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 THE NIGHTMARE SWITCH, the adventure begins
carciofi
 Posted: Aug 8 2014, 10:23 PM
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THE NIGHTMARE SWITCH


STARRING:
NIEHSAY, a charming nano who focuses mind over matter
IRIS, a Varjellan jack who controls beasts
ELENI, a perceptive jack who explores dark places

*

Wind stirs up drit along the edge of the canal, drawing a reddish-brown haze over the blue sky above. The sun crackles with heat. Deymish adjusts an instrument on the controls of his boat to keep the river craft straight.

Seshar is a dry, unforgiving land, seeping out of Matheunis, the Cold Desert, to the south and hugging the coast of the salty Sere Marica to the east. The only saving grace for this rocky dustplain is the maze-like web of canals that thread throughout. Unnaturally straight, their embankments are sheer and fifty feet deep, and as they glide past their arcane engravings shift in and out of shadow - here a geometric pattern, here a baroque embellishment that seems almost like script. Deymish, a thick-shouldered man with a red beard and a good nature, guides his wooden trow around a collapsed section of stone that is half an enormous, upturned face.

Though loaded down with crates, the craft glides along effortlessly, its synth sail full with wind. Inside the crates is medicine, and what the medicine treats Deymish doesn't know, only that he's being paid to deliver it to the village of Redstone - and that he will pay his hired hands three shins a day once the job's done.

The dock is coming into view in the distance on the murky bluish water, where the heat shimmers above its surface. "That'll be Redstone, there," he calls back, coiling a rope around his callused hands in preparation to land. The sun is coming down to bear low in the afternoon sky. The journey has been refreshingly free of bandits or other unpleasant surprises, and he's more than eager to finish this job and take his payment home.
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abbey
 Posted: Aug 9 2014, 11:35 AM
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MIGHT: 11/11
SPEED: 11/11
INTELLECT: 11/11
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4

*

The heat is getting to Iris. Sitting in the shade helps, but as the sun treks across the sky, the shade goes with it, bisecting different parts of the boat. Iris follows it from one medicine crate to another, sitting still sometimes for half an hour, sometimes for only a few minutes. Humidity—it could do with humidity. This dry heat cracks the skin and the rocks.

Off the side of the boat, it runs its claws through the water; the first clawful is offered to Heikki, who, dozing off in the afternoon sun, is disinterested. It pats the water into its cheeks, roughened scales rejuvenating and shining violet with moisture. A skincare routine that continues for a while, patting and splashing, and at the end of it, Iris is less like a withered plum and more a poisonous and violently wet flower. "I am not fond of this weather," it says, speaking to Eleni, though its voice seems to address Deymish and Niehsay too.

The cliffs are embroidered with language. Iris blinks at them. [INTELLECT ROLL: 1]

*

MIGHT: 11/11
SPEED: 11/11
INTELLECT: 11/11
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4
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carciofi
 Posted: Aug 9 2014, 12:00 PM
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captain bird
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Whatever meaning the arcane patterns once held, it has been long ago washed away by the patient flow of water through the canals. History is a meaningless concept in the Ninth World - who would be left to remember it?

As Iris peers at the graven wall, the boat swings in toward the dock. The sun glints off the cresting wake and flashes a temporarily blinding glare into its eyes.
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bird
 Posted: Aug 9 2014, 03:04 PM
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number one dad
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MIGHT: 10/10
SPEED: 14/14
INTELLECT: 14/14
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4

*


“You’re also wearing fur,” Eleni says, savouring the fine spittle of water against her cheek from the wake. She sits near Heikki on the gunwale, a wiry young woman with dark, mercurial eyes, scratching the great beast gently behind the ears. Her thin arms are bare in concession to the heat, and the sun has darkened her shoulders. She, too, is a creature of a more temperate clime, and the sweat prickling beneath the scuffed edges of her leather armour annoys her. The wind catches the loose, draped fabric of her tunic and streams it around her like a bruise. “Hopefully the nights will be cool.”

Seshar! Eleni has never traveled so far into this desert, and to her the dead dust holds great promise. Deymish and his beard have thus far been pleasant enough company, but they are beginning to bore her. She longs to run her fingers over the ancient scripts on the cliff walls, to search for the ruins she'd once heard boozy whispers of. Instead, she shades her eyes with one hand and looks out over the water, peering at the faintly glimmering city. [INTELLECT ROLL: 11]

“Travel this way often, Deymish?"

*

MIGHT: 10/10
SPEED: 14/14
INTELLECT: 14/14
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4

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XANDER
 Posted: Aug 9 2014, 08:52 PM
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local advice god
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MIGHT: 13/13
SPEED: 9/9
INTELLECT: 14/14
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4

*

Trouble is contagious. Bad luck is infectious. His mind is not primed for rote memorization, but platitudes have always tantalized him, being so easy to work into conversation. Eleni had both pressed upon her before they set out into Seshar; they did not make enough of an impression.

Back to the mainsail, Niehsay has been conserving his energy -- napping or brooding, it is difficult to say. The sun beats down on the hood loosely attached to his light, elastic shirt, looped through two holes ringed with cheap metal. He'd be sweating down to his eyelashes without it. "The weather isn't fond of your either." Like the air, his voice is dry.

Eleni asks the question he would have, so he says nothing, only perking up his ears.

*

MIGHT: 13/13
SPEED: 9/9
INTELLECT: 14/14
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4
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carciofi
 Posted: Aug 10 2014, 12:54 PM
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captain bird
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"Been sailing through Seshar since I was twenty-two," Deymish grunts, throwing out a loop of rope to catch a post on the dock. He flips a switch on the control panel and the sail slackens and falls into synthetic folds. Beyond him, the town climbs up the side of a shallow escarpment, its buildings nestled into the earthen cliffside. In the distance, at the height of the slope, a tall cylindrical tower is faintly visible above all the other roofs.

To Eleni, Redstone's name is immediately apparent from the composition of nearly every building in sight: the vermilion, matte stone that has been quarried out in bricks. As the boat slows and catches on the rope, the nearer buildings show an odd grid-like pattern of thin black lines that marks the stone. What is also apparent to her, however, is that the streets are noticeably empty of people, even in heat like this.

"See the tower there?" Deymish juts his beard in its direction and loops the rope more securely to its mooring. "That'll be the priests' home, there. We'll be taking the crates up to them, and I can pay yous once they've paid me."

He heaves a crate up onto the creaking wooden dock. There are only about a dozen, all told.
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abbey
 Posted: Aug 11 2014, 10:27 AM
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MIGHT: 11/11
SPEED: 11/11
INTELLECT: 11/11
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4

*

Apparently the heat makes all moods shorter. Iris blinks at Eleni, at Niehsay, but the most indignant slitting of its eyes is when the sun throws a spear of light into them. Turning away, it plucks its own hood closer to its face.

Heikki dozes on, dreaming of food above all else. One leg thumps to a phantom itch, as Eleni scratches behind crystalline ears and small flakes of jewel catch under her fingernails. "Fweeeeet—!" The whistle is long and high-pitched, and the seskii reacts to it immediately, sproinging into action. She comes to Iris, to what looks like a sled, crudely lashed together with gangplank and rope, and waits, en statant, the nub of her tail waggling. A second rope is knotted through her harness and attached to the sled, where Iris begins shifting one or two of the crates. "We may require two trips."

*

MIGHT: 11/11
SPEED: 11/11
INTELLECT: 11/11
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4
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XANDER
 Posted: Aug 12 2014, 09:28 AM
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local advice god
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MIGHT: 13/13
SPEED: 9/9
INTELLECT: 14/14
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4

*

"So just a few years," Niehsay says winsomely. His voice takes a more pleasant turn with Deymish, the kind of turn that has parted people from their prized knowledge and money before. "What do you know of this town?" [INTELLECT ROLL: 20]

As the ship slides into port, he rises and stretches, curling his tan fingers and yawning. His hair is a more blinding white beneath the hood, with his eyes likewise bleached of color. There are far more unusual things in the Steadfast, but he can never quite predict what people out in these places will find curious.

His eyes stray up to the tower. When Deymish speaks of the tower, his heart both lifts and constricts, as it always does when he hears of the Aeon Priests.

*

MIGHT: 13/13
SPEED: 9/9
INTELLECT: 14/14
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4

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bird
 Posted: Aug 12 2014, 04:51 PM
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number one dad
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MIGHT: 10/10
SPEED: 14/14
INTELLECT: 14/14
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4

*

What a fucking charmer. Unable to bite back her smirk, Eleni slips from her perch down onto the deck and occupies herself with one of the crates. It’s heavy enough that she’s glad for Iris’s makeshift sledge, and gladder still once Deymish points out the tower. Distances seem much closer to the eye in the clear, dry air, and the priests’ enclave out on the high red cliffs already seems far enough to go in this heat.

With Niehsay having shifted his attentions towards Deymish and away from sulking, Eleni turns instead to Iris. “Hey,” she says, tilting her chin, frowning out at the empty city, “That seem strange to you?” Even in this oppressive climate, surely there must be workers, markets, passerby. Having heaved the crate up onto the dock, she squints at the thin black markings on the walls.

[INTELLECT ROLL: 19]

*

MIGHT: 10/10
SPEED: 14/14
INTELLECT: 14/14
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4
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carciofi
 Posted: Aug 16 2014, 09:05 PM
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captain bird
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Deymish almost seems fond of Niehsay in his smile when he responds. "Well, it's a true aldeia town - three Priests in the same place sets them a little apart. Good people live here. Miners, mostly. You know, the stone. The market'll be on the west side there" - he nods - "and if you tell 'em Deymish sent you, some of 'em'll knock a few shins off for you."

Between them and the sled, they can carry about half the load of crates. The steep is not sharp but gradual and long, and the sun is still beating down on them, with the breeze from the canal at their back. As they begin to make their way through the streets, the emptiness grows more apparent, and people's doors are shut tight - or the few people they do see are listless, sapped of energy, sitting on doorsteps or shuffling down a street. A few raise their heads to stare blankly at the group of strangers in exotic array parading down their central street, and some recoil in horror at the sight of the tall Varjellan amid their ranks.

By the time they reach the outer wall of the courtyard surrounding the tower, the sun has drawn a damp sweat through all of their clothes.
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abbey
 Posted: Aug 19 2014, 02:07 PM
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MIGHT: 11/11
SPEED: 11/11
INTELLECT: 11/11
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4

*

An assessment of 'strangeness' is a strange thing to ask of Iris. Eleni is right, in that the streets are curiously empty. With only two or three people reflected in its lamp-yellow eyes, it goes over some possible explanations. "Maybe they sleep when it's hottest, with the sun at its highest point in the sky. Maybe it is a day of rest in their religion."

Or it could be whatever the medicine treats.

Iris tests the ropes with a few off-centre tugs, then crouches and falls into conversation with Heikki. Clicks, chirrups and the rubbing of teeth and crystal, all of which amounts to, Mush. Straightening, it shifts the crate in its arms onto its collarbones, balancing it on the hard plate of its crucible. Horror isn't a new reaction, and walking in the heat besides Eleni puts the Varjellen into a coma of familiarity.

"The priests will tell us more."

*

MIGHT: 11/11
SPEED: 11/11
INTELLECT: 11/11
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4
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bird
 Posted: Sep 10 2014, 10:15 PM
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number one dad
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MIGHT: 10/10
SPEED: 14/14
INTELLECT: 14/14
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4

*

The climb is manageable enough. With the wind at their backs, Eleni hefts the crate against one hip and falls comfortably into step. The looks they get aren't news - traveling with a Varjellen certainly guarantees that - but occasionally her eyes flit away from the distant towers and linger on the slumping shapes on the doorsteps. Earlier, she would have asked Deymish if he hadn't wanted to one of them to keep watch of their cargo, but theft seems entirely too ambitious for this listless, quiet town.

She is quiet too, when they reach the towers. Setting the crate down by the toes of her boots with a huff of breath, the heat gums her mouth shut.

*

MIGHT: 10/10
SPEED: 14/14
INTELLECT: 14/14
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4
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carciofi
 Posted: Sep 13 2014, 10:39 PM
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captain bird
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They don't approach the tower so much as they approach a gate, barred with iron and set into a ten-foot wall of gridded red stone. The wall surrounds the base of the singular tower. It rises above them several stories, and unfortunately for everyone the long shadow drapes away from them to the southeast, leaving them all exposed in the heat.

This is the most unfortunate for the woman standing guard before the gate, a tall, lean woman with pockmarked brown skin and a straggly chestnut ponytail. Beneath that heavy belted armor and her helmet, she must be dripping with sweat. Yet she doesn't even lean on her spear; her feet are planted squarely in front of the gate, and she stares them down as she approaches.

"Yes?"

"I'm delivering a shipment ordered by the Aeon Priests--" Deymish begins, but she cuts him off.

"They are not receiving anyone today. Come back tomorrow."
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XANDER
 Posted: Sep 14 2014, 08:57 PM
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local advice god
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MIGHT: 13/13
SPEED: 9/9
INTELLECT: 14/14
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4

*

It is a long, hot, boring walk through the town. There is no one out and about, but to Niehsay, it doesn't really matter. The town's vacant nature indicates the attitude of the region -- contempt or fear of outsiders -- or perhaps some sort of grave illness, encouraging people to batten down the hatches indoors, lest they catch the plague of their neighbors.

He is being paid to deliver. Nothing else matters.

The woman at the gate threatens to impede his one job. Niehsay comes to the front of the group and offers her a smile. "I'm sure they know we're coming. Can you just run up and let them know?" He says it nicely enough, hoping to persuade her. [INTELLECT ROLL: 17]

*

MIGHT: 13/13
SPEED: 9/9
INTELLECT: 14/14
RECOVERY ROLLS: 0/4
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carciofi
 Posted: Sep 17 2014, 04:11 PM
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captain bird
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(ur training w/ pleasant/positive social interaction does not apply here bc you are trying to get her to do something she doesn't wanna do ok)

She shakes her head at them, not unsympathetically but firm. "They're not to be disturbed. You'll have to return tomorrow.

The guard shifts her helmet, adjusts her grip on the spear. It's capped with a ridged, razor-keen black metal point, and her musculature make it clear she's plenty equipped to use it. She seems somewhat less lethargic than the other townspeople they've seen, but clearly she is tired from the grating in her voice.

Above, the thick glass windows high on the tower are tightly shuttered.
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