted as one of the spikes scraped the breastplate he wore beneath his overcoat. For once, he was glad he had it on.

Sebastian landed with a flap of his wings. “You really need to work on your trap detecting skills,” said the dark-kin.

“I’m not really the trap-finding type,” said Kham.

Beldin was battered and bruised. “We noticed.” more

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Sunday, October 18

Owlshead Mountain: Part 4 – The Anterior Sample

Hammer jimmied the lock on Locker 23 and fished out its contents.

Locker 23 contained a glossy flier, a filthy lab coat, a muddy and torn composition book, and a handkerchief with the initials “H.G.” on it.

Archive took a look at the composition book. "There's a few words here: 'this record is the truth' and 'Thomas Waban confirms Cornstalk connection. The talisman is my only hope' on the inside leaf. The first page of the composition book is torn out."

"So we need to find Waban," said Hammer. "That just leaves one thing."

"There's another thing?" asked Jim-Bean.

"The body," said Hammer. "Kline was holding onto it. We need to clean up his mess."

"Can't we just call in a STREETSWEEPER team?" asked Jim-Bean.

"We could," said Hammer, checking the bullets in his Glock. "But if Gall's body is anything like what we found in his car, it could easily escape."

"I was afraid you were going to say that," muttered Jim-Beam as he followed Hammer and Archive down the steps to the basement. more

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Red Skies: Part 2 – Libertyville

Beldin sat in the simple rowboat that carried him and Kham. He concentrated as the wave carried them aloft and then gently deposited them on the shores of Libertyville. Sebastian landed in front of them.

“The cultist went into that building,” he pointed at the largest structure.

Beldin looked around. “If this place is supposed to rival Freeport, it’s got a long way to go.”

Ha half-dozen huts were arranged in a semi-circle, facing the beach with what was probably the town’s signal fire in the center. A guard tower and another small structure whose function was not immediately clear formed a part of the town. All the buildings were in various states of decay, and most were slowly smoldering into ashes.

“This is the aftermath of the Unspeakable One,” said Sebastian.

Kham made a beeline for the tower. A set of steps wound its way up past a number of arrow slits before ending in a platform above.

Sebastian looked up. “I hear the sound of metal scraping on stone above. I’ll check it out.” He flapped up out of sight.

Beldin and Kham exchanged looks.

”Sounded like something heavy being dragged,” said Kham. “Like a metal container of some sort.”

Beldin shoved Kham out of the way. “Get back!” more

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Saturday, October 17

Owslhead Mountain: Part 3 – Interrogation

Hammer pointed to Archive. "Wake up the other one."

Archive waved smelling salts under the other agent.

The enemy agent shuddered awake. Realizing the gravity of his situation, the agent pursed his lips.

Archive rolled the prone agent's gurney over to the spotlight.

"Now you, you're not like Melvin here," said Hammer. "You're not some hired thug who got in way over his head. You're a pro, am I right?"

The man didn't even look at Melvin, whose muffled screams were audible in the dark.

"I thought so. This is what we know about you: your name is Jim Williams. You work for Dawn Biozyme. So now we want to know who your superiors are and what you know about Harold Gall."

"F*&k you," he said.

Hammer sighed. "I'm not surprised. You don't think we're serious. Jim-Bean? Show Mr. Williams that we're serious." more

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Red Skies: Part 1 – The Getaway

Kham kicked open the door and Beldin barreled through, shield raised. A multitude of pistol blasts hammered his shield and shredded the doorway.

Kham stepped backed into the doorway when the blast subsided and fired off two shots. The cultists, arrayed in a semicircle around the opening to Carthy’s home, ducked behind cover.

Sebastian was next. “Fulminous arcus!”

Four cultists in a line were immediately fried as electricity sparked between them.

“Get the sextant!” shouted another cultist dressed in red robes that stood atop the carriage they had seen before.

Kham grabbed two more pistols from Skiz. “I KNEW I should have blown that thing up when I saw it.” more

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Friday, October 16

Owlshead Mountain: Part 2 – The Dastardly Dr. Kline

Hammer's cistron chirped. He answered it. "Hello?"

“Hello? Yeah, this is Deputy Fitzgerald. Listen, I saw your bulletin and I just wanted to contact you. I thought the body was taken care of, but after I saw the APB I'm not so sure."

"Slow down Fitzgerald," said Hammer. "What are you talking about?"

"Harold Gall's body. I was on the scene when the body was retrieved by ambulance. I was too late to stop a police report from being filed. They even called in the CDC because of the questionable condition of the body. The CDC agent identified it as pneumonia, but I’m not so sure.”

"CDC agent, huh? Did he identify himself?"

"He didn't give a name, now that I think about it."

"Can you remember anything else?"

"Yeah, the body was strangely bloated, discolored, and leaking a smelly, jelly-like fluid—easily the oddest corpse I’ve ever seen. It was transferred to the Samson Forensics Lab into the care of a Dr. Kline. The reason I'm calling you is because Kline asked me to set up a meeting between CIFA and him at 9:30 p.m. tonight at the rear door next to the loading dock. “

Hammer checked his watch. "That's not long from now. We'll be there." He hung up and threw the truck into gear.

"So?" asked Jim-Bean.

"One of our friendlies stepped forward. They think they have Harold Gall's corpse." more

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Red Skies: Prologue

As usual, the streets of the Merchant District were much quieter than those of the neighbors, which made Sebastian stand out even more than usual. A long carriage passed by as he made his way down the street; its driver noted his demonic appearance with a look of disdain.

“You could use a spell to disguise yourself, you know,” said Kham.

Sebastian shrugged. “Why should I? Our names have been cleared. A mob has already tried to kill me and regretted it. It’s time they learned to fear me instead.”

“Something’s wrong,” said Beldin. “There’s no one at the gate to greet us.”

“The energy I felt last time we approached the house is noticeably absent as well,” said Sebastian.

They made their way to the front door, only to discover it unlocked.

Kham pushed open the door and then stopped. “Oh, this can’t be good.” more

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Thursday, October 15

Owlshead Mountain: Part 1 – The Thing in the Car

Gall's empty car was first noticed by a Herb Hike of 6060 Fulton Avenue, Samson, who happened to observe Gall's wallet lying open on the front seat. Hike, a visiting researcher at UC-Samson, called police because he feared the locked vehicle would be broken into and the wallet stolen. The responding officers took more than casual notice of the vehicle because the viewpoint where it was discovered was little more than fifty yards from a high sea cliff. Several suicides each year took place there, and the officers knew that people driven to suicide frequently left behind wallet or purse as a memorial or marker.

The vehicle, a late-model BMW, was newly scraped and battered in amazing fashion. Because of the extensive body damage, the reporting officer suggested that the driver may have been drunkenly despondent when he reached the sea, and there climbed over the rail and fell to his death among the rocks and pounding surf a hundred feet below.

Hammer flashed his badge at Lester, the owner of Hurricane Towing.

Lester squinted at it. "Feds huh? Well, come on through." He pressed a button and the gate buzzed open. "Don't know why you boys want to look at it again though."

"We may have missed something," Hammer said nonchalantly.

In the background, a Rottweiler barked incessantly. "Cujo! Cujo, cut out that racket!" He turned back, apologetic, to address the agents. "He ain't normally like that."

Cujo paced. Lester hooked his chain up before the dog could come closer.

As Jim-Bean passed, the dog made a running leap at him, only to be snapped backwards by the chain. Coughing and gagging, the Rottweiler retreated.

"It's okay," said Jim-Bean. "Happens all the time."

"The car's over here," said Lester. "Still drivable. The steering column is broken. Has about a quarter tank of gas."

"Great, thanks," said Hammer. "We'll take it from here."

"Sure thing," said Lester, relieved that he wouldn't have to stand around while the agents investigated Gall's car. "Cujo!" Cujo had begun barking again. "Cujo, calm down! Dumb dog's gonna choke himself to death…"

Archive peered at the vehicle. "You think you're really going to find something?"

"I'd like you two to take a look at it," said Hammer while he wormed his way into the back seat with a flashlight.

Archive whispered some arcane phrases. "Nothing magical about it."

"And before you ask, no auras either," said Jim-Bean.

Hammer reached under the seat and tugged. After a moment he was rewarded with a small plastic container.

"Figures. Warner's boys are sloppy."

Hammer held it up in the fading sunlight. There were patches of a strange residue, perhaps dried mucus or gel, staining the plastic container.

"Whatever was in this, it's long gone—" was all Hammer got out before the thing that was in the container burst out from the back seat. more

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Chapter 61: Red Skies at Morning - Introduction

This scenario is from the Black Sails Over Freeport adventure “Red Skies at Morning” by Green Ronin, adapted to the Arcanis setting. You can read more about Arcanis at http://www.onaraonline.org. Please note: This adventure contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

This is the beginning of the home stretch. If you’ve played Black Sails Over Freeport, you know how it ends and you know who Leviathan is. It’s the answer to Sebastian’s question several chapters back: “Whatever happened with that sextant we picked up?”

Well, now we know. I had to think long and hard about how this adventure would accommodate the “old school” style of D&D. Like the Castle Amber adventure series, Black Sails Over Freeport is very much a resource management, long slog to the death kind of game. Which means PCs are going to die more often. So I had to nudge a caster (Peg-Leg Peligro) that could cast raise dead and resurrection to go along.

The other problem is that this adventure ultimately ends up stranding our characters on another plane with only their ship as a home. That means everything the PCs need between adventures has to be there with them, including the aforementioned cleric. This is where the Arcanis game shifts from traditional skullduggery, politics, and questions of honor and family to good old fashioned blowing things up and taking their stuff.

Black Sails Over Freeport has some problems, like the assumption that PCs of 6th level or higher won’t have access to fly, which is ironic since one of the cultists had access to a potion of fly. Then there’s the fact that the main villain, Billy Bones, is a poor imitation of Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) from Blue Velvet. I never liked Blue Velvet and I disliked the technology-bending requirements of having a villain who breathes from an air mask. Also, he’s always high on Abyss Dust, which I’ve replaced with Ghoul Juice…so the whole thing didn’t work for me.

Instead, I made Billy a foul-mouthed version of Jack Nicholson, sans breathing apparatus. I gave him a spellcaster’s bandolier that allowed him to draw several of his potions on the fly. In the end it didn’t matter: Billy knew the heroes were coming and swigged all the relevant potions he would need. The battle took a surprise twist that would have repercussions on the rest of the campaign.

Overall, I was happy with the drama and angst this adventure generated. It was a clear sign to the PCs that the gloves are off, as represented by the “loss” of the King in Yellow’s protection. We’re now playing in the big leagues, and the heroes are going to have to step it up if they plan to survive. more

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Wednesday, October 14

Owlshead Mountain: Prologue

Pictures appeared on their cistrons of some of the bodies recovered from the incident, and several grainy black-and-white photos of huge cloven footprints found in the mud surrounding them. The photographs of the bodies were horrific. The bite marks on them resembled those left by a shark attack.

“We had a plaster cast made of on the of the hoof marks of the beast,” said Sprague. “It’s three feet long by two and a half feet wide."

"The thing we dropped off at Zymvotek did that?" asked Hammer.

"Looks like our escaped baby is all grown up," said Jim-Bean. more

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Ocean Meets Sky: Conclusion

They appeared in front of the Temple of Cadic.

“That’s the last time you do that,” Sebastian said sternly. “I didn’t give you permission to hurl us across Arcanis. We could have ended up in the center of a mountain for all you know.”

Kham looked hurt. “I got us out of there, didn’t I?”

“And with some booty to boot,” said Beldin appreciatively. “I picked up a fine rapier and cutlass.”

Kham grinned. “And I got an eyepatch. And a box that folds out into a boat. I’m a regular pirate now.” more

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Tuesday, October 13

A Night on Owlshead Mountain: Introduction

This story hour is a combination of the scenario from “A Night on Owlshead Mountain” from Arc Dream's Delta Green: Eyes Only by Dennis Detwiller, At Your Door, and The Killing Jar. You can read more about Delta Green at http://www.delta-green.com. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

Owlshead Mountain gives the impression that Dennis was tired of "cowboy" agents planning to blow up monsters with huge amounts of explosives. In this scenario, the agents are up against a two-fold threat, one of them being the near indestructible Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath. The creature's immunity to firearms is distinctly different from past incarnations of Dark Young, due to tweaks in the Call of Cthulhu rules. This makes a Dark Young more than just a summoned goon, but a TPK.

Having already introduced the Dark Young in an earlier scenario and with my opportunity to play with time (which I love to do), two weeks later there's a fully-grown Dark Young stomping around the woods of Samson, California. Like Future/Perfect Dennis isn't big on narrative and prefers to let give Keepers the ingredients and then let them figure it out. I prefer a bit more structure, which is why I used a scene from At Your Door and The Killing Jar. more

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Ocean Meets Sky: Part 7 – The True Orb

The cavern floor was made of black volcanic sand and earth. Eighteen graves were marked with rusted cutlasses sticking from the ground, each with a dusty, wide-brimmed felt cap or rotted bandanna tied around its cup-shaped hilt. Beyond the eighteen graves was an underground portion of the river. A small island sat in the center of the water and rapids, with a series of six moldy stepping-stones that led to the island.

Upon the island was piled several treasure chests and broken sacks, spilling gems, jewelry and various coins, and a large glowing orb that sat atop the glittering booty. Jeweled cutlasses, rapiers in ivory scabbards, and finely crafted crossbows and bandoleers of daggers rounded out the tableau.

Kham and Sebastian exchanged glances. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

Sebastian nodded.

Kham and Beldin collected up the cutlasses and hats. When they were done, Sebastian flapped his way over to the pile of treasure. Kham and Beldin hopped from stone to stone to reach him.

Above them, the sounds of ship-to-ship combat and massive magical cannonfire grew louder.

“Ready?” asked Kham.

“Ready,” said Sebastian.

Kham scooped up the orb. “Now!” more

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Monday, October 12

Ocean Meets the Sky: Part 6 – Riddle of the Wheel

The idol’s movement revealed a hidden passageway beyond. Kham stepped gingerly through the hallway, rattled from the encounter with the incarnation with Leviathan.

He heard a click.

“Guys, there might be a trap—“ was all he got out.

The walls slammed together, smashing into Beldin just behind him. The dwarf was saved only by his shield and armor. The force was so quick and so powerful that it left Beldin stunned. Sebastian shoved him forward as the walls retracted and reset.

“Sorry,” said Kham. “I’m not really the trapfinding type.”

Sebastian shot him a glare. “We noticed.” He fed a healing potion to Beldin. more

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Saturday, October 10

Time and Serpent: Conclusion

Cleaned up and reinstated as active agents in Blacknet's database, the agents rested at a nearby safehouse in Samson, California.

"So all this time Ssuthraa was trying to kill himself?" asked Archive.

Jim-Bean nodded. "He was talking about becoming the Prime. I think he was trying to do something over; whatever happened when he was in the guise of Hunt didn't work, so he got access to time travel technology, went backwards in time, and started over."

"Time travel makes my head hurt." Hammer left out the part that at some point, he gained access to time travel and attempted to warn himself.

"Yeah, speaking of which, you said something about how you were the Prime," said Jim-Bean suspiciously.

Archive shrugged. "Heat of the moment, I guess." He too left out the feeling of triumph he felt when he killed Ssuthraa. It felt so right. As if he were the guardian of time and space… more

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Ocean Meets Sky: Part 5 – The Elder Eidolon

The world spun, as if all the air had been sucked out of the room. Beldin and Sebastian staggered as if drunk, their minds scrambled from the awesome force that emanated from the statue. Kham stood alone, his mind accustomed to dealing with such mind-rending attacks since his first encounter with the Unspeakable One.

The thing, which seemed indistinct with a fearsome and unnatural malignancy, was of a somewhat bloated corpulence, and squatted evilly on a rectangular block or pedestal covered in undecipherable characters. The tips of the wings touched the back edge of the block, the seat occupied the center, whilst the long, curved claws of the doubled-up, crouching hind legs gripped the front edge and extended a quarter of the way down toward the bottom of the pedestal. The cephalopod head was bent forward, so that the ends of the feelers brushed the backs of the forepaws that clasped the croucher's elevated knees.

It slowly unfurled, stretching its wings as it rose to its full height. Kham was overcome with fear. The thing thundered one step forward at a time, advancing on Beldin and Sebastian.

Kham knew he had to do something. The thing's blasphemous tentacles reached for Beldin’s face. Kham suddenly came to the realization that it knew he was there, but was ignoring him. He was insignificant to its existence, as relevant as a fly assaulting a castle.

But he had to try. more

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Friday, October 9

"The world is often unkind to new talents..."

I just saw this in a quote in a marketing training class I took recently, and it struck a chord with me. I think it's worth repeating here:

"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talents, new creations. The new needs friends." -- Anton Ego from Ratatouille


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This "Pillow" Scares Me

Funktionide Part II from eltopo on Vimeo.

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Time and the Serpent: Part 7 – Zombiesaurus

"What followed you through the portal?" shouted Archive as the pounding became deafening.

The shuddering footsteps were so powerful that debris flaked from the crumbling ceiling.

"This dinosaur followed us…" said Hammer, aiming for the far side of the hall.

"But we thought the zombies killed it."

"Zombies?!" shouted Archive. But that was all he got out as a towering allosaurus roared into the room. A shaft of sunlight from above illuminated a flash of teeth and claws. Its skin was a mottled blue and it was covered in tiny red spots.

The undead allosaurus bore down on Archive. more

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posted by Michael Tresca at 10:13 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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Ocean Meets Sky: Part 4 – Shot Trap Loading Chamber

Beldin smashed open the rusted iron door at the top of a natural staircase. Beyond the door was a large cave with a wooden and iron rack built around the outside of the wall. Several k’n-yan moved about the room, lifting the large boulders from a pile and loading them onto the rack. The rack led to a circular pit in the center of the floor.

Kham drew his pistols. “Now we know who was running that trap.”

Beldin’s pent-up frustration was unleashed. The dwarf bellowed and waded into the thick of the bronze creatures, hacking and bashing. Kham fired a few shots, but it was more to give Beldin some breathing room until Sebastian could…

A blast of flames tore through the k’n-yan ranks. More beams of light sizzled towards them, but the k’n-yan’s resistance was token at best.

When it was all over, Kham kicked one of the bodies into the hole. He watched with satisfaction as it rolled over on itself and slid out of sight.

“Is it just me, or do the k’n-yan seem weaker than before?”

Sebastian nodded. “Like you and I, they have been cut off from their lord—“

“Stop calling him that. He’s not my lord.” more

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posted by Michael Tresca at 10:10 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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Sunday, October 4

Time and the Serpent: Part 6 – The Prime

Dust fell from the ceiling. Ssuthraa was still standing. Some of the other serpent people slowly got to their feet; others were unconscious from the impact. Archive and Jim-Bean were unharmed.

"I'm afraid your usssefulnesss isss at an end," hissed Ssuthraa quietly to Hammer. Then he turned to the other serpent men. "Look! The intrudersss inssserted an impossstor into our midssst!" He pointed at the corpse of Hunt, which was morphing back into a serpent person. "Kill them!"

Hammer didn't waste any time. He emptied both clips, downing two of the serpent people.

More got to their feet, lunging at Jim-Bean. He went under in a pile of flailing claws and fangs…

Then he burst outwards, flying up into the air. Serpent people were tossed to the side.

Jim-Bean, floating twenty feet in the air, brought his arms together. Rubble from the ceiling cracked away and smashed near Ssuthraa. He tumbled out of the way, but the serpent person next to him was crushed.

Archive was chanting too. Whether he was helping his fellow agents or harming the serpents was unclear.

"Guys!" shouted Jim-Bean, looking up. "I think I can hear fire engines!"

Hammer was backpedaling, firing as he went. "That means…"

"We relocated to the present!" shouted Jim-Bean.

"A CITY in the PRESENT!" Hammer shouted back. He fired and another serpent went down.

Jim-Bean pointed at the ceiling and more rubble cracked away, crushing another serpent person. Blue sky was visible through the cracks. The sound of emergency vehicles was clearly audible to all. In fact, the fire truck Jim-Bean heard sounded very close.

A second later the front end of a fire truck cracked through the rubble. Jim-Bean shifted out of the way as it tore past him, plunging the fifty foot distance to the floor below. It smashed into two serpent people.

Rubble slid down through the opening, creating a ramp upwards. Serpent people ran for the opening, transforming into their human guises, led by Ssuthraa.

Hammer turned and fired, but he was out of bullets. "If they get into the city…" more

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posted by Michael Tresca at 9:27 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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Ocean Meets Sky: Part 3 – Cave Entrance

The water of the Pale Sea dripped into the mouth of a darkened cave, but the magical seal between the shipwrecked fihali vessel and the coral reef held.

Kham dropped to his knees and doubled over as spasms wracked him. Water exploded from his lungs. He lay gasping and coughing on the floor, dragging in deep breaths of air.

Beldin and Sebastian spat up water, but with much less violence than Kham.

“Is it always like that?” asked Kham, catching his breath.

“Yes,” said Sebastian. “But it’s tougher on humans.”

“Since when didn’t you consider yourself human?” asked Kham.

Sebastian let his twitching tail speak for him.

The cavern dripped water all around them, but it was not submerged. A shallow depression ran through it, a river beneath the ocean, forged through magic. A wider path of black volcanic led into the cavern.

Kham took a few steps in, then stopped. He bent down to inspect something he had kicked.

It was a skeleton, half-buried in silt, with its arm outstretched towards the strange river. There was a rotting pouch in one skeletal hand, a rusted cutlass in the other.

“That’s strange,” said Kham. “Looks like this guy’s bones were broken around his neck and shoul…”

There was a rumbling overhead. Beldin shoved Kham aside, shield over his head.

“Down!” more

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posted by Michael Tresca at 9:26 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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Time and the Serpent: Part 5 – The Throne Room

The throne room was nearly one hundred feet long and carved from obsidian. Every five feet a pillar rose from the floor to the ceiling, twenty feet above the chamber’s floor. The pillars resembled huge malformed bones, twisting in their contorted support of the roof. A group of figures were visible at the far end of the hall; gathered around a device of some sort, but it was impossible to make out anything clearly from such a distance. The only illumination was derived from the machine and its weird lights casting bizarre shadows along the walls of the hall.

As the agents crept closer, a low chanting was audible. It was a strange and alien chorus; the combined voices resonated in a very harmonious way. The chanting became louder and louder.

Eventually they agents got close enough to clearly see the figures and the machine.

The figures were six serpent people. They were dressed alike, garbed in a smooth, flexible armor covered with runes. The runes were closely related to the runes discovered throughout the fortress. They stood atop a dias enclosed with a low wall.

The eighth figure wasn't a serpent person but none other than Arthur Hunt, dressed in flowing red robes, likewise covered with the familiar runes. He stood closest to the machine, hands stretched out in front of him. All of the serpent people seem to be in a sort of trance as they chant ever louder, unaware of the intruders.

"I knew he was a snake man," muttered Jim-Bean. more

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posted by Michael Tresca at 8:25 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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Ocean Meets Sky: Part 2 – Death’s Hold

The center of the ship was arranged like the spokes of a wheel, with each spoke containing eight doors off of the central hub opening onto eight identical rooms. On the other side could be seen sparks from the rent hull of the ship, the side that had penetrated the coral. Although the crew had died, their mission was a success…they had opened a path to the Moonsilver Orb.

“I don’t like this,” said Sebastian. “Too many doors and too far to swim.”

Beldin straddled the bottom of the tubular hallway. “I like it just fine. I can put my feet on the ground.”

They slowly made their way down the hallway.

“You do realize something’s going to jump out of those doors when we get about midway through,” said Kham.

Beldin hefted his axe, his beard floating in the gentle current. “Counting on it!” more

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posted by Michael Tresca at 8:23 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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Saturday, October 3

Time and the Serpent: Part 4 – The Mole

It started out as just a mole.

One little fleshy, oddly colored mole on Archive's hip. Nothing unusual.

Then it got bigger. The color changed. It shifted from a normal-looking mole to a weird, fleshy protrusion. A skin tab. Still, nothing that strange about it.

It bothered Archive. Dressing became an awkward, arduous exercise to avoid irritating the sensitive skin tab. And it continued to grow.

Archive went to a dermatologist and paid to have it removed. It was a quick outpatient surgery, the dermatologist told him. And he was right, it was quick.

The next day it was back. more

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posted by Michael Tresca at 7:36 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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Ocean Meets Sky: Part 1 – Black Hole

A vessel resembling an oblong sphere of seamless, shining metal jutted from the coral reef. A long gash marred the otherwise perfect exterior, allowing water and fish easy passage into the interior. Lengthwise along the equator of the huge ship, weapons and tools of all uses protruded from the hull, each near by a small porthole. The metal appeared unaffected by the water.

There was a jagged opening in the ship, one that obviously should not have been there. The explosion that brought the ship low left a gaping hole in its side. The edges were ragged and blackened, with strange conduits protruding from the mangled remains of the wall. They flashed with energy occasionally, all that was left of the magic that once powered the vessel.

Sebastian spread his wings and snapped his tail behind him, gliding like a manta ray in the ocean depths as if he had lived there all his live. Beldin wasn’t kidding, they had clearly practiced such a maneuver before.

Before Kham could get any closer to the ship, there was a rush of water around them. K’n-yan, their arms close to their sides, were launched downwards into the water as if they had been propelled by great force.

“Guess they know we’re here.” Kham reached for his pistols, then stopped. Firing the pistols would be impossible underwater. more

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posted by Michael Tresca at 7:34 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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Friday, October 2

How to Survive an Alien Attack

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posted by Michael Tresca at 9:52 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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Time and the Serpent: Part 3 – Everybody Do the Dinosaur

Jim-Bean pounded out into the street, several shambling corpses moaning behind him. The allosaurus, sniffing at a pile of garbage, looked up.

"Jim-Bean!" shouted Hammer in the direction of the gate. "This way!"

Jim-Bean plunged towards the sound of Hammer's voice. The allosaurus roared a challenge and set off after him.

The moaning, which had shifted from a soft background noise that could be easily mistaken for the wind, had become an awful chorus. It was the zombies.

Jim-Bean caught a glimpse of just how many blue-tinged corpses had been animated as he ran through an intersection. Hundreds, if not thousands, were all attracted to the sound of the allosaurus' bellowing. And some of them weren't shambling but running full-tilt, as easily fast as Jim-Bean himself.

He kept running. The crowd of corpses converged behind him, right in the allosaurus' path.

Momentarily distracted by the onset of new if somewhat rancid meat, the allosaurus scooped up a pile of zombies and, tossing them into the air like popcorn, swallowed several whole. Arms and legs that didn't fit into its maw were severed and plopped to the ground.

But more zombies were coming. They clawed at its legs as it strode among them, flattening dozens. It finally had to stop its headlong charge as many jumped onto its back, clawing and gnashing. Unbalanced by the irritating things, the allosaurus collided with a building. The building groaned and teetered forward. more

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posted by Michael Tresca at 9:41 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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Ocean Meets Sky: Prologue

Coralis rose from the Pale Sea, a sun unto itself, like a grand cathedral to Yarris, god of the depths. Tall spires captured the light of the sun, transforming the dawn into a multitude of gems floating in the sky. Four towers reached from their watery foundations up to the heavens, appearing to be made of precious stones: emerald, sapphire, ruby, and topaz. The reef of coral below the towers was clearly visible through the crystal waters, extending out of sight in either direction, effectively blocking further passage.

Numerous islands, sporting foliage, emerged along the reef. Fires burned on several of the islands, hinting that all was not well. The ruins of four other towers confirmed that a massive battle had occurred recently.

The black fihali turned as one to face Beldin, Kham, and Sebastian.

“This is where we get off,” said Sebastian after a moment of interpreting the thought-symbols the alien fihali relayed only to him. “They showed me an image of a buried ship, approximately one hundred feet below the surface.”

“And we’re supposed to do what, exactly?” asked Beldin, dubious.

“The fihali ship was trying to penetrate the defenses of the k’n-yan. In the end, they rammed the ship into the coral, but they died in the ensuing explosion. We must make our way through that opening and find the Moonsilver Orb.”

“K’n-yan, huh?” asked Kham. “I don’t suppose they’ll be surprised to see us?”

The glass whale rocked from an explosion. It was a testament to fihali engineering that the ship only shuddered.

“Never mind,” said Kham. more

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posted by Michael Tresca at 9:39 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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