The next morning Waylond and I are in the bar area of the ship preparing for the party when Clio shuffles in with an… odd… look to her eye. Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t finished my coffee… but something just feels off.
“What did you do with the book, Katya?” she asks in a monotone voice as she stares at the wall behind the bar.
“What book would that be?” I ask warily as my hand sneaks under the bar to my spell component pouch.
Her head turns to stare at me unblinking for a moment before her mouth opens to scream… but instead of noise a mass of tentacles explodes from her and rips her head in two.
“What the hell?” Waylond yells as he lifts a table as a shield and unsheathes his axe.
Not your hell, Waylond… more like from my nightmares! I fight to breath as I fall off my stool in fear. I can feel the piece of fur in my hand and without thinking of the potential consequences mutter the words of my latest spell.
Lightning shoots across the room into the writhing mass of tentacles that once was the hapless Division 7 agent and arcs into its body in a dazzling display of destruction. It tries to grab me with one of its tentacles during its death throes, but I just manage to scoot back into the corner of the bar and watch in disgust and fear as it dissolves into a blob of goo smoking on the floor.
They were supposed to stay in the shadows… they weren’t supposed to come here… not a nightmare…not dreaming…not…not…
“Hmm? What?” I mutter and stop rocking back and forth. Focus… maintain…breathe… “I’m ok, Waylond.”
“What the heck was that thing?” he asks as he points to the dark stain on the floor.
“I think… I think Clio was touched by the Far Realms, and had been from the start. I saw the signs before she showed up all of a sudden… but I didn’t realize what they must have meant.” I rub my throbbing temple as Waylond helps me stand again. “She never was human, Waylond… she was a pseudo-natural creation.”
“Creation? By whom?”
I place a grateful hand on Waylond’s forearm and smile up at the Giff. “Some things we’re just better off not knowing, my friend. Come… let’s let the staff earn their pay and see what Constance is doing instead.”
It seems that Constance has her own issues… because the party is tonight and she still hasn’t coordinated the entertainment yet. Heh… I wonder if she wants to trade?
“Katya! Just the person I wanted to see! Do you think… well, we were going to have a set cruise path over the sea and in the air and I was wondering if you could create this illusion for the party?” She runs over to me and hands over a sketch hopefully. It’s not a bad idea, honestly… but…
“I’m sorry, Constance… I don’t do illusions. That’s more Hodey’s thing.” I roll up the parchment and hand back the sketch. “If you’re wanting entertainment, however… you should just stick to the sea.”
I grab her by the shoulders and stare into her eyes. “Because he sleeps there.” Constance’s eyes widen in surprise and I have to bite my tongue to keep from laughing as she runs off to find Hodey. Maybe now she’ll stop asking me about this cruise business.
People run about like chickens as the hour of the party looms nearer. Me, I just do my best to stay out of the way. It’s when I’m lurking outside that I notice some of the rich and affluent of Greyhawk are showing up early. Thankfully Constance is on the ball and ready to deal with these overstuffed roosters.
Ah… so the pudgy one is this Lord Falcon who wants his share of the profits. I mutter a quick detection spell and see that he’s covered in protective and melee-enhancing magic… but nothing that might, I don’t know… set the ship on fire.
I’m sure these guys can handle things. I quietly weave my way through the increasing crowd, taking note of a few particularly interesting people on the way. From the whispers about the man in the blue coat I find out that he’s Tenser of “The Eight.” Wasn’t his name on The List? I watch curiously as he walks up to Guard Captain Robilar and pulls out a Dragon Chess piece and flips it on its side before walking off.
Curious… chess games… often symbolic for political manipulations. Chess games… who was known for their grand chess games… Tain. Tain the Reigar.
“Hodey!” I can hear Constance yelling as I make my way down the hall to my rooms. “Where’s the dancing leprechauns you promised?”
Yeah… definitely going to my room now… after a side trip to the bar, anyway.
Ugh… what did I drink last night… all I remember is the constant yammering and fake smiles of strangers grating on me like nails on a chalkboard. Well… that and calamari, for some reason. <hurk>
…. I wipe my face drearily as I stumble out of the bathroom looking for coffee… only to find the rest of them all cheery and chipper, and of course talking about the cruise ship again. Arguements abound over how much money they’re going to need to fund their staff and what to do with the profits. I tried to enlighten them on the business practices of Hell once, but they didn’t feel like having to deal with all the bodies the next day.
“So where should we go for our next tour run?” Constance asks cheerfully.
Suddenly there’s a commotion and voices down the hall. The noises grow louder and a figure bursts into the bar followed by two guards. It takes a second before I realize where I’ve seen the bedraggled old man before…
“Give us the book!” he gurgles before grabbing the rags about his chest and ripping… taking his skin and ribs with him as this disgusting goop filled with teeth and eyes pours out. “Gibbering Mouther!” I yell before ducking behind the bar and hurriedly putting in my earplugs.
Alas my warning is too late for Constance, who is dazed by the insane chattering of the slime. They’ll have to try harder to effect me… this is what I hear in my nightmares already. I peer over the bar and strike the abomination with a Frostfall spell as Hodey does his best to protect Constance. One of its mouths manages to chew on the end of his tail before Waylond slices it in twain with his axe. A splatter of the black goo that held it together lands in Constance’s face and she falls to the ground in a panic as it blinds her.
“Get it off! Get it off!” she screams as she claws at her face.
“Calm yourself, Constance.” I hold her head still and mutter an incantation of healing as the goop hardens and flakes off.
“You call yourself GUARDS?” Waylond bellows at the two frightened humans in armor. “If you let somebody like that through again, I’m going to put you overboard myself!”
I help Constance up and give her a stiff drink before I take a stool at the bar and huddle over my steaming cup of coffee like a lifeline. “Well there’s always the church of St. Cuthbert,” I mutter. “Because you know… it’s not like we were warned about impending doom or sent on a quest or anything.”
“Gods you can be such a downer, Katya. This is your fault, you know. You and that book…”
“It’s a talent I have. And hey, I gave ‘that book’ to the Temple of Boccob, thank you very much. I don’t even have the thing anymore, so let’s not start, ok?” I roll my eyes at her. “I was looking through the library yesterday and discovered that the Silver Sword of Fedefensor… you know, the other item we were tasked to find to fight an impending darkness, was made to fight Githyanki and was wielded by a famed paladin. Might have something to do with those Githyanki Pirates that attacked you back in the Astral Plane… you never know.”
“Oh yeah… thanks for reminding me,” Constance replies as she scratches her head in thought. “Cuthbert… he’s a god from Greyhawk, so maybe we can find something here in the city before we leave. Let’s go into town and I’ll do some asking around.”
“Now see? You used to lament about how Hodey said you weren’t useful… but where would we be without our human, eh?” I chuckle before finishing off my coffee. “Let me go get my things.”
The morning passes as we make our way through the city of Greyhawk without much luck. Unfortunately for us, St. Cuthbert seems to be one of those pious saints who doesn’t like ostentatious temples. Just our luck. Constance eventually finds a paladin who knows of a shrine dedicated to him on the road on the other side of town, however… so after a quick drink and picking up Hodey back at the ship, we go for an afternoon hike. Makes me wish I had learned that Mount spell after all…
After passing an odd-looking bald man with a rather rude monkey we travel an additional 5 miles to finally find a wooden shrine propped on the side of the road with a runestone at its center. Words around the edge declare it to be “The Saint Among Us.” as it displays the image of a very large club.
“Well, since we’re here and all…” Waylond removes his hat and walks up to touch the shrine. A light shines briefly around the wood as words appear and quickly fade again. “Well dang!”
“Let me try!” exclaims Hodey as he touches a claw to the shrine. “Dear club guy… where’s your mace?” Suddenly the transparent image of a large human forearm and hand appears with a club 3ft long and whacks Hodekin on the nose.
“Well I’m not going to try it until Hodekin apologizes to me,” says Constance in a pout. “Because I’m obviously not good for anything, right?”
“Why in the Hells are you letting a Kobold dictate your own self-confidence?” I groan as I rub my temples.
“Fine.” Constance rolls her eyes and goes up to the shrine, whispering something about ‘bopping people over the head’ to it. Suddenly a story in shimmering text appears on the wood. I can just make out the title “The Boy Who Cried Orc” before it fades again.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Waylond wonders. “False alarms about something?”
“Come on…touch it, Katya, I dare you!” says Constance with a grin as she points to the shrine.
“Why should I? Besides, that’s why we brought you along.” My braid slithers out and wraps around Hodey’s waist as my eyes turn a solid black and I hover a few feet into the air. “Now if you don’t mind, my feet are killing me… we will see you all back at the ship.”
I wish I could say that I managed to fly all the way back… but hey, if my mother taught me anything, it’s that impressions are important. The skills I learned last from the book before I gave it up are still quite new… but at least it managed to shave off a few miles from the return trip. Once we make it back to the ship I figure I’ve got at least an hour of peace and quiet that I can enjoy in the library with another cup of coffee before I am subjected with talk of cruise ships again.
An hour later…
I do believe I am finally feeling functional again after my third cup. I wonder if Hodey can make a device that delivers the same functions as coffee… I must see if there’s a magical equivilent sometime.
In the meantime, I do manage to find out a little more about Cuthbert. Pious doesn’t even begin the describe this guy, apparently. Apparently he was such a goodie-goodie that he achieved minor godhood after being brought to this world from another by the Gods. I can’t help but chuckle… if the Gods brought us together here for a similar purpose, they must be wondering where they went wrong. While Cuthbert joined his fellow deities, it seems that his cudgel has been lost for some 200 years now.
As to the Silver Sword of Fedefensor, it was forged on some obscure Prime world centuries ago when they were getting invaded by ‘demons’ that were actually Githyanki. Now here I really have to laugh, as I know some demons where getting compared to a Githyanki is likely to get you disembowled before you can even think about grabbing a sword. Oh surprise, surprise… the sword was lost too, but somewhere in the Astral Plane. “Irony, you are a cruel mistress,” I chuckle to myself as a road-weary Constance enters the library.
“I wonder if we’ve got that ‘Boy Who Cried Orc’ story…” she walks over to another section of the library and looks back at my collection of books in disdain. “I don’t want to read your books…”
“Good, because we all know what happens when you do, don’t we?” I sneer as I close the book with a snap and leave.
Once we’re all recovered from our futile morning excursion it seems that the rest of the group is ready to be done with Greyhawk and wants to go somewhere called Realmspace so they can see how the ship handles. We travel across dimensions in an alien ship to receive dire warnings of an impending doom and are sent back to Greyhawk via powerful magics in order to do something about it and they want to leave.
OK… whatever. I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I’m going to be in my lab while you guys figure out what we’re doing. Try to fly smoothly… I tend to work with things that can be a bit… unpredictable.”
“Why am I the only one who flies the ship?” Constance moans.
“See, Connie? You can do something helpful!” Hodekin replies cheerfully.
“That does it… we’re going to go find some pilots to hire.”
I’ve lost track of the number of days we’ve been travelling now…. but I’ve done my best to keep busy by crafting some useful alchemical items. You never know when you’ll need a good vial of acid or anti-toxin. That reminds me… I should borrow Hodey’s labeling device.
Eventually we arrive at an asteroid colony called Ciri where they plan to find some new pilots. I decide to take the opportunity of their absense to craft one of the diagrams I found in the book in the hopes that I might conduct a ritual for guidance. Unfortunately after a half hour of drawing my only result is an intricate diagram covering the floor of my lab. Damn it… I must have missed something in the book. That’s what happens when you study while drunk, I guess. The party returns soon after with a cleric of Celestian and a cleric of Ptah in tow. I can tell, because I swear I could hear their bickering before they even made it all the way onboard. I chuckle to myself as I imagine joining in on their philisophical debate. Who knows… maybe the next time we take one of these long trips I might find a new form of entertainment to keep me busy.
We leave the system and after what seems like another 40 days out the crew are starting to get ill and morality is faltering. Apparently many of them have never been outside the sphere of Greyhawk, and it’s leaving them a bit… disturbed. I’m always willing to do my part to help… so when the others go about the crew doing their best to console them, I remind the crew I see that matters such as this are minor… and we should all take comfort knowing that if we should meet the true gods out here in space… they will eat us first. From the looks I’ve been getting in return, it doesn’t seem to be helping. As well… I tried, anyway.
“Hey Katya, been meaning to ask you for a favor,” Hodekin asks me as he rounds a corner and grins widely. Oh boy… that grin can only mean one thing. “Do you think you could make something for me?” See?
“I was hoping you could help me with some fingerprint powder… something I can dust my rooms with so I can tell if someone’s touching my stuff.”
“Yeah, shouldn’t be a problem,” I reply after a moment of thought. “I’ve got some ideas for a machine I was working on too… I’ve left my notes back in my lab though.”
I notice upon return to my lab that there are some new markings along the doorjamb… like it’s been forced, maybe. My fears are confirmed as I walk into the lab to find vials out of place and papers scattered over the floor.
“If I find that she’s gone through my things again….I swear I’m going to…” I grab my head in pain as the background slithering in my brain suddenly increases in volume. I take a deep shaking breath as I attempt to clear my thoughts and quiet the noises. After a few moments I unlcench my fists and look around.
“Think… Hodekin was worried about his things too…” and then it hits me. “Omen!” I call up into the rafters and smile as the raven caws and flies down to land on my outstretched arm. “Did you see anyone besides me come into this room?”
The raven hops from one foot to another and ruffles his wings before settling once again. “Kobold!” it squawks.
“Gods damn it, Hodey… I’d probably have helped you if you’d just asked!” I groan in frustration as I send Omen down the hall to search for the wayward Kobold.