A Short History of Two Kalbs, A Bard, and a Concerned Prostitute: Part 41

Remembering some unfinished business, I left Alice to visit her friends and met up with the others at the Big House. Apparently Leo had bartered for money from his family to pay for our indiscretions. Thankfully.

We went to first a college of arcana in hopes of a Message spell, but apparently those take a while to scribe. Returning to the College seemed like a terrible idea, but we somehow managed to avoid getting ourselves killed or lost in space/time. Barely.

A message was sent to the Fazuku Butzu and we hoped that they would take the warning regarding wizard apocalypse machines seriously.

After dealing with that, we talked about the next few days

The plan seemed to involve going back into the sewers to encase the crystal flower in led. Day 2 involved going back to the Temple of Caillech to deal with the Hand. Day 3 was the suicide attempt into the walled off district.

But first, we needed to arrange a meeting with our old unground friends to make this all happen. I largely let Leo and Byron negotiate things out with the lawyer and then the surprise gang leader unveiled himself in the corner. At least the minor heart attack allowed us to arrange things more quickly.

It looks like a busy few days have come upon us…

A Short History of Two Kalbs, A Bard, and a Concerned Prostitute: Part 40

In the morning we gathered altogether and discussed the various information and divinations that we’ve seen. It was clear that we had to make it to the Forbidden district made of horrors. That’s what they tell me at least. Lady C also visited and we uncovered some information regarding what can be done about the Crystal Trees- also that they seem to be very well warded.

So began a day of visiting a variety of places. We first visited the Temple of Aisling and informed the High Seer of yet another threat to the city. We chatted with a shadow that happened to be spying in the corner.

We visited some ironsmiths to find a good deal for a lead wall to block the Evil Crystal Tree generators. With a laundry list of things we’d like to accomplish, it was eventually decided that we should split up and go different ways. Alice and I would go to visit her shadow friends. Joy.

The hole in my understanding

There’s a hole. A hole in my understanding. I get that. The hole isn’t a void; it’s not that the understanding doesn’t exist, any more than the earth ceases to exist because you dig a hole in it. But it’s fundamentally changed. It forces you to walk around it and end up in places you didn’t expect, in ways you didn’t expect. Or maybe you just can’t figure out how to get across it.

So that’s what it’s like.

So the tree. I was part of the tree, for a while, and I wrapped myself in other people’s thoughts and they became me and now I don’t know which parts are me and which aren’t, or if that makes a difference. And the wizards are using the tree to harvest and focus negative thoughts to collect the same kind of energy that makes up Macha. There’s four of them, one of them in Atherton. And that’s bad. It should terrify me. But instead I feel – sad? Tired? I don’t know.

Leo took me to see the lady who hired us, and we explained the situation. He seemed concerned. I guess I’m not acting like I normally would, which makes sense. But Leo wanted me to come, and doing what he wanted would make him happy, and I would want him to be happy because he’s my friend. So I did that. And when we came back, Varus was asleep on the couch, and he’s family so I should look after him. So I took his shoes off so he could sleep a little better.

I’m not sure what Byron thinks of this. Having a feeling just vaguely accessible but not actually there, like a word that sits on the tip of your tongue until you blurt out a word that seems similar but means something completely different – would that make more or less sense to our chaos-boy?

Herrik sent me a note. Said he was proud of me. I got confused by that. Sort of angry. It’s good to have your boss be proud of you, right? So why would I be angry? And why would he be proud of me?

I feel like if I could talk to Chip it would help somehow. He wouldn’t say anything – probably. He’d just let me talk until I found a way around the hole. But he’s gone, and so is Ivraham. And they were with me before, in a way. I remember the feel of Chip’s fur and the sound of Ivraham’s voice, and how those things used to make me feel. But now there’s a hole there.

A Short History of Two Kalbs, A Bard, and a Concerned Prostitute: Part 39

In the aftermath of the battle against the wizards, we gathered the wizard’s survivors together. Well, one of the wizards bled out as Leo and I argued over his life.

We interrogated the engineer under Tamlin’s illusion. During that time all of us examined the weird crystal tree structure. Combining together our collective knowledges and the cryptic words of Tamlin, we uncovered that the tree collects the dark energy of those living above and filters it through the crystals here in some strange fashion.

Cinnamon was the one who broke through the secret behind the tree- that it was the negative thoughts of people and that she could jump into the tree. Knowing this, we gathered what metaphysical resources to help her in the jump. I drew upon Aisling and we were able to see the possible future for Cinnamon.

Using that knowledge, she decided to scout out this tree to find what information she could. During that time, we (not myself) stabbed Tamlin to dissolve his illusion. With that, I could perform my own scrying and we fled after Cinnamon returned.

She was changed. Not herself at all. Time would tell more in the morning as we dragged ourselves back to Byron’s abode. He left before I could tell him we were snapping the card, but I trusted Leo in handling the Blackcloaks. With that, I performed a Commune to ask several questions before going to sleep for the night. I thought I woke slightly to Cinnamon taking my shoes off, but that must have been a dream…

A Short History of Two Kalbs, A Bard, and a Concerned Prostitute: Part 38

After a relatively uneventful night, we gathered for breakfast to discuss our findings regarding the girls diary. It looked like these were from different periods of history and passed from one little girl to another.

Filing away those bits for the future, we gathered our group together to contact Sawtooth’s gang through a lawyer of Hartam. Interesting fellow Sawtooth. Pure practicality is actually a bit refreshing in this mad city.

With the help of a kobold, we made our way down into the sewers and promptly got lost all sense of direction. Thankfully Sawtooth’s kobold managed to keep us from becoming completely lost. We did come up upon some maneater centipedes and with a giant wave and a pig, we managed to circumvent.

Before we entered the wizard’s lair, we were confronted by a set of shadowy summoned creatures. We managed to bring them down with our sheer numbers without heavy losses. The wizards themselves were evacuating the chamber. There were quite a few of them, although only two were focused on repelling us while the others skittered away or focused on some work there.

We almost died to an empowered lightning bolt that coruscated through us. A giant pit was open in the middle, but between a barrage of arrows, spells, and summons we managed to put both of them down. Cinnamon with that special cloak punched through to smash the crystal. Now we’re here holding three wizards…

A Short History of Two Kalbs, A Bard, and a Concerned Prostitute: Part 37

After striking a standoff deal with Nurgle and the Temple of Caillech, we were given safe passage down the road back to the city. I believe Nurgle’s companions ensured that we weren’t troubled through our travel down the hill. After informing the blackcloaks of the situation in the cemetery, we watched them begin to march in and finally help those there. I hope they will be in time to save the University.

We gathered Lady C with us as there seemed to be a wizard plot afoot near the docks. I was a little nervous of our new companion, a sailor skin thief, who traveled with us to the docks. We spoke with a local priest that guarded said docks and uncovered a story about… something that lives in the water. I attempted a ‘seeing’ and then saw what seemed to be a wizard-borne aberration that lay hidden in the waves. A mere tentacle almost killed me in the attempt we regrouped quickly out of it’s reach.

After that, we decided on a course of action to meet with the local gang to see if it was possible to go down into the sewers to pick up the old trail I saw in my vision. That is, after a nice long nap at Byron’s place…

A Short History of Two Kalbs, A Bard, and a Concerned Prostitute: Part 36

With Cinnamon and Leo scouting ahead, we happened upon a group of Devlin’s troops. After a great deal of discussion, Byron just flew us over them. I thought we were home free, except we were attack by some kind of dragon-lion creature with Devlin’s troops chasing us beneath.

Cinnamon, Byron, and Leo managed to crash the dragon into the ground among the Devlin troops before we ourselves arced upwards… and then crashed on the road. It wasn’t too terrible, although my hopes to soften our landing into a padded divine cow didn’t work. What is it with Gods and listening to prayers these days?

Afterwards, we managed to avoid conflict as we rushed up the hill to the Temple of Caillech where we were escorted by the “friendly” skin thieves. Watching the struggles of various forces made me feel sick inside, but we have a duty.

Arriving there, we spoke with the head of the skin thieves and many of our numbers seem sympathetic towards the creatures of Maka. I disagreed and Leo and I were very much at each others throats. My position as a pacifist is precarious, but I don’t need it shoved down my throat. I already ask those questions of myself. I don’t need some noble youth using me as the butt of a joke. It made me wonder why I keep the company I do, but I believe that there is a purpose behind our group. I pray. I hope.

So we need to understand this “Voice of Maka” and if there is a way to prevent conflict between ourselves and the skin thieves…

A Short History of Two Kalbs, A Bard, and a Concerned Prostitute: Part 35

They said I woke up dancing with knives in each hand. Not exactly normal by any standard. Still, who wouldn’t want to wake up in the Big House with coffee and grease covered food so readily available?

We talked a bit about the vision I saw and we discussed for a bit on what it meant. Then Pimply came out after having beaten up several of his guards. It took a bit to calm him down with the help of Alice although I have reservations about having him with us.

Then Harrik let us know that Cinnamon’s mother was ready to attend to us. You can feel the tension ratchet up in the room and it took some time to get Cinnamon ready to talk with her mother. The conversation started with a slap and things turned strange and awkward.

There was a great deal of bitterness from Cinnamon and I could tell her mother was hurting. Is that bridge too wide to cross? I don’t know. What I do know is that her mother will always be there for her. After that, we began to move to the Graveyard to track down the leader of the skinthieves. Unfortunately the entire district seems to be covered in magical beasts. Whose bright idea was to make all of these creatures?

As we struggled to climb a cliff, we were attacked by a wolf-spider, a bubonic 2/3rds of a cerebrus, an owlbear, and a pack of rats in the span of the same minute. Somehow we managed to escape with minimal injury to any of us.

Leo's View: Mothers and Monsters

Apparently last night everyone dreamed of the music but me. Cinnamon and Varus both sleep-danced into the kitchen and tried to abscond with knives. I’m pleased to have enjoyed a peaceful night’s sleep.

Over breakfast of coffee, bacon, and toast, Varus showed us some rambling that he’d written during a vision last night. It was all cryptic like divine communications are, but here are some thoughts on different parts:

You are blinding yourself with expectations.

This is one of those helpful-not-helpful pieces of advice. Jettisoning all expectations would probably not result in sudden clarity, so without knowing what it is specifically that she’s referring to there’s not much we can do other than generally question our assumptions. That’s a little crazy-making.

Danger comes from many sources.

… There’s another helpful-not-helpful.

Trust must sometimes be dictated by faith not action.

Now this starts to get interesting. Are we acting somewhere insteading of turning to faith…?

She has tried direct force twice and been rebuffed; she will be more subtle.

… Which Varus asserts is good, but which means we’ll have to be way more vigilant. ‘She’ being Macha, presumably.

The [UPLIFTED] will seek the call of the Voice to the ends of the world but their quest will shatter their unity. This can be exploited.

Okay, now here’s some seriously helpful information. I’m not sure how we can exploit this divide yet, but we’re on our way to talk with Nirgle, so better start thinking pronto.

The devotees of pain will join them. Nothing but the [ANCIENTS] will stand in their way. all will be wiped from the home of the dead if this is allowed.

I’m guessing that the devotees of pain are new-Devlin’s followers. Alice says that the Ancients might refer to the Fuzuku Butsu, since their name means “Keepers of the Ancient Ways.”. And the Home of the Dead would be the Graveyard District.

“Stand in their way” … does that mean “oppose their advance” or “compound happens to be on their path”, I wonder?

All being wiped from the home of the dead… well now it’s on fire and populated by all of the monster animals that were released from Ebelton College, and probably any surviving strife-Devlin worshippers. We could do without those. But Caillech’s temple isn’t exactly disposable.

The Song cannot be silenced for long but the Hand bears no malice.

This makes sense. Annalise never seemed malicious. If there’s any of her left.

I wonder if she became the Hand before The Builder stuffed a piece of his soul into her, or at that moment, or afterward? I’d guess she was standing there dancing to the song already by the time he got down there.

- So Macha was neutralized by Farsq, presumably at the site of the slagged crater in the Old CIty.

- The Old City somehow magically dropped underground, NOT burning to the ground the way the histories tell it.

- Macha’s influence later (?) attached itself to the elf girl.

- Centuries pass.

- The Builder comes down and sees a golden opportunity….?

Your enemy lies in the lowlands where it can witness fire and dwell in water.

Alright, the Lowlands would be Balsam, and yes, there’s the pillar of flame there, and the river, but what dwells IN the water?

Alice saw something in Pimply’s mind about following sewers down from the Government District to a huge waterfall falling into the Old CIty, where Pimply felt compelled to go back to what sounds like that huge garbage heap we saw. That garbage heap that manifested into a trash-golem.

Do not discount the Broken they are more than they believe. Their aid will be key.

The Broken… The Builder’s cast-aside creations like Jinko and Andrea, and maybe Virginia?

The Sickers or the residents of the convalescents’ home?

Broken pieces of doll toys, like the ones making up that corridor to the Dollmaker’s room?

Scent and Song — you are missing the last of the trifecta.

Neener, I’m the bloody goddess of sight, but I’m not going to tell you.

Hm. Well. Sight is another S-word linked to sensations.
And that creepy little girl was using human eyes in her dolls, and the Builder made those creepy little bone-monkeys chained to Virginia, one of which I think was sight.

That’s wandering into the realm of wild conjecture, though. Alright, fine. At least we know there’s a missing piece from the Macha picture.

And we’re missing two of the three pieces of the Builder’s soul.

And Devlin makes three… does he have a trifectate something-or-other also, I wonder?

[THE BUILDER] glows bright like a meteor falling from heaven or an ember right before it catches flame.

… like the star cult / fire cult, check. Back to Balsam. No surprise that there’s a link between the Builder and these, since he wants to reap the rewards of pain and chaos. Obviously a link between his agenda and Macha/Devlin’s, but it’s unclear who’s pulling the strings.

Change begets change. Violence begets violence.

Pfft. Platitudes. So we should what, lay down our arms and hug it out with the Builder and Devlin and Macha?

Actually. That’d put a stick in their plans for mass chaos and destruction.

Although it seems unlikely that a plan involving sunlight, bunnies and love would actually work in Valenci.

If you cannot end the suffering then I will.

…. That sounds more like Caillech than Aisling. Eerie. I have no idea what this means.

As we were eating breakfast and Varus was poking Cinnamon about Ivrahim — who has apparently gone someplace where he doesn’t need his hair — there was a commotion when Pimply broke out of his room and started accosting guards. Varus calmed him out of it, I distracted him, and Cinnamon grabbed him from behind. Once he snapped out of it, he was really sorry, but Harrik is justified in not feeling safe keeping him around the Big House.

Pimply said that the music was telling to Stop Fighting and Go to His Room, except that his room was “his old room” “downstairs”, which Alice discovered meant that garbage heap, back when he was a small-animal sized skin thief. We’re conjecturing that the divide amongst the Skin Thieves has already begun to fracture and the Macha is trying to call a time-out between her fighting children.

Harrik said that Daleena Mann was waiting and hoping to meet Cinnamon and Varus. This went about as Cinnamon had imagined it, awkward and uncomfortable. Her mother did seem to care about her, but Cinnamon wasn’t in any kind of place to hear it.

I’d initially gauged Daleena as a complete bitch, since when Alice, Byron and I entered the room Cinnamon still had a bright red handprint on her face from being slapped, and Daleena seemed to be having a grand old time messing around with protocol. She was curtseying to everyone left and right with this obnoxious twinkle in her eye. Byron gave her a grand bow — too grand, probably meant to be mocking, but it seemed to roll off of her. I tried court-cant signals and a reserved bow to tell Daleena that her acting out of line wasn’t going unnoticed, and that Cinnamon has friends. She caught and acknowledged those, at least.

By the end of the conversation she’d gained a shred of my sympathy. I don’t blame Cinnamon in the least for hating her — I certainly would in her place. Cinnamon’s pain seemed to genuinely affect Daleena, though. I think she had been making a game at the outset to try to feel in control of the situation, but by the time we left she was barely holding back tears. At that point I was willing to give her an appropriate bow as we departed.

Chip, who hadn’t been around at the start of this, was at least there afterwards to give Cinnamon some Watcher-cat snuggles. Big Brother Chip had been declined as a stand-in cat. (BBC seems freaked out that Everything Is Dark, which seems important coming from a shadow creature, but he’s not able to explain further.)

We decided to try crossing the Graveyard district to try talking with Nirgle, in the hopes of gaining insight into the skin thief schism and finding a way to leverage it to our advantage. Possibly not our brightest idea yet, but Varus was all lit up about it and we don’t have a lot of other actionable leads. I’d have said that talking to the River Walkers or Coughing up Cats down in Balsam might have turned up some information, been less suicidal, and have given us time to figure out what the the hell we plan to say to Nirgle, but fuck, what’s life without a little adrenaline?

Once we crossed into the Graveyard district we didn’t encounter much trouble until we came to a steep cliff. Cinnamon and I climbed up it to tie off a rope. (Note to self: that piratical knife-in-teeth thing — don’t do it while rock climbing.) At the top of the cliff was this mangy-looking pustule-covered two-headed dog.

Varus ‘That Fucking Guy’ Mann decided we were taking too long to tie off the rope and HOLLERED AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS to see if we were okay. Seriously. That fucking guy.

This alerted a Wolf Spider that had been nearby that there was tasty tasty food within easy nibbling distance. As Alice and Varus were climbing the rope and Byron was about to begin, it came out and started scrambling up the cliff, faster than any of our friends could climb.

Not wanting to be attacked from behind by the now-irritable-looking gross dog, I went and killed it while Cinnamon jumped off of the cliff onto the Wolf Spider, knocking it to the ground. While the others climbed the rope, Cinnamon used that FB cloak to fly up instead, and she and I did a one-two feint-push and pushed a charging Owl Bear off the top of the cliff. Everyone else got to the top, shortly after which Alice used a phantom noise spell to keep us from getting gnawed to death by a huge pack of rats.

Some disgusting biting worms got up my sleeve when I killed the dog thing, and Varus says the bites are Worm Pox, that they’re badly infected and that I should get to a Vikon clinic right away. Good thing I’m heading into the middle of the Graveyard district filled with monsters instead, right?

A Short History of Two Kalbs, A Bard, and a Concerned Prostitute: Part 34

Thank all the Gods that Caillech could take that body off of us. The plan was to leave the body in the hands of Caillech’s Risen to contain her and possibly destroy the corpse (she’s not alive- it’s just a body). I think Leo managed to convince the skinthieves to give us two weeks to remove the Builder’s influence from her.

After some tense debate and having Leo pick up a piece of the skin that the leader left behind, we managed to make it back to the Government District without being killed by the dissenting skin thieves and the followers of Devlin (they seemed underway in attacking the college).

Across the bridge we gave a summary of what was going on to the masses, somehow managing to not have it explode into political strife. It was oddly satisfying having most of the active participants in the city be involved in the same room without anyone getting assaulted.

Of course we had to have a secondary meeting with the city’s Black Cloaks, where I found out that Leena was part of the secret police all along. I managed to brush past her on our way to the green pillar of fire (after having debriefed everything) and got a sense of who she was. Someone who actually cares about the country? How rare!

Listening at the green pillar, we heard the same voice and confirmed it to be similar to what we heard in the government district. After a long, long day and me babbling about the apocalypse, Leo got me drunk and we finally had a chance to sleep away the night.


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