EC & MS: Session 01 -- 'Hope among the Ruins' -- Report
Bliteness never saw the blade until it protruded from his chest. Bliteness felt the shock of the strike but strangely there was little pain. Captain Bliteness coughed as he often did. This time he didn’t clear his throat. It was his lungs that were at issue. The Se’ractor captain looked at the incongruous blade, almost close enough to his chin to shave him. Blood coated the blade. His mind should have been fearful and panicked. Bliteness knew in a small corner of his mind that these would be normal. Most of his mind was calm. The Se’ractor knew he was under-caste. He could feel the Red pulsing colour behind him, as well as see it reflected in his mirror. Whoever the man was that held the sword’s hilt, also held arrayed power. The swordsman's voice came into his ear, low and pleased.“Captain. You brought a pair to Iskm. That was foolish. See what it has done to you,making this mistake? You might feel strange to still be alive. In pointed terms, you are half-way between living and death. You stay, for as long as I wish it, thanks to the shadows aligned along my sword's edge. I will need my sword for other kills. That means I must remove it from your back. When I do you will live… or you will not. I can make the blade come out through shadow and you will be left whole. I can pull it out without shadow’s touch and your corpse will slump forward on to your captain’s desk.” “What – what must I do to live?” “Tell me about your passengers. There was a strangeness to both. One stood as a man but bore the head of a black horse. The other was a handsome and youthful one. Perhaps part veer, part fiend or part geli’qys and part monstrous. Whatever this second one was, he was a caster of some kind. He bore the cloak and trappings of a sourcerer or shadowcaster. I saw in –” “-- Their names are Sybermane and Tar Kiln! They are as you describe. They joined my ship at Bracks on the ‘Sethi coast. I knew they were trouble the moment they came aboard.” “Oh captain, my good captain. That’s cooperative. You do well… so far. It was yours, or one of their castes that opened the Aperture Gate?” “It was theirs. How could a Se’Ractor, even a captain of my might, know the way through the impenetrable gates? Only a caster could know the way to pick such a lock.” “Heh, captain you are a forthcoming man, so? What did they talk to you about?” “Little... Nothing, I mean.” “Come captain, let’s say something?” “Yes, but little enough… They talked about robbing the graves of the hillsides. Then they planned to head up high to the Pentagonal and rob the tombs there.” “Did they now?” “Yes, and then they were going to piss on the scrolls that they found because they knew that they would be unable to decipher the writings of the empire’s scribing. They feared the scrolls might be used against them by any defenders of the city… Mighty defenders, like your red-self.” “Does my place in Iskm show to you? Even though you cannot see me, I am Red to you?” “I know greatness even when it is hidden to me. I am a captain of se’ractors, after all.” “I thought it might be that you looked in the mirror by the door there… A captain is usually keenly sighted.” “I have done nothing but stare at your blade!” “We shall see. What don’t I look like?” “I…” “Captain?” “You… are… not fair-haired? I mean you are! I grow slack-brained through blood loss, mighty one. Do not hold me to my wounded-word, I beg of you.” “Heh… You are slow to answer even though you have seen that I am a geli’qys. This means you lie as ably as you captain your crew.” “Geli’qys? I see no wings. You have none. Geli’qys have wings, I’m sure of that.” “A man with a sword sticking right through him should never argue fine details with the swordsman.” “I take your point.” “Heh! Captain, you are wasted as a sailor. Such humour would do best at a king’s court, sat by his knee.” “I’d prefer to be at the knees of a queen.” “Captain, I grow to know you too well. A perilous preoccupation for one like me. A geli’qys must remain above mortal concerns.” “But you’ve no wings? Maybe, you can make an exception for me?” “Let us see… You are light-hearted in the face of death. I might determine that this is due to your heart having been made ounces lighter by my blade? Perhaps you’re not so amusing without a sword through you... You have told me a tale about the two that I am interested in. I’d like to believe it. Did I mention I have met them? Oh, I had neglected to say… Never mind, a mere detail. They avoided my care by somehow invoking the wrath of my gaoler. I have been pent inside Iskm for… some time. Now I have made my escape, thanks to these and this other geli’qys, Dea’Karce. A tenfold-and-twice curse upon his spirit. He is treacherous and unseemly. A geli’qys to be abjured and shunned. Do you know that this traitor chose to anoint the horse-man? A creature. A thing! Anointed by sword and wing. Foul deed. Worse came next and then worse still. He extended his hand to the turnal. I can scarce say it, never mind believe that I watched him do it. Thank all the elements that the turnal pridefully rejected it... Dea’Karce, does your abjectness not shame you? I know that you must feel your crime of exisiting! Hear me, ‘Karce. I challenge your creation and demand your cessation! Then, my good captain, he moved these two passengers of yours to Tilah. A fine place.” “A ruin, I think.” “Captain, you are a scholar of the broken empire! I should be listening instead of speaking.” “I didn’t mean to interrupt.” “No, but you did… I am finished with this.” “I beg you. I have nothing but my life. If you let me live, I could… could...” “Ahh, captain. You have seen my problem. To use you, I would need to keep you nearby. Neither of us finds that appetising. If I let you away, then I would have to chase you down to demand anything of you and that I cannot do. Did I mention I am prisoner here in Iskm? I think I must have. So unless you stay I cannot do aught but let you die.” “I – I will stay! Let me live!” “Live? If you stay and serve me, you will not be able to live. The shadows here do more than startle and cajole a shudder from those that perceive them. My shadows are ancient and severe. They are pure and dark. Think you are man enough…captain enough, to best any of these?” “I will take my chance, if you give it to me.” Ielo’Sayr was impressed by the man’s nerve. Se’ractors must be more than average men. The stripped geli’qys decided to let the captain try his hand against one of his Disincarnate shadows. It did not take long to know the outcome. Captain Bliteness did well enough. He managed to live for thirty seconds but thereafter he was drained completely by the shadow that he fought against. Ielo’Sayr noted that the shadow was damaged and would not be useable again. A fair exchange: one shadow retired and a new one readied. Shadows flitted down the mountain's sloped sides. Their disincarnated forms sifted silent and sure toward the captain's ship, lying at anchor in Iskm Cove. The se'ractor sailors saw the shadows too late to do much but swim and scream and sink and die. Ielo'Sayr watched the scene below as another might view a passing cloud, “I shall continue to call you, Captain. Do you understand?” The shadow of the se’ractor captain nodded silently and followed when commanded, up the mountainside, to High Iskm.