Jacob's Ladder

Awakening: Owl

Logan could feel the power of the titan in him, pulling him toward the rage that sat deep in him as he tried not to attack blindly while his companions were around. He had always had this anger deep down, but then there were the things around him now that he always wanted to kill. He need to find a way to get away from it, but couldn’t figure out how. Suddenly he noticed a tree shaking gently in the wind, its leaves falling slowly to the ground. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and felt his angers slipping away slowly. He had found his peaceful place. Among Nature.

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Awakening: The Empty Throne

‘’Afranselen.’’

Clobber looked up from the small insect he’d been watching. ‘’Shaman?’’ the young orc replied.

Old Ogen was looking directly at Clobber, milky eyes unblinking. Clobber was fairly certain that the old wise man was blind, so he wasn’t really sure how Ogen always knew exactly where the younger orc was always standing.

Ogen banged his gnarled old stick on the ground. ’’I’ve a story for you.’’

Clobber blinked. His mentor rarely told stories – Ogen was more of a learning through experience sort of teacher – so whenever a fable was about to be told, it was best to pay close attention.

The elderly shaman scratched at his thick red beard. ‘’One day, all the beasts of the forest came together in a meeting. The land had been plagued by vicious storms for many, many days, and the animals were frightened. Dens had been destroyed, food stores ruined, and friends and family lost. The beasts had determined that the spirits had been angered somehow, and had convened in order to puzzle out whose sin was so great as to provoke the spirits’ wrath.

’’Many animals testified to their sins; the theft of a beloved possession, a quarrel with a noisome neighbor. Pittances, all. Until, that is, that the mighty Bear, the king of these woods, stood up. Addressing the assembled beasts, Bear confessed to the coldblooded slaughter of a humble and innocent lamb, which he slew out of simple bloodlust and boredom, instead of for food as was allowed by the spirits. The beasts of the wood reassured Bear, calming his nerves and soothing his great hairy heart that this could not be the sin which had provoked the spirits.

‘’It was then that the Ape spoke up, and confessed that the tree whose fruit she ate had fallen over and died, and as a result had plucked a plum from a tree growing in a grove that was sacred to the spirits of the woods so that she might feed herself. Incensed, the other animals began to berate her, claiming that it was her fault the storms had been summoned. Ape was torn apart by the mob, and her entrails burned as a sacrifice to the spirits.’’

Ogen stopped, taking a long puff on his pipe. Clobber waited expectantly for the shaman to continue, but the elderly orc simply continued to smoke his pipe contentedly. ‘’…Is that it?’’ he asked.

Ogen nodded. ’’That’s it.’’

Clobber frowned, confused. ‘’Shaman, I don’t get it.’’

The shaman smiled. It was a strange, crooked smile, for both of Ogen’s tusks had been broken in some battle long ago. ‘’You will, young Afranselen. You will.’’

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Awakening: The Foreign Trader

_A young woman sits at a low table in a simple rectangular room. The walls are covered in flowers of vibrant and alien hues, rich and faintly unsettling to foreigners. Flowers are also stacked in pots and vases on neatly arranged shelves throughout the room. A soft twilight glow illuminates the room through the many windows, causing the flowers to shimmer incandescently.

The woman herself is of slight build, and can be no older than twenty. Her skin is as dark as obsidian but shimmers like a starry night. Copper eyes follow thin, spidery hands as rivers of ink flow from the tip of her pen and onto the sheaf of parchment before her. One of her hands brushes a strand of ivory hair from her face, tucking it back into the scarf she wears wrapped around her head.

Suddenly, the humble wooden door that leads to the outside of the shop bursts open, splinters flying everywhere. A pair of men in glistening silver armor muscle their way in through the entrance. The girl stands up, but before she can protest she has been roughly grabbed by the two men. She winces at the strength of their grip and begins to yell at them, a voice typically soft and gentle now sharp with anger and confusion. The men ignore her, and drag her outside, still screaming._

Temujin’s eyes snap open. The moment he regains consciousness, he feels the odd tingle of his skin as the sharp white glow returns. His eyes begin to burn once more and he blinks, still not totally used to the sensation. As his dream dances before him, he scowls, the familiar expression settling once more upon his face. He hasn’t been able to shake it since he arrived here, in Limbo. Just another reason to this damnable corner of existence.

The warlord shakes his head slowly. He doesn’t know why the vision plagues him so. He never saw the events depicted in it. All he knows is what his mother told him through tear-filled eyes upon his return to Khublai, his army camped out in the plains west of the city. He had sneaked into the city that was once his home by himself, and had arrived on the doorsteps of his home as a youth. His mother had nearly fainted at the sight of him. A bitter smile creeps onto Temujin’s features as he remembers.

The smile abruptly vanishes and his eyes flicker red and gold with hatred for a brief moment. The intense fire of it is soon put out by a tide of grief. Slowly, the fetchling’s eyes fade back to their normal copper color, and the sharp white light that his body emanates begins to dissipate, revealing his regular umbral skin tones.

And just like that, as quickly as it came, the sorrow evaporates in a blaze of fury, and Temujin settles back into the comfortable and constant wrath which permeates his being. The heat of his hatred is oddly soothing, and soon his eyes burn anew once more, and his newfound radiance shines brightly again.

Aware that there is no way he can get back to sleep after this, Temujin instead allows himself to fall into what his instructors had called “battle trance,” surveying the area around him and scanning for tactical advantages/disadvantages. None of them will be caught off guard while Temujin is here. His fists clench hard, and were anyone else to look close enough, they would see blood starting to seep from between his white-knuckled fingers.

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Awakening: The Locksmith
Never forget the skies you've passed beneath

Lorenze rolls the newly formed cartridge between his fingers, savoring the scent of saltpeter and other compounds used in creating his favored brand of death. He has never been a man to tell pretty lies about what he does. Ever since the secret had gotten out and every smith in Helmbrecht started trying their hand at gunsmithing, there had been whispers of fear from the nobility, claiming they worried for the possible rise in crime now that criminals could so easily kill with so little risk. He starts rolling another cartridge; they will need them if they plan to deal with whatever this place throws at them next. Of course, any thinking man knew that with the availability and desirability of magic in the empire being what it was, the nobs were more likely scared of common folk suddenly having weapons that required so little training to fight with. It’s almost funny, he thinks. Any man can pick up a rock or a sword and kill, but add a puff of smoke and a report ringing in his ears and suddenly he’s dangerous.

His musings on the burgeoning superstitions of iron and smoke are interrupted as his hand closes on a small scrap of cloth, lost in the small case of rolling paper. Closer examination reveals the scratched loops of the Goblin script. Noroc specifically, meaning ‘Good Stars.’ He almost tries to hide it as the memory catches up to him. In more civilized society being found trucking with such nonsense would lower his reputation. But one advantage of his…present situation was that a bounty hunter from the iron lands holding onto an decade-old însemna for ‘smoothness of speech’ would hardly be the strangest thing anyone in the room saw today. The man grips his hat as he ducks low, dodging the glass knocked loose by a green beast’s excited wing beats.

Still, it had been…how long? Fourteen years, or thereabouts. He would have been about 13 then, a man by goblin standards, already known almost as well by his nickname of Pipezi than the true Laurențiu his parents had given him. Back before the Red Wings ever crossed his eye. The girl had been on his mind ever since her family had joined with their caravan three months ago. He never worked up the courage to even use the charm. He briefly wonders if he could even as he is now, having seen so many things rightfully more terrifying than a lovely girl and his own youthful insecurities.

Of course it’s not that simple. With killing, with shooting, there’s a simple cause-effect relationship. They do people wrong, people pay you, you point and pull, they stop talking. Simple. Clean. But talking, especially to her had always been the difficult thing. Your tongue and thoughts get tangled together like cord left too long in the dark. After the Red Wings came into his life, the charm in his hand had been a source of shame. Odd, that it was hidden here of all places. But now, with all this? He could use some reminders of the road behind him.

Once again his thoughts are interrupted, this time by the mentalist, Agasi, leading their bizarre host here into another room, the two grinning conspiratorially. Never a good look for people as clever as the fetchling warlord had proven to be. He didn’t trust the man, but recently there was cause to consider other, more pressing dangers. This Jacob for instance. Why, and how, was he here, assuming the intelligence they had gathered was accurate on their situation? What did he want at the top of this godsforsaken tower that was taking so long? Lorenze knew none of the answers, and elected to stay quiet about his theories. Still, it might not hurt to start practicing his Hand again. Land knew, it could be useful.

Lorenze of the Sudlaba caravan sets his reminiscence aside for now and, after careful deliberation, secrets the once-treasured scrap into a duster pocket. The gunman rises, his weapons refreshed and work to be done just over the horizon. Around three corners, a sign is being hung, and the elf is hunched over a table.

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IXIXIXIXIXIXIXIXIX
Wakey wakey

Temujin groaned as he hauled himself up out of his bed in the inn. Had Temujin’s mood not been darker, he would’ve found some slight amusement in the fact that it had shifted to look like the room he’d been dropped in on the last floor; there was even a gilt cage in the corner, presumably made to mirror the one Xazu had been trapped in.

Muttering under his breath again, Temujin looked down at his hands, and then narrowed his eyes. They seemed leathery than they had before he’d gone to bed. Suddenly, like a rubber band snapping, the dream he’d had returned to him – of the mysterious traveler who had offered him great treasures in return for “Years, m’boy,” as the wizened old trader had croaked, leering mischievously. As the memory returned, Temujin watched a thin brass band materialize around his index finger, and heard a loud clatter behind him. Turning around, he saw that an impressive shield with a dragon’s roaring face carved into it had sprung into existence and fallen to the floor.

Moving over to examine it, Temujin noted with distaste that the dragon on the shield appeared to be Mentibus. Letting out a disgusted noise, he nonetheless strapped the shield ot his forearm once he had kitted himself up for the day.

He walked down the stairs into the tavern area, and IX cheerily waved to him, somehow managing to continue to polish the glass in its hands as it did so. Temujin didn’t like looking at IX for too long, it hurt his head. “My armor finished yet?” he queried the barkeep, who had turned away from the glass (which still adamantly insisted on being polished) to get something off a shelf.

“Suuuuure is!” IX replied. “Lemme go get it for ya.” The odd construct walked through the door into what Temujin could only presume was the kitchen, and a moment later it walked back through, carrying with it a sinister-looking obsidian breastplate. “Here ya go!” IX chirped, setting the plate down on the counter in front of Temujin with a loud THUNK.

Temujin nodded approvingly and began to strap the breastplate on. The straps were odd things indeed, but using some handy-dandy telekinesis, he was able to get it settled. He tested the mobility of the armor, twisting around a bit and moving his arms through various positions. He nodded once more before turning back to IX. “And the other thing I asked about?”

IX grinned widely. “Right this way.”

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Eravyl and the terrible, awful, no-good, very bad day
let's play musical bodies

Eravyl is not having a good time. As soon as the group steps onto the pyramid her mind is transferred into the body of Clobber and while Earthshaker is a glorious weapon to behold in action, the spirits shouting at you, telling you to “Let your rage consume you and you’ll be VICTORIOUS!!!!” is disturbing to the meticulous bardic paladin. Then whoever is in William’s body touches a floating crystal and we get bodyswapped again. This process repeats several times and as Eravyl is getting pissed off at everything not being in order and not being in her own body she inadvertently challenges a fire drake while in the dog’s body, luckily there is a body switch and she ends up in William’s body across the floor, separated from the party who has to fight the drake…. oops….. Thankfully after convincing the anglerfish man to touch the final crystal and being put in a weird crow mans body someone cancels the body switch spell and we are back to our normal bodies. Unfortunately a goliath glass golem turns up to fight, but with Earthshaker, several high level shatter spells, and William throwing bear traps it is destroyed and we make it back to the Inn Between.

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Blood and Thunder
Jesus Christ, Billy

All this body-swapping was hurting Billy’s head. Or was it Clobber’s head now? Billy was getting very confused, and slightly nauseous by the whole ordeal. One minute he had been spinning and twirling in Eravyl’s body, light and lithe and uncomfortably aware of how different her body was from his, and now he was piloting a 300-pound slab of raw muscle with a screaming drake bearing down on him.

Panicking, Billy lifted the Ork’s colossal weapon before him. He could hear a whispering in his mind, speaking some guttural language that he couldn’t quite understand, but the general gist seemed to be Fight! Let go of yourself and fight!

As the whispers continued, Billy could feel Clobber’s blood begin to boil as adrenaline surged through his titanic frame. With a primal roar, Billy leapt at the drake, swinging Earthshaker with all his might, tearing a huge chunk of flesh from the beast’s shoulder and sending gouts of sizzling blood flying everywhere.

The drake roared in pain, and Eravyl – or at least, whoever was occupying Eravyl’s body at the moment – lunged forward and hit the drake with a blast of energy from her sword. The drake reeled back as a huge gash was torn in its face. Enraged, it let loose a a cone of flame that engulfed the both of them.

Billy, however, was too high off of Clobber’s rage to even notice. With another bestial battle cry, he swung Earthshaker directly down onto the drake’s neck. He could feel the vertebrae in its neck splintering as the beast’s head was shorn from its shoulders. Howling triumphantly, Billy plunged his massive hand into the drake’s chest and tore out its still-beating heart. Not even caring about the burns it was leaving on his hands, he tore into it with his might Orkish tusks and swallowed a huge bite of the steaming organ.

Suddenly, Billy snapped back into focus and, realizing what he was holding, tossed the heart aside with an undignified squeal.

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The Fox and the Hound(s)
I HATE DOGS!!!!

So I wake up in a jail cell, no weapons or anything, with Temujin and a dog with keys in its mouth on the outside. Logan gets the keys and lets us out, we kill one guard and then there is another guard an a Skrav Hound to deal with. The ugly as sin mutt was simple to deal with, I whisper “Your my best friend too, Copper” for some reason as I slit its throat with my claws. In the torture chamber there are zombies and a very agile skeleton that plays a fiddle. I steal the fiddle with my home-made whip as the skeleton is blow to smithereens. I’m the first one to look into the next room and I’m met with a grizzly sight. There are half-orc corpses everywhere and blood with other viscera smear the walls. In the middle of the room chowing down on a half-orc corpse is a Yeth Hound. The gory scene and the atrocious dog’s howling send me running back to our cells in fright, Logan and Durdam not too far behind. “I’m done with this, I wanna go home! Can I just pinch myself awake?!?” I whine to Logan, Billy, and Durdam.

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Kaleidoscope
Temujin is having a bad day

I hate this damn plane, Temujin thought to himself as they entered the final room of the floor. Glancing around the chamber, he immediately felt a sense of unease and some mild nausea overtake him.Most people are naturally cautious of things relating to the Far Realms, but psionics even more so, given how important a tool their minds are to them. The mural, the runes on the walls, everything about this room filled Temujin with dread. He could hear the others chattering across the Collective, but Temujin himself was been uncharacteristically silent as the others investigated. He had glanced at the mural on the ceiling again and felt his stomach turn a little.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a warped howl tore through Temujin’s mind. He tried his hardest to absorb the forefront of the psionic screech, and was mostly successful, but the others had detected something and were now gazing at the ceiling. Temujin could not join them in this, as his mind was reeling from having taken the majority of the mental blast. It felt as if though some hot, wet, rough tongue, like that of a cat, was running itself all over his brain. He shuddered.

Temujin forced himself to look at the horrible mural again, and was met with the sight of several aberrations peeling themselves off of the painting. He painted a mental target on one of the creatures for everybody to see, before hurling his javelin at it. The blow did some damage, but Temujin immediately found himself reeling backward as another wave of nausea overtook him. The nonexistant cat returned, rasping across his thoughts, and he could feel the barbs of its’ “tongue” shredding his mind. He closed his eyes tightly and fell to his knees, his entire head feeling as if it was on fire. The strain on Temujin’s mind was too much, and he could feel the Collective unravel along with his mind.

Unable to control himself, Temujin retched. He looked up, head still spinning, to see all the others but Aryvel doing battle with the aberrations. Aryvel was a few feet away, bent over, clutching at her stomach with one hand and her head with the other. Even with his mind in pieces, Temujin was able to recognize that she had been struck by whatever spell had caused his condition also. He felt himself about to retch again, and vomited onto the floor. A hurricane of entropy roared inside his head and Temjin would have sworn he could hear garbled laughter.

As the feeling of illness slowly dissipated, Temujin attempted to throw himself into the fight again, but suddenly an explosion of colors that Temujin never even knew existed knocked him back. The burst of light and color became fractal in his eyes, and would not go away even when he closed his eyes. It was like staring into the opposite of a black hole. Temujin clutched at his face, and he could feel Aryvel’s mind flailing just as his was. Had he been in possession of all of his faculties, Temujin likely would have made some dry and vaguely-insulting observation, but he was too busy staving off the shrieking anti-void before him.

After what could have been mere seconds or long hours, Temujin felt something roughly jerk him off of the ground and toss him onto the enchanted table. A moment later he felt somebody land beside him with a grunt. Temujin reached out with his hand and his mind, and determined it to be Aryvel. “Did we win?” Temujin asked haltingly.

“Yep!” Logan bellowed, and Temujin and Aryvel both flinched. Before Temujin could throw back something acerbic in nature, he suddenly began falling straight upward. Shouting incoherently and flailing wildly, he latched onto the first thing his hand touched, which just so happened to be Aryvel, who was also screaming. Temujin braced himself to be flattened against the ceiling, but the impact never came. Instead, Temujin could hear unearthly howling beneath them. He was suddenly happy that the kaleidoscopic vision in his eyes was blocking out whatever horrors were surely moving around beneath them. Aryvel was still screaming.

The next thing Temujin knew, he lost his grip on Aryvel and landed with some force on what felt to be a stone floor. Groaning, he was then sent flying by a massive upheaval from beneath the floor. He landed heavily again, this time on what seemed to be wood planking.

“Well hi! Long time no see!” came the familiar voice of IX. Temujin put a hand to his head and moaned loudly.

I hate this damn plane.

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Breathless
Still working on it.

Logan had just woken up after his nap. He had been attacked by something in his mind after opening a coffin. They were heading back to the dining hall where he had plans to make the table into a type of sled. That way they could actually make Billy come with them. They also thought that IX would appreciate something new in the "In between.

Logan had attached the table to a couple of his vines. He started dragging it behind him as they made their way to the large iron doors. He was ready to get through them, and he was ready to make it to the inn again where they would actually be able to sleep in peace. He knew though that it wouldn’t be that easy, it couldn’t be that easy. He could just bet on his life (lol) that there was going to be something on the other side of the doors that would lunge out and try to kill them.

As the large doors swung open, his gut feeling was confirmed as all the lanterns in the hall went out with a gust of wind, and he saw something horrible swiftly pass by them into the hallway. He let out a deep sigh and looked inside the doors real quick to make sure nothing else was in the room. With confirmation that it was empty He dragged the table with all the bodies, and unfortunately a very heavy Billy, into the room and to a corner, just to make sure that they would be safe, and out of view if anything started coming towards the doors.

Logan then ran out after his companions that were already at the other end of the hall. Telepathically he could hear Temujin cussing loudly at whatever had passed them. Kuro knew what the thing was so they quickly exchanged the different ways that they could kill it without taking to much damage, and Temujin was scouting around with his mind to find the static that the undead give him. Temujin tells all of them that it is heading down the hallway that Logan had almost gone crazy trying to find something in. Logan did a mental shout of glee, think that now there was really something down there for him to find, but at the same time knowing that it was going to be hard to beat whatever it was.

He threw a vine over the chasm, and was about to cross when a thought hit him of the first day in the they had been in this tower. He looked down and saw a strange undead creature down there that looked like it was crying. Noticing that the others were feeling strange and a little lost, Logan pointed down and shot a whip down slicing part of the creature. Temujin, who was having a hard time concentrating recognized the creature and said that it was weak to silver. Lorenze then was giving the vial of silver sheen, that Logan cringed every time he saw and pored it into his gun which made Logan wonder if that would really turn the ghostly bullets into silver. But Lorenze pointed his gun down and blasted the creature apart with his one shot, and Logan found that the others confusion had left instantly. Temujin told them about the creatures, and that if we heard its crying, that our minds would go fuzzy, but as long as one of us could resist it, we would be fine.

The group crossed the chasm, and Logan quickly made a beeline for the hallway, shifting into his beast form, and activated one of his few spells, creating a sword of flame about three feet long from his hand. Temujin had said that the thing was weak to fire. Logan quickly swung the flames and the creature and caught part of its cloak, burning it away slowly. The thing tried to charge past them but Logan had braced his horns against the ceiling, and all the others were holding his back so that he wouldn’t fall over. But suddenly the creature inhaled deeply, pulling all the air from their lungs, nearly making them collapse. Logan though managed to hold some air in his lungs keeping him steady on his feet.

Suddenly, a slight crying came from behind all of them, and Logan knew that one of those other things had managed to get to them, but he couldn’t turn around to fight it, and he could feel the others losing focus again, so he quickly yelled at Lorenze to shoot it. Lorenze though had somehow become paralyzed and couldn’t move his body. Logan was doing his best to hurt this creature in front of him so he left the thing behind them to the others, while he stabbed at the creature in front of him again, unfortunately he got to close was was bitten hard by the thing. With a quick tug though he pulled away and tried to punch it, missing by a few inches. He stabbed at it again, as he felt the others mind clear and knew that they had beat the other thing behind them.

He quickly thought to Clobber, asking what the orc saw, and was given an image of one of the crying things again. Telling them to go Lorenze and Temujin left going back to the chasm and making the jump very easily.

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