Flames and Steel: The Chromatic War

Pools of Blood and Dust

(As with the previous main story post, this is from T’lemya’s POV.)

Group steps through portal… and arrives in sewers. Again. Do not understand why Small-Thing-Sindri keeps bringing us here. Does he like smell, and foul swimming? Something is very wrong with Small-One…

Grudgingly, group makes way from sewers to Guild. As group approaches, human man is walking to the front door of Guild: looks to be well-worn traveler, complete with heavy cloak and bow, and sword at side. Travel-Man reaches door to Guild, but is locked, and Travel-Man is confused.

Meat-Shield runs up to Guild, starts banging on the door. Yes. Because banging on locked doors makes them open. Also, no one could possibly suspect anyone is coming to save Cuddle-Friend-Goat now… Meat-Shield is height of stealth capabilities! Eyes roll. Oh… uses of sarcasm… suppose John always said it would become natural the more Common-Smooth-Tongue is heard…

Break train of thought – must save Half-Orc-Friend now, chastise Meat-Shield later. Hide in shadow of Meat-Shield, see no traps. Pick the lock. Is fairly simple, lock opens. Room is dark… Tall-Friend-Half-Orc-Goat is standing at desk-counter of Guild, staring straight ahead, unresponsive. Half-Red-Elf-Dragon (Al’ev) does not sense magic. Search for traps in room, look for trouble; Fluffy joins. No traps, but smell of smoke, roast coming from further in hall. Marks on back of Half-Orc’s hands do not fade with presence of Meat-Shield’s hammer. Move around side of desk, opposite way of Fluffy’s movements.

From side, problem with Tall-Friend is obvious. From waist-down… all of the flesh is missing. Bones only… clean, white bones. Where flesh ends, it has been burned closed, but Half-Orc still stands in pool of congealed blood. Back of shirt is pinned open… Skin has been stripped off back, and dagger attaches ponytail to back. Eyes widen, stomach churns, smell of death and excretion in air, but stay quiet, watch for danger. Fluffy sees same thing, barely has time to shout, “Oh shit!” before scream from area where mages work, and sounds of fighting.

Half-Breed-Al’ev calls for guard, then runs with Fluffy and Clanky-That-Does-Not-Clank toward source of screams. Travel-Man continues calling for guards. Move next to Half-Orc, check for danger – traps, enemies, hidden things, but see nothing. Meat-Shield checks Half-Orc’s wounds, and casts minor healing magic that once saved my life… or was that a dream? Small-Thing-Sindri runs behind me, but does not make it all the way to Half-Orc before Fluffy shouts from back room, “Nothin here… It’s a trap! I think it’s a trap!!!” Strange… always imagined Fluffy as sort of sturdy pet from mountains, but those words make him sound more like an octo—

Thought is cut short as two shadowy, dog-like creatures jump out of the side-rooms into hallway where Clanky and Half-Red are standing. Both have wicked-looking whip-tails that are up and fwipping around. First dog attacks… Clanky is barely scratched. Suddenly, Half-Red-Elf-Dragon is stabbed horribly from unseen enemy… blood pours from wounds, but Elf-Dragon still stands, retreats as far as possible. Suddenly, there is voice in front room, coming from everywhere, nowhere… “Aw, you interrupted my play! Though it was only to lure you here – I’ve only got a few loose ends to tie up.” Voice is very raspy…

Despite statement, group remains active. See Clanky fight for first time – horrible-shadow-maul-dog dies in less than six seconds. Damage is impressive. Why did Clanky not fight drake that Dark-One presented? Definitely would have won…

Small-Thing is now on table beside me, casting spells for healing on Cuddle-Friend. Tall-One’s eyes unglaze, and small moan escapes mouth. Am very proud of Small-Thing, for courage and care. Barely notice Travel-Man joining fight and Half-Red casting seven copies of self because of pride in Small-Thing, but pride is short-lived: Small-Thing-Not-Quite-Dragon-Sindri is bleeding, and attack was not seen! Meat-Shield tries to move in next to Small-One, but instead runs into invisible person – reactions are quick enough to hit him. Clanky drops the other shadow-dog, and he and Fluffy move towards invisible man. Ever-smart Half-Breed casts spell for throwing glitter, catches enemy in the face – now no longer invisible. Glitter spell is interesting… know Fluffy would like for hair, but think it would be much more suited to those “Parties” rich targets always talk about…

With invisibility gone, can see figure clearly. Scar tissue from head to toe, no ears, no nose, tattered remains of red suit around waist… and red-scaled-arm holding a black katana. Ninja-Crim. This is what they did to Ninja-Crim. Glad Shiny-Thing was still too damaged to come inside – do not know if could give enough protection, from self, from transformed ninja. Mumbling from scarred-lack-of-lips, and clones of Not-Crim appear. Must disarm, must stop, must protect others first… spring forward, stab, spring back, repeat! Daceraenne joins me… or, perhaps, ghost of Daceraenne. Not really sure. Small, still in pigtails, stabs when she can. Meat-Shield catches attention of Not-Crim… group is grateful, will save lives. Rest of group joins attack, clones start disappearing. However, Small-Thing-Sindri manages to use spell to choke Not-Crim… makes it much harder for him to hit us.

Not-Crim attacks Meat-Shield, says “God damn paladin! What do you think you’re doing, your gods are dead!” Green ray comes out of sword towards Meat-Shield, but Meat-Shield is unhurt. Group begins to attack Not-Crim in force… at least until sword heals him. Then most of group targets Not-Crim, while Meat-Shield and Fluffy try to break evil-dark-horror-sword. Not-Crim is staggering from Small-Thing’s choking spell, and sword and wielder are hurt. Still, sword is raised towards Small-One. Same green beam fires… but Small-Thing does not have the protection of Meat-Shield, can not protect self. Can not reach him – no one can. Sweet-Small-Thing-Sindri… dissolves into a pile of dust. Purple crystal lands on top.

The word “no” rings in my head once, but others need saving. Pounce in, strike, retreat. Meat-Shield cracks sword again, and then Sweet-Small-Sindri’s spell drops Not-Crim to floor, unconscious. Good. Perhaps now, can break sword, can tie down Not-Crim… Maybe has information. Maybe… maybe Ninja-Crim, real Ninja-Crim, is still insi—

Hope is crushed as Not-Crim’s skull is shattered into a thousand pieces. Fluffy. The hammer. Skull-juice. Things that have been seen before, but not like this…

Rest of group is unaffected, continues to attack sword. Sword turns on Meat-Shield, but Meat-Shield easily deflects and shatters evil-dark-soul-eating-sword. Group has won. “Won”… No, that is not the word we deserve for this.

Guards run in. Useless as ever – only serve to harm street-dwellers, after all. Can’t even save one they were supposed to protect. Half-Red-Al’ev, currently true to name while soaked in blood, sends guards to get town healers. Group does what little we can for Half-Orc, who regains consciousness… Damage is worse than originally thought: spikes in hips to keep standing, nails going through hands into counter. Eventually, healers arrive, work on Half-Orc, take him away for more healing…

Remains of Small-Thing-Sindri on the table… am about to walk over, give crystal the kiss that was meant for the top of his head, but Half-Red sighs, stops people from touching. He gathers Small-Thing’s possessions – wants to get Small-Thing’s real body back, instead of putting gem into a not-body. Healers also gather up remains in bag, to preserve dust as is, keep gem out of reach of others. Must hide… must return to shadows… watch events from out of reach.

Fluffy holds up wooden box with levers and knobs… is playing false sounds that were heard from back room. Fluffy… Fluffy and the hammer. Fluffy and the hammer, and I will not forget. Will not forgive.

Fluffy goes to bar, for mourning… Mourning for Small-Thing, but not for complete loss of Ninja-Crim. Meat-Shield begins to pray. First is disgusting, second is… second is usually waste of time, but for Small-Thing and Not-Crim, will not criticize this time.

Travel-Man looks around, “Which one of you guys is the leader here?” Half-Red says that Half-Orc is, but will answer questions. Travel-Man is looking for someone… not quite paying attention to man’s questions, until he says name, “Velius.” Squishy. My Squishy. Half-Elf-Red-Dragon says he knew a person named Velius. Travel-Man is confused; Half-Breed briefly explains death of Squishy, including completed vengeance. Dragon-Elf-Al’ev asks to walk and talk – wants to check rest of guild while Travel-Man asks questions. Follow along in shadows, silence.

Travel-Man’s response to the death of Squishy: “Well, that’s not good, she’s not gonna be happy…” First room has dead crafters, half-finished belt. Travel-Man: “Is there anything left of his I can take back to his mother?” Of course there is. Sword and cloak, both with me. Do not bother to offer them… not important right now. Dragon-Elf says he will ask the others, does not know. Other rooms are checked, mostly empty. But they do stop in one room.

Still in shadows, haven’t been seen or heard. Peer past Travel-Man, Half-Dragon, and Clanky… see a body, hanging through a broken window. Is very strange… Then I look closer. Is an older man, starting to gray, and very, very familiar…

Shove past startled Half-Dragon and Travel-Man, feet fly toward body. Heart pounds, breath shortens… please, please be alive! But, as I approach, can see the wound: precise stab through the chest, in the shape of a katana. Dead. Garrett is dead. Garrett… dead… Dead… DEAD.

Pain, hurt from before are gone. I scream. I scream in my mother tongue, feel rage materialize in reality as room plunges into darkness. Garrett is dead! You bastards! Blades are in my hands before I realize it. Curse the gods, all of them, scream at them in Infernal – after all, wasn’t damnation and hate what the language was made for? Curse the universe, scream obscenities and hatred at every thing, living and dead and inanimate. The whole time, body is attacking, stabbing and punching wall and objects in path. Good. Will tear down this whole building, which has brought nothing but death.

Someone grabs me, large figure in wooden armor. Opponent. Maybe another possessed Lamashtu victim, maybe one of those murdering bastards from the outskirts of Varalon, or maybe Bloody-Fucking-Azmodias himself. Don’t care, stab wildly, make contact with flesh. Figure grabs me again; easily slip out of his grip. Years of practice with that sort of thing. Will kill them. Will kill them ALL!

Through haze of rage, realize a lit arrow is pointed in my direction. Someone is shouting at me, but words are muffled. Creature with the bow asks the thing next to it a question, no doubt ready to kill me, and some disarming response is uttered. Room feels like it’s choking me, and Garrett’s dead body lies face-down through the broken window, and it’s my fault. Begin to hyperventilate, feel tension building in chest, and then once again not real, dissolving into the shadows.

Find myself in rafters of the Guild’s entrance. Sink blades deep into the wooden support beams. Garrett is dead. Phrase repeats itself in my mind. Garrett is dead. Is my fault… but is it only my fault? Why did I join these people? Horrible mix of mutts like me, only bring death and misery in wake. Group that tried to kill me without question during first encounter. Everyone… everyone except for Small-Thing-Sindri.

Suddenly hate everyone around me. Tall-One-Goat… Horrible, smelly creature. He is why everyone is dead. Liked him, and what for? Mostly seemed to tolerate me… but tolerance is not enough, not anymore. Garrett died trying to protect him. Sindri died. Fluffy, horrible brute, killed Not-Crim without attempt at bringing him back. Meat-Shield and his horrible visions led us on this path. Travel-Man and his selfishness, despite our losses. Half-Red not providing a voice of reason to this whole mess. Clanky not being strong enough to incapacitate Not-Crim in time to save Sindri.

Sit in the rafters, stewing in rage, mentally preparing every way to destroy everything in my path, when Meat-Shield enters room. In his arms is Garrett. Meat-Shield is carefully carrying the body outside. Drop down beside him, don’t bother to hide. Simple action – gently carrying the body of dear, sweet friend – has caused immediate change. Still angry and hurt, yes, but… is not Meat-Shield’s fault. Meat-Shield… another one who has always tried, and often failed, to do the right thing.

Do not know that, once I left room, Meat-Shield went in and found note in Garrett’s pocket – the order from John to keep an eye on the Half-Orc – and shared this information with Half-Red and Clanky. Do not know that he has also pacified angry Travel-Man by telling him I have Squishy’s possessions, or that Half-Red prevents Travel-Man from immediately going to kill me by saying that he will talk to me instead. Do not know that Half-Red-Naked-Vomit-Brother (Zell) has been found dead in another room, along with his journal. Only know that Meat-Shield… Neo… has the body of my friend, who kept me alive more times than can count. Meat-Shield asks, “Is there anything special you’d like to have done with the body?” Pat him on the shoulder. Garrett has been brought outside… our last mission complete. Can not stand to watch him be placed next to others, to start to decay, rot, so fade from reality and return in rafters on other side of Guild entrance.

Watch, hidden in shadows, as Meat-Shield continues carrying bodies outside, then leaves to find a church. Maybe is not group’s fault at all… maybe we’re all just cursed. Still, will not leave here. Not tonight. Am so tired and numb, constantly surrounded by death. Will not return to the tavern with the others. Belong here, with results of my efforts staring me in the face. What does it matter? Not even real anymore anyway – may as well stay in a house of death. Wedge into a corner of the rafters completely engulfed in shadow, and tie just enough rope around midsection so as not to fall off if I fall asleep and turn over. Press my face against the rafters and stare vacantly into the room…

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TheGrimStreaker

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